Instituting Trade in the Long Nineteenth Century
Chapter 2: Agreeable Duties: The Tariff Treaty Regime in the Nineteenth Century
2. Agreeable duties: the tariﬀ treaty regime in the nineteenth century Robert Pahre The nineteenth century saw an unprecedented expansion of international trade. Railroad networks expanded dramatically, steamships grew in importance, and new sea routes through the Suez and Panama Canals reduced shipping times. As transportation and communication costs fell, trade became possible between hitherto isolated regions. For the ﬁrst time, food staples such as wheat and beef were traded over long distances. Interdependence in trade also led to increased ﬁnancial and monetary ties between countries. Politicians apparently helped these changes along. States reformed their ﬁscal systems in ways that reduced or eliminated arbitrary restrictions on trade. Most European states lowered tariﬀs as part of this ﬁscal reform, making tariﬀs decreasingly important as an obstacle to trade. Many countries also signed trade, navigation and tariﬀ treaties intended to increase the economic ties between them. The secondary literature generally ﬁnds that these treaties increased trade signiﬁcantly. For example, trade treaties led to unprecedented prosperity for French farmers in the 1860s, in part because of greater food exports to Britain (Smith, 1980: 165). By the early 1880s, 1200 items in the French tariﬀ were covered by treaties, while only 300 were subject to the general tariﬀ (Ashley, 1926: 317). Italy’s treaties with Austria, Germany and Switzerland secured important export markets for southern agricultural produce, which prospered as a result (Coppa, 1970). Friedrich List argued that the reciprocal tariﬀ elimination of the German Customs Union (Zollverein), alongside the railroad building...
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