FROM that remote time when commerce had its origin, down to the present, there has existed a strenuous inter-group struggle for commercial supremacy. For more than two thousand years the Mediterranean Sea and its environs were the centre of the conflict; and, in fact, until the era of geographical discovery, which marked the close of the fifteenth and the early part of the sixteenth centuries, the battleground included but a small fraction of the globe. The rivalry for first place in what we now consider the world’s trade is confined, therefore, to a period of only four hundred years. This period has been marked by the rise and fall of relatively few competitors, for at no time have there been many rivals in the field. After the Discoveries Period a hundred years passed before the claims of the Portuguese and Spaniards to a monopoly of the transoceanic trade were successfully contested. But, in the seventeenth century, both nations dropped out of the race, and Holland, France, and England came into prominence. The outcome of their bitter struggle was that eventually England triumphed; and during the latter part of the eighteenth century and until late in the nineteenth she stood commercially supreme.
In the light of history, however, the retention of commercial advantage admits of great uncertainty: the supremacy of Great Britain herself has been threatened. She is not face to face with commercial decadence; her trade is in a healthy condition, and it continues to expand; she still remains the ‘commercial heart’ of the world. But two entirely new competitors — Germany and the United States — recently have come rapidly into the foreground. At the present time both are experiencing an industrial and commercial expansion through which Great Britain, in her earlier economic evolution, passed many decades ago. The marvelous achievements of science and their application to the arts have recently made such rapid strides that the material development of both Germany and the United States has proceeded at an unprecedented rate. And one of the most manifest signs of this development is that during the last four decades the foreign trade of both countries has grown to huge proportions.
In many respects the rise of Germany as an industrial and commercial power in less than half a century stands without parallel in the history of the world. Within the past forty years, her foreign trade has increased more than two hundred and fifty per cent, so that it has appropriately been styled the marvel of the twentieth century. Naturally, such a phenomenal development has been the cause of much uneasiness on the part of English statesmen and business men. The situation has been keenly analyzed by Mr. J. D. Whelpley, who states that ‘in this great total of Germany’s trade, and in the rapidity with which it has risen to its present volume and value lies the reason for the anti-German agitation in England. On the surface, this antagonism is political and relates to armaments, but its roots lie in the trade of the world, and it is fed upon commercial rivalry.’
Until the United States had become so strong commercially that she must needs be reckoned with as a rival, the sole competitors for first place in the world’s trade had been European nations. And it should not be overlooked that, even in the twentieth century, Europe still remains the great centre of commerce, just as it is the centre of the world’s politics and culture. But three centuries of colonial and national life have brought such far-reaching changes in our economic organization that we have been brought into new business relations with the rest of the world. One of the manifestations of this transformation is the recent growth of our foreign trade. During the last forty years it has increased in value from a little over eight hundred million dollars annually to upwards of four billions.
Moreover, other countries than those already mentioned have shared in this great commercial development, — with the result that, within the last twenty years, the world’s foreign commerce has more than doubled. In 1912, it amounted to over thirty-seven billions of dollars, and fully one half of this total is to be credited to five countries — the United Kingdom, Germany, the United States, France, and Holland. The commanding position of any one of the first three is shown by the fact that its present-day foreign commerce surpasses that of the whole world only sixty years ago.
This enormous expansion of international trade has been accompanied by the growth of increasingly keen competition in the markets of the world. It is now understood that, in order to secure the best results in selling goods abroad, no possible expedient may be overlooked. A nation’s foreign commerce can no more look after itself than can the business of a private individual. In either case, neglect or carelessness in method means nothing but disaster. There is but one answer to the question — ‘ How shall a nation get foreign business?’ and that is—‘Let the nation go after it.’ In the great majority of cases ‘ the mere sale of manufactured merchandise ... is positive proof that behind that sale there has been an intelligent persistent effort to secure the market.’
Not only are the three great competitors — the United Kingdom, Germany, and the United States — bending their efforts toward the expansion of their foreign commerce, but the lesser rivals are giving more and more attention to the matter. In fact, in viewing the present-day situation with respect to the world’s foreign commerce, the most noticeable phenomenon is the strenuous effort which is now being put forth by each one of the important commercial nations to fortify itself against the inroads of rivals, and to increase to still greater proportions its foreign trade.
Let us now examine these activities among the three great rivals so that we may appreciate the various ways in which the nations are going about to equip themselves, the better to control the markets of the world.
