Courtesy Reuters

Britain's Trade War with Japan

TOWARD the end of the nineteenth century Gladstone prophesied that "it is America alone who, at a coming time, can and probably will wrest from us our commercial supremacy." At that time Japan had scarcely appeared on the economic map of the world. Secluded in the Far East, hers was still a land of fragile, pretty things -- of the cherry blossom and the dancing girl. No British statesman could foresee that within half a century Japan would become, next to America, Britain's greatest commercial rival. Yet that is exactly what is happening today. Of course, there is no comparison between Japan and America in natural resources and in financial strength. Beside America Japan is but a pigmy. Yet in certain limited fields of industry she is a very grave concern to England.

Broadly speaking, America has to no small extent superseded Britain in heavy industries and as the world's financier. In this field England has nothing to fear from Japan, now or even in the future. It is in a limited number of light industries that Japan has been making serious inroads into the markets long monopolized by British manufacturers. But it so happens that chief among those light industries is the cotton industry, which is as essential to Great Britain as the more important of her heavy industries. It is one of England's basic industries.

Before the World War British cotton factories had a total of 55,000,000 spindles, more than one third of the world's entire number of spindles. In 1913 England exported 6,780,000,000 square yards of cotton fabrics, and dominated the cotton market of the world.

In 1932 England had 50,000,000 spindles, a decline of 5,000,000 as compared with the pre-war total. In the same year British exports of cotton fabrics totaled 2,200,000,000 square yards, a decrease of 4,580,000,000 square yards. This shows clearly that, while the decrease in spindles was not in itself so serious, the shrinkage in the exports of cotton fabrics was large enough to alarm even the most optimistic. It shows that

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