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

No. 1416

Sir: I have the honor to acknowledge the Department’s instruction No. 692 of April 30, 1926, in relation to the desire of the Cuban Government to enter into negotiation for the modification of the Reciprocity Treaty between the two countries. The Department states that careful consideration is being given to the subject in consultation with the Department of Commerce and the Tariff Commission and desires me, pending further instructions, to refrain from an expression of opinion whether the question of revision of the Treaty should be opened.

[Page 13]

It is true that I have listened during the past year to the observations of the President and Foreign Office in regard to the necessity of a revision of the Reciprocity Treaty, at the same time desisting from expressing my own views on the subject. From these conversations, as heretofore stated, it is the evident wish of the Cuban Government to obtain modification of the Treaty in such manner as to permit of the adjustment of the preferential in favor of both countries. I of course understand the Department’s desire that pending a decision in the matter the subject should not be discussed and I shall carefully observe the request. Nevertheless, while refraining from comment on the question to officials and others in Cuba I feel it my duty to bring certain subsequent developments to the Department’s attention in order that all the facts may be available for consideration.

On May 5th a meeting of the Cabinet was held at which it was decided that inquiry should be made of the Government of the United States whether it is disposed to open negotiations with the Government of Cuba for the modification of the Treaty under reference. It was also agreed that information should be furnished the Cuban Secretary of State concerning the modifications which it is deemed essential to introduce.

Pursuant to the sense of the meeting of the Cabinet the Secretary of State of Cuba on the same date addressed to me a note, copies and translation of which are enclosed, in which, after reviewing the relations between the two countries so far as they are affected by the Reciprocity Treaty at present in force, I am requested to inquire of my Government whether it would be agreeable to it to open negotiations directed towards revision of the Treaty. I have acknowledged the note without other comment than that it is being referred to my Government for consideration and that when I am informed of the Department’s decision in the matter I shall again communicate with the Foreign Office.

Meanwhile it is advisable to refer once more to the deep seated feeling prevailing in Cuba that changing conditions have rendered the Reciprocity Treaty incompatible with present needs and to the enthusiastic public response to the President’s statements on the subject. This impression is borne out by speeches in Congress and by the almost uniform opinion expressed in the principal journalistic organs of the country looking towards revision of the present agreement. If further proof were needed that the nation attaches fundamental importance to the conduct of the proposed negotiations and is prepared to support the Administration in its efforts to that end, it may be found in a Resolution, of which a copy and translation are [Page 14] attached hereto,7 presented to the Senate on May 3rd by Clemente Vazquez Bello, President of the Senate. The document is a strong one enunciating the complete concord of the Senate with the President’s intention and assuring the President in advance that any modifications to the Treaty which he may see fit to effect will be ratified by that body. The Resolution has not yet been acted on due to lack of a quorum but there is every reason to believe that it will be promptly passed. The reaction of the House of Representatives to the Senate’s action is exemplified in the attached report from El Sol of May 6th7 of interviews with House leaders.

I submit the above data that the Department may appreciate how vitally the issue is here regarded and that in considering whether negotiations may profitably be opened it may weigh the profoundly unfavorable effect, both political and commercial, which an adverse decision would be likely to induce in view of the firm conviction in Cuba that the peculiarly intimate relations of the two countries, with their attendant responsibilities, dictate a frank discussion of the alleged deficiencies in the Reciprocity Treaty.

I have [etc.]

E. H. Crowder

The Cuban Secretary of State (Céspedes) to the American Ambassador (Crowder)

Mr. Ambassador: I have the honor to address Your Excellency today with the purpose of bringing up a matter of very much interest for both our countries, which has been repeated many times by us during our conversations as a problem which at the proper time it would be convenient to discuss with a cordial spirit of cooperation between the two Governments.

I refer to the commercial relations between Cuba and the United States, which, having always been intensive and important, it is sure will at all times be worthy of the most friendly and solicitous attention of the high interested parties to conserve them with the same character with which they were established by the Treaty of Commercial Reciprocity ratified in 1904 [sic] and since then in force between our two countries.

