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Toasts of the President and Prince Albert of Belgium

February 26, 1963


I know that I express the sentiments of us all in welcoming our distinguished guest. He has visited the United States on several occasions and we are very grateful to him that he has come once again to Washington, once again to the United States. He has been a very effective spokesman for his country's interests and has devoted a good deal of his life to an effort to improve the commerce and industry of his country and also to provide for more effective commercial relations between Belgium and the countries of Europe and also between Belgium and the United States.

His visit is a good occasion for us all to go through our 'papers and examine our commercial relations with Belgium, and in so doing I think it reminds us that Belgium has been one of our best customers and that the balance of trade has been very favorable to the United States. And so, while this is a social occasion, it has tremendous undertones of power and finance and trade and all the rest.

So I think, Your Highness, that this visit of yours comes at an appropriate moment. It serves as a welcome reminder, focuses the attention of the Government, those of us in it, on a problem which is important to us. I don't hold the Marxist view that economics is at the bottom of all human affairs, but it's an important element in human affairs. And the Western World has got to learn to adjust its economic relations, if it's going to satisfactorily adjust its political and military and social relations.

And this is particularly true of Western Europe and the United States, because we are a relatively small island of prosperity in a very dark sea of poverty. And unless we can adjust our affairs so that the power of the West is brought to bear on the great desperate areas of the world, particularly to the south of us, quite obviously we are going to fail. So the first job, the first priority, is to make sure that we are using all of our combined talents to provide for an easy flow back and forth of goods, services, that we are the masters of our monetary arrangements and not their servant. And then we can match our power against any combinations in the world.

So you've come on a most important matter, Your Highness, and you are very welcome here. We value the friendship between Belgium and the United States, which is an old one. And, speaking personally, the relationship between your government and the United States on several matters of great importance in the last months, both in Europe and in Africa, has been particularly, I think, useful to the common cause and particularly heartening to this Government.

We want to express, through you, our appreciation to your government and to the people of Belgium for this partnership which we feel has been very fruitful. So I hope you will join in expressing our welcome to our distinguished guest, to the members of his party and join with me in drinking to the very good health of His Majesty the King.

Note: The President proposed the toast at a luncheon in the State Dining Room at the White House. In his response Prince Albert explained that his trip to Washing-ton and to New York was primarily for the purpose of studying how to promote the sales of Belgian products in the United States. "As you know," he added, "we have some difficulties in this market and we are wondering how to solve them. Trade is of vital importance to us, since we have but few raw materials and but a small home market. This is the reason why we have always had a liberal attitude towards world exchanges and why we have never refused to consider negotiated trade agreements.

"Our two countries have known each other for a long time and although they have their own legitimate interests to protect, they are always side by side when the times come for fundamental choices . . . if in this fast-changing world there are occasions for such choices. I shall only mention one of them, dear to my heart and, I believe, Mr. President, dear to yours: What should the industrial nations' attitude be towards economic development in the not too prosperous areas? I feel that this is perhaps the most dramatic issue of our time; the one that bears the fastest reaching consequences and, therefore, of course, [one of] many other fields where countries of the free world could cooperate." In conclusion Prince Albert expressed best wishes for such future cooperation.

John F. Kennedy, Toasts of the President and Prince Albert of Belgium Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project

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