The Secretary of State to the Chargé in France (Murphy)
Sir: The Department has received the Embassy’s despatch No. 6272 of March 20, 1940, enclosing a copy of a note from the French Foreign Office in acknowledgment of protests filed by the Embassy on February 5 and 8, respectively, regarding the introduction into Syria and the Lebanon, the French mandated territories in Africa, and the French territories within the Congo Basin, of exchange control and other measures in contravention of American rights in those territories. In its reply the French Government makes no mention of its obligations under its mandate conventions with the United States and the Congo Basin Convention of September 10, 1919. Moreover, it is evidently the intention of the French Government to maintain the régime to which exception is taken as long “as may be justified by circumstances.”
You are requested to take up this subject again with the French authorities and to leave with them a note along the following lines.
It will be recalled that in the communication which the Embassy made to the Foreign Office on February 8, 1940 the French Government was informed that this Government confidently expected that that Government, in accordance with the terms of the pertinent mandate conventions and the Congo Basin Convention, would continue to recognize that American trade with Syria and the Lebanon, the French mandated territories in Africa, and French territories within the Congo Basin be permitted on a basis of full equality in all respects with French and all other trade.
The Department was subsequently informed by the American Consulate General at Beirut that the French mandatory authorities for Syria and the Lebanon had officially announced that imports into the States under French mandate would as far as possible be made from the French Empire.
The Department has received a number of complaints in connection with the operation of the exchange control and import licensing system in the French African territories and mandates, where measures similar to those in effect in Syria and the Lebanon are operating to the disadvantage of American trade with the African areas.
As was pointed out in the Embassy’s communication of February 8, 1940 to the French Government, the United States Government is not disposed to raise any question regarding the adoption of measures in Syria and the Lebanon and the French mandated territories in Africa which may be reasonably necessary and consistent with the status of those territories and the obligations of the French Government as mandatory for those territories. This Government, however, does not recognize the necessity for the administration of the controls of foreign exchange and imports and exports in the territories in question in a manner to give preference to imports from or exports to the French Empire or other sources, with a resultant discrimination against trade with the United States.[Page 936]
This Government considers that the action of the appropriate authorities in withholding licenses for the importation or exportation of commodities from or to the United States when permission is granted for the importation or exportation of similar commodities from or to sources other than the United States is inconsistent with the terms of the American-French Mandate Convention of April 4, 1924, concerning Syria and the Lebanon, and of the American-French Mandate Conventions of February 13, 1923, concerning the Cameroons and Togoland, assuring American trade with those territories equality of treatment with that of the mandatory power or of any foreign state. It also considers that the withholding of licenses in similar circumstances in French territories within the Congo Basin is in violation of the Congo Basin Convention of September 10, 1919. Accordingly, this Government must continue to make full reservations of all its rights in connection with the application of the controls of foreign exchange and imports and exports improperly affecting the rights of American nationals in the territories mentioned.
Please keep the Department informed of all developments with regard to this question. A copy of this instruction is being communicated to the American Consuls at Beirut, Lagos and Léopoldville.
Very truly yours,
[No later correspondence regarding this question has been found in Department files.]