Balance of Trade of Germany.
The line in fig. 3 representing the balance of trade for Germany is only given as starting from the year 1880, as no comparable statistics can be given for previous years owing to the great changes in the methods of compiling the German import and export statistics which took effect in that year. But the fragment that is given is of great interest. It shows a great rise beginning from the year 1886. In 1886 there was an excess of exports of 5,000,000, and this changed by 1898—i.e., in twelve years—to an excess of imports of over 66,000,000. The total change in the balance of trade was thus 71,000,000, in the direction which is commonly regarded as unfavourable.
It is worthy of particular notice, too, that this change succeeded the adoption of rather high protection by Germany—which must be of particular interest to such as may still entertain any belief that protection favours exports at the expense of imports.
The far more rapid growth of German imports than of exports in this period tells us that if Germany has been sending her goods abroad to a greater extent than before, she has increased her purchases from the rest of the world to a far greater extent. It will be noticed that the import and export of gold is steadier in the case of Germany than in that of the other countries, and that in no year since 1884 has there been any balance of export of gold. The import of gold necessary on the whole has been sufficiently regular to effect a balance of imports in each of these years. This feature is undoubtedly the result of the policy of the State bank of Germany. This is well described by Mr. George Clare as follows: “As to imports, the Reichsbank accelerates them by the simple and legitimate expedient of paying a better rate for foreign gold coin than the tariff price of other State banks, and, in addition, by sometimes bearing the few days' loss of interest incurred in bringing the gold over. To circumvent exporters is doubtless a task of somewhat greater difficulty, but apparently not beyond accomplishment. In the first place the bank immediately parries the demand by putting up its rate, and secondly, in order to gain delay until the increased rate has had time to act, gives the big banking-houses to understand, so it is said, that there are sometimes higher issues to be
considered than mere profit, even in business matters, and that to weaken the national reserve for the sake of gaining a paltry half per mille or so will be regarded by it as an unfriendly and unpatriotic action. As the State bank is powerful for good or evil, there are few bankers in Germany who would care to run the risk of offending it, and hence its wishes are usually respected.” (“The ABC of the Foreign Exchanges,” pp. 131–2.) In this description the words “import” and “export” refer to gold.