The Ambassador in Japan ( Grew ) to the Secretary of State

No. 1272

Sir: I have the honor to acknowledge the receipt of the Department’s instruction No. 677, dated January 28, 1935, and the Department’s telegraphic instruction No. 71, April 27, 2 p.m.,26 with regard to a draft of a proposed consular convention with Japan, upon which the Department requests the suggestions of the Embassy and the Consulate General.

The draft convention was referred to the Consul General and his memoranda on the subject are enclosed herewith.27 The proposed convention has also been studied by the officers of the Embassy, whose suggestions in regard to points on which it is believed some improvement might be effected are as follows:

Article V. While the Embassy agrees with the Consul General that it would be most desirable that the privilege of entry free of customs duty be extended to tobacco, if possible, it is difficult to see how this could be done under the present laws in Japan, which are so framed that only the Ambassador himself can legally import tobacco free of duty. If, however, the privilege of importing tobacco free of duty could be extended to consul officers, it is certain that the privilege would be greatly appreciated by the officers.
Article VI. It appears that the reference to “All taxes …28 levied upon their persons or upon their property” might be more definite. It is almost certain that cases will arise in the future where consular officers will endeavor to extend the immunity to taxation to various indirect taxes, such as consumption taxes, excise taxes, motorcar licenses, fishing licenses, etc., giving rise to much trouble and discussion. It is suggested that the phrase “all direct taxes” might be more definite and tend to avoid misinterpretation.
Article VI, Comment. It is suggested in the comment that the privilege of exemption from payment of customs duties might be extended to officials of the Governments other than consular officers. While the Embassy has no doubt that the privilege would be greatly appreciated by the American officials stationed in Japan, where the customs duties are high, it appears probable that the granting of the privelege to too many people (some of whom have not been trained in the rigid codes which govern our Foreign Service Officers) might lead to scandals and trouble in the future. Moreover, it might not be advisable for the United States, with its strict laws against the importation of various articles, such as plants and narcotic drugs, to grant the privilege of free entry to too large a group of people.
Article XVI, page 19. The clause “so far as the laws of the country permit” in defining the right of a consul to take charge of the effects of one of his countrymen who dies intestate within his district, possibly may be necessary in order to accord with the laws of some of the States of the United States, but as far as Japan is concerned it appears possible that this qualifying clause might lead to difficulties. As a matter of general practice, the Japanese authorities are not only willing but glad to allow the American consuls to take charge of the effects of deceased American citizens, as they do not desire the labor of attempting to administer an estate, however small, belonging to a foreigner. At least one case is known to the Embassy, however, where the Japanese authorities, apparently for some reason of their own, endeavored to obtain possession of the effects of a highly-placed American who died in Japan. It therefore appears advisable, to clear up any ambiguity which may exist, to make it mandatory upon the local authorities to turn over charge to a consular officer of the effects of a fellow-countryman who dies intestate within the consular district.

Respectfully yours,

Joseph C. Grew
  1. Telegram not printed; it reported the conversation of April 25.
  2. Memoranda not printed.
  3. Omission indicated in the original despatch.