Popular Science Monthly/Volume 58/April 1901/Foreign Trade of the United States

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THE FOREIGN TRADE OF THE UNITED STATES.[1]
By FREDERIC EMORY,

CHIEF OF THE BUREAU OF FOREIGN COMMERCE.

DURING the calendar year just ended, the inundation of foreign markets by American goods proceeded on the lines indicated in previous issues of the 'Review of the World's Commerce/ with a constantly growing volume and force which have surmounted many difficult obstacles and offer a strong temptation to overconfidence in our capabilities as an exporting nation. At the present time, the United States may be said to be nearing the top wave of industrial eminence, and there is ample reason for the belief that the next few years will witness a great expansion in the sale of our more highly developed manufactures. But in the annual reports of our consular officers for the year 1900, there runs, along with a common note of satisfaction, a warning, here and there, of a more strenuous competition which, in the end, may counterbalance our superior advantages to a considerable extent and check our progress in the world's markets, unless we equip ourselves in the meantime for the ultimate phases of the struggle.

Nothing could well be more gratifying than the picture of our foreign trade as it is to-day by comparison with the figures of very recent years. It is all the more remarkable because our progress has been achieved with but little effort and by means not directed specifically to the promotion of foreign trade, but largely fortuitous, and springing from our intense absorption, for many years, in domestic industry and internal development. In other words, we have reached a surprising eminence in the exportation of manufactured goods, not because we were seeking that goal, but because, in developing our resources, in manufacturing for the home market, we attained an excellence and comparative cheapness of production which, to the astonishment of ourselves as well as of the world at large, has suddenly made us a formidable competitor—perhaps the most formidable of all—in the great international rivalry for trade.

The question for the future is whether we can permanently hold the position we seem about to gain, by means of what may be termed our purely domestic advantages of economy of production, greater labor efficiency and cheap raw materials, or whether we shall not have to fight hard against nations now falling behind us with weapons specially fashioned for controlling foreign trade—as, for example, more scientific export methods, better facilities of banking and transportation, more liberal credits, and manufacturing for particular markets with intelligent regard to climatic and race requirements. Many of our consuls still tell us that our commercial activity abroad is almost primitive in the details of trade competition, although of late our exporters have begun to send capable representatives to the more important trade centers; and the past few years have witnessed the creation of important trade organizations in the United States for the study of foreign commerce, the adoption of special courses of commerce at a number of our colleges, and the establishment of sample rooms and agencies for the sale of American goods at a few of the entrepôts of countries which offer a favorable field. Meanwhile, foreign manufacturers are introducing our labor-saving machinery or imitating it, and European economists are urging industrial reforms or legislative enactments to meet our threatening competition.

 
GROWTH OF MANUFACTURED EXPORTS.

During the year ended December 31, 1900, according to United States Treasury returns,[2] the imports of the United States amounted in round numbers to $830,000,000, an increase of over $30,000,000 compared with 1899, while the exports aggregated $1,478,000,000, an increase of $202,480,000. The exports in 1900 exceeded the imports by $648,900,000. Of the exports, the percentage of manufactured goods rose to 31.54[3] for 1900, against 30.39 in 1899, 24.96 in 1898, and 24.93 in 1895. Of the imports, nearly 45 per cent., it is estimated by the Treasury, were materials, either crude or partly made up, for use in our manufacturing industries, an increase of over 35 per cent, in 1899 and 1900, as compared with the entire period from 1890 to 1898. In other words, our industrial growth continued in 1900 at a rapid pace, enabling us to take less finished goods from other countries and to furnish more.

PREDOMINANCE IN IRON AND STEEL.

The most striking fact in our export development is the remarkable growth of the foreign demand for our iron and steel, our exports amounting to nearly $130,000,000 in 1900, against $32,000,000 in 1895. In an article in the New York 'Evening Post' of January 12, 1901, Mr. Andrew Carnegie says the United States has not only supplied its own wants, 'but is competing to supply the wants of the world, not only in steel, but in the thousand and one articles of which steel is the chief component part,' and expresses the opinion that the increasing demand from the world at large 'can be met only by the United States.' "The influence of our steel-making capacity," adds Mr. Carnegie, "must be marvelous, for the nation which makes the cheapest steel has the other nations at its feet as far as manufacturing is concerned in most of its branches. The cheapest steel means the cheapest ships, the cheapest machinery, the cheapest thousand and one articles of which steel is the base."

