Memorandum by the Secretary of State
The French Ambassador came in by appointment today to receive the proposals concerning our trade agreement with France. I handed him an initialed memorandum,3 a note and four mimeographed sets of the proposals.4 After I handed this trade agreement data to the Ambassador, I told him that in what I was about to say I was not going to refer to this proposed trade agreement situation, but that I did wish to repeat what I had said to an outstanding official of another important commercial nation in Europe to the effect that during recent years that country, in common with my own and most other nations of the world, had been floating along developing its domestic economy only and pursuing a bilateral trade policy externally based on bartering and bargaining and clearing arrangements, which drove trade into the bilateral channel and correspondingly destroyed triangular and multilateral trade, as well as reduced the sum total of world trade. I said that it seemed very agreeable to the people of his country to float along in this somewhat easy fashion, hugging the delusive domestic economy policy, but that a rude jolt proved to be just ahead, and that was that when they looked out on the world it was suddenly discovered that another nation had a million men under arms [Page 87]and was in the act of a broad movement of conquest; that the country making this discovery was obliged at once to assemble its navy from every part of the world and proceed also to prepare an increased budget of from $500,000,000 to $1,000,000,000 for increased armaments, and that the end was not yet in sight. I then added that there was only one possible alternative to further uprisings and movements of conquest and that was to put unemployed and indigent people to work; that the only way to put them to work was to make it possible for their production to be sold; that this could only be brought about by a broad movement in support of a suitable economic program to restore from $15,000,000,000 to $25,000,000,000 of lost trade between nations that was and again would be mutually profitable, and thereby restore employment to tens of millions of persons who, in their economic distress, were ready to enthrone dictators, and in turn, to obey their orders.
I went on to say that it was inconceivable that a country like Italy, most of whose population were comparatively fresh from the most horrible war experiences in all history, could be induced over night by a dictator to change its entire state of mind and become one hundred percent warlike and war-disposed. I again sought to impress the view that if important commercial and peace-loving nations waited too long about financial and economic restoration, another powerful nation might begin its military march before suitable steps to restore trade and employment should have been taken.
The Ambassador seemed in thorough agreement and added that his statesmen likewise had entertained similar views as to the soundness, et cetera, of trade and industrial restoration. I replied that it was not enough merely to entertain these views and float along and wait for some other nation to take the initiative or another or group of nations to perform this huge task, but that it was all important that statesmen everywhere proceed to speak out and to insist on a prompt cooperative movement for the purposes aforesaid.