II. THE UNITED KINGDOM
With regard to the United Kingdom, it is to be noted that her enormous foreign commerce, which in 1912 amounted to almost, five and one-half billion dollars, has been built up without any considerable amount of direct assistance from the government. Indirectly, however, through the influence of diplomatic and certain other officials, the way has been prepared somewhat for the trader. The English business man forced his way into the world’s markets with phenomenal success; but this was at an earlier time, when national competition in business affairs, as now understood, was unknown. Some one has termed the English method of trading, ‘individualism gone mad.' This of course was hardly a fair characterization; moreover, in recent years, conditions have changed. Prompted, at least in part, by the organized competition of successful rivals, the government has come to the rescue. The consular service has been requisitioned to play its important part in paving the way for commerce; the Board of Trade, notably through its Intelligence Bureau, is now at the service of the business man; the Association of Chambers of Commerce of the United Kingdom recently has urged the government to establish a Ministry of Commerce; and all along the line there are evidences of coöperation between business interests on the one hand, and the government on the other.
But it is toward the extension of intercolonial or imperial trade that the greatest effort is now being directed. At the eighth triennial Congress of Chambers of Commerce of the British Empire, which was held in London in 1912, at which every part of the Empire was represented, the leading question under consideration was imperial trade. Resolutions were adopted favoring penny postage for the whole empire; an ‘all red ’ cable route, bearing messages at a nominal rate, and with terminals exclusively on British territory; a uniform system of weights, measures, and currency; and preferential trade within the Empire. An examination of the proceedings of the whole congress establishes the point that the one thought uppermost in the minds of the over three hundred delegates was the desire to increase the trade between the mother country and the over-sea dominions, as well as with each other. Furthermore, it has been announced that an imperial exhibit will be held in London for six months of 1915. This has been promoted for the express purpose of strengthening the commercial ties between the constituent parts of the Empire, and to prove to the world that the British Empire can be made economically self-sufficient.
Another proof of the widespread desire to bring all parts of the Empire into a closer and more effective commercial union was the creation in 1911 of a British Imperial Trade Commission. This is composed of six members from the United Kingdom and one member each from Canada, Australia, Newfoundland, South Africa and New Zealand. The chairman of the commission is Sir Edgar Vincent, K.C.M.G., and the secretary is Mr. Edward John Harding, who succeeded the first appointee, Mr. W. A. Robinson of the Colonial Office. The proposition for the establishment of such a body was made by Sir Wilfrid Laurier at the Imperial Conference held in London in May and June, 1911. Immediately steps were taken to follow out this suggestion, with the result that in the early part of the following year the organization was completed, and actual work was begun.
Officially, the Commission is charged with the following duties: ‘To inquire into and report upon the natural resources of the Dominion of Canada, the Commonwealth of Australia, the Dominion of New Zealand, the Union of South Africa, and the Colony of Newfoundland; and, further, to report upon the development of such resources, whether attained or attainable; upon the facilities which exist or may be created for the production, manufacture, and distribution of all articles of commerce in those parts of the Empire; upon the requirements of each such part and of the United Kingdom in the matter of food and raw materials, and the available sources of such; upon the trade of each such part of the Empire with the other parts, with the United Kingdom, and with the rest of the world; upon the extent, if any, to which the mutual trade of the several parts of the Empire has been or is being affected beneficially or otherwise by the laws now in force, other than fiscal laws; and generally to suggest any methods, consistent always with the existing fiscal policy of each part of the Empire, by which the trade of each part with the others and with the United Kingdom may be improved and extended,’
It is expected that the work of the Commission will be completed before the next meeting of the Colonial Conference which is scheduled to be held in Canada in 1914. Already a partial report has been submitted, and the final draft is now being awaited with the keenest interest.
It should also be stated, in passing, that the work of the Imperial Institute is not without significance in its bearings upon imperial trade. In its exhibition galleries are illustrated the commercial and industrial resources of the constituent parts of the Empire. For example, the tea industry of India is shown in completion, from the work in the gardens to the exportation of the products in the manufactured state. Samples of the leading grades of tea are exhibited; photographs and models illustrate the processes of manufacture; tea-chests used in the export trade are to be found; and diagrams are presented illustrating the growth of the industry. Likewise, sugar cultivation and its manufacture are exhibited, and the same is true of representative industries from practically every part of the Empire.
