Paris Peace Conf. 180.03501/108.


Notes of a Meeting of the Heads of Delegations of the Five Great Powers Held in M. Pichon’s Room, Quai d’Orsay, Paris, on Saturday, December 6, 1919, at 10:30 a.m.

  • Present
    • America, United States of
      • Hon. F. L. Polk
    • Secretary
      • Mr. L. Harrison
    • British Empire
      • Sir Eyre Crowe
    • Secretary
      • Mr. H. Norman
    • France
      • M. Clemenceau
    • Secretaries
      • M. Dutasta
      • M. Berthelot
      • M. Arnavon
      • M. de Saint Quentin
    • Italy
      • M. Scialoja
    • Secretary
      • M. Trombetti
    • Japan
      • M. Matsui
    • Secretary
      • M. Kawai
Joint Secretariat
America, United States of Capt. B. Winthrop
British Empire Capt. Hinchley-Cooke
France M. Massigli
Italy M. Zanchi
Interpreter—M. Mantoux

The following were also present for items in which they were concerned:

  • America, United States of
    • Rear-Admiral McCully, U.S.N.
    • Mr. Ellis L. Dresel
    • Colonel J. A. Logan
    • Lieut-Commander Koehler, U.S.N.
  • British Empire
    • General Sackville-West
    • Captain Fuller, R.N.
    • Lieut-Commander Dunne
    • Mr. A. Leeper
    • Mr. Ibbetson-James
  • France
    • M. Loucheur
    • M. Cambon
    • M. Laroche
    • M. Mauclere
    • M. Seydoux
    • M. Kammerer
    • M. Sonnolet
    • M. Cheysson
  • Italy
    • Rear-Admiral Grassi
    • M. Dell’Abbadessa
    • Commandant Fea
    • Commandant Ingianni

[Page 505]

1. (The Council had before it 5 resolutions passed at meetings of the Supreme Economic Council in Rome, (See Appendix “A”.).) Resolutions Passed at the Session of the Supreme Economic Council in Rome: (a) Austria, (b) Danger of Nonratification, (c) Armenia, (d) Russia, (e) Oil Tankers

M. Loucheur read and commented upon the resolutions. He added with regard to the question of provisioning of Austria the Committee on Organization of the Reparation Commission had examined at a meeting held on the preceding day the question of provisioning Austria and they were waiting for a reply from the Italian Government with reference to the sending of 12,000 tons of cereals to Vienna from Trieste following an agreement made between Italy and Austria. He had also seen Mr. Austen Chamberlain in London; the British and French Governments were willing to do their utmost to help until the credit opened for the provisioning of Austria had been exhausted. With regard to the situation of the Armenian refugees in the Caucasus, the Supreme Economic Council wished to bring the attention of the Supreme Council to the great importance of providing for the provisioning of those refugees and he understood that the Armenians had applied to the American Delegation direct. He wished to ask Mr. Polk what could be done in the matter.

Colonel Logan stated that a telegram from Mr. Hoover had been received to the effect that an arrangement had been entered into with the Grain Corporation to supply 35,000 tons of cereals on credit to Armenia, to be distributed under Colonel Haskell’s supervision. Furthermore, the American Red Cross had given 1,700,000 dollars for relief purposes.

M. Loucheur said that with regard to the Russian question, he was of the opinion that it would be advisable to await a solution of the Russian problem before taking any action in the matter.

Mr. Polk said that he had just received a proposal from the American Government on the question of the tank ships which Mr. Dresel would submit to the French and British Delegations. He wished to put on record that the United States were not now represented on the Supreme Economic Council.

(The Council took note of the resolutions passed by the Supreme Economic Council at Rome and of M. Loucheur’s declarations on the subject.)

2. (The Council had before it a letter from the President of the Committee on Organization of the Reparation Commission to the President of the Peace Conference, dated November 27th, 1919, to which were attached a memorandum by the American Delegation, [Page 506] two notes from the French Delegation,1 and a list of products prohibited from importation into Germany, for which the French Government asked that free entry into Germany be allowed. (See Appendix “B”).) Note From the Committee on Organization of the Reparation Commission Regarding (a) Customs Paid on Franco-German and Germano-Belgian Frontiers: (b) Payment of German Customs Duties on a Gold Basis

Colonel Logan read and commented upon the memorandum presented by the American Delegation to the Committee on Organization of the Reparation Commission, dated November 27th [8th], 1919.

