Memorandum of Conversation, by Mr. Henry S. Villard of the Division of Near Eastern Affairs
I called today on Dr. Alexander V. Dye, Director of the Bureau of Foreign and Domestic Commerce, in order to describe to him informally the proposed Neep iron ore concession in Liberia. After describing briefly the history of the project I said that information had come to us which indicated that German interests might be behind [Page 794]the proposed concession, and that we had passed this information along to the Liberian Government in order that it might be aware of the possible political complications in a concession of this kind. In return, I said, the President of Liberia had inquired as to the possibility of American participation in the project and we were, consequently, interested in the matter from this angle.
Through a combination of circumstances, this possible opportunity for American participation had been suggested to the United States Steel Corporation but not, as yet, to other American interests, and apparently it was taken for granted by the Neep representatives and other interests concerned in the Netherlands that any negotiations for an American share in the project would take place with United States Steel. Furthermore, I said, there seemed to be an impression that the United States Government was interested in the proposal to such an extent that it was endeavoring to dictate the amount of American capital which should be included in the venture. I said that, of course, we had no desire to allow such erroneous ideas to grow, and I asked Dr. Dye whether it would not be possible to make our information in regard to the proposed iron ore concession available in some confidential manner to other American interests that might be attracted by the undertaking.
Dr. Dye replied that he thoroughly understood our views on the subject and said that he thought the best plan would be for him to discuss the matter informally with Mr. Walter Tower, Secretary of the Iron and Steel Institute in New York. Mr. Tower, who had been in the Foreign Service of the Department of Commerce, would know how to bring the subject confidentially to the attention of American iron interests through the Iron and Steel Institute, which included in its membership practically all iron and steel organizations in this country. There would be no need to make a formal approach to the matter at this time, yet all concerns that might be interested would have in their possession identical information on the subject.
As Dr. Dye was leaving for New York tomorrow, he at once put in a long distance call and made an appointment with Mr. Tower for Monday, May 23, at 9 a.m. He said that he would telephone me on his return in order to let me know the results of his conversation.