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

No. 2357

Sir: I have the honor to enclose a copy of an informal communication dated March 10, 1932, directed by me to M. Rollin, French Minister of Commerce, which was delivered personally this morning by Mr. F. W. Allport, Commercial Attaché of the Embassy. A copy of this letter was likewise transmitted to the Foreign Office. (See my telegram No. 156, March 10th, 4 p.m.).6

In view of the personal conference I had with M. Rollin, to which reference is made in the letter, and in view further of the fact that over a month had elapsed and the representatives of American interests involved had still been ignored, I felt that this reminder was justified.

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The Department will note that I included in the communication reference to the threatened quota on the importation of machine tools, which had been brought to our attention from several local interests.

Later today, at a luncheon tendered to Mr. Silas H. Strawn by M. Rollin, which I attended, together with Mr. Allport and Mr. Howell, First Secretary of the Embassy, the receipt of the letter was referred to by M. Rollin with assurance that he would make every effort to remedy the difficulties.

One of the reasons assigned by M. Rollin in defense of the quota policy was the existence of a number of bilateral commercial treaties with other nations, the provisions of which prohibited France from raising certain existing tariff rates. It was the French contention that because of this fact, the only way they can keep down imports is to restrict the totals to be received.

M. Rollin’s chief explanation of the failure of the French authorities to invite representatives of American industries affected by proposed quotas into consultation was that the quotas concerned principally commodities upon which there were consolidated tariffs due to treaty arrangements with various countries and that the consultations had been primarily with representatives of the industries of those particular countries.

During the course of the conversation, I indicated to M. Rollin that we were quite ready, and had been for a long time, to negotiate a commercial treaty on the most-favored-nation basis, which was the only method we felt as fair to other nations. He indicated that it would give him great pleasure to explore the possibilities and made it quite clear that the various types of treaties which France had with different nations had, as already explained, greatly added to his difficulties.

Respectfully yours,

Walter E. Edge

The American Ambassador (Edge) to the French Minister of Commerce (Rollin)

My Dear Mr. Minister: May I recall to your mind the friendly and helpful conversation that took place between us on January 28th, concerning import quotas in general and the radio quota in particular.

At that time I took occasion to comment on the fact that an increasing number of the quotas that France is establishing on imported products, including several of outstanding importance from the [Page 203] standpoint of American interests, are apparently arrived at through an exchange of views between the French industry primarily concerned and the corresponding industries of other countries in which American industries have not been invited to take part.

I gained the impression from our talk that the failure to consult with American industries concerned is not the result of policy but rather of a mistaken impression on the part of the authorities occupied with these measures that the difficulty of establishing the necessary contact with American industry was too great to be overcome.

I have been informed that American industries desire to participate in consultations prior to the determination of import quotas affecting them and would welcome an opportunity to do so. I am advised that they are prepared collectively to select and empower certain of their distributors in France to act for them in preliminary quota conversations. The representatives thus selected may also wish to avail themselves of the assistance of the American Chamber of Commerce in France in this connection, as I understand local representatives of American companies have, upon their own initiative, already done in connection with quota measures believed to be under consideration by the French Government.

If these suggestions meet with your approval it would appear desirable to give due notice of contemplated quota measures in ample time to enable the interests concerned to confer, and to designate and instruct the representatives of the industry in France who are to act for them. The Commercial Attaché at this Embassy would be pleased to transmit such notice to the industry concerned if you so desire.

I hope you will agree with me that the interests of both French and American trades would be better served if representatives of the industries of the United States can be given the same consideration that is extended to the affected industries of other countries in the preparation of the French import quotas. It is with this thought in mind that I venture the suggestions contained in the foregoing.

I have been recently advised that it is planned to introduce a quota on the import of machine tools within the near future and that representatives of the German and British machine tool interests have been invited to participate in its preparation. I am informed that representatives of the American machine tool industry have not been invited to take part in these preliminary discussions nor has their point of view been officially consulted as yet by the French authorities charged with the preparation of this measure.

I take the liberty of inviting Your Excellency’s attention to the substantial interest that American manufacturers of machine tools [Page 204] have in the French machine tool market and to the importance that an import quota on these products would have from their standpoint.

I understand that the American Machine Tool Builders’ Association, the competent organization in this connection, has appointed a Committee to deal specifically with the question of the proposed French import quota and is prepared, without delay, to empower certain representatives of the American industry in France to speak on its behalf in any hearings that the French authorities may wish to arrange.

May I take this occasion, my dear Mr. Minister, to express again my deep appreciation of the sympathetic consideration you have always given to the problems of Franco-American trade.

With assurances [etc.]

Walter E. Edge
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