611.573 Whale Oil/50

Memorandum by the Assistant Secretary of State (Sayre)

The Norwegian Minister,2 calling to see me this morning, spoke first with regard to the Tonry Bill for the repeal of the tax on whale oil. The Minister spoke of his hope that the Secretary of the Treasury might write a letter to the Ways and Means Committee, urging the repeal of the whale oil tax on the ground that the present tax, which results in a complete cessation of imports, yields the Treasury no revenue, whereas, with the tax repealed, imports of whale oil from Norway would yield the Treasury a substantial amount. It is therefore hoped that the repeal of the whale oil tax may be looked upon as a provision to yield revenue and, as such, secure sufficient support for its passage. The Minister asked if it would be possible for the State Department to suggest to the Treasury Department the writing of such a letter.

I promised the Minister that I would get in touch with the Treasury Department today. I said that naturally I could not say what would be the reaction of the Treasury Department and that the writing of such a letter of course would be a question for the Treasury Department itself to decide. I said nevertheless that I would be glad to bring it to the attention of the Treasury Department. (I asked Mr. Feis3 to take the matter up with some of the Treasury Department officials. Mr. Feis, who is going over to the Treasury Department to discuss other matters, will take Mr. Minter4 with him and will bring to the attention of the Treasury Department the Norwegian Minister’s suggestions.)

The Minister then spoke about the possibility of a trade agreement between the United States and Norway. He said that naturally the making of a trade agreement would depend upon a reduction of the whale oil tax. He asked whether, if Congress should vote against the [Page 397]passage of the Tonry Bill, the adverse vote of Congress would prevent the making of a trade agreement reducing the tax. I replied that it would depend very much on what might take place. I said that if the Tonry Bill should not come up for a vote the way would seem to be open for the making of a trade agreement in which the whale oil tax could be reduced. If, however, the Tonry Bill should be voted upon, and particularly if it should be debated and Congress should vote against its passage, it might be politically impossible, in that event, for the State Department to take an action which might in the eyes of Congress seem to nullify the effects of its vote. I told the Minister that in a word it was impossible to answer his question because everything would depend upon the way in which the Tonry Bill came up and the nature of Congress’ action with respect to it.

F[rancis] B. S[ayre]
  1. Wilhelm Munthe de Morgenstierne.
  2. Herbert Feis, Economic Adviser.
  3. John R. Minter, of the Division of Western European Affairs.