500.A4e/579: Telegram

The American Delegation to the Secretary of State

33. The British delegates have suggested that the powers make a public declaration in substance: That the delegates have been [Page 746] working 6 months in the face of difficulties created by civil war and internal political dissension to frame a treaty providing for tariff increases and the removal of tariff restrictions within fixed period in accordance with program of the Chinese delegation; that the consummation of these negotiations has been frustrated by political disorder, culminating in the recent dissolution of the Central Government; that the various problems under consideration have been carefully examined and concrete proposals for their solution in accordance with China’s wishes put forward; that the active leadership of the Chinese Government and cooperation of Chinese provincial authorities are now required to conclude negotiations and effect a settlement satisfactory to all concerned, that such leadership and cooperation cannot be forthcoming under existing political conditions and that further progress is therefore impossible without a Chinese delegation able to speak for the country as a whole; that the delegates of the powers who are animated by the sincerest feelings of friendship and sympathy towards China, while awaiting reestablishment of a Chinese Government with which negotiations can be resumed, appeal to the Chinese people and the leaders of all parties in the State to sink internal differences and take all possible means to restore peace and establish settled government, in order that these negotiations may then be carried to a speedy and satisfactory conclusion.

2. The British attitude indicates a desire to adjourn the Conference and postpone indefinitely attainment of its objectives, the delegations other than Chinese not having yet put forward concrete proposals implementing Washington Treaty and agreement respecting a new treaty covering interim surtaxes. We believe that British suggestion is premature and if followed would expose the powers to the charge of having availed themselves of the present political crisis to delay any substantial increase in the customs tariff. We think the delegations other than Chinese should continue their efforts to effectuate Washington Treaty and complete program covering interim surtaxes, likin abolition and debt consolidation, and that agreement should go sufficiently into detail so that there would be no misunderstanding among the powers and the Conference could lay on the table a definite program for the consideration of the new Chinese Government when it is organized. The Japanese delegation is apparently in general accord with our views and we are hopeful the British will abandon the idea of attempting to adjourn the Conference until the foreign delegations have reached common agreement.

3. The French have circulated a memorandum protesting against the proposed schedule of tariff increases which has been informally [Page 747] agreed upon by the other delegations. They call attention to Mackay treaty59 providing for seven and one-half percent surtax in compensation for the abolition of likin and saitem:

“The surtaxes, the establishment of which we now contemplate, must include a tax in compensation for likin and exempt foreign goods from all other duties in transit. The powers signatory or adherent to the Washington Treaty find themselves formally obligated therefore to agree that these surtaxes shall be fixed at seven and one-half percent. The strict execution of this agreement would easily furnish the sums necessary for the ends which we have in view and promise the most favorable solution for our commerce. Nevertheless my Government in a friendly spirit toward the other nations represented at the Conference and in order to satisfy their interests as far as possible, is ready to agree that a class of goods in which, moreover, will be found listed the majority of those exported from France shall be subject to a surtax double that provided for by the Mackay treaty and that, on the other hand, for certain articles which may be recognized, unable without serious inconvenience to bear a heavier burden, the surtax should by way of exceptions be reduced from seven and one-half to two and one-half percent.”

4. [Paraphrase.] In case we can agree with other powers to plan an implementing of the Washington Treaty and agree upon a general draft of a new treaty with respect to imposition and allocation of interim surtaxes, calculated to result in an additional revenue of $90,000,000, it is our belief that if the French remain opposed to such a program, they should be disregarded. We should appreciate having general instructions from you on this point and also upon our views as outlined above concerning the continuation of our work here until our efforts to secure a general accord with the delegations of the principal foreign nations have been exhausted. [End paraphrase.]

Am[erican] Tar [iff] Del[egation]
  1. Telegram in two sections.
  2. Commercial treaty between Great Britain and China, signed at Shanghai, Sept. 5, 1902; for text, see Foreign Relations, 1903, p. 551.