 
CHEAPNESS OF AMERICAN GOODS.

It is the relative cheapness of American steel that has given it preeminence, and it is the same with other products that are winning their way abroad. Economy of production is the master key that unlocks for us markets that seemed a little while ago to be inexorably closed. This economy of production implies not merely low prices to the foreign consumer, but a greater degree of excellence, a superior adaptation to his wants. As has been pointed out in the 'Reviews,' as well as elsewhere, the American workingman, though receiving higher wages, produces, with labor-saving machinery, at a lower unit of cost, and his greater application and ingenuity enable him to avail himself effectively of the most recent inventions and appliances for improving the quality of his special line of work. The American factory system is highly organized and more efficient than any other, and, if our export trade were as well developed, there would be little to fear. The only lesson our manufacturers need to learn, it would seem, is the necessity of manufacturing especially for foreign trade; and the great increase of requests for information from our consuls as to the kinds of goods wanted in particular markets, and also of manufacturing processes employed in this or that line of industry, encourages the hope that there is beginning to be a general perception of this important fact.

 
BRITISH ESTIMATES OF AMERICAN PROGRESS.

It is evident that foreign observers are keenly alive to the greater efficiency of our industrial methods, and are seeking earnestly to profit by them. A writer in the London 'Times' of December 29, 1900, attributes the American manufacturer's advantages over the British largely to the consideration shown to young men and the willingness to utilize their energy and enterprise. He lays stress upon the fact that it is customary for American fathers "to discuss their business affairs with their sons in a way that is quite surprising to an Englishman," and adds:

A good many years ago, I spent a few evenings with some students of one of the large American colleges. I was new to America then, and heard with surprise these college youths discussing questions that arose out of the business it which their fathers were engaged. If we compare this with what generally happens when lads of our own public schools or young men at our own universities meet together—when any mention of the paternal shop would be looked on as the worst of bad form—I think perhaps there will be seen one of the reasons why Americans are fitted to control business at an earlier age than is usual in this country.

The American youth, as pointed out, obtains his business education from practical experience and social intercourse, and this form of education is held to be 'immeasurably above the mere learning of lessons which too often goes by the name of education.' Another reason for the adaptability of American youth to business is stated to be the public-school system, which is 'more truly educational, less pedagogic' In conclusion, the 'Times' correspondent says:

To me, it appears one of the most disquieting factors in the problem before us (industrial competition) that the United States have trained a body of young men who are determined to make their country great, and who have been educated to a living, practical interest in the things needful to that end.

The 'Times,' commenting editorially on these views and upon others expressed in a previous series of articles, says: "The threatened competition [of United States manufacturers] in markets hitherto our own comes from efficiency in production such as has never before been seen," and accepts the view that this efficiency is to be ascribed, to a large extent, to the practical self-education of Americans, which enables them generally to enter business 'with a stock of knowledge of which the young Englishman fresh from the university or a public school has not an inkling.' Further on the 'Times' says:

In the interesting analysis of the causes at work adverse to England, something might be said of the great intelligence and zeal put into affairs. The American man of business takes his pleasure in what he is doing, and never fails when he is traveling to look out for hints to be applied when he returns home. Not afraid to admit that he is 'in pork' or 'in grain,' if the fact be so, he is curious as to all that affects his business, and he is open to new ideas in a way which is unusual with us. 'What has succeeded in the past will not succeed in the future' is a working maxim with the best men of business, who are ready to throw their experience as well as their antiquated machinery on the scrap heap. There are some signs of a change in this respect in this country; but the idea that there is something respectable, solid and satisfactory in doing in the mill, workshop and counting house what one's father did dies hard.

The London 'Spectator' of December 29, 1900, quotes 'a competent writer' in a British trade paper as saying:

From a careful calculation, made after comparing notes with other observers, and taking the figure 1 to 11/4 as representing the producing capacity of the ordinary British workman, I consider the Swiss-German as fairly represented by 13/4 and the Yankee by 21/4.

