765.84/3641: Telegram

The Consul at Geneva ( Gilbert ) to the Secretary of State

54. I learn the following in the strictest confidence from absolutely reliable sources:

1. While the matter has not been touched upon in the petroleum subcommittee, certain figures available here respecting the American production and export of petroleum and possible conclusions drawn therefrom have been privately discussed within a small group of delegates chiefly, as far as I can determine, Italian [Latin?] American delegates. The figures indicate that the exports of the United States in relation to its production and domestic consumption are substantially made possible by imports from other states, chiefly Mexico and [Page 107] Venezuela. They deduce from this, and presumably from other elements in the situation, that the United States by the action of other states could be eliminated as an important factor in the embargo problem.

The Mexican representative here has stated that if the issue arose in that form Mexico would be willing to regulate oil shipments to the United States. The Venezuelan representative is greatly disturbed by the possibilities presented, particularly if pressure were put on Venezuela by the Netherlands through her Caribbean refining arrangements, and is telegraphing his Government concerning this entire question. He speaks at the same time of the difficulty of his Government’s taking action in the matter of petroleum due to revolutionary disturbances in her [his] country, a separatist movement in fact taking place in the oil area. The Peruvian delegate is also concerned, although the relatively small exports of Peruvian petroleum do not make the problem important in a practical sense. The Argentine delegate is preoccupied over the more general political implications in the matter due to official notification that Buenos Aires has already taken action on an embargo.

There is considerable speculation and anxiety on the part of all Latin American delegates who are cognizant of this matter respecting the possible position of the United States in its entire American relationships and in a more general sense over possible repercussions on American-European relationships as affecting the League and also in their broader aspects. There are current vague expressions of opinion of the bearing of the Monroe Doctrine in certain contingencies.

I feel that I must say that I know nothing about the figures cited nor whether the assumptions advanced have any validity. I must emphasize, however, that the concern among the Latin American delegates to whom this matter is known is obviously very real. Any information for my own background with which the Department feels it could furnish me would be appreciated.

2. Consulate’s 52, Feb. 6, 10 a.m. Contrary to all outward impressions given that London is not anxious for the imposition of an oil embargo against Italy, I learn that Eden in a recent conversation with Cantilo, Argentine Ambassador at Rome, declared that Great Britain was most desirous to have an embargo effected but that she did not wish to take the lead. In the same conversation Eden asserted that the bilateral and other European arrangements, in which London was interested were all purely attempts to reinforce the League and that there was no relaxation of London’s attachment to the League and the general project of collective security. He added, however, that the League Covenant would eventually have [Page 108] to be revised. He stated that were Great Britain’s efforts in these respects not successful, she must retire from the Continent and in a sense retire from the League.

It is difficult to say whether Eden’s statements to Cantilo were merely to reassure him respecting the League—the Latin American states showing certain signs of defection in the matter of sanctions—or whether especially in relation to the petroleum the result of it represents London’s actual policy.

3. It is confidently asserted to me that under contracts concluded in January, Rome has already paid for 800,000 tons of Rumanian petroleum. The proportion of this already delivered in Italy is not known. It is believed, however, that a substantial quantity is still in Rumania. It is felt that in an application of an embargo, Rumania might insist on an exemption on goods paid for.

Gilbert
  1. Telegram in two sections.