London (Feb. 5)
Palestine will be included in the Imperial Preference Scheme outlined in the House of Commons yesterday afternoon by Mr. Neville Chamberlain, the Chancellor of the Exchequer, when he made his statement on the Government’s Tariff Policy.
Speaking of the position of the Empire countries in connection with the change in the fiscal system, Mr. Chamberlain said that the Imperial Conference to be held in Ottawa next July would discuss the economic relations of the members of the British Commonwealth. His Majesty’s Government, he proceeded, attach the utmost importance to that Conference and they intend to approach it with a full determination of promoting arrangements which will lead to the greater increase of inter-Imperial trade. It is our wish to approach this Conference in the true spirit of Imperial unity and harmony, and we have decided that so far as the Dominions are concerned and in this arrangement we include India and Southern Rhodesia also – neither the general nor the additional duties shall become operative before the Ottawa Conference has been concluded.
The Colonies, the Protectorates and the Mandated Territories, the Chancellor went on, are in a some what different position from that of the Dominions. They lie, for the most part, in tropical or semi-tropical latitudes. They have scarcely any manufactures of importance and their products, which are for the most part fruits and vegetables, seeds and nuts used for expressing oils and fibres, are not of a kind which compete with the important products of this country. Anyone who has visited these parts of the British Empire will know that they are characterised by an intense loyalty to the British crown. In their times of prosperity they have always been large buyers of British goods, partly by means of voluntary preferences on the part of the inhabitants, partly by means of preferences deliberately arranged in their fiscal systems. The preference that we might give to them would not only benefit industries already established there, but would encourage the supporting of new industries and the growing of new products which are not at present derived from the colonies, but which might equally well be grown there if only they had the encouragement that we could give them.
We propose, Mr. Chamberlain declared, that all produce from all colonies, protectorates and mandated territories shall be completely exempt from either the general or the additional duties.
JOINT PALESTINE SURVEY COMMISSION URGED IMPERIAL PREFERENCE FOR PALESTINE
The advantage of Imperial Preference to Palestine was one of the points urged in the Report of the Joint Palestine Survey Commission in 1928.
The vineyards and the tobacco fields of Palestine, the report said, give promise of good financial returns were it possible to export into the British Empire the wine and other liquors produced from the grapes, as well as tobacco, both in its raw and its manufactured state, at reduced customs rates. The home market confined as it is to local consumption, can absorb only a small part of the production.
There is an encouraging demand for these products in Great Britain. A serious difficulty, however, is encountered in the laws regulating imports into the territory of the Mandatory Government and subject the Palestinian producer and his infant industry to destructive competition. If these products were afforded the advantage of Imperial Preference, there would be an encouragement to those who are investing their capital and devoting their labour in this promising field of what may be called the Palestinian agricultural industry. It would add to the wealth of Palestine and thereby enable it to expand in many directions. In view of the comparatively large imports, it is desirable that they be counter-balanced so far as practicable by the volume of exports.
The power to grant Imperial Preference has been questioned on the theory that the so-called Most Favoured Nation Clauses contained in various Treaties of the Imperial Government stand in the way. It would seem, however, that these Clauses are inapplicable to Palestine. They refer to “other” Foreign States or Nations or Countries or Powers, but Palestine does not properly come within any of these designations. It is not in reality. “foreign”. The language of the Clauses in question cannot properly be stretched so as to apply to Palestine, over which His Britannic Majesty’s Government is the Mandatory. The relations created by the Mandate are of the most intimate character. Although Palestine is not constituted British territory and cannot be said to be a Protectorate, yet its affairs are under the supervision of the British Colonial Office. While not, strictly speaking, a British Colony, nevertheless in some aspects it partakes of the character of a Colony. Comprehensive duties towards Palestine have been imposed upon the Mandatory by the Council of the League of Nations. Even though such Preference be not an absolute right, the conferring of it would be justified by considerations similar to those obtaining between a guardian and his ward.