Memorandum of Conversation, by the Assistant Secretary of State (Berle)
The French Ambassador, Count de Saint-Quentin, called to see me today, at his own request.
He said that he had merely come to inquire whether anything further had happened in regard to the proposed transfer of German ships blockaded in Latin American harbors to the neutral flags of the countries in which they were blockaded.[Page 77]
I said that so far as I knew there had been no change in the status quo, though certain governments had continued to discuss the matter among themselves and had been good enough to keep us informed.
The Ambassador said that he had naturally sent along to Paris our suggestion that we consider the possibility of transfer of these vessels to neutral flags, payment being held in escrow until the end of the war, for study, but had no reply as yet.
I said that we had not felt under any great pressure of time in that regard; and I reminded him that at the time the suggestion was made it was in view of the possibility that shipping losses might be so great as to result in a shortage of bottoms for the Atlantic Trade. I had gathered that no government desired to precipitate action in this regard. I said, however, that in the event that further proposals by Latin American governments to acquire blockaded shipping were presented to us, I should be glad to try to keep him generally informed. We had repeated to the governments which had discussed the matter with us the substance of the French and British objection to the transfer; and it was our general view that if anything were worked out it would come better as a matter of general agreement. For the present, however, there was no change in the status quo.
The Ambassador asked whether there would not be a competent group to determine it and whether the proposed Committee of Seven emerging from the Panama Conference would not be an appropriate body. I said I thought that this very likely was so.