October 12, 1932 (17th Parliament, 4th Session)


Richard Bedford Bennett (Prime Minister; President of the Privy Council; Secretary of State for External Affairs)

Conservative (1867-1942)

Right Hon. R. B. BENNETT (Prime Minister) moved:

That it is expedient that parliament do approve of the trade agreement entered into at Ottawa the 20th day of August, 1932, between representatives of His Majesty's government in Canada and of His Majesty's government in the United Kingdom, and that this house do approve of the same, subject to the legislation required in order to give effect to the fiscal changes consequent thereto.
He said: I have the great honour and satisfaction of presenting for the approval of this house, certain trade agreements made between Canada and the other countries of the British Empire at the Imperial economic conference, recently held in this city.
These agreements are as follows:
1. Agreement between His Majesty's government in the United Kingdom and His Majesty's government in Canada.
2. Agreement beween His Majesty's government in the Dominion of Canada and His Majesty's government in the Union of South Africa.
3. Agreement between His Majesty's government in Canada and His Majesty's government in the Irish Free State.
4. Agreements between His Majesty's government in Canada and the government of Southern Rhodesia.
These agreements mark the first forward step in a definite scheme of closer empire economic association. They are based upon the principle enunciated by the Conservative party before the last general election, and steadfastly supported by it from that time to the present. They conform to the general plan proposed by this government at the economic conference held at London two years ago, reaffirmed at the opening of the Ottawa conference, and adopted in a very practical way by the agreements which are the outcome of its deliberations.
At the economic conference held in London in October, 1930, I submitted, on behalf of the government of Canada, a plan for closer econ-
Imperial Conjerence-Trade Agreements
omic association, predicated upon the general adoption of preferential tariffs. At that time the empire as a whole was not ready to accept this plan. At the economic conference recently held in this city, I resubmitted in principle my earlier proposal by offering to the United Kingdom: (1) an extension of the list of articles admitted free into Canada from empire markets; (2) retention of the existing preferences in favour of Great Britain; and (3) increased preferences in respect of a selected list of articles in which Great Britain was especially equipped to supply the Canadian market without injuring efficient Canadian enterprise, and in exchange I asked: (1) for the retention of existing preferences; and (2) their effective extension to those other natural and processed products of which the United Kingdom is an importer.
My proposal involved the adoption of measures to safeguard the operation of the agreement from the unfair competition of countries whose state controlled standards of living, state controlled labour and state aided dumping, dictated by high state policies, conflicted in theory and in practice with the free institutions of the British Empire.
As at London in 1930, so at the conference at Ottawa, I explained that the desire of this government was to secure a greater empire market for its natural products. And here I said that while in the past, Canada's manufactured products have enjoyed a measure of protection in the home market, our natural products have enjoyed little or no tariff advantage over their foreign competitors in empire markets. I made it clear that in our opinion, the ideal application of the principle of protection involved an equalization of benefits thereunder as between manufactured and natural products, and said that it was the desire of this government to effect that equalization and to find a way for our exporters into empire markets by giving the exporters from those markets a way into ours.
In brief, I proposed that we should secure tariff preferences in empire markets for our natural products, as well as wider markets for our manufactured products, by granting in the home market tariff concessions to empire manufacturers. In other words, we desired to secure wider empire markets for our producers of natural and manufactured products, having regard to the relative importance to them of export trade.
How far this government succeeded, you may judge by the character of the agreements to which it is a signatory.

