The Chargé in Siam ( Williams ) to the Secretary of State

No. 181

Sir: I have the honor to enquire whether the Department considers that most-favored-nation treatment should obtain in Siam for American citizens and American corporations, in possible accordance with the provisions of the Treaty of December 16, 1920.

The Department will recall that it is expressly provided in Article IX., of the Treaty of May 29, 1856,6 that,—

“The American Government and its citizens will be allowed free and equal participation in any privileges that may have been or may hereafter be granted by the Siamese Government to the Government, citizens or subjects of any other nation.”

Such provision, were the Treaty of 1856 yet in force, would comprise without question cases arising under the classification of land-ownership, referred to in my despatch No. 167, of October 28, 1921, and of equality of commercial opportunity, mentioned specifically in my despatch No. 175, of November 14, 1921,7 insofar as the privileges indicated have been or may be extended to British or Danish subjects.

I would invite the attention of the Department to Article XVI., of the Treaty of December 16, 1920, which states in clear language that,—

“The present Treaty shall, from the date of exchange of ratifications thereof, be substituted in place of … the Treaty of Amity and Commerce concluded at Bangkok on the 29th day of May, 1856, … and of all arrangements and agreements subsidiary thereto concluded or existing between the High Contracting Parties, and from the same date such conventions, treaties, arrangements and agreements shall cease to be binding.”8

[Page 898]

In view of Article XVI., of the present Treaty, and of the apparent omission therein to provide specifically most-favored-nation treatment for American commercial enterprise in Siam, enquiries have now been received at the Legation in respect of the status of American trade under the new arrangement.

It would appear that Article I., of the present Treaty, while not precluding the grant of an exclusive concession to a foreign corporation, ensures to American citizens the liberty generally of doing anything incident to, or necessary for trade upon the same terms as native subjects. I venture to believe that this provision enables land-ownership by Americans, in every instance that such privilege is incident to, or in any way necessary for trade. Moreover, Article III., of this later Treaty, might be interpreted broadly to ensure most-favored-nation treatment, as regards the sale of American products in Siam:—

“The sale or resale by any person or organization whatsoever, of goods which are the produce or manufacture of one of the High Contracting Parties within the territories and possessions of the other, shall be exempt from all governmental restrictions and limitations designed …9 to create any monopoly.”

Representative members of the local American community have considered carefully these and other provisions of the Treaty, and have pointed out regretfully that there is no specific guarantee in the Treaty that Americans will enjoy most-favored-nation treatment, as a general rule, in all that pertains to trade and commercial enterprise in Siam.

I venture to express the opinion that it was not the desire either of the Department nor the Siamese Foreign Office that the Treaty should fail to convey the notion of equality of opportunity for Americans in Siam, in respect of nationals of other countries. There is no intention evident, upon the part of the Siamese Authorities, [not?] to show appreciation of the work of American Missionaries and of the Rockefeller Foundation by interpreting the Treaty from the strict-constructionist standpoint. It is not likely that privileges that British and Danish subjects enjoy, of the rights of property and of concessions in the interior, are to be refused to American citizens: on the contrary, the official atmosphere here is very friendly to the United States. Two observations, however, should be made. There is no assurance that the present attitude of the Foreign Office may not change, in which event American trade activities might be curtailed. Furthermore, the official policy of the Siamese Government is not determined entirely by domestic considerations; there [Page 899] are outside obligations of a most persuasive nature, both relative to the British and to the French Governments.

The Legation desires, therefore, to ascertain the extent to which the presumption of most-favored-nation treatment, implied in the Treaty of 1856, has been carried on by the provisions of the new Agreement. It might seem that such an equality of opportunity is inferred by the stipulations that,—

“There shall be constant peace and perpetual friendship between the United States of America and the Kingdom of Siam”;

and that

“There shall be reciprocally full and entire freedom of commerce and navigation between the territories and possessions of the two High Contracting Parties.”

In any event, however, I think it is desirable that a complete accord should be reached at an early date between the two Governments in their respective interpretations of this phase of the Treaty, in order that American commercial activity should expand freely in Siam.

To that end I would respectfully submit the advisability of the adoption of the course outlined in my despatch No. 175, of November 14, 1921.

I have [etc.]

Curtis Williams
  1. Malloy, Treaties, 1776–1009, vol ii, p. 1629.
  2. Not printed.
  3. Omissions in this quotation indicated in the original despatch.
  4. Omission indicated in the original despatch.