The American Consul and American Trade

THE year just completed will be memorable in the annals of the American Consular Service by reason of the important reforms effected both by legislation and by administrative action. The Reorganization Act of Apri 15, 1906, while not so far-reaching as the authors of the measure intended, marks an unprecedentedly long step towards perfection; it classifies and grades the consular offices more equably than before; provides systematic inspection and supervision by five inspectors; requires all fees for acts done by consular officers to be accounted for and turned into the Treasury, and, at the same time, provides adequate salaries for principal officers; Americanizes the service by requiring all officers receiving $1000 per annum or more to be American citizens; prohibits principal officers from engaging in business or practicing law for private profit, and empowers the President to make suitable tariffs for the service. The civil service features of the original bill, that is, the requirement that admission to the service be through competitive examination by a board of three, including a representative of the United States Civil Service Commission, with provision that appointments be made to the lower grades, advancement being on merit only; and the feature authorizing the President to transfer consular officers from one post to another in the same grade, without a new constitutional appointment, were all eliminated prior to enactment.

Secretary Root’s Merit System

Important as are the reforms accomplished, or made possible, by the new legislation, the reorganization would lose much of its effectiveness were it not accompanied by the introduction in the Department of State of an admirable merit system, devised by Secretary Root to make amends, so far as possible, for the omission from the law of the civilservice features which would have made holding a consulship a career equal in security of tenure and progressive promotion to that enjoyed by officers in our army or navy. As has been reported in the press and referred to in congressional hearings, there has been established in the State Department an efficiency-record of all consular officers, which is made up from all sources of information available to the department. In the determination of the relative efficiency of each officer, the ability, promptness, and diligence displayed by him in the performance of all his official duties, his personal conduct while in office, and the character of his trade-reports are all made a matter of permanent record, thereby preserving evidence of meritorious service, as well as disclosing every instance of failure on the part of a consul to come up to the proper standard.

This new efficiency-record is consulted by the Secretary of State and brought to the attention of the President, in determining questions of promotion, transfer, and retention in office; and thus, with simple machinery, the secretary has vitalized the new legislation with the spirit of the merit features which were dropped in the course of enactment. This new policy has been further emphasized in the excellent regulations promulgated by the President under date of June 27, 1906, to govern appointments and promotions of consuls-general and consuls. Strange as it may seem to the professional office-seeker, the time has actually arrived when highly meritorious service counts for more than political influence; the commendatory features of the consul’s efficiency-record for more than the names on his “papers” on file.

Influence of the System on Consular Reports

It can easily be understood what a splendid incentive Secretary Root has offered to consular officers by the establishment of this permanent efficiency-record. In no phase of consular activities is its beneficial influence greater than in the matter of official efforts for the protection and development of our foreign trade interests, especially in the making of reports for publication onO commercial and industrial subjects, and in trade correspondence with the American business public. In past years the ambitious consul who has contributed many valuable reports to the government publications has found his chief, if not his only, reward in the pride of authorship and, sometimes, in appreciation on the part of the business interests benefited; but as regards the official record of his work, it might as well have been inscribed upon the sands, for it was sure to be washed away by the tide of the next administration. Under Secretary Root’s system, however, good work in this field is so recorded as to furnish a reasonable guaranty that it will not go unrewarded, whatever the vicissitudes of national politics.

Every consular officer in the service is, of course, aware of this system and policy, and the results have already been very gratifying as respects the quality, as well as number, of the trade reports received. Their general standard is much higher than formerly, and an unusual proportion shows discrimination in choice of material, and ability and painstaking in treatment of the subject; while carelessly prepared and valueless contributions are rarely received. All this operates directly to the advantage of American manufacturers and exporters; in fact, it is not an extravagant statement to say that they will profit as much from improvement in this branch of consular work as from the legislative reforms.

