811.114 Belgium/296a

The Secretary of State to the Minister in Canada (Armour)

No. 481

Sir: With reference to your despatch No. 564 of April 3, 1936, enclosing a copy of a note from the Department of External Affairs of Canada29 expressing the willingness of the Canadian Government to support representations to the Belgian Government in order to prevent the shipment from Antwerp of cargoes of alcohol intended for smuggling into the United States and probably also into Canada, you are informed that no action was taken in the matter at that time since the Belgian Ambassador at this capital had requested that no [Page 426] further representations be made until he had had an opportunity to present his views on the subject to his Government.

However, the return to Antwerp in May, last, of the British steamship Hillfern with a large part of the 700,000 liters of alcohol with which it had cleared on March 28, 1936, again raised the question, in connection with preventing the reshipment of this cargo. As a result, the Belgian Government has issued a decree, effective August 1, 1936, which was published in the Moniteur Beige of July 17, 1936, designed to prevent further illicit shipments. According to a telegram received from the American Chargé d’Affaires ad interim at Brussels, the decree in translation reads as follows:

[Here follows text of translation of the Belgian decree.]

The Chargé d’Affaires further telegraphed on July 28, 1936,31 in reply to our inquiry,32 that while persons who do not wish to avail themselves of the refund of excise duties and consumption taxes need not comply with the regulations, the alcohol could not profitably be sold abroad as the duties and taxes amount to about 60 francs per liter on alcohol of 100 degrees. It was further stated that the regulations cannot be applied to alcohol in transit through Belgium because of the provisions of the Barcelona Convention of December 1, 1921. (This is believed to be the “Convention and Statute on Freedom of Transit”, which was signed at Barcelona on April 20, 1921, and which was open for signature until December 1, 1921.33 The object of this Convention is to make provision to secure and maintain freedom of communications and transit.) The average weight of a metal cask containing 100 liters of alcohol at 100 degrees is said to be 115 kilograms. The Treasury Department had asked that the barrels contain a minimum of 50 gallons in order to increase the difficulty of transferring them at sea.

The Chargé d’Affaires was informed that while the Treasury Department maintains its position that landing certificates are preferable, the action taken by the Belgian Government is much appreciated. Whether it will be successful in preventing further illicit shipments of alcohol from Antwerp remains to be seen.

You are requested to inform the appropriate Canadian authorities of the above-mentioned developments and to add that we greatly appreciate their willingness to cooperate with us in this matter.

Very truly yours,

For the Secretary of State:
William Phillips
  1. Enclosure not printed.
  2. Telegram No. 60, July 28, 1 p.m.; not printed.
  3. Department’s telegram No. 26, July 23, 6 p.m.; not printed.
  4. League of Nations Treaty Series, vol. vii, p. 11.