The Ambassador in Belgium (Morris) to the Secretary of State

No. 287

Sir: Confirming the Embassy’s telegram No. 57, November 12, 1934, 5 p.m.,14 I have the honor to transmit herewith copies and translations of a Note, dated November 12, 1934, from the Belgian Minister for Foreign Affairs, with four enclosures setting forth the Belgian desiderata in regard to the forthcoming tariff negotiations with the United States.

Mr. de Lantsheere, Chef de Cabinet of the Minister for Foreign Affairs, who handed the Note and its enclosures to a member of my staff, stated that the Belgian Government had included in its request for tariff concessions all articles on which Belgian producers had asked for concessions in the course of the preliminary investigation conducted by the Foreign Office. Mr. de Lantsheere intimated, however, that although the Belgian Government had advanced 87 items on which tariff concessions were sought, his Government would not push most of these requests in the forthcoming negotiations. In view of the number of concessions requested, the Embassy decided to cable to the Department only the most important points in connection with the five concessions stressed by the Belgian Foreign Office in enclosure [Page 82]No. 1 to its Note. In enclosure No. 2,17 the Belgian Government has indicated to a certain extent the relative importance which it attaches to the request for each individual concession. It should be noted in addition that in enclosure No. 1 the Belgian Government reserves to itself the right to present to the American Government both before and during the negotiations additional desiderata which it is not possible to specify definitely at the present time.

In view of the fact that the Note from the Foreign Office was received only 24 hours, approximately, before the closing of the mail for the first fast steamer, the Majestic, the forty-page translation of the Note with its enclosures was necessarily made with great speed, and in the work emphasis has been laid on accuracy rather than on form.

Respectfully yours,

Dave H. Morris

The Belgian Minister for Foreign Affairs (Jaspar) to the American Ambassador (Morris)

Mr. Ambassador: I have the honor to transmit herewith to Your Excellency a memorandum and three notes18 prepared by the Government of the King, in view of the forthcoming tariff negotiations between the United States and Belgium.

I avail myself [etc.]

Henri Jaspar

Memorandum Concerning the Tariff Negotiations Between the United States and Belgium

The Government of the King is happy that Belgium was the first European country approached by the American Government as a result of the initiative of President Roosevelt for the commencement of negotiations which should result in a network of commercial treaties bringing about reciprocal concessions. It was one of the first to applaud this initiative and is persuaded that it can contribute in a very favorable way to the recovery of international commerce.

The gesture of President Roosevelt has been better understood in Belgium than elsewhere, because it is altogether in a line with the commercial policy followed up to the present by the Belgian Government. [Page 83]The American Government is not ignorant of all the efforts made by the Belgian Government in the years which have elapsed since the War to bring about a greater freedom of international exchange: it is sufficient to cite its active participations in the Geneva conferences with a view to concerted economic action, the conclusion, with the Netherlands and the Scandinavian countries, of the Oslo Convention of Economic Rapprochement,19 finally the initiative taken by the Belgian, Luxemburg and Netherlands Governments in signing two year[s] ago the Ouchy Convention, designed to lower gradually the economic barriers, and open to the adhesion of all countries. All these efforts have met with opposition or indifference on the part of most nations. Moreover, the Belgian custom tariff is distinguished by its moderation and, if it has been necessary at times to have recourse to quotas, the Government of the King has done it respecting, in so far as possible, the existing commercial currents.

Belgium maintains with the United States of America important commercial relations of which the commercial balance has been for a long time largely favorable to the United States. Whether one consults the American statistics or the Belgian statistics it is clear that Belgium buys each year from America to an amount almost double that which she sells to America. The Belgium Government is an adversary of the system in which the balance of trade ought to be exactly in equilibrium between country and country; in its opinion that is a fallacious policy which only aggravates the contraction of world commerce at a time when all efforts are being made to develop these international exchanges. However, it (the Belgium Government) cannot refrain from remarking that the American importations into the Belgo-Luxemburg Union benefit in general from a tariff régime much more liberal than that which is applied to Belgian products exported to the United States, that the disparity in the balance of trade between the two countries is excessive. It believes that its views coincide with those of the American Government in wishing that this situation may be rectified by an equal increase of purchases on both sides.

The Belgian Government must call attention again to the fact that in spite of its small area and the unimportant total of its population the Belgo-Luxemburg Union constitutes one of the best markets both for raw materials exported from the United States (grain, cotton, tobacco, gasoline), and for certain special products of their industry (automobiles, typewriters). In proportion to its population the Belgo-Luxemburg Union is, after the Netherlands, the best client of the United States.

[Page 84]

For all these reasons the Government of the King hopes that the Government of the United States is disposed to regard the negotiations in a broad spirit of conciliation. It is ready, on its side, to make every effort to satisfy the desiderata which will be submitted to it.

The Belgium Ministry of Foreign Affairs has the honor to submit to His Excellency Mr. Morris a note which, in accordance with the agreement between the Government of the United States and the Belgian Embassy at Washington, is destined to serve as an introduction to the negotiations which should be undertaken in the near future between the two countries. (Enclosure 2)

The desiderata set forth in this note have been gathered in the course of an extensive inquiry in Belgium in both industrial and agricultural circles interested in American markets. This note, therefore, represents exactly the claims of Belgian industry and agriculture in connection with the American customs tariff. The Government of the King must indicate immediately that it considers certain of the claims set forth as presenting an especial importance: it reserves to itself the right to make more precise this point in the course of the negotiations. As a fair example and without having the enumeration considered as a limitation, the Belgian Government mentions that the claims relative to cement, glass, linen fabrics, leathers, sodium phosphate …20 are particularly important in its eyes. Furthermore, the Government of the King reserves to itself the right to present to the American Government either before or during the course of the negotiations other claims which it is not possible for it to specify at the moment.

The Belgian Government must point out that the obstacles which hinder the entry into the United States of Belgian products are not all related to the tariff. Certain stipulations of the American customs regulations constitute obstacles for Belgian and Luxemburg articles which in certain cases are very annoying, sometimes even prohibitive.

The Belgian Government is not ignorant of the fact that the President of the United States has not received special powers in this matter. The Government of the King, however, believes that an amelioration of the conditions of the importation of Belgian products could be attained by a more liberal and supple application of the measures of which it is a question.

As this question presents a very great importance for Belgo-Luxemburg exports to the United States the Belgian Government counts on the fact that the American Government will make an effort to give satisfaction, [Page 85]in so far as possible, to the desiderata which are succinctly set forth in another note, likewise enclosed herewith. (Enclosure 3.)

American legislation on the quarantine of horticultural products (Quarantine Act) has resulted in the complete prohibition of the entry into American territory of Belgian horticultural products.

As this question presents for Belgium considerable importance the Ministry for Foreign Affairs has believed it necessary to record its claims in this manner in a separate note. (Enclosure 4.) The Government of the King hopes that the Government of the United States will find it possible in the future to apply the legislation relative to the quarantine in a more liberal spirit.

  1. Not printed.
  2. Not printed.
  3. The three notes, enclosures 2, 3, and 4, not printed.
  4. League of Nations Treaty Series, vol. cxxvi, p. 341.
  5. Omission indicated in the original.