British Commonwealth Preferential Tariff Agreement

Imperial preference in the interwar period has been the subject of much research. According to de Bromhead et al. (2017), the imperial preference adopted by Britain under the Ottawa Accords of 1932 explains most of the increase in the Empire`s share of British imports between 1930 (27%) and 1935 (39%). A prerequisite for Britain`s acceptance of imperial preference was the abandonment of free trade (largely) under the Duties Imports Act of 1932. Until then, the traditional policy of free trade meant that there was no room for manoeuvre to extend preferential duties to imports from the Empire. I would like to assure the House that we have not lost sight of the importance of the Commonwealth system of preferences. How could we? But it is no less important to work for an expanding Britain and an expanding Commonwealth in expanding world trade. This is the context that we must always keep in mind. It would be a mistake to lose sight of the great opportunities for global trade by focusing our attention exclusively on tariffs and preferences. Today, most of the Commonwealth`s trade has grown without preferences. It has appreciated over the years due to declining preference shares and preference margins, although trade still benefits from preferences. Since the war, the entire system has been weakened by the erosion of specific preferences due to inflation. It was also weakened by the G.A.T.T.

who froze the entire system at the level of 1947, with the exception of one or two colonial renunciations. It is also true that some Commonwealth countries – Pakistan, Australia and New Zealand – have called for the Ottawa agreements to be revised downwards. I do not agree with it, because the first duty of every government is to protect its own people, and if the common countries find that this is the best way to create their own industries and they feel that it is the best policy in the long-term interest of their people, they are obviously undoubtedly rigorous in doing so. But when they tell the British exporter that they have increased tariffs or imposed a quota limit on its goods, they do not say further: « But of course we have found an alternative market for you ». I therefore think that they have little right to insist on the fact that it is now our duty to find them other markets if some are closed because of our entry into the E.E.C. I am sure that the honourable Member does not want to mislead the House. He will agree that there are a large number of important raw materials that are already imported from any source of tariffs, such as jute and rubber. Brexit has sparked interest in trade deals between Britain and the Commonwealth. This set a precedent in the Edwardian era, when the Dominions adopted a policy of imperial preference vis-à-vis imports from Britain. This column argues that New Zealand`s policy of imperial preference, adopted in 1903, was ineffective in diverting trade to Britain, indicating that trade policy within the British Empire or Commonwealth did not always achieve what it wanted. By the end of the nineteenth century, the Dominions had customs autonomy and were protectionist to varying degrees. Unlike Britain, the Dominions were thus able to adopt a policy of imperial preference with regard to their imports.

The end of the Second World War severely affected the prospects for a Commonwealth trade agreement. The United States became the leading political and economic power and its policy was to promote general free trade, including through the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (GATT). The Bretton Woods Conference, held in New Hampshire in 1944, had also established a direct link between the value of gold and the U.S. dollar, thus establishing it as the world`s reserve currency. . . .