Importance of Consular Trade Services

While the general efficiency of American consular officers depends upon satisfactory performance of a great variety of duties imposed upon them by law and departmental regulations, there is no feature of their official work that is so much in public evidence as their reports upon commercial, industrial, and miscellaneous subjects, published first in the daily periodical of the Department of Commerce and Labor entitled “ Daily Consular and Trade Reports,” and then reprinted in the “Monthly Consular and Trade Reports” issued by the same department. The service thus rendered to American commerce and industry is very important. Moreover, consular officers, besides contributing these reports and voluntarily exerting themselves in other ways to promote American commercial expansion, supply, through correspondence conducted under the supervision of the Department of State, a great mass of valuable information to the business firms and commercial bodies of this country. The department has recently issued circular instructions with a view of raising this branch of official assistance to exporting interests to the highest possible degree of effectiveness.

There can be no doubt that the published reports of our consuls have constituted an important factor in the phenomenal development of the foreign commerce of the United States in the last twenty-five years. The monthly publication of consular reports was begun in 1880. In that year the total exports of merchandise from the United States to the world amounted to $836,000,000, while in the fiscal year 1906 they amounted to $1,743,763,612. But the growth in the same period of the export trade in American manufactured goods is more significant, since the total exports include great staples such as cotton, petroleum, grains, and the like, which find their own markets and, as it were, sell themselves, under the operation of wellunderstood economic laws. The value of total exports of manufactured articles rose, in the period mentioned, from 103 to 603 million dollars, or an increase of 485 per cent. It is a reasonable conclusion that the intelligent efforts of our consular officers, directed unremittingly toward finding new and enlarged markets for these products of American skill and industry, have contributed vastly to the gratifying commercial expansion of the last quarter of a century.

This conclusion, however, is not entirely a matter of inference, for in numerous instances the American beneficiary interests have testified to the importance of the assistance rendered them by the consular service, through the medium of the reports, as well as through correspondence and personal efforts for the extension of American trade abroad. Many important contracts in foreign countries have been secured by American firms through intelligence published in the Consular Reports; many valuable markets have been discovered, and acquired markets safeguarded, as a result of the vigilance and prompt action of the consuls.

Secretary Evarts, the Founder of Consular Reports

It is a noteworthy fact that, so long ago as 1857, Secretary Marcy, in transmitting to Congress his first Annual Report on the Commercial Relations of the United States, said: “The interests of commerce can be viewed as secondary to none, and can scarcely be fostered with a care too sedulous.” The truth of this proposition appealed very strongly to Secretary Evarts, and on March 12, 1880, he made a report to the House of Representatives in compliance with a resolution of that body calling for information in relation to the publication and circulation of commercial reports, in which, among other important recommendations, he urged the frequent publication of consular and diplomatic reports upon commercial and kindred subjects of general interest, and the continuance of the practice of furnishing items of commercial information and abstracts of reports to newspapers. In addition he proposed the supplying of chambers of commerce, by means of circular letters, with information of immediate interest.

These recommendations were approved by Congress and given effect by an appropriation “for printing and distributing more frequently the publications by the Department of State of the consular and other commercial reports, including circular letters of chambers of commerce,” as well as for the necessary clerical force. The department issued instructions to consular officers to prepare and forward reports upon all subjects that might be “calculated to advance the commercial and industrial interests of the United States,” always, however, directing their principal efforts to the introduction and enlargement of American trade in their several districts.

The American consuls thereupon fell to writing trade reports for early publication, and in the course of a few weeks the department had a large supply of material on hand, which has never since failed. The first number of the “Monthly Consular Reports ” appeared in October, 1880, and was received with high appreciation by the business interests of the country, as well as the general public. For the first two or three years the Department of State was authorized to fix a price for the sale of the reports to the public; but this plan was soon abandoned and gratuitous distribution provided by law. In 1894, when the mailing list was revised, it embraced about 1200 newspapers and journals, 600 libraries, 150 boards of trade, and 3000 individuals. At the present time the edition is 7000 copies per month.