In an article entitled 'America's Changed International Position/ the London 'Statist' of January 5, 1901, also dwells upon the superiority of our methods of production as enabling us to take advantage of the needs of Europe and to respond to an increased demand for manufactured goods. "All at once," says the 'Statist,' "the United States became a keen competitor in the markets of the world with ourselves and with our continental rivals, and, in all reasonable probability, the competition will grow more eager as the years pass." The 'Statist,' in fact, predicts 'a great outburst of new enterprise in the United States.'

 
CONCENTRATION OF CAPITAL IN THE UNITED STATES.

Lord Rosebery is quoted by cable as having said in a speech before a British Chamber of Commerce, January 16, 1901, that the chief rivals to be feared by Great Britain 'are America and Germany.' "The alertness of the Americans," he continued, "their incalculable natural resources, their acuteness, their enterprise, their vast population, which will in all probability within the next twenty years reach 100,000,000, make them very formidable competitors with ourselves. And with the Germans, their slow but sure persistency, their scientific methods, and their conquering spirit, devoted as these qualities are at this moment to preparation for trade warfare, make them also, in my judgment, little less redoubtable than the Americans. There is one feature of the American competition which seems to me especially formidable, and, as I have not seen it largely noticed, perhaps you will excuse me for calling attention to it. We are daily reminded of the gigantic fortunes which are accumulated in America, fortunes to which nothing in this country bears any relation whatever, and which in themselves constitute an enormous commercial force. The Americans, as it appears, are scarcely satisfied with these individual fortunes, but use them by combination in trusts, to make a capital and a power which, wielded as it is by one or two minds, is almost irresistible, and that, as it seems to me, if concentrated upon Great Britain as an engine in the trade warfare, is a danger which we cannot afford to disregard. Suppose a trust of many millions, of a few men combined so to compete with any trade in this country by underselling all its products, even at a considerable loss to themselves, and we can see in that what are the possibilities of the commercial outcome of the immediate future."

It has been evident for some time that the United States, not content with having solved that part of the problem of economy of production which relates to processes of manufacture and the utilization of labor, has been drifting instinctively towards the larger question of the concentration of capital as the logical development of the same general idea of reducing cost and increasing the margin of profit. The question is larger because it has a more direct and more general bearing upon the economic and social life of the nation, upon the interests, real or imagined, of the whole body politic. We have to do with it here only because of its relation to and possible effect upon our foreign trade, and it is interesting to know that so thoughtful an observer as Lord Rosebery perceives in the simplification of the use of capital in the United States which is going on—it may be said experimentally, to a large extent as yet—a tremendous power in the commercial rivalry of the world.

 
GERMAN VIEWS OF AMERICAN COMPETITION.

Germany, as well as Great Britain, seems fully sensible of the seriousness of American competition. In a recent issue, the Hamburger 'Fremdenblatt'[4] points out that the United States, which ten years ago exported more than 80 per cent, of agricultural products and less than a fifth of manufactured goods, to-day draws nearly a third of its entire exports from the products of its factories. "In other words, the Union is marching with gigantic strides towards conversion from an agricultural to an industrial nation." "Does not the rapid increase of the United States in the value of industrial exports," the 'Fremdenblatt' asks, "constitute an imminent danger from all competing nations?" Continuing, the 'Fremdenblatt' says:

If we now turn to an investigation of all the elements which have produced this tremendous, this almost incredible, revolution in the world's situation, it is impossible within our present limits to consider all the factors which are of importance to German interests as well as essential to a comprehensive conclusion. Competent experts, well informed as to the industrial and export conditions which prevail in the United States, have established the following facts:

The steel manufactories of the United States, which two decades ago were in their infancy, to-day control the markets of the world, dictate either directly or indirectly the prices of iron and steel in all countries, and partly through the richness of their supply of iron ores and coal, partly by the use of laborsaving machinery and skilful, effective means of transportation, have attained a position to not only compete with the older iron and steel-producing countries, but even to profitably export their products to England.

