0883.512 Motor Vehicles/14

The Minister in Egypt (Jardine) to the Secretary of State

No. 437

Sir: I have the honor to inform the Department that, in view of the situation which has developed during the past few months in respect of the arbitrary restrictions imposed by the Egyptian authorities upon automotive vehicular traffic of a character seriously to jeopardize vested American interests and in view, moreover, of the failure of persistent efforts to obtain from the Egyptian Government any assurances of a clearly defined road transport policy in conformity with existing legislation and custom, I have considered it necessary to address a communication on the subject to the Ministry for Foreign Affairs, of which a copy is enclosed.

There are likewise enclosed copies of notes which the French, Greek and Italian Legations have addressed to the Ministry for Foreign Affairs on the same subject, together with suggested translations thereof.44

The situation, as it has developed, is an exceedingly complex one comprising various phases; and, in consideration of the virtual impossibility of presenting the facts and circumstances heretofore completely to the Department with a recommendation of the action which I considered it advisable to pursue, I have deemed it advisable to act at my discretion in the belief that a consideration of the motives necessitating such action will commend my action to the Department’s approval.

. . . . . . . . . . . . . .

Respectfully yours,

W. M. Jardine

The American Legation to the Egyptian Ministry for Foreign Affairs

No. 236

The Legation of the United States of America presents its compliments to the Royal Egyptian Ministry for Foreign Affairs and has the honor to refer to the decision of the Council of Ministers [Page 641] published in the Journal Officiel No. 17 of February 29, 1932, that no new licenses or permits shall be granted for autobusses or trucks beyond the traffic needs of each Moudirieh or Governorate and that decisions in respect of new licenses or permits or renewals thereof shall be made upon the recommendation of the Commission appointed by decision of the Council of Ministers of December 31, 1931.

The American Legation is constrained to observe that the Ministerial Decision in question is of a character to cause and that it is in fact causing serious prejudice to the interests of American nationals who have imported important stocks of motor vehicles on which customs dues have been paid in good faith and who now find themselves precluded by administrative acts of the Royal Egyptian Government from obtaining the circulation of such vehicles over Egyptian roads. Moreover, although the above mentioned Ministerial Decision affirms that it does not alter the Arrêté of July 16, 1913, concerning the circulation of automobiles, it would appear to be directly in contradiction with that Arrêté.

For some time, even before the publication of the Ministerial Decision of February 29, 1932, the Legation had received complaints from representatives of the American motor car industry established in Egypt concerning the inexplicable difficulties made on the part of the Ministry of Communications and of local authorities in so far as concerned the issuance of new permits or the renewal of existing permits for the circulation of motor vehicles for hire, notwithstanding that the applicants had conformed strictly with the duly promulgated automobile regulations.

It has happened that the Egyptian authorities have refused to accept the payments that applicants were prepared to make in order not to deliver permits which were requested in a strictly legitimate manner in conformity with the Automobile Regulations of July 16, 1913, as modified by the Arrêtés of November 14, 1915, June 30, 1917, and September 3, 1930.45

It is probably in accordance with a like policy that the Municipality of Alexandria has also refused, without any justification, and contrary to the above regulations, to renew the traffic permits of many motor vehicles for hire.

Despite numerous informal interventions which have been made with the Ministry of Communications and otherwise before the publication of the Ministerial Decision in question, with a view to directing attention to the serious inconveniences and losses suffered by American interests as a result of administrative acts of the Egyptian [Page 642] authorities, in apparent conflict with existing legislation, such informal representations have achieved no practical result, and, moreover, have not precluded what would appear to be a formal sanctioning of such administrative acts by the decision of the Council of Ministers of February 29, 1932. Although this decision, not having been submitted either to the Legislative or to the General Assembly of the Mixed Court of Appeals, cannot be considered as applicable to the nationals of the capitulatory Powers, it is effectively so, owing to the restrictions imposed upon the issuance of traffic permits for automobiles intended for hire.

Accordingly the American Legation is under the necessity of observing, in connection with the administrative acts which are being exercised in seeming conflict with existing legislation and as sanctioned by the Ministerial Decision of February 29, 1932, that:

—Limitation of the freedom of circulation of automobiles was admitted, in so far as concerns foreigners, by the Regulations of July 16, 1913, with the approval of the General Assembly of the Mixed Court of Appeals, and only in the sense that such a right of free circulation would be subject to the obtainment of a permit (Article 2), having a validity of one year (Article 11), and upon payment of a tax and inspection fee (Article 12), and to certain special provisions for motor vehicles intended for hire;
—The right of causing motor vehicles to circulate for public hire, subject to the single condition of the obtainment of a special permit and payment of an increased tax, was confirmed by the Arrêté of September 3, 1930, constituting a modification, inter alia, of Articles 12 and 35 of the Arrêté of July 16, 1913, as approved by the Mixed Court of Appeals on June 13, 1930;
—The Arrêtés of September 9, 1913, and December 30, 1929,46 concerning which the Mixed Court of Appeals was not consulted, concerned exclusively conditions having to do with the solidity and security of motor vehicles which, under Article 4 of the Regulations of July 16, 1913, the Ministry of the Interior was given the authority to prescribe;
—While Article 35 of the Regulations of July 16, 1913, grants authority to Governors or Mudirs to change the conditions of the special permit required for autobusses so far as concerns the tariff, security and public health, no authority would appear to be given to change the conditions of the special permit for autobusses in a manner to militate against the interest of traffic or to withhold in general the issuance of special permits in the case of the fulfillment of the conditions mentioned. In the case of motor vehicles destined for the transportation of merchandise, the special permit which Governors or Mudirs are authorized to grant is subject to the single restriction of the indication on the permit of the weight, height and maximum bulk of load as well as the character of the wheels.

[Page 643]

In viewing the question in general it may be said that the right, on the part of foreign nationals, to circulate their motor vehicles on Egyptian public highways for whatever legitimate use is a consequence of the principle of the freedom of traffic, a principle formally recognized by the Egyptian Government which, for the purpose of legislation in the matter, has considered it appropriate to have recourse to the authority of the General Assembly of the Mixed Court of Appeals. Consequently, it follows, that such a right may not suffer abridgement or limitation unless sanctioned by the Mixed Court of Appeals in Legislative or General Assembly, or directly by the Powers. Any like limitation is an infringement of a right consecrated by custom and usage.

In the hope that the Ministry for Foreign Affairs may be good enough to give appropriate consideration to the foregoing observations, the Legation of the United States of America avails itself of this opportunity to renew to the Royal Egyptian Ministry for Foreign Affairs the assurance of its high consideration.

  1. None printed.
  2. For the decree of September 3, 1930, see Egypt, Journal Officiel du Gouvernement Egyptien, No. 85, 8 Septembre 1930, p. 8.
  3. For the decree of December 30, 1929, see Egypt, Journal Officiel, No. 4, 6 Janvier 1930, p. 4.