The Ambassador in Argentina (Bliss) to the Secretary of State

No. 1897

Sir: I have the honor to enclose herewith a copy of the note which I handed to the Minister for Foreign Affairs yesterday afternoon in compliance with the Department’s telegraphic instruction No. 79 of December 9, 3 p.m. The Minister being out of town over the week-end, I was unable to see him until yesterday at the regular weekly diplomatic reception.

I beg leave further to enclose a copy of the memorandum of my talk with Dr. Saavedra Lamas from which it will be seen that he promised to give careful study to the considerations of the American Government as set forth in my note, and explained by me in more detail during our conversation.

Respectfully yours,

Robert Woods Bliss
[Enclosure 1]

The American Ambassador (Bliss) to the Argentine Minister for Foreign Affairs (Saavedra Lamas)

No. 850

Excellency: In my note No. 845 of November 24 last, I had the honor to request that the reduction in certain items of the Argentine tariff conceded in the modus vivendi recently signed between Your Excellency’s Government and that of Chile be accorded in like manner to importations into Argentina from the United States.

Therein I referred to a conversation had with Your Excellency the same day in which I had pointed out that the said reductions were not confined to imports from Chile but had already been accorded by Your Excellency’s Government to the products of several other countries than Chile under most-favored-nation clauses, not for equivalent concessions, and that I therefore considered importations from the United States were entitled to like treatment.

In reverting to our conversation, I beg to inform Your Excellency that the extension of those favors to the three other Governments is regarded by my Government as gratuitous within the meaning of Article 3 in the treaty between our two countries of July 27, 1853. These reductions, which have been extended to Great Britain, to France and to Italy under the most-favored-nation clauses in the treaties between those countries and Argentina, are not granted for equivalent concessions on the part of the Governments of those three countries and consequently like products of American origin are, in [Page 694] the views of my Government, entitled, under the above mentioned treaty between our two countries, to the treatment accorded to the countries receiving concessions by virtue of the most-favored-nation clause whether conditional or unconditional.

In view of the foregoing, I have the honor to request again that there be accorded to products of the United States imported into Argentina the reductions in duty provided in the modus vivendi between Argentina and Chile.

I avail myself [etc.]

Robert Woods Bliss
[Enclosure 2]

Memorandum by the American Ambassador (Bliss) of a Conversation With the Argentine Minister for Foreign Affairs (Saavedra Lamas)

In calling on the Minister for Foreign Affairs at the weekly diplomatic reception this afternoon, he at once started to talk of the justification or non-justification of permitting goods to come in under the provisions of the modus vivendi with Chile which had been in transit at the time the agreement was put into effect. He brought from his desk several large files on the subject and read to me from them for a considerable time while trying to find a decision made by Foreign Minister Bosch in 1931 in reply to a reclamation which I had made to permit fresh fruit to enter the country under conditions applying before the new tariff rates had been put into effect by the Provisional Government. Failing to find the particular communication he sought, he talked theoretically on the subject for a considerable time, ending by saying that the considerations I had set forth in my note on the matter of the modus vivendi with Chile had been referred to the Ministry of Hacienda, the question really being one for decision of the customhouse authorities and that the Ministry of Hacienda had not yet made its answer.

He expounded to me the reasons why he had decided to make the modus vivendi immediately applicable rather than giving a period for its entering into effect, going over some of the ground which he had covered in the Senate interpellation on December 646 and repeating other considerations he had expressed to me in our previous talk.

After saying that I wished to call his attention to one phase of his reference to the usage in the United States, he launched forth on the subject again and it was ten minutes before I was able to interrupt to say that I had no fault to find per se with the statement he made in the Senate but that I wanted to observe that, although it was the custom [Page 695] for United States tariff laws to be put into effect as soon as signed, importers always had an opportunity, sometimes lasting for a period as long as two years, to present their cases to Congress and that they were fully cognizant of what was to happen long before the provisions of the bill went into effect. Consequently, importers of goods into the United States were able to make their dispositions accordingly, whereas the modus vivendi with Chile had been negotiated without public knowledge of the terms and immediately put into effect, giving no opportunity to importers to make the necessary arrangements growing out of the application of the changes in the tariff which the modus vivendi involved.

After several attempts, I told the Minister that when I had talked with him on the subject of the modus vivendi and presented my note, I did so without instructions from my Government; that I had since informed it fully of my action, and that I was now instructed to present its views, which I explained to him. He replied that the provisions of the modus vivendi had been extended to like imports from Great Britain, France and Italy because of the most-favored-nation clause in Argentina’s treaties with those countries, to which I rejoined that I perfectly understood this but that such being the case, my Government considered this was a gratuitous action on the part of Argentina which the United States was likewise entitled to enjoy. After some further exchange of views, the Minister said he would study my note with every consideration.

In the course of the conversation, the Minister again reverted to what he had told me on several previous occasions, that unless Italy and France agreed to an amicable readjustment of their commercial treaties with Argentina as regards the most-favored-nation clause, he had every intention of denouncing those treaties. He also told me of the difficulties and annoyances which the study of commercial questions and consequent interviews and discussions with commercial organizations and business men gave him and that he had finally told the President that in order to handle the pertinent questions successfully it would be necessary to appoint a tariff commission, asking if I could give him data concerning the creation and composition of the United States Tariff Commission. I replied that I would be glad to send him all information available at the Embassy.

Before I took my leave, the Minister also reverted to what he had brought up in other conversations, that the time was never so propitious for the United States to obtain a preponderant influence in South American countries, that with the change of government and the inauguration of the Democratic Party’s regime, this opportunity ought not to be lost in which the United States could dislodge Great Britain. I at once stated that there was no desire on the part of my [Page 696] Government nor of American business men to dislodge England or anybody else from the positions they might have obtained in the commerce of foreign countries. That we did, of course, want to consolidate and increase our markets and also to bring the peoples of the various South American countries to the realization that the United States was most friendlily disposed to them in every way and not inimical, as was thought in a number of the continental republics.

  1. República Argentina, Diario de Sesiones de la Cámara de Senadores de la Nación, 57th Reunion, 3d extraordinary session, December 6, 1932, pp. 1719–1750 and 1754–1761.