Memorandum of Conversation, by the Chief of the Telecommunications Division (De Wolf)

Participants: Mr. Grew49
Ambassador Messersmith50
Mr. Norman Armour (ARA)51
Mr. Joseph McGurk (ARA)52
Mr. John Carrigan (MA)53
Mr. Francis Colt de Wolf (TD)

A meeting took place in Mr. Grew’s office to consider the question of the consolidation of the two telephone companies in Mexico, i.e., the company owned by the Swedish firm of Ericsson and the company owned by the International Telephone and Telegraph Corporation. The Department has gone on record as favoring the consolidation [Page 1288] of these two telephone companies under the management of the International Telephone and Telegraph Corporation. The Secretary of Commerce has indicated his willingness to help the IT&T to finance the purchase of the Swedish company. A memorandum has been prepared for presentation to the President, advocating the proposed plan.54 However, Mr. Jones and the Department do not feel that they can go ahead with this plan until they have overcome the objection of the Attorney General, which he has set forth at various times, as well as in recent correspondence with Mr. Berle. Mr. Biddle’s objection is due to the international character of the IT&T and his feelings that it has dealt with enemy interests during the present war. In the opinion of the Department, it would be most unfortunate to have a consolidation of the two telephone companies in Mexico under the aegis of a Swedish company, especially when it is recalled that the Department, the CIAA55 and the U. S. Commercial Company have for the last two years been laboring incessantly to remove the Ericsson Company from the telecommunication field in Latin America. There would not appear to be any other American company which has the “know how” that the IT&T has to manage a telephone company abroad.

It was agreed that Mr. Grew and Mr. Messersmith should make an engagement to see Mr. Biddle and to present the foregoing views to the Attorney General and to endeavor to obtain his approval to the draft memorandum which is to be presented to the President. Mr. Messersmith was assured that the Department wholeheartedly agrees with his position in this case.

Francis Colt de Wolf
  1. Joseph C. Grew, Under Secretary of State.
  2. Ambassador George S. Messersmith arrived in Washington for consultation on December 16.
  3. Director of the Office of American Republic Affairs.
  4. Acting Deputy Director of the Office of American Republic Affairs.
  5. Chief of the Division of Mexican Affairs.
  6. Infra.
  7. Office of the Coordinator of Inter-American Affairs.