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

No. 55

Sir: Referring to my despatch No. 43 of April 9th and my telegram No. 15 of to-day,2 I have the honor to inform the Department that, following the instructions in its telegram No. 17, April 23rd, 12 noon, I made an energetic protest orally against discriminations in respect to American commerce on the part of the Exchange Control Board. This conference to-day took place at the instance of the Secretary General who asked me to call on him. Mr. Mohr, the Chief of the Economic Division of the Foreign Office was also present and the conversation was principally between the latter and myself.

Calling his attention to the fact that we had no text of any regulation or procedure under which a governmental agency was controlling, arbitrarily as far as I was permitted to observe, the imports of Denmark, I asked Mr. Mohr if he would inform me just what this plan was. His amazing answer was that this was secret and confidential.

His answer effectually closed this avenue of approach.

Then I asked him whether, in order to refute the suggestion of apparent discrimination contained in my Aide-Mémoire, (enclosure my despatch No. 43, April 9th) the solicitor or legal adviser of the Ministry would address a letter to me setting forth the Ministry’s opinion specifically in the cases cited.

This request bore no fruit.

While using a different phraseology here and there the thesis of my conversation was about as follows:

“Since the discrimination against American commerce has so far been apparently if not openly in favor of British accounts in Denmark, it is suggested that the purpose or desire to maintain a trade balance with a single other country by arbitrary means is an economic fallacy and eventually increases unemployment in the country originating such a policy.

Trade balance is international.

For example, Great Britain buys, admittedly, the largest amount of Denmark’s exports. The United States buys even a greater amount in value from Great Britain. Thirdly Denmark has customarily bought a lesser amount from the United States.

On what theory does Denmark now put difficulties in the way of its trade with the United States to the extent of discrimination in violation of its Treaty?

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Great Britain is one of the largest manufacturers and exporters in the world and her present slogan to her nationals, ‘Buy British goods’ is the worst propaganda ever let loose to the prejudice of her manufacturers.

It is regrettable that Denmark has adopted the same challenge to international commerce.

Now follow the retaliations in kind to their logical end.

Unlike the other kind of war the only merit of which perhaps is the employment of many men in unproductive work, on borrowed money, and its chief demerit the killing of prospective customers, the economic war stops the wheels of commerce, empties factories and makes unemployment universal. There are no compensations and no reparations.

It is with some pride that I say that in my country we have no one shouting ignorantly to his fellow countrymen, ‘Buy USA Goods’. On the contrary, we have a fine appreciation of superior goods in all countries and, for that reason, we not only buy them but urge their purchase. We are the largest importers of foreign products in the world, tariff or no tariff.

In the United States our Constitution expressly states that a treaty is the highest law of the land and no Congress, by law or resolution, can violate its terms.

The cases of discrimination already brought to the attention of the Royal Ministry of Foreign Affairs would seem to confirm the complaints of many American exporters which are being lodged with the Department of State.

It is believed that His Majesty’s Ministers, charged with the responsibility of observing the terms of treaties with foreign and friendly states, will be prompt to answer such allegations and to maintain inviolate the terms of a Treaty which has cemented in friendly accord our mutual relations for over a hundred years.”

There was plainly evident a stubborn unwillingness to seek any compromise or to remedy the situation. The conference was futile and without hope of agreement.

It was apparent that our tariff on butter still rankled in their minds and justified them in their uncompromising stand.

Just before leaving, Mr. Mohr told me that every Legation in town had complained of discrimination whereupon I intimated that he might well answer such protests by sending to each Legation a circular letter explaining on just what principles the Government was working through its Exchange Control Board. Did he not think that the Legations were entitled to this information? It seems he did not!

Since Mr. Mohr is much better informed on this subject than the Foreign Minister and is probably well instructed, I did not think that anything was to be gained right now by asking for an appointment with him until another step is to be taken.

It is much regretted that I have been able to accomplish nothing.

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I did not fail to mention that the Departments of State and Commerce and the Tariff Commission were concerned with the situation in Denmark. That did not seem to interest them.

Taking the average imports from all countries during the last three years they purport to keep as fairly as possible the same balance of trade between Denmark and each exporting country.

Now the confidential part of the plan can only be to cut still further the imports from such countries as are not keeping up their average yearly purchases from Denmark. They want a free hand and no questions answered. This is evidently what Mr. Mohr meant when he said that the plan was not a fixed one but could be changed any time without notice.

The Commercial Attaché informs me that the discriminations are still made as usual.

The Department’s instructions now will be appreciated.

Respectfully yours,

F. W. B. Coleman
  1. Telegram not printed.