30. Telegram From the Department of State to the Embassy in Belgium 0
2545. Re: Embtel 1749.1 Belgian Ambassador called on Dept officer (Trezise) March 21 under instructions to express shock Belgian Government at US decision accept Tariff Commission recommendations increase duties on carpets and glass.2 Amb Scheyven emphasized that Belgians not convinced that difficulties US Wilton carpet industry caused by imports but rather are due competition domestically-produced tufted carpets. Regarding glass Scheyven expressed Belgian view that evolution US economy contradicts thesis that US glass industry suffering from foreign competition. He commented that new duties on glass would damage Western European suppliers but would not injure Communist countries engaged this trade.
Reviewing strain on US/Belgian relations resulting from US support UN Congo operations, Ambassador expressed serious concern that US decision this instance would cause further difficulties between US and Belgium. Scheyven said it would be difficult convince Belgian public that Belgium had not been singled out by US for discriminatory treatment since only two items on which tariffs raised were those of major interest to Belgium. Ambassador suggested that further Belgian reaction would soon be forthcoming and indicated that US action on carpets and glass might have adverse effect on Belgian attitude toward Textile Agreement. Ambassador assured Trezise that new tariff rates on carpets would effectively eliminate all such exports which account for onehalf total Belgian foreign sales this item.
Scheyven also noted that new tariff rates would become effective within thirty days of announcement and suggested that this was extraordinary speed considering the long delay in making the announcement in these cases.
Ambassador emphasized U.S. action inconsistent with project reduce tariff barriers recently concluded Geneva. He noted U.S. action not taken until after Geneva tariff agreement concluded. He indicated against background Geneva negotiations Belgians and rest of EEC as well would find it difficult understand both timing and substance our [Page 70] action. Belgian Commercial Minister, who accompanied Ambassador, suggested U.S. action taken with view obtain domestic support for new U.S. trade legislation and said Belgians and others are finding price of such legislation costly.
Trezise said that Department understands seriousness this matter for Belgium and assured Ambassador that Department had brought to White House attention Belgian views this matter which had been so fully presented by Belgian Embassy. While thus aware these considerations, the President felt obliged take this action in view requirements of Trade Agreements Act and report of Tariff Commission. Trezise strongly emphasized that there was never any attempt to single out Belgium on this matter.
Department Officer (Weiss) pointed out that thirty day period for application tariff increases normal practice and stated that long delay announcing decision was due thorough consideration all aspects, including foreign policy problems which Department had presented to White House in detail. Weiss explained that through proposed trade legislation US seeking other means handle vexatious problems of this nature. Trezise expressed hope that increase in duties as finally applied would not injure trade as seriously as Belgians feared.
- Source: Department of State, Central Files, 411.004/3–2062. Confidential. Drafted by Beaudry, cleared by Weiss, and approved by Trezise (E). Repeated to Paris, Tokyo, Geneva, London, Bonn, Rome, The Hague, and Luxembourg.↩
- Document 29.↩
- A memorandum of Trezise’s conversation with Scheyven is in Department of State, Central Files, 411.004/3–1962; similar memoranda of conversations with the Netherlands and Luxembourg Ambassadors on March 23 and 28 are ibid., 411.004/3–2362 and 3–2862.↩