The Diplomatic Agent and Consul General at Tangier (Blake) to the Secretary of State

No. 1522

Sir: I have the honor to enclose herewith English translations of laws which now regulate war-time trade in the Tangier Zone. Copies of the Official Bulletin of the Zone containing the French text of the laws are also enclosed.4

It will be recalled, as indicated in my despatch No. 1496 of October 9, 1939,5 and in Mr. Doolittle’s report: “Tangier and the War” of [Page 774] October 24, 1939,6 that the French Protectorate Authorities were seeking to extend their control over the trade of the Tangier Zone, and attempted to make shipments of provisions and supplies for Tangier, from French Morocco, conditional upon the prohibition to export from Tangier to any destination, all merchandise, even goods in transit, of whatever origin. The Committee of Control were opposed to this contention as derogatory of the principles of the Moroccan treaties. The laws herewith enclosed purport to embody the compromise arrangements which have finally been agreed upon.

The main law is dated November 2, 1939; its principal provisions are:

Prohibition to export from Tangier merchandise (figuring upon a practically all comprehensive list of goods) proceeding from France, French colonies, and particularly from the French Zone of Morocco, regardless of their national origin.
The exportation of goods proceeding from places other than France or the French Zone, is subjected to the constitution of local security stocks.
Goods in transit may be exported, but in case of necessity approved by the Committee of Control, they may be requisitioned for local consumption.
The operation of the law is subjected to the supervision of a Special Commission, composed of a member of the Committee of Control, as President, one of the Vice-Presidents (in turn British, French, Spanish and Italian) of the Legislative Assembly, and the Administrator of the Zone. Advisory members are: A delegate of the Sultan’s representative, the Assistant Director of Finance, the Chief of the Customs Service, and the Presidents of Chambers of Commerce of various nationalities.
The provisions of the law shall have a duration of three months from the date of their official publication, but may be extended by periods of three months, through decision of the Legislative Assembly, subject to the approval of the Committee of Control, so long as the present circumstances shall prevail.

International supervision over the operation of these Tangier trade regulations is therefore preserved. The provisioning of the Zone appears now to be proceeding satisfactorily, under these arrangements.

Nevertheless, from a point of view of treaty principles, the restrictions imposed upon trade are obviously illegal, as the Committee of Control does not fail to note in a “Decision” published, as a preamble to the regulations, in the Official Bulletin of the Tangier Zone. (See Enclosure No. 1). In this decision the Committee of Control maintains that the law places limitations on economic liberty, as guaranteed “by the Statute and by the Treaties,” and therefore decides to approve the regulations only as exceptional measures, occasioned by the vital necessities of the community, and on condition that the law [Page 775] shall be repealed when the normal provisioning of the Zone again becomes possible.

By this “Decision” the Committee of Control (i. e., the representatives of the foreign powers in Tangier) seeks to safeguard the treaty principle of “economic liberty.”

However, since Article 2 of the Law did, in fact, admit a French derogation from the regime of “economic liberty,” the Legislative Assembly has passed a complementary “Decision” dated November 22, 1939, (Enclosure No. 4) which, in the name of “equality among the nations” grants to any other country a similar right to violate that treaty regime.

To secure this right a Government has merely to request that, in respect of goods shipped by its country to Tangier, there should be established the principle of the interdiction to re-export, as provided in the case of France, by Article 2 of the Law of November 2, 1939.

This implication of the subversive effect of one treaty principle (“equality among the nations”) upon another treaty principle (“economic liberty”), seems to be open to objection, but as this curious construction of treaty terms arises from the temporary difficulties and perplexities of an unusual situation, it may perhaps be overlooked as lacking significance.

The Resident General of France, as Minister for Foreign Affairs of the Sultan of Morocco, has requested that the Tangier Laws above referred to, regulating trade in the Tangier Zone, be made applicable to American ressortissants in that Zone.

I am of the opinion, however, that in view of the derogation, implied in the legislation, of treaty principles which we are anxious to maintain, we should decline to give any formal assent to the regulations, notwithstanding their presumably temporary character. I suggest that we should adopt towards the war-time regulations of the Tangier Zone, the same position as that which we have assumed towards similar legislation in the French Zone, and limit ourselves to assurances of co-operation designed to overcome particular difficulties arising from the present circumstances, as indicated in the Department’s Instruction No. 1054 of December 4, 19397 (File No. 681.006/67).

This policy is virtually being pursued in the Tangier Zone at the present time. Moreover, there are extremely few American concerns in this Zone which are affected by the trade regulations in question.

The only case which has hitherto been brought to the notice of this Legation is that of the Singer Sewing Machine Company. The Company’s central depot of machines and spare parts is located in [Page 776] French Morocco, but the head office in Tangier deals with the distribution of these stocks to its clients throughout the entire country, including the Tangier and Spanish Zones.

Stocks sent up to Tangier, from the Central Depot in Casablanca, for transmission to the Company’s branch offices in the Spanish Zone, may not be forwarded to Spanish Morocco under the provisions of Article 2 of the Tangier Law of November 2, 1939.

On his own initiative the Director of the Singer Sewing Machine Company is in contact with the Protectorate Authorities, and with those of the Tangier Zone, in an endeavor to reach a practical solution of this difficulty. The intervention of the Legation will be required only if the conversations above referred to fail to result in a satisfactory arrangement.

Respectfully yours,

Maxwell Blake