The Diplomatic Agent and Consul General at Tangier ( Blake ) to the Secretary of State

No. 923

Sir: I have the honor to enclose herewith, in the French text and in English translation, a cutting from a Casablanca daily newspaper, La Presse Marocaine, of March 3, 1934,4 reporting a recent discussion by the French Senate Committee on Foreign Affairs, in Paris, of the question of an increase in the Moroccan customs tariffs.

On this occasion, the “rapporteur”, M. Maurice Ordinaire, is understood to have stated that, while the Act of Algeciras instituted equality of tariffs for all foreign countries, it did not lay down a maximum for these tariffs, and he expressed the desire that the French Government should press negotiations with the treaty powers, looking to a satisfaction of the Moroccan desire to increase its existing customs tariffs.

This more discreet and rational approach to the problem—which is in line with the suggestions on the question set forth in my No. 897’ of November 29, 1933,4 may perhaps indicate a conclusion, on the part of the responsible French opinion, that the Moroccan treaties could justify no such revision of the Moroccan customs regime, as that tentatively put forward by M. Ponsot, the new Resident General of France in Morocco, and claiming for the French Protectorate Government the right to restrict the importation of foreign goods in Morocco, in quantities proportional to the purchases made, respectively by foreign countries, of Moroccan products.

At the same time, however moderating they may be, the statements of M. Maurice Ordinaire to the French Senate Committee are themselves not entirely free from heretical insinuations.

In fact, the Act of Algeciras (like the anterior treaties with Morocco which that Act confirms) goes further than instituting “equality of tariffs for all foreign countries”, as stated by the “rapporteur”. The Act of Algeciras, it must be emphasized, lays down the principle of “economic liberty without any inequality” in Morocco. The powers might, therefore, under proper guarantees, acquiesce in a proposal [Page 838] to effect a uniform increase of the customs tariffs, for the purpose of meeting the needs of the Moroccan Treasury, but they could not consent in the institution of a protective tariff for Moroccan products, without sacrificing the principle of the Act of Algeciras, last referred to.

Moreover, as I have pointed out in various despatches in relation to this subject, the result of a protective tariff for Moroccan products would, in effect, tend but to the ultimate creation of a privileged position for certain French enterprises and interests in the Shereefian Empire.

The foregoing information may indicate the imminence of enquiries on the part of the French Government, as to the attitude of the Department in regard to the proposed modification of the Moroccan customs tariff. In this event, and in the light of such particulars regarding the nature of the French proposals, as the Department may be able to communicate to me, I would be glad to have an opportunity of reviewing the situation and of dealing with various special aspects of the question, for the assistance of the Department in the eventual negotiations, should the Department deem it useful for me to do so.

Respectfully yours,

Maxwell Blake
  1. Not printed.
  2. Not printed.