The Department of State to the Belgian Embassy


On March 29, 1938 [1939], His Excellency the Belgian Ambassador, in a conversation with Mr. Sayre,4 inquired regarding the possibility [Page 423] of a trade agreement between Belgium and the United States in which the United States would grant concessions on products of interest to Belgium which were included in the trade agreement between the United States and Czechoslovakia.5 The Ambassador was informed that studies were in progress concerning the possibilities of a new or supplementary trade agreement with Belgium, and that these studies related not only to concessions included in the agreement with Czechoslovakia which might be of interest to Belgium, but also to the broader question of what changes in the concessions contained in the existing agreement might be of mutual benefit to the United States and Belgium.

As a result of these studies, the Government of the United States believes that the scope of possible concessions by both countries is sufficient to justify the opening of negotiations with a view to a general revision and expansion of the present trade agreement. This Government envisages the possibility of an exchange not only of new concessions on articles not included in the present agreement, but also further improvements in the treatment of articles already included in the agreement. For this purpose it is believed that the negotiation of a new agreement, rather than a supplementary agreement, would be appropriate.

There is attached hereto, as Appendix A,6 a list of articles on which the United States would be prepared to consider requests by the Belgian Government for concessions in the form of reductions in, or bindings of, existing duties in the event that a new agreement should be negotiated. The articles included in this list have been selected on the basis of the rule, followed generally by the United States in trade-agreement negotiations, that concessions are accorded to each country with respect to articles of which that country is the principal or an important supplier of imports into the United States. The Belgian Government is of course aware of the statutory fifty-percent limitation in the reductions which may be offered in connection with trade-agreement negotiations. Where a rate of duty is reduced successively in two trade agreements this limitation applies to the sum of both reductions. There is indicated, in the attached list, with respect to each item, the extent of any reduction which has already been made through trade-agreement negotiations.

In the event that the two Governments should agree to negotiate a new trade agreement, the United States would proceed with its customary public notice of intention to negotiate, and would propose to publish, in connection therewith, the attached list, subject to such [Page 424] modifications as might be agreed upon by the two governments. It would be stated in connection with the public notice that requests by the Belgian Government for concessions would be considered only with respect to articles included in the list.

The Belgium Government is doubtless aware that under the procedure required by law in connection with the negotiation of trade agreements, no commitments can be made as to concessions to be granted by the United States until all interested parties have been given an opportunity to present views and information to the Government of the United States at public hearings relating to the proposed negotiations.

There is also attached, as Appendix B,7 a preliminary and tentative list of articles on which the United States would expect to request concessions. This list has been compiled as a result of a study of the major items in Belgian statistics of imports from the United States. It is expected that some further items will be added to the list at a later date in consequence of further studies, including consideration of the information and views which may be received from traders at the above-mentioned public hearings. It is believed, however, that this preliminary list will be found to include all of the major items on which the United States would wish to request concessions.

This preliminary list is in two parts. The first part includes articles already included in the present agreement on which the United States would be interested in receiving concessions additional to those already contained in the agreement. The second part includes articles not covered by the present agreement on which the United States would be interested in receiving new concessions, including bindings of existing treatment in the case of those articles in the list which are now subject to a low rate of duty and exempt from import restrictions.

As regards general provisions, the Belgian Government is aware of the nature of the safeguards of concessions, and of the other general provisions, which this Government would expect to have included in the proposed new agreement.

  1. Francis B. Sayre, Assistant Secretary of State; memorandum of conversation not printed.
  2. For correspondence regarding the trade agreement between the United States and Czechoslovakia, see Foreign Relations, 1938, Vol. ii, pp. 223 ff; for text of agreement, signed March 7, 1938, see Department of State Executive Agreement Series No. 147, or 53 Stat 2293.
  3. Not printed.
  4. Not printed.