- The Empire Club of Canada Addresses (Toronto, Canada), 9 Mar 1950, p. 248-257
- Cockshutt, C. Gordon, Speaker
- Media Type
- Item Type
- Canada's trade with other members of the British Commonwealth and Empire, and with the world at large. What the Canadian businessmen are trying to do to help to solve the very difficult problems which Canada is now facing in the world of trade. The speaker's association with the Chamber of Commerce movement in Canada. The Canadian Chamber of Commerce becoming a national force in Canada, particularly since the end of World War II. This a reflection of the determination of businessmen to take a more active part in the national affairs of Canada; also an awareness that if business does not play an active part in the national affairs, then someone else will. The need to present the business point of view to the Canadian people by businessmen themselves. Membership figures of the Canadian Chamber of Commerce. Purpose of the Chamber. The responsibility of the business community. How the free enterprise system works, and works well in Canada and the United States, as indicated by the standard of living for these two countries. The growth of The Canadian Chamber of Commerce since the war and what that indicates. The Chamber's dissemination of information. The subject of foreign trade; a shift from government to business. The importance of multilateral trade to the future of Canada. Canada suffering from what is known as a U.S. dollar shortage. A look at the balance of trade between Canada and the U.S. The economic state of the United Kingdom and how Canada is affected by it. The Canadian Chamber of Commerce's activities in sending mission to the United Kingdom to study and discuss their problems at first hand. The result of such meetings in the formation of an international committee through which Canadian and British businessmen strive to find answers to some of the difficult problems which are now slowing up trade and economic development for the two countries. A similar committee in the United States which has, over the past 15 years, dealt with many issues of trade and commerce, most recently, the issue of Customs Administration between Canada and the U.S. Some of the resolutions which emerged from the meeting of the Chamber Committee in London, England. The issue of joint defence. The Canadian Chamber making a strong plea for industrial integration for defence between the U.S. and the nations of the British Commonwealth. Restating belief and support for the North Atlantic Pact. The establishment of a three-way committee representing businessmen in Canada, United States, and the United Kingdom. Issues of concern to all three countries. The need to work together and co-operate at every level, among the diplomats, the civil servants, the businessmen, the soldiers, the writers and publicists, the men and women who make up our populations. The need for initiative, understanding and, above all, a spirit of co-operation.
- Date of Original
- 9 Mar 1950
- Language of Item
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- Full Text
- BUSINESS ACTION
AN ADDRESS BY C. GORDON COCKSHUTT, M.C. PRESIDENT, COCKSHUTT PLOW CO. LTD.
Chairman: First Vice-President, Mr. Sydney Hermant
Thursday, March 9th, 1950
Members and Guests of The Empire Club of Canada We are to hear an Address today by Mr. C. Gordon Cockshutt, M.C., President of the Cockshutt Plow Co., of Brantford, Ont. In addition to the active management of his great Company, Mr. Cockshutt has a wide variety of business interests embodying nearly every facet of industrial and commercial activity. His distinguished family have made a great contribution to the industrial development of this Country. In addition to this Mr. Cockshutt has been a devoted servant of the Empire, of Canada, and his own Community of Brantford. Promoted to the Rank of Captain in the Field in World War I he was awarded the Military Cross. He has been Chairman of the Anglo-Canadian Trade Committee since its inception. Mr. Cockshutt has served for two years as President of the Canadian Chamber of Commerce to the Members of which we extend a very special welcome today. He is a Past-President of the Brantford Board of Trade, and has taken an active and continuing interest in many communal activities there.
The business community can be well proud of this example of good citizenship. Mr. Cockshutt has recently returned from England and he is going to speak to us now on "Business Action". Mr. Gordon Cockshutt.
Gentlemen: It is always a privilege to meet the members of the Empire Club and today I enjoy a particular honour in having the pleasure of speaking to you concerning a subject which is, I know, very much in the minds of all of us these days.
I refer, of course, to Canada's trade with other members of the British Commonwealth and Empire, and with the world at large, and particularly I want to tell you something of what Canadian businessmen are trying to do to help to solve the very difficult problems which our country is now facing in the world of trade.
