The Consul General at Beirut (Marriner) to the Secretary of State
[Received August 3.]
Sir: With reference to the Department’s instruction of June 10, 1936 (File No. 690 D.11241/36),25 concerning discriminations in Syria, I have the honor to point out that the Department’s instruction under reference apparently crossed this Consulate General’s despatch No. 5 of May 15, 1936,26 setting forth the modifications of the legislation regarding the practice of medicine and pharmacy in the Lebanese Republic. These modifications appear to be completely satisfactory to all concerned.
With regard to the privileges of American educational and philanthropic institutions in Syria, the Department has no doubt received from Paris a copy of the note of the French Foreign Office dated May 31, 1936, stating that the French Government is prepared to enter into a further agreement with the Government of the United States upon the subject of the customs privileges to be granted to such institutions, provided the Government of the United States is willing to conclude an agreement embodying the regime set up by the decree of December 20, 1934.
Such an agreement would merely mean giving legal force to a unilateral action of the Mandatory authority taken without consultation [Page 479]with or the consent of the United States and, on this basis, would seem unwise. However, any slight modification of the existing regime which could be obtained in such an agreement would be sufficient to justify action along these lines.
In so far as the regime itself is concerned, I have discussed the matter thoroughly with the authorities of the American University and the American Mission here who do not find that the regime now being applied subjects them to any undue hardships. President Dodge stated that, in so far as the restriction of the importation of foodstuffs is concerned, he was thoroughly in agreement with the reasoning of the Lebanese authorities that competition of native products offered by free importation was not justifiable. The complaints of the University have been of an administrative character rather than one of principle, and certain decisions of the customs under the French Decree No. 292/LR of December 20, 1934, have seemed arbitrary and disadvantageous to the University, but in each case an appeal to higher authority has straightened the matter out to the University’s satisfaction. Therefore, from all information obtainable, it cannot be said that legitimate American interests have suffered by the application of the decree. It can only be added that unilateral modification of treaty rights is unjustified.
Therefore, I would suggest that a proposal be made to the French Government for an exchange of notes clarifying and specifying the privileges to be granted to American schools, orphanages, asylums, hospitals and dispensaries, arising out of the exchange of notes between M. Poincaré and Ambassador Herrick, dated Paris, respectively, November 2, 1923, and December 18, 1923.27 This exchange of notes might well embody the sense of the decree of December 20, 1934, with one modification, namely, that the notification of an appeal from the decision of the customs authorities should exempt the educational or religious institution from paying the duty originally assessed until such time as the appeal should have been reviewed by the highest customs authorities and until notification of the refusal of such appeal should have been notified to the educational or religious institution through appropriate channels.
The insertion of such a provision in the interpretative exchange of notes would preserve the principle of non-acquiescence in an unmodified unilateral French decision on the subject, and at the same time save the American institutions involved much time and money in efforts to have returned to them duties paid under protest in the first instance where interpretation of the decree of December 20, 1934, has been harshly or wrongly applied.
As M. de Martel has not yet returned to Syria and is not expected before the middle of August, it has been extremely difficult to obtain [Page 480]any satisfaction from anyone here on these subjects, since the uncertainty as to the future regime of Syria and the Lebanon makes everyone reluctant to take decisions. If I could have the Department’s consent in principle to the procedure outlined in this despatch, I will take the matter up with M. de Martel on his return, as it would seem most desirable to have the matter definitely settled before any new regime can take over in the Lebanon or Syria.