The Assistant Secretary of State (Sayre) to the Ambassador in Italy (Phillips)

Dear Bill: I have just received your cable of November nineteenth,32 with respect to the Italian commercial treaty. I have had the whole matter very much in mind ever since you left and such delay as has occurred has not been due to any inactivity on our part.

As you know, the whole international situation has been the cause of grave concern to the Secretary. A few days ago he called me into his office and told me that in view of the existing international situation he feels that it would be unwise to bind our hands by entering into a treaty with Italy at least for the present. His feeling is that any eventuality might take place; and he does not want, at this critical juncture, to bind our own hands by a treaty agreeing to most-favored-nation treatment to Italy. He instructed me therefore not to arrange for the signature of an Italian treaty during the next two months. His thought is to let matters hang fire and await clarification of the present international situation, and then to determine our course accordingly. In view of this, we shall not unduly hurry our official reply to the Italian Government.

On the other hand, I quite understand your own desire not to drive Italy into the camp of Germany and Japan. Yet we believe that these three countries are even now tied together as closely as possible. Under all the circumstances, it would seem that our wisest course of action would be to send an official reply to the Italian Government in the near future, standing upon our position and not relaxing the conditions which we have originally set forth. We might be a little more deliberate than usual about framing replies. In the [Page 463] meantime, we could inform the Italian Government that if the new treaty is not signed by December fifteenth, we will hope to bridge the interval before the new treaty comes into force by working out some arrangement covering the question of generalizing trade agreement rates for Italian products.

I have wanted you to know the Secretary’s mind so that you could understand the true situation and deal with the matter accordingly. If there are paramount considerations against the suggestions I have made, please do not hesitate to let me hear from you.

[The last paragraph, purely personal in nature and unrelated to the commercial treaty, is not printed.]

Ever sincerely yours,

Francis B. Sayre
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