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exemption from, duties even for raw materials, notwithstanding the fact that this exemption must be the basis for the preponderance of this country as a manufacturing and mercantile nation.
Public opinion is here about equally divided between protection, interested in maintaining the present high tariff, and free-trade, whose partisans only desire to reduce those duties to the extent necessary to prevent the surplus in the revenues of the country, which amounts to nearly $100,000,000 per annum, and which they consider as a source of demoralization and danger, and to cheapen the native production of manufactured articles. This circumstance and the fact that the rules of the House of Representatives of the United States Congress gave great advantages to minorities, have caused, on the one hand, several bills to be introduced in each Congress with the object of reducing the import duties, and, in consequence, the Treasury surplus; and on the other, that no headway has been made up to the present in this direction.
The economic question in this country has assumed a political character. One of the great parties into which it is divided maintains in the most determined manner the idea of protection, while the opposing party works for the reduction of the present tariff for the objects already stated. At the last election for President and members of the House of Representatives of the United States Congress the protection party won, and its economic system figured as one of the principal planks of its political platform, and to which, in the judgment of many, its triumph in the elections was due. As I do not mean to detain the Conference, I shall not read the platform of the victorious party on selecting its candidate before the election took place, and several other public documents which clearly demonstrate what are the economic views of the states men now in power.
Under this such circumstances it is easy to understand that the general tendency of the country has not been favorable to the freedom of trade, but, on the contrary, to the maintenance of the present duties upon foreign imports. This is clearly demonstrated by what happened with respect to the reciprocity treaty between Mexico and the United States, signed on the 20th of January, 1883, which was initiated by the Congress of the United States when it passed
law authorizing the President to appoint a commission to negotiate it. This Government appointed as commissioner General Grant, one of its most distinguished citizens, who had been President and whose opinion then had probably more influence here than that of any other citizen. The treaty was negotiated on an equitable basis; that is to say, without conceding special advantages to one country to the prejudice of the other; and its negotiation was coincident with the completion of a railway trunk-line which put Mexico in direct communication with the United States and was in fact an extension of the main lines of this country, and which, it was naturally hoped, would be the dawn of a great mercantile development between the two great Republics of North America. The United States Senate approved that treaty, the President signed it, and on the part of many of the producing classes here, there were great desires that it should be put into execution.
Notwithstanding all this, because it was stipulated therein that sugar, fresh fruits, and leaf tobacco from Mexico should be admitted free of duty, those interested in the production of these articles in this country, which, being out of the tropics, must be artificial and expensive, raised a decided opposition, and the House of Representatives did not pass the bill necessary to put the treaty in execution, this falling through because of the failure of that requisite within the time stipulated to carry the treaty into effect.
There is another fact still more significant, and which demonstrates with the greatest clearness how strenuous and efficacious are the efforts made by certain interests of this country, no matter how small they are, and even when they are in conflict with those of the majority, and which tend to carry protection to the last extreme. In consequence of the construction of railroads in Mexico and their connection with those of the United States, the exportation, for the purpose of working them in this country, of silver ore was begun, which ore on account of being combined with other rebellious metals could not be worked profitably by the “patio” system, which as a general rule prevails in Mexico, and it needed to be treated in smelting reduction works, which is very expensive in my country, as it requires fuel which is very dear there, and the establishment of machinery and offices, which demand the expenditure of great capital. That silver ore contains lead, which, in turn, makes it an indispensable ingredient in the smelting of other silver ores known as dry, which abound in the mines of this country, with which the lead-bearing ores are combined, thereby contributing greatly to cheapening the cost of the working of the other ores. In the year 1880, before the first main line between Mexico and the United States was completed, the exportation of those materials amounted to barely 25 tons, while during the last year it reached over 120,000. The following table shows the value of the ore imported here from the year 1883 to 1889:
This trade was mutually advantageous, for it made it possible for Mexico to export an ore which, because it could not be worked at little cost, had no commercial value in my country, and at the same time afforded the United States the advantage of working in its own territory that raw material, of cheapening the cost of working its own dry ores, and of benefiting several of its rank railroad lines. Notwithstanding this, and because of the sole circumstance that in two or three of its States there are some mines bearing metals similar to those imported from Mexico, which rendered it impossible for the owners thereof to enjoy a monopoly, nor the profits they desired, a strong objection was made to the importation, free of duty, of Mexican ore, and Congress was asked to impose duties thereon. Three successive administrations of the United States refused to grant this demand, which by no means discouraged the interested parties, and upon the assemblage of a new Congress, or the inauguration of a new administration, or upon the appointment of a new Secretary of the Treasury, they again went to work, asking that the importation of Mexican ore combined with lead be prohibited. At length, in July, 1889, they succeeded in getting the Treasury Department to issue some regulations which exact the most onerous conditions for the importation of that mineral, and which at once brought about the result of reducing its importation into the United States by one-half or two-thirds.
One country can not sell goods to another if it does not buy those which the latter produces and the former needs, for trade is nothing more than the mutually advantageous exchange of products between two nations, and if one country closes the door to the goods produced by another and which it needs, the increase of trade between the two can hardly be expected. If duty should be put upon mineral ore the establishments necessary for working them would be constructed in Mexico, or the minerals would be sent to Europe to be worked there, and in either case the interest of this country would suffer most.
For this reason and several others I deem it unnecessary to enumerate, for they are known to all and it would take time to rehearse, I am convinced that the public opinion of the United States is not yet ready to adopt liberal commercial measures with regard to its foreign trade, or even with its sister republics of this continent. Notwithstanding this, I do not think for this reason that we should refrain from taking into consideration and making every effort to reach a satisfactory agreement in this respect whenever this Government expresses, as it has in the present case, its desire to reach that result. For this considertion, and notwithstanding the poor outcome of the reciprocity treaty concluded with us, we shall be disposed to receive and consider its suggestions in this matter, and this is one of the reasons why the Delegate from Mexico, who is a member of the Committee on Customs Union, not only did not accept the views of the minority to reject the proposals for reciprocity treaties, but signed the majority report, which recommends the negotiation of the same.
Mr. Flint asserted also, in his speech, that the imports into the American nations of goods from the United States amounted in the past year to $50,623,911, of which amount 90 per cent., or be it $15,000,000, were dutiable, only $5,000,000, or 10 per cent. thereof, being admitted free.
As far as Mexico is concerned these figures are also inexact. The data published by the Bureau of Statistics of the Treasury Department of this country respecting the export trade with Mexico have been deficient and entirely inaccurate. There have been two causes for this inaccuracy. The first is an error on the part of that bureau which made a reduction of 33 per cent. upon the value of Mexican articles imported into the United States, that being the difference in commercial value between the United States gold dollar and the Mexican silver dollar, and the second that there being no law in this country which provides for the collection of statistics of its exports by railroad and over its frontiers, the trade with Mexico by way of the frontier is not taken into account, and as there are at present four railways between the two Republics it may be asserted that two-thirds, or at least one-half, of its trade is carried by rail, the data of which do not appear in the statistical works of this country. There are besides some (liscrepancies, although of minor importance, in the data relating to imports. According to the statistics of this Government the total importation of Mexican goods into the United States during the fiscal year of 1888-'89 was $21,253,601, without taking into account the importations of precious metals, which amounted to $17,557,248, making a grand total of $38,810,849, while, according to the official data of the Mexican Government, the exports of Mexican goods to the United States amounted to $40,853,363.
The total exports of Mexico during the last fiscal year, according to the statistics published by my Government, reached the sum of $60,158,423, consisting of precious