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Latin America and the Good Neighbor Policy

The U.S. was a little friendlier with Latin America. Roosevelt expanded the Good Neighbor Policy (1933) that pledged the United States to work with Central and South American nations to protect the hemisphere.

The idea of working together peacefully was a marked departure from previous U.S. policy, which had usually involved sending in the Marines and negotiating at gunpoint. In the 1930s, the U.S. removed troops from Haiti, Panama, and Cuba, holding on to the base at Guantanamo, Cuba, as a naval station. When Mexico grabbed American-owned oil wells in their country, the U.S. gritted its teeth but didn't intervene.

Franklin Roosevelt flew down to Argentina for the Inter-American Conference (1936) and received cheers as he announced friendly aid and cooperation. With the beginnings of World War II thundering in Europe, the United States agreed to share responsibility for the Monroe doctrine with Latin American countries in the Havana Conference (1940).

Japan eyes the Philippines

Following through on the promise the U.S. made after taking the Philippines from Spain, Congress passed the Tydings-McDuffie Act (1934), which promised the islands their freedom in 1946 after a final 12-year tune-up. Despite the fact that World War II filled up a large chunk of that time with a Japanese military occupation, the U.S. kept its promise to the Philippines.

In the meantime, the United States's willingness to free the Philippines made Japan think the U.S. really didn't care that much about the islands. By promising to leave, the U.S. unintentionally let Japan believe that America might be easy to push around.

Reciprocal Trade Agreement Act

In another make-nice bid, Congress let the president set tariff-lowering deals with other countries under the Reciprocal Trade Agreements Act (1934). This measure reversed some of the self-inflicted damage of the Hawley-Smoot law and started the U.S. and the world on a decreasing-tariff trend that led to the free trade policies that most nations enjoy today.

Although reciprocal trade agreements were hardly enough to make the world peaceful, they were a step in the right direction. Over the protests of vehement anti-communists, Roosevelt recognized the Soviet Union in 1933, something that would come in handy later when the U.S. needed allies in World War II.

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