Memorandum of Conversation, by Mr. Hugh S. Cumming, Jr., of the Division of European Affairs
|Participants:||Mr. Morgenstierne, Minister of Norway.|
|Assistant Secretary Sayre.|
|Mr. John C. Ross, Division of Trade Agreements.|
|Mr. Hugh S. Cumming, Jr., Division of European Affairs.|
At his request, an appointment for Mr. Morgenstierne to call on Mr. Sayre was made for this afternoon. Mr. Morgenstierne said that the Foreign Office in Oslo had been carefully studying all angles of the commercial relations between the United States and Norway. Although their investigation was not yet complete, and they were continuing their studies, they had reached the tentative conclusion that the present state of the trade between the two countries was very satisfactory to both sides, and that there seemed to be little basis for tariff concessions satisfactory to the United States which might be made by Norway. The Norwegian Government had not yet been able to find any commodities on which Norway might promise actual reductions in tariff rates. It believed that it might be possible to offer the United States the benefit of certain of the bindings which had been made in the Norwegian commercial agreements with Poland, Greece, Portugal and Hungary. Mr. Morgenstierne handed to Mr. Sayre four memoranda9 listing the commodities mentioned.
Mr. Morgenstierne said that in addition to the commodities mentioned in the memoranda, linoleum, grapes and tomatoes were bound in the Oslo convention10 and the subsequent Hague agreement,11 and the benefit of these bindings could also be extended to the United States.[Page 624]
Mr. Sayre said that the binding of tariff rates was of course useful and might have a part in a broad agreement. However, Mr. Morgenstierne should remember that the binding of the duty rates on a few commodities would not in itself give us a broad satisfactory agreement which we could defend against attacks by various lobbies and interested groups in this country, who might protest against a Norwegian-American trade agreement. He particularly mentioned in this connection certain agricultural interests which could be expected to protest against any concessions made by the United States in the duty and excise tax on whale oil.
At Mr. Morgenstierne’s further request, Mr. Sayre said that he would discuss the matter with the Secretary of State to see whether we would be interested in pursuing further the tentative offer now being made by the Norwegian Government.
Mr. Morgenstierne then referred to previous conversations on the subject of whale oil, and asked whether Mr. Sayre had anything new on the matter which might be transmitted to the Foreign Office at Oslo.
Mr. Sayre then read to Mr. Morgenstierne and handed to him the original of the attached memorandum stating the Department’s position.
Mr. Morgenstierne said that he was glad to have the memorandum since it agreed with reports which he had been making to his Government. He was afraid, however, that it would not be entirely satisfactory, since his Government felt very strongly that insofar as whale oil was concerned the status quo ante should be restored. Mr. Sayre said that that raised the question as to exactly what the status quo ante was, and he repeated what had been told Mr. Morgenstierne in previous conversations, that since the excise tax was placed on whale oil similar taxes had also been placed on other competing oils. It was this changed situation which we must all bear in mind.
In conclusion, Mr. Sayre again mentioned to Mr. Morgenstierne that we were interested in a broad general agreement, and believed that sufficient basis for such an agreement existed; that while binding the rates on a few commodities would have some value, it was very little to offer in return for actual reduction in duty on the part of the United States; that, however, he would be glad to study the proposals, to discuss them with the Secretary of State, and to receive the further results of the studies being made by the Norwegian Foreign Office.