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United States Department of State / Foreign relations of the United States diplomatic papers, 1937. The British Commonwealth, Europe, Near East and Africa

Belgium,   pp. 219-237 PDF (7.1 MB)

Page 228

  As I had anticipated, M. van Zeeland was indignant at this evidence
that subordinate officials were seeking to evade strict observance of
the Agreement and I soon had indications that he had acted with
promptness and decision. There was a distinct betterment of the sit-
uation but with the usual intimation that in view of the temporary
character of Cabinet Ministers the subordinate officials were merely
holding in abeyance measures which they were determined eventually
to put into effect.
  Since the Cabinet crisis which began in October, there have been
evidences that the members of the Inter-Ministerial Commission were
emerging from their retreat and resuming their old tactics. I have
therefore for some time been trying to gather definite information to
serve as a basis for further representations. I have, however, encoun-
tered certain difficulties, not peculiar to this post, which I venture to
restate briefly as essential to an understanding of the general situation.
These difficulties may be briefly summarized as follows:
  (1) Each time the Embassy takes up with the Belgian authorities
an important question under the Agreement, it is my practice to urge
the American interests involved to keep the Embassy currently in-
formed as to developments in order that we may judge as to the
efficacy of our representations and be in a position to take preventive
action without waiting for serious difficulties to arise. It has been
our almost invariable experience that once immediate danger is out
of the way, these American interests neglect to keep the Embassy in-
formed, take little notice of requests for information, and wait for a
new crisis before communicating with the Embassy.
  (2) The work of the Embassy has been complicated in several in-
stances by the tendency of certain American interests to enter upon
direct negotiations with subordinate Belgian authorities, making
concessions the significance of which they do not understand until
difficulties arise which bring them back to the Embassy for help.
  As an illustration, the Department will recall that during the nego-
tiations for the Trade Agreement the Belgian representatives pro-
posed that the assemblers of American cars should consent to employ
in all cars assembled in Belgium at least 40% of the value in Belgian
work and materials. This proposal was rejected by the Department.
However, soon after the Agreement went into force, the authorities
renewed this proposal directly to the American assemblers, and Gen-
eral Motors, Ford, and Chrysler, the largest American assemblers in
Belgium, made formal acceptance of the scheme without previous
consultation with the Embassy or previous agreement with the other
American assemblers operating in this country. The smaller assem-
blers were not in a position to accept any undertaking on a 40% basis
and they felt that they were being put in a vulnerable position by

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