Whether the Frenchman buys or sells, he has poked under his nose or flaunted before his eyes every hour of the business day some concrete evidence that his country has put the German people and their products under the ban.
In connection with this campaign are some facts of utmost significance to the American business man who has studied the intent and purpose of the Paris Economic Pact which is described in a previous chapter, and which declared for an Allied war of economic reprisal against Germany and the other Central Powers. In that chapter, as you may recall, the point was made that since individuals and not nations do business, the Pact was likely to fail.
With their usual intelligence, the French understand this, and their whole educational campaign at home is to make the individual Frenchman immune against the lure of the cheap German products. The French know that it is the sum of individual French resistance to German buying that will keep the German product forever outside the realm of the Republic.
Indeed, the clearest-minded men in France to-day believe that more commercial advantage will accrue to France by the intensive development of her resources, the perfection of old industries and the creation of new ones than in the formation of committees devoted to plans for commercial alliances dedicated to reprisal. In other words, this helps to bear out the theory held in many quarters that the economic pact is after all merely a campaign document and utterly impracticable.
In France there are other signs that point to a rift in the Pact. While I was in Paris, a well known Senator pointed out that as soon as the war ended France would need coal and would look to Italy for it as she had done in the past. To obtain her coal more cheaply than she is now doing from the United States or England, Italy would very likely make concessions to Germany in order to obtain German fuel. The result would be an interchange of merchandise between the two countries regardless of the decree of the Paris Pact. The question arises: Could France place restrictions upon the Italian frontier to the annoyance of her Allies?
Meanwhile France is seeking immunity from any future coal crisis by developing a system of hydraulic power which will not only be economical, but will also help to cut down her imports. It is just one more phase of the ever-widening programme of Self-Sufficiency.
Despite our past blunders, our present lack of organised initiative, and the efforts toward Self-Supply, the future holds a large business opportunity for America in France. As a matter of fact, half of the selling work is already registered because the French are eager and anxious to do business with their great sister democracy across the sea. It is, therefore, up to the American exporter to capitalise the needs of the nation and the good will that it bears toward us. But it must be done now.