The Belgian Ambassador (May) to the Secretary of State

No. 2824

Mr. Secretary of State: Knowing Your Excellency’s interest in any measure tending to encourage among peoples the commercial exchanges which are the basis of their economic prosperity, the [Page 78]moment has seemed to me to be opportune to submit, for your friendly examination, certain considerations which, in the present circumstances, might properly engage the attention of the Government of the United States.

Indeed, the special powers which have been granted to His Excellency the President of the Republic not only accord with national wishes, but with those of countries which desire to see their relations with the great American Republic strengthened by a progressive lowering of customs barriers.

Belgium has the honor to be among the States the Governments of which have shown themselves to be most liberal in tariff policy.

True to its free trade traditions, it has on many occasions in the past, and notably upon the personal initiative of our late Sovereign, sought the adoption of formulas designed to create throughout the world a mighty current of international economic cooperation. These repeated attempts to conclude agreements aiming at those ends testify to its continued goodwill.

On various occasions Your Excellency has on your part publicly brought out the danger which you perceive in the tendency of nations towards closed economies, the success of which can only be artificial and temporary.

You cited among the remedies to be applied to the abuses of economic nationalism, “the lowering of customs barriers and the standardization of exchange rates and currencies”.

These words have produced a profound echo in Belgium where we follow with keen sympathy the exceptional effort made by the President to bring about in the United States the economic reconstruction which must be the prelude to general prosperity.

We also fully share the sentiment expressed by Mr. Sayre, Assistant Secretary of your Department, in the radio speech which he made on May 18 last, when, appealing for greater international solidarity, the eminent economist stated:

“It is necessary for humanity, in renouncing a narrow materialism, to attain a higher vision of the essential conditions of life.”

But the author recognizes clear sightedly “that no nation can afford to wreck its currency and face bankruptcy by permitting the continued purchase from foreign nations of more goods than it can sell abroad.” Belgium, alas, is in this category. Our trade balance with the United States is extremely unfavorable. In recent years, it may be said, we have bought in the United States twice as much as we have sold to them.

According to the latest statistics, our country was 19th out of 112 in American imports and 10th in exports. Belgium is proportionally one of the United States’ best customers.

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In spite of that fact, I have the honor to point out to Your Excellency how severely several of the industries of our country, which formerly were the most flourishing, have been affected by new tariff measures. Nevertheless, there has been no lack of evidences of friendly goodwill on the part of the competent agencies of your Government. We have been invited to try to devise formulas which harmonize with the new legislation and which at the same time permit of mitigating the effects of those measures which are prejudicial to our interests.

Since the Chief of State is henceforth in a position to enter upon commercial negotiations with foreign Powers, the Government of the King would view with favor, if Your Excellency considers it desirable, a decision whereby the competent authorities of our respective Governments might undertake a methodical and careful examination of the economic problems, the solution of which could not fail to bring about a perceptible improvement in the stream of our commercial transactions.

As to the basic commodities constituting the principal subject matter of such an examination, the mutual advantages which they offer should be outlined in analytical memoranda drawn up by each party.

I am [etc.]

Paul May