American tools, especially hatchets, axes, files, saws, boring implements, etc., enjoy, by reason of their excellent quality, the best reputation, and, in spite of their higher price, stand above competition in nearly the whole world. Also in sewing machines, bicycles and agricultural implements of every kind, the United States has begun to drive England and Germany from the world's markets, especially that of Russia, which may be partly attributed to the fact that American firms are protected in their own market from foreign competition and can thus sell their manufactures cheaper abroad than at home.

A remarkable change has also taken place in the field of boot and shoe production. Hardly more than ten years ago the United States imported shoes from Europe—especially women's footwear from Austria, while other grades were made of leather imported from England and Germany. To-day, it not only makes its entire supply of leather at home and exports it in considerable quantities, but it floods Europe with ready-made shoe depots in Paris and even in the principal cities of Germany.

That the United States, by reason of its richness in mineral oils and aided by its unrivaled facilities for refining and transporting this international necessity, controls the petroleum trade of the world and is held in check only by Russia is well known, and the fact is only cited here in order to include this weighty factor in the calculation. The experience of the past few months proves that within a not far distant period, the coal of the United States will play the same role in the markets of the world. The Union has reversed the old adage, "It is ridiculous to carry coals to Newcastle," for to-day anthracite coals from Pennsylvania are actually exported to England.

Incidentally, it may be remarked that the typewriting machine with which this article is written, as well as the thousands—nay, hundreds of thousands—of others that are in use throughout the world, were made in America; that it stands on an American table, in an office furnished with American desks, bookcases and chairs, which cannot be made in Europe of equal quality, so practical and convenient, for a similar price. The list of such articles, apparently unimportant in themselves, but in their aggregate number and value of the highest significance, could be extended indefinitely. But it would seem more interesting and characteristic to cite the fact that an American syndicate is now planning, and has even taken the initial steps in a scheme, to take in hand the whole sleeping-car service of Europe, to improve it and make it cheaper than is now possible. Moreover, American manufacturers of underclothing, gloves and men's clothing, as well as women's cloaks—all articles which a few years ago were exported in vast quantities from Europe to the United States—are already beginning to calculate how they can place their surplus output in European markets.

The 'Fremdenblatt's' conclusion is that Europe "must fight Americanism with its own methods; the battle must be fought with their weapons, and wherever possible their weapons must be bettered and improved by us. Or, to speak with other and more practical words, Germany—Europe—must adopt improved and progressive methods in every department of industry; must use more, and more effective, machinery. Manufacturers as well as merchants must go to America, send thither their assistants and workingmen, not merely to superficially observe the methods there employed, but to study them thoroughly, to adopt them, and wherever possible to improve upon them, just as the Americans have done and are still doing in Europe."

 
SERVICES OF UNITED STATES CONSULS.

Dr. Vosberg-Rekow, head of the German bureau for the preparation of commercial treaties, attributes the remarkable growth of exports of American manufactures to Europe, in Dart, to the activity of our consular service. "The United States," he says, "has covered Europe with a network of consulates and makes its consuls at the same time inspectors of our exports and vigilant sentinels, who spy out every trade opening or advantage and promptly report it." Dr. Vosberg-Eekow also dwells upon the eminently practical character of American industrial and business methods. "Germany's industrial advancement," he says, "is principally due to the thoroughness of her technical education. It is strengthened by the continuous substituting of machinery and machine tools for hand labor. Still, in this respect, the English industry in some branches is ahead of us. It is worthy of note that in this evolution, too, the United States has the foremost place and has made gigantic strides, not only in applying machine tools, but in inventing and manufacturing them, so that to-day she supplies us. This signalizes in an extraordinary degree American intelligence. Thus, the Americans, though wanting our superior technical education, thanks to their practical eye, improve upon our methods and apparatus. Theirs is rather the activity of an experimentalist than that of a trained craftsman; but a clever faiseur, if he but have assurance and luck, may distance the educated master. The Americans have no thorough education; nor do they possess a modern industrial system as we Europeans understand the term. The American applies himself to a single branch or to a specialty, with utter disregard of European methods and their results; he devotes to his work an amount of energy which stupefies Europeans; and, for awhile, he succeeds in driving us out of the line of articles on which he has centered his energy. Against such peculiar activity a general trade policy is quite ineffectual; we must put ourselves in condition to counteract this artificially forced growth of specialized industry."

