Saturday, March 19, 2022

Has British trade a future? (1926)

From the December 1926 issue of the Socialist Standard

(Continued from last month).
“Mr. Suma is to study the business conditions in East Africa, whose ports have never been visited by Japanese mercantile ships. The N.Y.K. and the O.S.K. have opened the new East Africa service in April with a view to promoting the business between Japan and East Africa. The Navy has advised the Foreign Office to send an official to East Africa in order to study customs, local circumstances, and economic conditions there aboard one of the warships, which the Navy Office has scheduled for the cruise along East Africa. The Foreign Office has been selecting the official since. The squadron is to leave Japan early next month, and will come back in January next year.” (“Osaka Mainichi,” 30/5/26.)
The “Bombay Chronicle” of July 23rd, 1926, quotes the “Japan Chronicle” of April 8th, 1926, to the following effect :—
“The “Asaki” reports that the scheme of the Foreign Office to further Japan’s economic development in Persia and the South Seas is making fair progress. The Supplementary Budget for the fiscal year 1926-27 includes an item relating to investigations into trade development in the South Seas involving Yen 24.299, and another item bearing on similar investigations in Persia and neighbouring countries to Yen 56.204. With regard to the investigation into economic conditions in Persia and neighbouring countries, it was started soon after Mr. Obata, Ambassador to Turkey, arrived at his post some time ago, and, judging from the results of the sample exhibition of Japanese exports which was held at Constantinople, it is hoped that it is not altogether impossible for Japanese goods to be exported to the Balkans, Asia Minor, Persia and Afghanistan, to the amount of Yen 100.000.000 a year. At a conference on investigations with trade development, which is to be held at Constantinople for ten days from the 20th inst., it is expected that recommendations to be submitted to the Foreign Office will be considered and adopted. These recommendations will furnish valuable materials for reference for those Japanese traders who wish to export their goods to those countries. In the meantime the Government is contemplating establishing Consulates where they are required for trade purposes.

As regards trade development in the South Seas, the Foreign Office is to call in Tokyo a conference of Consuls appointed to Calcutta, Batavia, Singapore, Bombay, Sydney, Manila, Hongkong, Haifong, Saigon, Rangoon and Bankok, at which will also be present the officials of the Departments concerned and business men chiefly interested in the South Seas’ trade. At this conference matters relating to Japan’s economic development in those districts will be thoroughly studied.”
At the moment, India is feeling very seriously the effect of Japanese competition, and the Bombay Millowners’ Association has submitted a statement to the Muf Board showing how they are hit by the competition of Japan. Extracts from this report are published in the “Bombay Chronicle” for July 20th and 23rd, 1926. The following excerpts are taken from the extract:—
“Japanese competition was severe, and in certain instances Japanese goods were offered at prices lower than the cost price of similar goods manufactured in India. . . .
…. The mill industry is suffering from the unfavourable rate of exchange with Japan and highly organised Japanese competition.

Japan, owing to her larger production of yarn and piece-goods for export has a much better balanced trade than India.

In piece-goods the position is much more unfavourable to India, the value of India’s piece-goods export trade to China being only about one-tenth of what it was ; Japan’s trade has increased forty or fifty-fold.

What strikes one most in considering the growth of Japanese competition is the amazing rapidity with which her imports into this country have gone up. It may be broadly stated that in 1914-15 the total imports of Japanese yarn into India were less than a million pounds, while in 1924-25, i.e., about ten years later, the quantity imported was more than 32 times the figure of 1914-15. Again, in piece-goods, the quantity imported in 1914-15 was about 16 million yards, and in 1925-26 it had risen to nearly 220 million yards.
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It is this extraordinary rise every year in Japanese imports which fills with dismay the minds of everybody who has a stake in the cotton mill industry of the country. If the Japanese imports go on increasing at the present rate one hesitates to contemplate the plight in which the cotton mill industry of the country will find itself in about five or six vears’ time.
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It is forgotten that not only is Japan dealing severe blows to Indian manufacturers in Indian markets, but she is making rapid inroads in the export markets. In the words of the Administration Report of the Bombay Presidency for 1923-24, “Since 1917 China has been practically a closed market for Indian piece-goods, owing mainly to the expansion of the indigenous textile industry and to the rigour of Japanese competition.”

India has practically lost her export trade in yarn, and since this yarn has necessarily to be utilised in manufacturing cloth, it is of the utmost importance to develop the export trade, but here again Japan with the unfair advantages she is enjoying over India is proving a very formidable rival, for not only has she ousted India from the Chinese market, but is rapidly capturing her foreign markets, e.g., Egypt, East Africa, etc.”
There is a pretty kettle of fish for Chiozza Money to stew ! The above quotations only deal with one branch of Japan’s activities, but it must be remembered that she produces the bulk of the world’s silk; that she is conscious of her shortcomings in the coal, iron and steel industries; and is making strenuous efforts to remedy them; that she has a cheap and almost unlimited supply of labour to call upon; and that in the matter of factory legislation, particularly with regard to hours of labour and female and child labour, she lags far behind the other advanced countries.

Japan’s neighbour China is in the industrial melting-pot. China is making strides in the way of producing to meet her own needs, and when she too commences to make a serious attack on the world’s markets— well, there will need to be some “reductions in the cost of production” to meet the twin eastern commercial menace !

To come down to the position from the worker’s point of view, we can see in the struggle for markets a terrific development in machine-production and elimination of human assistance in the production of goods. This would be very acceptable if the workers owned the machines, but as the employers own them, it means the elimination of jobs. Without jobs, no wages; and without wages, no bread—or the workers must decide that it is time they reaped the multitude of advantages accruing to those who own and control the means of production.