Pan-American Relations


By CORDELL HULL, Secretary of State of the United States

Statement made upon leaving Habana at the close of the second meeting of the foreign ministers or their representatives of the American Republics, at Habana, Cuba, on July 30, 1940

Vital Speeches of the Day, Vol. VI, pp. 648-650.

THE Habana meeting of Foreign Ministers of the American Republics faced unprecedented problems and conditions. Possibilities of danger to the peace, security, and welfare of the continent have been increasingly apparent in recent months and weeks. To meet them successfully it has been clear that the American nations must strengthen further their already strong ties of unity and solidarity and devise a constructive program for implementing, through consultation and cooperative action, effective means of continental protection and defense.

We are confronted in this respect with three sets of problems and conditions.

The first relates to the possible transfer of sovereignty at any time over certain islands and regions from one non-American state to another non-American state.

The second involves the threat of subversive activities in the American nations directed from outside the continent.

The third comprises extremely grave economic difficulties and dislocations resulting from the war.

With regard to all three of these sets of menacing conditions, the American governments have manifested their full recognition of the dangers which confront them in common and have created machinery for common action. Instead of faltering, and abandoning the spirit of unity and concerted steps for safety, they have demonstrated to the world their unalterable determination to preserve and strengthen the spirit and the system of continental unity and solidarity. They have thus cleared the decks for effective action whenever such action may become necessary.

The situation with respect to the possessions in this hemisphere controlled by European powers for many years has for the first time become most acute by reason of the fact that the European territory of some of these powers is now under military occupation, and there exists the danger that a change in sovereignty or control of any of these regions might make them objects of barter or a battleground for thesettlement of differences between European nations. There also exists the danger that these regions might be used as a base for the carrying on of activities of a subversive character in the American countries.

I cannot too strongly emphasize at this point that at no time has any American nation had the slightest thought of taking advantage of the European situation for the purpose of grabbing territory. Quite the contrary, the thought has been to protect the peace and safety of this continent.

At the beginning of the meeting at Habana there was some difference of view as to the modus operandi for achieving the desired end in relation to the island possessions. In certain quarters there was a feeling that until a transfer of sovereignty or control had actually taken place it would be sufficient to have no more than a general declaration reasserting the principle of solidarity and consultation agreed upon at previous conferences.

On the other hand, there was a strong feeling on the part of other delegations, including that of the United States, that having in mind the situation now obtaining in Europe, the fact that a transfer of sovereignty might be made overnight with or without formality, and that activities in these regions detrimental to the peace and safety of the Americas might be begun momentarily, it was necessary to formulate at this meeting definite methods of procedure to cope with any situation that might thus arise.

It was realized that provision should be made for prompt action in any emergency situation and that delay pending later consultation might be disastrous to the maintenance of peace and order in the Western Hemisphere. Happily, such differences of view as at first appeared to exist were reconciled, with the result that the meeting of the foreign ministers has unanimously agreed upon two documents designed to take care of any situation that may arise. These documents consist of (1) a convention and (2) a declaration and resolution referred to as the Act of Habana.

The convention contains definite provisions for the administration of any region which it may be found necessary for the American Republics to administer. It has the two-fold purpose of protecting the peace and safety of the American Republics and of safe-guarding and advancing the interests and welfare of the inhabitants of the region.

The administration, which will be under an "Inter-American Commission of Territorial Administration", is to be provisional in character and is to continue only until such time as the region is in a position to govern itself or is restored to its former status—whenever the latter is compatible with the security of the American Republics—whichever of these alternatives shall be found to be the more practicable and just.

The convention condemns all violence, whether under the form of conquest, of stipulations imposed by belligerents in treaties, or by any other process, and states that no transfer or attempt to transfer or to acquire any interest or right in any such region shall be recognized or accepted by the American Republics, regardless of the form that may be employed to attain such purposes.

Temporary provisions in the Act of Habana are designed primarily to cover situations that may arise prior to the coming into force of the convention, which will require ratification by the various governments. They authorize the creation of an emergency committee composed of a representative of each of the American Republics, which is to be regarded as constituted when two-thirds of the members shall have been appointed. The appointments are to be made promptly. Should the committee be under the necessity of administering any region before the effective date of the convention, it will utilize the applicable provisions of the convention.

The Act also recognizes the possibility of emergency situations and the right of any of the American Republics, acting singly or jointly with others, to proceed in any manner required in its own defense or in the defense of the continent. If action is taken as an emergency measure, the matter is to be placed before the committee as soon as practicable in order that it may adopt appropriate measures.

The spirit of unity and solidarity has been likewise strengthened by the action of the conference on projects relating to subversive activities. I refer especially to the attitude toward propaganda designed on the one hand to stir up dissension in the Western Hemisphere by beguiling and misleading the people, and, on the other hand, to intimidate them by express or implied threats of what may happen if the American Republics fail to recognize and to take into account the foreign purposes and policies of certain foreign governments. These activities at times have been in the nature of oral or written representations, and at other times in the form of a promiscuous circulation of literature. In pursuing these policies, the personnel of diplomatic and consular missions has been increased out of all proportion to the needs for legitimate functions of such missions. It is well-known that members of diplomatic missions have well-recognized functions and that the members of such missions are clothed with special immunities. When they engage in activities foreign to those that are recognized, they abuse their immunities and the government that has received them may well be concerned. Likewise, the functions of consular officers are generally defined in international law and practice and the officers themselves enjoy certain special consideration by the local authorities. But when such officials engage in activities divorced from the customary consular functions, they abuse the hospitality of the state in which they serve.

