The Chargé in Italy ( Kirk ) to the Secretary of State

No. 682

Sir: I have the honor to acknowledge the receipt of the Department’s instruction No. 260 of August 9th,18 regarding rumors which [Page 848] are being circulated concerning the possible modification of the Customs Régime in Morocco, and to submit herewith the following résumé of statements which have been made in reply to discreet inquiries on this matter in Rome:

It would appear that, insofar as the Italian Government is concerned, there are two distinct questions affecting Morocco to which it is now giving its consideration. In the first place it is said that the Spanish Government wishes to alter certain customs tariffs in the Spanish zone of Morocco and has approached the Italian Government in that regard. Although the Embassy is not aware of any definite statement to that effect, it would appear that the Italian Government does not view with favor these proposed changes and has or is about to notify the Spanish Government to that effect.

The other question which relates directly to the general question of the equality of trade rights for foreign powers in Morocco is said to have been raised by the French Government. It appears that, on the occasion of the visit to Paris in May of Alberto Asquini, Italian Undersecretary of State for Corporations, he was handed an informal Aide-Mémoire, which bore evidence that it had also been presented in London and which set forth the anxiety which the French Governments feels at the growth of Japanese trade in north and central Africa and the dangers resulting therefrom to the trade of other nations in that territory. This Aide-Mémoire, it is alleged, discusses in the first instance the trade situation as related to the district known as the “Bassin Conventionel du Congo”, which is affected by international agreements including those of St. Germain of 1919,19 and sounds the possibility of taking steps to defend that territory from the inroads of Japanese imports. This particular problem, in the view of the Italian Government, offers serious complications and has far-reaching ramifications and consequently is not regarded as susceptible of a speedy solution. As regards the special question of foreign trade in Morocco, it is said that the French document proposes that the provisions of the customs régime in Morocco be interpreted in such a way as to permit the establishment of quotas which would result in curtailing the inroads being made by Japanese competition in that territory. On this point, although it is impossible to state the actual course which the Italians will follow, there is an indication that in certain circles it is believed that, in order to permit the establishment of quotas, so large an interpretation of the pertinent provisions would have to be made that the result would be tantamount to a modification of the customs régime, and that the French proposal must be considered in that light. Incidentally, the contention has been made that, as the trade rights of Japan in Morocco are, it is understood, based on [Page 849] a most-favored-nation clause in the treaty between that country and France, if France now wishes to limit Japan’s rights in Morocco it might first apply itself to the alteration of the terms of that treaty. In connection with this entire question, however, it should be noted that the Italian views on the French proposal relating to trade in Morocco are largely a matter of conjecture and that there is no indication that a definite decision has yet been reached in Rome. In fact it is understood that the French Aide-Mémoire is now only in the process of study by the commercial experts here and that not only is there no present inclination on the part of Italy to hasten an expression of views on the basis of the French Aide-Mémoire but it is probable that the matter will remain in temporary abeyance until some occasion presents itself to remove it from the informal status, as evidenced by the document handed to Mr. Asquini, to more regular diplomatic channels.

The Embassy will not fail to continue its discreet inquiries on this subject and will communicate to the Department such corrections or amplifications of the informal statements outlined above as may be obtained.

Respectfully yours,

Alexander Kirk