The Consul at Beirut ( Brandt ) to the Secretary of State

No. 469

Sir: I have the honor to report, for the information of the Department and of the American Embassy at Paris, that I had a conversation a few days ago with M. Jean Chauvel, Chief of the Diplomatic Bureau of the High Commission here, regarding the matter of the exemption of the American religious, educational and philanthropic institutions in Syria and the Lebanon from the payment of customs duties on material imported by them, during which M. Chauvel informed me that the High Commission had recently received instructions in the matter from the French Foreign Office but that they were not clear to the High Commission and the Foreign Office had been asked to explain them. M. Chauvel went on to say that he did not expect to receive a reply from the Foreign Office before he left for Paris, on June 6th, and that he hoped to be able to bring the matter personally to a definite settlement in Paris with the Foreign Office. He also told me that he thought it likely that Consul General Knabenshue’s plan of having each institution privileged to import articles free of duty pay an ad valorem tax of one per cent on all articles, without restriction as to kind or amount, for the maintenance of a Bureau of Control, would be adopted, for American and other foreign institutions and also for the native institutions, so that there would be no discrimination. However, as the wants of the native and some of the foreign institutions might be so small that they would prefer to have the existing privilege whereby they enjoy free entry of material within limits as to kind and amount fixed by decree of the High Commission and as it would be burdensome to follow out the procedure to control their importations as contemplated by Mr. Knabenshue’s plan, all institutions would be given the choice of limited exemption without payment of any tax or of unlimited exemption with payment of the one per cent tax for the Bureau of Control. I made no comment to M. Chauvel upon this contemplated change in the plan but I can see no objection thereto, although it may happen that the American institutions will be the only ones to pay the tax. I have consulted with the heads of the American University [Page 274] and Mission here and they say that they will state their preference for unlimited exemption.

In this connection the Department is respectfully referred to Consul General Knabenshue’s despatch No. 2763 of September 25, 1928,61 and other despatches, and to despatch No. 9818 [9819] of September 6, 1929, and other despatches from the American Embassy at Paris.

According to statements I have obtained from the American Mission and the American University here, the American institutions importing the greatest quantity of material, the importations of the first mentioned institution have amounted to a total of approximately $20,000 for the past three calendar years and the Mission treasurer says his office has no recollection of having exceeded the limit allowed by the decree of the High Commission during that time but according to the records of the Consulate General the Mission exceeded the limit in 1926 and had to pay Customs duties amounting to approximately $102.00 on the excess. The University has imported a total of approximately $87,200 worth of material during the past four years, not including material and equipment for new buildings which is exempt under a decree of the High Commission of general application. The University’s imports exceeded the fixed amounts during three of the four years and in 1926 it paid approximately $1,250 customs duties on the excess, in 1927, $2,950, and in 1929, $2,500. Following the arrangement made by Consul General Knabenshue with the High Commission, these amounts are supposed to be held in the name of this Consulate General pending settlement of the question as to the right of the American institutions to unlimited customs exemption under the Poincaré-Herrick agreement.

I have [etc.]

George L. Brandt
  1. See footnote 46, p. 267.