The Fight for Tariff Autonomy
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The Fight for Tariff Autonomy book
It is strange to recall, in these days of protection, quotas and excessive economic nationalism, that China was for nearly ninety years, from 1842 to 1929, bound by the treaties to a five per cent ad valorem import tariff. The actual duties which she was allowed to levy were, however, usually even lower, because they were levied at specific rates, which, fixed by mutual agreement between China and her foreign overlords, and meant to represent an ad valorem five per cent, came, owing to the rise in prices, to represent values considerably less. For more than fifty years the term 'tariff revision' meant, not the raising of these modest import duties, but the revision of the specific duty rates to bring them up to an effective five per cent. These revisions, provided for in the Treaty of Tientsin, took place at rare intervals, in 185S, in 1902, in 1915 and 1922. On each occasion, before she could have her duty rates revised, China had to apply for and secure the assent of a round dozen Treaty Powers, some of whom were in the habit of laying down irrelevant political conditions before agreeing to a revision of the rates. I
Under the relevant treaties concluded with Britain, France and Russia the Customs duties were collected on a specially reduced scale on China's land frontiers with Burma, Indo-China and Siberia. These arrangements, savouring of preference and spheres of influence, were always particularly obnoxious to the Americans and other protagonists of the open door.