M. Loucheur said that the German Delegation had proposed that the German Government be allowed to establish the customs duties in gold marks, more exactly in paper marks, taking the rate of exchange into account. He was of the opinion that at the present time no reply should be made to Germany before the exchange of deposit of ratifications and the signing of the Protocol.2 On the other hand, a very important question came up in which France and Great Britain were especially interested: Germany had edicted a series of import prohibitions; it could not be contested that that was her right, but she should not be allowed to evade the provisions of the Treaty in order to treat the Allies in different ways. He therefore suggested that a solution be adjourned until Germany had signed the Protocol and the deposit of ratifications had taken place. In the second place, the right of prohibiting imports should be connected with the whole question of the payment of customs duties.

Mr. Polk said that, with reference to the memorandum of the American representative on the Reparation Commission, the difficulty was that for some time past Germany had been applying two principles in the payment of German customs duties: in ports she had applied a gold basis, but on her land frontiers payment was being made in paper. That was a discrimination in favor of the countries which were importing by land as against those importing by sea.

Colonel Logan said that France and Belgium were paying one-ninth of the import duties that Great Britain and America paid on a gold basis.

M. Loucheur remarked that such a fact had never been brought to his attention nor, as far as he was aware, to the notice of the Committee on Organization of the Reparation Commission.

Mr. Polk said that Sir John Bradbury and Mr. Rathbone had both raised the question.

M. Loucheur said everybody agreed that there should be no different treatment between the Allies and that payment of customs duties should [Page 507] be made in gold. He insisted on what he had said before, that no answer should be made to Germany at the present time and that the question of import prohibitions should be settled at the same time.

Mr. Polk suggested that the questions be referred back to the Committee on Organization of the Reparation Commission for consideration. The questions were covered by Article 269 of the Treaty of Peace with Germany.

M. Loucheur said he did not agree: the provisions of the Treaty were that customs duties should not be changed during a certain lapse of time, but payment on a gold basis would entail an increase of customs duties.

M. Scialoja thought that it would be advisable to consult the Economic Commission, as the questions were not entirely within the province of the Committee on Organization of the Reparation Commission.

M. Loucheur remarked that there no longer was an Economic Commission and that on the other hand the Committee on Organization of the Reparation Commission had consulted the economic experts.

M. Matsui agreed with M. Scialoja, and said that he had some time ago, when the Treaty with Germany was being prepared, proposed a clause which would have prevented Germany from prohibiting any importations. Such a clause had not been accepted, but nevertheless he was of the opinion that the economic experts should be heard.

M. Loucheur said that up to that time they had never referred to Commissions which were charged with the preparation of the Treaty, questions of execution of the Treaty; he proposed that representatives of the Allied and Associated Powers on the Committee on Organization of the Reparation Commission should study the questions in accord with economic experts, and Japan would have an opportunity to be heard.

Mr. Polk wished to propose the following resolution: that the questions be referred back to the Committee on Organization of the Reparation Commission with instructions to take the necessary action without delay and further to decide itself such questions in the future.

M. Loucheur thought that the question was important and should be referred back to the Supreme Council by the Committee on Organization of the Reparation Commission.

Mr. Polk asked why this question should come back to the Supreme Council.

M. Clemenceau replied that it was a question involving other matters of political importance and that although he agreed in principle with Mr. Polk’s proposition, he was of the opinion that the questions should still be referred back to the Supreme Council without delay, and that at any rate no action should be taken before the Germans had signed the protocol and the deposit of ratifications had taken place.

[Page 508]

It was decided:

to refer back to the Committee on Organization of the Reparation Commission in accord with economic experts both the question of payment of German customs duties on a gold mark basis, and the import prohibition by Germany;
that the Committee on Organization of the Reparation Commission submit immediately a report to the Council;
that no reply be given to Germany until she had signed the protocol and the Treaty of Peace had come into force.

