TRADE WITHIN THE EMPIRE
AN ADDRESS BY LT.-COL. SIR JAMES LITHGOW,
BART M.C.,T.D., M.I.N.A., PRESIDENT, FEDERATION
OF BRITISH INDUSTRIES.
(Before a Joint Meeting of the Canadian Club and the
Empire Club of Canada.)
11th, May, 1931
MR. H. G. STAPELLS, President of the Empire Club, introduced the guest, who said:-"Your chairman has referred to me in quite unnecessarily eulogistic terms, but as long as I do not take myself too seriously, I hope you will not take it seriously. I realize, in spite of what your chairman has said, the real reason why you have honoured me by asking me to address you today is the fact that I do represent, at this moment, British industries. It is very encouraging for the particular mission that I am on just now and which I am about to speak of,, that the Canadian and Empire Clubs should have amalgamated for the purpose of listening to my address. I have no doubt-perhaps not in the case of the present chairmanthat other chairmen may have introduced persons like me in similar eulogistic terms (laughter.) I know that in Toronto very like Glasgow-you want to get statements that seem true, so that perhaps you will permit me to tell you something about the Federation of British Industries. The important matter from your point of view is that it really represents British industrialists. You are probably aware that, in Britain, industry has, for many years, been organized for defensive purposes into an association connected with each individual trade. Now practically every important trade in Britain is so organized.
Shortly after the war, when wider issues were coming to the front, it was decided to amalgamate all these organizations, for the purpose of dealing with general commercial subjects, into one national federation. This is what is called the Federation of British Industries. That Federation draws further strength from the fact that, in addition to being representative of these different trade associations, it has also as direct members practically every important firm in the country; in addition to this every firm that for one reason or another is not properly organized is on the Association. So I can come to you and say that in Sir Arthur Duckham and myself you have representatives of British industrialists. I might explain that for the particular purposes which we have come to discuss--namely inter-Empire trade--we are peculiarly armed with credentials at the present time. I perhaps ought, before going into that, to refer to the individuals that are with us. I would have liked to take seriously what your chairman has said about myself, but I can say as regards Mr. Mackenzie, who is head of our Empire Section, that he has an international reputation of the first order, at least in the football field. He has represented the Thistle against the Rose, Leak, Shamrock and Fleur-de-lis but he has never tried conclusions with the Maple Leaf and, so far as I am concerned, I am going to take good care he does not, because he has come not to fight but to work. Sir Arthur Duckham, my colleague, has unfortunately been compelled to leave for a few days to go to New York. I am peculiarly fortunate in having him associated with me. During the war he occupied most important positions in the Ministry of Munitions which brought him in contact not only with leading industrialists in our own country but with leading industrialists of the Empire" and this gave him an insight into Empire affairs. He was selected by the British Government to confer with Mr. Bruce, Prime Minister of Australia. In that way he has further extended his knowledge of Empire affairs and in that respect he has an appreciation of your problems.
For myself, I have not travelled to any extent in the Empire, but during the war I was privileged to go with the troops to every part of the Dominion. I have made these introductory remarks not, I hope, in any vainglorious strain, but merely to let you appreciate that British industry is organized on a sound foundation and that its leaders are prepared to give some part of their time and such talent as they possess, for the consideration of the wider problems that confront industry today. I would not like you to take as authentic the idea of your chairman that we have simply consecrated our lives to working for the Empire. Our first duty is to our own firm, although we snatch a few spare hours to envisage these larger problems. (Laughter). The problems confronting us today are primarily-in Britain at least -the problems of co-operative action and a change in our fiscal policy. These two matters are occupying industrialists in Britain very specially. In co-operative effort, we have made great progress. Quite a number of our trades are now able to speak, at least with regard to export matters, with one voice instead of each one for itself. We are finding a more encouraging sign, and believe that the Trades Union and the Labor leaders of the Trades Union side are beginning to appreciate that only by co-operation with the industrialists and by treating industry as industry and not as a political football" will progress be made.
