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THE SUGAR CONVENTION., Issue 7907, 15 May 1889
THE SUGAR CONVENTION.
A pew days ago we were informed by a brief cablegram that “ in the House “ of Commons Baron De Worms, re- “ plying to a question, said the “ colonies had not expressed any “ opinion on the subject of the “amended Sugar Convention of last “ year. It had been referred to Sir “T. H. Farrar.” So scanty has been the information vouchsafed respecting this Convention, that probably most people will wonder what the colonies have to do with the matter. But, in fact, the colonies at large, and especially the sugar-producing colonies, are very much interested in it, as we shall presently show. The reference to Sir T. H. Farrar in this connection is, we admit, incomprehensible j for this gentleman—who was Secretary to the Board of Trade under the Gladstone Administration, and is the author of an admirable treatise on ‘Fairtrade and Freetrade’—had already, in February last, published a series of letters absolutely condemnatory of the Convention. Moreover, Baron De Worms has had sundry passages of arms with Sir T. H. Farrar at Liverpool, Greenock, and elsewhere touching these very letters. The latter charges the Baron, who may be regarded as the author of the Convention, with being “ simply the unintelligent mouthpiece “of the interests of West India “ planters and British sugar refiners”; and Baron De Worms retorts in kind.
The “ high contracting parties ” (as the diplomatic phrase goes) in this business are Great Britain, Germany, Austria, Belgium, Spain, Italy, the Netherlands, and Russia. Of these, Austria and Belgium reserve their final adherence until all European sugarproducing and consuming countries also adhere. France is not a party to the contract. Denmark, Sweden, Brazil, and the United States hold aloof altogether. It will be seen that the proposed contract is anything but general, and that some of the largest sugar-producing countries in the world decline to enter into it. The effect, therefore, of the Articles of the Convention, if they should become law, will be to boycott sugar from these countries, and to prevent our own people from reaping the benefit of purchasing sugar cheaply from bountygiving countries. To explain this, we quote a summary of the provisions of the Convention, as affecting the subjects of the British Empire, given by Sir T. H. Farbab, thus:— 1. If in the United Kingdom any tax is hereafter imposed on sugar, all refining shall be done in bond.
2. If, and where, any British colony levies a tax on sugar, then, unless the colony has repudiated the Convention , the manufacture and refining of sugar in that colony shall be carried on in bond,
3. No British Chancellor of the Exchequer shall ever propose a differential tax on any sugar coming to the United Kingdom from any of the parties to the Convention.
4. No British Chancellor of the Exchequer shall ever propose any measure giving to British colonial sugar any such special favors as all the other parties to the Convention which have colonies give to their own colonial sugars. 5. No British colony shall levy any higher duty on beet-root sugar than it levies on cane sugar, and any colony which now levies such higher tax shall repeal it at once.
6. Parliament shall provide for a share of the expenses of an international commission, whose business it shall be to inspect and supervise the sugar trade in every sugarproducing country throughout the world, and to report if in any case any bounty, open or disguised, is given on the manufacture or export of sugar. 7. If a majority of the parties to the Convention decide that in any country there aro bounties on sugar, open or disguised, it will be the duty of Her Majesty’s Government to exclude the sugar of that country from the ports of the United Kingdom. * * * * *
9. If a majority of the parties to the Convention decide that in any country there are bounties on sugar, open or disguised, it shall be the duty of every British colony , unless it has repudiated the Convention, to take similar steps to exclude the sugar of that country from its ports.
It is apparent from the foregoing that the colonies are very deeply interested in the Bill now before the Imperial Parliament for giving effect to the proposals of the Convention. Not only the people of the Mother Country, but those of the colonies also, are to be prohibited from purchasing' sugar from bounty-giving countries. The exact words of Article 7 are as follows : “ present Convention coming into force, “ all raw sugar, refined sugar, molasses, “ or glucose coming from any countries, “ colonies, or foreign possessions main- “ tabling the system of open or dis- “ guised bounties on the manufacture “or exportation of sugar shall be “excluded from the territories of “the high contracting Powers.” It is not certain that New Zealand itself would not be boycotted under this system; not that it would affect her much, because she does not at present produce sugar. But there is an enactment in the Statute Book assuring a preferential duty of one halfpenny per pound in favor of beetroot sugar manufactured in New Zealand. Any colony may withdraw from the Convention, but it will not gain anything by so doing, because such withdrawal will cause it to be included in the list of boycotted countries.
The only possible effect of such fiscal arrangements as are here proposed would be to raise the price of sugar to the British consumer for the benefit of West India planters and British sugar refiners, as alleged by Sir T. H. Farrar. The many would have to pay for the benefit of the few. The bounties paid by France, Germany, Austria, Belgium, and Holland' amount to eight millions sterling per annum, and this is an absolute gift to the sugar consumers of Britain and her
colonies. That the system of bounties is bad for the exporting countries, is a theoretical and practical truth, but that it is good for the consumers in importing nations is a practical fact. If these countries are so unwise as to tax their own people, and to give us cheap sugar, on the talla cious plea of protection to native industry, there is no reason why we should refuse the gift and tax our selves to keep the o fie ring away. _ The proposal is one of the strange inconsistencies of a policy of Protection Here we have France and Germany making us a present of, say, a penny per pound on our sugar, and British statesmen are devising means to prevent the acceptance of the boon. If it pays Continental countries to pursue their present course, we certainly have no reason to complain of the result so far as we are concerned. And if it does not pay them to waste their finances in this manner, they will soon find it out and abolish the bounties. The United States, with greater wisdom, refuses to have anything to do with the Convention ; and yet Protection is in the ascendant there. Beet-root sugar is being imported into the States in considerable quantities, although that is a sugar-producing country. But Protectionist as America is, she is much too prudent to be duped into levying retaliatory taxation on one of the prime necessaries of life. And it is to be hoped—nay, it is pretty certain—that the rash and unworkable proposals of Baron De Worms will be rejected by the British Parliament,
THE SUGAR CONVENTION., Issue 7907, 15 May 1889
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