641.116/2557: Telegram

The Chargé in the United Kingdom ( Johnson ) to the Secretary of State

2672. Sir Arnold Overton21 made occasion to advise the Embassy informally of the steps that are being taken in the matter of purchasing Greek and Turkish tobacco. After referring to the Chancellor of the Exchequer’s statement contained in the Ambassador’s telegram No. 2232 of November 1, 1 p.m., and explaining under what reluctant necessity the British Government was taking these steps, due to the political importance of Greece and Turkey in the war situation, he gave the following facts. Great Britain has contracted to take service on one of its loans to Turkey by acquiring Turkish tobacco to the extent of slightly less than pounds 1,000,000 per annum over a 20-year period. Likewise the French have contracted to take about two-thirds of this amount. General commercial negotiations are pending with Greece which will probably result in Great Britain taking about pounds 500,000 of Greek tobacco over a 3-year period and France will acquire a substantial but lesser share. No steps have been taken to purchase Bulgarian tobacco. The British purchases from Greece and Turkey will probably aggregate 20 million pounds or about 10% of the British requirements.

A British mission will shortly leave for Turkey which will include British tobacco company buyers and a Government official. The British Government is holding the weapon of compulsory admixture over the heads of the British tobacco companies in the hope that they will be able to work out voluntarily a satisfactory admixture scheme and the British tobacco interests intend to buy for this purpose not highly scented but “neutral” Turkish tobacco. It is expected that it will take almost a year before these projected purchases are ready to be moved into consumption.

Needless to say the Embassy expressed grave concern over the injury to American tobacco interests which such action would entail, particularly in the change in taste of the British public for pure American tobacco and Overton again emphasized the reluctance with which this step was being taken and the extent of Turkish pressure to find a substitute market for Germany which is reducing its Turkish purchases and the importance of Turkey’s position to the British and French in their “life and death struggle with Germany.”

  1. Second Secretary of the British Board of Trade.