I do not wish to create the impression that as a result of this conference we are putting into operation a plan that will secure at the outset the greatest possible development of the empire's trading potentialities. When we remember that the British Empire, as we know it to-day, has within its boundaries one-quarter of the human family, representing every shade of economic diversity, it would have been folly to expect that we should have secured at the outset the maximum benefits in preferential trade of which the empire is capable.
What I do mean to say, however, is that after almost half a century of hopes and fears, and vain endeavour, the countries of the British Empire have at last come together in agreement, based upon the principle of reciprocal and mutually advantageous tariff preferences; and have, moreover, by their common trust and zeal, prepared the way, not only for the practical working out of existing agreements, but for their augmentation at such times as our common interest may suggest.
These agreements were made in good faith between friends and kinsmen. They do not represent the result of dispassionate bargaining. And despite the unpatriotic efforts made by some to create the impression that the primary interest of each of the delegations was to benefit its own empire state at the cost of all others, I can tell you that while naturally and properly each delegation did its best for its own country, we all realized that no agreement could be lasting or beneficial which was one-sided, and we tried, while advancing our own position, to be constantly mindful of the position of other parties to the negotiations. In the result, we have agreements which, I claim, are fair and because of their fairness, I believe, will be enduring. It is in our interest that they should be enduring, for in my view advantages under these agreements are not secured through drying up world channels of trade. On the contrary, the more profitable shall be our inter-empire trade, the greater the volume of commodities which shall pass from one country to the other, the more certain it is that Canada as well as the other dominions of the empire will be the better able to reach out into other markets and there secure the further advantages required to put this country into that position in w'orld commerce which it is the aim of this government to secure.

Imperial Conference-Trade Agreements
It is not my purpose to deride the efforts of past Canadian governments to secure that scheme of empire trade which, with all humility, I may claim we have helped to bring about. Nor, at this time, do I wish to point the moral and suggest that the policies of this government, those which throughout the long years the party it represents has so unswervingly supported, must inevitably be the only policies on which a mutually beneficial plan of empire trade could be developed. I rather choose, at this anxious time in our country's history, to return thanks that the peoples of the empire, conscious of the benefits which must flow from closer economic association, were able, through selfdenial and patience and a capacity to see the other's point of view, to inaugurate an imperial tariff policy from which every one of them must obtain real and lasting advantage.
I ask my honourable friends on the other side of the house to accept these agreements in that spirit. I ask them before they prejudice the success of them by criticism induced by the consciousness that we have done what they failed to do, to remember that these agreements are for the good of Canada, for the good of the empire, and that these considerations at this time particularly should transcend the interest of party. I do not ask them to defend their failures of the past I do not even wish to put them in issue.
In addressing the house on April 26 last I placed on Hansard extracts from the memorandum submitted by Sir Wilfrid Laurier to the British government at the Colonial conference of 1902. It was at that time you will recall, that Sir Wilfrid Laurier, ceasing to agree with his delegate colleagues, took a very definite stand with respect to imperial preference. Let me requote from the memorandum this paragraph so apposite to the discussions on this subject today:
The Canadian ministers stated that if they could be assured that the Imperial government would accept the principle of preferential trade generally, and particularly grant to the food products of Canada in the United Kingdom exemption from duties now levied, or hereafter imposed, they,, the Canadian ministers, would be prepared to go further into the subject and endeavour to give to the British manufacturer some increased advantage over his foreign competitors in the markets of Canada.
I now only ask, and I sincerely hope that the parliament of Canada, now seeing accomplished the task which was attempted by that distinguished leader of the party which now sits to the left of the Speaker, can with one voice, approve the agreements which nothing
but mutual trust and confidence, mutual hope and the common appreciation of the fundamental principles on which empire business should be conducted, could have brought about.
Canada will carry out her part under these agreements in the spirit in which they were made, and no good Canadian will dare tc suggest that any empire country will be be. hind us in a recognition of those obligations not evidenced necessarily by the written word, but of the very warp and woof of the arrangements we have so painstakingly concluded.
It is not my intention at the present time exhaustively to analyse the agreements made by this government. I shall, however, indicate the basic principles contained in them and outline the advantages we have secured for the concessions granted, keeping you mindful of the fact that this government, on its own behalf, claims nothing more than that Canada's 'best interests have been maintained by the agreements I have tabled, and an equitable balance of benefits between agriculture and industry, so essential to the welfare of this country has been secured.
The agreement with the United Kingdom is naturally the agreement of primary importance to us. We have given to the mother country increased advantages which are set out in detail in the tariff resolutions to be submitted to the house by the Minister of Finance.

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