Daily Consular Reports

To Mr. Frederic Emory, formerly editor of the Consular Reports, belongs the honor of recommending the most valuable improvement that has ever been introduced in the governmental system for aiding the export trade: the establishment, in January, 1898, of a daily periodical containing freshly received consular reports, entitled at first “Advance Sheets, Consular Reports,” and, upon the transfer of its publication to the Department of Commerce and Labor, “Daily Consular Reports,” and since July, 1905, “Daily Consular and Trade Reports” (to accommodate the reports of the special agents of that department). The institution of this daily magazine was a brilliant and even daring idea, for it had no precedent in this or any other country; although it met the practical needs of the export trade admirably. It was an immediate success, and its practically unrestricted circulation has done more towards promoting American foreign trade than all other official publications. Since 1898, the Monthly Consular Reports are merely a reprint of the Daily Reports published in the course of the month. The present edition of the Daily Reports amounts to 5700 copies, sent, mainly to newspapers, exporting and manufacturing firms, and commercial bodies; while the monthly edition goes chiefly to educational institutions, libraries, country newspapers, and the general public. I may add that Commercial Relations is chiefly sought by educators and students, especially writers on economic subjects. The annual series presents a consecutive history of the world’s commerce, and as such has a distinct value to the economist and historian.

Special Consular Reports

There is still another series of consular publications that has greatly contributed to the commercial enlightenment of this country: this is the series of “Special Consular Reports” established in 1890, — although prior to that date several volumes had been issued from time to time on similar lines. Each one of this series contains a collection of reports on particular subjects, prepared under special instructions in the form of printed circulars sent either to all heads of consular offices, or to the consuls in certain countries, or sometimes to selected ones in different countries. The plan of circularizing the entire service, regardless of applicability of the subject-matter to the part of the world, was formerly the rule; but the present practice is to make careful selection of the officers from whom the special reports are required.

Of the fifteen special publications issued by the Department of State prior to 1890, the most valuable were the following: “Labor in Europe” (1878), “Labor in Foreign Countries” (1884,3 vols.), “Trade Guilds of Europe” (1885), “Forestry in Europe” (1887), “Emigration and Immigration ” (1885-86), “Cattle and Dairy Farming in Foreign Countries” (1888), and “Technical Education in Europe” (1888). The editions of all these early special publications are exhausted, and it is possible to consult them only in the larger public libraries.

In 1890, as already stated, the department began the publication of the reports on special subjects in separate form, entitled “Special Consular Reports.” Up to date thirty-eight volumes of this series have appeared, Volume 1 including “Cotton Textiles in Foreign Countries,” “Files in Spanish America,” “Carpet Manufacture in Foreign Countries,” “Malt and Beer in Spanish America,” and “Fruit Culture in Foreign Countries,” while Volume 38, issued by the Department of Commerce and Labor, is devoted to “Insurance in Foreign Countries.” Among the best of this admirable series are the collections of reports on “Streets and Highways in Foreign Countries ” (1891, 1897), “Port Regulations in Foreign Countries” (1891), “Canals and Irrigation in Foreign Countries” (1891, 1898), “Vagrancy and Public Charities in Foreign Countries” (1893), “Highways of Commerce” (1894,1897), “ Tariffs of Foreign Countries ” (1899), “Paper in Foreign Countries” (1900), “Briquettes as Fuel in Foreign Countries” (1903), “Industrial Education and Industrial Conditions in Germany” (1904), “Foreign Markets for American Cotton Manufactures ” (1904), and “ Insurance in Foreign Countries ” (1905). Some of these specials, notably the one on “Streets and Highways,” have been issued in second editions and been in great demand throughout the country. This is one of the fields in which the government, controlling an incomparable corps of well-disciplined reporters, can render a service of great value to the different industrial interests of the United States.

