The Minister in Costa Rica ( /Sack ) to the Secretary of State
[Received May 20.]
Sir: I have the honor to inform the Department that yesterday afternoon, May 13, I called for the first time on the new Minister for Foreign Affairs, Mr. Manuel Francisco Jiménez.
While I made it clear to Mr. Jiménez, immediately upon my arrival, that I was merely making a courtesy call and had not come to discuss any pending matters with him, he insisted on bringing up the subject of the trade agreement and my brief call became a protracted conversation on this subject.[Page 384]
Mr. Jiménez gave me his most emphatic assurances that he was anxious to wind up the trade agreement as soon as possible and that he had already started to go through the file of correspondence between the Legation and the Foreign Office and was studying the trade agreements which have heretofore been concluded with Central and South American countries. He told me that early next week, as soon as the ceremonies incidental to the inauguration are out of the way, he will be ready to get down to business. He expressed the hope that signature of the trade agreement would “occupy a few hours, and approval by Congress a few days”.
While I am not optimistic that Mr. Jiménez’ hopes for such accelerated action will be realized, in view of the fact that I have received many similar assurances from his predecessor Mr. Gurdián and from other officials of the Costa Rican Government during the past two years, I do feel, nevertheless, that he himself is quite sincere in his assurances.
An interesting observation was made by Mr. Jiménez in the course of our conversation. He referred to the unusually strong majority which the new administration now has in Congress and the disposition of that body to ratify any proposal put before it by the Executive, but he stated frankly that this happy situation may disappear at any time and therefore the sooner the trade agreement can be submitted to Congress, with the approval of the Executive, of course, the better will be its chance of ratification.
Mr. Jiménez is obviously well aware of the desirability of securing congressional approval of the trade agreement with the minimum of opposition and in that connection he again referred to the desirability of including in the trade agreement some provision for continuance or stimulation of the sale of Costa Rican fruits and vegetables to the Canal Zone Commissary. While I did not wish to discourage him too much at our first conversation, I made it plain to Mr. Jiménez, having in mind the Department’s instruction No. 290 of March 31, 1936, that the question of such sales could not be taken up in the trade agreement and that even apart from the agreement, the Government of the United States could not make any commitment with regard to future purchases of such products.
I explained to Mr. Jiménez that I had been informed that official importations into the Canal Zone were not affected by duties provided for in our tariff and also pointed out to him that a relatively important trade in fruits and vegetables with the Canal Zone Commissary already existed. I also explained to him that it is my understanding that the Canal Zone Commissaries were operated as quasi-commercial organizations and that consequently the Government was not in position to commit that organization to any determined policy in the future.[Page 385]
The Minister for Foreign Affairs received these observations sympathetically but repeated his belief that if the Government of the United States could find some way to embody a reference to the existing situation, either in the trade agreement itself or in an exchange of letters annexed to or entirely separate from it and without assuming any obligation whatsoever, it would be of inestimable value in securing the support of many deputies, particularly those from districts such as Cartago and Heredia, where the growing of fresh fruits and vegetables is important.
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I did not attempt to take up with Mr. Jiménez any pending details of the trade agreement in this conversation as I wished to give him an opportunity to complete his studies of the file, and I am therefore not able to say whether he will have any other changes to propose. I am hopeful, however, that if the Department can find some formula along the lines he suggests which will accomplish his purpose and at the same time not involve any commitment on our part, he will be satisfied and may even be willing to recede from the requests made by Mr. Gurdián with regard to concessions on dried bananas and fresh tomatoes, as reported in my despatch No. 1099 of April 23, 1936. If the Department can find a way to give him satisfaction, we might even make such a concession on condition that these other pending requests be dropped.
Reluctant as I am to appear unduly eager in recommending favorable action on these belated requests of the Costa Rican negotiators, particularly in view of the previous expressions of the Department’s policy in that respect, I feel that we must bear in mind the attitude of the Costa Rican negotiators that in this country, Congress, no matter how strong the administration, always contains nationalistic elements embodying latent opposition to the United States and anything advocated by it, and that such opposition might very easily lead to rejection of the trade agreement despite governmental support, a situation which I presume is not comparable to that found in certain other Central and South American countries.
It is because of my realization of the importance of this situation that I have in this and previous instances urged the Department to endeavor to find a way to meet requests of the Costa Rican negotiators for material which they themselves desire primarily for the purpose of enlisting congressional support. It is with this thought in mind, therefore, that I am enclosing a proposed draft of a letter to the Minister for Foreign Affairs which if the Department perceives no objection, I will present to him following the exchange of signatures to the agreement and the Department will note that my letter does not commit the United States to any policy beyond that which is now [Page 386] being followed by the Canal Zone authorities, as was indicated in the letter of the Secretary of War,11 enclosed with instruction No. 290 of March 31, 1936.
In view of Mr. Jiménez5 apparent anxiety to terminate negotiations as promptly as possible, may I request the Department to indicate its final decision in this matter by cable.