600.0031 World Program/15

Memorandum by the Counselor of Embassy in France (Wilson)8

I sat next to Mr. Bonnet, Minister of Commerce, at the luncheon of the American Club today. During our conversation I said that while in the State Department I had had an opportunity to become familiar with the trade policies being pursued by our Government, particularly in connection with the negotiation of various trade agreements with the Latin American countries. I spoke of the policy of our Government in taking a broad forward looking view of trade between countries, foregoing possibilities of immediate, narrow, exclusive advantages, such as we might have seized in our arrangements with Brazil9 and Colombia,10 in order to follow liberal principles which, if supported by other important countries would have the result of gradually eliminating trade barriers and increasing the total flow of world trade to the long term advantage of each and every country. I said that I would be very much interested in hearing his views on the policy which we were seeking to pursue.

Mr. Bonnet said that he was heartily in favor of this liberal policy and in fact believed it was the only way to the economic salvation of the world, as otherwise economic nationalism would ruin all countries. He likened the pursuit of economic nationalism to the drug taking habit, that is, when an individual takes drugs he feels better for the moment but on each successive occasion he must increase the size of the dose in order to have any effect and the ultimate result is complete breakdown.

Of course, said Mr. Bonnet, there are tremendous obstacles in the way of any liberalizing of trade policies. The war resulted in creating new industries in every country and the mass of restrictive measures set up after the war had protected these industries; the effects of the world depression accentuated the natural human desires of manufacturing and commercial interests in every country to hold such [Page 92]special position and advantage as they might have obtained. While he had been Minister of Commerce the French Government had negotiated in the last year several commercial agreements which he hoped might have some effect in providing for a freer flow of trade. However, he had been obliged to fight against the opposition of domestic interests at every turn when he had attempted to give any concession to foreign countries.

In speaking of the present European political situation, Mr. Bonnet agreed that narrow policies resulting in the shrinkage of world trade, accentuating the serious economic difficulties in various countries, had in a large measure contributed in bringing about conditions in which dictatorial regimes flourished and in which general discontent of the people made it possible to embark on military adventures. He repeated his faith in the liberal policy as opposed to the narrow policy of immediate advantage, but said that he feared it would be a long pull before very much of a tangible nature in this direction could be accomplished in the major countries of the world.

Edwin C. Wilson
  1. Transmitted to the Department by the Ambassador in France in his despatch No. 2658, April 2; received April 15.
  2. Signed February 2, 1935; see Foreign Relations, 1935, vol. iv, pp. 300 ff.
  3. Signed September 13, 1935; see ibid., pp. 430 ff.