The Secretary of State to the Ambassador in Panama (Dawson)

No. 19

The Secretary of State refers to the Department’s telegram No. 62 dated August 16, 1939, 5 p.m.,4 and transmits the text of a statement made by the President at the time of giving his approval to H. R. 5129.

The Ambassador is authorized to transmit a copy of the text of this statement to the Panamanian Government for its information.

[Page 750]

Statement by President Roosevelt on Approving H. R. 5129, August 11, 1939

In view of the special relationship which exists between the United States and Panama on account of the Panama Canal, the Canal administration and the Panama Railroad Company have for many years granted facilities for employment to Panamanian citizens which were not generally extended to the citizens of other countries.

The Order of the Secretary of War dated December 23, 19085 and the Executive Orders of February 2, 19146 and February 20, 19207 extended to Panamanian citizens, with respect to the higher paid categories, opportunity for employment and treatment in employment equal to that extended to American citizens.

Accompanying the General Treaty between the United States and Panama signed March 2, 1936 and ratified July 27, 1939 is an exchange of notes between the two Governments by which the United States has agreed to maintain as a principle of public policy the opportunity for employment and treatment in employment of Panamanian citizens which is set forth in the Order and Executive Orders noted above.

A provision of H. R. 5129 authorizing and providing for the construction of additional facilities on the Canal Zone, etc., provides “that all new personnel in such construction work occupying skilled, technical, clerical, administrative, and supervisory positions shall be citizens of the United States”. It is my opinion that this provision is at variance with the policy to which this Government pledged itself in its note to the Government of Panama of March 2, 1936, the date of the signing of the General Treaty, since the Order and Executive Orders specifically provided equal opportunities for employment for Panamanian citizens in the very categories in which employment would be denied them under the quoted provision of H. R. 5129.

The new Treaty was negotiated to provide a firm basis for friendly and effective collaboration between the two Governments in order that the Canal might fulfill in the most ample sense its functions. With the exchange of ratifications of that Treaty, the United States and Panama entered into a new stage of their relationship. This relationship will be advantageous and enduring to the extent that each party cooperates loyally and fully in the observance not only of the letter but of the spirit of that Treaty.

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I am giving my approval to this important bill which by authorizing the construction of a third set of locks will enhance not only our own security but that of this hemisphere. I propose, however, to request the Congress at its next session to amend the present law so as to bring it into conformity with the commitments entered into with Panama which pledge to the citizens of Panama opportunity and treatment in employment in the Canal administration and the Panama Railroad Company equal to that offered to citizens of the United States.

Franklin D. Roosevelt
  1. Not printed.
  2. Executive Orders Relating to the Panama Canal (March 8, 1904, to December 31, 1921) (the Panama Canal Press, Mount Hope, C. Z., 1922), p. 86.
  3. Ibid., p. 158.
  4. Ibid., p. 266.