422. Memorandum of Conversation0



  • Canada, the OAS and IA–ECOSOC


After the discussion on Cuba, the President again took up the question of Canada’s participation in Inter-American organizations and requested the Prime Minister to consider this matter carefully. Latin America was vulnerable and very weak socially. When the Prime Minister reverted to the earlier discussion regarding Mexico, the President recalled that Jose Figueres, former President of Costa Rica, had told him that when he had sent five students to Mexico, four of them had become Communists. The Prime Minister then outlined Canada’s trade policy towards Cuba, remarking that Canada’s current Cuban trade volume [Page 1156]was smaller than that of the United States. Generally there was no objection by Canada to dealing in non-strategic goods with Communist countries.

The trade with Cuba was entirely in normal goods and precautions had been taken by the Canadian Government that there would be no bootlegging of shipments originating in the United States. The President commented that the only important import into the United States from Cuba currently was in tobacco needed by the Tampa cigar trade and that our exports were at an annual rate of only $9 million, virtually all in food and medicines. Consideration had been given to a trade embargo which would require the imposition of Foreign Assets Control regulations. He, the President, did not want to take this step and would not do so until Cubans had taken some new provocative measures. The Prime Minister at this point expressed his appreciation for the way in which the United States had handled the problem of oil bunkering in the case of ships carrying grain to Soviet China. The Canadian public did not know that this had been discussed with the United States and it was most important to keep it confidential.

The President reiterated his request that Canada reconsider membership in the Organization of American States and expressed the hope that Canada would find it possible to send an observer to the Inter-American Economic and Social Council meeting which was being convened in Montevideo in July. This conference would attempt to make plans for operation Pan America and for the Alliance for Progress and would consider common markets, commodity problems and economic planning. When the Prime Minister inquired as to what the President had in mind on the economic side, Mr. Kennedy replied that $500 million was now being appropriated for the Social and Economic Development Program in Latin America; furthermore the Administration would soon submit a $4 billion request for foreign aid funds needed globally. Generally it was anticipated that a strenuous fight would be required to obtain adequate appropriations for this purpose. The public generally was unenthusiastic about appropriations of this type, but it was most important that they be obtained.

  1. Source: Department of State, Conference Files: Lot 65 D 366, CF1884. Confidential, Drafted by White and approved by the White House on May 23. See Documents 421 and 423425.