No. 95 NAI DFA LN 30(b)
Geneva, May 1927
In order to appreciate the purpose and aim of the Report presented by the World Economic Conference it is necessary to have a clear understanding of the particular type of economic problem which it was summoned to consider.
Sir Arthur Salter, Director of the Economic and Finance Section of the League of Nations, in an address which he delivered before the Manchester Chamber of Commerce on the 28th January last, stated that the population of the world as a whole had increased from 1913 to 1925 by 5 per cent, but the production of foodstuffs and raw materials by nearly 16 per cent. Therefore, in the world as a whole not only was the total income greater, but the total wealth per head of population was greater. Even in Europe, the population had increased in the same interval by about 1 per cent and production by between 4 and 5 per cent. But the trade of Europe has fallen by perhaps 10 per cent and it was in the circumstances of this significant fact, as Sir Arthur Salter put it, that the International Economic Conference was about to meet.
Hence, the Conference was summoned not so much for the purpose of devising plans for increasing production as for that of promoting international trade by means of the removal or diminution of the national fiscal and other barriers by which it is at present impeded. In the circumstances, commerce, finance and manufacturing industry in the exporting countries were interested in the success of the conference, and it was the alliance of these three interests backed up by the powerful advocacy of some of the ablest and best-known men to be found in commerce, industry and finance, that determined the complexion of the report as adopted.
Scant consideration was given to the claims or ambitions of industrially backward countries seeking for a fuller development of their own economic life. The Chairman in his concluding general survey and summary aptly described the position by saying (p. 6), 'the Conference, as a world conference composed of those who represent different interests and policies in every quarter of the globe, has considered economic problems in their international aspects and adopted an international point of view'. Many of the spokesmen openly expressed their dislike of any industrial development except under conditions of the fullest competition, although it is quite apparent that the realisation of such conditions would imply the further centralisation of industry and wealth in those countries at present possessing the strongest industrial and commercial equipment.
Against such a background it will not be difficult to appreciate the significance of the various resolutions relating to customs tariffs, import and export prohibitions and restrictions, subsidies, flag discrimination and differential transport rates and facilities.
The propaganda value of the report will doubtless prove to be considerable and the campaign against restrictions upon international trade is, as a result, likely to be intensified and to become more effective in the future.
These facts are of considerable significance in a country like the Irish Free State. Should it at a later date decide that a fuller exercise of its powers for such purposes as the promotion of its manufacturing industry, the development of its shipping or the development of agriculture is desirable, it may find itself much embarrassed in the formulation of a policy by the prevailing trend of opinion in other countries and by the existence of international agreements to which the present Conference may give birth. It is one thing for a State to embark upon a policy of this character when the tendency is the same in other countries, and quite another thing to do so in the face of a contrary tendency and a hostile world opinion. For these reasons alone, we feel that the Report and Resolutions of this Conference and tendency in world thought which they are likely to foster are worthy of the earnest consideration of the Government.
A further step in the direction of giving greater reality to the recommendations of the Conference will be taken next November when the Diplomatic Conference convened for the 14th of that month will consider the draft International Convention prepared by the Economic Committee of the League of Nations for the abolition of Import and Export Prohibitions and Restrictions.
The Royal Irish Academy's Documents on Irish Foreign Policy series has published an eBook of confidential correspondence on the 1921 Anglo-Irish Treaty negotiations.
The international network of Editors of Diplomatic Documents was founded in 1988. Delegations from different parts of the world met for the first time in London in 1989.
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