The Ambassador in France (Edge) to the Acting Secretary of State

No. 88

Sir: I have the honor to acknowledge the receipt of the Department’s instruction No. 4331 of December 14, 1929,41 concerning the attitude adopted by the French Government with respect to the granting of permissions requested by American companies to fly over and land in French colonies in the West Indies and South America, and in relation to the proposed agreement between the two Governments for aerial navigation.

The position of the Department in the above matter, as outlined in the instruction under acknowledgment, has been laid before the competent official of the Ministry for Foreign Affairs by the Embassy. The subject was discussed most fully, the point being emphasized that any permission for aircraft to fly over the territory of one or the [Page 58] other States should be granted on the basis of reciprocity and that any agreement between the Government of the United States and a foreign State regarding reciprocal flying rights should be limited to establishing questions of principle and not relate to private agreements.

Subsequent to the above-described exposition, the Ministry for Foreign Affairs was asked to expedite a decision with regard to the proposal made to it for the negotiation of an air agreement similar to that entered into between the United States and Canada.42

At the same time it was recalled that the permission granted the New York, Rio & Buenos Aires Lines to traverse French Guiana, Guadeloupe and Martinique, and that of the Pan American Airways to fly over French Guiana, were for sixty days duration only and have now expired, and that authorization for the latter company to cross Martinique and Guadeloupe has not yet been accorded. It was urged that the permits already granted be renewed and that the permit requested by the Pan American Airways for Guadeloupe and Martinique be authorized without further delay. In doing so the Embassy suggested that the terms of the permits follow the lines recommended to the Secretary of the French Embassy on November 13, 1929, by the Assistant Secretary of State, Mr. White (please see Department’s instruction No. 4318 of December 5, 1928 [1929]43): that is, that the permission be given without any definite fixed date of termination but be made indefinite subject to sixty days’ cancellation. Then, if an agreement were made between the two Governments, the indefinite permissions could be confirmed, whereas, should the negotiations fall through, the companies could be given sixty days notice before the termination of the privilege.

The Foreign Office Official took careful note of the point of view and suggestions advanced, but said that he was unable to express any authoritative opinion on the subject since the matters taken up were primarily within the competence of the Air Ministry. He promised, however, at once to place the American observations before the Ministry—which is still considering the proposal for an Air Agreement—and to urge that an expeditious decision be rendered. The Ministry for Air has not yet completed its study of either the agreement or the principles involved in the requested permissions.

Realizing that the Ministry for Foreign Affairs is but an intermediary in matters of this nature and that the real decision rests with the Ministry for Air, and to a lesser extent with the Ministry for Colonies, the Embassy has decided to continue to press the question directly with the Ministry for Air. To that end, the Assistant Military Attaché for Air, who has been furnished with a digest of the Department’s [Page 59] observations will call promptly upon the competent official of the Air Ministry in an endeavor to reach a satisfactory arrangement for continued flights by the Pan American Airways and the New York, Rio & Buenos Aires Lines and to effect an early expression of opinion with regard to the proposed air agreement. The result of this conversation will be made known to the Department. Likewise the Embassy will not fail, after the lapse of a brief interval, to insist before the Ministry for Foreign Affairs that an official response to its representations be made in the near future.

In this connection it may be of interest that the Embassy has been informed, how reliably it is not known, that the original proposition made to the New York, Rio & Buenos Aires Lines by the Aeropostale was that the former be permitted to use the Aeropostale landing fields in French Guiana, Martinique and Guadeloupe upon the condition that all passengers and freight traffic on the east coast of South America, between Natal and Buenos Aires, be carried by the Aeropostale and all traffic to Europe remain in the latter’s hands; and that a five hundred thousand dollar bonus be given the French Company. The NYRBA would have been permitted to act as feeder from the north for the Aeropostale and in turn to take north bound passengers therefrom and further to run a parallel line from Natal to Buenos Aires, which however would have been confined only to the carrying of through mail. This proposal having proved untenable, it is understood the alternative recommendation, which has already been reported to the Department, was made for the establishment, at the expense of the American company, of landing fields, et cetera. This latter proposition, as the Department states, is obviously likewise unsatisfactory and impracticable.

On page five of my despatch No. 41 of December 30, 1929,44 mention was made of the project of the German “Lufthansa” to establish a sea and air line from Europe to South America via the Cape Verde Islands. From the attached memorandum from the French Air Ministry, dated January 5, 1930, it would appear that such line may not be operated failing a special agreement with the Aeropostale. This memorandum furnishes for the first time to the Embassy the information that the French apparently possess exclusive rights in Cape Verde Islands. This fact is of considerable interest in connection with suggestions informally made to the Department that the advisability be considered of the negotiation with Portugal of an air agreement similar to that between the United States and Canada, the Portuguese agreement to pave the way for the possible eventual establishment of an American-operated air line to Europe via the Cape Verde or Canary Islands.

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In my despatch No. 41 of December 30, I also alluded to the situation in India. It is understood that the British have now commenced the operation across India of an air service. The objection can therefore no longer be advanced by Great Britain that landing field facilities are inadequate in that zone, so that it would seem that the British will be forced to open up India to Dutch and French lines which desire to cross it in transit to their Colonial possessions. The Embassy has heard, however, that such facilities would only be accorded to foreign companies upon the payment of a heavy tax for the use of the flying fields. It would therefore seem that the French are not alone in attempting to impose restrictions—monetary or other—upon what should, of course, be the reciprocal right of free transit.

I have [etc.]

Walter E. Edge