Memorandum by the Secretary of State

The French Ambassador2 called on my invitation. I proceeded, after some preliminaries, to refer to the pending trade agreement negotiations between our two Governments. I first reemphasized what I had said many times, to the effect that I considered it extremely important to both countries alike and to the movement for trade restoration generally for this trade agreement to be agreed upon. I then elaborated at some length upon the list of offers made by this Government in the way of tariff reductions, tariff binding and generalizations of concessions to other countries. The Ambassador’s attention was then called to the fact that in return the French Government seemingly had been unable to offer tariff reductions or to bind tariffs or even to agree permanently on quota revisions in our favor; that about all the French Government seemed able to offer was reduction in existing discriminations against this Government. I then commented upon these very great difficulties which had confronted this Government during recent weeks and even months in its efforts to find formulas that would to some degree accommodate the very restricted French proposals and thereby avoid such a lopsided trade arrangement as would probably be disastrous to our political situation in this country.

The Ambassador stated that he had said to me from the beginning that his Government was in a difficult position to proceed unusually far in negotiating an agreement; that it was simply obliged to proceed gradually; that we could take some step that would be a step at present and announce that this was only the first and that a second step would be taken during coming months.

I replied that, of course, it might be necessary for this Government to restrict substantially the offers it had contemplated heretofore, in [Page 86] view of the inability of the French Government to enlarge its proposed concessions; and that this had been the chief cause of our slow progress during recent weeks and months, namely, the difficulty of working out a formula that would be on a parity with the almost unexpectedly narrow offer of the French Government. I added that we would do the very best possible in the way of developing a further suggestion within a very few days.

The Ambassador, upon leaving, said that he thought it would be very important, if consistent, for the State Department to let him see our proposal and examine it in order that he might, by certain explanations and representations, pave the way for its reception at Paris and, to an extent at least, facilitate the chances for the progress of the negotiations. I replied that I was sure my associates dealing immediately with the matter would oblige him in any way at all feasible and that I would request them to keep in touch with him in connection with his request.

  1. André de Laboulaye.