511.4 A 2/263: Telegram

The Consul at Geneva (Tuck) to the Secretary of State

From Porter. I do not consider that the conference can reach an agreement satisfactory to us or which will be an improvement over the Hague Convention.

[Page 121]

1. A vital part of our program—the limitation of production to medicinal and scientific needs—seems unlikely to be embodied in the convention. However, if inserted in convention little if any useful purpose would be served, as producing countries which are disinclined to assume any further obligations to restrict production have indicated they will record nullifying reservations. Persia has at every opportunity made it clear that production cannot for economic reasons be limited except upon the unique conditions: (a) Loan of 10 million toman for 20 years. No interest charges for first 5 years, thereafter at 5 percent. (b) Moratorium to be granted by foreign countries having claims against Persia during period of transition—that is until substitution of other crops for opium had proven feasible, (c) Removal of restrictions on Persia’s liberty of action in tariff questions—that is revision of tariff treaties so as to provide increased [revenue?]. Representatives of Servia and Turkey state that they have received definite instructions not to agree to limit productions but when pressed add that they will ask for further instructions. No change in their instructions has as yet been reported. China, the largest producer, which is admittedly powerless owing to internal chaotic condition to fulfill obligation, has had for some time laws against the cultivation of poppy but they are not nor are they likely soon to be enforced. India refuses to accept the principle and asks that the words “for export” be added. This would not affect the situation so far as other producers are concerned and India now avows strict supervision over exports is maintained. The result of any effort under present conditions to strike at the source of the evil—production of raw material—I regard as negligible.

2. It is proposed that a central board shall be established consisting of seven members to be appointed by representatives of the United States, Germany, France, Great Britain, Italy, Japan and those nations having nonpermanent seats on the Council of the League of Nations from a list upon which each of the signatory parties to the convention may place one name. While not in final form the following provision seems not unlikely to be adopted.

“The Council shall in consultation with the board make the necessary arrangements for the organization and working of the board with the object of assuring the full technical independence of the board in carrying out their duties under the present convention while providing for the control of the staff in administrative matters by the Secretary General.

The Council shall also in consultation with the governments of any contracting parties who are not members of the League take the necessary measures to allocate the expenses of the board among the contracting parties.

The board shall, subject to the approval of the Council, appoint their secretary and staff”.

[Page 122]

The British delegation is urging the acceptance of the following amendment against which no objections have been raised except our own.

“The Secretary General shall appoint the secretary and staff of the board on the nomination of the board and subject to the approval of the Council”.

To the board are to be sent statistics of production, manufacture, consumption, import and export of substances covered by convention. The board shall have the right in case the information at its disposal leads it to conclude that excessive quantities are accumulating in any country to ask for explanations and in the case of no explanations or an unsatisfactory explanation to call the attention of the governments and the Council of the League to the matter and to recommend that no further exports be made to the country in question until the board reports that it is satisfied with the situation [in?] the country concerned and any exporting country has the right to appeal to the Council of the League against any decision of the board. A government not prepared to act on the recommendation shall notify the board; the board may publish a report on the matter and communicate it to the Council which shall forward it to the governments. Any decision by the board with respect to complaints shall be by an absolute majority.

The right of making representations to the board is to be given to any signatory power. The board has been granted certain limited powers to make regulations principally regarding the furnishing of information but it has been impossible to obtain consent that the board be granted power” to make sufficient regulations to carry out its duties, it being generally believed that such authority should be exercised jointly by board and Council of the League. The board is so closely connected with the organization of the League of Nations as to make it practically subservient to the Council of the League, as [a?] result which if it will not defeat ratification certainly will provoke a bitter fight in the Senate. In striving to preserve the full independence of the board I have been repeatedly advised that unless the board tied up with the League the object for which the board was created could not be accomplished. Any further attempt to preserve the independence of the board seems futile.

3. There is no prospect of obtaining a control [of] opium and cocaleaf derivatives extensive as that provided by our own legislation. No agreement can be obtained which would immediately include as dangerous drugs any derivative of opium other than those specified in the Hague Conference although coca leaves and ecgonine and possibly Indian hemp may be added. Some additional restrictions are to be placed upon the sale of heroin but no agreement to prevent [Page 123] manufacture is possible. Machinery for the determination of dangerous drugs under article 14 is proposed.

4. After repeated conferences with the representatives of the interested governments I do not believe that there is any prospect of obtaining more definite assurances regarding the suppression of prepared opium than are contained in the Hague Convention. The British, French and Dutch proposals are in substance that 15 years after the producing countries limit production and prevent smuggling they will abolish the traffic. The time when period shall begin to run is to be determined by Council whose decision shall be final.

While acknowledging their obligations under the Hague Convention they insist that owing to increased production and smuggling they are powerless to take any further measures than those contemplated by agreement concluded by first conference. The well known disinclination of producing countries to limit production [and?] their seeming inability to stop smuggling do not strengthen the belief that the governments interested in prepared opium are seriously considering suppressing the traffic. On the contrary the acceptance of the proposals offered would in my judgment weaken chapter 2 of the Hague Convention, a result which must be avoided, as the main protection we have against leakage from the ordinary traffic in hundreds of tons of raw and prepared opium is the right to demand suppression of traffic in prepared opium under article 6 of this chapter. It should be mentioned that the central board while entitled to receive statistics regarding prepared opium would be expressly [denied?] the right to question them in any way or to file or receive any complaint against countries engaged in the traffic until the board has found that illicit international transactions are taking place on an appreciable scale. I fear that it would be extremely unwise for any action to be taken which would postpone the date for the suppression of this traffic and which could be regarded as placing it upon a more secure foundation.

5. While statistical information to be given the board represents decided improvement over present situation, this information and the import [and?] export certificate which it is proposed to make of general application can be obtained otherwise than by treaty.

Under all circumstances I am reluctantly forced to the conclusion that it would be inadvisable for the delegation to continue to participate in the conference. Perhaps I have been remiss in not making the recommendation sooner but despite repeated adjournments to which I reluctantly consented I have held on in the hope that some way might be found out of the difficulties encountered. The political aspect of the proposed agreement, the small gain to be hoped for over [Page 124] the control of the traffic and the terms of the resolution of Congress under which the delegation proceeded to Geneva, prompt me respectfully to suggest that the delegation be instructed to withdraw.

I am aware of the seriousness of the steps suggested but I am forced to the conclusion in the light of all the circumstances that perhaps greater stride[s] in the control of the traffic may be hoped for if the United States in accordance with its traditional policy did not through the present agreement associate itself with the League but reserving entirely its freedom of action should stand ever ready to assert its rights under the Hague Convention and if necessary to demand [that?] the obligations there undertaken be promptly and completely performed.

It is of the utmost importance that I receive word by Tuesday noon, Geneva time, as to the course to be followed, as a most important meeting of the conference is scheduled for that day. If you concur I would suggest that owing to faulty news service here an announcement of the reason for withdrawal should be made public in Washington immediately following a telegraphic communication from the delegation advising that withdrawal had actually taken place.

  1. Telegram in four sections.