After all, you gentlemen realize that one's first consideration is what is best for one's own business. Notwithstanding, about a year ago it was obvious there was a growing feeling, from an industrial point of view, that Free Trade was no longer the best policy for us to adopt. Our Federation took a vote to determine to what extent it was justified in advocating a change of policy, and the result was most surprising, even to the most ardent Tariff Reformer. Three and a half per cent of our membership were in favor of continuing Free Trade. That is to say, three and a half per cent of the membership favored the existing Free Trade system whereas ninety-six and a half per cent were in favor of a change. (Applause). Now this means that our Federation is able to come to the Committee and say that we industrialists in Britain are in favor of such a change in fiscal policy as will bring about Empire reciprocity in matters of trade. I am well aware that there are classes in Britain who adhere to Free Trade, and our present Government is still pledged to support what they call free food. It is not free food at all, but it makes a rallying cry for an otherwise disspirited political argument. (Laughter). The significance, gentlemen, of our vote is that the leaders of industry, what I might call the combatant troops, have decided that Free Trade is no longer a suitable field to conduct the battle upon; the troops themselves are fed up with nearly a million being permanently or chronically out of action and are on the eve of demanding a change in our system. The time is past when the administrative staffs of the non-combatants can affect the issue; we demand for our leaders vision and leadership rather than self-satisfaction and criticism, which is all we have had from them in the recent past. (Laughter.) The reason why this mission came at this particular time is also of interest to you. You know that the Imperial Conference in London had to be adjourned. Your own representatives suggested that, while governments were re-considering their positions, that industrialists of Britain and Canada might explore the possibilities of co-operation along purely industrial lines. My Federation accepted the suggestion gladly and, as an earnest of their determination to treat the matter seriously, appointed their President-elect and the head of their Empire Department to come over here and make contacts with your business men. We came out with the one idea that the prosperity of Canada was essential to the prosperity of the Empire (applause); and that the prosperity of the Empire was essential to the prosperity of Great Britain. (Applause.) Canada is and must remain an important industrial country. We realize that industrial expansion along sane, sound lines is essential to the development of Canada, and to the prosperity of Great Britain through the Empire. We have expounded that theory to you from various angles and I need hardly say that we have been received in friendly though, in some cases, a semi-critical spirit. However, we have accepted this as straight-forward business men must, particularly those coming from Glasgow. (Laughter).
We have ventured to suggest, from time to time, that there are so many examples, both in Britain and particularly in Australia, of efforts being made by various industrial units to make themselves self-sufficient, that there is real danger of the development in Canada, unless it is sound, degenerating into distention, rather than extension, of industries. We think that you Canadians might find it to your best industrial advantage to look upon the industries of Britain as complementary and supplementary to your own industries. Your industries are necessarily young industries developing along the lines of least resistance, and we have felt that our old established and more general industries in Britain can be of real assistance in furthering your efforts. We have found a ready response to these suggestions, and we have felt that the contacts which we have made will enable us to extend that line of approach" and not only to help our own industries but also to help yours. As I have said we have received a warm welcome.
We have, as far as possible, made it clear to you that we recognize trade must be carried on for profit and that politics cannot make trade a success; in the development of inter-Empire trade, while it is necessary for our respective governments to lay down the lines by which trade can be best developed in the interests of the country as a whole, there is a real obligation for the traders themselves to take up these lines and, from day-today business to develop trade. We have naturally been impressed since we came here with the great natural advantages which some of our competitors enjoy. But, after all, these difficulties in our way must be met, and my special wish in addressing a large gathering of this kind is to let you know that while we, as traders, are going to face our own problems, a great deal can be done by public opinion to make things easier for us.
One hears a great deal of criticism of the lethargic laziness of British industry in the past. British industry was successful and held a premier position for a long time; the same amount of criticism was leveled against her before the war, when she came forward and confounded all her critics. (Applause). Speaking of the war, gentlemen, I have been much impressed by going through your buildings and seeing your own rolls of honour. Although I have been impressed with this, I want to tell you that these lists and rolls can only convey to you a slight appreciation of the enormous difference which the war made to us in Britain. We lost lives; we were taken advantage of by our competitors who built up a trade against us; even worse were our shaken nerves and distracted equilibrium. Perhaps the greatest handicap has been the general result-the disillusionment and disappointment, coupled with the various humanitarian impulses that the suffering of war engendered among us. The honourable attempt to make good has added further to our burden and still further shaken our nerves. I am not raising this point by way of making excuses; what is past is past and we must live for the future. I have already told you that there are signs of an awakening in British industry towards more productive effort. I, therefore, come to you in a spirit of hope, feeling that in spite of the leeway for which we have ourselves to blame, in spite of advantages which geography gives to our competitors, we are by no means down and out, from an international point of view. (Applause.)
