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

No. 897

Sir: I have the honor to refer to the Department’s instruction No. 505 of August 3, 1934, directing the Embassy to make discreet inquiries with a view to determining whether the French Government has taken up with the British Government any proposal looking toward the modification of the customs regime in French Morocco, through a revision or abrogation of the Act of Algeciras. The Department also instructed the Embassy to send any other information it was able to obtain on the subject, including a statement of the British attitude toward such a proposal.

The matter was discussed with the appropriate official of the Foreign Office, whose remarks were substanially as follows:

Though the Foreign Office had been expecting the French to broach the subject for some time, in view of M. Ponsot’s speeches, numerous articles in Moroccan newspapers and occasional informal references to the question by French officials in conversation with the British, it was not brought up officially until the recent Franco-British conversations in London which led to the trade agreement of June 27 last. (See the Embassy’s despatch No. 807 of July 5.)17 The French delegation included an expert on Moroccan affairs, who opened the question by pointing out that French Morocco and Great Britain had a similar problem in Japanese competition, and that they should therefore work together. He then suggested that the British consent to the introduction of import quotas and an increase in the tariff in French Morocco. The British replied that they were willing to agree to these proposals in principle, provided the quotas and tariff increases were satisfactory to Great Britain, but the Foreign Office would of course have to await concrete proposals before reaching a definite decision.

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Asked whether the French had raised the question of the possible modification or abrogation of the Act of Algeciras in this relation, the Foreign Office official said that it had not been broached, as the French Government doubtless realized, despite Ponsot’s evident desire to modify the Act, that such steps would meet with British opposition. In any event, if and when such a suggestion were made, the Foreign Office official said that it would be vigorously opposed by the British Government.

During the above mentioned conversations, the French stated that they were going to discuss the matter with the other interested parties to the Act of Algeciras. In this relation the Foreign Office official said that the British were glad that the French Government intended to discuss the question with the other interested countries, and that they had so informed the French.

The official also told the Embassy that the British Ambassador in Paris had recently reported that in a talk at the Quai d’Orsay he was informed that the French were going to discuss the subject with the United States Government.

As regards Spain the official said that the Foreign Office assumed that the French had received assurances of Spanish support in return for a promise that France would support any similar proposals relating to Spanish Morocco.

During the course of this conversation with the Embassy, the Foreign Office official said that in his opinion the preamble of the Act of Algeciras, which mentions “economic liberty without any inequality” in Morocco, is imprecise and not satisfactory as a basis upon which to claim the right of prior approval of the French proposals mentioned above. These fears, he said, were personal and quite confidential, and of course had not been conveyed to the French. He added, however, that the Foreign Office felt that it was adequately protected in this respect by its treaty with the Sultan prior to the Act of Algeciras.

Respectfully yours,

For the Ambassador:
Ray Atherton

Counselor of Embassy
  1. Not printed.