Memorandum by the Assistant Secretary of State (Sayre)
Monsieur Forthomme, head of the Belgian delegation negotiating the trade agreement, called to see me by appointment at eleven-thirty this morning. I told Monsieur Forthomme that I wanted to have a very confidential and heart to heart talk with him about the negotiations for the trade agreement. I expressed my great pleasure that our experts had come to virtual agreement on the pending proposals for the trade agreement and expressed gratification that Monsieur Forthomme’s ideas and our own are in such accord as to the ideals which we have in mind in the negotiation of the agreement and of the terms of the agreement itself. I went on to say that as he would remember at our first conference together we had agreed that all the proposals and discussions of the experts should be on a purely tentative basis and that no commitments of any kind should be made through [Page 110] or by the experts, that our mutual understanding was that after the experts had reached some kind of an accord then Monsieur Forthomme and I would talk the situation over and determine what could be done and how we should proceed. Monsieur Forthomme agreed entirely and said that he understood that everything so far was in the nature rather of a proposal than of any undertaking or commitment.
I then went on to say that since the beginning of our discussions our political horizon had somewhat changed. The adverse vote on the World Court20 indicated political currents of an unfavorable nature which must be reckoned with. Similarly, the repercussions from the manganese concessions given to Brazil also indicate unfavorable currents. Naturally we must reckon with these political factors. I said that while we were very eager, as he well knew, to achieve a trade agreement of the broadest scope yet we would have to consider very carefully what was the most practicable step for making the surest progress. I added that we might conclude that we could get further in the long run along the lines which both he and we desire by proceeding step by step instead of leaping to the goal in a single jump. I said that we had reached no conclusion yet and that the decision lies with the President; but that I wanted him to know everything that was in our minds even before we go to consult with the President so that he would feel that we were concealing nothing from him. We want to keep the fullest faith with him and his delegation. I said that we hoped to consult the President within the next day or two and would have an answer for him very shortly.
Monsieur Forthomme in reply said that he entirely realized the situation which I had described but felt that in view of everything it would be most unfortunate not to sign a trade agreement going the full way at this time. He spoke of the political situation in Belgium saying that he and his associates were risking their political future on the proposal for a thoroughgoing trade agreement which would embody a reversal of the former Belgian commercial policy; and that inasmuch as this was more or less known in Belgian circles it would place him and his associates in a most awkward predicament if, as a result of the negotiations, only a comparatively few commodities were dealt with.
At the end of our conversation, which was most friendly, Monsieur Forthomme suggested that he would like to lay his views before Secretary Hull as well as myself and I replied that I should be most happy to have him do so. I therefore took Monsieur Forthomme in to the Secretary’s office where Mr. Phillips joined us and a general discussion of the trade agreement followed. In this general discussion Monsieur Forthomme again reiterated his strong desire that the trade agreement which we enter into should not be restricted in its scope nor of a [Page 111] curtailed nature. The Secretary replied at length to the effect that we were just as eager as he to achieve the result of liberalizing trade and that we intended to go just as far as it is humanly possible to go in view of the existing political conditions here.