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TUESDAY, JUNE 3, 1902. THE TRADE OF THE EMPIRE.

The mutual relations of the various parts of the Empire present a series of deep problems that mu&t for many years to come exercise the minds of British statesmen. Several events, of which, perhaps, the most potent was the war that has just ended, have recently conspired to remove from the sphere of practical politics the laissez-faire colonial theories once rife in tha Old Country, and their colonial analogues in the form of cut-the-painter sentiments some ten or twenty years ago so prevalent in Australia. Like tho ship described in one of Mr. Itudyai'd Kipling's graphic sketches, the British Empire has found itself. Tho parts are beginning to adjust themselves to the whole, and a new organism is being shaped out of the mater.au used in the work of construction. Throughout the heterogeneous State-systems of the Empue j there is a more or less clearly donned | desire xor etcher union, for a concrete j expression ot the ajinputhy which hiu drawn Motherland, colonies, and depuu- j doneica together, if the British poas>e:>sious were like Germany, coterminous uud capable oi iormmg one continuous tract ot territory, we nuyut expect tue uspirationii lur unity 10 loilow tnu bume course j as Biniiiur movements in Gornmuy and ' Australia. In each oi thoso countries tho practical benelits ot n Customs union inauced closer political relations. A con- j siderablc number ol people uio now urging preiureutiul trade relations uithui the Empire, to be lollowcd by uu Imperial ' Zdiiverein, and later still by organised*, political union. The final remit, even if it bo altogether desirable, must take { a very long tune to achieve. There in grave dangur of over-stnunmg tho silken bonds it union be accomplished too rapidly. Tho Marquis of faiusbuiy a lew weeks ago uttered a uaniiug note in this connection, and Lord Roguery, uccoiding to a cable messugu oi ye^ioidny, has expressed grave doubts ot tho wisdom ! of the proliiniuary steps being tuken lor tho formation of a British Zollvui-oin. " A i corn-tax," ho is rupoitcd to have snid, ' " would bo a prelude to a Zollverein, con- | ferring on the co.outes tho contiol of tho ! British fiscal sysic n. While ho was unable to dismiss hunuiuirily any proposal for a closer union, ho would lequne convincing aiguiueuts before he would accept this one." At tho same time, it must be admitted, * tho trend of public opinion in tho self-governing colonies is I towards preferential tiade, it not a (Jus- j toms union, within the Empire Tho Protectionists in the Old Country, who rely mainly upon tho agricultural sections of the population, have of late been reinforced man other quarters by those who fear protected foreign competition, and they see in the theory of Freetrude within the Empire and Protection against tho outside world a lever for dairying out their principles upon an Imperial scale. Tho self-governing colonies aie for tho most part Protectionist in their fiscal [ policy, and there seems for the time being at any rate little chanco of their I accepting Freetrade as the basis of lmporJtil union. The Old Country, on the other hand, is avowedly Frcotrade, and evon tho recently imposed corn-tax is said to bo due solely to the exigencies of rnvenuo. India and the Crown colonies, though they impose certain Customs duties, do so from tho point of view of revenue, and not of Protection. The question ia whether the United Kingdom and the dependencies more directly under its control are to modify their fiscal policy to meut the wishes of the self-governing colonies. Let us look at the question first from the colonial standpoint. Tho self-govern-ing colonies, tho bulk of whose expoil trade in 'with the Motherland, would, under present conditions, gam a great economic advantago from an Imperial Customs Union on a protectionist bisis or from the slighter concession of preferential trade/ If the Old Country imposed a low duty on, say, foreign butter, cheese, frozen meat, cattle, and cereals, remitting the duty, however, in whole or ! in part upon colonial >. produce, the colonial exporter would immediately have an udvantage in the markets of the United Kingdom and would be able, according to circumstances, to increase his -output at the exponse of the foreign producer or to raise his margin of profit. By far the •lafger portion of the people in the selfgoverning colonies is concerned with production directly or indirectly, and the majority would therefore be benefited by a preference in tho murkets of Great Britain. Such being the case, it is easy tq understand why tho greater colonies are favourable to preferential trade or an Imperial Customs Union. But tho statesmen of the Old Country cannot reasonably bo expectod to give a concession to tho ten or twelve millions of Australia* New Zealand, Oanaua and wjiite South Africa at the expense of tho forty odd millions of the United Kingdom unless they can see an immediate btnefit, to be received by tho people ot Gri-ut Bu'tuin and lieland also. Tho economic advantages of mutual .profereucu cannot be neurly so greut for tho Olu Country as for the Kulf-governing colonies. Tho population of the United Kingdom is not primarily concerned with production. The occupations of tho people depend upon commerce, exchange, und other functions which CKpiind with nee trade nnd are curtailed by protection quite As much as, if not moio, than upon production pure find simple. Then again, while Uie export tuido of the colonies is almost entirely with the Old Country that of the lnlter with the colonies iR a comparatively small portion of the whole. 11l 1000, for instance, the lust year for 'which we havo detailed it-turn 1 ;, the totivl expoit trade of tin 1 Uuitpil Kingdom uas Of this £253,0-19,700 wnR to foreign couriliiet and .C 102.024-.054 to Biitish po^csion". Hero Hiitisli pove^iuus include India uikl (he Crown ool'mio*, as Mell ns the to'f-jjtneinuiK colm^i 1 - 1 . .A", a mutter oi fuct. the exruits to Au^li alii, Now Zn'.p.il, Cunydii, Xe,-.. iuuro". mil, and K.iutli ■'"•"«. i I'ui'jj.iteii '«> •!) i,ioi e tlrni X'Ti , Tv./kH or 'i liitie ivoio ; him one:i,C!,lh o; wjo whole. Tii'j o^vorii to