In many respects, however, the most significant activity designed to promote, in its largest aspects, the trade of the Empire was the creation in 1911 of a British Imperial Council of Commerce. There are, within the Empire, some five hundred chambers of commerce, boards of trade, and organizations of a similar nature. But it was observed that, in reality, there was no connecting link between these various bodies by which team-work could be assured in matters of commercial policy. Accordingly, at the annual meetings of the Associated Chambers of Commerce of the United Kingdom in 1910 and 1911, formal approval was given to a scheme to federate the various business men’s organizations throughout the Empire. The idea originated, it is said, at the seventh Congress of Chambers of Commerce of the Empire, held in Sydney in 1909. The plan was submitted to the various chambers of commerce of the whole British dominions for their approval. The outcome of all the negotiation was that the London Chamber of Commerce called a meeting for July 5, 1911, which was ‘representative of British commercial interests, not only within the Empire, but throughout the world.’ A resolution was passed unanimously approving the formation of an organization to be known as ‘The British Imperial Council of Commerce.’
In no sense is it an official body representative of the government, but it is an entirely voluntary association whose members are the various British chambers of commerce and similar organizations, located either within the Empire or elsewhere. The function of this Council is ‘to act as a clearinghouse for commercial information and suggestions; to distribute reliable information as to each country’s needs and powers; and to organize and give effect to the resolutions of the Congress of Chambers of Commerce of the Empire.’ Very little has been done, as yet, except to perfect the organization, but it is believed that this new body will be instrumental in securing official recognition, without undue delay, of such large matters of commercial policy as are endorsed by British business men everywhere.
In contrast with the English system of foreign-trade extension which, as we have seen, was, until recently, so unaided by the government as to have been somewhat inaccurately described as ‘individualism gone mad,’ is the paternalistic system of the Germans. With them, the work of promoting foreign commerce has been carried on in a thoroughly practical and systematic manner; and this applies alike to the efforts of private individuals, corporations, trade-promoting institutions, and the government itself. But the one characteristic of the trade-organization of Germany which makes more toward efficiency than anything else is the coöperation which exists between the government, on the one hand, and the business interests, on the other. This is manifested in numerous ways, of which a few may be considered here.
Fifteen years ago a commission was created, known as the Imperial Consultative Board for the Elaboration of Commercial Measures. It was designed for the express purpose of establishing a connecting link between the Imperial Department of Commerce, on the one hand, and the semi-official and public business organizations, on the other. Of the thirty-two members, it was arranged that half should be appointed directly by the Chancellor, and that, he also should appoint the rest of the members, although the German Agricultural Association, the German Association of Chambers of Commerce, and the Central Association of German Industry should share among themselves the control of the nominations.
The work of this body has been varied and important. In the preparation of the German tariff which went into effect a few years after the formation of the Imperial Consultative Board, it took the leading part. It carried on exhaustive investigations for the express purpose of shedding light upon tariff questions, and was instrumental in securing the services of over two thousand technical experts in drawing up the schedules. Furthermore, it was this same body which ‘virtually took an industrial and commercial census of the country, and elaborated for the use of the government an enormous mass of data which showed in detail the trade of Germany with the various foreign countries in every line of business, the difference in the cost of production in Germany and the respective countries, and the amount of protection required to meet foreign competition.’ Other activities have consisted in accumulating, at first hand, such information as is necessary for the intelligent making of a commercial treaty with a foreign country. Although the relations of the Board with the government have been merely advisory, it has contributed much toward moulding the commercial policy of the nation.
Of far-reaching and vital importance to the German merchant engaged in the foreign trade, have been the various classes of experts which the government maintains at certain consulates. At the present time, commercial experts are stationed at New York, St. Petersburg, Calcutta, Johannesburg, Sydney, Shanghai, Yokohama, Valparaiso, Chicago, Mexico City, Bucharest, and Rio de Janeiro. Forestry and agricultural experts are to be found at Christiania, London, St. Petersburg, Rome, Buenos Aires, Chicago, Montreal, and a few other centres. In 1912, the Imperial budget contained appropriations amounting to nearly $120,000, for the support of all such experts, who together with the members of the efficient consular service keep the nation constantly advised upon all business matters, the world over, which may be of interest to German traders.
The Imperial government prepares and distributes all sorts of literature beneficial to those interested in the export trade. This work is in charge of a special department of the Imperial Ministry of the Interior, called ‘Handelspolitische Abtheilung,’ — Department of Commerce, — which is presided over by a director. Assisting him are several so-called councilors, each in charge of a special line of work. A corps of competent clerks attends to all routine matters, so that the councilors have their full time for study. Information is furnished regularly from numerous sources, including German and foreign publications, and confidential reports and memoranda submitted by the diplomatic and consular corps; by commercial, agricultural, and forestry experts; by chambers of commerce; and by other official and private bodies. Each item finds its way into the specialized file of some one of the councilors, and then the problem is to get either this information, or generalizations based thereon, into the hands of business men. Accordingly, various publications are issued, of which only one or two need be mentioned here.
