The Swiss Minister (Peter) to the Secretary of State

Sir: On behalf of my Government regarding the mission of Dr. Felix Somary and Mr. Ernest Liechti, I have the honor to inform you that the Federal Council of Switzerland is contemplating the conclusion of “option contracts” lasting several years, with American leading firms, for the purchase of foodstuff and raw materials of which [Page 864] the specification and quantities are listed in the attached document,4 and, furthermore, the conclusion of “charter contracts” for vessels, also with an option for several years.

All these agreements are framed in binding terms, without any qualification for all possible events, including an international conflict, as they are especially framed for these eventualities. The Government of Switzerland desires particularly to bring to the knowledge of the American Government these plans before entering into negotiations with the firms concerned.

Because of her location in Central Europe, without access to the sea, because of her highly developed national economy and of her old free trade traditions opposed to any autarchy tendencies, Switzerland depends on world economy more than any other country. Swiss foreign trade exceeds per capita that of any other nation. With not much more than 4 million inhabitants in a small area, Switzerland has nearly the same value of exports as the great Russian empire with 160 million inhabitants. Switzerland must import raw materials and foodstuff and export mainly manufactured goods. Switzerland is, therefore, disturbed more than any other country by international troubles. Considering the eventuality of troubles in our times, it is feared that the traffic with the countries East of Switzerland and in the Mediterranean Sea could be entirely interrupted, and so, Switzerland would be deprived of her normal supplies. Therefore, the only possible way of replacing these imports would be an extension of the trade with the United States. Mention should be made that Switzerland would limit the proposed contracts with concerns in the United States to foodstuff and raw materials, excluding war materials. Besides, Switzerland would guarantee not to re-export any of these imported goods to belligerent countries.

The Swiss Government is asking the Government of the United States whether it would have any objections to the negotiation of such option contracts. The contracts are to be made on a cash and not a credit basis. It is to be noticed that Switzerland has no financial engagements with the United States, has never failed in her obligations and has repaid all the loans issued in the United States or in other countries.

Switzerland is prepared to send copies of all these agreements to the State Department.

Switzerland is also compelled to make option contracts for vessels. So far, the negotiations with other great Powers on that line have not been successful, because they all declared they would need all their vessels themselves. Switzerland must, therefore, have the possibility to obtain also American tonnage, especially for the transportation of [Page 865] American goods. Eventual option contracts for vessels, which would likewise be on a cash and not a credit basis, would also be brought to the knowledge of the State Department.

Switzerland has good reasons to believe that ports would be especially placed at her disposal by her neighbors for her foreign trade. From these ports, the goods would be transported to Switzerland with Swiss railroad material. The supply of these goods is of vital interest for the Swiss people and for maintaining the national economy of Switzerland. The Government of Switzerland has, therefore, a high interest to know the attitude of the American Government concerning the fulfilment of these proposed contracts. It is indeed exceedingly important for Switzerland to know in advance that if some difficulties should arise which would endanger in any way the fulfilment of these contracts, the Swiss Government could be assured that the American Government would insofar as possible endeavor to render assistance in overcoming these difficulties, so that Switzerland could obtain from the United States the commodities necessary for her existence.

Accept [etc.]

Marc Peter
  1. Not printed.