No. 404 NAI DFA 7/13

Extract from a report on Franco-Irish trade negotiations 1

Paris, 27 August 1930

The Minister for External Affairs,

The Minister for Industry and Commerce,

The Minister for Finance.

In accordance with arrangements previously made, we proceeded to Paris, as instructed, and reopened negotiations with the French Government on the 16th June, 1930, in the Offices of the French Ministry of Commerce. His Excellency Count O'Kelly, Mr. R.C. Ferguson (representing the Minister for Industry and Commerce, and Messrs. P. Hughes and T. Cleary (representing the Minister for Finance), were in attendance. Monsieur Elbel (representing the French Ministry of Commerce) presided and Monsieur Loyriac of that Department acted as Deputy President. Messieurs Alphand, Coulandre and Arnal represented the French Ministry of Foreign Affairs. Monsieur Pourriau and Monsieur Leroy represented the Department of Agriculture. There were also present, at various times during the negotiations, representatives of the Ministry of Finance, the Ministry of Marine and the Ministry for the Colonies. Monsieur Alphand, the newly appointed French Minister for Ireland, was present throughout the entire negotiations in which he took an active and helpful part.

An opening statement was made by M. Elbel which recapitulated briefly the history of negotiations during recent years between the two Governments, ending in the exchange of notes which took place in January 1930. M. Elbel stated that in the opinion of himself and his colleagues this exchange of notes had brought an end to the misunderstanding which had arisen between the two Governments in this particular matter of a commercial treaty. He pointed out that since the establishment of the Government of An Saorstát the French Government had continued, in a spirit of the most complete friendship, the benefits of the minimum tariff on all Saorstát products entering France, notwithstanding the heavy duties which operated in regard to wines entering An Saorstát and which affected French wines very adversely. He felt obliged to refer to the considerable increase which had been made in these duties at the moment when previous negotiations on the treaty were actually proceeding between the two Governments.

M. Elbel stressed the fact that wine producers in France had become, in recent years, increasingly conscious of the effects of heavy wine duties in other countries, and scanned carefully the tariff list of every country with the object of assuring themselves that French wines received what was, in their opinion, favourable treatment. If any country imposed heavy taxation on imported wines the French wine producers immediately proceeded to exercise pressure on their Government to have the burden removed in regard to their products. It was this situation which made the position of the French Government difficult in continuing to afford Saorstát products, on entry into France, minimum tariff treatment, and the French Government, in continuing this policy, had been moved by feelings of friendship for the Irish people and by the hope that, at a point some adjustment would be made which would soothe French wine producers.

Monsieur Elbel went on to say that his Government recognised that the Government of An Saorstát had carried out fully its undertakings made in the month of January 1930 in regard to a modification in the rates of duty on imported wines, and for that reason he thought the negotiations were being resumed under happy auspices. He added that, on their part, they resumed the proceedings with a desire to do everything practicable to arrive without delay at an arrangement which would be of mutual advantage. At the same time he thought it necessary to remind the Saorstát Delegation that every draft treaty laid before the Chamber of Deputies was carefully scanned by many interested groups, and the Government had to be in a position to justify itself before Parliament. It was not the policy of the French Government to grant minimum tariff terms to many countries and he stated, for our information, that few countries enjoyed absolute minimum tariff treatment, and those few enjoyed it only in return for special concessions on matters in which France was interested. The French Government was prepared to grant general most-favoured nation treatment, which involved the grant of minimum tariff terms to Saorstát products, and this it did willingly, not only in consideration of the modification of the Saorstát duties on wine, which had been recently made, but because of the old friendship which had continued for centuries between the French and Irish peoples.

