660f.116 Tractors/3

The Minister in Czechoslovakia (Ratshesky) to the Secretary of State

No. 192

Sir: I have the honor to report that the Commercial Attaché at Prague, Mr. Rankin, has again brought to the attention of the Legation the importation of American tractors into Czechoslovakia, which under the present restrictions, make importations from the United States exceedingly difficult. This is due not so much to the high import duty as to the application of an import license system, whereby each shipment is made subject to a special permit before it may be cleared through the customs. So far as can be determined no legal limit exists on the number of tractors which may be imported into Czechoslovakia from any country or by any individual importer or in any one shipment. Mr. Rankin states that he has been shown official communications from the Czechoslovak Government refusing entirely to comply with requests for permission to clear shipments of from three tractors upwards. In other cases licenses for three tractors were issued where twenty-one had been requested, or out of ten asked for only five were granted. And he was informed that during the principal selling season in the Spring of 1930 a majority of applications were refused entirely.

Shortly after my Letter of Credence had been presented on May second, I took up this subject with the Minister for Foreign Affairs, Dr. Beneš, during a conference on several other matters, and he agreed to give it his attention. About July first I again brought the matter to his attention and he stated that he believed it was too late in the season to give it any worth-while aid but would take the question up before the tractor selling season opened next year.

Mr. Rankin has formulated a note at my suggestion, which he requests the Legation to send to the Foreign Office in regard to this matter. In view of the rather pointed wording of the note, which [Page 147] seems to me a trifle drastic, I am enclosing a copy1 requesting the Department for its approval, or such revision as may be deemed appropriate before the Legation forwards it to the Minister for Foreign Affairs. In calling Mr. Rankin’s attention to the wording of the note, he stated that he had drawn it up on the lines of the Department’s Note (No. 44, October 4, 6 p.m., 1928)2 which the Legation sent to the Foreign Office relative to the automobile contingent.

The figures given in the enclosed note relative to tractor imports from the United States and other foreign countries show a great diminution; but the 1930 imports from foreign countries, other than the United States, show an increase of two tractors over last year (1929) while the imports from America for 1930 are considerably less than the previous year. Tractors are being manufactured in Czechoslovakia by the Skoda Works, and two small companies—the Praga Tractor Company and the Wikov Tractor Company—however the output of these two latter companies together would not be more than fifty tractors a year.

In regard to domestic production a great deal of secrecy surrounds the actual output and sales of tractors as well as automobiles. Each year the Czechoslovak Statistical Bureau publishes figures for the number of motor vehicles in the country. The latest definitive data is for February 1929, although preliminary figures have been issued for February 1930. For production there are only rough estimates as a guide.

Official figures for February 1928 (Bulletin 21–24, 1929) show a total of 2,294 tractors in Czechoslovakia, of which only twenty-six were of Czechoslovak manufacture while 2,071 were American. A year later (February 1929) the official figures (Bulletin 41–43, 1930) show a total of 3,410 tractors of which 128 were Czechoslovak and 2,974 were American. Preliminary figures for February 1930 show a total of 4,269 tractors but no indication is yet available as to their origin.

Czechoslovak tractor production prior to 1928 was negligible. Estimates that were obtained from the best available local sources are as follows:

Year Number of
Tractors Manufactured
in Czechoslovakia
1928 100
1929 430
1930 275
[Page 148]

These figures do not check very closely with import and registration statistics. If the latter are correct the indicated 1928 domestic production was about 600; and for 1929 something over 500. There seems reason to believe that the Czechoslovak tractor output has not averaged as much as 300 units annually during the past three years as against nothing in previous years. However, local production has not begun to make up for the reduction brought about in imports since 1927. All that is known with certainty is, that when American tractors were introduced here after Czechoslovakia became stable, an average of over 1000 units were sold annually. In 1930 about 100 were sold, and it would seem obvious that domestic production did not account for this difference.

It is important that this matter be given attention by the Department so that the Legation may receive a reply before the middle of March in order to present the question to the Foreign Office at the proper time. The tractor selling season is in the Spring and is a comparatively short one. Even a slight delay might easily serve to put off the whole question for another year.

Respectfully yours,

A. C. Ratshesky