The Ambassador in Turkey ( Skinner ) to the Secretary of State

No. 326

Sir: I have read with interest a letter dated June 7, 1934, from the Division of Near Eastern Affairs, inviting me to try my hand at drafting a treaty which, presumably, would strengthen our commercial position in Turkey. My conviction is that we do not so much need a new treaty as faithful observance of the one we already possess. In my view we are entitled, as a matter of equity and of treaty right, to each and every favor the Turks have granted to other countries, and it was with that conviction in mind that I wrote my despatch No. 177 dated March 19, 1934. Happily, since that time, by means of constant pressure, by pointing out that we were buying infinitely more from Turkey than Turkey bought from us, we have obtained what seems to be an agreement that we shall have everything we desire that is given to other Governments in special treaties. Our practical difficulty is to know from one day to another what the Turks are giving to other Governments, in order to claim as much for ourselves.

It is true that our trade with Turkey is small, but it is more important than our own statistics indicate because certain of our manufactures (automobiles especially) are imported into Turkey not directly but from European distributing centers. As far back as 1929 our exports to Turkey reached a total of 17,150,000 Ltqs., but by 1933 (ten months), the total had dropped to 1,983,000 Ltqs; that is to say, almost to the point of disappearance. Yet in the interval German [Page 952] trade, to mention but one country, declined hardly more than 50 per cent, and an examination of all of the figures shows that our losses have been disproportionate and out of balance with what was taking place elsewhere. Obviously the decline in American imports can be attributed in part only to the general decline in business and the reasons for this decline must be sought in Turkish commercial policy, as revealed in innumerable commercial treaties setting up clearing arrangements and quotas in favor of this country and that.

Although under our treaty we are entitled undoubtedly, as I have said, to every privilege granted to any other country, we seem to have acquiesced in the Turkish theory that Article II merely requires that the Government give us “treatment equally favorable” in a broad way; we acquiesced, although according to the words of the treaty we were to enjoy “any advantage of whatsoever kind …63 without request and without compensation.” Undoubtedly my predecessor urged that our rights should be respected, but apparently the legal aspects of the matter were not stressed. The relatively enormous Turkish balance in the United States places us in the strongest possible position to demand and receive everything granted to anybody else but in fact we have obtained equality of treatment by bits, with the greatest difficulty, and in the meantime our imports into this country have declined more heavily than those of any other important country.

Whether a new or amended treaty would help us in Turkey is open to doubt. What we want is complete enforcement of the existing treaty. As one of Turkey’s best customers we are entitled to no less. It was from that point of view that I wrote to the Department on March 19th last. If, however, as my Japanese colleague insists, “most favored nations” treaties are dead, if we ourselves, living as we do in a world of restrictions and quotas, are compelled at last to embark upon something of the same nature, then perhaps a treaty with Turkey might be worth considering. But just now, with Turkey yielding hesitatingly, but still yielding, to our requests, it is not clear that we need a different treaty from the one in operation.

I am disposed to assume that we would be glad to escape if possible from the vicious circle of trade restrictions and continue on our way of controlling imports by means of tariffs. If that is the case, there is then a possibility, though a remote one, that Turkey might welcome an opportunity to join with us in some sort of a treaty declaratory of the conviction of the two nations that quotas and clearing agreements should be abandoned, and of their intention to do so as between each other. Possibly such a treaty might have wholesome effect upon the [Page 953] world at large. For purposes of discussion, merely, I submit an article covering the above suggestion:

The United States of America and Turkey declare their conviction that aside from the imposition of tariff or excise duties and necessary hygienic measures, it is undesirable that restrictions should be imposed upon exports and imports, and they mutually renounce recourse to quotas or contingents both as to quantities and values, or to clearing agreements which would prevent the one country from employing as it might see fit its commercial balance in the other country.

Even the refusal of such a treaty would have its value in establishing clearly the conditions under which Turkey expects to conduct her foreign trade.

Respectfully yours,

Robert P. Skinner
  1. Omission indicated in the original despatch.