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

No. 948

Sir: I have the honor to inform the Department that the American Consul at Casablanca has brought to my attention a Vizirial Decree dated July 31, 1933, modifying the tariff of Gate Taxes in the French Zone of Morocco on imported goods, and which has become the subject of serious concern to the Consular Corps at Casablanca.

An English translation of the Vizirial Decree in question is enclosed herewith.9

The Department will recall that the Gate Taxes were dealt with by Article 13 of the Madrid Convention of 1880,10 and that under the provisions of that Article, tariffs, and regulations for the collection of the Gate Taxes, were issued with the approval of the Diplomatic Corps in the years 1881 and in 1896. Article 13 of the Madrid Convention also stipulates that the taxes thus fixed should not be increased without a new agreement with the representatives of the Powers.

Originally these Gate Taxes were imposed only upon merchandise entering and leaving Moroccan towns by land. They were not imposed at the ports on goods imported by sea.

A Dahir of April 20, 1917, purported to extend the application of the tax in question to goods entering Morocco by sea, and empowered the Grand Vizier to promulgate decrees fixing the tariffs to be applied.

From 1917 to 1928 a number of such Vizirial Decrees were issued establishing or modifying the tariff of these Gate Taxes, but the rates [Page 842] were not excessive, and their innocuous effect upon international trading rights, apparently caused them to pass unperceived.

No notification of the promulgation of any legislation dealing with the Gate Taxes, has been made to this Legation by the Protectorate Government, nor has the latter made any request for the Department’s assent to the enforcement of the modified Gate Taxes on American ressortissants.

With the considerable increases, in various categories of merchandise, of the rates edicted by the last Vizirial Decree on the subject, namely that dated July 31, 1933, the Consular representatives of the Powers at Casablanca, have become justifiably alarmed. These taxes have now been developed from mere internal “octroi” taxes, into veritable supplementary Customs taxes on imported merchandise.

The Belgian Government has protested against the discriminatory character of the Gate Tax tariff as now imposed upon cement.

Mr. Buhrman11 transmits a confidential copy of a Note addressed to the Resident General of France by the British Consul General at Rabat on the subject of the Gate Taxes in question, under date of April 28, 1934.

This Note states that the conditions in which the Gate Taxes may be applied to foreign ressortissants are laid down in the Convention of Madrid of 1880, and recalls that the Convention of Madrid expressly stipulates that the Gate Taxes, as determined with the approval of the Diplomatic Corps in Tangier in 1881 and in 1896, cannot be increased without the consent of the Powers signatory to the Madrid Convention. It points out, moreover, that the regulations referred to authorized the imposition of the Gate Taxes only upon goods transferred from one Moroccan town to another, or on native produce entering into the towns.

Such being the juridical position, the assent of the British Government, it is stated, is necessary, first in regard to the levy of Gate Taxes, in any form, upon imported merchandise, and secondly to any modification of the rate of the taxes fixed by the regulations accepted by the Diplomatic Corps.

The British Consul General then proceeds to make the statement that the British Government has in no manner abandoned its treaty rights in Morocco and cannot consent to any difference in taxation between imported and local products.

The British Government therefore finds itself obliged to raise the strongest objection to the Gate Tax tariffs recently promulgated, and the British Consul General is instructed to suggest to the Resident General of France the opportuneness of a discussion dealing with all [Page 843] the derogations which have been made from the regulations of 1881 and 1896, with a view to reaching an agreement, satisfactory to the local administration, and without discrimination against British imports.

Our treaty position in the premises is identical with that indicated in the above outline of the British Note.

I enclose herewith copy of a communication dated June 5, 1934,12 which I have consequently addressed to the Resident General of France at Rabat, on the subject of the Gate Taxes in the French Zone, and I have no doubt that the Department will desire me to confirm this Note with a formal protest on its behalf.

The necessity of opposing this series of arbitrary measures on the part of the French Protectorate Government assumes the gravest importance at this juncture, when the French authorities are attempting by every irregular means to break down the régime of economic liberty in Morocco as laid down by the treaties. They realize the firm opposition which they are likely to encounter, on the part of the Powers, to a revision of the treaty Customs régime, and are therefore giving their constant attention to the discovery of devious devices, such as the present, which will enable them to circumvent the treaty safe guards to international trade in Morocco.

The Department’s instruction in the matter will be awaited with great interest.

Respectfully yours,

Maxwell Blake
  1. Not printed.
  2. Foreign Relations, 1880, p. 917.
  3. Parker W. Buhrman, Consul at Casablanca.
  4. Not printed.