Nachrichten für Handel und Industrie is published about three times a week, on the average, and contains extracts from the reports of the diplomatic and consular officers, from the commercial, agricultural, and forestry experts, as well as from miscellaneous sources. The aim is to include only such information as will be of immediate service to the practical business man. Deutsches Handelsarchiv is issued less often, and contains data which, though similar to those just described, are of more permanent value. In addition to other publications available to all interested, there is a good deal of information, strictly of a private nature, given out by the Imperial Ministry of the Interior. For example, in 1911 there were printed and forwarded to the business men’s organizations, some 55,000 copies of private publications — these being available neither to the public press nor to foreigners.
Another instance of coöperation between the government and the business interests, designed to expand foreign commerce, is found in an examination of railway rates. The lines owned by the federal states give a substantial reduction in freight rates on shipments from interior points to the seaboard, when the goods are to be exported. The significance of these rebates is shown by selecting, at random, a few items from a schedule reported by Consul-General Thackara while stationed at Berlin, which will be found in the table below.
FREIGHT RATE PER METRIC TON ON SEVERAL CLASSES OF GOODS ON GERMAN RAILWAYS IN CARLOAD LOTS
|From||To||Class of Goods||Normal rate||Export rate|
|Cologne||Hamburg||Copper goods, lead blocks||$6.58||$3.14|
|“||“||Zine in sheets, etc.||4.86||3.17|
|“||“||Machinery & machine parts||4.86||2.52|
|Frankfort||Bremen||Machines & ironwares||6.00||3.07|
|“||Lubeek||“ “ “||6.47||3.31|
|“||Hamburg||Iro n products||4.71||1.67|
From this table it appears that the export rate is, roughly speaking, one half the regular rate on domestic shipments. The importance to the export merchant of such reductions, and the stimulus thus given to foreign trade, are too obvious to necessitate further discussion.
The German banking system, with its widespread establishment of branches in foreign countries, renders valuable assistance to the export trade. Not that the banks accomplish a substantial saving of foreign exchange, but the services which they render their customers, though immeasurable in dollars and cents, is, nevertheless, important. For example, they furnish gratuitously such information respecting trade conditions in those countries where their branches are established as their customers request. In the home office, there are kept special files, exhaustively indexed, containing detailed and accurate information concerning foreign trade-openings, the actual conditions of local trade, and all kinds of commercial, financial, and industrial information culled from the four corners of the earth. These data are always at the service of the export merchant or manufacturer, who often uses them to his material advantage. A practical illustration of this, also reported by ConsulGeneral Thackara while still at Berlin, may be repeated here.
If a German manufacturer of laundry machines should desire to enter the South American field, Buenos Aires, for example, he would inquire at his bank for information as to the prospect of such a venture. In all probability, the data will be found in the files of the main office, but, if they are not there, the bank at once gets into communication with the manager of its branch in Buenos Aires. The desired information is forwarded to the head office, and handed over to the inquirer. It will cover such points as the actual state of the laundry business at Buenos Aires; the number of plants in operation; whether or not the laundries do good work; the schedule of prices, number of patrons, character of the water used, and so on. If the manufacturer decides that the opening is a promising one, he will probably visit the field in person. The bank will recommend to him for his foreign representative a reliable firm; and, when the branch business once is installed, the bank continues to help in its extension. The mere fact that there is a well-equipped German banking institution in the city is a highly important factor in the future development of the business.
IV. THE UNITED STATES
In our own country, because problems of internal development were considered as of primary importance, those which had to do with the extension of foreign trade were, until recent years, of comparatively little concern. But the rapid material development of the United States during the last few decades has wrought such far-reaching changes in the economic organization that questions of external expansion have come rapidly into the foreground. The extraordinary growth of our foreign trade within this period already has been emphasized. In seeking out the causes for the development of a conscious movement for its further expansion, one of far greater significance than rapid growth is found in the changing character of the exports. Until recently these consisted primarily of foodstuffs and raw materials, and, since they could always find a ready market, there was no need of organized effort to expand our commerce. But now all this has changed: manufactures constitute nearly fifty per cent in value of our exports, as compared with twenty per cent only twenty-five years ago, and we are compelled to sell these goods in competition with such eminently successful traders in manufactured wares as the British and Germans. In order to compete successfully, no possible expedient may be overlooked, and, happily, a good start has been made in solving the problem of the expansion of foreign trade. Some of the movements in progress will now be considered.
