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INTERCOLONIAL FREETRADE.

The question of intercolonial Freetrade—first mooted in 1857j and since then revived at more or less frequent intervals—is rapidly becoming one of the foremost politico-economical problems of the day. In fact it may be said to have passed beyond the domain of theoretical politics, for it is daily more and more engaging the attention of practical business men, who, above all others, are able to comprehend the stupendous folly of girding in each colony with a stone wall of Protection as against all its neighbors. A most valuable and interesting contribution to the study of this subject has recently been furnished by Mr Beaven, of Christchurch, in the shape of a paper on ‘ Intercolonial Reciprocity,’ read before the Industrial Association of that city. His definition of tha phrase he has chosen, probably in deference to the prejudices of his audience, is: “ Freetrade between the several colo- “ nies of Australasia, with a Customs “union between them based on a “ uniform tariff against the rest of the “world.” Which means that the producers and manufacturers of any one colony shall send their produce or manufactures into any of the other colonies of the group without paying any duty whatever. Of course this would include the free interchange of ordinary merchandise—“the Customs “duties collected upon the same scale “of tariff payments being paid into “one common fund, to be yearly “ divided between the several colonies “in proportion to their population.” The latter suggestion appears to be an unnecessary and embarrassing condition, because there is no equality of use or consumption as between the various colonies. The first part of the proposition, therefore, should first be determined, leaving each colony in the meantime to appropriate such Customs duties as may be collected within its boundaries. Such an arrangement must be at least preliminary, although it may be conceded that, if merchandise not of colonial production is to be imported free of duty from one colony to another, it will be necessary to agree upon a uniform tariff for such goods. It seems to us, however, that it will be sufficient for the present to allow of the free importation of colonial produce and manufactures, the benefit derivable from which it would be difficult to over-estimate, “ The people of the colonies,” says Mr Beaven, “are one in race, one in “ language, one in the same high “ aspiration to build up a community “free mentally, religiously, and poli- “ tically. Our mode of life socially is “equal; the standards of education, “ comfort, and luxury are identical in “all the colonies of the group. The “wages earned by our artisans and “ laborers are on a level; therefore “ there is no obstacle to our becoming “one brotherhood, with common in- “ terests and a common tariff, without “ danger to either one colony of the “League.” He proceeds to point out that each colony produces some articles of commerce which are not common to the others, and that even in regard to manufactures there are differences in this respect, and that the free interchange cf these commodities would practically benefit each and alh This is so evident a truth that it requires no argument. Naturally Mr Beaven lays great stress upon the advantages to be derived from the full development of natural resources. “To do “ this with the least possible amount “ of waste, the labor and energies of a “people must be directed into such “ channels as each colony is most likely “to attain pre-eminence in. Climatic “influences will make themselves “felt.” Obviously it would be absurd for New Zealand to compete with the Australian colonies in wine or sugar or oil; and Victoria,’with her denser population, must be able to manufacture many lines cheaper than we can. On the other hand, this Colony is the granary of the group. It has no rival in dairy produce; and even in some classes of manufactured goods, such as woollens, the productions of New Zealand are unapproachable for excellence. These are only a few items out of many that could be quoted. Why should the colonies tax each other, to the manifest injury and loss of their own people? Victoria has lately increased the duties on our agricultural produce—so have South Australia and New South Wales Clearly we cannot complain, since we retaliate by taxing the produce of those colonies. There was an absurd American story of a Senator proposing a tax on eggs to protect the nativehens against “the pauper fowls of Europe.” The joke levelled at the Protectionists of the United States has been converted into a reality in Victoria, where Protection runs rampant. But, in point of fact, this is no worse than our taxing Australian timber required for our own use. America has been hardly dealt with by being held up as a model Protection country. There is absolute Freetrade as between State and State, and that is precisely what is sought for in the Australasias as between colony and colony. From time to time all the leading colonies in conference assembled have passed resolutions affirming the desirability of establishing intercolonial Freetrade, “based upon a Customs union with a uniform tariff," Such was the outcome of the last conference on the subject held at Sydney, when the Victorian, Tasmanian, and New South Wales Chambers of Commerce were represented. Mr Beaven is of opinion that New South Wales stops the way

by her rigid adherence to the principles of Freetrade, and that the day will come—and that soon—when the elder Colony will follow the example of her neighbors and declare for Protection. There are signs and tokens that such a result is probable ; and when that takes place the question of intercolonial Freetrade will be practically solved. Victoria will no longer have all New South Wales as an open market for her manufactures; and, in her own interests, she must revert to Freetrade as laetween tlie colonies, Strange as it may at first sight appear, the growing desire for intercolonial Freetrade is the outcome of intercolonial Protection. It is the natural reaction of sound business principles against the cramping effects of commercial restriction resulting from the operation of Protection. The wider the field of operation the more will local industries flourish ; and small indeed will be the sphere of Victorian commerce when it is crippled by retaliatory duties. The development of its commerce is absolutely essential to the vitality of a nation, and year by year the external commerce of Victoria becomes of less magnitude. When she is girt round with a congeries of colonies, each protected against her by hostile tariffs, she will be compelled to understand that there is danger in colonial isolation, and that commercial safety is to be found in Australasian unity. “If,” says Mr Heaven (and we heartily agree with him), “ Australia is to be “the mistress of the Southern Seas, “ and carry the thousand Isles of the “ Pacific in her train, she must unite. “With her products raised on the “ most economical basis of adaptability, “ our joint productions will command “an extensive commerce, not only “ amongst ourselves, on a free basis, “but even against hostile tariffs in “ other parts of the globe.” At present each colony is playing its own selfish game, to the mutual injury of all. It goes without saying that such a commercial federation as Mr Heaven advocates would be an important factor in promoting the welfare of each, and the prosperity of all. And in the absence of any prospect of the “ federation of the nations ” such as the poet dreams of, it is desirable that we should as speedily as possible comnass the federation of the Australias—in trade and commerce first, leaving other things to follow in the ripeness of time. .

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Permanent link to this item

https://paperspast.natlib.govt.nz/newspapers/ESD18890930.2.2

Bibliographic details

INTERCOLONIAL FREETRADE., Evening Star, Issue 8025, 30 September 1889

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1,284

INTERCOLONIAL FREETRADE. Evening Star, Issue 8025, 30 September 1889

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