The Counselor of Embassy in France (Wilson) to the Chief of the Division of Near Eastern Affairs (Murray)

Dear Wallace: I had a conversation the other day with Coursier, Assistant Chief of the Africa-Levant section at the Foreign Office, who is in charge of Moroccan affairs, which I should like to relate to you as follows:

Coursier said that the French Government hoped very much that the United States Government would not insist that the negotiation of a treaty for the abandonment of our capitulatory privileges in Morocco must go along simultaneously with the negotiation of a commercial agreement (sic) relating to Morocco. He said that the United States had agreed at Montreux to give up capitulations in Egypt without tying the matter up with the negotiation of a commercial convention. In negotiating with the British for the abolition of capitulations in Morocco, it had been agreed by an exchange of letters that the Commercial Treaty of 1856 would be replaced by a new commercial treaty, and while it was proposed that they would try to conclude the new commercial treaty before the entry into force of the treaty abolishing capitulations, the British had not insisted that the negotiation of the two instruments should be simultaneous,—on the contrary, the treaty regarding capitulations was concluded on July 29, 1937, and the negotiations for a commercial agreement did not take place until some months later.

Coursier said that if the United States should insist that the negotiation of the two agreements must be simultaneous, then the only explanation of such action would be, in the mind of the French, that the United States had no confidence that the French would deal fairly in the matter of a commercial convention and therefore desired to hang on to the capitulations convention as a weapon to exact fair treatment in commercial matters.

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Coursier said that it was of capital importance to the French Government, for political reasons in Morocco, to be able to announce at an early date the conclusion of a treaty with us agreeing to end the capitulatory régime in Morocco. He said that the French Government would suggest that in connection therewith there could be an exchange of notes providing that negotiations for a commercial agreement would begin at an early date and, moreover, setting out and defining in whatever form we thought desirable the principles and bases which would be followed in negotiating a commercial agreement.

Regarding the procedure for the negotiation of the commercial agreement, Coursier said that they hoped that de Saint Quentin,21 with the French Commercial Attaché in Washington, could work out the major part of the agreement with the Department so that the visit of other experts from the Quai d’Orsay to Washington, if later found necessary, would be of brief duration. He said that he himself and two or three others from the Foreign Office here had gone to London for the commercial negotiations in December, that this had not been so bad since they could keep in touch with their work here by telephone, but that it would be very difficult for them to be absent in Washington for a long period.

Coursier said that de Saint Quentin, who sails on February 16, will take an early opportunity to discuss something along the foregoing lines with the Department. He asked if in the meanwhile I would inform the Department of what the French had in mind, in order that you might be thinking about it before de Saint Quentin takes it up with you.

A few points occur to me as follows:

What you have in mind is the simultaneous negotiation of the convention terminating the capitulatory rights and of a convention of establishment, commerce and navigation, with the thought, presumably, that the negotiations for a commercial agreement could follow along in due course once the bases regarding the treatment which American nationals and American trade in Morocco would receive in the future had been laid down in the proposed treaty of establishment, commerce and navigation. If you could have your draft treaty of establishment, commerce and navigation ready to submit to the French at the same time that you submit the draft for wiping out capitulations, I should think that the French might be able to reach agreement on them both without any particular delay. It would then be possible, if you so desired, to adopt the procedure suggested by Coursier of an exchange of notes relating to the subsequent negotiation of a commercial convention. This exchange of notes [Page 864]might, by appropriate phrasing, protect us against any eventuality such as the denunciation of the 1836 Treaty.
If you found it desirable not to submit to the Senate for ratification the treaty relating to capitulations and the treaty of establishment, commerce and navigation, before complete agreement had been reached on the commercial agreement, I am not sure that this would make much difference to the French. The essential thing, from their point of view, is to be able to announce at an early date the conclusion of negotiations abolishing the capitulations.

As of possible interest, I asked Coursier whether the French had tried to get the British to accept privileged treatment for French articles in the trade with Morocco. (We know from the British that the French had in fact done so.) Coursier said frankly that the French Government had tried to obtain a privileged position, but that the British had declined to recognize it. I asked Coursier whether they would try this out on us. He said that he did not think so, since they appreciated that we would not agree to it. He said, however, that the French Government did not intend to forget this matter, but would certainly try to bring it up sometime in the future when conditions might be more favorable for a recognition of their claim. Coursier then argued at some length along lines with which you are of course familiar, that it is only because of the expenditure of French blood and effort that Morocco is a profitable field of trade for other countries, that Morocco is a long way from being self-supporting and that if it were not for financial assistance given by the French Government, Morocco would not be able to buy anything like the value of goods taken from the United States to-day, etc., etc. You will probably hear this refrain, though somewhat muted, during the coming weeks.

Yours as ever,

Edwin C. Wilson
  1. Appointed Ambassador to the United States.