Consular Reports on Non-Commercial Subjects

While the consular reports, for the most part, relate strictly to commerce and industry, American consuls have, since 1880, reported upon almost every conceivable subject, and the number of non-commercial reports scattered through the published volumes of the past quarter of a century is quite considerable. Here are the titles of a few, for example: (1) Foreign Customs, etc.: “Religion in Siam,” “Bullfights in Spain,” “Burial of the Dead in Switzerland,” “Marriage Law in Siam.” (2) Geographical and Political: “History, Geography, etc., of Paraguay,” “Relations between Holland and her Colonies,” “ German Colonies in Asia-Minor,” “Description of Liberia,” “Privileges of Jews in Russia,” “Jewish Colonies in Palestine,” “Economic and Social Problems in Europe,” “ Mormon Colonists in Mexico.” (3) Happenings: “Earthquake in Granada,” “Earthquakes in Guadeloupe,” “Plague of Mice in Russia,” and “Gutenberg Festival.” (4) Vital Statistics: “Longevity and Mortality in Norway,” “Infant Mortality in Singapore,” and “Depopulation in France.” (5) Archeological: “Roman Pavement in Jerusalem,” “Sarcophagi at Sidon,” “Explorations near Babylon,” “Archeological Explorations in Mexico,” “Inscription on the Parthenon,” and “Archeological Discoveries in Greece.” (6) State and Municipal Institutions: “Prison System in the Netherlands,” “Pawnshops in France, Germany, Belgium, AustriaHungary, and Russia,” “Charities in the Netherlands,” “Lunatic Asylum in Florence,” “Police Force of Rio,” “Workhouse and Home for Homeless in Berlin,” “Referendum and Initiative Laws of Switzerland,” “Public Charity in Germany,” and “Penal Colony of New Caledonia.” (7) Medical Discoveries: “New Cancer Cure” (several), “New Treatment of Tuberculosis” (more than a score of reports), “Treatment of Yellow Fever,” “Serum for Diphtheria,” “Typhus Antitoxin,” “Plague Serum,” “Treatment of Appendicitis without the Knife,” “ Treatment of Hydrophobia,” “Anti-alcohol Serum in France,” “Cure for Malaria,” — “ for Epilepsy,” “ Miner’s Worm,” etc. Miscellaneous: “X-rays and Infernal Machines,” “Rainfall in Flanders,” “American Circus in Germany,” “Muzzling of Dogs in Germany,” and “Airships in Switzerland.”

Many of the regular readers of the Consular Reports consider that contributions of the above-mentioned character add a certain needed element of gayety to the pages of that publication.

Editing of Consular Reports

During the period 1856 to 1874 the work of editing and revising the trade reports made by consular officers for publication in the annual volume of Commercial Relations of the United States was done by the Statistical Office in the Department of State. In 1874 the law that reorganized the work of the department created a Bureau of Statistics, which thereafter had charge of that publication and, after 1880, of the Monthly Consular Reports. In 1897 the name of the bureau was changed to the Bureau of Foreign Commerce. The establishment in 1903 of the Department of Commerce and Labor brought about a radical change in the method of handling the Consular Reports, for the organic law of that department charged it with the duty of publishing and distributing those reports, leaving to the Department of State complete control over their authors, who, of course, are officers of the latter department exclusively. The act of February 14, 1903, transferred the Bureau of Foreign Commerce from the State Department to the Department of Commerce and Labor, and consolidated it with the Bureau of Statistics, simultaneously transferred from the Treasury Department. Section 11 of the same act created a new bureau in the Department of State, to perform the editorial work inseparably belonging to that department, and to act as the medium of communication between the two departments in the joint work in relation to the consular reports.

It might seem that there is a duplication of editorial work upon the consular reports in the two departments, but such is by no means the case. In the Bureau of Trade Relations the reports are carefully read and, when necessary, so revised as to eliminate everything unsuitable for publication from the standpoint of the interests of the government. Not infrequently a report is of such character as to make it inexpedient to publish any portion, in which case it is filed in toto in the archives of the Department of State for future reference. All statements in the reports calculated to cause adverse criticism in a foreign country or to bring about diplomatic representations on the part of another government, or to embarrass the administration of any executive branch of our own government, are omitted from the material transmitted to the Department of Commerce and Labor for publication. Under the head of matter that is objectionable because of its probable effect in a foreign community come slighting allusions to any nationality or race; adverse criticism, even implied, of the political, social, or religious institutions; disparaging statements in regard to the enforcement of the laws; charges of dishonesty and inefficiency of officials, and the like. In short, anything that reflects on the integrity and efficiency of the foreign administration, or that might offend the sensibilities of the people of the country, is eliminated in the State Department, which is, of course, the best judge of the diplomatic proprieties.