The Government of Your Excellency acknowledged in official correspondence during the year 19118 that the conditions existing at the time the Treaty was concerted had already changed and that it was then willing to comply with the request of the Cuban Government [Page 15] of negotiating a new convention of commercial reciprocity for the purpose of adjusting the original Treaty to the conditions which had arisen after the year 1904.

Had it not been for the profound disturbance created by the world war in the economic situation of almost all the nations, also producing in the United States and in Cuba very abnormal conditions during said contest and after its termination which have subsisted in a great part to the present moment, it is logical to suppose that before the present time we would have reached the stage of negotiation between our two Governments and due to reasons substantially the same, to a revision of the aforementioned Treaty in order to more effectively adapt it to the ends and principles expressed in its preamble.

But even disregarding those exceptional circumstances, the period of twenty-two years which has elapsed since the Treaty was put into effect has been of itself long enough to have caused, as really has happened, economic changes of great importance in both nations which it was not possible to foresee when said Treaty was concerted. The transcendental magnitude of these changes which reflected in the volume and character of commerce between the two nations, in the growing investments of American capital in Cuba, in the establishment of a great number of industrial enterprises, banking and commercial enterprises of the United States in our Republic, is well known to Your Excellency, as well as in many other acts which have taken place after the Treaty was in force.

In the opinion of my Government the vital changes which have taken place in that long period of time in the economic life of Cuba, in that of the United States, in the situation of the sugar industry and in world commerce, as well as in the Customs Tariffs of the United States have had the effect in practice to modify both in the United States as well as in Cuba the results brought about by our Treaty of Commercial Reciprocity during the first few years of its enforcement.

The Government of Cuba has tried to form, without prejudice and without partiality, an opinion with regard to the advantages which are derived at the present time by each of the two countries, to the said Treaty, and has noted with interest that there has already been undertaken by the Tariff Commission of the United States, as it has stated in its last report, a complete study of the influence which said Treaty has exercised during the whole life thereof upon the development of commerce between both nations. The time seems propitious, therefore, to reach important conclusions in this connection from the study made by both interested parties.

[Page 16]

On the other hand, and to add to the reasons for the examination of these matters, the Government of Cuba, as Your Excellency is aware, is carrying on at the present time a revision of its Customs Tariffs which are acknowledged to be inadequate for its economic life, and has under consideration measures to improve its commercial relations with several foreign nations in order that its products be afforded the just and equitable treatment which they are entitled to in the markets of the world. Of not less importance is the action which the Cuban Government is now developing, in conformity with the sugar interests of the Nation, to cooperate, through legislative and administrative measures, towards the avoidance of the overproduction of sugar which temporarily exists, and to place a part of the agricultural activities of the nation in line with more remunerative products than sugar-cane is at the present time. In addition thereto, we are about to commence the magnificent task of furnishing the Republic with a Central Highway and a secondary net-work of roads which will powerfully contribute to the reality of the diversification of crops and of the economic wealth of the nation, allowing other sources of wealth as advantageous as sugar-cane to arise and perhaps subject to more limited risks and chances.

Moved by these high purposes, and by other not less beneficial results for the progress of the nation, my Government could not possibly omit from its well studied program of economic reconstruction, as fundamental an aspect of the same as the improvement and intensification of the commercial relations with the United States of America which constitutes at all times, but with a greater reason at the present time, a desire of the people and Government of Cuba.

It is not the intention of my Government to pretend that Cuba shall obtain from the United States benefits or favors of a commercial nature which Cuba shall not duly compensate through concessions of an equivalent value, nor preferences of such a nature as to result incompatible with the policy of an adequate protection by the United States of its own industry. My Government understands that the Government of Your Excellency, on its part, likewise desires that there be no injustice or lack of equity for either of the two nations in the operation of the Treaty.

By reason of what I have stated I pray Your Excellency to enquire of your Government whether it is disposed to open negotiations with the Government of Cuba for the modification of the present Reciprocity Treaty in order to assure to both countries greater facilities and advantages in their commercial interchange, thus strengthening and tightening the important relations which so fortunately bind them.

I take [etc.]

Carlos Manuel de Céspedes
  1. Not printed.
  2. Not printed.
  3. Foreign Relations, 1911, pp. 94100.