In our contacts here, we have received a great deal of material comfort and helpful suggestion; we have been mightily impressed by the genuine desire which we hear expressed on all sides that" other things being equal, you wish to deal with Britain first. (Applause.) That has placed a responsibility upon us which we will do our best to discharge when we return. In Britain we are constantly being encouraged to use the various kinds of Dominion produce. In fact in my business I would need to eat all day if I were to use some of the products of my various customers. (Laughter). There is a good deal that the public in Canada, and a certain amount that organized industrialists in Canada, might do to help us in making contacts with one another.
I have referred to the importance of public opinion in these matters. I have also referred to the need there is, and the help that can be given by governments in directing trade along proper channels. In connection with the Imperial Conference, two slogans have become rather popular. Slogans are necessary for certain interests but they are apt to be misleading. There are two slogans I have heard a great deal about in the last six months; one is "Canada First"-I do not know where that came from but I think it was on a Christmas card (laughter)-and the other is "Britain First" a slogan that does not encourage me, and which, I think, Mr. Thomas claims as his particular line. (Laughter). It is not for me to touch Canadian or even British politics but I think these different slogans were invented for political purposes. I trust they served their political ends. (Laughter) In Toronto you have a fine research department, and I am sure if you submit these two slogans to the mathematician there you will find that things that are equal to the same thing are equal to one another. (Laughter.) That brings us back to the fact that the Empire Club and the Canadian Club stand for the same-Empire first. (Applause.) I feel confident that if trade matters are looked upon broadly, with proper perspective given to the selfish interests of the manufacturer, to the interests of the consumer, and to sound development of his trade" you will find that the British Empire contains all the resources required for trade, to a greater degree than are to be found in any other country or group of countries. You will find proper development of these resources with the idea of benefit to the Empire as a whole; you will find that each individual section, each individual locality will benefit to the maximum. (Applause).
I have been much impressed with the results of the Exhibition at Buenos Aires. I understand that the Canadian section has been a great success-in fact, in some respects, even a greater success than the British section. I would like you to ask yourselves how that Exhibition would have carried on if it had not been associated with the Empire? I venture to think that the Empire was of real advantage to you. (Applause). I wish particularly in a gathering of this kind to keep away from hot air in these matters. I think that one does not need to be accused of anything of that kind in referring to the moral power of the British Empire. The British Empire is the greatest force for good and moral advancement that the world has ever known. (Applause). I have tried to show you how the future of the Empire is bound up with the prosperity of its industries. I feel that I can safely appeal to an audience of this kind to consider Empire trade in the terms of Empire. I have referred to the London Conference and we are all deeply concerned lest the continuance of it at Ottawa should not be a success. It would be tragic if our horizon should become clouded by misunderstanding.
I understand that an expert, or at least an apprentice in the trade, has been before you, telling you about politicians and British politicians in particular. We in Britain must put up with the politicians we have. (Laughter). We must permit them to go to Ottawa to do the best they can, according to their light. I would ask you as Canadians, however, to think the best of them rather than the worst-(laughter)-and to realize that in dealing with trade matters they have not only to consider the wishes of the industrialists,, but they must consider the possibility of being privileged to represent the Empire at the next Conference. (Laughter).
I have spoken about these slogans, "Canada First," and "Britain First," and I think it is fortunate that this Conference is to be continued at Ottawa because it gives Canada a real chance of showing "Canada First" at its best. I trust that any of you who have influence at this conference will remember the words of General Smuts; I will quote them: "Have a plan; it may be a d .... bad plan but have a plan." (Laughter). Now, gentlemen, if there is a plan at Ottawa I trust that you will accept it as the best that is going. It may be a bad plan but it will show its effect, and the opportunity will have come for Canada to lead in the foundations of a real Empire course. (Applause).
The Rt. Hon. Arthur Meighen, President of the Canadian Club, voiced the thanks of the meeting to Sir James Lithgow.