851.6363 Import Law/13: Telegram

The Ambassador in France (Herrick) to the Secretary of State

60. My telegram No. 57, March 3, 11 a.m. Petroleum importation bill was passed by the Chamber on the night of March 7. Bill now provides that import licenses are to be based on maximum figures of annual imports during last five years and proposed amendment discriminating in favor of French companies with respect to surplus license allotments is eliminated (see my despatch 8343 of February 18th, 1928). On the other hand, an amendment providing for government participation in the profits was adopted by a majority of one. This amendment does not involve discrimination. Moreover it seems [Page 843] likely to encounter opposition in the Senate and was probably proposed for this very reason by the Socialists who would like to see bill in its present form fail so as to give them a chance of passing a more monopolistic measure eventually. [Paraphrase.] During discussion, as reported in the official journal of March 8, M. Bokanowski, Minister of Commerce and Industry, made statements which have, however, caused a further unexpected and more alarming development. He declared, with regard to increased consumption, that the French Government had reserved the right to deliver licenses for surplus importation to whatever parties it might wish and to favor French refineries. Stating the position of the Government thus would have the effect of permitting, whenever the governmental licensing committee created by the bill might see fit, the sort of discrimination against non-French oil interests that had already been expressly cut out of the bill. See my despatch No. 8343 of February 18 for the viewpoint of M. Briand, with which these statements now are entirely at variance. Because of this fact and because of the urgency of the matter, since the bill may go at any moment to the Senate, I conferred with a representative of American oil interests and yesterday made it clear in a communication to Prime Minister Poincare (Minister Briand being away at Geneva) that I was acting without instructions, unofficially, and entirely on my own initiative by pointing out the above-stated fact and by expressing my personal hope that any discrimination against American interests might be avoided by the taking of due steps. [End paraphrase.]