The Ambassador in Cuba (Crowder) to the Secretary of State

No. 1390

Sir: I have the honor to invite attention to the second paragraph of my personal letter to Mr. White of October 30, 1925,2 reading as follows:

“Every once in a while Doctor Céspedes3 refers to the necessity for revision of the Reciprocity Treaty. Quite recently there was presented to General Machado4 by an entity known as “The Association of Representatives of Foreign Firms” a Memorial recommending a revision of this Treaty. It was alleged in the Memorial that the Treaty negotiated in 1903 did not take into consideration many facts which are material and relevant today. There is no doubt that the present Government of Cuba feels that it has a just claim for reconsideration. Doctor Céspedes asked me whether the matter of revision would be suggested by our Government, in which case the negotiations would be here, or by Cuba, in which case the negotiations would be in Washington. I replied that I was without advice in the premises but that as soon as I finished with the present Treaties, I would communicate with my Government on the subject.”

I had an interview of more than two hours duration with the President on March 30th last, and another protracted interview with him on the 6th instant. I asked him whether the views of the Secretary respecting opening up of negotiations for the revision of the Reciprocity Treaty upon the completion of the Consular Treaty4a were likewise his views. He replied that he would be very glad to have such negotiations entered upon but that he did not wish to embarrass the Administration of President Coolidge. There followed [Page 11] a long discussion of the remedies to be adopted to meet the existing industrial crisis in Cuba, due mainly to the continuance of the extremely low price of sugar—below the cost of production. We discussed tentatively the following remedies:

A revision of Cuba’s preferential upward leaving the United States tariff on sugar unchanged; or
Revision of the United States tariff on sugar downward, leaving the preferential unchanged; or
A combination of No. 1 and No. 2; he observed that in the event of failure to secure revision of the preferential or of the tariff, there remained only,—
A curtailment of the Cuban crop as provided in sub-paragraph (h) Article III. (See my despatch No. 1355 of March 2, 19265 transmitting project of the Cortina Sugar Defense Bill).

In respect of this fourth proposition he explained that he was fully aware that Cuba furnished probably more than 50% of the World’s export surplus of sugar but remarked that it would seem unjust that the total curtailment necessary for stabilizing prices should fall exclusively upon Cuba to be followed, in all probability, by expansion of production elsewhere.

He then referred to the advisability of a general revision of the Reciprocity Treaty which has been in force for nearly twenty-three years, not only as to Cuba’s 20% preferential in the markets of the United States but also as to the preferential of from 20% to 40% given to the products of the soil of the United States in the markets of Cuba.

The history of the negotiations which led up to the existing Reciprocity Treaty show conclusively that it was intended to favor Cuba in the trade relation between the two countries but to be discriminatory in favor of the United States as to the remainder of Cuba’s trade to the extent of giving the United States almost the exclusive market in Cuba as to articles where there was competition. It is a widespread belief in Cuba that the Treaty operates in favor of the United States and no lesser authority than Doctor Taussig6 seems to take the view that at times the Treaty has operated in favor of Cuba and at other times in favor of the United States. If the proposed negotiations accomplish nothing more than the settlement of this question, they would seem to be justified.

While I have not committed myself in regard to the question of revision, I am of the opinion that such a request from the President of Cuba ought to be complied with and beg to suggest that an opportune [Page 12] moment for commencing negotiations would be after the adjournment of the present session of the United States Congress without any indicated attitude toward the question of the revision of the tariff on sugar.

I await the advice of the Department as to whether I may indicate to the President that a request of the character mentioned above, to be presented through the Cuban Embassy at Washington to the State Department, will be favorably regarded.

I have [etc.]

E. H. Crowder
  1. Letter not printed. Francis White was Chief of the Division of Latin American Affairs, Department of State.
  2. Dr. Carlos Manuel de Céspedes, Cuban Secretary of State.
  3. Gen. Gerardo Machado, President of Cuba.
  4. Post, p. 27.
  5. Not printed.
  6. Dr. Frank William Taussig, Henry Lee professor, Harvard University; Chairman of the U. S. Tariff Commission, 1917–39.