The Chargé in Colombia ( Dawson ) to the Acting Secretary of State

No. 5741

Sir: I have the honor to refer to the Department’s telegram No. 63 of July 12, 6 p.m., and subsequent correspondence concerning the proposed conversations between representatives of the Governments of the United States and Colombia to ascertain whether a reciprocal trade agreement of mutual benefit to the two countries can be negotiated.

President Olaya informed me this morning that he would hold one or more meetings early next week with the Ministers of Finance and Public Credit and of Foreign Affairs to decide what reductions in its customs tariff could be accorded by the Colombian Government to American products in return for a commitment on the part of the American Government to keep the leading Colombian products imported by the United States on the free list. Dr. Olaya said that it would be impracticable for him to go into the subject adequately with the two ministers during the remainder of this week inasmuch as the Minister of Finance must appear each day before the House of Representatives in connection with the prolonged debate on the financial policies of the administration which is under way there.

The President stated that he thought it would be necessary to send only one expert to Washington in connection with the conversations. He said that he expected to give this representative complete and detailed instructions as to the preferential treatment which Colombia would be prepared to grant so that reference to Bogotá for decisions would be reduced to a minimum. He indicated that the expert sent [Page 220] from Bogotá would, to all intents and purposes, carry on the negotiations himself rather than merely assist the Colombian Minister to the United States.

Dr. Olaya commented that he would like to avoid submitting the proposed reciprocal trade agreement to the Colombian Congress for ratification, if possible. He said that he had in mind the possibility of asking Congress to give him authority to establish a system of maximum and minimum tariffs, the maximum tariff to be the one provided by ordinary legislation and the minimum tariff a certain percentage lower. The President expressed the belief that it might be possible to have the bill for this purpose worded in such a manner that if it became law the tariff concessions granted to the United States under a reciprocal trade agreement could be put into effect without ratification by Congress. The Department will recall that Law 135 of 1931 (transmitted with the Legation’s despatch No. 3531 of December 22, 19316) authorized a system of maximum and minimum tariffs but with the minimum tariff the normal one and the maximum tariff 25% higher.

Respectfully yours,

Allan Dawson
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