The French Ministry for Foreign Affairs to the American Embassy in France 67


The Embassy of the United States apprised the Ministry for Foreign Affairs, by note of April 6,68 that the unofficial exchanges of views which have taken place since January 14 between the representatives of the Embassy and the French officials, concerning the methods of application of the economic reform envisaged in Morocco, have permitted the Federal Government to examine exhaustively the project of the French Government. Following this examination the American Government felt called upon to protest against the principle of the reform, taking as a basis the following considerations:

The quota system envisaged would be discriminatory and for this reason would strike at the principle of economic equality in Morocco as guaranteed by the Act of Algeciras. Contrary to the principles of the open door, it would, moreover, be particularly inopportune at a moment when efforts should be made to remove obstacles to commerce.

The project of customs reform would be a further blow to the policy of the open door, to which the American Government adheres. The project should not, in its estimation, be put into effect without the consent of all Powers signatory to the Act of Algeciras.

The arguments invoked by the Federal Government to justify its viewpoint have been the object of careful study on the part of the [Page 982] French Government which feels itself constrained to submit, in opposition, the following observations:

The contemplated quota system affects in no way the principle of commercial equality since it would be applied indiscriminately to all merchandise coming from foreign countries, including France, and since the quotas would be allocated in accordance with basic years which would be the same for all countries, including France.

Far from striking at the policy of the open door, the quota system, as envisaged by the Government of the Protectorate, is expressly designed to avoid that, in practice, Morocco should shortly be closed to all foreign importations except those coming from countries which resort to a policy of “dumping”. It would be paradoxical if, following the letter rather than the spirit of the Act of Algeciras, countries which have a normal commercial policy should come to deprive themselves of a market which, by definition, ought to be open to all. Is it necessary to recall, in this connection, that the reform envisaged would result in consolidating 52% of the American trade with Morocco and in placing the United States in a position substantially equal to that of England and the Protective Power?

To answer all the observations of the Government of the United States on this subject, it must be added that the establishment of a quota system in Morocco constitutes an essentially provisional measure which might be discarded when the imperative reason which motivates it shall have disappeared.

So far as the customs reform is concerned, the French Government desires to state that it cannot admit either in principle or in fact the thesis of the Federal Government according to which the tariff regime in Morocco might not be modified without the consent of the Powers signatory to the Act of Algeciras.

Legally, the Shereefian Government is bound, in so far as modifications to the customs tariff are concerned, only by the tariff clauses existing in treaties concluded by it with foreign Powers. The treaties in force with Great Britain and Spain are the only ones containing clauses of this sort. In this regard, therefore, the United States can only claim most-favored-nation treatment which the Government of the Protectorate has always extended to it.

In fact, the tariff augmentation envisaged being indispensable to the maintenance of the commercial equilibrium of the Protectorate, it is just and equitable that the Powers which, like the United States, have greatly benefited from the development of the purchasing power of the Moroccan market and from the reforms introduced in the French Zone by the Protective Power, should not block measures which are designed to furnish the Moroccan budget with the revenues necessary to the maintenance and the development of a plant without which foreign commerce could not expand.

[Page 983]

The Ministry for Foreign Affairs has already made known to the Embassy of the United States, by note of January 14,69 the reasons why the French Government was unable to accept the interpretation given to Article 123 of the Act of Algeciras by the American Diplomatic Agent at Tangier. It seizes the present opportunity to recall that, no more than did the Madrid Convention of 1880,70 has the aforementioned Article 123 made permanent, without time limitation, the rights held by the United States under the treaty of September 16, 1836. The said treaty, concluded for a duration of fifty years, is now subject to denunciation, upon twelve months’ advance notice. The French Government can avail itself of this right at any moment.

Such being the situation, from the legal and factual point of view, the French Government, which has just given new proofs of its desire to cooperate, in ratifying the double tax convention,71 which binds the two countries, and in instituting at St. Pierre-et-Miquelon the system of liquor control72 requested by the Federal Government, hopes that the latter will be so good as to consider, from a practical rather than a juridical standpoint, a reform which circumstances urgently demand shall not be further put off, both in the interest of Morocco and of the countries which trade with the Protectorate.

  1. Transmitted to the Department by the Ambassador in his despatch No. 1858, May 10; received May 17.
  2. See telegram No. 92, March 16, 3 p.m., to the Ambassador in France, p. 973.
  3. A search of Department and post records has failed to reveal a French note of January 14 or other date dealing with an interpretation of article 123 of the Act of Algeciras. The note of January 14, 1935, enclosed with despatch No. 1529, January 16, p. 958, is concerned solely with a French proposal for economic changes in Morocco.
  4. Convention as to Protection Between Morocco and Other Powers, signed July 3, 1880, Malloy, Treaties, 1776–1909, vol. i, p. 1220.
  5. See vol. ii, pp. 247 ff.
  6. See note of March 15 from the French Embassy, and telegram No. 344, April 17, noon, from the Ambassador in France, pp. 412 and 414.