611.623 Coal/12

Memorandum by the Assistant Secretary of State (Rogers)

The German Ambassador47 brought in the attached memorandum regarding the coal import excise.

He said orally that if the position they expressed was not accepted by this Government, they would feel free to proceed with their own domestic legislation in a way now forbidden by the treaty in view of the fact that they considered the levying of the coal tariff against them a breach of Article 7. He said their shipments of coal were very small, that one shipment had recently landed and another was on the way, and that he assumed that the question of law would be promptly taken up by the American importers and tried in the courts.

I told the Ambassador we had not informed him of the Attorney General’s ruling48 as we knew they had learned of it from the newspapers and we had not planned to write until the action of the Treasury had been announced pursuant to the Attorney General’s ruling. We did not yet know what the action of the Treasury was but assumed it would in some form reinstate the prior ruling admitting German coal free of the tax. I explained that the Attorney General’s ruling did not reach the [Page 505] merits of the case but was merely procedural. I said that we and the Treasury had both taken the position that on the merits German coal was to be admitted but this now was taken out of our hands entirely and must be left to the courts. He asked again if we would respond to his memorandum and I promised to do so as soon as we knew the Treasury ruling but not necessarily before.

The Ambassador talked generally about conditions in Germany saying they were politically quieter for the time being, that the next issue would be when the Reichstag assembled, and that the continuance of the Government depended on the Nazi vote. If they abstained, a vote of non-confidence could not be passed. He said economically there was some improvement in Germany and he understood in Great Britain. In Germany it was chiefly in heavy industries. The von Schleicher Government was talking very little, busying itself with meeting the domestic unemployment problem, and confidence was rising as the previous constant machine gun fire of political discussion was superseded by a calmer governmental movement. He said the equality claims in the Disarmament Conference remained a critical element in German domestic politics.

J[ames] G[rafton] R[ogers]

The German Embassy to the Department of State


The German Government has noted with concern that the Government of the United States, contrary to the decision contained in the note of December 1, 1932—611.003 coal & coke/950—does not permit shipments of coal from Germany to be imported into the United States without the tax provided in the act of 1932,51 or without bond, notwithstanding the fact that coal shipments from Canada and Mexico are admitted free.

It has been noted from newspaper accounts that the action of the Treasury Department in reversing a prior ruling, was contrary to certain legal provisions of the Act of January [June] 17, 1930,52 and that the question should now be judicially determined by protest and litigation of the importers.

The German Government refers to the note of the Embassy dated September 18 [28], 1932, and submits that it is justified under the provisions [Page 506] of the Treaty of Friendship, Commerce and Consular Rights between the United States and Germany in expecting that German coal imports receive the same favorable treatment as accorded to any other important country. As provided in article 7 of the said treaty

“Any advantage of whatsoever kind which either high contracting party may extend to any article, the growth, produce or manufacture of any other foreign country shall simultaneously and unconditionally without request and without compensation be extended to the like article, the growth, produce or manufacture of the other high contracting party.”

This right is not subject to a ruling by a court and cannot be impaired by administrative actions or decisions.

The German Government would therefore appreciate it if the necessary steps were taken by the Government of the United States to allow German coal and coke to be imported into this country free of tax or bond, in the same manner as coal from Canada and Mexico is imported, and, furthermore, to repay any tax or bond already paid for imported German coal.

Washington, January 6, 1933.

  1. Friedrich Wilhelm von Prittwitz und Gaffron.
  2. Ruling of December 27, 1932; 37 Opinions of the Attorneys General 34.
  3. Filed separately under 611.623 Coal/18.
  4. Not printed.
  5. 47 Stat. 169.
  6. 46 Stat. 590.