690D.11241/28

Memorandum by the Second Secretary of Embassy in France (Werlich)14

I called today upon M. Chauvel,15 at the suggestion of his immediate superior, M. de St. Quentin.16

M. Chauvel started the conversation by referring to the last paragraph of the Embassy’s note No. 1414 of August 19, 1935, which is practically a verbatim quotation of the last seven lines of Instruction No. 1001 dated August 6, 1935. The Foreign Office official claimed to interpret the passage in question as a statement by the American Government that it had no objection to the withdrawal of the customs privileges by the Arrêté of December 20, 1934, merely resenting the way in which the restrictions were invoked, namely, without the courtesy of prior consultation with the American Government. He said that his Ministry would be pleased to apologize for this lack of courtesy and to “consult” the American Government, provided the latter would assure acquiescence in the spirit and contents of the Arrêté in question. I remarked that such was not my understanding of the American Government’s attitude in the matter. He then asked [Page 469]me just what Washington would accept, to which I replied that the Embassy had received no intimation from the Department in this matter and that it would be up to the French authorities to make the initial suggestions.

M. Chauvel then said that it would be very difficult for the Foreign Office to make suggestions without knowing just what would be acceptable to us. He reverted to the passage in the communication of May 8, 1935 (No. 4050), from High Commissioner de Martel to Consul Steger, stressing particularly paragraphs 10 and 11 and saying that according to High Commissioner de Martel, there is a serious movement among the Syrian and Lebanese merchants to reduce duty-free imports of whatever nature (for obvious reasons), this movement having been fanned by exaggerated use of free entry privileges by Italian institutions.

Parenthetically, M. Chauvel related here a rather interesting anecdote. The Italian institutions imported shoes for their Syrian school children—a reasonable enough action according to previous privileges—but they insisted upon importing simultaneously large quantities of black shirts in order that these same children might parade the streets in true Fascist style and equipment.

The French official then stated it was his understanding that the free entry restrictions involved by the Arrêté do not cause any financial difficulties to the American institutions in the mandated territories in question. He said he would suggest to High Commissioner de Martel that he get into personal contact with M. Deutsch,17 who is apparently the head of the American missions in the territories involved, and ascertain just what commodities his organization would find desirable to import free of duty, and that thereafter either the Arrêté might be modified or an exchange of correspondence between the Foreign Office and the Embassy could take place whereby facilities would be accorded.

M. Chauvel repeated on a number of occasions that the mandatory authorities are placed in a very difficult position on account of the American Government’s objection to the Arrêté, as final French action with respect to similar complaint by the Italian Government would perforce have to be based on whatever advantages we may obtain. He said also that local conditions had absolutely required some sort of restriction as that involved in the Arrêté in question.

I told the Foreign Office official that my Government obviously desired to be reasonable, that I would communicate the memorandum of my conversation with him to the Department of State for consideration, sending a copy thereof to the American Consul at Beirut.

McCeney Werlich
  1. Copy transmitted to the Department by the Ambassador in his despatch No. 2261, October 26, 1935; received November 6.
  2. Jean Michel Henri Chauvel, Secretary of Embassy in the African and Levant Section of the French Foreign Office.
  3. Doynel de Saint Quentin, Chief of the African and Levant Section of the French Foreign Office.
  4. Apparently a reference to Bayard Dodge, President of the American University at Beirut.