Front Page Titles (by Subject) CHAPTER V: FRANCE AND THE NEW TARIFF - The Comedy of Protection
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CHAPTER V: FRANCE AND THE NEW TARIFF - Yves Guyot, The Comedy of Protection 
The Comedy of Protection, trans. M.A. Hamilton (London: Hodder and Stoughton, 1906).
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FRANCE AND THE NEW TARIFF
I. The alarmists and the new tariff—Exception of special goods—What we buy from Germany and what we sell to Germany—Difference in price between exported and imported goods—II. Commercial treaties of February, 1905—III. Clause 11 of the Frankfort Treaty—“The vigilant attention of the public authorities.”
In France, of course, there was a great throwing about of ink. The alarmists, always sure of commanding a ready hearing, immediately began to scream like eagles, calling for the vigilance of the public authorities. The German tariff was conceived in the rigid spirit of the Prussian bureaucracy, with the intention of evading some of the consequences of the most favoured nation clause of the Frankfort Treaty, as it affected France, by so raising the Customs tariff as to exclude from the commercial treaties specialities which France sends to Germany. Such measures were certainly not likely to assist the expansion of French trade, but an examination into the nature of our commerce proves that they could have no very far-reaching effect upon it. What do we sell to Germany, and what do we buy from her? Taking Mr. Noel’s report:—
I admit that these figures do not exactly tally with those of the German Customs tariff returns:—
It would be interesting to be given some explanation by Mr. Noel for his use in a Parliamentary Paper of figures given first by the French and then by the German Customs House.
Confining ourselves to the French Commercial Table,1 and giving amount as well as price, our imports from Germany fall into nine classes, at more than £600,000 for each class:—
Our exports are less concentrated. There are only six classes of goods whose value is above £600,000: wool and woollen waste, £2,960,000; fur and leather (undressed), £1,200,000; and raw cotton, £600,000.
Over and above the raw materials above there are three classes of characteristically French goods:—
The rest of our exports is composed of small units. Mr. Noel declares, “German competition seriously threatens our charcoal, machinery, paper, books, and engraving.” Since charcoal is a raw material of which our mines cannot supply the necessary quantity, we have no reason to complain of its importation. If machinery is imported it is presumably for use; and if it is imported in spite of duties the probable cause is that those who wish to use it cannot get it in France. As for paper, the Report of the Customs Commissioners declares that the importation of paper is increased 40 per cent. to 50 per cent. by duties in the consuming country. In printing, lithography, and engraving we do not suffer from lack of talent; it must be that what is produced is too expensive, and it is worth while examining the cause of this, which Protectionists neglect to do. We import some £5,000,000 of chemicals and only send Germany £625,000 worth. Germany has certainly made extraordinary progress in an industry for which her industrial skill seems pre-eminently adapted. Utilising the aid of science, she has gone to the laboratories to reinforce her practice with theory. But the chemicals that we buy are raw materials, and since we sell to Germany an amount almost equal to a quarter of our total import, Germany certainly possesses no monopoly there.
Germany buys £560,000 worth of silk from us and sells us £477,600 worth: probably the quality is not the same in each case, since pure black silks are valued at 38s., and on export at 60s., and cream silk at 54s., and 60s. on export. In clothes and underclothes we export £758,960 worth and get £205,800 worth from Germany; and here again it is probable that the same name covers a difference of quality and price. The richer Germany grows the greater will be her demand for our high-class wines and the articles of luxury and elegance in whose production we excel all other nations. In 1887 we sold her £529,320 worth of silk and £155,480 worth of clothes and made-up linen goods. Germany’s industrial progress has stimulated, and not repressed, our exportation. The commercial treaties concluded by the German Government with Italy, Belgium, Russia, Roumania, Servia, Switzerland, and Austria Hungary were passed in February, 1905; they take effect in 1906 and terminate on December 31, 1917.
The Protectionist crisis in Germany has not gone beyond the creation of commercial treaties; it changed the spirit of Caprivi’s policy while preserving his methods. It would have been interesting if Mr. Noel, in his historical sketch of German commercial progress, had shown the development of the Franco-German exchanges: he would then have seen that neither nation had any reason to complain of that eleventh clause of the Frankfort Treaty which imposed on each “a system of reciprocity on the basis of the most favoured nation clause.” The Paris Chamber of Commerce observed that this article only took into account six nations—England, Belgium, the Low Countries, Switzerland, Austria, and Russia—while Germany apparently extended it to cover more than 40: a horrible misfortune indeed!—including San Marino and Hawai; and that if Germany extended most favoured nation treatment to 34 nations over and above the six cited in the Frankfort Treaty, France would find herself in a position of inferiority. In proof of this the arrangement concluded between Germany and the United States on July 10, 1900, was brought forward. Certainly the United States was not included in Clause 11, but Clause 1 declares that Germany concedes to them the reduced duties granted to the nations enumerated in Clause 11. Mr. Noel calls the “attention of the authorities” to the tariff of the new treaty. Why? The new tariff might affect French fruit—that would certainly be annoying; but what use would there be in our attacking German fruit, which does not come into France? The new tariffs threatened our wines. Mr. Noel spoke of the arrangement concluded between Germany and Spain. That is all very well, but are we to imitate Spain in offering something to Germany? He proposes to retaliate by an increased duty on leather; apparently we are too well shod. We are free, of course, to make any tariffs we like, since we are not bound by the commercial treaties; but does Mr. Noel think that this sort of teasing policy is likely to open German and other markets? while it would affect all our international relations through the most favoured nation clause, which by an extraordinary piece of good fortune was inserted in the Frankfort Treaty by Bismarck and Pouyer-Quertier, without their foreseeing any of its results. No French Foreign Minister would ever dream of demanding any modification of Clause 11 as long as the treaty stands—the reason it is surely needless to state.
Made for the Commission of Enquiry into Foreign Customs Tariffs, June 19, 1903.