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of the value of the exports to the United States, the other important items being hides, rubber and cacao. In return, the United States sends principally foodstuffs and steel. Foreign trade has shown a steady increase. In 1909, it totaled only $25,794,813, and in 1914, $43,329,126. The United States has taken an increasing share, reaching in 1914, 36.2 per cent. of the imports and 40 per cent. of the exports."
Reports on Venezuelan commercial conditions are the following:
Venezuela (pam.), Pan-American Union, Washington, 1918.
Daily Consular and Trade Reports, April 7, 1913; October 24, 1913; December 15, 1913; February 14, 1914; and October 12, 1914.
Commerce Reports, Supplement, July 2, 1915.
THE ECONOMIC DEPENDENCE OF THE CARIBBEAN
To the average person the Caribbean calls to mind turbulent political conditions, disease and tropical products. Its republics and colonies are individually little more than names to him. He does not realize the importance of the exports of the various units, the degree to which local life depends upon foreign trade nor the extent to which single products constitute its bulk. In fact, in no region of the world probably is there dependence upon fewer crops, is life more conditioned by export trade, and that export trade composed to such a degree of a few staple products in each community.
The civilization is predominantly agricultural and even the development of this industry is primitive. Public revenues are derived primarily from taxes on imports and exports, or from these and various Government monopolies. Income from taxes on real estate is small. Under these conditions, if the crop of the principal articles of export fails, there is wide popular distress. The same effect is produced in less marked form if the
crop is superabundant; then prices become unprofitable.
We in the United States realize with difficulty the economic dependence which such conditions involve. With us, a failure of one crop is usually counterbalanced by bumper production in another. Since we have a variety of products, a large crop in one line disturbs the general market less than in a country which confines its attention to a small number of staples. Our domestic manufactures are developed, we produce the bulk of our raw materials and we consequently rely less on our foreign trade. Even if hostile tariffs cut off our foreign trade in certain lines or hard times abroad make purchases there fewer, it affects us only in a minor way. The country is largely sufficient unto itself. Not so in dependent regions like the Caribbean. The failure of the coffee crop of Salvador, the sugar of Barbados, the cocoa of Trinidad, would throw their peoples into financial straits, it would necessitate general extension of credit and bring locally acute hard times. Anything which tends to disturb the foreign market for their chief product would have an immediate effect to which we have nothing to compare.
This economically dependent position shows its disadvantages, too, not alone in the effect on the prosperity of individuals. If the crops are poor, the people cannot buy so freely abroad, imports fall, and with them the income of the Government. Of course, this is true in all countries. Whenever hard times come, national revenues shrink, but the difficulty is not so great with those countries of diversified products. Foreign trade, then, bears to the prosperity of both the people and the Government of these countries a relation of much greater intimacy than is the case in the average temperate region. The degree to which single crops or a few crops are the mainstay of some of these units is indicated in the table on the following page.
CHIEF EXPORTS COMPARED TO TOTAL EXPORTS IN CERTAIN CARIBBEAN DISTRICTA
(Figures Represent Percentage of Total Exports)
Metals Tobacco Cacao
49.7 60.1 41.6
88.6 77.0 48.6
1912 Bermuda 13
1 Daily Consular and Trade Reports, Sept. 80, 1914.
Daily Consular and Trade Reports, Dec. 16, 1914.
The weakness of the economic position of these countries is further emphasized by a consideration of the character of the market for their products. The majority of Caribbean exports are agricultural products but not the basic foodstuffs. With the single exception of sugar, none commands a market little affected by economic conditions. The fruit trade, cacao production, the tobacco market, the asphalt trade and even the coffee industry are dependent for their prosperity to a greater degree upon the prosperity of the commercial nations where their chief market lies. These lands suffer, therefore, not only the hard times which come from local causes, they are especially subject also to the reflection of hard times from the countries of their chief markets.
Finally, adverse tariffs in the principal purchasing countries may affect them seriously, much more seriously than they affect countries of diversified agriculture with developed manufactures. For example, the tariff recently proposed to be placed upon imports of bananas into the United States would have a much more serious effect on the prosperity of Caribbean countries than a similar discrimination against any United States article of export would have had upon the prosperity of the American workingman. The fruit trade illustrates best of all the economically weak position of these communities. To be sure, the market for their fruit is being rapidly widened with the improvement of transportation facilities and methods of preserving and ripening the products, but the United States will naturally remain the chief consumer. If our tariff on fruits were