641.116/2579: Telegram

The Chargé in the United Kingdom (Johnson) to the Secretary of State

247. Your 158, January 25, 7 p.m.29 Since presentation of my note of December 2830 I have more than once taken occasion to mention the matter informally at the Foreign Office and the Agricultural Attaché31 [Page 95]has also continued to manifest our interest in informal talks at the Board of Trade. While the matter is not one in which the Foreign Office is the determining factor, the official with whom the matter has been discussed is thoroughly conversant with the background and I have had the definite impression in talking with him that the authorities are under some embarrassment as to how to reply to our note. As I understand it one of the main reasons for the embarrassment is their reluctance to put on formal record the real reasons for curtailment of purchases of American tobacco which the official stated plainly were the problems of exchange. He remarked that the purchases from Turkey, although a valuable asset in Anglo-Turkish relations, formed but a very small proportion in value of what had been the annual purchases of American tobacco and that actually they would not mind very much if the tobacco purchased from Turkey had to be thrown into the sea. What they are faced with the official said is the impossibility of making purchases of American tobacco for a very long time to come, an impossibility which would be little if any affected were the agreement for the purchase of Turkish tobacco to be repudiated.

The Department will recall in this connection the Ambassador’s conversations with Mr. Oliver Stanley32 reported in his telegrams 1468, September 6, 1 p.m.,33 1620, September 13 and 1659, September 15, 3 p.m.34 as well as a talk with Sir John Simon35 reported in the Ambassador’s telegram 2232, November 1.36

I venture to suggest that we might come somewhere nearer finding a solution of this problem if the United States could offer some practicable plan to the British which they could fit into their war economy and through the operation of which the market in this country for American tobacco might be protected.

There would seem to be two possible courses of procedure, one to endeavor to preclude increased use of Turkish tobacco in this market, the other to accept the temporary necessity of British use of a limited quantity of such tobacco. Assuming the first course we might either induce the British themselves to hold or otherwise dispose of the tobacco, or come to an understanding involving cooperation by the United States. If the second course were pursued we might urge upon the British a plan suited to protect our longer range interests. This would certainly involve withdrawal of any preferential treatment for Turkey after the war and, during the war, an understanding as to how Turkish (and Greek) tobaccos are utilized. The Board of Trade has [Page 96]suggested for example that a 15% general “adulteration” of present cigarette tobaccos with Turkish would not destroy their “Virginia” character and would enable a ready shift back after the war, whereas a scheme to encourage consumption of pure or distinctly Turkish type cigarettes might well involve permanent loss of a part of the market for the United States.

  1. Not printed; it instructed the Chargé to inquire from the Foreign Office when a reply to the Embassy’s note of December 28, 1939, might be expected and gave information as to the importance of the British market to American tobacco producers (641.116/2568).
  2. See Foreign Relations, 1939, vol. ii, p. 233, footnote 22.
  3. Loyd V. Steere.
  4. President of the British Board of Trade.
  5. Not printed.
  6. Foreign Relations, 1939, vol. ii, pp. 215 and 216, respectively.
  7. British Chancellor of the Exchequer.
  8. Foreign Relations, 1939, vol. ii, p. 225.