The efficiency of the consular service is of vital concern to our foreign trading interests; and it should not be overlooked, in passing, that, the diplomatic officers also render considerable assistance in the development of trade. It is exceedingly difficult, however, to measure the value of the work of consuls, because much of their aid in winning foreign markets is indirect. They are known, for example, to be instrumental in paving the way for the success of the traveling agents of American firms, and they do this, in large part, by maintaining a cordial relationship between our people and those of foreign countries, where the consuls are stationed. In many instances, they are able to assist the trained agents in placing the orders. If space permitted, a large number of instances of actual trade-extension, due either to the direct or to the indirect influence of our consuls, could be mentioned.
It was a conscious recognition of this assistance, and a realization of the necessity of having an effective corps of intelligent workers in the service, that prompted the business men’s organizations to clamor for consular reform. The contest was waged for several years, until, finally, the victory for merit and efficiency was won when Congress passed a remedial act in 1906. Prior to that date, the system was still ‘in politics,’ the inefficiency of the service as a whole was generally recognized, and, because of its personnel, it was incapable of assisting in the development of foreign trade. In the words of one who stood high in the executive offices of the United States, the consular offices ‘were filled by all sorts and conditions of men, ranging from distinguished litterateurs, military men, and retired statesmen, to ward politicians, bankrupt business men, professional failures, individuals in quest of a genial climate, and adventurers of various kinds.’ In the selection of new office-holders, the ultimate test of fitness was political influence. No matter how well or how poorly the duties were being performed, there was a notorious insecurity of office. When a new political party was hoisted into the saddle, dismissals by the wholesale were the regular order of the day. It is stated that, on one occasion, thirty out of a total of thirty-five consuls-general, one hundred and thirty-three out of a total of one hundred and eighty-three consuls of the first class, and a majority of the minor officials were all ousted from office in less than a year. Such insecurity could not fail to demoralize utterly.
In striking contrast are the conditions which have prevailed since 1906. Entrance to the service is conditioned on the passing of a rigid examination in a number of prescribed subjects, of which several bear directly upon commerce and practical business affairs. The original appointment is made to one of the lower grades, and promotion to a higher grade is based upon merit. In the Department of State, an efficiency record is kept, and one of the principal factors in computing efficiency is the nature of one’s activities, such as in reporting upon trade relations. Here is a powerful incentive to consular officials to exert their best efforts in serving that section of the business interests which is concerned with foreign commerce. Although the consular law of 1906 did not cover all the points on which reform had been urged, its deficiencies were at once provided for by executive orders, and, happily, successive presidents have continued them in force. The result has been that the personnel of the service has greatly improved, and the business interests appreciate the fact that the consular service is now a powerful ally in the extension of foreign trade. That it is being utilized to advantage each successive year by an increasingly large number of firms is ample proof of this statement.
In other respects the Federal government has been concerned in marshaling its forces and bringing them to the assistance of our business men. A few years ago, a reorganization of the State Department was undertaken. There were created Divisions of LatinAmerica, Far Eastern, Near Eastern, and Western European affairs, and an effort was made to man these divisions with officials familiar with both political and commercial conditions in the countries to which they were assigned.
The Department of Commerce, however, is the one which has potentialities for the promotion of our foreign trade greater than those possessed by any other department, but only to a limited degree has it yet proved to be a promotive force. At the present day, it is the centre of interest and activity. This is due, at least in part, to the spirit of Secretary Redfield, who, in assuming his duties, is reported to have stated: ‘The most emphatic conviction with which I have taken up the duties of Secretary of Commerce pertains to our foreign trade. ... It is most gratifying to see that this is increasing year by year. The energies of the Department of Commerce must be directed toward stimulating those increases, thus rendering an enduring service to American business.’ The Bureau of Foreign and Domestic Commerce is aggressively carrying out the ideas here expressed, yet its work is capable of almost indefinite expansion. This must be conditioned, however, upon two indispensable factors — money and men. Larger appropriations are necessary before it will be possible to collect, organize, and distribute information of value to our exporters as rapidly and efficiently as such work is done in Germany.
Within recent years, business men’s organizations, both local and national, have been working upon the problem of enlarging our markets. Although individual firms, whose members constitute these various associations, know better than others that success in the export field depends primarily upon their own well-directed and persistent efforts, as well as those of efficient traveling salesmen, nevertheless they realize that there are problems of policy worthy of united effort. This is attested by an examination of the recent activities of numerous commercial associations.