3. M. Berthelot said they had received a letter from Bucharest dated November 30th which related to an incident which had taken place in the past, but which was of a certain importance. Before withdrawing, the Government of M. Misu and General Vaitoianu had tried to put a negative answer before the Powers; but the Allied representatives had evaded such a manoeuvre on the part of the Liberal party. Roumanian Answer

Telegrams sent from Bucharest between December 2nd and 4th gave the following information: M. Vaida-Voevod, before seeing the King of Roumania, had had a conference with the Allied representatives, the result of which was that as regards requisitions in Hungary Vaida-Voevod would be ready to accept the appointment of an Inter-Allied mixed Commission as proposed but maintained that it would be impossible that such a Commission should have the power to inflict penalties; on the other hand, the Roumanian army would withdraw to the boundaries fixed by the Peace Conference. He would take note of the assurances given by the Supreme Council, and expressed his conviction that the Council would be able to find a solution satisfactory to Roumania. It had been feared for some time that the King would call to power M. Maniu, but in the morning of December 3rd M. Maniu had refused, and M. Vaida-Voevod had been asked to form a cabinet. Thereupon M. Vaida-Voevod had consulted all the political leaders with the exception of the Liberals, and had concluded from his consultation that they would be in favour of the signature by Roumania; he had authorised the Allied representatives at Bucarest to telegraph to Paris that the majority of the parties was in favor of Roumanians signature and promised to sign if the King accepted the Cabinet.

M. Antonescu, furthermore, was about to arrive in Bucharest; under those conditions one could well hope that a satisfactory telegram would be received from Roumania within the time limit laid down by the Council.

(The meeting then adjourned).

(The Heads of Delegations then held a conference in camera.)

Hotel de Crillon, Paris, December 6, 1919.

[Page 509]

Appendix A to HD–108

Resolutions of the Supreme Economic Council

The Supreme Economic Council having taken knowledge of the decision (H. D. 94/1) [94, minute 2]3 of the Supreme Council, and particularly of Pars. 2 and 5, esteems that, considering the general coal and production situation throughout the entire world, it is necessary that the German tankers be utilized; it requests that immediate measures be adopted covering the utilization of these vessels for the transportation of mineral oils which may be used to supply the needs of countries suffering from coal shortage.

The Supreme Economic Council having taken note of the affirmations of Lord Curzon relative to the critical situation actually existing in Armenia, [is] desirous to show its sympathy for the Armenians and to express its regret that it has no available resources to offer assistance to Armenia.

The Supreme Economic Council esteems that the assistance necessitated by the Armenians in distress, as well as the assistance necessitated by Austria, concerns not only the Powers represented on the Supreme Economic Council, but all the civilized peoples of the world.

The Supreme Economic Council deems it opportune to indicate to the Presidency of the Conference in Paris the increasing danger to which the economic life of all the Allied countries is exposed by the delay in the exchange of the Peace Treaty ratifications.

The Supreme Economic Council has taken note of the decision of the Supreme Council of November 15th,4 charging the C. O. C. R. with the duty of studying the problems concerning the provisioning of Austria.

The Supreme Economic Council which was previously able partly to relieve Austria’s distress thanks to credits granted by England, France, Italy and with the Assistance of America, finds itself at the present moment without the power and necessary resources to render efficacious assistance, and it can only in the most pressing manner draw the attention of the Supreme Council to the extreme urgency of finding a solution capable of remedying a tragic situation which cannot continue without imperilling the security and the honor of the civilized nations of the entire world, who will have to bear the responsibility for it.

The Supreme Economic Council has also taken note of the declarations of the English, French and Italian treasuries, attesting the impossibility [Page 510] of increasing the financial charges of countries whose resources have suffered so seriously from the war.

The Council finds that in any case the financial resources required should be furnished not only by the Governments participating in the Supreme Economic Council, but by all the other nations and it recommends the examination of the possibility of an international action of this kind.