As many of you perhaps know, for a number of years I have been closely associated with the Chamber of Commerce movement in Canada. Co-ordinating the activities of the Chamber of Commerce movement at the national level is The Canadian Chamber of Commerce. It is only during the past few years that The Canadian Chamber of Commerce has come to the attention of many Canadians--even Canadian businessmen. Particularly since the end of the recent war, The Canadian Chamber of Commerce has become a national force in Canada.
I believe this reflects the determination of businessmen to take a more active part in the national affairs of our country. It reflects also, an awareness that if business does not play an active part in the national affairs of the country, then someone else will. If the business point of view is not presented to the Canadian people by businessmen themselves, then obviously it will not be presented at all, and the public of Canada will derive their appreciation of business from those who do not understand or sympathize with its problems.
At the end of the war, the Canadian Chamber of Commerce had a membership of 150 Boards of Trade and Chambers of Commerce in that many cities through out Canada. At the present time, The Canadian Chamber membership numbers more than 645 Boards of Trade and Chambers of Commerce in that many communities, in every Province of Canada from British Columbia to Newfoundland.
The Canadian Chamber is concerned with all those matters which affect business in this country--and these days that covers a lot of ground. This is one reason why its membership has increased so rapidly. The Canadian Chamber is carrying the ball for business in many places where the individual businessman could not undertake to carry the ball for himself. Another reason for the widespread national support of The Canadian Chamber' of Commerce has been the determination of this organization and men who comprise it, to defend Canadian and North American traditions, to strengthen the North American way of life.
Canadian and United States businessmen are perhaps inclined to be a little more practical about the things which contribute to a country's greatness than are some other sections of the population. Did you ever stop to consider the weight of responsibility which rests on the business community? Other groups govern, levy taxes, pass rules and regulations; other people may criticize the system, may denounce the distribution of wealth, may draw up plans to place the means of production under government control, but while all this is going on, business must keep the machine running.
These other activities are not productive of wealth and if business did not keep turning out the goods and paying the taxes and contributing to all the causes which are deserving of support, then what would happen? None of us is so naive as to say that there are no faults to be found with business in this country, any more than we would say there are no faults to be found with politicians or housewives or labour, or for that matter with human nature. The point is, that when all has been said and done, this economic system which is in operation in the North American continent--call it free enterprise if you will--this system does work and does produce wealth and does furnish to the people of Canada and the United States the highest living standard in the world. This is a hard fact which cannot be challenged. Yet it is a fact which is often forgotten in the intricacies of political discussion, in reading and writing about the idealistic Utopias held out by this or that political theorist.
I think that the growth of The Canadian Chamber of Commerce since the war is a very plain indication that Canadian businessmen realize that they must place these facts before their fellow countrymen, and I think it can be said that The Canadian Chamber of Commerce has been quite successful in carrying out a broad program of information describing in factual, often statistical terms just what the system of private enterprise is and why it deserves the support of every thinking Canadian.
Of almost equal importance with the defence of our way of life is the subject of foreign trade. During the war, with the necessity for government control of so much of the means of production and distribution, particularly in the international field, there grew up the tendency to regard international trade as almost a closed preserve of government officials. A little unprejudiced thought will make clear the absurdity of this idea. Who can possibly have a greater interest in foreign trade than the trader himself--in other words the businessman? I know very well that in many countries bulk buying and bulk selling is the order of the day. This is not yet the case in Canada, and if we wish to retain the commanding position which we hold in the foreign trade field, we shall not allow these bulk transactions to become the common means of carrying on our trade.
I do not suggest for a moment that Canada's government trade service abroad is not doing an excellent job, because I know from personal experience that it is, but it is a job which must of necessity be limited in scope. It cannot undertake the actual work of trading. It cannot do the businessman's job for him. Similarly, in the sphere of foreign trade policy, I think that the businessman has the duty and should have the opportunity to make his views known. The importance of multilateral trade to the future of Canada is so great that we must tap all our resources of experience in the field of foreign trade in order to find an answer to this problem. Much can be done by officers of the government, but perhaps even more can be done at the business level.
