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

Dear Ed: Your letter of February 12, 1938, reported an interesting conversation with Coursier regarding Morocco.

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Despite Coursier’s feeling that we shall show lack of confidence if we insist on simultaneous negotiations of capitulatory and commercial conventions, I am inclined to believe that we should not sign a capitulatory agreement without having reached an agreement upon something very definite in the nature of a commercial convention.

Coursier apparently overlooks a number of factors which distinguish our position from that of the British and render them by no means comparable. Once we have terminated the Treaty of 1836 in our Capitulations Convention there only remain to us for the safeguarding of our commercial interests in Morocco the most-favored-nation provision of the Madrid Convention of 1880 and the economic equality provisions of the Act of Algeciras. On the other hand, until a new commercial treaty has been negotiated the British continue to enjoy all the benefits of their Commercial Treaty of 1856 which is not subject to unilateral termination. Most notable among the very considerable benefits of that treaty is the clause which binds Morocco to the maintenance of a ten per cent import tariff.

Moreover, it would not seem that M. Coursier is on very sound ground in arguing for separate negotiations on the basis of our treaty engagements with Egypt. At the time of the Montreux Convention28a we already possessed a commercial agreement with that country which remained unaffected by the Convention in question. It is true, of course, that the agreement was provisional, that it was subject to termination upon three months’ notice and that it merely extended us most-favored-nation treatment in tariff matters. However, we enjoyed the assurance in the case of Egypt generally of fair and equitable treatment of our trade and commerce over a long period of years. M. Coursier might argue that such treatment flowed from our capitulatory rights in Egypt to which we might properly reply that our extraterritorial rights in Morocco have not protected us against persistent discrimination in the latter country.

The inconsistency of Mr. Coursier’s appeal to our action in the case of the Montreux Convention is brought into even more striking relief by the failure until now of the French Government to ratify that Convention. It appears a reasonable assumption that such ratification is being held up pending the conclusion of the Anglo-French commercial negotiations concerning Morocco. If the French Government is so far indisposed to trust its ally, Great Britain, in the deal of the Entente Cordiale with relation to Egypt and Morocco, France [Page 874]is hardly in a position to charge us with lack of confidence in respect of the protection of our interests in Morocco.

You suggest, on page 4,29 that if we could have a draft treaty of establishment, commerce and navigation ready to submit to the French at the same time we submit the draft for abolishing the capitulations, the French might be ready to reach an agreement on both without particular delay, and that an exchange of notes might then take place, providing for the subsequent negotiation of a “commercial convention.”

I wonder if you have had in mind the Department’s strictly confidential instruction to the Embassy, dated December 22, 1937 (No. 588)30 forwarding to you a copy of an instruction sent to Tangier on December 17, 1937, with its enclosures, which were a draft convention for the abolition of the capitulations and a draft treaty of establishment, commerce, and navigation. We pointed out in that instruction that it was contemplated that both conventions would be negotiated simultaneously. We have had in mind that the treaty of establishment, commerce, and navigation, with notes attached thereto, would fulfill all the requirements of the “commercial convention” to which you refer. You will observe, for instance, that the draft treaty of establishment, commerce, and navigation which we sent you contains provision (Article IX) for the establishment of quotas. It is our idea that any necessary schedules of commodities, with figures showing quota allotments and representative periods, could be either included in the attached notes or made subject to subsequent negotiation on the basis of the general principles laid down in the treaty of establishment.

The only other type of instrument in the nature of a “commercial convention” that might be called for would be a trade agreement, which, as you well know, is a very specialized type of instrument. We have not contemplated negotiating a trade agreement with Morocco unless the French ask us, as a quid pro quo, to agree to bind or reduce certain of our duties on Moroccan products. The only way in which we may commit ourselves to maintain specified rates on any goods entering the United States is through a trade agreement, and the French might put proposals to us that we could meet only in that manner. However, we do not want to anticipate any such action, and if a trade agreement should become necessary, we want the responsibility to be squarely on the French for making demands that can only be met in that manner.

We seem to be in agreement, therefore, with the suggestion in your letter, that we shall submit to the French a draft Treaty of Establishment, [Page 875]Commerce, and Navigation at the same time we submit a draft convention for the abolition of the capitulations (the two drafts are practically ready as sent to you). If the French agree substantially to the two drafts, we hope no further “commercial convention” will be necessary. If it is, it will be a trade agreement. If the French make a trade agreement necessary, we shall hope to negotiate all three instruments simultaneously, although the trade agreement probably would not be a sine qua non.

We do not wish to appear unduly obstructive to the French, as we have frequently said, but on the other hand, they will appreciate that all (or practically all) of the other Powers which have given up their capitulations in Morocco have received very substantial concessions in return, either in Morocco or elsewhere. All we want of the French is “equal opportunity without any inequality” in Morocco, as provided for in the Act of Algeciras. If the French will give us that, there will be no controversy. But if they begin to ask for concessions to French trade, or ask us to bind our duties on Moroccan products entering the United States, they must assume the responsibilities for any delays in the negotiations. The British, it is true, appear to have agreed to retain certain Moroccan products on the free list, but the British received other concessions, in Zanzibar and Egypt, which are not concessions to us.

Please do not think the tenor of this letter indicates that I am unappreciative of your excellent help on the Moroccan situation. Far from it. I believe you agree with me that while we shall negotiate with the French in the friendliest spirit, we are not overly impressed by Coursier’s arguments on page 5 of your letter.31 The Powers at Algeciras agreed to allow French military and political protection in Morocco on the condition that freedom of trade opportunities be continued to all. It was understood by all, the French included, that considerable French blood might be shed to enforce that military and political protection, but France was willing to assume the responsibility and at the same time promise an “open door”. We have expressed willingness to recognize the existence of exceptional circumstances which France considers to require the institution of a quota system, but we maintain our insistence upon equal opportunity. If France is not willing to agree to that, when she asks for the abolition of the capitulations, she seems to me to be making her own difficulties.

Sincerely yours,

Wallace Murray
  1. Signed May 8, 1937, Department of State Treaty Series No. 939, or 53 Stat. 1645. For correspondence on the Montreux Conference for the Abolition of the Capitulations in Egypt, April 12–May 8, 1937, see Foreign Relations, 1937, vol. ii, pp. 615 ff.
  2. Paragraph numbered 1, p. 863.
  3. Not printed.
  4. Last paragraph of letter, p. 864.