The Secretary of State to the Ambassador in France (Bullitt)

No. 9

Sir: The Minister Resident and Consul General at Addis Ababa reported recently to the Department that there have been many indications during the past five months that the Italian authorities in Ethiopia have no present intention of keeping the promise “to guarantee freedom of transit and communications and fair treatment for the trade of all countries” which the Italian Government expressed in paragraph six of its note of last June to the League of Nations.

A number of importers of foreign goods have informed the Minister Resident that Italian officials have openly stated in conversations that [Page 317]as far as possible only merchandise of Italian origin would be allowed to enter Ethiopia so that Italy may be reimbursed for the expenses of the war. In the case of American goods, it appears that the Italian authorities have refused to issue the necessary import licenses in certain instances without giving any reason whatsoever, and in other instances the refusal has been based on the congested conditions of the railroad or on the grounds that they were unable to sell dollar exchange.

On the other hand, the Minister Resident points out that large quantities of Italian goods of every description are commencing to arrive and that it is quite obvious preference is accorded such goods as regards import licenses, permits to ship by or from Djibouti and in the purchase of foreign exchange. The Minister Resident adds that it is his understanding that the confused banking and exchange situation greatly facilitates the arbitrary decisions which discriminate against goods of non-Italian origin.

The Department has informed the Minister Resident that it does not desire to raise the general question of obstructions against American trade in Ethiopia at this time, although it has no objection in such individual cases as are brought to his attention for him to endeavor informally to facilitate the entrance of American products by supporting applications for import licenses, shipping permits and allocations for dollar exchange.

It is requested that you take up the matter of obstructions to the importation of goods of non-Italian origin into Ethiopia informally with the appropriate French authorities with a view to ascertaining what, if any, action the French Government is taking in order to insure the application of non-discriminatory treatment to French goods imported into Ethiopia.

As of possible interest in this connection there is enclosed a copy of a despatch of August 20, 1936, from the Consulate General at Addis Ababa,71 concerning economic conditions in Ethiopia during the first half of 1936.

Very truly yours,

For the Secretary of State:
Francis B. Sayre
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