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

Participants: Mahmoud Hassan Bey, the Egyptian Minister
Mr. Mohamed Awad El Koni, Egyptian Attaché
Mr. Hawkins
Mr. Murray
Mr. Alling
Mr. Childs
Mr. Durnan20

The Egyptian Minister was informed that in the preliminary examination of the possibility of the conclusion of a trade agreement with Egypt the question had been raised, on the basis of a study of existing Egyptian legislation, whether the Egyptian Government was in a position to conclude any other than a provisional trade agreement. It was added that it was thought he might desire to explore the question and a memorandum was given him on the subject.

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The Minister stated that he was unable to answer the question, but he would be glad to raise it with his Government.

In exhibiting to the Minister the proposed preliminary report of the sub-committee on Egypt of March 1, 1939,21 it was remarked that the exhaustive character of that report evidenced the attention which had already been devoted to the question of a trade agreement with his country.

He was informed that a member of the sub-committee was now making a field study on the special problem of long-staple cotton which had been found necessary before the report could be completed and that upon his return the completion of the report would be undertaken by the sub-committee in the light of the findings of the field investigation. The investigator was expected to return to Washington on March 27th and the sub-committee on Egypt would probably be able to complete the report by the end of next week. It should be possible for a meeting of the Committee on Trade Agreements to be held on April 5th in order to reach a decision in the matter of proceeding with trade agreement negotiations with Egypt. The Minister was informed that it was hoped that it might be possible to conform with that schedule although circumstances might necessitate a few days delay, but that in any case he would be kept informed.

Following an affirmative decision on the part of the Committee on Trade Agreements it would be possible to enter into tentative discussions with the Minister regarding possible concessions which might be incorporated in the trade agreement. It was emphasized that the Minister must appreciate that the conclusions of the Committee on Trade Agreements and the discussions based on them could only be of a wholly tentative character without any commitment on the part of this Government as no definite commitments could be made under the Trade Agreements Act until after public hearings had been held following a formal announcement, and until after approval of the Secretary and President had been obtained. The Minister stated that he fully appreciated that the discussions would be wholly tentative pending the more formal action required in accordance with the Trade Agreements Act.

It was explained to the Minister that the question as to when public announcement of negotiations could be made would have to be decided by the Secretary of State and the President in the light of the circumstances existing when the preliminary tentative discussions have been completed; that it is not known when they would feel we are in a position to make the announcement but that it seems unlikely that they would consider it practicable to do so before next summer.

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It was emphasized to the Minister that in view of the wholly tentative and exploratory character of the discussions which might be carried on with him preliminary to any public announcement it was, of course, to be expected that the discussions would be regarded as confidential. As no public announcement could be made until the Department was prepared to enter into formal binding conversations he would understand, of course, the necessity of avoiding any leakage on the part of his Government of any information concerning the exploratory discussions in view of their wholly unofficial informal character.

  1. James J. Durnan of the Division of Near Eastern Affairs.
  2. Not found in Department files.