Memorandum by the Secretary of State to President Truman
The Cuban Ambassador, Dr. Guillermo Belt, is seeking an appointment with you to express his government’s opposition to Section 202(e) of a proposed sugar act which authorizes the Secretary of Agriculture to withhold from any foreign country which denies fair treatment to U.S. citizens, any increase in the sugar quota granted that country. In a conversation with Mr. Acheson23 on June 24, the Ambassador alleged that such a provision was in violation of the Act of Chapultepec,24 of Pan-Americanism, and of the UN Charter.25 He stated that if the provision were not removed, he would appeal to the Pan American Union and the UN Assembly. He also stated that if the proposed legislation is enacted, it should be vetoed.
Mr. Acheson informed the Ambassador that there was nothing unusual or unfair about the provision and that for years there had been provisions in our General Tariff Act for steps to be taken in the event any country discriminated against the United States. He added that he saw no violation of the UN Charter or conflict with the inter-American system in Section 202(e).
It is reported that the Ambassador subsequently informed an American sugar producer that his government will take economic reprisals; against all American nationals in Cuba unless Section 202(e) is removed. While it seems doubtful whether these somewhat hysterical threats and allegations will be acted upon by the Cuban Government, they are at least indicative of the Ambassador’s desire to have us deprive ourselves of our bargaining power in future relations.
I regard Section 202(e) as essential to the protection of American investments in Cuba, valued at approximately $750,000,000, and to the settlement of the many long-pending problems affecting United States-Cuban relations. This conviction derives from the refusal of the Cuban Government over, many years to grant reasonable and moderate requests for fairer treatment of U.S. nationals. It is strengthened by statements recently made to officers of this Department by the Cuban Ambassador that Cuba would place import restrictions on American products and take other measures which would be objectionable to American commerce if sugar legislation considered unfair to Cuba is enacted. Repeated assurances and promises from the President [Page 617] of Cuba and other high officials that remedial action would be taken have proved meaningless.
The bargaining power provided in Section 202(e) will be of indispensable help in achieving the following important objectives:
- Protection of U.S.-owned Cuban sugar mills against inequitable treatment. Indications have already been received that when the Cuban Government attempts to reduce sugar production to a normal level, it may be unable to resist pressure that reduction be accomplished at the expense of U.S. sugar mills.
- Conclusion of a commercial treaty which our Government for years has been endeavoring to negotiate with Cuba. Such a treaty is of paramount importance to American business interests because of discriminatory practices against U.S. firms and of a rising tide of nationalism.
- Settlement of claims of United States nationals amounting to approximately $9,000,000, some of which have been pending for over thirty years.
A copy of Section 202(e) is attached.26