 
EDUCATION IN BUSINESS.

Thus we find that expert opinion in Great Britain and Germany coincides in the conclusion that Americans, too eager to be up and doing to apply themselves to preparatory study or to what may be termed a general scheme of education and culture for industry and trade, have, nevertheless, worked out in practise a degree of actual efficiency, not learned from books, which gives them a distinct advantage. It is not to be denied, upon the other hand, that technical schools and special courses of commercial education might greatly enhance our capabilities, if care were taken to prevent them from usurping too far the practical business or industrial training which seems to be the secret of our success thus far. In the more and more strenuous competition which is evidently waiting us, our manufacturers, exporters and trade representatives abroad will need to be provided with a variety of information which cannot be acquired except by academic instruction. The knowledge gained in the workshop or the counting house will not suffice to meet a rivalry which is seeking to equip itself, so far as it can, with our machinery, our industrial and trade methods—with everything, in short, that now gives us supremacy—and will add to these the mastery of details of trade conditions and industrial processes throughout the world, which we are only beginning to study.

 
FINANCIAL INDEPENDENCE OF THE UNITED STATES.

There is another feature of American influence in the world's markets which is, perhaps, even more notable than our industrial progress, and that is our suddenly acquired financial independence. The 'Hamburger Fremdenblatt' article previously quoted from points out that it is the logical result of our growth in industry and trade and especially of our successful competition in foreign markets. As soon as American industries, through various causes, found themselves in a favorable financial condition, "they likewise undertook the task of freeing themselves from foreign capital—in other words, of reclaiming the industrial securities which were in European hands." "The change in the condition of the United States," adds the 'Fremdenblatt' "can best be characterized by the statement that the industries, trade, agriculture, railroads and finances of the Union each and all climbed, one upon another, through and by each other, steadily upward. And to what a height they have climbed!"

During the past year, the point was reached where the United States became a lender of money to other countries instead of a borrower from them. "Speaking roughly," says the London 'Statist' (January 5, 1901), "the holdings of American securities in Europe now are immensely smaller than they were ten years ago, and the purchases have been made by the Americans out of the vast savings accumulated, first, during the anxious period from 1890 to 1896, and, secondly, during the prosperous period that has followed. Many countries, however, are able to buy back their own securities without being in a position to take an important place in the international investment market. For example, Spain has bought back a very large proportion of her own securities. In the United States, not only has the buying back of American securities been on the great scale indicated, but during the past year or two, American capitalists have lent largely to Europe. At the end of 1899, when there was great pressure in the money markets of Europe, about four millions of gold were allowed to be shipped from New York to London; and during the past year it will be recollected that gold was sent in considerable amounts, while about five millions sterling were invested in [British] Government funds. German Government funds were also bought amounting to about four millions sterling. Russia was able to borrow in order to purchase railway material. And it is understood that the United States was willing to lend likewise to Switzerland and to other governments. This is the most dramatic change that has occurred for a very long time."

"The succession of extraordinary creditor balances," says the 'New York Journal of Commerce,' of January 10, 1901, "has virtually revolutionized our financial relations with the European centers. In a very important sense, we have become the creditor nation of the world. From a chronic condition of dependence upon the banking forces of London, Paris and Berlin, we find those centers now dependent upon the large floating balances of the United States, subject to our lending ability in periods of exigency, carrying the largest stock of gold in the world and holding the largest resource for dealing with crises in international finance. Three of the foremost European governments—England, Germany and Russia—have found it necessary to come to New York for important loans, and the two former have not applied in vain. Thus, if this city may not be said to have yet become the financial center of the world, yet we may incontestably claim a foremost rank among the few metropolitan cities which have won that distinction."

"One of the most important financial features of the year," says 'Bradstreet's' (January 5, 1901), in its review of the stock-market in 1900, "was the placing in Wall Street and with American investors of issues of British consols, German Government bonds, and loans by Russia, Sweden, and other countries, giving point to the feeling that our market has taken the lead in the financial world."

 
THE FUTURE OF INTERNATIONAL COMPETITION.

