The American Technical Adviser (Nufer) to the Ambassador in Cuba (Caffery)68

Subject: Scope and Effective Date of Prior Decree Law.

We have discussed at great length with the Cuban authorities the subject of the prior decree law. The preparation and scope of this decree law present certain difficulties arising mainly out of the fact that Cuban decrees and laws effecting tariff changes always show the new maximum and general rates together with the United States preferences and rates. The Cuban authorities are agreed that the [Page 166] promulgation of tariff changes in any other form would be unacceptable.

As a result of our discussions the following proposal regarding the decree law is submitted to the Department for approval:

The decree law would contain all changes that have been agreed upon as a result of our negotiations, excepting only those notes which refer solely to agreements between Cuba and the United States. The changes that would appear in the decree law would include:

Changes in the numbers and letters of tariff items.
Changes in classification and nomenclature.
Changes in general rates.
Changes in United States preferences.
Changes in rates to the United States.
All notes except those which refer solely to agreements between the two contracting countries. (These latter notes, as well as those we wish to bind, will appear in Schedule I.)

The decree law in its final form would be submitted to the Department for approval prior to the signature of the agreement. It should be promulgated after the agreement is signed and should become effective shortly before the effective date of the agreement.

In accordance with the Department’s instruction No. 292 of July 28, Schedule I of the agreement would contain:

The classification, United States preference and United States rate on all items where the rate is bound—(Columns I and II).
The classification and United States preference only in all items where there has been a change in preference but the rate left unbound—(Column I).
All notes referring to agreements applying only to Cuba and to the United States and those notes the inclusion of which has been requested by the Department for the purpose of binding.

If the above decree law method is not followed, it would be necessary, under the established Cuban legislative procedure, to issue two decree laws. The first would have to be issued prior to the signature of the agreement and would contain the information previously listed, except that the indicated preference to the United States would be that now in effect and the resulting United States rates would have to be shown. This would involve serious problems and would complicate and delay the work. In the case of items involving consolidations of several items there are several cases where as many as three preferences are involved. Not only are the difficulties of drafting serious, but many of the United States rates as published would appear ridiculous, and as this would be the first public information on the agreement, public opinion would in all probability be aroused against the agreement as a result of the inevitable misinterpretations which would result and which would not be dispelled until the agreement is promulgated.

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Following the promulgation of the agreement a second Decree-Law would have to be published incorporating the United States preferentials indicated in Schedule I and the resulting United States rates. The first decree would involve innumerable useless calculations and the issuing of two decree laws increases the chances of error. As under the proposed plan of only one decree-law, all changes appearing in Schedule I, with the exception of notes referring to agreements between the two contracting countries would be shown, we feel very strongly that the problem will be simplified and that the plan should by all means be approved by the Department.

However, the Department’s attention is invited to the possibility of this proposal conflicting with the terms of the General Provisions. We have in mind particularly the second sentence of Article VIII where reference is made to “… in force on the day of signature of this Agreement.” If the Department concurs, such conflict may be removed by changing this wording to “… in force on the day this Agreement becomes effective.”

As work on the preparation of the decree law will be hindered until the Department’s instructions are received, it is urgently recommended that they be transmitted by cable at the earliest possible opportunity.

Albert F. Nufer


  • Walter J. Donnelly
  • Harry E. Turkel

  1. Copy transmitted to the Department by the Ambassador in Cuba in his despatch No. 1163, August 18, 1934; received August 20.