The Secretary of State to the Ambassador in Great Britain (Bingham)15

No. 505

Sir: Recent despatches received from the American Diplomatic Agency at Tangier and from the American Embassy at Madrid would seem to indicate that the French Government is giving serious consideration to the possible modification of the Customs Regime now in effect in the French Protectorate of Morocco. There are rumors that an effort may be made to either abrogate or revise the Act of [Page 845] Algeciras under which the powers signatory and those not signatory to the Act enjoy “open door” commercial privileges in Morocco. It appears also that consideration is being given by the French to the question of the maintenance of extraterritorial jurisdiction in the French Protectorate by the United States and Great Britain.

The reports indicate that the initiative in these undertakings is being taken by M. Ponsot, the French Resident General in Morocco. Several months ago, shortly after assuming the duties of his office, M. Ponsot made a speech in which he expressed dissatisfaction with the Customs Regime in Morocco. More recently the French Resident General visited Madrid ostensibly for the purpose of “selling the idea” to the Spanish. News despatches emanating from Madrid, reported by the American Embassy, indicate that preliminary negotiations looking to the modification of the Customs Regime have been undertaken in London, Rome and Madrid. A news report in El Sol, Madrid, June 26, 1934, regarding the French Mission to London, states that the French viewpoint seems to be that Great Britain is in favor of holding an international conference, either in Madrid or Paris, in which all countries interested in the question of Morocco would be represented and in which the Act of Algeciras should be the subject of discussion. A British expert, it is stated further, will talk with M. Ponsot before actual decision for calling the conference is reached.

Your attention is directed to Section 2 of despatch No. 958 of July 12, 1934,16 from the Diplomatic Agent at Tangier, regarding an interview with the French Resident General, a copy of which was forwarded to you from Tangier. You will observe Mr. Blake’s statement that in his opinion it is probable that no definite approach will be made to other powers until some agreement has previously been reached with the British Foreign Office after which Belgium and Italy and subsequently the United States will be dealt with.

Despite the frank statements and the unusual activity of M. Ponsot, the French Resident General, regarding the French dissatisfaction with the situation in Morocco, official denial that any movement is under way to revise the Moroccan Customs Regime was made by a high French authority in Paris in May of this year following inquiry by the American Embassy upon instructions from the Department. Presumably, therefore, official confirmation and information relating to the French plans must be obtained from sources other than the French Government. You are requested, therefore, to make discreet inquiries with a view of determining whether the French authorities have taken up with the British Government the proposal looking toward modification of the Customs Regime through revision [Page 846] or abrogation of the Act of Algeciras. Any other information which you may be able to obtain on this subject, including a statement of the British attitude toward the French proposal, will be helpful to the Department in consideration of this question.

Very truly yours,

For the Secretary of State:
R. Walton Moore
  1. Similar instructions were sent to the Embassies in Belgium (No. 109) and Italy (No. 260) on August 9, 1934.
  2. Not printed.