611.5131/1674: Telegram

The Ambassador in France ( Bullitt ) to the Secretary of State

64. Bastid, Minister of Commerce, asked me to call on him and I did so yesterday. He said that he and the French Government had been greatly shocked because our Government in Washington had rejected almost with contempt a French proposal to inaugurate further conversations for mutual reduction of tariff barriers.

I replied that I knew of no special conversations on this subject except the one between Assistant Secretary of State Sayre and de Laboulaye2 on December 30 and asked Bastid if he were referring to that conversation or to another. He was unable to specify.

He then went on to ask why we were displeased with the working of the trade agreement. I replied that we thought the trade agreement was working excellently for France but not so well for the United States and pointed out some of the obvious effects of French devaluation following the line of Sayre’s conversation with de Laboulaye as reported to us in your telegram 557, December 30, 2 p.m.3

Bastid then asked me if there were any specific complaints which were especially irritating. I replied that I had not come to him prepared with any full and detailed list of complaints; that I knew my Government was very much disappointed with the working of the agreement with regard to a number of matters.

Merely as an example I could refer to the …procedure of the French Government with respect to licenses for apples and pears …I called his attention to the fact that under numbered paragraph 7 of the protocol France had agreed “voluntarily to facilitate, so far as lies within its province, the full utilization of the quotas at present allotted to or which may be allotted hereafter to the United States.”

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He said that he entirely agreed with me that the license system had given rise to very great abuses and promised that he would look into the matter immediately.

I said that my Government had a whole series of other complaints which could be given to him in detail by our excellent Acting Commercial Attaché, Mr. Reagan.

Bastid then quoted a number of figures which he asserted showed that the agreement was working more to the advantage of the United States than to the advantage of France.

He then said that he was most anxious to work out all difficulties with the United States as soon as possible and to enlarge the scope of our trade agreement. He asked me if I thought it advisable to discuss these matters in Paris or in Washington. I replied that while Mr. Reagan was exceedingly able I felt that I was so ill equipped to handle discussions of this nature compared to the Department of State that I believed it would be desirable to carry on the conversations in Washington. I pointed out to him that his Commercial Attaché in Washington, Monsieur Garreau-Dombasle, was an especially able man with a perfect understanding of the possibilities and impossibilities of negotiations with America.

Bastid then went on to say that what interested him most at the present time was not the somewhat picayune question of working out small obstacles to the functioning of the satisfactory settlement but the large question of whether or not the United States would agree in principle to participate in a plan to provide economic outlets for Germany if the French Government should be disposed to develop a large scale comprehensive plan for this.

I replied that it was a fixed practice of the United States never to accept vague commitments in principle but to deal only with concrete proposals. He continued to press me for a reply and I ended our conversation by saying that Americans were not in the habit of promising to get married until they had seen the face of the lady.

  1. Andre de Laboulaye, French Ambassador.
  2. Foreign Relations, 1936, vol. ii, p. 98.