Memorandum by the Chief of the Division of Western European Affairs (Moffat)

Mr. Per Wijkman, Commercial Counselor of the Swedish Legation, came down to see me at the request of the Swedish Minister. He said that following the Minister’s talk with Mr. Sayre and me yesterday and his talk with Mr. Minter,19 the Minister felt it would be useful if he should again tell us in a little more detail exactly what transpired at the meetings in the Swedish Foreign Office this summer. At these both Government officials and large Swedish manufacturers were represented. The basic principle on which they worked was that there would soon be only three sane regions in the world where buying power would hold up or increase; these were the United States, Great Britain and Scandinavia. It was very much to the interest of all three so to make their commercial arrangements that a feeling of stability would be created on which the merchant could count for his future business.

Sweden, of course, had not greatly increased its tariffs in recent years and conversely was not in a position as a general rule to lower them. On the other hand, her willingness to bind certain important items would practically assure American exporters of a large field for potential expansion.

I again explained to Mr. Wijkman the purpose of our trade negotiations, pointing out that they were still experimental, that they must be justified to public opinion, and that to do so they must carry in their essence the germs of an immediate and substantial increase in trade. We are fearful as a result of reading the Swedish note that this purpose had not been fully comprehended in Sweden; we must accordingly give careful study as to whether we felt that it would fit into our general program to go forward with the Swedish conversations at the present time.

Mr. Wijkman said that they were prepared to present a draft treaty containing certain general articles and a Swedish list of desiderata. He hoped that we would make no decision of principle until we had had time at least to talk over this draft treaty and the Swedish list.

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As to concluding a treaty containing the binding of certain articles and very few reductions in other articles, he thought that we could justify it easily to the public by a press statement pointing out that in negotiating with countries which had low tariffs, there were obviously not the same opportunities for mutual concessions as with other countries which had erected a network of trade barriers. The fact that the Swedish treaty was short and undramatic was in itself a recognition that Swedish economic policy was in accordance with the ideas we were hoping to induce the world to adopt. The items on which rates were being bound, however, were important items and the security given to traders in both countries by this binding would result in slow but steady increase of trade between Sweden and the United States.

Pierrepont Moffat
  1. John R. Minter of the Division of Western European Affairs.