740.00112 European War 1939/6161: Telegram

The Chargé in France (Tuck) to the Secretary of State

1089. With reference to the Embassy’s 897, June 20, 1 p.m. (repeated to Murphy). It will be recalled that the official in question stated that while it would be difficult to give us any official [Page 344] undertaking regarding the restriction of exportation of certain North African minerals the French Government was nevertheless prepared to give us such an undertaking unofficially and as a “spontaneous gesture”.

Yesterday evening a responsible Foreign Office official requested me to endeavor to obtain the Department’s consent to the following proposal.

There was a strong indication that if the consent of the German Armistice Commission were to be obtained to the restriction of exports of North African cobalt such agreement would almost certainly be made contingent on counterdemands (possibly important sales of peanut oil to Germany). He recalled that the transport of North African cobalt destined for Germany is not authorized in ships flying French flag. The German Government therefore must have recourse to neutral vessels for such transport and shipments by neutral vessels entail certain very definite risks. He added that for the last 11 months no North African cobalt destined for Germany had left North Africa. His Government was therefore prepared to give us the following official undertaking in return for the resumption of petroleum shipments to French North Africa.

To maintain the undertaking that shipments of North African cobalt destined for Germany would not be made in French bottoms.
That instructions would be given to the competent French North African Government services to forbid the export or transport of cobalt to other countries as well as to the French metropolitan market (the latter concession was in his opinion an important one since the French market alone annually consumed 1200 tons of North African cobalt).

This official expressed the earnest hope that the Department would consent to this proposal which if agreed to by us might at the same time exact the promise of the French Government to restrict the export of certain other minerals including antimony.

If our Government could not agree to this proposal the French Government was prepared to adhere to its unofficial undertaking but it was greatly feared that the inevitable German counterdemands would prove as embarrassing to the French Government as they would be to us.

I would appreciate instructions.

Repeated to Murphy.