Memorandum of Conversation, by the Chief of the Office of Philippine Affairs (Jacobs)

Mr. Suma called by appointment this morning. After a few remarks about the state of health of former Ambassador Saito, Mr. Suma said that there were three matters concerning Japanese-Philippine [Page 464] relations about which he wished to speak: (1) a new Philippine immigration law; (2) a new Philippine naturalization law; and (3) the agreement with Japanese manufacturers limiting cotton textile exports to the Philippines.

Mr. Suma said that the Embassy had been advised by the Japanese Consul at Manila that a new Philippine immigration law was being drafted and that he himself had seen some reference to this fact in the newspapers. He said that he understood that the new law would provide a quota system and that the quota allotted to each country, regardless of its size and the number of its nationals in the Philippines, would be the same. He said that the Japanese feared that this sort of equality would be discriminatory against Japan and China as they had a far greater number of nationals in the Philippines than any other foreign country. He repeated this point several times, including the reference to China, apparently so that there would be no doubt in my mind as to what Japan was worrying about.

I told Mr. Suma that a Philippine immigration law was under consideration, and that, as had already been indicated in the press, the United States Government had, at the request of the Philippine authorities, sent two immigration experts to the Philippines to assist in this matter. I pointed out that they had only been in Manila for about a month and that, as yet, we had no information as to the nature of the proposed new law.

At this juncture, Mr. Suma said that he had been advised that one or two immigration bills had already been introduced in the Philippine Assembly now in session. I replied that I did not have such information but that it was not at all unlikely that some Philippine Assemblymen had seen fit to introduce an immigration bill. I expressed doubt, however, that the Philippine administrative authorities had as yet sponsored any immigration bill. I explained to Mr. Suma that any Philippine immigration bill which might be passed by the Philippine National Assembly would, under the terms of the Act of March 24, 1934,22 have to be approved by the President of the United States before it became law.

Mr. Suma then said that a new Philippine naturalization law was in the process of drafting and that his government was also very much interested in that law, as it was now impossible for Japanese and Chinese, long resident in the Philippines, to become naturalized citizens of the Philippines. I replied that I knew nothing about such a proposed law although I had seen some reference in Manila papers to certain naturalization cases involving Chinese which had been taken to the courts for decision. Mr. Suma inquired whether the United States had control over the enactment of such a law and I replied that the President of the United States did not have the authority, [Page 465] under the Act of March 24, 1934, as he did in the case of an immigration law, to veto a Philippine nationality law but that he did have authority under that act to set aside any Philippine law which violated the international obligations of the United States.

Mr. Suma then took up the question of the Textile Agreement which expires on July 31, 1939 about which he had spoken to Mr. Sayre some weeks ago. He said that the Japanese cotton textile manufacturers were very much worried about the recommendation of the Joint Preparatory Committee on Philippine Affairs that Philippine duty on cotton textiles be increased. He said that the Japanese manufacturers had, during the past year, kept well below their quota as provided in the existing agreement but he admitted that the high manufacturing costs in Japan had some bearing on Japanese textile sales in the Philippines. He remarked that these manufacturing costs were increasing and that the Japanese manufacturers feared that, under the increases in tariffs proposed by the Joint Preparatory Committee, they would not be able to sell any textiles in the Philippines. He expressed the hope that something could be done to prevent this recommendation from being put into effect and urged that the present Textile Agreement be renewed annually in order to keep the trade on its present basis.

I replied that it was impossible for me to say what action Congress would take on the recommendations of the Joint Preparatory Committee. I remarked that bills designed to put these recommendations into effect had been introduced yesterday in the Senate and the House.

I remarked, however, that regardless of whether the Joint Committee’s recommendation was adopted, the annual agreement with Japanese manufacturers restricting imports was not a very satisfactory method of insuring that American textiles would have an even chance of competing in the Philippine market. I explained this by saying that the agreement with the Japanese exporters covered only Japanese textiles and that it did not cover Chinese, English or Indian textiles which, under changing conditions, might find the Philippine market profitable. I said that the recommendation of the Joint Committee seemed the best method of insuring that the American manufacturers would have an even chance to compete in the Philippine market. Mr. Suma remarked (which is rather significant) that he feared that the Japanese and other mills in China, with their lower manufacturing costs, might begin to take away oriental markets from the Japanese manufacturers in Japan.

Mr. Suma expressed appreciation for the information which I had given him and said that he hoped that he could confer with me from time to time in regard to these matters as new developments arose. I said that I would be pleased to see him at any time he wished to call.

J[oseph] E. J[acobs]
  1. 48 Stat. 456.