The Chief of the Division of Near Eastern Affairs (Murray) to the Chargé in the United Kingdom (Johnson)

Dear Herschel: We are very much interested in obtaining as clear a picture as possible of the details of the new Anglo-French commercial convention regarding Morocco, and greatly appreciate your good work in reporting the developments in London.

There is one point in particular about which we should like to obtain some elucidation. In your telegram No. 36 of January 15, 2 p.m., you reported that the most-favored-nation principle was operative throughout the draft convention with certain exceptions regarding [Page 865]exports from Morocco to France, and that the British had agreed to “evoke” at Paris the French proposals for these specific exceptions. (“Evoke” is the way the message was decoded but I presume the word should be read “consider”.)

However, in telegram No. 186 from Paris, dated February 3, 5 p.m., the Embassy reported in the third paragraph of section three, that the British were taking a firm stand against the French request for preferential treatment for certain exports from Morocco to France, that they did not expect to give way on this point, and that they were relying upon us to maintain the same attitude in our negotiations with France. Nothing further has been heard on the subject, and we are wondering what the final provisions of the convention were in this respect.

As background, to explain in part our interest in this particular point, I may point out the following: In our Trade Agreement with France, signed on May 6, 1936,22 we agreed, in paragraph 4 to Article XV, not to object on favored-nation grounds to any preferential régime which France might accord in the future to Morocco. Some question arises concerning whether we, in view of this rather unusual concession on our part, may now support the British contention against the French request for preferential treatment for certain exports from Morocco to France. It seems to be the consensus of opinion in the Department that we can support the British contention as far as it opposes concessions to be granted in Morocco, by the Moroccan Government, to trade moving from Morocco to France, but that we are already bound not to object to any concessions which the French Government, acting in France, might make to that trade. In other words, we can oppose any scheme by which Morocco would place restrictions or an export duty on certain Moroccan produce going out of Morocco to any other country except France. Suppose, for instance, France felt that she needed, for defense purposes, to take all the oil or mineral ore which Morocco produced, and attempted to assure for herself all this Moroccan produce by enforcing in Morocco restrictions on the exportation of such produce to any other country except France. We could join the British in opposing such restrictions, because we have not bound ourselves in the Franco-American Trade Agreement to agree to preferential treatment accorded by Morocco to France.

If, however, France should attempt to assure for herself certain Moroccan produce by reducing the duty thereon upon importation into France, as compared with the duty charged on similar merchandise coming into France from other countries, we should be prevented from objecting thereto, by the provisions of the Trade Agreement. [Page 866]It is important, therefore, for us to know whether France has succeeded in obtaining any concessions from the British regarding imports from Morocco to France. If the British have successfully resisted the French effort in this respect, and desire us to take the same position, it is important for us to know whether the French effort to reserve for herself certain Moroccan produce envisaged favorable import privileges in France or restrictive measures in Morocco, or both.

Your assistance in obtaining information on this subject will be greatly appreciated. It will probably be preferable not to inform the British at this juncture just how far we can support them in their request. Presumably they should be aware of the provisions of paragraph 4 of Article XV of our Trade Agreement with France, but their not having mentioned it would seem to indicate that they may not have had their attention called to it. They will undoubtedly become aware of it sooner or later, but we are not entirely prepared to discuss the point at present, since there may be room for differences of interpretation of the provision cited.

Sincerely yours,

Wallace Murray
  1. Department of State Executive Agreement Series No. 146, or 53 Stat. 2236.