661.11241/40: Telegram

The Chargé in the Soviet Union ( Kirk ) to the Secretary of State

413. Department’s 171, December 2, 5 p.m.

I shall proceed with the written and oral representations along the lines of the Department’s above-mentioned telegram.
Subject to the Department’s approval, however, I shall add the following paragraph to the note quoted in the Department’s instruction.

“In bringing the foregoing to your attention I have the honor to solicit Your Excellency’s good offices with a view to expediting the release without payment of import duty of the shipments of official supplies for the use of the Embassy now being held by the customs administration.”

New customs rules governing the importation of goods for Chiefs of Mission and their staffs and also for foreign diplomatic missions were transmitted under cover of the Embassy’s despatch number 1853, November 19,80 which went forward by pouch November 26. These rules which revise in part those of February 10, 1933, and also codify recent practice provide that import duty is levied on merchandise addressed to an Embassy or its Chief other than when articles addressed to the Chief of Mission are debited upon his request to his registration book. No specific provision is made for the duty free entry of goods for the remaining members of the Embassy staff other than upon their initial entry or when they return from travel abroad. While freight and postal shipments of goods for members of the Embassy staff addressed to me are being admitted duty free under my authorization for debit to the registration book, and no attempt has been made to limit imports to amounts regarded as adequate [Page 668] for use of Chief of Mission only, it is possible that the Foreign Office will challenge the words “and members” at the end of the first paragraph of the note suggested by the Department since from the Soviet viewpoint the fiction is apparently maintained that only the goods of the Chief of Mission are imported free of duty. I suggest however that no modifications be made in the language of the note in this respect as the inclusion of the words in question may serve to obtain a clarification of the situation.
In discussing the matter orally at the Foreign Office it would be helpful to be informed if the Department recognizes the right of a foreign government to levy import duty on government property for the official use of the American diplomatic mission in the country concerned and accordingly I shall appreciate receiving a statement on the matter as soon as possible. I feel that every effort should be made at this time to obtain a definite waiver of Soviet import duty on Government property for the official use of the Embassy as otherwise the functioning of the Embassy will be seriously impaired should the customs rules applicable to import duty quota be rigidly enforced since it is not believed that any import duty quota for the Chief of the Mission will be liberal enough to take care of the Government property ordinarily imported and the exhaustion of the quota with debits for official supplies would leave no quota available for personal needs of the Chief and his staff.
  1. Not printed.