File No. 600.119/82
The Secretary of State to the Ambassador in Spain ( Willard)
481. Department advised by British commission now here that the Spanish Government may be inclined to refuse to Great Britain iron ore which is greatly needed for the manufacture of munitions, since Spain believes she no longer needs to obtain coal from Great Britain because she can obtain it from the United States. You may, at an opportune moment, say to the Foreign Minister that the recent reports of Spanish attempts to purchase coal in the United States make it important to bring to his notice the fact that American coal is being increasingly needed owing to the exigencies of war, not only in the United States, but for the supply of our co-belligerents, and that it may be necessary, therefore, for this Government to restrict or prohibit the exportation of coal to neutrals. Add that this advance notice is given in order that the Spanish Government may be fully cognizant of the situation, and may understand the nature of the prohibition should it be declared. Add also that if Spain is willing to continue to export iron ore to Great Britain as heretofore, so as to relieve as much as possible the large exportations of iron and iron [Page 1203]products, including tubing, from the United States to Great Britain and her allies it may be possible to facilitate the exportation of limited amounts of coal to Spain.
Cooperate fully and informally with the British Ambassador in this matter and report by cable.
For your own information. The British commission here believe that the Spanish Government is inimical to Great Britain and is likely to embarrass her by curtailing her supply of iron ore, which is essential to her munitions factories, and to impose other restrictions. The United States is not desirous of assisting Spain to obtain coal here while her refusal to furnish ore to Great Britain will make a larger demand upon American iron and iron products, which are much needed here. Reference is made to tubing because it is understood that Spanish buyers are negotiating for large purchases of that material in the United States at the present time.