Like almost every other country in the world, Canada is suffering from what is known as a U.S. dollar shortage. This is a convenient way of describing the fact that Canada buys more from the United States than she sells, and that the money which she receives from other countries-pounds sterling, are not convertible into U.S. dollars to pay for the goods that we are buying from the States. This is, of course, an over-simplification, and does not point up the possible avenues of attack on the problem. Why can't we sell more goods in the United States? Well, for one reason, the United States tariffs in many cases, despite recent reductions, are still too high to allow competition. Another hindrance is the way the United States handles its customs administration, where uncertainty as to rate of duty and delay in getting goods through the customs often makes it impractical, if not impossible, for the businessman to ship his goods to that market. These two matters are, of course, subjects for government action, but they are also subjects on which businessmen should make their views known. They are subjects which deserve the close study of businessmen and I may say they are receiving this study, not only by The Canadian Chamber of Commerce but by The Chamber of Commerce of the United States.
The other large trade matter in which we are vitally concerned, is the economic state of the United Kingdom. Not only do we have strong traditional political ties with that country and with the other members of the Commonwealth, but we have equally strong commercial ties. For many years, as all of us know, the Commonwealth countries and the United Kingdom in particular, were our best customers. In those days, of course, the United Kingdom was a creditor nation. She received returns on her investments throughout the world. Her merchant marine and other services brought in large amounts of money. Her colonial Empire produced goods which were sold in the dollar area and around the globe. In those days, the excess sterling which we received because we sold more goods to the United Kingdom than she sold to us was easily balanced off, and pounds sterling could be converted into U.S. dollars to buy what we wanted from the United States.
Following the war, the United Kingdom presented a very different picture. In the prosecution of the conflict, she had emptied her treasury. Her investments were largely gone. Many of the natural resources of her Colonial Empire were no longer available. She was now a debtor nation. In August 1939, the external liabilities of the United Kingdom amounted only to four hundred and seventy-six million pounds. In June of 1945, this had risen to three billion, three hundred and fifty-five million pounds-an increase of almost two billion, nine hundred million pounds. Her gold and dollar reserves had fallen off, her productive capacity in many cases has become obsolete or worn out. Here was a problem not only for the United Kingdom but for the democratic world.
The Canadian Chamber of Commerce became concerned with the situation at its inception. During the last two years, this organization has sent several missions to the United Kingdom to study and discuss their problems at first hand. These meetings with British businessmen have resulted in the formation of an international committee through which Canadian and British businessmen strive to find answers to some of the difficult problems which are now slowing up trade and economic development for the two countries.
In doing this the Canadian Chamber had a good precedent in a committee which it has maintained for the past 15 years with the Chamber of Commerce of the United States. This international group of businessmen has been successful in helping to solve many economic problems common to Canada and the United States. Over a period of years, it has considered a great many subjects. It has of course, an obvious interest in trade matters, but there are other topics which are perhaps not so obvious--for example, the joint mobilization of the industrial defence forces of the North American Continent. Businessmen in Canada and the United States are very directly concerned in this matter because modern war has become, to a large degree, a conflict of production and of technical development. It is very important that businessmen in Canada and the United States should have some common meeting place where they can talk over the problems of joint defence and see what needs to be done.
During the past three years, this Committee has paid particular attention to the matter of Customs Administration between Canada and the United States, and it has been successful in bringing this important subject more into the public eye. Another subject in which the Committee is currently very interested is the development of Canadian and United States natural resources, and the most efficient use of them for the welfare of the North American Continent.
With the experience of this Committee in mind, the Canadian Chamber went ahead and set up a similar Committee with its opposite numbers in the United Kingdom. We found British businessmen very interested in the idea and already a number of meetings have been held. The Committee meets twice a year, once in Canada and once in the United Kingdom, and between times the secretariats in London and Montreal carry on the work of the group. I have just returned from a meeting of the Committee in London, where we had some very worthwhile talks. You may be interested in hearing some of the resolutions which emerged from the meeting.
