Mr. Hanna to
Buenos Ayres , February 23, 1887. (Received April 11.)
Sir: The suggestion is often made that “before our civil war of 1861–’65 the United States had a large and profitable trade with the Argentine Republic. Why is it we have so little now?” I have made repeated inquiries on this subject and have reached a conclusion which, if not yet altogether final, seems at least well sustained by reason.
The two great articles of export from this country are wool and hides, amounting to $35,950,000 in 1885 for the first, and $7,512,000 for the second. The United States were purchasers of hides in that year to the amount only of $2,300,000, and of wool but $1,180,000; the balance of this enormous shipment was made to Europe, creating a necessity for the marvelous movement of steam shipping to which I have before made reference, and in which, it seems to me, we should more liberally share.
It is quite clear that those markets which buy the wool of this country, and send out steamships to transport it, pay for the same with their manufactures, and the trade returns show it to be so. Indeed nothing could be more natural than that the ships which are sent for the wool should be freighted with merchandise to sell in exchange for it, and that the houses which ship it should sell this merchandise. The developments of trade always follow this line, as is well illustrated in the case of England and the Continent—the latter having become the best customer of Argentine products is pushing ahead in like manner in supplying its needs with valuable exports at the cost of English ascendency. Indeed, continental influence grows apace with continental increase in the absorption of this country’s product.
The hides the United States buy here about cover their exports, and there our trade ends. It has been for some years our policy to enforce an import tax, amounting to a prohibition of Argentine wool, its great and growing export staple, and as a consequence it seeks Europe as its market, and European mills manufacture and return it to the Argentine Republic, and the balance in other merchandise.
The United States have made some advance looking towards a closer commercial intercourse with the Republics of South America, and whenever the subject has been taken up for discussion in the press or among leading minds of the country the action of the United States on wool duties has been brought forward and used to sustain the position taken by our competitors—that the United States want only such closer union as will serve their purposes, I do nothing more than present a fact which every American must meet in the discussion of this question. It is not my province to discuss the policy, but I trust I may be excused if I suggest whether the mills of the United States could not to advantage manufacture a good part of the enormous wool crop of this Republic [Page 11] and American merchants return the value thereof in its manufactures and food products. Can there be a question that the customers who purchase the great staple products of the country will supply its wants in general with exports, and the business thus fomented create and maintain successfully numerous steamship lines, as now between this shore and Europe?
May this point not be an important factor in the discussion of our commercial relations with this giant young Republic? Whether the United States shall practically cultivate closer relations is exclusively a question for its people and Government; but if it is attempted, I doubt whether we can shut our ports against its chief products and succeed.
I have, etc.,