That situations of the foregoing character have developedin many of the American Republics, has been generally known for some time past.

This meeting of Ministers of Foreign Affairs has taken cognizance of these matters in several resolutions, particularly the one relating to activities directed from abroad against domestic institutions and that relating to inter-American development of standards on diplomatic officers.

The first-mentioned resolution recites that the American Republics have equal concern and equal responsibility for the preservation of the peace and security of this hemisphere, and that each shall adopt all necessary measures to prevent and suppress activities directed, assisted or abetted by foreign governments or foreign groups or individuals which tend to subvert the domestic institutions or to foment disorder in the internal political life of the Americas. It also provides for immediate consultation in the event that the peace of any of the American Republics is menaced by such activities, and for a full interchange of information regarding subversive activities within their respective jurisdictions.

In a word, there is in the resolution a definite recognition by the American Governments of an intrusion upon their hospitality and a disregard of their desire to live in peace, freed from systems of Government and of international policies which are foreign to the precepts of free and liberal institutions upon which the democracies of this hemisphere are based. The Habana meeting recognized the common interest of all of the American Republics in these matters and showed determination to maintain a solid front against any incursions. The resolution concerning improper activities of diplomatic and consular agencies sets forth the underlying principles relating to the functions of such missions and calls upon the respective governments to take action to prevent and suppress such activities.

In these, as in other matters of a kindred character discussed and acted upon by the Conference, there has been demonstrated not only a desire but a zeal and determination to face movements of a subversive character with a solid and united front. The American Republics have resolved that the political institutions and aggressive practices of other nations shall not be imposed upon the free and independent peoples of this hemisphere.

In the economic field, too, we set out to examine together the dangers and difficulties confronting all of the American nations and to consult as to the best means of meeting them. The task was approached with a strong conviction shared by all that the present state of affairs, as well as the outlook for the future, imperatively call for the creation of instrumentalities of economic defense that must necessarily gain in effectiveness in proportion to the degree of common action and cooperative effort which they represent.

All of our nations are faced today with the distressing consequences of war-created disruption of world trade. Surpluses of commodities, the exportation of which is essential to the economic life of the American Republics have accumulated and continue to accumulate because Europe at war is unable to absorb them. Their existence is a matter of serious concern throughout the continent. In addition, we must envisage the possibility that, after the termination of hostilities, many important European markets for these commodities may be directed and controlled by governments which regard international commerce as an instrument of domination rather than as a means of enabling all nations to share fully and on a basis of equality in a mutually beneficial exchange of their surplus products.

The resolution on economic cooperation adopted by the Habana meeting is designed to create and set into operation machinery of action to deal with and meet both of these situations.

In that resolution the twenty-one American Republics reaffirmed their adherence to liberal principles of international trade—those of equal treatment, of fair practices, and of peaceful motives. They declared their determination to apply these principles in their relations with each other as fully as present circumstances permit, and their readiness to conduct trade in accordance with these principles with any non-American country prepared to do likewise.

At the same time, they announced their purpose "to devise and apply appropriate means of effective action to cope with the difficulties, disadvantages and dangers arising from the present disturbed and dislocated world conditions".

It was the unanimous opinion of the Habana meeting that continuing consultation among the American Republics is essential to the attainment of these pressing objectives. Accordingly, it was decided to strengthen and expand the activities of the existing inter-American Economic and Financial Advisory Committee as an agency of such consultation. The Habana meeting specifically instructed the committee to proceed at once with the preparation of detailed plans for cooperative temporary handling and orderly marketing of existing and prospective surpluses; for the development, where feasible, of commodity production and marketing agreements and arrangements; and for the promotion amongthe American nations of mutually beneficial trade. The committee was also instructed to devise methods of increasing consumption in the American Republics, through relief and in other ways, which would aid in the disposal of surplus commodities. Finally, the committee was instructed to consider, while these measures and plans are being developed, the possibility of a broader system of inter-American cooperative organization in matters of trade, credit, money, foreign exchange, et cetera.

Some of the measures proposed can be put into operation very quickly. Some will require a certain amount of time for the maturing and execution of appropriate plans. Taken in its entirety, the program of action which is envisaged is flexible enough to apply to any emergency, and effective enough to make it possible for each of the American Republics to meet more fully the difficulties resulting from war-disrupted trade and to safeguard itself from possible dangers of economic subordination from abroad.

It is a system of economic defense under which the American Republics will be prepared to trade with any nation willing to meet them in good faith, in a spirit of friendly and peaceful purpose, and on a plane of frank and fair dealing; and under which they will be fully equipped to protect themselves against any other kind of dealing.