The Secretary of State to the Ambassador in Great Britain ( Houghton )

No. 1623

Sir: The Department has received Mr. Atherton’s despatch No. 3123 dated October 19, 1928, on the subject of customs and taxation privileges for United States consular officers in Great Britain.

It has been noted that the British practice in regard to customs privileges for American consular officers does not provide for the extension of the privilege of free entry for the articles which American Vice Consuls may bring with them for their personal use upon their first arrival in Great Britain.

Under existing regulations in the United States, British Vice Consuls assigned to this country enjoy the same customs privileges as other foreign consular officers, that is, free entry upon arrival of whatever they may bring with them for their personal or family use, with the exception of articles the importation of which is prohibited by the laws of the United States, and the same privileges upon return to their posts in the United States after leave of absence spent abroad. Moreover, if for some good reason it is not practicable for a consular officer to have his effects accompany him upon arrival the effects are accorded free entry in this country when they do arrive.

As stated in Mr. Atherton’s despatch of October 19, 1928, the American regulations in respect of customs privileges for consular officers are based on reciprocal treatment for American consular officers abroad. If, therefore, the British Government can not see fit to extend customs privileges to American Vice Consuls it will become necessary for this Government to withhold from British Vice Consuls assigned to the United States the customs privileges which are now being extended. The Department feels that perhaps the British Government is not aware of the nature of the American regulations in this regard and on that account it is reluctant to advise the Treasury Department to withdraw the customs privileges now enjoyed by British Vice Consuls in the United States without assurance that the British Government fully understands this situation. You are accordingly requested to address an official note in the foregoing sense to the Foreign Office and to inquire whether, in the circumstances, [Page 45] it may not be found practicable to extend customs privileges to American Vice Consuls in Great Britain on an equal footing with those now extended to other consular officers. You will state in your note that if it is not found possible to extend such privileges to American Vice Consuls, it will of course be necessary to withhold such privileges from British Vice Consuls in the United States.

I am [etc.]

For the Secretary of State:
Nelson Trusler Johnson