Under the category of matter prejudicial to the interests of our government are discussions of, and references to, diplomatic negotiations pending between the United States and other countries, and reports dealing with frauds upon our national customs revenues, violations of our sanitary and immigration laws, all of which, although often highly valuable for the information of the administrative officers, are generally unsuitable for publication when regarded simply from the standpoint of expediency.

This editorial supervision is essential to the protection of consular officers as well as that of the government. In past years many instances have occurred where reports have been submitted for publication which, if published unedited, would probably have led to a demand for the recall of the author as the alternative to the revocation of his exequatur by the receiving government.

After the reports have been edited and indexed (by author, station, and subject) in the Bureau of Trade Relations, they are transmitted directly to the Bureau of Manufactures, Department of Commerce and Labor, where they are edited with a view to publication, being used in full, condensed, or rejected altogether in the discretion of the chief of that bureau. This work was done by the Bureau of Statistics for a period of two years following the transfer of the former Bureau of Foreign Commerce, already mentioned; but since July 1, 1905, the Bureau of Manufactures has had charge of the publication and distribution of the consular reports. The chief of this bureau, Major John M. Carson, is admirably fitted, by long years of experience in the cleanest of American journalism, to maintain and improve the high editorial standards established for the reports by Mr. Emory. Major Carson is also fortunate in having the able assistance of Mr. Gibson, formerly Washington correspondent of the Philadelphia Press, and Professor Monaghan, a former consul and educator.

At the time of the transfer of the Bureau of Foreign Commerce to the Department of Commerce and Labor, it was freely predicted that the division of labor between the two departments in relation to the consular reports would lead to much delay, friction, and dissatisfaction. These fears have not been realized; the Bureau of Trade Relations and the Bureau of Manufactures cooperate as smoothly and completely as two divisions of the same office, and no unpleasant incident has yet arisen to mar the close and cordial relations between them. Direct correspondence between the chiefs of the two bureaus is authorized and many details of routine business are transacted expeditiously by telephone. A certain amount of official red-tape is inevitable in the transaction of the public business; but here, thanks to the liberal views of Secretary Root and Secretary Metcalf, both of whom are intensely interested in the effective promotion of American foreign commerce — it is reduced to a minimum.

I should add that a considerable number of consular reports are sent to some other department than that of Commerce and Labor (especially to the Department of Agriculture), when the subject pertains to the work of that branch of the government. The number of trade reports of all kinds made by our consular officers is steadily increasing. In the year 1905 the number examined in the Bureau of Trade Relations averaged about 400 each month, while the monthly average for the first quarter of 1906 was 600 reports, of which fully 95 per cent were transmitted to the Bureau of Manufactures, Department of Commerce and Labor.

American and European Reports compared

The claim is often made, and freely conceded by leading European economists, that in respect of practical value the trade reports made by American consular officers are unsurpassed. Twenty years ago, when the United States first entered the foremost rank of commercial nations, the principal markets of the world were overwhelmingly controlled by our European competitors, — at least, this was true in manufactured goods. The supremacy, therefore, which the United States has since gained in several foreign countries, in many important manufactures, has represented a continual struggle, resulting, pro tanto, in the displacement of the former controlling nations. As American consuls have played an important rôle in this aggressive campaign, it is easy to understand why their published reports have won praise from competent foreign experts.

After the United States, there can be no doubt that the consular services of Germany and Great Britain render the most effective assistance to their national commerce.

British Consular Reports

The British “Diplomatic and Consular Reports ” are issued by the Foreign Office in two series, the Annual and the Miscellaneous. Each number of the former contains an annual report on the trade and commerce of some foreign city, region, or country; while the Miscellaneous series is devoted to reports of general and commercial interest, such as “The French Octroi System,” “Agriculture in Germany,” “Tea Culture in Japan,” “Persian Customs-Regulations.” The reports of either series are sold to the public by the government stationers, at a nominal price, and, being published separately in pamphlet form, interested persons may buy only such as appeal to them. This arrangement has certain obvious advantages over the gratuitous distribution of a collection of reports that is in operation in this country.

