Page:The Bank of England and the State, 1905.djvu/51

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9
Foreign Trade and the Money Market.

large demands for export of gold. I will not attempt an estimate of the amount of the bills so held abroad at the present moment; the figure has been estimated at anything from 50 to 100 millions sterling. In any case it is a very large figure, and means temporary indebtedness to other nations which has prevented calls on our gold reserves, and in consequence higher rates for money and disturbance of trade.

But in addition to the amount of foreign money thus employed in these bills of exchange, our vast foreign trade must result in the temporary employment here of the proceeds either of these bills or of goods sold in our market, to be used in the purchase of goods here, for investment, or for safe-keeping in time of trouble, and must greatly add to our available resources. So great are the banking operations consequent on this trade that hardly a year passes without one or more of the foreign banks establishing their own agencies in our midst, not always to the unmixed delight of their older established competitors, but yet I believe for the common good; for they bring as much as they take; they are evidence that we are supreme in the banking world; they play an important part in the adjustment of the money market, and also, I believe, in promoting that friendly and harmonious understanding amongst the nations, which always follows more intimate commercial intercourse.

It is quite clear to my mind that the effect of our large foreign trade has been distinctly in the direction of lowering the value of money in our market, and consequently an undoubted aid to our industries. In fact, I believe that to it is, in a great measure, due the fact that until quite recently our Money Market has been the cheapest in the world, though of course, other causes have contributed. I need hardly insist, before a meeting of bankers, on the very great importance to the whole of our commerce of low rates for money. Cheap capital, indeed, is an absolutely essential element in every industry, perhaps the most essential; that is universally recognised, but I do not think it is realised to what extent ability to supply capital must help our export trade. So long as our money