The Supreme Economic Council, wishing at the earliest possible moment to place the surplus stocks of food of South Russia (as compared to the local needs of this region) at the disposal of general revictualling, draws the attention of the Council of Five to the necessity of considering, in anticipation of the time when Moscow and Petrograd become accessible to supplying of food to the population of these cities.

Appendix B to HD–108

peace conference
organization committee
of the
reparations commission

C. R. No. 442

From: President of the Organization Committee of the Reparations Commission.

To: President of the Peace Conference.

I have the honor to forward you herewith copy of a note delivered to the Organization Committee of the Reparations Commission by the American Delegate.

This note raises the two following questions:

1st) The necessity for the immediate creation, by the German Government, of a customs control along the Franco-German and Belgo-German frontiers.

The Organization Committee recognizes that it is to the interest of the Allied and Associated Powers to see a customs control established which would increase Germany’s capacity of paying the debt incumbent upon her under the head of reparations. Besides, it appears from the most recent information that this customs control has recently been established.

2d) The possibility of Germany exacting the payment of this duty on the basis of the value of the mark gold, insofar as such duty would not be in contradiction with the stipulations of Article 269 of the Peace Treaty.

[Page 511]

The Organization Committee believes that it should recall that this question was discussed during the course of a conference with the German Delegates, at Versailles on October 10.

That Conference, while not unfavorable to the payment of duties in gold, took advantage of it as an instrument to be used in exerting pressure on Germany and laid down the condition that Germany would have to furnish guarantees that the customs system (without Allied supervision) of granting importation licenses for Germany would not in any way conflict with the application of Articles 264–5 and –6 of the Treaty.

Under these conditions, the Organization Committee of the Reparations Commission renounced, for the time being, exacting the immediate payment of duties in gold, in spite of the interest of this measure from a point of view of reparations, in order to not deprive the Supreme Council of an instrument of pressure in its relations with Germany.

As this has been shown as unsatisfactory up to the present time, and the German reply concerning importation licenses (copy of which is hereto annexed) being very ambiguous, the Organization Committee of the Reparations Commission decided, in the course of its session of November 14, 1919, to indicate to the Supreme Council the important interest there would be from a reparations point of view to have a solution made which would permit Germany to make collections, without delay, of duties on a basis of the value of the mark gold.

Kindly accept, etc.

[Annex 1]



Necessity of the Immediate Creation by the German Government of a Customs Control on the French-German and Belgian-German Frontiers

The American Government instructed its Delegation to call the attention of the C.O.C.R. to the fact that it constantly receives reports mentioning that, on account of the absence of the customs control on the French, German and Belgian-German frontiers, important quantities of various kinds of products were and are, every day, imported to the occupied German territory.

The American Government cannot be indifferent to the existence of such a state of things, which deprives Germany of an important source of revenue and, consequently, has direct influence on its capacity to pay the debt which is incumbent upon her, under the reparations item.

The American Delegation is aware that, in order to assure its own protection, the German Government established on the right bank of [Page 512] the Rhine, a customs control on the frontier of the territories occupied by the Allies.

After the ratification of the Peace Treaty, Germany will have the right to establish a customs control on the French, German and Belgian frontiers, but the gravity of the situation seems to justify immediate measures. Therefore, we propose that the organization Committee should suggest to the Supreme Council to give the German Government ah official notification of the authorization granted to it to institute this customs control under the date of November 20; and add that, according to the provisions of Article 269 of the Peace Treaty with Germany the Allied and Associated Governments allow that the payment of the duties imposed be effected on the basis of the value of the gold mark, as far as these duties are not in contradiction with the stipulations of the said article.

[Annex 2]

Memorandum Submitted by the German Delegation on the Importation Policy

To: The Organization Committee of the Reparations Commission, Paris.

Referring to the interview which took place on October 11 with Mr. Mauclere, I take the liberty to forward to you herewith a memorandum concerning the application of the prohibitions to importations to Germany. This memorandum explains the point of view of the German Government such as it is, according to the opinion of the Under-Secretary of State, Mr. Bergmann, of Mr. von Le Suire, and of myself.

