The Chargé in Uruguay (Dominian) to the Secretary of State

No. 1104

Sir: I have the honor to inform the Department that as a result of complaints made by importers of American products against the recently enacted increase of from 20% to 40% over the present rates in customs duties, I asked the Minister of Foreign Affairs4 yesterday to provide me with a copy of the text of the decree authorizing the increased customs rates.

I ascertained that representations against the increased tariffs were made by the Ministers of Belgium, Germany and Italy as well as by the Chargés d’Affaires of Great Britain and France. On talking with these gentlemen I found that they claimed that the interests of their nationals who exported products to Uruguay were adversely affected by the increase in customs rates.

I abstained yesterday from making any representations at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs pending the receipt of the text of the new customs regulations. It appears that this text has not been communicated to the press nor have any of the interested Legations been able to secure a copy of it. The Minister of Foreign Affairs did not promise to let me have one but referred me to the Minister of Finance from whom he stated I would probably be able to secure a copy. However, he also informed me that he thought that in view of the representations which had been made by a number of foreign Ministers in the capital, the Minister of Finance would have to reconsider his decision and reduce the proposed increases. I understand, in fact, that the increased rates have been reduced temporarily for the duration of the current month.

The increase in customs duties was intended to procure additional revenues to the customs receipts which had decreased appreciably as a result of the restrictions imposed in the course of the last year on imports and exchange transactions. The consensus of opinion is that the proposed increase in customs duties will contribute to a further diminution of the customs revenues as a new restriction on the importation of foreign products into Uruguay will thus have been introduced.

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The data I have to date on the subject are insufficient to warrant representations being made on a plea of discrimination and I shall be unable to decide whether the new measure will entail discrimination against American exports to Uruguay until I have gone over the text of the new regulations. Nevertheless, I have felt that a request made officially for a copy of the text of the new customs regulations would serve to indicate the Legation’s intention to act in the protection of American interests, if necessary, and I made it a point to inform the Minister of Foreign Affairs that I hoped that the new measures did not contain discriminatory provisions against our export trade.

I found that the Minister of Foreign Affairs’ opinion was that the new increases in customs rates would have to be modified as the Council of Ministers realized that local business associations, Uruguayan and foreign, opposed them. His personal view was that there was danger of a further decrease in customs revenues if the increased rates were maintained on account of their prohibitory character.

Respectfully yours,

Leon Dominian
  1. Juan José de Arteaga.