Summed up, therefore, the general conclusion of competent foreign authorities, as well as of our own, is that the commercial expansion of the United States is no longer problematical, but a fact of constantly enlarging proportions which opens up new vistas in the struggle for ascendency among the industrial powers. Prolific as it has been of great surprises, it is doubtful whether similar phenomena will spring from its undemonstrated forces. It would seem, now that the causes of our unlooked-for triumphs are known and are being carefully weighed and studied, that the future will be one of fruition, of the gradual maturing of our powers, rather than of sudden blossoming of some novel capacity of competition. The day, perhaps, is not distant when the more intelligent of our rivals will be able to meet us upon more nearly equal terms and when, as has already been indicated, it will be necessary to supplement our natural advantages and our highly developed industrial efficiency with the appliances of education, of special training, of technical skill, of more scientific methods of extending trade, which have already secured rich returns—to Germany, for example—in quarters of the globe where our goods, as yet, have made but little if any headway.

 
GENERAL SUMMARY OF TRADE.

When we come to survey the field of international competition, as described by our consuls and in the light of comments by foreign economists and trade authorities, we find some highly significant indications of the probable course of trade currents within the next few years. As to the general march of our commercial expansion in the immediate future, the reports of the consuls emphasize the conclusions to be drawn from the most recent figures of the United States Treasury. According to a statement issued by the Bureau of Statistics of that Department for the decade ended with the calendar year 1900, our imports, which in 1890 were $823,397,726, were in 1900 $829,052,116, an increase of less than 1 per cent, in the decade; while our exports, which in 1890 were $857,502,548, were in 1900 $1,478,050,854, an increase of 72.4 per cent. In 1890, the excess of exports over imports was $5,654,390; in 1900, it was $648,998,738.

"In our trade relations with the various parts of the world," continues this statement, "the change is equally striking. From Europe, we have reduced our imports in the decade from $474,000,000 to $439,000,000, while in the same time we have increased our exports from $682,000,000 to $1,111,000,000. From North America, imports fell from $151,000,000 in 1890 to $131,000,000 in 1900, while our exports to North America increased during that time from $95,000,000 to $202,000,000. From South America, the imports increased from $101,000,000 in 1890 to $102,000,000 in 1900, while to South America our exports increased from $35,000,000 to $41,000,000. From Asia, the imports into the United States increased from $69,000,000 in 1890 to $123,000,000 in 1900, while to Asia our exports in the same time increased from $23,000,000 to $61,000,000. From Oceania, the importations in 1890 were $23,000,000 and in 1900 $23,000,000, while to Oceania our exports in 1890 were $17,000,000 and in 1900 $40,000,000. From Africa, importations increased from $3,000,000 in 1890 to $9,000,000 in 1900, and exportations to Africa increased from $4,500,000 in 1890 to $22,000,000 in 1900."

The changes in the movements to and from the continents are attributed by the Bureau of Statistics to two great causes: First, the increase at home of manufactures which were formerly drawn chiefly from abroad; and, second, the diversification of products, by which markets are made for many articles which formerly were produced or exported in but small quantities. "From Europe, to which we are accustomed to look for manufactures, our imports have fallen over $35,000,000, while Europe has largely increased her consumption of our cotton-seed oil, oleomargarine, paraffin, manufactures of iron and steely copper, and agricultural machinery, as well as foodstuffs and cotton, our exports to that grand division having increased $428,000,000 since 1890. From North America, the imports have fallen $20,000,000, due chiefly to the falling off of sugar production in the West Indies, the imports from Cuba alone having decreased from $54,000,000 in 1890 to $27,000,000 in 1900. To North America, the exports have increased meantime over $100,000,000, the growth being largely manufactures and foodstuffs, a considerable portion of the latter being presumably re-exported thence to Europe. From South America, the imports have increased in quantity, especially in coffee and rubber, but decreased proportionately in price, so that the total increase in value in the decade is but $1,000,000, while in exports the increase is $6,500,000, chiefly in manufactures. From Asia, the importations have increased more than $50,000,000, the increase being chiefly in sugar and raw materials required by our manufacturers, such as silk, hemp, jute and tin; while to Asia the increase in our exports has been nearly $40,000,000, principally in manufactures and raw cotton. From Oceania, the imports show little increase, though this is due in part to the absence of statistics of importations from Hawaii in the last half of the year 1900; while to Oceania, there is an increase in our exports of more than $20,000,000, chiefly in manufactured articles. From Africa, the increase in imports is $6,000,000, principally in manufacturers' materials, of which raw cotton forms the most important item; while our exports to Africa increased meantime $17,000,000, chiefly in manufactures."

