« AnteriorContinuar »
ing from Sir Edward Grey's note) “whether the Panama Canal Act in its present form conflicts with the treaty rights to which His Majesty's Government maintain they are entitled,” concerning which he concludes:
These provisions (1) clearly conflict with the rule embodied in the principle established in article 8 of the Clayton-Bulwer Treaty of equal treatment for British and United States ships, and (2) would enable tolls to be fixed which would not be just and equitable, and would therefore not comply with rule 1 of article 3 of the Hay-Pauncefote Treaty.
On the first of these points the objection of the British Government to the exemption of vessels engaged in the coastwise trade of the United States is stated as follows:
* the exemption will, in the opinion of His Majesty's Government, be a violation of the equal treatment secured by the treaty, as it will put the "coastwise trade" in a preferential position as regards other shipping. Coastwise trade cannot be circumscribed so completely that benefits conferred upon it will not affect vessels engaged in the foreign trade. To take an example, if cargo intended for an United States port beyond the Canal, either from east or west, and shipped on board a foreign ship could be sent to its destination more cheaply, through the operation of proposed exemption, by being landed at an United States port before reaching the Canal, and then sent on as coastwise trade, shippers would benefit by adopting this course in preference to sending the goods direct to their destination through the Canal on board the foreign ship.
This objection must be read in connection with the views expressed by the British Government while this Act was pending in Congress, which were stated in the note of July 8, 1912, on the subject from Mr. Innes as follows:
As to the proposal that exemption shall be given to vessels engaged in the coastwise trade, a more difficult question arises. If the trade should be so regulated as to make it certain that only bona-fide coastwise traffic which is reserved for United States vessels would be benefited by this exemption, it may be that no objection could be taken.
This statement may fairly be taken as an admission that this government may exempt its vessels engaged in the coast wise trade from the payment of tolls, provided such exemption be restricted to bona fide coastwise traffic. As to this it is sufficient to say that obviously the United States is not to be denied the power to remit tolls to its own coastwise trade because of a suspicion or possibility that the regulations yet to be framed may not restrict this exemption to bona fide coastwise traffic.
The answer to this objection, therefore, apart from any question of treaty interpretation, is that it rests on conjecture as to what may happen rather than upon proved facts, and does not present a question requiring submission to arbitration as it has not as yet passed beyond the stage where it can be profitably dealt with by diplomatic discussion. It will be remembered that only questions which it may not be possible to settle by diplomacy are required by our arbitration treaty to be referred to arbitration.
On this same point Sir Edward Grey urges another objection to the exemption of coastwise vessels as follows:
Again, although certain privileges are granted to vessels engaged in an exclusively coastwise trade, His Majesty's Government are given to understand that there is nothing in the laws of the United States which prevents any United States ship from combining foreign commerce with coastwise trade, and consequently from entering into direct competition with foreign vessels while remaining "prima facie" entitled to the privilege of free passage through the Canal. Moreover any restriction which may be deemed to be now applicable might at any time be removed by legislation or even perhaps by mere changes in the regulations.
This objection also raises a question which, apart from treaty interpretation, depends upon future conditions and facts not yet ascertained, and for the same reasons as are above stated its submission to arbitration at this time would be premature.
The second point of Sir Edward Grey's objection to the exemption of vessels engaged in coastwise trade remains to be considered. On this point he says that the provisions of the Act "would enable tolls to be fixed which would not be just and equitable, and would therefore not comply with rule 1 of article 3 of the Hay-Pauncefote Treaty.”
It will be observed that this statement evidently was framed without knowledge of the fact that the President's proclamation fixing the tolls bad issued. It is not claimed in the note that the tolls actually fixed are not "just and equitable" or even that all vessels passing through the canal were not taken into account in fixing the amount of the tolls, but only that either or both contingencies are possible.
If the Britisb contention is correct that the true construction of the treaty requires all traffic to be reckoned in fixing just and equitable tolls, it requires at least an allegation that the tolls as fixed are not just and equitable and that all traffic bas not been reckoned in fixing them before the United States can be called upon to prove that this course was not followed, even assuming that the burden of proof would rest
with the United States in any event, which is open to question. This government welcomes the opportunity, however, of informing the British Government that the tolls fixed in the President's proclamation are based upon the computations set forth in the report of Professor Emory R. Johnson, a copy of which is forwarded herewith for delivery to Sir Edward Grey, and that the tolls which would be paid by American coastwise vessels, but for the exemption contained in the Act, were computed in determining the rate fixed by the President.
By reference to page 208 of Professor Johnson's report, it will be seen that the estimated net tonnage of shipping using the canal in 1915 is as follows:
Coast to coast American shipping. ..
1,000,000 tons American shipping carrying foreign commerce of the United States.. 720,000 tons Foreign shipping carrying commerce of the United States and foreign countries. .
It was on this estimate that tolls fixed in the President's proclamation were based.
