The British Ambassador (Lothian) to the Secretary of State

My Dear Mr. Secretary: After the conversation which Mr. Grady had with Mr. Ashton-Gwatkin and Sir Owen Chalkley on Saturday last,44 I sent a telegram to my Government pressing strongly for postponement of any action affecting imports from the United States.

I have received this morning a telegram from Viscount Halifax in which he much regrets that my telegram was not received until after an announcement had been made to the United Kingdom press for publication in to-day’s papers of the issue of a General Order placing under licence the importation of all foodstuffs not already subject to licence.

Viscount Halifax asks me to send you a personal message of his deep regret at this mischance and to express his hope that it will not prejudice the renewal of the Trade Agreements Act.45

I am informed that a statement in explanation of the new General Order is being handed to American correspondents in London to the effect that it is more in the nature of a consolidation than an extension of existing restrictions and will not affect any items of outstanding importance to the United States. Some 90 percent of imports [Page 110] of foodstuffs from the United States are already subject to licence and the value of imports covered by the new Order is less than 10 percent. The statement concludes with a reference to relevant extracts from the speech made by the Prime Minister on January 31st when he referred to the necessity of concentrating our dollar resources upon essential requirements and to our intention to return to the most-favoured-nation principle on the conclusion of the war.

Believe me [etc.]

  1. March 16; no record of conversation has been found in Department files.
  2. Trade Agreements Act of June 12, 1934, extended by Joint Resolution of Congress, approved April 12, 1940; 48 Stat. 943 and 54 Stat. 107.