The Minister in Denmark (Coleman) to the Acting Secretary of State

No. 43

Sir: I have the honor to enclose a copy of an aide-mémoire which I left yesterday with the Secretary General of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Mr. Bernhoft, recently Danish Minister in Paris, who took over his present office April 4th.

Many importers of American products have complained to the Commercial Attaché and to the Consul General of the discrimination made against them by the Exchange Control Board, all tending to compel them to give up their American accounts and to place their orders with British firms.

The Commercial Attaché informs me that this policy generally takes the form of granting an exchange certificate for the purchase of British goods at once while the applications for certificates for the purchase of American goods are held up indefinitely.

The two instances cited in my aide-mémoire would seem to be evidence of discrimination in violation of our Treaty with Denmark1 and it was deemed timely to bring this to the attention of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

The Secretary General said that this might be a matter of balance of trade but I called his attention to the fact that this Legation had no text or any knowledge of any regulations under which the Exchange Control Board was performing its offices.

The powers delegated to this board have not been defined by the Legislature and the opportunity to discriminate for or against certain importations is apparently unlimited.

Until now most Danish importers of American goods were unwilling to be named in any protest against the actions of the Exchange Control Board, fearing reprisals of one kind or another.

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The two firms quoted in the aide-mémoire came to Mr. Spofford, the Commercial Attaché, and asked our aid, stating the facts.

The Department will be promptly informed of later developments in this rather complicated situation.

In the meanwhile, the instructions of the Department, as a guide, will be timely and helpful.

Respectfully yours,

F. W. B. Coleman

The American Legation to the Danish Ministry for Foreign Affairs


The attention of the Royal Ministry of Foreign Affairs is respectfully called to two instances which, if the statements made are true, would seem to be discrimination against the products of the United States in violation of the Treaty of 1826, under which the relations between Denmark and the United States have been happily maintained for over a hundred years.

Since the Exchange Control Board is an agent of the Royal Government, it is assumed that the Royal Government takes full responsibility for its acts or omissions.

It is respectfully suggested that the Royal Ministry of Foreign Affairs inquire into the statements of Brdr. Friis-Hansen and of Mr. C. Møller-Nielsen and, if found to be true, to call the attention of the Exchange Control Board to its discrimination, requesting the grant of the exchange certificates so far refused.

Following are the two cases referred to above:

Brdr. Friis-Hansen, Omøgade 5, Copenhagen.

During 1931 they imported for Kr. 600,000 worth of Harley Davidson motor cycles and Harley Davidson accessories (all of which were shipped from the United States). On April 5, they sent in their first application this year to the exchange board for permission to import Harley Davidson. They asked for only Kr. 50,000. Already today, April 7, they received a blank refusal. The Kr. 50,000 covers six motor cycles which are practically sold.

Their imports of motor cycles from England during 1931 were practically nil. Since the establishment of the exchange board they have asked for permission to import for Kr. 200,000 worth of motor cycles from Great Britain. They were immediately granted permission for Kr. 160,000. Out of this quota they have used Kr. 30,000.

From the above you will realize that Kr. 130,000 remain of their quota from Great Britain. They have asked the Exchange Board [Page 155] if it would not be possible to transfer Kr. 50,000 out of this amount to cover the above mentioned shipment. This likewise has been met with a blank refusal.

The Exchange Board’s decision is serious to the Danish firm. They claim that if the Board succeeds in stopping their Harley Davidson business, they will be obliged to discharge the majority of their staff, which amounts to 25 employees at the present time.

C. Møller Nielsen, Importer and agent of foodstuffs and groceries, Bornholmsgade 3, Copenhagen.

On April 7 this firm informed the American Commercial Attaché that about one week ago he had sent in an application to the Exchange Control Board for permit to import Kr. 20,000 worth of American flour and Kr. 20,000 worth of British flour. All conditions with respect to time of shipment and other business factors were identical. Mr. Nielsen claims that on April 5 an envelope was received from the Control Board enclosing the necessary exchange certificates to import all of the British flour. He again approached the Control Board with respect to his application for the American flour and obtained a written refusal.

  1. Convention of Friendship, Commerce, and Navigation, signed at Washington, April 26, 1826, Hunter Miller (ed.), Treaties and Other International Acts of the United States of America, vol. 3, p. 239.