In making a treaty, which it was hoped would regulate the relations between the two countries for many years, it was necessary to include detailed articles on the various points of mutual interest which might arise in the course of trade. Some of these points, although of secondary importance to the grant of mutual most-favoured-nation treatment, were none the less of primary importance for France and perhaps for Saorstát Éireann, and if he, as President of the French Delegation, pressed for the inclusion of certain points which might not be completely acceptable to the Saorstát delegation, he did so because, above all, he did not wish to have a draft treaty laid before the Chamber of Deputies which would run any chance of being rejected by that body. Certain points (and he mentioned in particular the question of 'appellations d'origine') were considered of importance by trading interests in France, and the absence of any provision dealing with these matters would lead to criticism which could not be easily met by Ministers. At the same time he assured the Saorstát delegation that he and his colleagues, within the limits of their authority and power, would endeavour to meet whatever difficulties were encountered by the Saorstát delegation.

His Excellency, Count O'Kelly, replied in general terms to M. Elbel's statement and expressed the feelings of goodwill and friendship which animated the Saorstát Government in endeavouring to meet the wishes of the French Government. He stated that the reduction in the Saorstát rates of duty on wines had not been altogether an easy or popular task for the Saorstát Minister for Finance, and he asked that the concession should be regarded as final proof of the desire of the Saorstát Government to come to a friendly understanding. It was in an atmosphere of perfect goodwill that the negotiations now opened and he hoped that the result would be a treaty which would be regarded as satisfactory by the executive and legislative authorities of both countries.

At this stage the Saorstát representatives stated that they were not plenipotentiaries but were sufficiently conversant with the views of their Government to be able to express an opinion as to what was likely to prove acceptable, and to say whether they were in a position to recommend certain texts as the discussions proceeded. Everything that they did at this Conference was, however, subject to the sanction of their Government on consideration of the final text reached.

The French delegation stated that they were in the same position and that, therefore, the proceedings would take place subject to the subsequent approval of both Governments.

A general discussion as to procedure followed when the French delegation said that they had prepared a text which contained their ideas as to the form and contents of the treaty. If there were no objection this could form the basis of discussion.

A copy of the draft text presented to the Saorstát delegation is attached to this report.2 There is also attached a copy of the text which emerged as a result of the discussions.3 This latter draft, in the view of the undersigned, is not, except in a few respects which will be noted later, different from what the undersigned understand to be the wishes of the Executive Council of Saorstát Éireann as expressed in the treaties already negotiated and in Departmental minutes on treaty matters. Accordingly, the undersigned recommend that the text be approved generally by the Government.

At this point it should be stated that at an early stage in the proceedings the question of reaching an agreement on the question of fisheries was raised. The French delegation said that the arrest of French fishermen off the coast of Ireland was rousing a certain amount of feeling in parts of France, particularly in Brittany, and that, in the opinion of the delegation, it would be necessary to discuss this question and endeavour to arrive at some settlement which would avoid a situation arising which might jeopardize good relations between the two countries.

The Saorstát delegation stated that they had instructions to negotiate a trade treaty but were not empowered to discuss the question of fisheries qua fisheries apart from the subject as a matter of international trade. The former was a matter altogether apart and would have to be dealt with at another time and in another way. The question of fishery limits had been the subject of certain International Conferences, and the position of the Saorstát Government had been made clear at these Conferences. The Saorstát representatives were not empowered to deal with fisheries apart from international trade in fish, and would ask, therefore, that this matter be taken up with the Government of An Saorstát at another time if it were found necessary.

The French delegation expressed appreciation of the statement made and added that they did not wish to interfere with the negotiations proceeding at the moment, but, at the same time, they could not close their eyes to the fact that failure to come to some arrangement on this question might jeopardize the acceptance of any draft treaty by the Chamber of Deputies.

At a later stage the question was reopened by Monsieur Alphand and the report on that part of the proceedings will be found later in this document.

[matter omitted]

1 Handwritten marginal note: 'Private Secretary. Please send to Sec, Ex Affairs Dept. There are certain points especially affecting that Department which they could consider before documents are submitted in ordinary way for Departmental examination. PMcG, 11/9'.

2 Not printed.

3 Not printed.

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