It is a curious fact that the alleged defects in the consular service of each great, commercial power are nearly always exposed by writers of the country in question, who use the meritorious features of the establishment of a foreign country as a foil. For unsparing criticism of British consuls one must read the London newspapers, while the German press fairly teems with articles questioning the efficiency of the consuls of Germany. A critic in a recent issue of the London Standard alleges that British consuls habitually neglect the important duty of fostering their country’s trade, many of them considering it infra dignitatem to occupy themselves with commercial matters, and preferring to play diplomatist. He attributes this tendency to the alleged lack of care on the part of the appointing power to select men having commercial qualifications, and suggests that the Board of Trade — which corresponds somewhat to our Department of Commerce and Labor — should be consulted in the appointment of consuls to places of special importance.

But notwithstanding this home disparagement, the American student of the world’s commerce frequently finds in the annual report of the British consul at some remote Oriental station a more complete and valuable exposition of the commercial and industrial situation of that region than is available to him from any other source. The British consular reports, as a rule, are confined strictly to the subject, in hand and are free from needless interjection of the personal opinions of their authors. They are usually enriched by carefully arranged and reliable statistical statements, and the terse and practical treatment that characterizes them merits unqualified praise, although to what extent credit for this result is due to editorial revision in the Foreign Office I am not able to say.

German Consular Reports

The reports of German consular officers reach the public through the medium of three different publications issued by the Imperial Department of the Interior, viz: —

(a) Nachrichten für Handel und Industrie, which appears two or three times a week and contains trade information of current interest, such as foreign tariff changes and trade opportunities, — particularly, public calls for tenders.

(b) Berichte über Handel und Industrie, which appears at irregular intervals and contains reports on special subjects by the consuls and commercial attachés of Germany, translations of foreign official documents likely to interest the German business world, and monographs on commercial subjects. Noteworthy instances of these monographs were the series of reports on the production of cotton and iron in foreign countries. Recent numbers contain good special reports on “The Commerce of the Australian Commonwealth for 1904,” and “The Saltpeter Industry of Chili and its Kartell.”

(c) Deutsches HandelsArchiv, a monthly quarto of 250 to 300 pages, which contains, besides tariff information and statistics of German commerce, the annual reports of German consuls on the trade, shipping, mining, railways, finance, and so forth, of their respective districts. These reports constitute a valuable commercial history of the ports and countries with which they deal, although it is said that they have been emasculated of practical hints for extending trade.

The scholarly thoroughness that distinguishes every intellectual effort of the German nation stands out conspicuously in the consular reports; and there is no doubt that they have contributed greatly to the expansion of the foreign commerce of Germany. The only adverse criticism of them that I recall reading was penned by German citizens and published in German journals. A writer in the Hamburger Nachrichten (August 12, 1905) had the following to say of his country’s consular reports: —

“They are very seldom clear, because the ponderous German juristical and professorial style has gone over into the flesh and blood of our Consuls, whose previous training has been almost without exceptions a legal one. They are only very rarely practical, because the professional Consul (always with individual exceptions), in view of his position in society, considers himself called upon as little as possible to associate his official domicile with the circles of commerce and industry, and carefully avoids following in the footsteps of his American professional colleagues, who are actuated by purely practical considerations, and whom the deceased Lamezan was in the habit of designating, with a pitying shrug of his shoulders, ‘State commercial travelers.’ Finally, our consular reports are anything but prompt, for it is a very long distance that they have to cover after leaving the writing-desk of the Consul (and he is, as a rule, far from an unconditional adherent of excessive ‘hustling’), before they reach the typesetter’s ‘case’ of the official Nachrichten für Handel und Industrie.”

There are several other countries of Europe whose consular officers render efficient aid in promoting foreign trade by making valuable reports for official publication, notably France, Italy, Austria-Hungary, and Belgium.

