The Secretary of State to the South African Minister (Close)

My Dear Mr. Minister: As you are aware, I have been much concerned over the charges said to have been made in South Africa of alleged discrimination by the United States against South African products, and am most anxious to avoid any disturbing element in the relations of this country with the Union of South Africa, towards which, as you know, I have always been animated by the most friendly sentiments.

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I understand that the principal difficulties are in connection with shipments of wines and fruits and I have caused a study to be made of the charges raised. The results of this investigation have been embodied in a memorandum which I take occasion to transmit to you with the request that you be good enough to bring it to the attention of your Government.

In the interest of finding a mutually satisfactory solution, it might, however, be useful first to discuss these difficulties in the light of the studies, which I understand you have also been making, and of the attached memorandum. I had hoped to have an opportunity to talk with you before leaving for my vacation, but in my absence Mr. Phillips will be glad to see you at your early convenience.

I am [etc.]

Cordell Hull

The Department of State to the South African Legation

The attention of the American Government has been directed to a press campaign in South Africa, which, it is stated, is being carried on against the discriminatory actions of the American Government with respect to the importation into this country of South African products. It is reported that South Africa is disturbed by the complete failure of its Wine Growers Association to market South African wines and brandies in the United States in consequence of American regulations which have made the sale of these products impossible. It is charged that American regulations for the importation of both wines and fruits are solely of a political character and intended to keep out South African products.

The wine exporters are said to have claimed that constant changes in American customs regulations have made it impossible for them to import wines, and that for this reason the South African Wine Growers Association is closing its office in the United States and withdrawing completely from business in this country.

It is also stated that in the interests of building up an import trade of fruits into the United States the producers of South African fruits had last year sent two Government entomologists to this country to see if they could satisfy the American authorities that the method of shipment employed in South Africa would serve to combat the Mediterranean fruit fly and answer the requirements of the Department of Agriculture with respect to shipments of grapes. Following discussions with the officials of the Department of Agriculture, the South African entomologists were informed that experiments would be carried on on the basis of their recommendations [Page 861] and suggestions; but following their return to South Africa it is said that they have heard nothing further as to the results of these experiments.

There appears to be no record in the Department of State of any complaints by the South African Wine Growers Association against regulations making it impossible to import South African wine and brandy into the United States. In 1934, attempts were made by the South African exporters to increase quota allotments and at that time a permit to cover a shipment of South African wines was refused because the application was not made in time. This appears to be the only case of a complaint on record.

The Department of State has addressed inquiries to the Federal Alcohol Administration and to the National Association of Alcoholic Beverage Importers, of which the South African Wine Growers Association is a member, to determine whether they were aware of the situation alleged to exist. Both groups have replied in the negative.

The Secretary of the Importers Association states that he knows of no case which might have justifiably been made the cause of any complaint and that there has been no discrimination whatsoever against South African wine imports, which are subject to the identical regulations as are similar imports from other countries. In fact South African brandy will benefit through the most-favored-nation clause from the reduction of import duties on brandy brought about by the recent trade agreement with France. In response to an inquiry addressed by the Secretary of the Association, a representative of the South African Wine Growers Association in New York, has replied that the reason for the closing of its office is “purely a question of business judgment”. He admits that the regulations apply to all countries and do not discriminate against South African wine.

It is recognized that various changes have taken place in the regulations from time to time which, owing to the distance between this country and South Africa, have made it difficult in all cases for South African exporters to comply as promptly with American regulations, but it is understood that in the majority of cases these difficulties have been adjusted or were on the point of being adjusted through the assistance of the National Association of Alcoholic Beverage Importers.

Should there have been cases of disagreements and difficulties which might have been regulated through the intervention of this Department, it is to be regretted that its attention was not drawn to these matters before the decision to withdraw was taken.

With reference to the problem of importation of fruits from South Africa, it will be recalled that in 1923 an embargo against the importation [Page 862] of fresh fruits into the United States from countries where the Mediterranean fruit fly was known to exist was imposed solely for the purpose of preventing the spread of this insect pest in this country. Following studies carried on by the Department of Agriculture, an order (BPQ 362 May 1, 1934) was issued making provision for the entry of such fruits if the shipments were made in compliance with certain specifications. This method is available to South African shippers as well as other countries who are now sending fruits to the United States. Inasmuch, however, as the South Africans have indicated they could not conveniently use this method, experiments were undertaken following the exchange of views with the South African entomologists last year to determine if methods more suitable to their particular needs could be devised. The Department of Agriculture has assured this Department that the experimental work is actively in progress in Hawaii but, as will be appreciated, such experiments take time and it is difficult to say exactly when results may be expected which would permit a revision of the existing order in favor of South African shippers.