Memorandum by the Under Secretary of State (Phillips)

The French Ambassador called this afternoon to inform me, so he said, of the “good news” which he had received from his Government with respect to the trade agreement. His Government had accepted substantially all of the concessions requested by the United States; one point relating to apples and pears would be decided at a special meeting of the Cabinet to be held tomorrow morning at 10 o’clock and, therefore, by two or three in the afternoon he was hopeful of receiving a telegram with regard to this point. Furthermore, the Government was very anxious to sign the agreement on Saturday or Sunday at the latest,—and this for “political” reasons. At this point I questioned the Ambassador as to what he meant by political reasons, as if the agreement were signed on Saturday or Sunday I could not see that it would have any political repercussions on the Sunday’s elections. The Ambassador replied that it was not a question of affecting the elections, but merely that there would be an interim government after Sunday which would not have sufficient power to put through the agreement without parliamentary approval. The present government, therefore, while continuing in power might not feel able to approve such an important matter as the trade agreement.

We discussed at some length our view, which was to sign next week; we felt that it would be unfortunate to have a gap between the date of [Page 93] signing and the date of giving publicity to the agreement; should the signing take place on Saturday, it would take, I said, a week before we should be ready with our prepared publicity and, in the circumstances, therefore, it would be absolutely essential for both governments to refrain from any leakage with respect to any part of the agreement. The Ambassador readily agreed that it would be better to limit any statement which would be made after the signing on Saturday to a mere statement of the fact of signature; he suggested that we prepare some such statement and let him telegraph it to Paris this afternoon for the approval or suggestions of his Government; the statement should, of course, be issued simultaneously in Paris and Washington.

I said that I appreciated the situation in which the French Government found itself and that we would proceed on the theory that we would sign on Saturday11 and I promised to send him up this afternoon the suggestion that he asked for.

William Phillips

[For text of reciprocal trade agreement between the United States and France, signed at Washington, May 6, 1936, and related notes, see Department of State Executive Agreement Series No. 146, or 53 Stat. 2236. For press releases regarding the trade agreement, see Department of State, Press Releases, May 9, 1936, page 428; May 16, 1936, pages 448–484; May 23, 1936, pages 501–503.]

  1. On May 1, the French Ambassador telephoned to the Under Secretary that the French Government had consented to the delay requested by the Department of State (651.5131/1490).