Memorandum of Conversation, by the Director of the Office of Middle American Affairs (Nufer)


Subject: Note from Cuban Government on Proposed Modification of the 1948 Sugar Act

Participants: Ambassador Luis Machado of Cuba
Ambassador Nufer—MID

The Cuban Ambassador, Dr. Luis Machado, called yesterday at his request to hand me a note with regard to the proposed modification of the 1948 Sugar Act. A copy of the Cuban note is attached.1

The purpose of the note is to request the United States Government to make every possible effort to protect Cuba’s position in the United States sugar market by preventing, if possible, any modification of section 202(d) of the present Act detrimental to Cuba’s interests and any decrease in Cuba’s present share in our market.

The note expresses concern over the possibility that Cuba may receive less favorable treatment under the proposed legislation than under the 1948 Act, and calls attention to the exchange of notes of December 23, 1941 annexed to the supplementary trade agreement between [Page 1350] Cuba and the United States.2 Cuba also maintains that the pertinent provisions of the GATT agreement signed at Geneva on October 30, 1947, justify the maintenance by the United States of the treatment accorded Cuba as a supplier of sugar to this market under the 1948 Sugar Act.

In discussing the proposed sugar legislation, Ambassador Machado admitted rather reluctantly that it would not have too serious an impact on Cuba’s economy. He said, however, that politically the effects of the proposed legislation would be extremely bad and that the opposition was already endeavoring to capitalize on the fact that Cuba would be called upon to give up some 240,000 tons of its U.S. sugar quota to Puerto Rico and the full-duty countries. He added that the Government was already under severe attack in the opposition press and that the sugar bill would probably become a leading issue in the Presidential campaign. His own position, he said, had become very difficult and he felt that he might find it necessary to resign after the bill is enacted. His and his Government’s position might, Ambassador Machado said, be improved if, once the bill is passed, an exchange of notes between the two Governments could be arranged containing some reference to our recognition of the importance of sugar to Cuba’s economy and of the fact that in connection with the new legislation the Executive Branch of the Government had taken fully into account the exchange of notes of December 23, 1941.

The Ambassador said that fortunately the provisions of the Sugar Act were so involved that the average Cuban citizen was unable to grasp their full import. An exchange of notes such as he suggested would therefore have a very reassuring effect on the Cuban people.

I told the Ambassador that offhand it seemed doubtful to me whether an exchange of notes such as he had in mind could take place. I said that I was certain that we would not be able to agree to an exchange of notes which could in any way be construed as a commitment on our part similar to the exchange of notes of December 23, 1941. I suggested to Ambassador Machado, however, that he might wish to give the Department an informal and unofficial memorandum setting forth his views on the subject which we would consider carefully with a view toward determining on what basis, if any, an exchange of notes such as he had in mind might be possible.

In the course of the conversation Ambassador Machado expressed concern over reports that Ambassador Thomen3 of the Dominican Republic [Page 1351] intended to appear before Congress in connection with the proposed legislation. He expressed the hope that these reports were not true because if Ambassador Thomen appeared before Congress in connection with the bill he would be forced to do likewise. So far he said he had not even discussed this legislation informally with his friends on the Hill and taken special pains to take no action which might lend itself to criticism or misinterpretation. Neither had the Embassy, he said, given out any press statements on the subject although he did intend to give the press a short prepared statement upon leaving my office.

  1. Not printed.
  2. Reference is to the Second Supplementary Trade Agreement and exchange of notes between the United States and Cuba signed at Habana, December 23, 1941, and entered into force, January 5, 1942; for text, see Department of State Executive Agreement Series (EAS) No. 229, or 55 Stat. (pt. 2) 1449. For documentation on the negotiations leading to the signature of the agreement, see Foreign Relations, 1941, vol. vii, pp. 196 ff.
  3. Luis Francisco Thomen.