500.C1112/41: Telegram

The Counsul at Geneva (Gilbert) to the Secretary of State

394. Consulate’s 389, October 1 [2], 8 p.m. Spinasse41 asked me to come to see him this morning. He said that he wished to inquire how the American Government would view an invitation to participate in conversations with the Governments of France, Great Britain, and possibly other countries respecting economic questions as outlined in my telegram under reference. He said that they did not wish in any way to embarrass the American Government and for this reason desired to make clear that their approach was informal and would be kept strictly secret.

I said in reply that I would transmit his inquiry but suggested that consideration of this matter in Washington would no doubt be facilitated [Page 472] if he could give a more precise indication as to what he envisaged the nature of these conversations would be.

He replied by stating that the French decrees suppressing many quotas and reducing tariffs had been announced this morning. The French Government felt that the next step should now be considered. He again referred to the simultaneous declarations of the three countries and said that these announcements had laid down the “principles” as regards international trade and particularly the suppression of quotas and exchange control. What was now needed [was?] to fix the “program” for putting this principle into effect and it was for this purpose that the French Government envisaged conversations between the countries which had made these declarations together with others, if this were considered advisable. He said that no political considerations whatever were involved and that this was in no sense an attempt to create the impression of the formation of a bloc but rather to examine how the principles enunciated by the three Governments could be furthered.

In the event that the reaction of the American Government was favorable they would welcome suggestions as to what countries should be included. He mentioned in this connection the declaration of the Belgian Government adhering to the principles which had been announced by Great Britain and the United States42 and also referred to the recent currency measures of the Swiss and Netherlands Governments.

Spinasse said that the French expect to speak in the Second Committee on economic questions on Monday and that they would if possible like to know before that time the general disposition of the American Government toward what he had said to me.

I then pointed out that as I understood our policy we were in general in sympathy with the conclusions contained in the report of the Economic Committee and inquired whether our reply would have any effect on the attitude which his Government would take in the Second Committee respecting that report. He replied in the negative and said that while they had not yet definitely determined what action they would take in the Committee, the conditions of the report represented the view of his Government and would receive its support.

Although Spinasse did not so state, my feeling about the French position is that Blum must make a demonstration of action, that the French consider that the method they have proposed to us promises the best results, but if the United States is unwilling to concert with them in this, he must endeavor to obtain some action through the League even though he feels it to be a much less promising medium. [Page 473] I am inclined to construe this as the reason why the French are so anxious to have our reaction if possible before the Second Committee begins its economic discussion.

Spinasse stated that if the London and Washington reactions were favorable he had in mind that the invitations would be sent almost immediately probably through Paris. He emphasized that if the conversations were to take place they should begin at the earliest possible date. The place could be fixed by agreement.

He concluded by impressing upon me the necessity of secrecy respecting the suggestion he was putting forward.

A further telegram on this subject immediately follows.

  1. Charles Spinasse, French Minister for National Economy; delegate to the seventeenth League of Nations Assembly.
  2. Belgium adhered to the tripartite financial agreement on September 26, 1936.