The Diplomatic Agent and Consul General at Tangier (Blake) to the Secretary of State
[Received May 22.]
Sir: I have the honor to recall that, in my Despatch No. 16 of September 4th, 1925,3 (pages 12–14) I pointed out that Tangier, was the natural entrepot for the distribution of imported goods over a considerable area of the neighboring Spanish Zone, and that the formalities inherent to any administrative measures adopted for the enforcement of Article 20 of the Tangier Convention would be detrimental to the trade and interests of Tangier and its merchants.
Article 20 confines the Customs revenue of the Tangier Zone to the duties levied solely on goods actually consumed within the limits of that Zone, and therefore contemplated a system of control over the trade passing between the Tangier and the Spanish Zones, for the purpose of establishing the proportion of Customs revenue due to each Zone.
Upon the enforcement of the Tangier Convention on June 1st, 1925, the French Protectorate Authorities who control the Customs Administration in Tangier, immediately put up a Customs barrier on the frontier between the Tangier and Spanish Zones and proceeded to levy duties on all articles entering Tangier over that frontier notwithstanding the fact that duties had already been collected thereon when entering Morocco through the ports of the French [Page 721] or Spanish Zones. The entire population of Tangier rose in protest against this measure, which was one of the principal causes of the disturbances in Tangier on July 2nd, last year. (See my Telegram No. 12 of July 2nd, 1925, 4 p.m.4).
Under the pressure of these protests, the Customs barrier was withdrawn. It was admitted however that the measure could not be condemned as an illegal method of applying the stipulations of Article 20 of the Tangier Convention.
The Tangier Legislative Assembly petitioned however that the adjustment of Customs Revenue Accounts between the three different Zones of Morocco should be effected by means of fixed annual payments to be agreed between delegates of their respective Customs Administrations. By this means the objectionable procedure of Customs control on the Zonal frontiers would become unnecessary.
Discussions were pursued on this principle, and a virtual understanding was arrived at by which the Tangier Treasury was to pay over to the Customs Administration of the Spanish Zone an annual sum of 500,000 Spanish Pesetas in compensation for the Customs duties and consumption taxes collected on goods, cleared through the Tangier Customs, but ultimately destined to pass into the Spanish Zone.
Consequently the transit of goods from Tangier into the Spanish Zone continued to be effected without let or hindrance, until April 15th, last, from which date the Spanish High Commissioner at Tetuan, on a few days notice, set up a Customs barrier between the Tangier and Spanish Zones, and the Customs duties, in addition to those already paid at the Tangier Customs House, were again levied at this barrier by the Spanish Zone Customs Officials on all merchandise entering their Zone from Tangier.
Whatever justification for this action the Spanish Authorities may adduce under the terms of Article 20 of the Tangier Convention, their action in demanding a second payment of Customs duties is a distinct violation of the treaties so far as American citizens and protégés are concerned.
I have accordingly pointed out to my Spanish Colleague the position which I take in the matter, and have verbally made all reservations respecting claims which may arise in connection with duties illegally levied on the goods of American citizens and protégés.
There is however a general impression that the situation will receive satisfactory solution within a very short period, as a result of the negotiations now proceeding between the signatories of the Tangier Convention to urge Spain to adopt a reasonable arrangement.[Page 722]
Under these circumstances I have not deemed it advisable to follow up my verbal representations with a more formal action, pending the result of the above mentioned conversations, unless a specific case involving American interests, should demand my intervention.
An article from the local English weekly newspaper Al-Moghreb Al-Aksa dealing with the question is annexed hereto.5
I have [etc.]