No. 131 NAI DT S3439

Gordon Campbell to Diarmuid O’Hegarty (Dublin) enclosing a Memorandum
on the Imperial Conference by E.J. Riordan (19 September 1923)

DUBLIN, 24 September 1923

Secretary, Executive Council.

I am directed by the Minister of Industry and Commerce1 to forward for distribution to the members of the Executive Council copies of a Memorandum on the Agenda for the Imperial Economic Conference so far as particulars are available in this Ministry.

Some technical points arise on the items2 - 'carriage of goods by sea' and 'workmen's compensation' and memoranda can be prepared on these if necessary. These items, however, appear to be of no importance.

[signed] Gordon Campbell



1. The following items, extracted from the Preliminary Agenda of the above Conference, are those which mainly concern this Ministry, viz:-

(2) Co-operation in assistance to Imperial Development.

(3) Trade Development.

(6) Unification of Law and Practice in the Empire on matters bearing on Trade Development.

(7) Commercial Intelligence and Statistics.

(9) External Commercial Relations of Empire.

(14) Carriage of Goods by Sea.

(15) Economic co-operation.

(16) Workmen's Compensation.

2. Several of these items are of secondary importance, so far as An Saorstát is concerned, but others are likely to be discussed very fully, and, no doubt, efforts will be made to influence the Saorstát Representatives in favour of one or other of the policies to be advocated.

3. For example. The South African delegates propose pressing for an arrangement whereby the British and Dominion Governments would give a much more favourable preference to British and Dominion products, thereby making it almost impossible for countries outside the Commonwealth to place goods, similar to those produced within the Empire, on the British and Dominion markets. New Zealand is reported as favouring this proposal, and Australia is inclining in the same direction. Canada, on the other hand, appears to look less favourably on such a proposition. India, too, is unlikely to acquiesce in it, and, to a large extent, British interests do not view it favourably, for the reason that, it must, if adopted, result in compelling Great Britain to adopt an extensive Tariff Policy, not alone in respect of many manufactured goods, but of food products as well.

4. Adherence to such an arrangement would, of course, commit An Saorstát to a corresponding Tariff Policy. How this would work out in practice can only be conjectured - we have no reliable data on which to base an opinion.

It is conceivable that under such conditions the British market for Irish agriculture and dairy produce might prove more lucrative and extensive than heretofore. That is a possibility, but, what is practically certain is, that the cost of the vast quantities of manufactured goods, raw materials, etc., imported into An Saorstát would rise in price; that our trade with countries other than the British Commonwealth would nearly, if not altogether, cease - both in respect to imports and exports; and it is highly probable that, on balance, An Saorstát would lose rather than gain by adopting such a course. Further, Britain, Ireland's chief competitor so far as manufactures are concerned, would find herself equipped with increased facilities for placing her products on the Irish market, and for preventing existing Irish industries from expanding or potential ones from coming into being.

5. The weight of domestic opposition in Great Britain to the adoption of the policy advocated by South Africa, seems to preclude the probability of the British Government adhering to that policy. Consequently, one may presume that there is little, if any, risk of its passing beyond the debating stage. Nevertheless, South Africa may succeed in persuading the British Government to concede a portion of the claim advocated by its delegates.

6. The following factors should be taken into account, namely, that insufficient statistical data are available to enable the Government to estimate the true volume of Saorstát trade with Great Britain and the British Dominions; that such data will not be forthcoming, in reliable form sooner than the middle of next year; that only now evidence is being procured which should assist them in determining the form which the Saorstát trade policy should take in the immediate future; that this question of trade policy has yet to receive consideration by the Ministry before it can be decided; that it is inevitable, that whatever form it may take at the outset must be subjected to variation from time to time, as fuller knowledge is acquired of the resources and needs of the State.

7. Canada's attitude is summed up in the undermentioned excerpt from a speech delivered by her Minister for Marine, viz:-

Mr. Lapointe3 said (according to the 'Montreal Gazette'), with reference to the Imperial Conference:-

'Every proposal made there shall have to be considered on its merits, but the Canadian policies must be discussed and decided on in Canada, and by Canadians, and the Parliament of Canada must be the supreme authority in the matter. Under the present circumstances I do not see that we should subscribe to any new scheme involving military or naval expenditure, and this will undoubtedly be the opinion of Canada's Parliament.'

8. Owing to the present unpreparedness of the Saorstát to frame a definite trade policy, based on reliable knowledge of the very many intricate factors which must enter into the making of such a policy, the obvious course for the Saorstát delegates to adopt at the Imperial Economic Conference seems to be to attend as observers; to acquire as much information as possible, directly and indirectly, from the proceedings and from intercourse with the other delegates, but to refrain from entering into the discussions on this occasion, except in so far as their spokesman might make a general statement outlining the reasons why the Saorstát delegates are unable, off-hand, to express definite views on the subjects under discussion or commit their Government in any way, at that stage, in respect to same. The procedure to be adopted by Canada, as set out in par. 7 above, might be considered as being applicable to the Saorstát Government on this occasion.


1Joseph McGrath.

2The word 'enquiries' has been crossed out and 'items' written in its place.

3The Canadian Minister of Marine and Fisheries.

Purchase Volumes Online

Purchase Volumes Online



The Royal Irish Academy's Documents on Irish Foreign Policy series has published an eBook of confidential correspondence on the 1921 Anglo-Irish Treaty negotiations.

Free Download

International Counterparts

The international network of Editors of Diplomatic Documents was founded in 1988. Delegations from different parts of the world met for the first time in London in 1989.
Read more ....

Website design and developed by FUSIO