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Message to Congress Recommending Reciprocal Commercial Treaties with Other Republics of the Western Hemisphere

June 19, 1890

To the Senate and House of Representatives:

I transmit herewith, for your information, a letter from the Secretary of State, inclosing a report of the International American Conference, which recommends that reciprocal commercial treaties be entered into between the United States and the several other Republics of this hemisphere.

It has been so often and so persistently stated that our tariff laws offered an insurmountable barrier to a large exchange of products with the Latin-American nations that I deem it proper to call especial attention to the fact that more than 87 per cent of the products of those nations sent to our ports are now admitted free. If sugar is placed upon the free list, practically every important article exported from those States will be given untaxed access to our markets, except wool. The real difficulty in the way of negotiating profitable reciprocity treaties is that we have given freely so much that would have had value in the mutual concessions which such treaties imply. I can not doubt, however, that the present advantages which the products of these near and friendly States enjoy in our markets, though they are not by law exclusive, will, with other considerations, favorably dispose them to adopt such measures, by treaty or otherwise, as will tend to equalize and greatly enlarge our mutual exchanges.

It will certainly be time enough for us to consider whether we must cheapen the cost of production by cheapening labor in order to gain access to the South American markets when we have fairly tried the effect of established and reliable steam communication and of convenient methods of money exchanges. There can be no doubt, I think, that with these facilities well established and with a rebate of duties upon imported raw materials used in the manufacture of goods for export our merchants will be able to compete in the ports of the Latin-American nations with those of any other country.

If after the Congress shall have acted upon pending tariff legislation it shall appear that under the general treaty-making power, or under any special powers given by law, our trade with the States represented in the conference can be enlarged upon a basis of mutual advantage, it will be promptly done.


Benjamin Harrison, Message to Congress Recommending Reciprocal Commercial Treaties with Other Republics of the Western Hemisphere Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project

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