Memorandum by the Second Secretary of Embassy in Cuba (Norden)83


I lunched today with José Antonio Guerra, one of the Cuban delegates just returned from the London Preliminary Trade Conference. He monologued on the subject of the Conference for over two hours, discussing the positions of the various delegations in considerable detail. The main point of his story, however, was that he and the other Cuban delegates felt very satisfied with the outcome of the Conference; in the first place, because maintenance of Cuba’s preferred position with respect to the United States had been virtually assured, and because the charter will provide Cuba with additional means of safeguarding her trade position and can serve as an instrument for presenting the Cuban case. He said that Cuba had achieved virtually everything she wanted with the exception of a clause guarantying fair prices to commodity producers and of an escape clause which she considered necessary for domestic political reasons. With regard to the last point, the Cuban delegation’s impression is that some arrangement can still be arrived at.

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Asked whether Cuba had represented Latin American interests other than her own, he said that the delegation had merely rendered lip-service to this principle and he thought that some of the most serious difficulties at the Geneva conference might come from other Latin American countries, envious of Cuba’s special position vis-à-vis the United States.

Guerra mentioned that the Cuban delegation felt especially proud and reassured in having been able to play a substantial part at a conference where larger countries were primarily represented. He felt [Page 757] the Cubans had repeatedly assisted in finding compromise formulas and had been of help to the United States’ position.84

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Carl F. Norden
  1. Addressed to Ambassador Norweb and the Counselor of Embassy for Economic Affairs (Nufer). Copy transmitted to the Department in despatch 2564, December 13, from Havana; received December 17.
  2. A press statement by the Cuban Minister of State (Alvarez), transmitted in despatch 2595, December 23, was issued in response to protests in the local press to a State Department press announcement of December 19 that “This Government’s negotiations next spring with 18 other countries for reciprocal reductions of tariff and other trade barriers will include negotiations directed toward elimination of tariff preferences now in effect between the United States and Cuba …”. The Cuban Minister stated that no representations along those lines were expected, since the commercial relations between Cuba and the United States would henceforth be determined by the agreements reached in the London meeting, and the future of Cuba’s trade preferences had become brighter as result of the resolutions adopted in London. He noted that the United States could, of course, denounce the Reciprocal Trade Agreement should Cuba refuse to agree to any modifications of its preferential trading position, but he did not believe that the United States had any such intention, or that there were any grounds for eliminating Cuba’s tariff preferences unless Cuba were offered satisfactory compensatory concessions. (560.AL/12–2346)