The Chargé in Belgium ( Wilson ) to the Secretary of State

No. 570

Sir: Adverting to my telegram No. 221, of December 19, 1939, 1 p.m.,16 I have the honor to inform the Department that Mr. de Fontaine of the Foreign Office called at the Embassy on December 19 in order to tell me that his Government has now completed the list of Belgian products, additional to those enumerated by the Government of the United States, on which it plans to request concessions during the contemplated negotiations for the revision of the trade agreement of 1935. He assured me that this list will be forwarded this week by air-mail to the Belgian Embassy at Washington for the perusal of the Belgian Ambassador and of Mr. Grenade, the Commercial Attaché, and expressed the opinion that before transmitting this list officially to the Department of State the Belgian Embassy [Page 438] may desire to discuss it informally with the appropriate officials of the Department. It was possible, added Mr. de Fontaine, that during this period the Belgian Government might desire to make minor alterations in the list by adding or withdrawing one or two products. He believed, however, that this could be done if necessary by cable without difficulty. It would appear, therefore, in the light of the above information that the supplementary list will reach Washington about the first of January.

With reference to the place where the negotiations will be held, Mr. de Fontaine expressed to me again the hope that they would take place in Brussels, as in the present difficult circumstances it would be almost impossible for the Belgian Government to send representatives to Washington. He was of the opinion that if the American counter-proposals for the general provisions of the revised treaty and the list of requests for tariff concessions should arrive at an early date, they could receive the consideration of the Belgian authorities simultaneously with the completion of the necessary formalities incidental to the submission of the Belgian supplementary list of products to the United States Government. This would tend to expedite the commencement of the negotiations.

Respectfully yours,

Orme Wilson

[Preparations for the negotiation of a new trade agreement continued into 1940 until, on April 17, 1940, the Trade Agreements Committee met and concluded (1) that a comprehensive agreement should not be attempted, but only a revision of the existing instrument with concentration on a relatively small number of items of first-rank trade importance; and (2) that a formula should be worked out whereby the agreement could be more rapidly adjusted to war and post-war conditions (611.5531/943). The invasion of Belgium by Germany put an end to these trade agreement discussions.]

  1. Not printed.