For one thing, it cannot be achieved without constructive co-operative work. Groups of exporters must organise and establish offices in Paris and elsewhere in France. The reason for this is that the Frenchman abhors the fly-by-night salesman: he likes to feel that the man with whom he is trading has taken some sort of root in his midst.
With organisation must come knowledge. Why did the Germans succeed so amazingly in France? Geographical proximity and the Frankfort Treaty helped some, but the principal selling power he wielded was that he lived with his clients, found out what they wanted, and gave it to them. If a French farmer, for example, wanted a purple plough share fastened to a yellow body, the German assumed that he knew what he wanted and made it for him. The average American exporter, on the other hand, has always assumed that the foreign customer had to take what was given to him. For this reason we have failed in South America and for this reason we will fail in France unless we change our methods. Knowledge is selling power.
We must be prepared to give the French long credits, and if necessary, finance French enterprises. Despite her immense gold hoardings, she may feel an economic pinch after the war. We must also have sound and organised French credit information.
Our salesmen must know the French language and sympathise with the French temperament. Give the French buyer a ghost of a chance and he will meet you more than half way. Unlike the stolid Englishman he is plastic, adaptable and imaginative. Understanding is a large part of the trade battle.
We must accumulate large stocks of American goods in France to indulge the purchaser in his favourite occupation of long and elaborate choosing and to meet demands for renewal. To ship these goods we must have our own bottoms. Here, as elsewhere in the whole export outlook, is the old need of a merchant marine.
But we will never realise our trade destiny in France without reciprocity. We cannot sell without buying. France looks to us to take part of the huge flood of goods that once went to Germany. We take some of her wine: we must take more. We buy her silks and frocks: the American market for them must now be widened. We depended upon Germany for many of our toys: France expects the Anglo-Saxon nursery henceforth to rattle with the mechanical devices which will provide meat and drink for her maimed soldiers. And so on down a long list of commodities.
All this means that before the mood cools we must conclude new commercial treaties with France and assure for ourselves a really favoured nation relation that carries the guarantee of a permanent foreign trade now so necessary to our permanent prosperity.
In the last analysis you will find that it is France and not England to whom we must look for the larger commercial kinship after the war. The spirit of the awakened Britain, so far as we are concerned, is the spirit of militant trade conquest: the dominant desire of the speeded-up France is benevolent Self-Sufficiency.