The Secretary of State to the Belgian Ambassador (Van der Straten-Ponthoz)

Excellency: I have the honor to acknowledge the receipt of Your Excellency’s note No. 411, of February 7, 1938, in which you were good enough to set forth the point of view of the Belgian Government regarding certain changes in the customs regime of the French Zone of Morocco believed to be envisaged by negotiations recently undertaken by representatives of the French and British Governments. You inquire what attitude the United States Government expects to take with regard to the problems at issue.

The American Government is naturally interested in preserving in Morocco the principle of economic liberty without any inequality which the United States has always regarded as the cornerstone of the General Act of Algeciras. Accordingly this Government, having learned of the Anglo-French negotiations referred to in Your Excellency’s note, recently availed itself of an opportunity to express to the French and British Governments the interest of the United States in any changes that might be contemplated respecting the treaty status of the French Zone of Morocco which might affect American interests.

In making this communication this Government pointed out that, while it had not modified its views that the imposition of quotas and the introduction of similar restrictive systems are a hindrance to that normal and free development of international trade most conducive to the upbuilding of world economy, it was willing to take into account those circumstances where the establishment of quotas might be found of a compelling and exceptional nature. It was added that if, notwithstanding the position the United States had assumed generally in respect of quotas, the adoption of a quota system in the French Zone of Morocco on a limited list of articles, to be agreed upon by the parties most concerned, was looked upon with favor by other interested governments, the United States Government would not wish to appear unduly obstructive in the matter. Accordingly the French Government has been informed that the United States is prepared [Page 869] to acquiesce in the establishment of quotas in the French Zone of Morocco on such a list of articles subject to the following conditions:

That no import or export prohibition, restriction or license system, including import or customs quotas and other forms of quantitative regulations affecting the importation, sale or use of imported articles, shall be applied to articles originating in or destined for the United States of America which is other or more burdensome than that applied to the like articles originating in or destined for any other country, France included.
That any quota system which may be established in the French Zone of Morocco shall be limited to a specified list of articles.
That if a share of the permitted importations of any article is allotted to any other country, France included, a share equivalent to the proportion of the total permitted importations of such article which was supplied by the United States of America during a previous representative period shall be allotted to the United States of America; and that such previous period shall be chosen separately for each of the articles included in the specified list and shall in each case be such as to assure that the United States will not be deprived of the share of the trade which it has enjoyed in the past or which it might reasonably be expected to enjoy in the future.

With respect to the possible alteration of customs duties in the French Zone of Morocco, this Government has not modified the views expressed to Your Excellency in January 1935,24 at which time an official of the Department explained that the United States was inclined to admit that a reasonable increase of Moroccan customs duties, for fiscal purposes, might be justified, provided always that the principle of equality of treatment be maintained.

Your Excellency’s courtesy in bringing to my attention the views of your Government in regard to this matter is appreciated, and any further expression which Your Excellency may care to make on the subject will be welcomed.

Accept [etc.]

Cordell Hull
  1. See memorandum by the Chief of the Division of Western European Affairs, January 24, 1935, Foreign Relations, 1935, vol. i, p. 961.