The Secretary of State to the Ambassador in Argentina ( Armour )
10. Strictly confidential for the Ambassador only. Your 621 December 19, 11 a.m.9 The President doubts the advisability at this time of announcing trade-agreement negotiations with Argentina, since such announcement might arouse political opposition in Congress at a time when it is urgently and vitally necessary to obtain speedy and [Page 388] favorable action by the Congress with respect to aid to Great Britain. The President has stated, however, that if a satisfactory basis can be found trade-agreement negotiations with Argentina may be announced after appropriate aid to Britain legislation has been passed by the Congress. This may take from 3 to 4 weeks.
You are requested to see personally the Ministers for Foreign Affairs10 and Finance11 at the earliest practicable opportunity and explain the situation confidentially to them, adding that on the basis of the confidential and informal talks thus far held with Prebisch12 the Department is hopeful that the negotiations can be announced soon after the aid to Britain legislation has been passed.13
In the Department’s view it would have a most unfortunate effect on Argentine public opinion if Prebisch should return to Buenos Aires prior to announcement of intention to negotiate a trade agreement. His return under such circumstances might be interpreted as a partial failure of his mission. Moreover, the Department believes that Prebisch is a key official in the matter of obtaining a trade agreement with Argentina and probably would be most effective in getting speedy acceptance by the Argentine Government of a satisfactory basis for negotiations. Accordingly, you are also requested to ask Drs. Roca and Piñedo on my behalf to have appropriate instructions issued to Prebisch to remain in Washington so that all questions which might result in failure of negotiations can be settled before announcement.
The interim period could be used to good advantage in discussing the proposed trade agreement, provided there were no leak that such discussions were taking place. If a leak should occur, the Department would be obliged to issue a statement to the effect that negotiations with Argentina are not in progress. You will appreciate that complete secrecy is essential.
Please telegraph Roca’s and Piñedo’s reactions.