The British Way to Recovery: Plans and Policies in Great Britain, Australia, and Canada

By Herbert Heaton | Go to book overview

CHAPTER SIX
BATTLES, BARGAINS, BOATS, AND BUILDINGS

WHEN THE NEW COMMERCIAL POLICY WAS PRESENTED TO parliament early in 1932 seven virtues were claimed for it. It would "transfer to our own factories and our own fields work which is now done elsewhere"; in preceding chapters we have seen the extent to which this has been done. But at the same time it would be used to maintain and expand exports. There would be increased imperial preferences, there would be reciprocal treaties, and there would be threats of retaliation against countries which discriminated against British wares. The story of the preferences has been told. That of the other two measures can be briefly set forth; in the light of American hopes for expanding exports it has a special interest.

For fifty years British protectionists had contended that a free trade country was helpless in face of attack. Other governments, and even dominions, raised their tariff walls with impunity, and there could be no effective action to make them stay their hand. Mr. Baldwin in 1932 rapped the knuckles of those who declared that the new commercial policy would lead to trade wars. Had not Britain been in such a war for decades? War was war, even if one side was shelled without being able to answer. The government was asking for a spade with which to dig deeper the trade channels to countries that

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