Memorandum of Conversation, by Mr. J. Rives Childs of the Division of Near Eastern Affairs

Participants: Mr. A. E. Overton, of the British Board of Trade, Member of the British Trade Delegation to the United States.
Mr. Murray.
Mr. Alling.
Mr. Childs.
Mr. John C. Ross.33

Mr. Overton called at the Department on May 3, 1938, and stated that he had been instructed by the British Board of Trade to discuss the question of the Moroccan treaty negotiations.

He recalled that the British Government had been in close touch with the American Government through the American Embassies in London and Paris and had acquainted Mr. Johnson, of the Embassy in London, and Mr. Wilson, of the Embassy in Paris, with the progress of the negotiations and with the terms of the Anglo-French Commercial [Page 878]Treaty on French Morocco which had been recently initialled but not as yet signed.

Mr. Overton was reminded by Mr. Murray that while we had been made acquainted with the general provisions of the treaty in question, and while the British had expressed a willingness to make the full text available to this Government, the French Government had declined to agree, for some unaccountable reason.

There followed some general discussion of the treaty, in which Mr. Overton explained that the term “consolidated duties” as used with reference to the Anglo-French Treaty was expressive of the binding of duties. He was unable to state the term of duration of the treaty or the reasons delaying its signature and publication. He inquired whether we were in actual negotiations with the French Government and added that he had been instructed by the Board of Trade to inquire also whether anything could be done to hasten our negotiations. He explained that British cotton interests in particular were pressing the British Government to obtain the effective introduction as soon as possible of the provisions of the treaty relating to the imposition of textile quotas as a protection against Japanese competition in Morocco.

Mr. Murray remarked that the American position vis-à-vis France in respect of the termination of the capitulatory régime was quite different from that of Great Britain. The latter, he said, was obligated under the Anglo-French Accord of 190434 to relinquish its capitulatory rights in Morocco upon the relinquishment of French capitulatory rights in Egypt. Moreover, in the Anglo-French Capitulatory Convention on Morocco France had relinquished its capitulatory rights in Zanzibar. Further, even after the relinquishment of British capitulatory rights in Morocco Great Britain could reasonably postpone the conclusion of a commercial treaty inasmuch as until such a treaty was concluded France was bound to the ten percent customs régime integrated in the British-Moroccan Commercial Treaty of 1856 which the new commercial treaty was designed to replace. On the other hand, we insisted upon the simultaneous negotiation with France of both a capitulations convention as well as a commercial treaty, as we were not disposed to give up the rights we were asked to relinquish in the capitulations convention, which afforded the basis for the safeguarding of our rights in Morocco, short of the negotiation of both a capitulations convention and a commercial treaty.

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Mr. Overton stated that, of course, the operation of the Anglo-French Commercial Treaty was independent of the customs and quota provisions annexed to it in the form of exchange of notes. Such provisions, he said, naturally, would not enter into force until the other signatories of the Act of Algeciras had accepted the proposed autonomous customs régime for Morocco. He had been asked to inquire, therefore, what the United States position was likely to be in the event the French Government proposed to us and to the other signatories of the Act of Algeciras the present introduction of the quotas on cotton piece goods as embodied in the new Anglo-French Commercial Treaty.

Mr. Murray replied that this question was one, of course, which the executive officers of the Department would have to decide if it were placed before them. He desired to emphasize, however, a number of considerations in that regard which mitigated [militated] in his opinion against the favorable entertainment of such a proposal. First of all, we were in the dark as to the precise terms of the Anglo-French Treaty; secondly, the British have a binding agreement with safeguards, and it would accordingly be very difficult, if not impossible, to justify our agreement to the imposition of quotas on certain articles of no interest to us in advance of the negotiation of our treaty instruments on Morocco embodying the general safeguards in respect of quotas which were understood to have been written into the British instrument. To put it in another form, Mr. Murray added, what position might the British reasonably be expected to take if the situation were reversed and we asked the British Government to accede to the imposition of quotas on automotive products in the absence of any safeguards preliminary to the negotiation of a commercial treaty with France? Mr. Overton confessed that it was difficult to answer that question.

Mr. Ross made the observation that we had originally acceded with great reluctance to the acceptance of the principle of quotas. In his opinion it would be highly difficult to defend acceptance now of the introduction of quotas even on articles not of any primary interest to us because of the resultant inevitable prejudice to our own negotiations with the French.

The most practical means of getting on with the introduction of quotas, it was suggested to Mr. Overton, was the obtaining of French consent to making available to this Government the text of the Anglo-French Commercial Treaty and the expression of the French Government’s readiness to get on with the negotiations for a capitulations convention and a commercial treaty with which the Department had expressed its willingness to proceed as long ago as October 17, 1937. [Page 880]It was emphasized that we were ready to proceed with such negotiations and that any ensuing delay had been wholly occasioned by the French failure to date to reply to that note.

  1. Of the Division of Trade Agreements.
  2. Signed at London, April 8, 1904, British and Foreign State Papers, vol. ci, p. 1053.