In conformity with the discussion which took place, I again remarked that it is very urgent and important for us to immediately re-establish the German customs houses, all along the frontier, for the application of the customs regulations and of the prohibitions of imports and exports. Therefore, I earnestly reiterate the request to cancel the instructions contrary thereto, which were given to the occupying authorities. Besides, I beg you to kindly inform me as soon as possible when the discussions will start, concerning the imports from Alsace-Lorraine, and during which it would be advisable to deal with the question of the imports from France in general.

Dr. Schmitt
[Enclosure to Annex 2]

Memorandum Concerning the Application of the Prohibition To Import to Germany

In the meeting of October 10 of this year, the Allied and Associated Governments raised the question as to whether it would not be necessary [Page 513] to guarantee the uniform application of the German prohibitions to import, with respect to all countries, by determining certain quotas for the various goods to be imported and distributing these quotas in an equal manner. It seems that such a method cannot be realized. There is a fundamental difference between the application of prohibitions to import by the Allied and Associated Governments and by Germany. This difference is caused by the diversity of the situation. It is possible to determine quotas in the Allied and Associated countries for the importation of various goods, because the Allied and Associated Governments have so many items at their disposal that they can pay for the importation of goods in way of quotas. On the contrary, in Germany it is not possible to determine any quotas because Germany has no items at all, or very little, at her disposal. Therefore, in Germany it will be necessary to proceed otherwise. In general and in principle, Germany should prohibit all importations, and only make exceptions in certain cases, by an especial authorization.

Thus, there is in Germany a general prohibition to import. This prohibition concerns all goods. It was cancelled for certain goods; for a certain category of other goods, the customs houses were authorized in general to allow the importation of the goods in question to Germany, without special authorization. A list will be made and sent to you of the goods for which the prohibition to import was cancelled, as well as a list of the authorizations given to the customs houses. Besides, exceptions will be made to this prohibition to import, as above mentioned, in certain cases, by special authorization. These authorizations will be granted by a central service in Berlin. They should mention, in a precise manner, the names of the sender and of the recipient, as well as the kind and the quantity of the goods. They will be granted when the central service thinks that the importation of those goods does not prejudice the aims of the prohibition to import; therefore, it will be when the necessary items for the payment of the goods will be available, or when credits will be granted on these goods, for a period long enough and under favorable conditions, or when the exportation of German goods will compensate the importation of the goods in question, either as a result of a special exchange, or of an agreement between two different states. It is not possible to establish detailed principles with regard to the question in which cases especial authorization can be granted, on account of the diversity of relations and of the difficult situation in which Germany finds itself. In particular, it is impossible to determine in general the conditions of credit.

The German prohibition to import constitutes a temporary measure intended to surmount the consequences of the war and should be cancelled when the situation again becomes normal. At present, however, it is absolutely impossible to do without it, or else, the German [Page 514] rate of exchange could not again become normal. In future, the prohibitions to import could only exist as far as the various nations will agree on them; for instance, for hygienic reasons, for reasons of public security, for measures taken by the League of Nations, pursuant to hostile manifestations, for the application of monopolies and similar institutions, and for the execution of a national economic policy. On the other hand, it is out of the question to apply the German prohibition to import in such a manner that the goods of the various countries would be treated in different ways. This cannot be, on account of the very spirit of this prohibition. On the contrary, the German prohibition to export will be applied in a uniform manner by the Allied and Associated Powers (Article 264, alinea 2, Peace Conditions) as to the goods coming from the producing countries, if the items are available in order to effect the payment of the goods, if the necessary credits are granted, or exchange questions, either for each different case, or subsequent to agreements between the states, do not prejudice the German rate of exchange. In case it should happen that goods are offered by various countries to the Allied and Associated Governments for importation and under the same conditions, it should be considered, in fact, whether contingents can be fixed to the various countries in question. However, in the present state of affairs, it seems absolutely unlikely that this case might happen.

[Annex 3]

french delegation

Note for the Secretariat General of the Peace Conference

German Commercial Regime. Proposal of the French Delegation

1. In a meeting which took place on October 10th last with the German Delegation, the Allied representatives asked how the German Government intended to apply Articles 265 and 266 of the Peace Treaty, in regard to the German imports and exports.

