The Minister in Norway (Harriman) to the Secretary of State

No. 29

Sir: I have the honor to inform the Department that from what I have learned in confidence from a strictly reliable source, I believe that the Norwegian Government is now prepared, if invited, to commence negotiations for a limited trade agreement.

It is, I think, a fact that much of the opposition of the Industrial Association (which is the most active opponent of a general agreement) might be eliminated if Norway were asked to reduce its tariff on, say, three articles only, for example automobiles, radios, and fruits. There seems to be apprehension that a general reduction would cover too large a field.

In partial explanation of their attitude, I am informed that when the Norwegian Government received the American Government’s invitation in September, 1934, to study the possibility of a reciprocal trade agreement,6 the Norwegian authorities felt that the excise tax on whale oil should be repealed before negotiations were opened, that is, that they should start on the basis of things as they were before this tax was imposed. Now, however, they are prepared not to insist on repeal of the tax. Renewal of the invitation to a trade agreement, though, must come from the United States, through repeating the offer of 1934.

For tactical reasons it would be difficult for the Norwegian Government to take the initiative because, as indicated above, very important industrial interests are against any such negotiations. Any move made first on the part of the Norwegian Government would subject it to severe criticism by those antagonistic to a Treaty.

Accordingly, in my view, this would seem to be the moment for us to make another move which would probably be welcomed, not rebuffed, and which might lead to a helpful modification of the commercial relations of the United States and Norway.

Respectfully yours,

Florence J. Harriman
  1. See telegram No. 13, July 19, 1934, 6 p.m., to the Minister in Norway, Foreign Relations, 1934, vol. ii, p. 650.