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Address to the Conference, December 10, 1938
R. PRESIDENT, MEMBERS OF THE
CONFERENCE, LADIES AND GENTLEMEN:
It is a matter of unusual satisfaction to me and my associates to meet and greet the members of the other American delegations, with many of whom I have had the good fortune of being associated at previous interAmerican conferences.
This being one of our regular inter-American conferences, it is well to survey briefly the course of events since we last assembled in this capacity. These events are today of profound significance to our nations and to the whole world.
Five years have elapsed since the Seventh International Conference of American States met at Montevideo. That Conference faced a somber prospect of continuing deterioration in
the field of international relations in several parts of the world.
The years of profound and world-wide economic dislocation had taken a heavy toll of material losses and human suffering everywhere. International commercial, financial, and monetary relations were in a state of disorder and confusion. Unprecedented trade barriers of every description had arisen and continued to rise in all countries. Exchange of goods among nations had fallen precipitately, both in value and in physical volume. These developments were serving to intensify economic depression in all countries; to disrupt and reduce prices, especially of primary products; to destroy values; to discourage enterprise; to create wide-spread unemployment and general distress; and to undermine the foundations of social and political stability.
Side by side with these mounting difficulties-and in large measures as their resultthere appeared ominous signs of a disastrous lowering of standards in international political
relations. Respect for the pledged word and willingness to fulfil treaty obligations were rapidly weakening. An effort to reach agreement on a broad program of limitation and progressive reduction of armaments was swiftly moving to the point of tragic failure.
On our continent, too, the relationships among the American nations were not altogether happy. Misunderstanding, prejudice, and aloofness characterized many phases of relations between some of them.
The Seventh International Conference of American States performed a task of historic importance. The representatives of the sister republics brought to the work of the Conference a deep sense of responsibility, a firm determination to find a better way of international life than that toward which mankind seemed to be drifting. The Conference laid a solid foundation for future accomplishments on the broadest scale and outlined definite and concrete programs to promote peace, progress, and prosperity in the Western Hemisphere.
The twenty-one American republics represented at Montevideo affirmed their devotion to peace and their condemnation of resort to armed force as an instrument of accomplishing national aims. They proclaimed their belief in fair play, fair dealing, and mutual respect for the independence, the sovereignty, and the rights of nations as the indispensable bases of a civilized world-order under law. They took important steps toward making effective a concrete machinery for the maintenance of peace on the American Continent.
The Montevideo Conference laid greater emphasis than had ever been done before in interAmerican relations on the imperative need of expanding economic relationships among the American nations and among all nations upon a sound and healthy basis of fair dealing and equal treatment. In the discussions and formal pronouncements of the Conference, there was fuller recognition than ever before of the indispensability of such economic relationships for the prosperity and social stability within na
tions, as well as for peaceful and orderly relations between nations. In its resolutions, the Conference urged vigorously a comprehensive program of rehabilitation and improvement of international economic and financial relations.
During the years that followed the Montevideo Conference, the influence of the work accomplished there bore fruit in the form of steadily and rapidly improving relations among the American nations. But at the same time, elsewhere in the world international relationships continued to deteriorate. Solemn treaty obligations were being increasingly brushed aside or breached. A gigantic program, of rearmament was being rendered inevitable for the entire world by the announced determination on the part of a number of large countries to use armed force as an instrument of attaining their national aims and by their intensive activity in armament construction.
New world problems, affecting the vital interests of all American nations, were arising with startling rapidity. Accordingly, the rep