The German Delegation only replied that the prohibition to import constitutes a measure without which it is impossible to do at the present time.

2. The prohibition to import which affect[s] nearly all the goods upon their importation to Germany, and the control existing on those imports, enables Germany to make differences to the detriment of the trade of any of the Allied and Associated States; consequently, it is contrary to the stipulations of Article 265 of the Peace Treaty.

3. The same difference is made for the exports which are subjected to a very strict control, as different prices are established or determined, according to the import countries.

These provisions are contrary to Article 266 of the Peace Treaty.

[Page 515]

4. Now, the German Government requests the right to require the payment of the customs duties on the basis of the gold mark, on the French and Belgian frontiers, as is already done on its maritime frontiers; the French Delegation considers that, from the reparations point of view, it is advisable to give this authorization to the German Government; but it thinks that it is also advisable to examine from the same point of view the question of the measures taken by this Government, in order to reduce the freedom of imports and exports.

5. Although the economic recovery of Germany is necessary to enable her to repair the damages which she made, notably in France, it is no less necessary that the trade of the Allied and Associated Countries, and in particular that of France, be not directly prejudiced by this recovery.

6. That is why the French Government, after having closely studied the measures taken by the German Government, in order to regulate the import and export of goods, declares that its adhesion to the payment in gold of the customs duties on the German frontier is subordinated to the following conditions:

Germany will restore full freedom of import for the products, a list of which is hereto annexed.
In case it should not, from the Reparations point of view, appear possible to lift the embargo on all those products, quotas will be established and distributed between the export countries, according to the average of the last three pre-war years, provided the share of France may not be under the average of her imports during the last three years, the calculation being made in weight.
Germany will authorize, without restriction, the export of all spare parts for machines and rolling stock of all kinds exported from Germany. Besides, as Germany forbids the export of certain products which do not appear on the prohibition list, but for the reasons that they are provided for, either for deliveries to be made, or because they are used as substitutes, no prohibition of this kind will be made or maintained without the approval of the Reparations Commission.

7. The Articles which do not appear on the present prohibition list of imports and exports should freely go in and out, and this freedom should not be restricted, directly or indirectly.

[Enclosure to Annex 3]

List of Products Appearing on the German List of Prohibitions To Import and of Which the French Government Requests the Free Entry to Germany

Wines of all kinds, including aperitive and medical wines.
Cognacs and brandies, and other products made from natural alcohol of wine, of fruit or fruit seeds.
Bonded liquors.
Flowers, plants and foliage for ornamental purposes.
Graphite, plumbago, and stove-blacking.
Soaps of all kinds and in all forms.
Resins, gums, lacs and varnishes.
Animal and vegetable wax.
Slaughter-house waste of all kinds.
Phosphates, superphosphates and Dephosphoration dress.
Tartar, tartaric acid and tartrates of all kinds.
Rock salt and sea salt.
Tanning and tinctorial woods and their extracts.
Chrome, nickel, cobalt, antimony, and their ores and alloys.
Miscellaneous perfumes.
Glues and gelatines.
Medicines and patent medicines.
Silks and miscellaneous silk goods, natural or artificial.
Woven stuffs and pure or mixed woolen stuffs, carpets, blankets and similar articles.
Cotton threads and cloths of all kinds, pure or adulterated.
Men’s, women’s or children’s garments of all kinds.
Hats and hat trimmings.
Finished leathers and skins.
Baskets and basket work.
Exotic woods, in the rough or finished.
Corks and cork articles.
Porcelain and china articles.
Glasses and optic articles.
Mirrors and crystal, cast or blown.
Iron and iron alloys.
Plates or copper threads; all kinds of articles made of pure or alloyed copper.
Motor vehicles for passengers or goods, spare parts.
Spare parts for bicycles and motorcycles.
  1. The documents attached to the letter of November 27, 1919, in the file copy of the minutes include only one note from the French delegation, but include a memorandum submitted by the German delegation not mentioned here. See pp. 512516.
  2. Appendix C to HD–80, vol. viii, p. 865.
  3. Ante, p. 188.
  4. HD–93, minute 5, p. 180.