The Secretary of Agriculture (Benson) to the President

Dear Mr. President: In 1949 the United States negotiated tariff concessions with Uruguay at Annecy under the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade1 with respect to United States duties on canned beef, pickled and cured beef and veal, and meat extract.

The Government of Uruguay delayed entering the agreement until the middle of the past month. During the intervening 4 years the deadline for signing the agreement was periodically extended for Uruguay. It appears that the reason Uruguay finally signed was that the GATT will permit them to increase their duties and make their import restrictions on United States’ products more severe than permitted under our present bilateral reciprocal trade agreement.

Since the agreement was negotiated in 1949, we have had a marked change in our domestic beef situation. Production has expanded to an all time high level, and farm prices have dropped to extremely low levels. We are now spending vast sums in an attempt to bolster sagging cattle prices. In view of this situation, the lowering of our import duties on beef at this time would subject the Administration to severe criticism.

On December 1, we wrote2 to the Secretary of State and called to his attention the need for action to remove these beef items from the duty reduction list which we understood you were to proclaim in the next several days. However, in a reply dated December 4,3 the Acting Secretary of State, the Honorable Walter B. Smith, indicated that since Uruguayan action has been completed, there would appear to be no [Page 1572] legal way in which the United States could refuse to carry out its commitments. The letter also stated that failure to extend the concessions to Uruguay as well as to other parties to GATT would be a breach of faith.

We are firmly convinced that a way must be found to either withdraw the beef items from your proclamation or delay its issuance indefinitely. Unless this is done, the granting of concessions at this time would, in the public mind, tend to nullify in large part our efforts to strengthen the cattle market.

We have just learned that the Government of Uruguay has indicated informally that if notice is received from the United States prior to December 16, and if we will specify the future date on which the schedules would apply, Uruguay would be prepared to delay application of the GATT schedules. This suggestion would meet our problem if the postponement were tied to such time as the present distress situation in the U.S. cattle market is terminated.

I would be glad to have the opportunity to discuss this matter with you and the Secretary of State.4

Sincerely yours,

E[zra] T. Benson
  1. For text of the referenced agreement, concluded at Geneva, Oct. 30, 1947, and entered into force for the United States, Jan. 1, 1948, see 61 Stat. (pts. 5 and 6). For information concerning the accession of Uruguay to the agreement, see the editorial note, Foreign Relations, 1949, vol. i, p. 668.
  2. The letter referred to here is not printed (394.31/12–153).
  3. Not printed (394.31/12–453).
  4. The source text contains the following handwritten notation initialed by President Eisenhower: “Gov. Adams. Try to get Dulles & Benson together.”