63. Letter From the Secretary of State to the Secretary of Commerce (Weeks)1
Dear Mr. Secretary: With reference to the budget request which your Department is submitting to the Congress for authorization and appropriations for completion of the Inter-American Highway in three years, I am setting forth the views of the Department of State as to the justification and importance of this program to United States foreign policy.
In my judgment the most effective, and immediate, contribution which this Government can make toward the establishment of [Page 322]strong, self-reliant and durable economies in the Central American republics is to cooperate in the early completion of the Inter-American Highway.
Completion of the highway has long been a clearly established objective of United States policy and the Congress to date has supported the program with appropriations amounting to almost $54,000,000. A major portion of the highway, which begins at our boundary with Mexico and traverses some 3,000 miles through seven countries and terminates at the Canal Zone, is already in use. However, maximum benefits cannot be derived from this present road because there are several hundred miles of impassable sections, as well as portions not in all-weather condition.
Among the benefits which will result from completion of the Inter-American Highway within the next three years are the following:
- Political stability. International communism recently dominated the political institutions of one country in this area, but because of a determined people, this threat was repulsed. We must not fail to exert our every effort to see that communism does not return to the Americas. The political strength of our neighbors to the south is essential to the free world today. The political stability resulting from early completion of the Inter-American Highway would increase the growing influence which these Central American countries and the other republics of this hemisphere are now exerting in world affairs.
- Economic development. It is for our own benefit, as well as for theirs, that we encourage these countries to attain the greatest degree of economic development. Surface transportation is one of the main factors retarding economic development in the area. With completion of the Inter-American Highway will come feeder roads and the opening of undeveloped lands. I am confident that opening the entire length of the Inter-American Highway to all-weather traffic will stimulate economic growth in the area and enlarge opportunities for free trade and new markets. Internal development would result and essential trade relations between the neighboring countries would be stimulated.
- Increased trade. As markets for our exports and as suppliers of our imports, the United States has great ties with the countries through which the Inter-American Highway passes. All but a fractional portion of the vehicles used in the area are of United States manufacture. Since the highway was started, annual exports from the United States to this area have increased many times. It is evident that a partially completed route has been beneficial to United States industry and export trade. A fully completed Inter-American [Page 323]Highway would give even greater impetus to our trade relations.
Increased tourism. Tourists from the United States are now spending nearly a billion dollars a year in the Caribbean area. A large and continuous flow of United States tourists over the Inter-American Highway would be an important element in the commerce of these countries which have so many places of interest and natural beauty.
The highway will be a means of travel of an increased number of Central Americans to the United States. The importance of strong cultural and spiritual ties which would result cannot be exaggerated. The expenditures by these visitors will be advantageous to American commerce and industry.
- Strategic benefits. A great number of strategic materials which the United States requires in the defense of a free world are obtained from the area to be served by this highway. Many of these countries are cooperating with the United States in hemisphere defense for which purpose strategic sites have been developed; the highway would link these points and would be an auxiliary route in the transport of strategic materials.
The United States, together with the cooperating countries, has already made large expenditures toward this highway program, but if we are to obtain maximum returns from our contribution and are to share with those countries the beneficial results of economic and political stability, the Inter-American Highway should be completed within the next three years.
Because of the forementioned political, economic, and strategic factors, the Department of State feels that the budget request you are making to the Congress is of immediate importance to our foreign relations. I wish to assure you my complete support and cooperation in this program to bring about early completion of the Inter-American Highway.
- Source: Department of State, Central Files, 810.2612/4–155. Drafted by Neal and Nolan.↩