660f.116 Tractors/10

The Chargé in Czechoslovakia (Hibbard) to the Secretary of State

No. 595

Sir: I have the honor to refer to the Department’s Instruction No. 61, of March 12, 1931,3 and previous correspondence concerning the difficulties experienced by the importers of American tractors in securing import licenses for these machines to enter Czechoslovakia and to report that this matter has again been brought to the attention of the Legation by the refusal of the Czechoslovak authorities without stating their reasons to grant licenses for several caterpillar tractors which have been purchased here.

There is enclosed herewith a copy of an aide-mémoire which was left with the Minister for Foreign Affairs by Minister Ratshesky in accordance with the Department’s telegraphic instruction No. 5 of March 12, 12 noon. The question was then informally discussed with him and later on with the Undersecretary of Commerce, Dr. Peroutka. No progress was made and the matter lapsed as the selling season for tractors had passed.

It is my feeling that informal representations to this government on matters affecting trade are of little value as there is always a commission or a department behind which the respective Ministers hide, shifting or dividing the responsibility for each decision. I have therefore written a formal note asking that the exclusion of the tractors already purchased be reconsidered and urging the advisability of stating the definite number of tractors which will be admitted over a given period of time in order that the importers and manufacturers may do business without the present uncertainty which entails both financial loss and delay. A copy of my note is transmitted herewith.

Respectfully yours,

Frederick P. Hibbard
[Enclosure 1]

The American Legation to the Czechoslovak Ministry for Foreign Affairs

No. 1496

The American Legation has received complaints from importers, distributors, and agents of American tractor manufacturers that the [Page 150] importation of tractors into Czechoslovakia has been made increasingly difficult within the last year. Their complaints do not apply to tariff duties, which, in themselves offer a restrictive measure, but to the application of an import license system whereby each shipment is made subject to special permit before it may be cleared through the customs offices. Prior to 1928 such permits were usually issued upon request and without delay. Since that time, however, the policy of the Czechoslovak government appears to have been to refuse, wholly or in part, nearly all applications of importers for permission to import American tractors into this country.

So far as this Legation is aware there is no legal limit on the total number of tractors which may be imported into Czechoslovakia from any country or by any individual importer or in any one shipment. In active practice, however, it appears that arbitrary decisions have been made by the Czechoslovak authorities in refusing to comply with requests for permission to clear shipments. It is apparent that this system works a great hardship on importers since these measures are more severe than an import quota due to the uncertainty involved as the number of tractors which can be imported from any given shipment.

In view of this situation it will be appreciated if information can be given as to the treatment which will be accorded imports of American tractors during 1931 in order that American concerns may make their plans accordingly. As the Spring season is rapidly approaching, during which the importation of these machines is heaviest, such a statement at an early date would be most helpful.

[Enclosure 2]

The American Chargé (Hibbard) to the Czechoslovak Minister for Foreign A fairs (Beneš)

No. 1519

Excellency: I have the honor to inform Your Excellency that the Czechoslovak firm “Agra-Unie” which is the local representative of the Caterpillar Tractor Company of Peoria, Illinois, United States of America, has been refused import licenses for a number of caterpillar tractors by the Ministry of Commerce without any reason being given. In previous discussions of this matter with members of Your Excellency’s Government this Legation has pointed out that no definite limit has been placed by Czechoslovakia on the number of tractors which may be imported into the country from the United States or [Page 151] any other country. As a consequence due to the seemingly arbitrary manner in which import licenses for these machines are refused the normal business relations of the importers suffer because of the uncertainty as to whether the machines which have been contracted for will be admitted. As the tractors in this instance are of a special type which are not manufactured locally and do not compete with local production and as they have already been contracted for and the refusal of their admission will not only entail loss to the importer but the manufacturer as well, I shall be very grateful if Your Excellency will be kind enough to cause a reconsideration of this case to be made in the hope that the necessary import licenses may be granted.

I should like to take this opportunity again to point out to Your Excellency how helpful it would be for the trade relations not only of the importer and manufacturer but the local purchasers if the Czechoslovak Government could find it possible to state definitely the number of tractors which may be imported annually from each country.

Accept [etc.]

Frederick P. Hibbard
  1. Not printed.