Memorandum by Mr. Harvey R. Wellman of the Office of Middle American Affairs to the Assistant Secretary of State for Inter-American Affairs (Miller)1


Subject: Request of Cuba for exchange of notes on sugar legislation.

The Cuban Foreign Office has requested an exchange of notes in which the United States would agree to make every appropriate and possible effort to safeguard the position of Cuba in the United States market at least under the same conditions as the Sugar Act of 1948 as it is to be amended, provides. Such an exchange of notes is requested avowedly for internal political reasons in order to neutralize if possible the criticism the Cuban Government has suffered as a result of the sacrifices required of Cuba in the new sugar legislation.


It is recommended

(1) that no exchange of notes embodying such a commitment as is requested be entered into for the reasons given in Mr. Cale’s memo of August 2, 1951, which is attached;2

(2) that after the bill amending and extending the Sugar Act of 1948 shall have become law, we deliver to the Cubans a note in response to the Cuban memorandum and note protesting certain provisions of the legislation and stating Cuba’s case. In this note we would do the following:

explain the reasons for our recommending adoption of the amendments to the 1948 Act;
emphasize those provisions of the new legislation favorable to Cuba, and
assure Cuba that the Department had fully considered Cuba’s views and had taken full account of the position of Cuba as our principal foreign supplier of sugar, our reliance upon Cuban sugar especially in emergencies, and the relation of a high level of United States imports of Cuban sugar to the maintenance of reciprocally beneficial economic relations which exist between the United States and Cuba.

(3) that such a note contain no commitments with respect to the future but only explanations and assurances regarding the amendments to the Sugar Act of 1948.

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(4) that we consider the advisability of giving even the type of assurances outlined in 2 above, if the Cuban Government does not take steps promptly to satisfy certain obligations to the United States, principally the settlement of the private claims3 and the removal of discriminatory taxes. If when the legislation shall have become law, Cuba has not taken satisfactory action with respect to these outstanding obligations, we will then have to decide whether it is desirable for other reasons to deliver a note as recommended in 2 above or to send a, formal acknowledgement only of the Cuban memorandum and note together with a copy of the new legislation.

In the meantime we contemplate formally requesting the Cuban Government for an indication of when it will make the promised payment on the private claims and of the amount of the payment. We shall also continue to press for elimination of discriminatory taxes which are in contravention of GATT.

If you concur in this position, please initial this memorandum as evidence of your approval.4

  1. Addressed also to Mr. Mann, Ambassador Nufer, and the Officer in Charge of Caribbean Affairs, W. Tapley Bennett, Jr.
  2. In his memorandum, addressed to Mr. Wellman and not printed, Mr. Cale had stated that he believed it was unwise to accede to the Cuban request for an exchange of notes because, inter alia, the Executive branch could not properly make such a commitment, Cuba was not sustaining any real injury, and it might lead to future misunderstanding (398.2351/7–2551).
  3. In 1951 these claims totaled an estimated $9,136,475.37, of which $1,060,238.76 had been adjudicated by the Cuban courts.
  4. The source text bears the initials of each of the recipients, except Mr. Miller.

    In late August 1951, the United States agreed to discuss the Cuban Government’s request for an exchange of notes regarding Cuba’s position in the United States sugar market vis-à-vis the new sugar legislation. Draft versions of a United States note were discussed by the two governments during the remaining months of 1951 and early 1952. On February 1, 1952, the text of a final note was prepared by the Department of State for presentation to the Cuban Government, but by that time Cuban officials lost interest in the matter, in part because they could not obtain a note worded strongly enough, and in part because hostilities in Korea had increased the world-wide demand for sugar. Consequently, no exchange of notes took place. Pertinent documents are in Department of State decimal files 398.235, 398.2351, 811.235, 837.235, and 837.2351.