Foreign Systems worthy of Study

Only a few years ago it would have been idle for the United States to go abroad in search of valuable ideas for the promotion of trade interests, for the American methods, particularly in the matter of timely publication, were unsurpassed. This fact was universally recognized, and several of our commercial rivals adopted, after investigation, the best features of our system. Inasmuch, however, as the betterment of the consular service as an agency in trade development continues to be a matter of increasing concern to each of the great powers of Europe, we may expect progress independently of further imitation of our methods. It is difficult to point out where and how the present system of promoting the commerce and industries of the United States could be made more effective. There is certainly no room for appreciable improvement as respects timeliness in publication, for the daily periodical of (usually) sixteen pages conveys promptly to the American business public a vast mass of useful trade information.

There are, however, two features of the German system that merit our careful consideration, one being unknown in our system and the other only partially followed. These are the institution of commercial attachés, and the secret dissemination of certain trade information furnished by consular officers.

Commercial Attachés

The German consular service is greatly aided in rendering assistance to the export trade of the empire by the labors of an increasing staff of commercial experts appointed by the government to increase the utility of each of the more important consulates as a focus for the collection of information of practical value to German manufacturers and exporters. At a recent date this staff numbered eight, attached, respectively, to the consulates at New York, Buenos Ayres, Valparaiso, Sydney, Shanghai, Pretoria, Constantinople, and St. Petersburg. Being attached to consulates, they have no diplomatic status, nor do they enjoy permanency of tenure; but they are engaged by contract, made with them individually by the Foreign Office and providing for employment for three years, subject to reëngagement or discharge at the end of that period. They are usually experienced business men, or at least men who have devoted much study to economic and commercial questions. The duties of the commercial attaché include making reports to the Foreign Office on commercial subjects, collecting and forwarding samples of merchandise, and answering the trade inquiries of German corporations and individuals. Each attaché is required to return to Germany periodically, in order to make oral reports to his superior officers, and to study home conditions and keep in touch with the industrial development of his own country.

The British Government maintains commercial attachés having a diplomatic status at the embassies at Paris, Berlin, Vienna, Madrid, and Constantinople, and at the legation at Pekin. Their duties are practically the same as those of the commercial attachés at the German Consulates. They are the recognized intermediaries for British chambers of commerce, merchants, manufacturers, and shippers, who have a right to turn to them for information and guidance on all commercial matters.

It will perhaps be recalled that President Roosevelt transmitted to Congress, with a special message, on January 18, 1905, a letter of Mr. Loomis, then Acting Secretary of State, accompanied by reports from American diplomatic and consular officers “upon the feasibility of regular coöperation between the two branches of our foreign service, for the better promotion of American industry and trade.” The President, in his message, heartily indorsed the recommendation made by the Acting Secretary that provision be made for the appointment of six special agents, with the diplomatic rank and title of commercial attaché, to be stationed at American embassies and legations so as to cover the principal trade regions of the world, and to make reports upon commerce and manufactures, or upon kindred topics, of a more exhaustive and comprehensive character than is now obtainable. It was also proposed that these commercial attachés should make regular inspection of consulates; but this duty has since been vested in the five consuls-general at large, created by the consular reorganization law.

Congress has as yet taken no action in regard to the plan of creating a staff of commercial attachés; but there can be no doubt that its adoption — even on the modest, tentative scale recommended in 1905 — would materially strengthen the existing official machinery for promoting American trade interests abroad.

Discriminating Dissemination of Trade Intelligence

Another wise feature of the German system, that is worthy of our serious attention, is the practice of placing secretly at the disposal of home merchants and manufacturers certain classes of commercial information before it is made accessible to foreign competitors. Whenever the government considers it desirable to give preference to the business interests of the empire, the information reported by the consuls or commercial attachés is printed on slips marked “confidential,” and then distributed among the several chambers of commerce and other commercial bodies for the use of their members, notice of its existence being generally inserted in the local press. The character of this notification will appear from the following example taken from a recent issue of the Berlin Reichsanzeiger:

“Confidential communications have been sent to the Berlin Corporation of Merchants as to the material available for interpretation of the French tariff, the expected call for tenders for building a bridge in Shanghai, and the exploitation of mines in the state of Maranhao. Further particulars may be obtained from the information office of the corporation.”