Australia uud Xew Ze.uand together amounted to little more limn thoso to iTugioe, and to considerably less than those to either Guiiuany or the United [States. Those to Auslialht, Xew Zu.tland, and Canada were together about equal to tho?e to Germuny. India alone takes from Great Britain more than-Aus-tralia and New Zealand together. Ceylon and the Straits Hetllotnents, it is worth noting, take very little less of the Old Country's produce than New Zealand, while the United States, Argentina, Belgium, Brazil, France, Germany, Holland, Italy, Japan, Russia, Spain, sVeden, and Egypt euch take more. Some years when ago, when the late Mr. Cecil Rhodes advocated an Imperial Customs Union, Lord Rothschild said: — " A Customs Union is possible for the English-speaking race. It is not possible for tho British Empire. Whereas, if the Umpire and the Republic were to form one Customs Union, the Freetrade area within tho union would bo sufficiently large to compensate for the economic loss occasioned by the imposition of duties upon territories whioh lay outside the union." Although Lord Rothschild's views are porhaps too dogmatically stated, tho fact remains from the statistics referred to above that any narrowing of trade would mean an economic loss to tho Old Country, because the selfgoverning colonies have not the population to compensate for the possible loss of trade with foreign countries that would follow upon a preferential tariff. Further, under present conditions, the Empire cannot supply tho Old Country with all the foodstuffs she requires. The greater part of her imported meat, cereals, and dairy produce comes from foroign, countries, not from tho colonies, and a preferential duty would therefore mean a burden of taxation upon the poorer classes, for the articles which the colonies wish to be taxed in order that a preference may be given to colonial produce are common necessaries like corn, meat, and butter. In other words, Freetraders would impress upon the British working man that his table was being taxed for the benefit of colonial producers and incidentally of British rural landowners. Jf the colonies cannot give the United Kingdom an adequate economical equivalent for the concession they oak, can they poiijt to other advantages that might result from preferential trade within the Empire? Wo think they can. In the first place, a preferential duty on foreign foodstuffs would help British agriculturo as well as colonial producers. It would tend to repopulato the country districts, and so to raise a population which would in the hour of need be better fitted for defence. It would bind the pennies closer to tho Motherland, and • strengthen the Empire against foreign i ' 'icaion, although at the same time it would increase foreign hostility, which is at present kept in check by Britain's open ports. With tfho United States an Enplish-speakintr Customs Union would bo self-con tainsd. but is it po«Bible that the Republic would ever come -into such a union? We have only dealt ivith some of the more pronounced features, favourable and unfavourable, of the proposals to which Mr. Seridott bus ro completely n'edged himself, hut enoueh has been said to show that the prob'ems raised cannot with safety be sottlcd in an off-hand or reckless way.

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https://paperspast.natlib.govt.nz/newspapers/EP19020603.2.13

Bibliographic details

Evening Post, Evening Post, Volume LXIII, Issue 131, 3 June 1902

Word Count
1,556

TUESDAY, JUNE 3, 1902. THE TRADE OF THE EMPIRE. Evening Post, Volume LXIII, Issue 131, 3 June 1902

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