The Ambassador in Panama ( Davis ) to the Secretary of State


No. 277

Subject: Program to Improve Relations with Panama; Highway Conventions.

Sir: I have the honor to refer to the third and eighth numbered points in the latter part of despatch No. 39 of February 3, 1949, regarding the proposed negotiation of a new convention dealing with transit rights for the Armed Forces, road maintenance, and the formalization of the realignment of the Colón Corridor. One of the principal reasons why a new convention is needed is that there are at least five separate agreements relating to the above subject dated from 1936 to 1947, varying in formality from formal treaties to executive agreements effected through the exchange of notes. All five moreover are largely out of date, overlap in some respects, and at the same time fail to cover certain important aspects of the problem. An endeavor has been made accordingly, in complying with the Department’s instruction No. 4 of January 19, 1949, to cover in a single draft convention and in a form applicable to present conditions, not only the points outlined in the above instruction, but also the provisions of the following treaties and agreements which need to be preserved:

The Trans-Isthmian Highway Convention of March 2, 1936, Treaty Series 946.
Exchange of Notes dated August 31 and September 6, 1940.1
Point V of the General Relations Agreement of May 18, 1942, Executive Agreement Series 452.

Originally it was intended to include in the new draft convention an article formalizing the proposed rectification of the description of the Colón Corridor, Madden Dam road and provisions relating to certain bridges and overpasses as provided for in Articles VIII and IX of the General Treaty of March 2, 1936, as set forth in an exchange of notes dated May 26, 1947.2 Since the amendment of a major treaty is involved, and since the purpose is merely to formalize corrections already agreed to in an exchange of notes, it has been decided to prepare a separate draft convention for this purpose, which will make it possible to state when submitting the proposed treaty for ratification that it contains only an accurate description of the sections of the highway concerned to which both governments agreed some time ago.

There are now enclosed, accordingly, for the Department’s consideration, two draft conventions,3 the first formalizing the agreement effected by exchange of notes of May 26, 1947, as explained in the foregoing paragraph, and the second, dealing with long-term road maintenance, transit rights for the Armed Forces and other matters now covered by the agreements included in the above list. There is also enclosed an explanation prepared by First Secretary Carlos C. Hall4 setting forth the reasons for certain deviations in the proposed draft from the lines suggested in the Department’s instruction No. 4 of January 19, 1949, together with a discussion of the comparatively few points on which the views of the Embassy differ from those of the Armed Services and Administration of the Panama Canal. It will be noted that the latter draft has been worked out in collaboration with the military and civilian authorities in the Canal Zone, and that it represents an agreed draft, except in the case of a few points concerning which the views of the Armed Forces and the Canal Zone Administration are fully stated. Copies of the draft agreement delimiting the Colón Corridor, etc., which comprise a rearrangement and formalization of already agreed upon stipulations, have been transmitted to the Governor of the Canal Zone with a request for his comments. When received, these will be forwarded to the Department.

The attached drafts are being submitted to the Department for study and such amendment as may be deemed necessary without awaiting [Page 718] any formal notification from the Panamanian Government that it is ready to negotiate these agreements.5 In this connection reference is made to the Embassy’s formal notifications regarding the completion on June 13, 1949 of the 1150 feet of the Trans-Isthmian Highway at its junction with Randolph Road and other highways, and the termination of United States responsibility for further expenditures for construction and maintenance during the period of stabilization. Reference is also made to the reply from the Panamanian Foreign Office. See confidential despatch No. 212 of May 24, 1949, with copy of Note No. 172 of May 24, 1949.6

Respectfully yours,

Monnett B. Davis
  1. For the agreement between the United States and Panama, supplementing the Convention of March 2, 1936 relating to a Trans-Isthmian Highway, see EAS No. 449, or 58 Stat. (pt. 2) 1599.
  2. For the Colón Corridor Agreement effected by an exchange of notes on the later date, see TIAS No. 2029.
  3. Neither printed.
  4. Not printed.
  5. Ambassador Davis reported in telegram 659 from Panama City, November 4, 1949, that the Foreign Minister had advised him a note was being sent to the Embassy expressing willingness to negotiate a new highway maintenance convention (711.19/11–449).

    For the Colón Corridor Convention signed at Panamá May 24, 1950, see TIAS No. 3180, or 6 UST 461. For the Highway Convention signed at Panamá September 14, 1950, see TIAS No. 3181, or 6 UST 480. For the Department’s press release of June 24, 1949 on the completion of the Boyd–Roosevelt (Trans-Isthmian) Highway, see Department of State Bulletin, July 11, 1949, p. 39.

  6. Neither printed.