Volume #12 - 12.|
CONDUITE DES RELATIONS EXTÉRIEURES
REPRÉSENTATION DIPLOMATIQUE ET CONSULAIRE
Le deuxième secrétaire, l'ambassade aux États-Unis|
au sous-secrétaire d'État aux Affaires extérieures
le 27 février 1946|
Dear Mr. Robertson, With reference to my letters† of February 9th, 12th, 13th and 20th concerning the visit of the Canadian Trade Mission to Central America and Colombia, I wish to offer a few concluding comments.
Undoubtedly, the highlight of the trip was the realization of Canada's prestige in the countries we have visited. It is easy to exaggerate the significance of courtesies extended under such circumstances but there were innumerable occasions where our hosts went out of their way to express their friendliness and show their admiration for Canada. The welcome in Mexico, Costa Rica and Colombia was particularly warm and cordial. Perhaps, I should record here that when Mr. MacKinnon thanked the Foreign Minister of Colombia for the expeditiousness with which his government had waived aside technical difficulties in order to sign with minimum delay a commercial agreement with Canada, the Foreign Minister feelingly replied that his Government would have done it for no other people but Canadian. Another evidence of the favour with which the Canadian Mission was viewed was the amount of publicity it received in the local press. As far as we have been able to ascertain our visit was covered equally well by the newspapers supporting the government and the Opposition press. I am enclosing, herewith, a complete set of newspaper clippings† on our visit in Guatemala, which is a good illustration in point.
We should bear in mind the friendly welcome extended to the Mission (in Honduras and Colombia for example, all the expenses of the group were paid by the government) when officials from these countries visit Canada. It is highly important, for the sake of good relations with these countries, that we show the same interest in their visit that they have shown in ours.
Canada's prestige in Central America seems to be to a large extent founded on two main considerations: (a) Central American countries are solidly pro-allied and they look with admiration to the Dominion for its remarkable achievements during the war. They single out Canada as the nation in this hemisphere which, after the United States, has contributed most to final victory; (b) Central American countries bear with considerable uneasiness the overwhelming influence of the United States, economic or otherwise, and they welcome Canada for providing them with the opportunity of becoming less dependent upon the United States. I am afraid that now that the war is over, this second factor has a great importance in the minds of their leaders, when they think about Canada.
This is the starting point of our relations with these countries and it is a consideration worthwhile noting because it points out the direction our efforts should take in the next few years. It should be our job now to make Canada better known in Central America in order that she may be liked positively for her own sake, for what she has to offer, economically and culturally.
Closely linked with the above is the question of Canada's representation in Central America and Colombia. As already reported, the Minister of Trade and Commerce has told Guatemalan officials that he hoped that direct commercial representation will be established shortly between the two countries. It is likely that some time this year a Canadian Commercial Representative will be sent to Guatemala City and possibly to San José, Costa Rica. These two representatives would together have jurisdiction over the six Central American countries. As long as Trade and Commerce intends to send representatives to Central America, it would be wise to appoint them as Consular agents. The same reasons which justify our giving the status of Consul-General to the Trade and Commerce representative in Venezuela, apply even more forcefully in Central America in view of the fact that we do not intend to open, at least for some time, diplomatic missions there. Under these circumstances, it is doubly important that Canadian Commercial representatives in Central America be given an internationally recognized status, in order that they may not be hampered in carrying on a number of activities which it would be difficult or impossible for them to carry, in their capacity of trade commissioners.
The case of Colombia deserves special consideration. A number of Colombian officials, as expected, told us how anxious Colombia is to exchange diplomatic representatives with Canada and it took little effort to sense a feeling of disappointment on their part over the fact that this has not yet been done. The members of the Mission received, I think, the distinct impression that if we were to delay very much longer the establishment of a diplomatic mission in Bogota, we would be rendering a disservice to ourselves. Colombia thinks of itself as one of the leading nations of Latin America which has developed a more stable political life along democratic lines than most of her sister nations. It also has enormous national resources which it is hoped will make it one of the most important trading nations of Latin America. In addition, Canadian interests in Colombia are very wide as indicated by the presence of approximately 350 Canadians in the country.
We have been struck by the fact that practically every Central American country sent during the war a relatively large number of students to Canada. Parents with whom we had the chance to talk about this said frankly that they do not like the American educational methods and were attracted by the slightly more conservative character of our educational system and the presence in Canada of both French and English centers of learning. Undoubtedly, this is the best kind of publicity we can ever hope to get. The question can be raised as to whether Canada should do something to encourage this movement of students now that the war is over and that the reasons which prompted these students to come to Canada become less and less compelling.
If what we have in mind is to develop trade with these countries, a better form of publicity cannot be found because of its permanent value and the fact that it affects individuals who normally are called upon to assume a position of responsibility in their respective country.
If it is not feasible to grant a few scholarships to Central American students to attract them to Canada, it may at least be possible to give some publicity about educational facilities in Canada. The cooperation of Canadian colleges and universities may be sought to that effect. In any case, it is obvious that Canada has a distinct appeal for Central American students and we should not lose any opportunity to cultivate it. It has been pointed out to me by several newspapermen in Central America that the information they normally receive about Canada consists mostly of a weekly news bulletin. This bulletin is highly appreciated and is reproduced in one form or another in the local press but the avidity for Canadian news is such that they would like to receive more of background information about Canadian life. Canadian art, science and literature are subjects which would be popular for the Central American public. I do not know whether it would be feasible to send more of this type of information through the channels which have already been established by Mr. A. Anderson.1
Similarly, I have been told many times by people in Central America who have visited Canada that Canadian films would be more than welcomed in their country. It may be possible to arrange for the distribution of such films by the Film Board Representative in Mexico City, until, at least, Canadian Consular agents can take over informational activities of this type.
While we were in Bogota, local newspapers reported rumours that the Canadian troops stationed in Jamaica may be called to take over certain public utilities services whose personnel had walked out as a result of the serious strike situation in the Island. It seemed to me that our friends in Colombia viewed this development with some disapproval. It is difficult to say of course whether this reaction is typical of other South American nations but I rather think that in Central America it would be similarly received in view of their over-sensitiveness about anything which has the appearance of outside interference in domestic matters and the fact that Jamaica is a colony seems to have little bearing in the matter. The use of Canadian troops for anything else than purely defense purposes runs the risk of being misinterpreted and Canada has much to lose by publicity of this kind. If the use of Canadian troops for such purpose is seriously contemplated (which I do not know) careful consideration should be given to the matter on account of its possible adverse repercussions.
Finally, I wish to mention the invaluable assistance extended to the Mission by the British representatives throughout Central America and Colombia. Mr. MacKinnon has already sent them telegrams expressing his gratitude for what they did to make his visit pleasant and fruitful and I do not know whether you think it would be in order to send them a word from the Department as well.
1 A. Anderson, directeur adjoint et chef de la distribution du Service d'information Sercanadien.
1 A. Anderson, Assistant Director and Chief Canadian Information of Distribution.