800.6354/258: Telegram

The Ambassador in the United Kingdom (Winant) to the Secretary of State

1305. Department’s 1057, March 28, 5 p.m. In a conversation at the Colonial Office the day before yesterday with regard to the proposed Embassy communication on the Bolivian standard tonnage, Clauson indicated informally his present feeling that the British Government should not press upon other Governments signatory to the International Tin Regulation Agreement Bolivia’s claim to retain its present standard tonnage. He reiterated factual statements mentioned in the Embassy’s 1171, March 25, 6 p.m., was frankly incredulous about the report from La Paz of a 45,000 ton Bolivia production this year, and thought that the Bolivians would in the future as they have done in the past produce and export as much as the traffic will bear regardless of quota limitations. He felt that it would be best to permit the bargaining of Bolivia’s standard tonnage between the principal protagonist (Dutch and Bolivians) to follow its national and probably protracted course. He was of the opinion that in the end there would be no committee of control, but agreement upon a Bolivian standard of tonnage which would be “more than they deserve and less than they asked for”. Figg85 was present and endorsed what Clauson said.

In view of this altered position, no further mention of the proposed Embassy communication was made. Instead an effort was made to ascertain whether there was any other method of ensuring the maintenance of adequate Bolivian tin supplies for our smelter, the need for which for defense purposes had been emphasized. In reply to our inquiries on this Clauson at first endeavored to show statistically how small the likelihood is that Bolivian permissible [Page 521] exports will ever drop low enough to justify anxiety. In response to a further question, however, he gave it as his personal opinion that the British Government might take steps to assure that we would get our 18,000 tons a year regardless of the level of Bolivian production and permissible exports. During the conversation that followed we mentioned the pending draft for an Anglo-Bolivian tin contract, and inquired whether what he had in mind was the elimination of article 10 thereof. (The British Treasury had informed the Embassy the day before that the retention of that article was the only point still at issue between us on that subject.) Clauson said that he would discuss this with the Treasury, but at the same time voiced it as his personal opinion that relinquishing some claim to Bolivian tin would cause no real embarrassment to the British smelter, since it could keep going on Nigerian and Congo tin ore.

When we mentioned the possibility that, under the “quantity” provision for the Metals Reserve Company contract of November 4, 1940, the Bolivians might in certain circumstances have the right themselves to reduce their sales to the Metals Reserve Company below 18,000 tons and have an interest in doing so (the circumstances of course including a reversal of the present Liverpool–New York price relation), Clauson indicated that the necessary “belt and suspenders” could be supplied by an undertaking by the British Government not to import or permit the importation of more than a certain quantity of Bolivian tin ores or concentrates.

Clauson conferred yesterday with the British Treasury, but no word has yet been received from him by the Embassy.

This interim report is sent for the Department’s consideration and with the suggestion that it may wish to delay for the time being any action on the Anglo-Bolivian tin draft based in part on (4) and (5) of the Embassy’s 1171, March 25, 6 p.m. A further report will be sent at the earliest possible moment.

  1. Sir Clifford H. Figg, Business Adviser, British Colonial Office.