The Ambassador in Cuba (Messersmith) to the Secretary of State27

For the Secretary and Under Secretary. We are running the grave risk of creating a situation in American-Cuban relationships most prejudicial to ourselves in Cuba for the near and for the long range and in our whole inter-American position in these difficult times.

In the current trade-agreement negotiations we offered the Cubans a 75-cent duty rate on sugar and a short sugar note which grants a position for Cuban sugar in our market not inferior to that of the Sugar Act of 1937. We requested the Cubans to sell us their 1942 sugar crop and, under the favorable atmosphere created by the trade-agreement negotiations and the above offers, the Cubans have agreed to sell their 1942 crop at the reasonable price fixed by us although they consider the transaction from a purely commercial point of view a disadvantageous one for them.

I have tried to make clear in my despatches and letters that if we recede from the offers we made in the trade-agreement negotiations of the 75-cent rate and the short sugar note granting a no worse position for Cuban sugar in our market than under the 1937 Act, or under the projected bill as reported from the Senate Committee, both the trade agreement and the sugar deal cannot be signed by the Cubans and will fall through.

The trade-agreement negotiations are complete except for the form of the sugar note on which I am awaiting confirmation. If the trade agreement and the sugar deal are to become effective we must sign the trade agreement not later than December 22.

The Cubans will, I am sure, not sign the trade agreement or close the sugar deal on our offer, which they are prepared to do if we sign the trade agreement, unless the trade agreement carries the 75-cent rate and the short sugar note above referred to.

Our relations with Cuba through our wise policies have never been on a sounder or firmer basis and Cuba is today the American republic in which the good-neighbor policy has borne its most mature fruit. She has declared war on Japan, Germany and Italy without delay and without fear and is prepared to follow our lead resolutely and to cooperate in the fullest measure in her power. If the trade agreement fails, through this recession from our offer, we will be creating here a psychological and a realistic situation which will undo the work [Page 223] of years in a few weeks and which will create political, economic and labor repercussions here which will cause exceedingly difficult problems for us not only in American-Cuban relationships but the repercussions of which will be felt in the other American republics.

Whatever our problems at home may be in giving this short sugar note, they are small as compared with those which we would be creating by receding from our offer at this crucial time.

I therefore recommend in our interest that I be authorized to include without delay this short sugar note in the trade agreement and to proceed with the signature at the latest on Monday, December 22. The text of the agreement otherwise has been fully agreed to by us and by the Cubans.

  1. In a memorandum attached to this document Mr. Walter N. Walmsley, Jr., Assistant Chief of the Division of the American Republics, notes that “Ambassador Messersmith telephoned me the attached message instead of telegraphing it in order to save time.”