The Ambassador in Cuba (Norweb) to the Secretary of State

No. 2065

Sir: I have the honor to refer to the Department’s secret instruction no. 951 of August 15, 1946,61 regarding our Government’s intention [Page 744] to terminate the Commercial Convention of 190262 as an initial step towards removing the obstacles which stand in the way of the eventual elimination of tariff preferences, in keeping with the recommendations made in our Proposals for Expansion of World Trade and Employment.63

The Embassy notes that it is the Department’s understanding that Cuba has accepted, at least in principle, the idea of modifications in the United States-Cuban preferential trade arrangements and that it is desirous that notice of termination of the Convention be made in such a way as to prevent its being interpreted by the Cuban Government as an unfriendly act. The Embassy is therefore requested to suggest to the Cuban Government the possibility of handling this matter by an exchange of more or less identical notes, to be supplemented by press releases to be issued simultaneously in Washington and Habana. In view of the possible reaction of the Cuban Government to the proposed denunciation of the 1902 Convention, the Department suggests that the Embassy may consider it advisable not to broach the question separately but to include it in the commercial policy discussions which Mr. Harry R. Turkel, Assistant Chief, Commercial Policy Division, expects to hold with Cuban officials within the next few weeks.64

In respect of the foregoing the Embassy respectfully submits the following comments: While the Cubans are thoroughly familiar with our Proposals, including the recommendation for the eventual elimination of all trade preferences, which has received wide publicity here, the Embassy is not at all sure that they have become reconciled to the latter possibility. The matter is still the subject of considerable press comment and only during the last few days both the Diario de la Marina and Siempre (which is considered the organ of the Auténtico Party) carried editorials opposing the elimination of Cuba’s preferential trading position with the United States. It is true that at the Round Table discussions of our Proposals conducted last February [Page 745] by the Cuban Board of Eonomic Warfare a resolution was adopted with regard to tariff preferences which recommended their gradual reduction provided Cuba received adequate compensating concessions in return (see Embassy’s airmail despatch no. 1247 of March 11, 1946, file no. 63165), but the Round Table’s resolutions do not represent the official views of the Cuban Government, which is in no way committed thereby. Moreover, although the Cuban Government accepted our invitation to attend the Preliminary Meeting, the Embassy does not recall that it accepted at any time, even in principle, the idea of modifications in the United States-Cuban preferential trading arrangement except in so far as its failure specifically to mention the question of preferences in its several notes relating to our Proposals may be construed as an implied acceptance.

In view of all the foregoing, the Embassy fears that our decision to terminate the Convention will come as a shock to the Cubans no matter how tactfully it is brought to their attention or how carefully our approach may be timed. It seems very unlikely, therefore, that the Cuban Government will be disposed to accept any suggestions we might make towards simultaneous action along the lines indicated in the Department’s instruction, unless we make it abundantly clear that if such simultaneous action is not taken the United States will have no recourse but to denounce the Convention unilaterally.

The Embassy has therefore arrived at the conclusion that rather than to inform the Cuban Government at this time to terminate the Convention it would, as the Department itself suggests, be preferable for Mr. Turkel to do so at an opportune moment in the course of his forthcoming visit. To bring it to the Cuban Government’s attention now might well endanger the success of Mr. Turkel’s mission and it would, in fact, seem advisable for him to defer mention of this particular subject until his discussions with the Cuban officials are well advanced.66

Respectfully yours,

For the Ambassador:
Albert F. Nufer

Counselor of Embassy for Economic Affairs
  1. Not printed.
  2. For text of commercial convention between the United States and Cuba, signed at Havana, December 11, 1902, see Foreign Relations, 1903, p. 375, or Department of State Treaty Series No. 427, or 33 Stat. 2136.
  3. Department of State publication No. 2411, November 1945; reference is to chapter III, section B of the Proposals.
  4. The Department informed Ambassador Norweb in telegram 539, August 5, 1946, of the forthcoming visit of Mr. Turkel to Havana, in anticipation of the first meeting of the United Nations Preparatory Committee on Trade and Employment to be held in London beginning October 15, 1946, and stressed the importance of the proposed Cuban discussions to the success of the London meeting; a thorough exchange of views with the Cuban Government on subjects to be discussed in London was termed “essential.” (560.AL/8–546) The United States had invited 17 members of the United Nations, including Cuba, Chile, and Brazil, to enter into negotiations for the reduction of tariffs and other barriers to trade; and, on initiative of this Government, the United Nations set up the Preparatory Committee and agreed to call an International Conference on Trade and Employment.
  5. Not printed.
  6. A report on the visit of Mr. Turkel and his discussions with Cuban officials, September 4–12, 1946, transmitted to the Department in despatch 2166, September 12, noted that the Technical Committee of the Cuban War Economy Board voiced strong objection to the denunciation of the 1902 Convention on economic and political grounds and argued that the Convention was not basically in conflict with the Suggested Charter for an International Trade Organization, which the United States had circulated to other members of the United Nations Committee.