Canada and the American Tariff

August 10, 1929

Report Outline
Canadian-American Tariff Relations
Canada's Case Against American Tariffs
Canadian-American Trade Relations
Special Focus

The tariff revision now in progress at Washington has aroused almost as much interest and controversy in Canada as in the United States. Farmers across the northern border look upon the United States as one of their leading markets, and the fact that the Hawley—Smoot bill will be dedicated primarily to the relief of American agriculture makes it appear to Canadians to hold a special threat to their trade interests. Canadian newspapers have carried full reports from Washington on House and Senate tariff proceedings, their cartoonists have portrayed Uncle Sam in various attitudes of refusal to buy from Canada, political speakers have severely criticised American tariff policy, and in general there has been wide speculation throughout the Dominion as to the sort of bill Congress will finally enact.

Passage of the Hawley bill by the House, May 28, 1929, was followed by complaint in all of the Canadian provinces. Protests were particularly bitter in British Columbia, where it was asserted that the proposed duties on cedar lumber and shingles would practically terminate exportation of those products to the United States and would ruin one of the province's leading industries. In the prairie provinces objections were made to the proposed duties on cattle, hides and skins, and leather, while comment in Ontario and Quebec was largely concerned with the probable effects of higher duties on milk and cream, butter, cheese and maple sugar. Producers of fish and potatoes in the maritime provinces feared that the American market for their products would be severely curtailed. It was estimated that the increased duties proposed in the Hawley bill would affect adversely Canadian exports to the United States which in recent years have ranged in value from $35,000,000 to $50,000,000.

Conservative newspapers were vigorous in their denunciation of the bill, many of them calling for reprisals by Canada in the form of increased duties against American products. Liberal papers were in general more moderate in their comment, some of them suggesting that American tariffs against Canadian goods were already so high that increases would not make much difference, but there was displayed a substantially unanimous feeling of irritation of the sort expressed by the St. John Telegraph—Journal: “If we can buy oranges and grape fruit in the West Indies, by all means let us buy these articles there rather than in Florida or California.”

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