First of all, the Committee came out strongly for making every effort to promote a return of international trade to a multilateral basis. We realize that this is only a goal which will not be easily achieved in the near future, but in view of the prevalance of bilateral and barter deals on the European Continent since the end of the war, it is worth noting that this group, representing British businessmen, is still eager to return to a multilateral basis.
As a result of the meetings, a resolution has been presented to The Canadian Chamber of Commerce urging that there should be a settlement of sterling indebtedness incurred by the United Kingdom during the war and, if necessary, Canada should be prepared to consider joining other wartime allies in assuming responsibility for a part of this indebtedness. After all, these debts were incurred by the United Kingdom in fighting a desperate war for democracy, and they should not now be a millstone around their necks, retarding British progress toward better things. Even if we look at the situation selfishly, we will see that Britain's sterling balance situation is a big factor in hindering a return to convertibility of dollars and sterling, which is affecting us very directly.
Another resolution presented to the Canadian Chamber as a result of our study of the British situation, concerns trading incentives. We must face the fact that for a British firm which has traditionally done business in the sterling area, and has never tried to meet sharp competition of United States and Canadian markets, there must be some incentive for it to really get into the fight, to raise those United States and Canadian dollars which the United Kingdom needs so badly. If a British firm sells goods in Canada or the States, it does not receive dollars. It receives sterling, just as if it had sold goods in the far less demanding, but high-priced markets of Europe. The Chamber of Commerce now urges two things to help remedy this situation: First, that British exporters to Canada be allowed to retain exclusively for their own use, a portion of the dollars received from their sales to Canada; and Second, that Canadian enterprises which have national distributing organizations and which are willing to undertake the merchandising of goods in the dollar area, be allowed to export their own products to sterling areas to the extent of 25% of the sterling imports which they sell. We believe that this would give quite an impetus to trade between Canada and the United Kingdom.
When we say that we believe the British businessman needs an incentive, we do not for one moment question his initiative or his industry on behalf of his country, but it has been shown that everywhere in the world, even in the countries behind the Iron Curtain, more things get done if there is a concrete reward for doing them. This is only human nature.
The Committee also talked about joint defence, and as a result The Canadian Chamber is making a strong plea for industrial integration for defence between the United States and the nations of the British Commonwealth. In so doing, of course, we are restating our belief and support for the North Atlantic pact.
You may have noticed that most of the subjects which I mentioned as being discussed by Canada and the United States Committee were also studied and discussed by the Anglo-Canadian Trade Committee. Whenever we start to study these subjects, we find that it is practically impossible to discuss Canada's relationship to the United Kingdom as something separate from her relationship to the United States.
As a result, we now hope to go a step further and to establish a three-way committee representing businessmen in Canada, United States and the United Kingdom. Such a Committee would be in a position to tackle a lot of those problems which involve the three countries. With the experience of our other Committees to guide us, I think there is a lot of useful work that we could do. We plan to go ahead with this project in the near future, and I think that we will receive the support of businessmen in the three countries.
There are so many things which concern the three of us. Defence for one thing--our industrial potential as well as our military planning. We in Canada must spare no effort to achieve the closest possible understanding and co-operation with these other two great countries, which are the main bulwark for the defence of democracy in the world. Our three countries speak a common language, have common traditions, are a great force for good in the world and must remain so. We face a heavy challenge today. If these challenges are effectively met, the world holds out a bright future for us. It is true the advance of science and technology has produced many new techniques of war, and it is important that our country and these other two great countries should lead the world in this field-but science and medicine have also produced many new techniques and developments for peace-time use.
If we remain strong, if we remain devoted to our ideals, the world of tomorrow will be a happy place. Now is the testing time. We must work together today. The great English-speaking nations of the world must co-operate to defeat their common enemies, to achieve their common goals. This co-operation must be achieved on every level--among the diplomats, the civil servants, among the businessmen, the soldiers, the writers and publicists, the men and women who make up our populations. By concerted effort we can achieve the goals we have set for ourselves. What is needed now is initiative, understanding and, above all, a spirit of co-operation.