The following tables show the imports and exports of the United States by grand divisions in the calendar years 1890 and 1900. In the figures showing the distribution by continents in 1900, the December distribution is estimated, though the grand total of imports and exports for 1900 is based upon the complete figures of the Bureau of Statistics:

Grand Divisions. Exports from United States Imports into United States.
1890. 1900. 1890. 1900.
Europe $682,585,856 $1,111,456,000 $474,656,257 $439,500,000
North America 95,517,863 202,486,000 151,490,330 131,200,000
South America 34,722,122 41,384,000 100,959,799 102,000,000
Asia 22,854,028 60,598,000 68,340,309 122,800,000
Oceania 17,375,745 39,956,000 23,781,018 23,400,000
Africa 44,46,934 22,170,000 3,169,086 9,900,000
 
NEW CURRENTS OF TRADE.

Besides the surprising development of our sales of manufactured goods in the most advanced industrial countries of Europe, which may be said to have introduced an entirely new element into Old World trade, we find other phases of commercial expansion which were quite as unexpected and are likely to profoundly affect our economic, and perhaps our political, future. The rapid growth of cotton manufacturing in our Southern States, for example, could not have been anticipated a few years ago, although it seemed probable to those familiar with the peculiar advantages of the South for engaging in this industry that some day that section would emerge from its position of dependence upon outside markets for the consumption of its cotton and create its own home markets by the erection of mills. Within the years 1889-1899, inclusive, according to Mr. A. B. Shepperson, of New York,[5] the number of spindles in the South increased 1901/2 per cent., against 11.4 in our Northern States, 4 1-3 per cent, in Great Britain, 30.6 per cent, in continental Europe, 71 per cent, in India. "In the percentage of increase of spindles and of consumption of cotton" (2061/2 per cent, in Southern and 29 per cent, in Northern mills), says Mr. Shepperson, "the South makes the best showing of the countries compared, while India is a good second."[6]

There are now nearly 4,000,000 spindles in the South, against 1,360,000 in 1889, and new mills are constantly being built,[7]% although the past year has witnessed depression in the industry due to the troubles in China. The entrance of the South into oriental trade is almost as novel a feature of our expansion as any that have been indicated, and it is one that seems likely to have a most important bearing upon our social and political evolution, as well as upon our influence in international trade. The South has suddenly acquired a great stake in the affairs of the Far East, and what this may mean in the adjustment of our relations with other countries having large interests there and in shaping our international policies is a question which only the future can answer. In a memorial from the cotton manufacturers of the South addressed to the Secretary of State in November last, commending the 'open-door' policy in China, the statement is made that a large part of the production of the cotton drills and sheetings manufactured in Southern mills is exported to North China, and that "the prohibition or interference in China by any European government would tend to seriously injure, not only the cotton-manufacturing industries, but other important products of the United States which are being shipped to China. For the protection and perpetuity of these commercial relations," it is added, "we earnestly pray that the Administration will take such action as may be proper under existing conditions. It is not only the manufacturers of cotton goods that would be seriously affected, but the Southern planter and cotton grower, who finds a ready cash sale for his products at his very door; and also the thousands of employees and laboring classes who are engaged in the cotton mills and depend on the success of these manufacturing industries for a livelihood."

The developments of the past two years in consequence of our acquisition of the Hawaiian and Philippine islands have brought another factor into prominence in our commercial development, which may be potential of unlooked-for results. The Pacific slope is rapidly being converted from a mere outpost of trade into a great hive of commerce.[8] Not only San Francisco, but Port Townsend, Seattle, Tacoma and Portland, are becoming entrepôts of Oriental and South Pacific commerce, and San Diego seems likely to be an important factor in the development of trade with the west coast of Latin America.

