Memorandum by the Adviser on Political Relations (Dunn)

The Italian Ambassador, at his own request, came in to see Mr. Sayre this afternoon at 3:30. Mr. Sayre had with him Mr. Dunn and Mr. Leap.38

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The Ambassador stated that he had been informed by his Foreign Office that the Italian Government had made a declaration to the American Ambassador in Rome to the effect that after December 31, 1937, Italy would terminate the preferences now in force with regard to products from the Danubian countries with the exception of Austria, and that his Government had furnished to the American Embassy in Rome a list of the preferences which Italy would grant to Austria after December 31, 1937. The Ambassador further stated that his Government expressed the hope that negotiation of the new Treaty of Friendship, Commerce and Navigation between Italy and the United States would be concluded in time for the treaty to be signed and ratified before December 15 next, the date of the expiration of the old treaty.

Mr. Sayre said that we also had been informed by our Ambassador in Rome of this declaration of the Italian Government and that our Embassy in Rome had received a list of the preferences to be granted to Austria by Italy after December 31, 1937, and that we had asked our Ambassador to cable us this preference data. Mr. Sayre expressed the gratification of this Government upon hearing that the Italian Government had desired to furnish us with the information we had for some time requested with regard to preferences granted by that Government to the Danubian countries and stated that in his opinion there was no reason why the negotiations for the new treaty should not proceed as rapidly as possible with the particular view of endeavoring to have the treaty signed before December 15. Mr. Sayre then went on to point out that there were several reasons which would make it impossible to accomplish the ratification of the treaty by December 15, giving as instances the fact that there are some matters involved in the treaty upon which further clarification will be necessary before the treaty is ready for signature, among them, the following points:

The article relating to military service.
Article 8; clarification of the provisions of that article.
Article 19 (that part of the article which contains the safeguarding clause for the protection of the right to act under neutrality legislation).
Article 20, relating to the territorial application of the treaty.

Mr. Sayre further mentioned the fact that the Senate required, before they would consent to consider the ratification of any treaty, an original copy, which would require the time necessary for the treaty to arrive in Washington after its signature, presumably in Rome, and in view of the fact that the Senate Committee on Foreign Relations, which considered ratifications of treaties in the first instance, had no set time for meeting, it was never possible to know when consideration by the Senate Foreign Relations Committee would be undertaken after a treaty was laid before them by the President.

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Mr. Sayre stated that we, on our part, would do everything we could to make possible the signature of the treaty before the 15th of December, and that the ratification would ensue as soon thereafter as the Senate might be willing to take appropriate action with regard thereto. With regard, however, to any interim period which might occur between the expiration of the old treaty and the ratification of the new treaty, Mr. Sayre said that we were still prepared to consider the suggestion he made to the Italian Ambassador in their last conversation, which was to provide some arrangement whereby Italy would continue to receive the benefits of reductions in American tariff rates brought about by trade agreements entered into by this country up to the present time and in the future, on condition that the Italian Government grant to us the treatment provided for in Article 8 of the treaty now under discussion and did, in fact, not discriminate against American products.

After some informal discussion of the possibilities of signature of ratification of the new treaty by the 15th of December, the Ambassador expressed himself as entirely satisfied with Mr. Sayre’s statements with regard to the treaty situation in its present stage, and the provision for any interim period before it came into effect after the expiration of the old treaty, and said that he would report this present conversation with Mr. Sayre immediately to his Government.

During the conversation the Italian Ambassador asked whether it would be possible to extend the old treaty for a period beyond the expiration date of December 15. Mr. Sayre said that such an extension could not be authorized on the part of our Government without ratifying action of such extension by the Senate which would of course be subject to the same delays referred to with respect to ratification of the new treaty, and therefore would probably not be of any help in the present circumstances. The denunciation of the old treaty had been in accordance with the provisions of that treaty and our Government had therefore been able to take action in that regard without further reference to the Senate, but that any extension now would be subject to ratification by that body.

James Clement Dunn
  1. Melvin L. Leap of the Treaty Division.