Sir Edward Grey says, “This rule (1 of Article 3 of the Hay-Pauncefote Treaty) also provides that the tolls should be just and equitable.'” The purpose of these words, he adds, “was to limit the tolls to the amount representing the fair value of the services rendered, i. e., to the interest on the capital expended and the cost of the operation and maintenance of the Canal." If, as a matter of fact, the tolls now fixed (of which he seems unaware) do not exceed this requirement, and as heretofore pointed out there is no claim that they do, it is not apparent under Sir Edward Grey's contention how Great Britain could be receiving unjust and inequitable treatment if the United States favors its coastwise vessels by not collecting their share of the tolls necessary to meet the requirement. There is a very clear distinction between an omission to “take into account” the coastwise tolls in order to determine a just and equitable rate, which is as far as this objection goes, and the remission of such tolls, or their collection coupled with their repayment in the form of a subsidy.
The exemption of the coastwise trade from tolls, or the refunding of tolls collected from the coastwise trade, is merely a subsidy granted by the United States to that trade, and the loss resulting from not collecting, or from refunding those tolls, will fall solely upon the United States. In the same way the loss will fall on the United States if the tolls fixed by the President's proclamation on all vessels represent less than the fair value of the service rendered, which must necessarily be the case for many years; and the United States will, therefore, be in the position of subsidizing or aiding not merely its own coast wise vessels, but foreign vessels as well.
Apart from the particular objections above considered, it is not understood that Sir Edward Grey questions the right of the United States to subsidize either its coastwise or its foreign shipping, inasmuch as he says that His Majesty's Government do not find “either in the letter or in the spirit of the Hay-Pauncefote Treaty any surrender by either of the contracting Powers of the right to encourage its shipping or its commerce by such subsidies as it may deem expedient."
To summarize the whole matter: The British objections are, in the first place, about the Canal Act only; but the Canal Act does not fix the tolls. They ignore the President's proclamation fixing the tolls which puts at rest practically all of the supposititious injustice and inequality which Sir Edward Grey thinks might follow the administration of the Act, and concerning which he expresses so many and grave fears. Moreover, the gravamen of the complaint is not that the Canal Act will actually injure in its operation British shipping or destroy rights claimed for such shipping under the Hay-Pauncefote Treaty, but that such injury or destruction may possibly be the effect thereof; and further, and more particularly, Sir Edward Grey complains that the action of Congress in enacting the legislation under discussion foreshadows that Congress or the President may hereafter take some action which might be injurious to British shipping and destructive of its rights under the treaty. Concerning this possible future injury, it is only necessary to say that in the absence of an allegation of actual or certainly impending injury, there appears nothing upon which to base a sound complaint. Concerning the infringement of rights claimed by Great Britain, it may be remarked that it would, of course, be idle to contend that Congress has not the power, or that the President properly authorized by Congress, may not have the power to violate the terms of the Hay-Pauncefote Treaty, in its aspect as a rule of municipal law. Obviously, however, the fact that Congress has the power to do something contrary to the welfare of British shipping or that Congress has put or may put into the hands of the President the power to do something which may be contrary to the interests possessed by British shipping affords no just ground for complaint. It is the improper exer
cise of a power and not its possession which alone can give rise to an international cause of action; or to put it in terms of municipal law, it is not the possession of the power to trespass upon another's property which gives a right of action in trespass, but only the actual exercise of that power in committing the act of trespass itself.
When, and if, complaint is made by Great Britain that the effect of the Act and the proclamation together will be to subject British vessels as a matter of fact to inequality of treatment, or to unjust and inequitable tolls in conflict with the terms of the Hay-Pauncefote Treaty, the question will then be raised as to whether the United States is bound by that treaty both to take into account and to collect tolls from American vessels, and also whether under the obligations of that treaty British vessels are entitled to equality of treatment in all respects with the vessels of the United States. Until these objections rest upon something more substantial than mere possibility, it is not believed that they should be submitted to arbitration. The existence of an arbitration treaty does not create a right of action; it merely provides a means of settlement to be resorted to only when other resources of diplomacy have failed. It is not now deemed necessary, therefore, to enter upon a discussion of the views entertained by Congress and by the President as to the meaning of the Hay-Pauncefote Treaty in relation to questions of fact which have not yet arisen, but may possibly arise in the future in connection with the administration of the Act under consideration.
It is recognized by this government that the situation developed by the present discussion may require an examination by Great Britain into the facts above set forth as to the basis upon which the tolls fixed by the President's proclamation have been computed, and also into the regulations and restrictions circumscribing the coastwise trade of the United States, as well as into other facts bearing upon the situation, with the view of determining whether or not as a matter of fact, under present conditions there is any ground for claiming that the Act and proclamation actually subject British vessels to inequality of treatment, or to unjust and inequitable tolls.
If it should be found as a result of such an examination on the part of Great Britain that a difference of opinion exists between the two governments on any of the important questions of fact involved in this discussion, then a situation will have arisen, which, in the opinion of this government, could with advantage be dealt with by referring the controversy to a commission of inquiry for examination and report,