The growth of sea-borne commerce at these points means much for the great extent of country tributary to them and promises to work marked changes in the industrial condition of the vast region west of the Rocky Mountains. In a similar way, our southern group of States may find a sweeping readjustment of their economic relation to the rest of the Union in the fact that Cuba and Porto Rico now offer them easy and convenient stepping stones to Latin American trade.

Even in the now familiar conditions affecting the Atlantic seaboard, which, as we have seen, have recently produced a great increase in our export trade, a new element appears in the statement of our consul in Sierra Leone, Mr. Williams, that, in a few years, West Africa will offer a market for our goods 'only second in importance
 
PSM V58 D647 United states manufacture in the world market.png
 

to that of China.' East Africa and South Africa have already shown a marked preference for certain lines of American manufactures, but West Africa is for our exporters a new and more accessible market, the possibilities of which have heretofore attracted but little attention.

 
DISTRIBUTION OF OUR EXPORTS.

A glance at the accompanying map of the world, showing the distribution of our exports of manufactures, reveals the significant fact that, as yet, the widest range of consumption of our goods is found in the leading industrial countries, such as Great Britain, Germany, France, and their willingness conjoined with their greater capacity to take our products raises the interesting question whether our activity in competing for neutral markets, such as China, Africa, South America, etc., is not, for the present, restrained by the fact that our energies are largely employed in manufacturing for the European demand. The seriousness of our competition in the development of trade in countries which, as yet, are but imperfectly exploited will begin to be fully felt, it would seem, only when the European demand shall have slackened or we shall have more than met its requirements. In that case, our exporters would undoubtedly address themselves more systematically and with greater energy to trade regions which our European rivals are now so industriously seeking to control. There is food for thought also in the possible consequences to our European trade of a rivalry on our part which may be so crushing as to greatly impair the purchasing power of those who are now our best customers. If we permanently cripple their chief industries, we deprive them, to a greater or less extent, of the means of buying from us, and the consumption of our food supplies and our raw materials, as well as of our finished goods, may be greatly curtailed. The solution of the problem may perhaps be found in the gradual specialization of commerce and industry, according to the peculiar capacity of each competing nation—the survival, in other words, of the fittest conditions for this or that country—and the gradual subsidence of competition into healthful exchange.

  1. From advance proof sheets of the 'Review of the World's Commerce,' introductory to 'Commercial Relations of the United States,' 1900. The 'Review' will also be printed as a separate pamphlet. Applications for it, as also for the two bound volumes, 'Commercial Relations,' should be addressed to the Chief of the Bureau of Foreign Commerce, Department of State, Washington, U. S. A.
  2. Preliminary figures from the Bureau of Statistics, December, 1900.
  3. Later returns give the percentage as 30.38. This decline is attributed to the increase in the proportion of agricultural exports at the end of the year; also to the decrease in exports of copper ingots and cotton cloths, the latter mainly to the Chinese Empire.
  4. Article translated by Consul-General Mason. See 'Advance Sheets' No. 934 (January 14, 1901).
  5. Cotton Facts, December, 1899.
  6. Increase of India in number of spindles, 71 per cent.; in consumption of cotton, 881/2 per cent.
  7. "The current year," says Prof. Henry M. Wilson, of Raleigh, N. C, in an article in the 'Textile Manufacturers' Journal' of December 20, 1900, "has witnessed greater strides in cotton manufacturing in the South than last year, when the growth of the industry was considered phenomenal. New spindles and looms have been added, new mills built, and others projected at a rate that causes the careful observer of the South's progress to gaze with amazement upon such activity. Nowhere in the world is the interest being taken in cotton manufacturing as here in the South, where most of the staple is produced. From returns made to the New Orleans Cotton Exchange, the number of new spindles added this year in old mills, new mills and in mills under construction is 1,456,897. New looms added to these same mills number 27,613."
  8. Exports from ports on the Pacific coast (excluding Alaska) which amounted to some $36,800,000 in the fiscal year 1895, rose to $75,300,000 in 1898, and, though the total fell to $57,600,000 in 1899, it rose again to $71,600,000 in 1900 (years ended June 30).