Not infrequently the seal of secrecy is subsequently removed from these communications, and they are published in one of the ordinary vehicles of publication of consular reports.

Contrasting this judicious policy with the free trade in commercial intelligence that has always characterized the English system of handling trade reports, a writer in the London Times (November 27, 1905) cites the following concrete case to illustrate his point: —

“In 1897-8 the Board of Trade sent at some considerable expense a commissioner to report upon the conditions and prospects of British trade in South America. On his return, six reports containing in considerable detail particulars as to the class of each article in most demand and the prices ruling, with valuable hints and suggestions to traders, were issued as Parliamentary Papers, in order presumably that British traders might benefit by this expenditure of public money on their behalf. Within a few months the United States Government had reprinted these, and had distributed some thousands of copies amongst American firms; so that the expenditure of the British taxpayers’ money in this particular case doubtless proved of as much assistance to American as to British trade. Extracts from these reports were also translated and published by the German and Austrian Governments.”

Until very recently our government made no attempt to discriminate in favor of American citizens in the matter of disseminating any class of trade intelligence, all reports received being either published in the consular reports, or given to the press, or filed in the archives for future reference. Less than a year ago, however, the Bureau of Manufactures adopted with reference to a limited class of trade intelligence a policy somewhat similar to the German practice. An occasional department of the “Daily Consular and Trade Reports ” was instituted, entitled “Foreign Trade Opportunities,” in which notification is given of inquiries on file at the above-mentioned bureau, each bearing a file number, to which applicants for information are requested to refer. The majority of these opportunities relate to foreign calls for tenders, and give names and addresses; but an increasing number are treated as confidential, in order to enable the bureau to promote exclusively American export trade. The following examples are taken from recent issues of the daily reports:—

No. 133. Orange-wrapping machinery.— Information is desired with the least possible delay by European orange importer of high commercial standing in regard to machinery for wrapping oranges, particularly the small sizes, such as mandarins. There is said to be a very considerable opening for this machinery in Mediterranean countries.

No. 134. Condensers.—A brewer and malter in Bohemia is in the market for condensers with the latest improvements.

No. 144. Wood alcohol and charcoal apparatus. —A Montreal mining engineer requests information as to cost and profits of an equipment for producing wood alcohol, and subsequently charcoal, from the wood refuse of sawmills.

No. 153. Street sprinklers, stone crusher, etc. — South American city about to purchase outfits for improvements and sanitation, especially garbage carts, street sprinklers, and stone crusher. The main streets are to be macadamized.

No. 163. Portable houses. — A resident of Central America has made inquiries at an American consulate relative to portable houses. There is a great scarcity of lumber and carpenters in that region for necessary houses, and the consul asks that not only prices and particulars be furnished the inquirer, but that catalogues and prices be sent to his office for filing.

No. 181. Fish fertilizers. — Japanese firm desires to be put in communication with American firms selling fish fertilizers manufactured from the waste of salmon and other fish. They ask for a range of samples, price lists, and other particulars as to freight, packing, and other charges. If these are favorable, the firm propose to do business by opening a credit account in an American bank, upon which the shippers could draw in full against every bill of lading.

No. 192. Candle machinery. — The two principal manufacturers of candles at a city in Turkey wish catalogues and price lists of the machinery used in the manufacture of cast candles. Correspondence should be in French language.

No. 202. Wooden shoe-peg machinery. — An American missionary in Asia Minor desires to purchase machinery for the manufacture of wooden shoe-pegs. Circulars with description and prices requested.

The view formerly prevailed that the best policy was to publish everything freely, and trust to American enterprise and energy to take advantage of the trade opportunities abroad which American readers of the published reports should be able to see several days or weeks earlier than their foreign competitors. At the present time, however, valuable trade hints in the “ Daily Consular and Trade Reports” are not only immediately reprinted in the American press, but, in many instances, they are cabled to Europe for publication for the benefit of our commercial rivals.

This situation makes the German practice described above significantly interesting. I regard that practice as not only sagacious but eminently patriotic, for it is one effective way of protecting home industrial and commercial interests in the international struggle for wider markets.