French Interests and Policies in the Far East

By Roger Levy; Andrew Roth et al. | Go to book overview

CHAPTER IV
FRENCH TRADE IN SOUTHEAST ASIA AND IN THE PACIFIC

The Anglo-French Condominium in the New Hebrides

The conventions of 1906 and 1914 established a dual government in the New Hebrides. The French and British commissioners exercise jurisdiction over their own people, and there is a dual system of courts. The duality is complete: both French and British money are in circulation. Each government provides the money for its own administration through local taxes. If the taxes are not sufficient to meet expenses, the deficit has, since 1931, been shared equally by the two powers.

Recent developments in the New Hebrides indicate that French are rapidly eclipsing British interests. In 1927 there were 777 French inhabitants as against 245 English, and this disparity is increasing. Nevertheless, trade figures for 1936 show that 75 per cent of the imports came from the British Empire, especially Australia, while 92 per cent of the exports (copra, cacao and coffee) went to France and the French colonies, the British Empire taking only 6.5 per cent.

Since native labor is insufficient to meet the needs of the planters, France has imported Annamite labor on a contract basis. In accordance with the "White Australia" policy, the English have resolutely refused to introduce this system, with the result that British plantations have often suffered in comparison with the French, and deep dissatisfaction has spread among the British. The import of Annamite labor, which ceased in 1931, is being resumed in French Oceania, but very small numbers are involved.1

____________________
1
Australia feels concern for the future of the New Hebrides group: "In these islands there is an embarrassing duality in everything. In the existing state of things, France could reasonably demand the control of the New Hebrides. Her trade has increased while that of Great Britain has fallen off. The French population is four times as numerous as the English. The ridiculous thing is that not all the French citizens are French by birth. The British colonists have found themselves so handicapped that many of them have asked for French

-47-

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