The Acting Secretary of State to the Commission to Negotiate Peace
2499. For the Secretary of State.
Your 29251 and 2932 July 2. Department regards these two telegrams as bearing on the general subject of trade between the United States and Germany. There is tremendous pressure on the Department for definite information as to when and by what means trade relations with Germany may be reestablished. It is the unanimous opinion here that if the Allied countries are allowed to facilitate trade with Germany by sending consular officers or other commercial representatives into Germany in advance of the United States even if only for a few weeks, advantages would be gained by them which it would be very difficult to overcome. In view of this as definite answers as possible to the following questions are requested: (1) If the ratification of the peace treaty is delayed by Senate action when will it go into effect as to other signatories. (2) If Germany and three of the principal Allied Powers ratify the Peace Treaty will those Allied Powers be able to open trade with Germany and to send consuls and official or private trade representatives. (3) If so, is there no means by which American traders may have access to Germany pending ratification by the United States. (4) Is it to be understood from your telegram that the Department may exercise discretion in respect to the appointment of consular representatives, even unofficial, to Germany pending ratification by the United States. The Department has no thought of allowing Germans, except interns, to return to Germany, but is greatly interested in having definite advice upon the foregoing points to be used in answering numerous inquiries from all quarters. In view of the feeling here, as I interpret it, I fear that if the United States is unable to open trade with Germany pending ratification of the treaty by the Senate, the administration will be charged with postponing commercial intercourse with Germany in order to influence ratification of the treaty, since the ratifying powers will have begun trade with Germany and Germany will as a practical matter be at peace with the United States.[Page 236]
In this relation please see telegram 2892 from Edwards,3 The Hague, to McCormick,4 which I am repeating to you and which indicates that the British and French are not even awaiting ratification before resuming trade relations with Germany. If the practice described in that telegram should become generally known here, I cannot but think that the effect would not only be unfortunate for the Department but might well create an embarrassing irritation toward Great Britain and France unless the U.S. shall insist upon like privileges for its own citizens.