The Chief of the Division of Near Eastern Affairs (Murray) to the Ambassador in Turkey (Skinner)
My Dear Mr. Skinner: Your despatch No. 177 of March 19, 1934, in regard to your informal discussions with the Turkish authorities on the subject of Turkish-American commercial relations, and other recent despatches on the same and parallel topics, have been carefully considered in the Department. To send you an instruction of the nature requested in the last paragraph of your despatch No. 177 would however involve a major decision in American commercial policy which has not yet been reached. The details and manner of execution of the American commercial policy of the near future is very much under discussion in Washington just now: a good deal depends of course upon the tariff legislation now before Congress, and in any event it would be undesirable to prejudice or anticipate the formulation of this policy by precipitate action bearing on our relations with a country, such as Turkey, which actually plays only a minor part in our commerce as a whole.
Since the Turks themselves lay so much emphasis upon their trade balance with individual countries, there is of course no harm in your referring to the state of Turco-American trade on appropriate occasions. You should however avoid making any definite assertion or intimation that unless the Turkish Government sees to it that our trade with Turkey approaches more nearly to a balance, we will take restrictive action to that end. It is certainly not possible, in the present state of affairs generally, to say that action of such a nature will not form part of our policy. The decision has, however, not yet been reached, and there are very serious disadvantages, in theory and in execution, to the adoption of any line of restrictive action having as primary object the closer balancing of our commercial exchanges with individual countries. There is still much vitality left to the idea that our efforts should be directed rather to the restoration and increase in the total volume of world trade, than to fighting over the division of the little trade that there is at present.
Incidentally, you may be interested in reviewing your predecessor’s despatches, in which General Sherrill advocated much the same ideas as those you are now advancing, and in response to which the Department sent its instruction, No. 27 of August 30, 193257 which expressed some, though not all, of the objections to the adoption of those ideas.
As you may gather, the details of our commercial policy are very much in a state of formulative flux just now, as indeed is the case with [Page 949] most of our economic policies. All of the general ideas involved in the various suggestions made in your recent despatches have been advanced on more than one occasion and in more than one quarter, but the essential problem is the fitting of all useful and appropriate ideas and policies into a coherent and consistent body of detailed policy, with due attention to the exigencies of procedure and execution. Your fully appreciated endeavors to be of help in this connection would be most helpful if you would elaborate your ideas more concretely, by suggesting actual drafts of the treaty or other stipulations you would suggest our offering to or asking from the Turks, including specification of commodities and quantities whenever pertinent, and by outlining exactly what sort of machinery you would recommend setting up for the execution and enforcement of stipulations agreed upon. Your detailed recommendations should be interesting in view of the opportunities you have had to observe the actual operation abroad of the sort of policies you have in mind.
Your specific complaint that American firms have not had an opportunity to bid on various armament projects for the Turkish Government would, I am afraid, not arouse great sympathy in the Department in view of this Government’s policy with respect to the seeking of armament contracts.58 This policy, I feel sure, could not be ignored by the Department simply because of an unfavorable trade balance between Turkey and the United States, and I do not think that representations to the Turks on this particular subject would be looked upon with favor here.