765.84/3658: Telegram

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

58. Consulate’s 52, February 6, 10 a.m.

1. The data thus far studied by the Petroleum Subcommittee indicates the following: total annual requirement of Italy at present rate of consumption is from two to two and a half million tons; Italian transport facilities will care for 75 per cent of this requirement; substitutes are not an important factor, a perfected economical product being a matter for the future; equivalent stocks in Italy and Italian colonies total 500,000 tons which is regarded as limit of present storage facilities including ships in ports.

Consulate’s 54, February 6, 8 p.m.

2. The relative size of stocks in Italy in proportion to purchases in Rumania is regarded as indicating large quantities of “Italian oil” at present in Rumania.

3. I am informed of the foregoing through Gomez, the Mexican Chairman of the Subcommittee.

Respecting the position of the United States in this matter he felt that the Latin-American delegates who were so concerned over the question did not take into sufficient account the factor of stocks in storage now in the United States.

4. The Mexican representative has been most active in advocating the adoption and application of an oil embargo against Italy. He now states that he was urged to this course by the British who also suggested his chairmanship of the subcommittee. He says that the British took the same line with other Latin-American states both here [Page 109] and through diplomatic channels as suggested in paragraph 2 of my telegram No. 54. The attitude now adopted here by the British that the figures indicate that a petroleum embargo is not practicable is causing him extreme annoyance declaring that he has been “let down”.

A number of Latin-American delegates have for some time been intimating to me that the British were urging them that they should support the League in the cause of peace their remarks carrying more or less the implication that the United States was outside the peace circle. The British were taking the opportunity, according to these Latin Americans, to weaken the new relationship which we have built up in Latin America. I naturally discount such views knowing the great extent to which they are influenced by the tendency here for Latin Americans to assume a role beyond their instructions and the personal equations which enter the picture; the possibilities discussed in paragraph 1 of my telegram last referred to precipitated, however, the excited state of mind here which I reported.

5. The press has for some days been drawing inferences deduced from leaks in the studies of the Petroleum Subcommittee respecting the positions of various states, both League and non-League as nullifying any embargo measure. This has evoked repercussions in various capitals and the Committee is now endeavoring to keep their deliberations more secret and in particular is eliminating substance from its communiqués.

6. As having something to do with the situation just described the present program is that the report of the Subcommittee will be transmitted privately to the governments for their consideration before any further action is taken. This is viewed as confirming that a meeting of the Committee of Eighteen will probably not take place until March as reported in the final paragraph of my No. 52.