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Rio Conference (1954)

Rio Conference (1954)

The Conference of American Ministers of Finance or Economy (Rio Conference of 1954) was held in Petrópolis (near Rio de Janeiro) for two weeks, beginning 22 November 1954, to discuss economic and trade relations in the Western Hemisphere. In addition to representatives from the twenty-one member states of the Organization of American States (OAS), delegations from Canada, West Germany, Belgium, Spain, France, Great Britain, Italy, Portugal, Japan, and the Netherlands attended.

At the conference Latin American leaders expressed their desire to develop economic integration in the Western Hemisphere and called for increased financial assistance from the U.S. government. João Café Filho, president of Brazil, urged the delegates to discuss such cooperative efforts as a customs union, a single currency, and the establishment of an international American bank, which had first been suggested by the First Inter-American Conference in Washington, D.C., in 1889. Eugenio Gudin, Brazil's minister of finance, expressed deep concerns regarding the Eisenhower administration's emphasis on private rather than public investment as the main thrust of U.S. economic investment in Latin America. Gudin felt that such a policy ignored the severe lack of development in such areas as public utilities, education, and health. However, the U.S. delegation, headed by George M. Humphrey, secretary of the treasury, reiterated the Eisenhower policy and called for the establishment of stable, equitable prices for raw materials, as well as increased developmental capital and technical assistance in the form of private loans and private investments, such as a U.S. $200 million loan that the Bank of Brazil had recently negotiated with a syndicate of nineteen American banks.

Latin American leaders were resentful of U.S. foreign policy that had rebuilt Europe through the Marshall Plan but ignored economic integration and free trade offers from Latin America. In the eyes of some Latin Americans, such policy indicated that Latin America was seen only as a source of tropical foods and raw materials. However, within Latin America many groups supported higher tariffs and tightly regulated foreign investment from the United States. By enacting protectionist measures, Latin American governments hoped to promote the development of domestic industries. The United States would not be ready to discuss free trade in the Western Hemisphere until the late 1980s, when it found itself less able to compete in a global economy. Latin American countries were also more open to free trade in the 1980s after their protectionist industrial policies created unsustainable debts.

See alsoNorth American Free Trade Agreement; Organization of American States (OAS).


"Rio Conference (1954)," New York Times, 23 November 1954.

Samuel Flagg Bemis, A Short History of American Foreign Policy and Diplomacy (1959), pp. 503-516.

Ruhl J. Bartlett, The Record of American Diplomacy: Documents and Readings in the History of American Foreign Relations (1964), pp. 730-733.

U.S. Congress, Senate, Executive II, 80th Cong. (1969–1970), 1st sess.

Robert F. Smith, ed. The United States and the Latin American Sphere of Influence (1981).

Werner J. Feld and Robert S. Jordan with Leon Hurwitz, International Organizations: A Comparative Approach (1983), pp. 100-102.

Ann E. Weiss, Good Neighbors? The United States and Latin America (1985).

L. Ronald Scheman, The Inter-American Dilemma: The Search for Inter-American Cooperation at the Centennial of the Inter-American System (1988).

John J. Johnson, A Hemisphere Apart: The Foundations of United States Policy Toward Latin America (1990).

Additional Bibliography

Gilderhus, Mark T. The Second Century: U.S.-Latin American Relations since 1889. Wilmington, DE: Scholarly Resources, 2000.

Piotti de Lamas, Diosma E., and Alfredo Traversoni. América Latina y Estados Unidos en el siglo XX: Aspectos políticos, económicos y sociales. Montevideo, Uruguay: Fundación de Cultura Universitaria, 1996.

Sheinin, David. Beyond the Ideal: Pan Americanism in Inter-American Affairs. Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 2000.

                                            Lesley R. Luster

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