The Chargé in Cuba (Elbrick) to the Department of State

No. 50

Subject: Presentation of Memorandum to Cuban Ministry of State Regarding Rice Negotiations

During the past two weeks the Embassy has been increasingly concerned regarding the apparent lack of progress being made by the special Cuban commission which was established by the Council of Ministers to draw up a final position in connection with the rice negotiations between the two countries.1 In an effort to clarify the U.S. position, the Embassy proposed the text of a possible memorandum in its telegram No. 3 of July 22 to the Department. The Department subsequently revised the text of the memorandum in telegram No. 15 of July 3.2

While several informal inquiries have been made recently as to what progress was being realized, it has become increasingly clear to the Embassy that the urgency with which the Cubans at one time considered these negotiations has largely disappeared. It is a matter of debate as to whether or not this attitude reflects a feeling among certain local Government officials that it would be poor tactics to proceed with these rice negotiations until the Cuban position vis-à-vis the new sugar legislation has been clarified. The obvious fact is that these negotiations have been given little or no attention for some time, and [Page 1352] with the idea of again concentrating attention upon their importance and in an effort to conclude the negotiations at an early date, if this is possible, the Embassy decided upon the presentation of a memorandum embracing the text outlined in Deptel 15 of July 3. A copy of the memorandum as presented is attached to this report.

Upon the presentation of the memorandum there was very brief discussion. Although it was hurriedly read by several of the Cuban officials, it was suggested that the memorandum and its content might be subject of a further meeting as soon as it has been translated into Spanish and has been studied by the appropriate officials. This position was agreed to by the Embassy representatives but it was again emphasized that the time for these negotiations actually has now exceeded the limit of July 1 set under the terms of the Torquay resolution and that while a reasonable extension of this period would probably be tolerated by the contracting parties, it was extremely important in the view of the United States Government that every effort be made to conclude these negotiations at as early a date as possible. The Cuban representatives concurred and pointed out that shortly after July 1 the Cuban Government had telegraphed the GATT Secretariat at Geneva stating that the rice negotiations had not been concluded and that they were being continued. This was the first notification that the Embassy had received that the Cuban Government had taken this action.

For the Chargé d’Affaires ad interim:
DuWayne G. Clark

Counselor of Embassy


During the various conversations which have been held so far between the Cuban and the United States delegations at Habana, concerning the problems arising out of the operation of the GATT rice concessions made by Cuba to the United States at Geneva in 1947, as outlined in the memorandum dated March 15, 1951,3 from the U.S. delegation at Torquay to the Cuban delegation at Torquay, the Cuban representatives have been informed that the American Government would be willing to agree to give Cuba a free hand as regards the duty to be charged on over-quota rice imported into Cuba in order that Cuba may achieve its objectives, provided Cuba is willing to guarantee to the United States for each year after 1951–52 a minimum import quota of 5.5 million quintals of rice. In offering Cuba a free hand to [Page 1353] increase the over-quota rice duty there was never any intention that the U.S. delegation would negotiate with the Cuban delegation as to the determination of the particular level to which the over-quota duty might be raised. On the contrary, it was intended that the Cuban Government would be free to set that duty at the rate which might be necessary in any particular year to accomplish the objectives expressed by the Cuban delegation.

In making this offer to agree to the unbinding of the over-quota rate in return for a guarantee to the United States of a minimum import quota, it was understood that the Cuban delegation and the U.S. delegation were in agreement that the understanding at Geneva was that the Cuban Government intended to apply a margin of preference, both within the quota and on over-quota imports, equal to the pre-Geneva margin of preference and that this is still the Cuban intention.

The U.S. delegation is taking the liberty of submitting this memorandum to the Cuban delegation in the hope that it may clarify the position of the U.S. Government as regards the particular point under discussion. It is thought that this clarification may be of help inasmuch as the question of whether or not the over-quota duty rate on rice will be increased is understood by the U.S. delegation to be under discussion in the special Cuban commission established to arrive at a policy position prior to the resumption of the rice negotiations between the two countries.

As an alternative to the position described in the preceding paragraphs, and assuming that there is to be no modification in the GATT rates on rice imports into Cuba, the Government of the United States would be agreeable to the shifting of the quota year to April 1 and to release Cuba from any claim of violation of the terms of the 1947 GATT rice concessions provided Cuba undertakes the declaration of a realistic import quota and establishes a formula which will assure for the future a continuation of such quota. Under this alternative, while the United States would not press for a change in the original minimum import quota figure, it would naturally expect that the formula would embrace the announcement of one or several supplementary quotas which would bring the total of the quota to a realistic aggregate.

  1. A series of discussions between Cuban and United States representatives regarding the interpretation of the rice quota provision in the GATT took place in Habana during the spring and summer of 1951, but they lapsed without any agreement being reached. Copies of the minutes of meetings held on May 29, 31, and June 4, are filed under Department of State decimal file number 837.2317/10-3151.
  2. Not printed.
  3. Not printed.
  4. Not printed.