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International Trade.

Genoa Conference. – in the House of Commons on 25th May 1922.

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The Financial Commission made an attempt to re-establish currency, and to improve the stability of the exchanges. The Commission not only defined the conditions under which the currency and exchange problems of Europe can be solved, but it also indicated the precise steps to be taken, and arranged for the initiation of reforms at a meeting of central banks. The Resolution aimed at removing currency difficulties, and it began with a currency code. The object of this code is to again anchor paper currencies, directly or indirectly, to gold and to secure for the nation a credit policy, in order to prevent fluctuations.

With regard to exchanges, the primary recommendation was that the artificial control of exchange operations should be removed, in order that nothing should stand in the way of the recovery of exchanges as currencies recover, and as the exports which support them improve. Trade was checked and impeded, we found, by the absence of credit. There, a very fruitful suggestion was made in the organisation of an international corporation, which will he explained by my right lion. Friend the Secretary of State for War. A good deal of labour has been expended by him upon the organisation of that invaluable body, and assistance has been rendered in its formation by some of the leading financial countries of the world. Restrictions, impediments, unfair conditions in the way of trade were to be found everywhere. It is one of the unfortunate results of the War—of a war which demonstrated the power of international good will almost more than any other events in the history of the world—that it should have ended in an abnormal development of a narrow, selfish and blind nationalism. You found it in every direction—in the Customs in restrictions upon trade, in restrictions upon transport—transport, organised in order to develop international trade, used for the purpose of preventing international trade. It is not merely the amount of the tariff, but the fluctuations of the tariff, the uncertainty of the tariff, but human ingenuity exhausted, in order to make trade between nations as difficult as possible.

That is the. condition which we found on the Continent of Europe, and I am very hopeful that the reports of the various Commissions, upon which most of these nations were represented and collaborated, will have the effect of producing a great improvement in some of these unfortunate conditions. Although peace has been established in Europe, it is quite clear that the. War atmosphere, to a certain extent, remains. There is a good deal that I should like to say about that, but for the moment I shall postpone it. There was commercial war, transport war, Customs war, diplomatic war, propapandist war, war of armaments, and even war of the marching and counter-marching of armies. An hon. Member opposite, by a question which he put, seems to think that that has no foundation in fact. I wish it had not. As a matter of fact, during the time that the Conference was sitting there were troops marching towards frontiers in very considerable numbers. There was clearly in Europe an atmosphere of international suspicion and pending conflict.