651.116/901: Telegram

The Ambassador in France (Bullitt) to the Secretary of State

1334. The several times postponed meeting with representatives of the Foreign Office and Ministry of Commerce was held yesterday afternoon and a full report will go forward by mail.

The French officials firmly and categorically declined to agree with our interpretation of numbered paragraph 1 of article IV [VI] of the trade agreement and insist that the percentual share guarantee [Page 489] contained therein applies only to “normal quotas” and not to supplementary quotas especially those derived from unused import authorizations of previous periods or ex quota imports. They insist that the whole French quota system is based on bargaining with nonutilized quotas of a previous period to obtain additional concessions for France from other countries employing similar restrictive systems and that consequently no change can be made. They freely admitted that this system tends to penalize countries with a liberal commercial policy and to benefit those with quota systems, exchange control, et cetera, which are in a position to undertake bargaining negotiations at frequent periods.

In preparing for the meeting we discovered what appears to be an important discrepancy between the English and French texts of numbered paragraph 1 of article VI. Whereas the English text categorically assures us of our percentual share of the “total quantity or value (…) permitted to be imported or sold during a specified period” the French text in the Journal Officiel merely refers to “L’ensemble des importations on des ventes”. Although the French authorities assert that the “meaning is the same” the Embassy feels that the English text is definite and all-inclusive while the French text is more general and less specific. (We of course stood on the English text).

On the basis of the foregoing refusal to admit that supplementary quotas fall within the provisions of numbered paragraph 1 of article VI the French authorities likewise declined to agree that we are entitled to full and current information as to the total amount of importations permitted of each commodity subject to import restrictions which is of interest to the United States. They do agree, however, to furnish information as to the base. Upon this the country allocation of quotas are based. (In this connection please refer to the Department’s telegram No. 390, May 31, 8 p.m. and the Embassy’s No. 1239, July 1, 3 p.m. concerning radio tubes15). They likewise said that they would not in the future impose restrictions of a descriptive or qualitative nature upon quotas to which we are entitled without prior consultation. (The Embassy had in mind restrictions such as that on typewriters to used machines or those in the rough with respect to which however no commitment was made by the French yesterday.)

Department’s telegram No. 506, July 8, 2 [3] p.m. draft instructions to the French Ambassador at Washington with respect to negotiations for a revision of the trade agreement were taken under consideration by Alphand and pertinent officials of interested Ministries last evening.

  1. Neither printed.