551.5F1/65: Telegram

The Secretary of State to the Ambassador in Great Britain (Dawes)


65. Reference the Embassy’s 67, March 5, 1 p.m., which I recently examined with the President. This latest communication from Mr. MacDonald is, I presume, an advanced view on the Department’s 38, February 16, 5 p.m., as indicated in the Embassy’s 49, February 20, 4 p.m. It is my opinion that in approaching the Prime Minister on the subject, you ought to proceed as follows: The United States, too, would be receptive to a program designed to check the worsening condition of economic affairs. Nevertheless, this Government has learned by experience over the past 10 years or more that in dealing with such matters of world-wide scope, the best results are achieved by concentration upon particular subjects. Because their agenda were too comprehensive, the Economic Conference held at Geneva in 192743 and the Conferences of Concerted Economic Action convened [Page 612] last year44 resulted in no decisive action. On the other hand, when the problem of disarmament was being dealt with, the procedure of centering attention and discussion upon one aspect prevented any bargaining of issues; finally, successful results were obtained. The failure to explore first by direct negotiation, any subject which is vitally bound up with national policy opens the way usually for ultimate disagreement. That such was not true in the case of the conference on the abolition of trade restrictions45 must be attributed to the manner in which the question was circumscribed. Consequently, unless the objectives of an economic conference are positively stated, an agenda subscribed to, and issues susceptible to nationalistic debate omitted or disposed of through the regular diplomatic channels, this Government perceives little good and possibly more harm emerging from a plan to ameliorate economic conditions generally. Mr. MacDonald should be made aware of our willingness to give sympathetic attention to any idea for an improvement of the situation along specific lines. We are looking forward to more definite proposals from him.

  1. World Economic Conference, Geneva, May 4–23, 1927; see Foreign Relations, 1927, vol. i, pp. 238 ff.
  2. International Conference for a Tariff Truce, Geneva, February–March 1930 and November 1930; see Foreign Relations, 1930, vol. i, pp. 238 ff.
  3. Second International Conference for the Abolition of Import and Export Prohibitions and Restrictions, Geneva, July 3–19, 1928; see ibid., 1928, vol. i, pp. 366 ff. For correspondence concerning the First Conference, see ibid., 1927, vol. i, pp. 246 ff.