Memorandum of Conversation, by Mr. Erwin P. Keeler, Division of Commercial Policy

Participants: Dr. M. A. Falcón-Briceño, Commercial Counselor, Venezuelan Embassy
Mr. Knox, RAR21
Mr. Keeler, TA

Dr. Falcón-Briceño called by appointment to make inquiry regarding complaints which had arisen from American exporters with respect to measures of the Venezuelan Import Control Commission affecting exports of drugs to Venezuela. He indicated that his Ambassador22 had heard of these complaints and had instructed him to look into the matter.

Dr. Falcón-Briceño was shown the resolution of January 20, 1944 of the Drug and Chemical Export Club of the Foreign Credit Interchange Bureau, and given a copy of the resolution for further study. He was informed that reports which had come to the Department from various sources indicated that in some cases the Import Control Commission was using its powers for. purposes alien to those of the decentralization plan, particularly in connection with the importation of pharmaceutical products and proprietary medicines. It appeared that cases had arisen in which (1) import recommendations for certain drug items and other products (for example, cotton waste and mirror plates) had been denied or reduced on the ground that they were not essential or that similar products were manufactured locally, (2) that in some cases, concerning medicinals and pharmaceuticals, import recommendations had been denied by the Commission on the ground that the products were lacking in therapeutic value, although the products had been found acceptable and registered by the Ministry of Health, and (3) that in other, instances, it was understood that importers had been informed that import applications would be approved if the importers would agree to install machinery and manufacture the finished product in Venezuela.

It was explained to Dr. Falcón-Briceño that we felt most strongly that procedures established in connection with the decentralization plan should not be transformed into means of controlling trade, where such control is not now warranted by shipping conditions or the supply situation—that, with respect to our import trade, we have consistently followed the line that wartime emergency powers, in the absence of wartime factors such as shortage of shipping, should not be used as [Page 1648] a means of restricting imports for protective or other purposes not directly connected with the war emergency.

Dr. Falcón-Briceño was informed that we hoped that an easing of wartime demands would make possible the production of civilian goods in greater quantities, and that with more shipping space we would be able to relax progressively wartime restrictions on trade—that we felt sure that Venezuela shared our views as to the desirability of relaxing such wartime restrictions at as early a date as practicable.

Dr. Falcón-Briceño indicated that he was not particularly familiar with the operations of the Import Control Commission but that he thought that some of the drug products involved were products the sale of which was not permitted in the United States under our food and drug legislation. In this connection, it was pointed out to Dr. Falcón-Briceño that the therapeutic value of the products had been involved in only one of the types of reported cases mentioned above, and that the products had apparently been satisfactory to the Ministry of Health. Dr. Falcón-Briceño said that he would report the substance of our conversation to his Government.

It was suggested to Dr. Falcón-Briceño that questions such as we had been considering tended inevitably to arise in connection with the operation of wartime emergency controls, perhaps through misunderstandings on the part of subordinate administrative officials concerning the background and purposes of the wartime controls. We expressed the belief that in view of Venezuela’s fine collaboration in the furtherance of liberal trade policies, as evidenced by the Venezuelan-United States trade agreement, the problems which had been the subject of our conversation could be readily solved.

Dr. Falcón-Briceño mentioned at the close of the conversation that some difficulties were being encountered in bringing into the United States canned fish from Venezuela. He said that an American importing house was prepared to bring in 100 tons of canned fish per month, but that he (Dr. Falcón-Briceño) had been informed by authorities in the War Food Administration that it would be difficult to obtain oil from outside Venezuela for the packing of these” products, and that he understood that the question of shipping space might also present a problem. He said that he would discuss the latter question at once with authorities in the War Shipping Administration. Dr. Falcón-Briceño was informed that we would be interested in hearing of developments with respect to trade in this new Venezuelan product, and would be glad to assist him in any appropriate manner in connection with any problems which might arise.

  1. Charles Frederick Knox, Chief, American Republics Requirements Division.
  2. Diógenes Escalante.