511.3 B 1/84

The Secretary of War (Weeks) to the Secretary of State

WPD 599

My Dear Mr. Secretary: I have the honor to return herewith the copy in translation of the Arms Traffic Convention signed at Saint Germain-en-Laye, September 10, 1919, which you transmitted to me with your letter of the 16th instant,80 requesting an expression of my views with regard to the advisability of ratifying the convention.

Apart from questions of diplomatic policy which your letter reserves, the chief interest of the War Department in the convention relates to its effect upon American munitions industry.

It is suggested that the language of Article I be examined to determine its effect upon American munitions trade with countries non-signatory to the convention. This article would appear to convey an [Page 548] undertaking to prohibit the exportation of arms except as among the high contracting powers themselves. As this would appear to operate so as to prohibit the export of arms and ammunition to a considerable portion of Europe and the greater part of South America, with which American manufacturers now have a considerable trade, it is believed that the effect of including the countries included in these areas in the scope of the prohibition should receive serious consideration. The question as to the desirability of applying the prohibition to these countries with a view to inducing them to adhere to the convention is mainly a political one upon which no opinion is expressed.

There are no obvious military advantages in ratifying the convention. On the other hand, if, as a consequence of ratification, any serious restriction to the munitions industry of the country is to be apprehended, then ratification would be disadvantageous from a military viewpoint.

Sincerely yours,

John W. Weeks
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