HC Deb 10 December 1928 vol 223 cc1675-8
16. Colonel HOWARD-BURY

asked the Secretary of State for Dominion Affairs whether, with regard to the trade treaty between the Union Government of South Africa and Germany, he can state the position as to the extension of existing preferences and, as to the grant of new preferences, as to whether under the most-favoured-nation trade agreements preferences must be given to all countries with which such treaties are concluded?


The question of the bearing of the treaty on the extension of existing preferences and the grant of new preferences is one for His Majesty's Government in the Union of South Africa. The position, as I understand it, is that in the case of goods which are enumerated in existing Union legislation as those in respect of which preferences are granted to other parts of the British Empire Germany would not be entitled to claim for German goods the benefit either of existing rebates or of any variation which might be made in the rates of rebate. In the case, however, of goods which are not so enumerated, Germany would be entitled, when the treaty comes into force, to claim for German goods the same rates of duty as may be granted to similar goods produced or manufactured in other parts of the Empire. The matter referred to in the second part of the question is also one for consideration by the Union Government, but I understand that there are, in fact, certain treaties with foreign countries in force under which any reduction of duty accorded to German goods can be claimed on behalf of similar goods from the foreign countries in question.


Seeing that under this most-favoured-nation agreement, any other country can obtain an equal preference, does that not to a great extent mean ending all Empire preference; and before this treaty is ratified cannot the right hon. Gentleman make some strong representations with regard to our Empire policy of Empire preference?


I am afraid my hon. and gallant Friend must have entirely misunderstood my answer. The whole point of my answer was that on the articles enumerated in the South African tariff as enjoying a preference, the preference is in no way affected by the treaty.


It is affected if any extra preference is given.


Is this matter still the subject of conversations between the right hon. Gentleman and the South African Government?


No further correspondence is taking place.


Does the right hon. Gentleman not see the extreme danger to Imperial relations in attempting in this House to dictate South African tariff policy?


There is no question of that.

18. Mr. COUPER

asked the Secretary of State for Dominion Affairs whether, in the course of the negotiations for the commercial treaty between the Union of South Africa and Germany, he made any observations regarding the terms of the treaty; if so, whether he will state the nature of those observations; and whether any reference was made to the effect of the treaty on the system of preference duties between this country and South Africa?


I would invite reference to the reply given on my behalf by my right hon. Friend the Under-Secretary of State for the Colonies to questions in the House on the 4th December.


Would arty continuation or development of such Treaties between South Africa and Germany or any other foreign country provide for the preference in duties to Great Britain?


Every Government in the Empire is entitled to pass its own legislation in regard to preference, and the most we are entitled to do is each to draw the other's attention to any aspect of proposed legislation which may affect our interests.


In the event of the Treaty being ratified, will any preference that is in future granted to this country by South Africa on articles which are not now getting preference be given equally to Germany?


Is it in order to discuss South African tariffs in this House?


The conduct of the British Government in connection with the matter can, I presume, be raised, and such information as we can give as to what we understand of the effect of the South African tariff, but, as I said, the matter is entirely one for consideration by the Union Government.


In making any representations on this matter to the Dominions, do we bear in mind the opinion expressed by the representatives of this and all other countries on these matters at Geneva 'and elsewhere?