File No. 763.72112Sa/53

The Secretary of State to the Chargé in the Netherlands ( Kirk)


2078. Your 4149, August 29, 9 a.m.,2 and other cables on this subject. It has been decided to inform the Netherlands Chargé d’Affaires that the President is not satisfied with the nature and extent of the publicity given by the Netherlands Government to its protest against the addition to article 55(c) of the German prize regulations, as communicated by him to the Department. Contemporaneously with this information, a full statement is being issued to the press in this country setting forth the attitude of the United States toward exports to Holland and the use of Dutch ships in connection therewith. Copies of this statement are being furnished to the Netherlands Legation, and the British and French Embassies in Washington and to Sheldon, who is instructed to inform the British blockade officials. The text of the statement follows. You are instructed to take such steps as to ensure its publication in full in the Dutch press as well as to adopt any other means which in your judgment seem advisable to secure the widest publicity, always taking care to make it very clear that the statement was first published in the American press.

In view of apparent misapprehension as to the attitude of the Government of the United States toward exports to the Netherlands, the Department of State of the United States has issued the following statement:

It has always been, and still is, the desire of the United States Government that the resources of the United States, in so far as they can be spared from purposes essential to the successful prosecution of the war, be made available under proper safeguards to neutral countries in order to assist them in the maintenance [Page 1533]of their economic life. The sincerity of this desire has been evidenced by arrangements concluded by the War Trade Board with the authorities of Switzerland, Norway, Sweden, Denmark, and Spain, whereby these countries are today obtaining from overseas from the United States and elsewhere important supplies of essential foodstuffs, raw materials and manufactured articles. It has been the hope of this Government that an arrangement could be reached by the War Trade Board with the Netherlands authorities similar to those reached with other neutrals similarly situated, whereby imports from the United States to the Netherlands might be permitted. An understanding was, as is known, tentatively reached in London in January of the current year pursuant to which the United States and the Allied Governments would have facilitated the import to the Netherlands of ample amounts of those supplies which were judged essential for the economic life of the country. This arrangement failed to receive the assent of the Netherlands authorities. Had it not so failed, among the supplies, the import of which would have been facilitated by the United States and the Allied Governments, were the following:

Bread cereals Amount to meet actual requirements
Petroleum products 140,000 tons
Cotton and cotton products 26,000
Copper 4, 000
Magnesite 4,000
Coffee 35,000
Cocoa 8,000
Tea 5,000
Nuts, etc 1,000
Hemp 3,500
Jute 5,000
Fibers 1,200
Lead and lead manufactures 4,000

Also substantial amounts of such commodities as tobacco, iron and steel manufactures, textiles, turpentine, rosin, waxes, capoc, tanning materials, aluminum, antimony, castor oil, chemicals, etc., etc.

The War Trade Board of the United States has at all times been ready in conjunction with the authorities of the Allied Governments, and on reasonable conditions, to conform to an arrangement similar to that which failed of approval, taking into account such changes as may have since occurred in the positions of the several countries concerned with respect to their needs and their supplies. As an earnest of this spirit, and in response to urgent representations of the Netherlands Government as to the privations faced by the Dutch people, the United States and the Allied Governments some months ago offered unconditionally to place at the disposal of the Dutch people 100,000 tons of bread cereals, which it was estimated would tide over the period until the new Dutch crops should be harvested. Under the terms of the offer, these cereals were to be lifted by the employment of some portion of the large number of Dutch vessels lying idle in Dutch European ports. It has developed, however, that owing to German threats against Dutch shipping, the Netherlands Government had not felt in [Page 1534]a position to avail itself of this offer of bread cereals, or apparently to avail itself of the willingness of the United States and the Allied Governments to place other supplies at the disposal of the Dutch people. These threats against Dutch shipping have accordingly for many months held idle without financial return and suffering physical deterioration more than 400,000 tons of Dutch shipping in Netherlands European ports, rendering this shipping unavailable either to lift the bread cereals which have been offered, or, if a general commercial understanding should be reached, to lift the other supplies which the United States and the Allied Governments would put at the disposal of the Netherlands Government.

It may be noted that this tonnage constitutes the only block of neutral tonnage in the world which is not engaged in useful activity. In order, however, to relieve the Dutch people from a serious food shortage reported by the Netherlands Government, the War Trade Board of the United States in accord with the authorities of the Allied Governments, as a further exceptional measure of relief, freely licensed bunker coal and ships stores to permit of substantial amounts of grain cereals being lifted by vessels other than those which had originally been stipulated for. Thus, the Nieuw Amsterdam and certain vessels normally employed in western Atlantic trade have transported approximately 50,000 tons of bread cereals to the Netherlands. The balance, largely in the Argentine, remains unlifted now for nearly six months, because of acquiescence in the position of Germany, which, while receiving from the Netherlands large amounts of foodstuffs, at the same time threatens with destruction Dutch vessels which might be sent even to another neutral country to lift grain for the Dutch people.

Commercial relations between the United States and the Dutch colonies have been resumed on a normal basis. In these waters, free from the menace of German submarine activity, Dutch shipping moves freely in the transport of commodities between the United States and the Dutch East Indies. It is the hope of the United States Government that ships may be sent out from Dutch ports to lift the grain which is awaiting shipment to the Netherlands, thereby opening the way for a general resumption of trade relations between the United States and the Netherlands similar to that which is so happily existing between the United States and the Dutch colonies.

  1. Not printed.