Memorandum of Conversation, by the Assistant Chief of the Division of Caribbean and Central American Affairs (Barber)

  • Participants:
    • Cuban Delegation
      • Dr. Oscar Seiglie
      • Senator José M. Casanova,
      • Sr. Gaston Godoy
      • Sr. Manuel Rasco
      • Dr. Oscar Albertini
    • (Dr. Mañas and Dr. Santiesteban were not present
    • American Delegation
      • Mr. Earl Wilson, Chairman
      • Mr. James H. Marshall
      • Mr. Gustavo Burmeister
      • Dr. Joshua Bernhardt
      • Mr. Horace Ritchie
      • Mr. Justin H. Folkerth
      • Mr. Francis Linville, State
      • Mr. Willard F. Barber, State

Mr. Wilson opened the meeting6 by reviewing the progress of earlier conversations. He referred to the Cuban interest in a “guarantee for the future”. He said that there was nothing that the administrative agencies could do to bind the Congress in the future. That is beyond their power. He doubted that the sugar act would actively be taken up before the Congress prior to September 1946.

Mr. Wilson then reviewed the points upon which general agreement had been reached, making it clear that neither party was bound by [Page 951] agreement on any point until their agreement had been reached on the entire negotiation. The points of agreement were:

Price—3.67 cents
Escalator Clause
Price increase in the event that the duty is reduced
Parity treatment with Puerto Rico.

The following items were not yet agreed upon, Mr. Wilson stated:

Guarantee of a future share in the U.S. Market
Alcohol purchase
Stabilization agreement
Amount of local consumption sugar
Amount of free export sugar
Amount of refined sugar
Minimum and maximum amounts of blackstrap.

Dr. Seiglie observed that agreement had not been reached on how many crops would be purchased. He stated that if adequate guarantees could be given, Cuba would sell one, two or three crops. Dr. Seiglie continued that Cuba’s historic position during the two world wars showed that a share of the U.S. market larger than the 29% permitted under the 1937 Sugar Act was properly due to Cuba. With respect to Mr. Wilson’s comments regarding the powers of the administrative agencies to bind the Congress, Dr. Seiglie referred to the December 23, 1941 exchange of notes between Ambassador Messer-smith and the Cuban Foreign Office,7 i.e. “my government will make at all times every appropriate and possible effort to safeguard that position”—the proportion guaranteed under the 1937 law. This could be the form of a guarantee. With respect to the substance of the guarantee, Dr. Seiglie thought that there should be maintenance of Cuba’s position irrespective of the treatment or ultimate independence of the Philippines or Puerto Rico. Mr. Wilson asked what suggestion Dr. Seiglie had for accomplishing this purpose. Dr. Seiglie said he had a draft of a note he would send to Mr. Wilson tomorrow. Mr. Wilson replied that he would be glad to see it, although he has not yet discussed such a note with Secretary of Agriculture, with Department of State or with any representative of Congress.

Referring to the alcohol purchase, Mr. Wilson stated that alcohol plants were being closed in this country; a large stock was on hand here; there was no way to make use of additional Cuban alcohol. Dr. Seiglie replied that this was a very difficult problem and that political questions were involved. With the suggestion that there be omitted [Page 952] from the contract any stabilization of basic foodstuffs, Mr. Wilson said that he thought that Cuba would be protected from a run away inflation by the use of the cost of living index clause. Dr. Seiglie said that he would like to take this up later after the food specialists had arrived from Habana. With respect to blackstrap Mr. Wilson said that the U.S. would be glad to take all that Cuba could produce. In response to Dr. Seiglie’s question as to the purpose for which the blackstrap would be destined, Mr. Wilson replied “for cattle feed.” The Cuban delegation did not seem to take this answer seriously and apparently think blackstrap will be used in this country for other purposes.

It was agreed that the next meeting would be in Mr. Wilson’s Office at 4:00 p.m. (Thursday, December 6), with only the United States Delegation present.

After the meeting adjourned Mr. Wilson gave it as his personal opinion that the Cuban Delegation was quite willing to enter into a contract but needed some kind of letter or exchange of notes as a face saving device to take back to Cuba with them.

  1. This was the first meeting since the recess of negotiations on November 1.
  2. Reference is to the notes exchanged in relation to the second supplementary trade agreement of the same date; for text, see Department of State Executive Agreement Series No. 229, or 55 Stat. (pt. 2) 1449.