648L.113/10b: Telegram

The Secretary of State to the Ambassador in the United Kingdom (Bingham)

379. Department’s instruction No. 1460, October 13, 1936. Although tobacco manufacturers appear to be the most vitally interested in a proposed change in tariff policy in British West African Colonies following termination of the Anglo-French Convention of 1898, and although the flour millers have subsequently made equally strong appeals for assistance, we believe that the whole principle of imposing new duty differentials calculated to destroy long standing trade is one which may be attacked by us on the ground of:

(a) Such would be wholly out of line with recently expressed policies and completed acts by the great trading nations in the direction of rehabilitation and rationalization of world trade and (b) Since we have made clear to the British that the conclusion of a trade agreement with the United Kingdom (including the Colonies later, [Page 735] if not at once) would be almost impossible without some narrowing of duty differentials on the part of the British,6 any new differentials which would have eventually to be negotiated away would be considered by us as somewhat in the nature of “tariff padding”. We, therefore, request that you represent our general concern (naming, if you think advisable, tobacco and flour as specific examples) along the following lines:

Under the regime of equality of treatment which has always been in force in the United States and for nearly 40 years in the British West African Colonies of Nigeria and the Gold Coast, trade between the United States and those Colonies has flourished. Within the United States large capital investments have been made to manufacture and deliver to those Colonies articles which have been well received and purchased in increased quantities. On the other hand, the United States has become by reason of public demand and freedom of opportunity a substantial and apparently permanent market for a number of West African products.
The Government of the United States is greatly concerned over rumors which have come to it that consideration may be given to such alteration in the tariff policy of the West African Colonies as might destroy the flourishing trade from the United States to those Colonies, built up under this regime of equality of treatment. It, therefore, feels constrained to urge that due consideration be given to the inequity inherent in a system which would hamper or stop the importation of American goods into those Colonies and cause loss of investment and income to American manufacturers and shippers, especially while the trade continues to flourish in the other direction, and to request that there shall continue to be accorded equality of treatment to American goods entering those Colonies.
The Government of the United States considers that it would be particularly unfortunate if such action were taken at a time when the world is beginning to move away from the destructive commercial policies which have done so much damage to international trade in recent years. Any such action would have the appearance of inconsistency with recently expressed policies by the Governments of Great Britain and other leading trading nations.


[In paragraph 2 of his telegram No. 552, November 20, 1936, 8 p.m., the Ambassador in the United Kingdom stated that the British Foreign Secretary had “referred to the West African Tobacco question (Department’s 379, October 23, 7 p.m.) … and said he was not prepared [Page 736] to make a statement … at this time, but he would like to assure me that no steps would be taken such as were apprehended without further consultation.” For full text of telegram No. 552, see page 700.]

  1. See pp. 629 ff.