The Belgian Ambassador (Van der Straten-Ponthoz) to the Secretary of State

No. 794

Sir: During the visit of Prince de Ligne17 to Washington, it developed in the course of conversations of Prince de Ligne and members [Page 439] of the Belgian Embassy with officials of the State Department regarding general trade and economic conditions, that it might be useful to give further consideration to the following objectives on which there seems to be an identity of view between the American and Belgian Governments:

1) The possibility of arranging interchange of reserve stocks of certain essential commodities. I understand, for example, that the American Government is interested in accumulating reserve stocks of certain strategic materials, and would be interested in knowing whether such materials might be available from the Belgian Congo, and whether the Belgian authorities might be disposed to discuss an exchange of them for certain American products, such as cotton and wheat. I am requesting Prince de Ligne to discuss that with the appropriate authorities of the Belgian Government upon his return.

2) There has been expressed to the American Government the interest of my Government in the further development of trade relations between the Belgian Congo and the United States, especially in such products as might be complementary. With regard to that subject, data is being collected with a view to ascertaining what commodities could advantageously be produced in the Belgian Congo which the United States at present desires to secure from abroad. This part of the program, I understand, would have to be worked out on a commercial basis.

In that connection, the suggestion has arisen that American and Belgian private groups which might be interested in the development of this trade, could be brought together to discuss the possibilities. I understand further that the State Department is ready to examine sympathetically whether any mutually beneficial result could come from an extension of the trade agreement between the United States and Belgium involving reciprocal lessening of trade barriers on commodities that might move between the United States and the Belgian Congo.

3) Thought has been given to the difficulties that might arise in trade between the United States and Belgium. These conversations appear to indicate that it will be the wish of both Governments to facilitate the continuation of trade, indefinitely and in the future, between the two countries, as far as possible.

I avail myself [etc.]

  1. Prince Eugène de Ligne was on an official visit to the United States during February 1939 with instructions from the Belgian Government to explore the possibility of arrangements for supplying the United States with strategic and other materials produced in the Belgian Congo, and in turn for the United States to supply essential commodities to Belgium in the event of general war in which neither country was a belligerent.