Memorandum by the Under Secretary of State (Phillips)
The Belgian Ambassador and M. Forthomme came to see me this afternoon at four o’clock. I expressed regret that we had to keep M. Forthomme waiting over the weekend for a definite decision with respect to our desiderata in the trade agreement, but that it had been necessary, as he well appreciated, to secure the President’s approval before the submission of our case to the Belgian Government. I said that the schedule of concessions to be offered and received had been very carefully studied by our experts, who were, of course, being guided more with respect to economics than to politics; we wished that it had been possible to ignore politics altogether and to be in a position to proceed along the lines indicated by our economists; unfortunately, political forces had to be considered and these forces had already been brought into play; they were all directed upon the White House and upon the person of the President himself; they were not distributed among a responsible cabinet, which would be the situation [Page 113] with respect to the Belgian Government; the President, therefore, had to bear the full responsibility of the attacks which were being made upon the Administration for admitting imports in competition to our own industries; the President was courageous and was ready to stand a certain amount of attack, but it was not fair to ask him to stand too much; in going over the list of concessions, therefore, from the political viewpoint, the Secretary and I had felt it necessary to cut down on the extent of the concessions offered and to omit a few of the items altogether; in doing so we realized, of course, that the Belgian Government would probably have to cut its concessions to us, but we hoped very much that they in turn would cut as little as possible; I reminded them of the importance which we all attach to a trade agreement with Belgium and that, even though the agreement, as concluded, might be disappointing to some of us, the mere fact of an agreement concluded, which carried with it a plan for the extension of trade, would be of the greatest importance in the world at large.
I told M. Forthomme that Mr. Sayre was ready to hand him our revised list of concessions if he would be so good as to call upon Mr. Sayre. M. Forthomme thereupon left the conference and went to Mr. Sayre’s office.