Franklin D. Roosevelt

Campaign Address in Seattle, Washington on Reciprocal Tariff Negotiations (Excerpts)

September 20, 1932

Governor Hill, Mr. Mayor, my friends of the State of Washington:

I am glad to visit Seattle once more, this beautiful city and great seaport, on the one hand facing the Orient, with its great future significance in the life of the world, and on the other hand, Alaska, our own Alaska, with its needs and its possibilities.

I have often visited this city, and always with pleasure. While I was in the Navy Department, the line of my duty often led me here.

I am glad to renew old associations under the pleasant auspices that have brought me here today, and, in addition to that, I am glad to make these new associations as well.

I regret that I have such little opportunity to see more of the beauties of Seattle, its neighboring city, Tacoma, and this part of the country. I have seen enough, however, and heard enough today, to know how heavily the hand of the great depression has fallen upon this Western country. To see what has happened in this great seaport brings back with keen irony some of the things that Republican leaders used to tell us about stimulating foreign trade. As I pointed out in my speech at Columbus, one of the ways that they were going to stimulate foreign trade in 1928 was to lend money to backward nations, to crippled countries, so as to enable them to buy goods from us with our money. Well, that is one way to carry on business transactions. Another way would be just to give things away! I am not sure that this latter way of giving things away is not better than the first, because at least when we give things away we save the cost of keeping books. And, moreover, when we give things away we at least have no disappointment in failing to receive payment from our debtors.

Another method that the present Republican leaders conjured up to provide for our prosperity was the Hawley-Smoot, otherwise known as the Grundy, Tariff. . . .

President Hoover probably should have known that this tariff would raise havoc with any plans that he might have had to stimulate foreign markets. But he did not, I am afraid, sufficiently understand how insistent are the demands of certain types of Republicans for special high tariff protection. When that tariff bill was passed, with its outrageous rates, the President yielded to the demand of those leaders and started us down the road to the place where we now find ourselves. It is the road to ruin, if we keep on it!

That tariff, as you in the State of Washington well know, had the inevitable result of bringing about retaliations by the other nations of the world. Forty of them set up, just as you and I would have done, their own tariff defenses against us.

For example, our next-door neighbor, Canada, imposed retaliatory tariffs on your peaches, so that their tariff is now higher than the freight rates to Canada. And there is a retaliatory tariff on asparagus, and on other vegetables and other fruits, so high that practically none of your agricultural product can be sold to your logical customers, your neighbors across the border. The market for your surplus is destroyed and thereby fair prices for your whole crop are made impossible.

Embargoes by France, embargoes by other European nations on apples and other products of the Pacific Coast, make it impossible to ship your surplus apples abroad through the Panama Canal.

Retaliatory tariffs on condensed milk have closed milk condensaries on the Northern Pacific Coast. Companies have sold their cows. Let us see the effect of that. As you and I know, that cuts off the market for the hay crops raised by the farmers. That is a good example of the fact, the undeniable, undisputed fact of the interdependence of industry and agriculture. I am told that one great company has gone to Holland, Germany and other European nations, and built condensers there. And I am told that the people of Washington are at this time appealing to the Secretary of State to use his good offices with Germany to prevent the placing of canned salmon on a quota basis. In short, because we have built unjust tariff walls ourselves, other countries are now using our own poison against us.

To remedy this I have advocated and continue to advocate a tariff policy based on reason, on the same good old-fashioned horse sense that you and I would use in dealing in our own business with our own neighbor. It is a tariff policy based in large part upon the simple principle of profitable exchange, arrived at through negotiated tariff, with benefit to each Nation.

If I am any judge of conditions in this country today and of thought in this country today, that policy will be initiated on March 4, 1933.

This principle of tariff by negotiation means to deal with each country concerned, on a basis of fair barter; if it has something we need, and we have something it needs, a tariff agreement can and should be made that is satisfactory to both countries. That, of course, avoids a violent and a general shake-up in business. It is a just method of dealing with our foreign customers. It keeps the general structure of international trade, stable and sound. And it makes for world peace. It is practical, it is American! Let us lead the way!

Out here on the Pacific Coast, another factor has had a destructive effect upon our foreign trade. Trade with the Orient has suffered to a great extent on account of tariffs; but it has also suffered because of the abnormal depreciation of the buying powers of the countries of the far east.

It is widely recognized by enlightened financial leaders, conservative and liberal alike, that to remedy this we shall have to look to international action. And in line with the plan suggested by the Democratic platform I shall advocate immediate action by our Government in cooperation with other Governments of the world.

There are many ways of producing the results desired without disturbing the currency of the United States.

In this whole matter of restoration of export trade with all countries, east and west, through the methods that I have outlined and shall continue to speak of, I am absolutely determined that our Nation shall take the initiative and the leadership.

That constitutes again the application of the rules of common sense. It constitutes what I conceive to be a new deal in the restoration of foreign trade; and with it goes a partial restoration of prosperity in our own country. It is the way to economic peace and stability; it is the way to a reasonable and sound prosperity.

My friends, it is the way of fairness and justice too — fairness to our customers abroad, justice to our own citizens who have suffered so bitterly because of the loss of this export trade. This measure of justice can come only through a revival of industry and employment not charity, but a chance for us to earn our own living. That is the hope, that is the demand of the man and the woman forgotten in the policies of the present Republican leadership.

Franklin D. Roosevelt, Campaign Address in Seattle, Washington on Reciprocal Tariff Negotiations (Excerpts) Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project

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