The Ottawa Agreement 1932

Steven E. Lobell: “Second Image Reversed Politics: Britain`s Choice of Freer Trade or Imperial Preferences, 1903-1906, 1917-1923, 1930-1932.” International Studies Quarterly 43 (1999): 671-694. MPs who dared to laugh will listen to the arguments used in last February`s debate by the Noble Lord the Member for Horsham (Earl Winterton), so exhausted by his efforts to help the government last night that he probably can`t be here now. The good hon gentleman, the Member for Tamworth (Sir A. Steel-Maitland), addressed exactly the same point as the one I am addressing. He stressed that a negotiation action was under way and that this obligation to encourage leading consumers to pay more than they would have to pay would be invoked. Hon. MEPs stressed the seriousness of the situation in the government. They pointed out that it was a monopoly that was trying to use its power to increase the price to 1934 for the consumer, and they tabled an amendment to add the head to the Free List.

This amendment was withdrawn by the Chancellor of the Exchequer on a concrete commitment which I will quote in the Assembly. He said: we have made it clear in previous statements on this bill that the government does not intend to tolerate inappropriate exploitation of the consumer by those who profit from the introduction of import duties…. I would also say that the government itself will not hesitate to take action if the facts come forward as my noble friend presented them to Parliament. ” [OFFICIAL REPORT, February 25, 1932; Collar. 680-81, 262.] What has the Chancellor done and what will the government do about it? Since that debate, the main consumers – very representative people – who buy lead for battery production in this country have so far communicated twice with the Chancellor of the Exchequer, eight times with the advisory committee and once with the president of the Ministry of Commerce. They may have received perfectly polite answers, but no satisfaction with what they were able to accomplish. Indeed, they felt that no serious attention was being paid to the strong case they raised. Lead consumption in the UK is 200,000 tonnes per year. All of this could undoubtedly be provided by the Dominions.

If you take a moderate premium that you asked for, 7s. 6d. – I`m not going to put it on the 15. to whom you have asked — that is a request for $75,000 a year for these Dominion interests that are taxed on the major consumers in this country. Isn`t that exploitation? I hope that the minister who responds will say, in the sense of the Chancellor`s commitment, that it is unjustified exploitation or not, and if so – and this $75,000-a-year retaliation is clearly one of them – what steps will the government take to keep its promises after so long? At the conference, the group admitted the failure of the gold standard and renounced attempts to return. The meeting also worked to create an area with limited tariffs within the British Empire, but with high tariffs with the rest of the world. This was called “imperial preference” or “Empire free trade” according to the principle of “original producers first, empire producers in second place and foreign producers last.”

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