In the case of local business men’s organizations, there are many instances of the formation of foreign trade bureaus, export committees, and the like. Two years ago, an important departure was made by the Chicago Association of Commerce, when it engaged for the South American field an expert agent, conversant with the languages and trade conditions in South America. A branch office was opened in Buenos Aires, and ‘profitable commercial connections’ have resulted. Again, it is reported that plans are well under way for the establishment in New Aork City of a high class College of Commerce, where business may be taught as a profession; and, it is said, that the New York Chamber of Commerce is largely responsible for this important action.
But the activities of certain national bodies are also of significance. For example, the National Association of Manufacturers, ever since its organization in 1895, has been unceasing in its efforts to cultivate commercial relations with other countries, as well as to promote the manufacturing interests of the nation. Among its first acts was the appointment of trade-commissioners to travel abroad in search of foreign markets. Gradually there was built up at its headquarters a foreign department comprising a number of bureaus which, apart from the actual purchase and sale of goods, cover nearly all aspects of the export business. There are bureaus of information, translation, credit reports, collections, patents and trade-marks, publicity, and international freight. Its latest activity, designed to increase American foreign trade, was the opening in November last of an export trade school in New York City, under the direction of the foreign trade and banking expert of the Association. The American Manufacturers’ Export Association, though a much younger body, is fulfilling its original pledge — to foster and promote the business and commercial relations between American manufacturers and foreign nations; and it is extremely active in almost every phase of the development of our foreign trade. The same is true of other national organizations, as well as of the Foreign Trade Bureau of the Philadelphia Commercial Museum.
But perhaps the most significant movement of the commercial organizations was the formation, in April, 1912, of the Chamber of Commerce of the Unit ed States of America. It came into existence at a national commercial conference, called by the President of the United States at Washington, D.C. Seven hundred delegates were in attendance, representing three hundred and ninety-two boards of trade, chambers of commerce, and similar associations of business men, from practically every state in the union; and delegates were present from Hawaii, Porto Rico, and the Philippines, as well as from the American Chambers of Commerce of Paris, Brussels, and Constantinople. Although government officials were active in arranging the conference, the Chamber of Commerce of the United States of America is in no sense a governmental machine. On the contrary, it was created to serve as a connecting link between Congress, on the one hand, and the American business world, on the other. In some respects, it is analogous to the British Imperial Council of Commerce, which came into existence but a year earlier; and, in general purpose, it bears a resemblance to the German Imperial Consultative Board, both of which have already been considered.
It has been announced that the Chamber of Commerce of the United States of America will perform three general functions. It is to act as a national clearing-house for business opinion, business methods, and such important suggestions of individual constituent organizations as will be helpful to the work of others. It will furnish a correlation between the public and the Federal government which hitherto has been lacking, and will inform the public upon the activities of a government which now is highly ramified and scientifically specialized. And, finally, by means of a referendum vote, it will test the business sentiment of the country from time to time upon important matters which would be affected by legislation. The Chamber cannot give support to either side of any question, however, until the question has been submitted to all of the constituent members for approval. Its official organ is The Nation’s Business, which fills a place hitherto unoccupied by any single publication.
Although the promotion of foreign commerce is but one of several broad lines of interest of the new Chamber of Commerce, there are indications that this will be an important feature of its work. Soon after organization, a number of committees were appointed to consider questions of foreign trade. The special committee on the Department of Commerce has been extremely active in investigating the work of the various bureaus, and in framing its report. The latter is in sympathy with the ideas of Secretary Redfield, in that they involve a comprehensive plan for broadening the scope of the Bureau of Foreign and Domestic Commerce, and the appointment of commercial attachés. The report was submitted to the constituent organizations of the Chamber of Commerce for a referendum vote. This was overwhelmingly in favor of the recommendations of the committee.
The establishment of this commercial clearing-house, which will serve also as a connecting link between the government at Washington and our largest business interests, is unquestionably a timely move. When commercial legislation is pending, the pulse of the nation may be taken and its record submitted to the government. The future contributions of this body to the solution of the problems involved in the expansion of our foreign trade, supplemented by those which are bound to result from other conscious movements in behalf of our export trade, should result in enabling American merchants to compete successfully with rivals. Thus will the United States, with her abundant and diversified natural resources, be assured of occupying a high place among the world’s great commercial nations.