COMBATING GERMAN COMMERCIAL TACTICS.
If you've noticed an error in this article please click here to report it so we can fix it.
THE PRACTIbE which has been established by Ministers and heads of departments, since the , war commenced, of calling together groups of prominent men in order to outline policy and to confer upon important subjects was commendably followed out by Sir Arthur 8teel-Maitland last week, when representatives of the Press (in particular, the trade and technical Press) were asked to meet him in order to learn how the new Trade Intelligence Department of the Board of Trade had been constituted, how it was organized, and what were its limitations.
This department originated through a difference of opinion between the Foreign Office and the Board of Trade as to the control of the Consular Service, each department quite rightly regarding some particular piece of business as its own concern and demanding to have the supervision or control.. of as for instance, a commercial proposal which might have a vital political side. It therefore became evident that the best way out of the, difficulty was the establishment of a. joint department. of the two offices: The work of the department consists of a grouping together of a number of sub departments, which are as follow : — (1) The Commercial Intelligence Department of the Board of Trade. (2) The War Trade Intelligence Department of the Foreign Office (which, whilst originally established for dealing with problems arising out of the blockade, has got on to matters which will have permanent effect, after the war, on our trade abroad). (3) Part of the Foreign Trade Department of the Foreign Office (which examines into the credentialsOf trade concerns abroad and-lists them according to their desirability). (4, The Consular Service of the Foreign Office (this, however, for the time being, being placed under Sir Arthur SteelMaitland personally as an under-secretary of the Foreign Office). The department will deal with all overseas trade, and will also keep in touch with the trade and industries of this country. For this purpose the department is sub-dividell (1) into an Overseas Division, which again is sub-divided into _geographical groups and (2) the United Kingdom Division, which is sub-' divided according to the kind of trade or industry..
HON% these two departments will work is, roughly, this :—Information. will come from a foreign country of, for instance, a big contract that is required to-be placed. This will go into the Overseas Division and to the man who knows all about that particular country, and he can then confer with the man in the United Kingdom Division who is conversant with the particular trade concerned.
It has been decided that not only shall the new department collect information, but that it shall also have power to take action, so that, should a, contract be going, the matter .can be put in train at once without circumlocution between offices acting to I, create delay. There are, however, certain emceptions, as, for instance, if a comanercia.1 treaty requires to be made with a foreign country. That would have to go through a special department of the Board of Trade. Again, should a particular piece of business become predominantly political, it would go to the Foreign Office for attention, the Trade Intelligence Department being consulted on the commercial side of the mitten An advisory committee is being formed consisting of financial and business representatives to assist the department in the conduct of its duties. One of the matters which will come up for reform is the Consular Service. This is going to be placed, as is already known, on a very much higher plane than has ever been the case in the past. In the British Possessions and Dominions there will be established Trade Commissioners, whilst in foreign countries thb Commercial Attache will become, and even may be called a Commercial Councillor, and these
• will rank immediately after the Deputy Ambassador or Minister, as the case may be, with a scaleof pay and allowances commensurate with their position.
The best men obtainable from every source will be selected, not only for these positions, but also for the
,Consular Service as aNalpie, and by continual inspection of the consular work by the Commercial Councillors it is hoped to raise the -whole tone of our commercial representation abroad. In Sir Arthur Steel-Maitland's opinion—and in support of this he gave definite examples—we 'were, before the war, faced with a commercial strategy on the part of the Germans as real as the military strategy which we are now fighting. There was a systematic and deliberate penetration of every country by German finance and German enterprise. A strong bank with a local flavour will be formed by a group of German banks, and if a business man applies to the bank for a loan every effort will be made to get him to enlarge his business considerably, experts will be brought in so that the financial interests shall be well safeguarded, and the bank will take shares and have a representative on thb board, the shares and debentures eventually being parcelled out amongst the bank's depositors. In this way the control of important businesses would be obtained, and by unity of action and cohesion between groups of these businesses, large contracts would be diverted to Germany and German concerns at the expense of other nationalities.
It is not intended to copy the methods of the Ger mans, but as, no doubt, after the war the Germans will attempt to continue their methods, it will be the duty of the Trade Intelligence Department under Sir .Arthur Steel-Maitland to assist British manufacturers and traders in every possible legitimate way, and to prevent the perpetuation of the German method. One of the promises made was that information of trade importance should be distributed more quickly, and all those who may desire information with regard to trade in any part of the world can, with confidence, apply to the department at its offices in Basinghall Street, London, E.C. One of the matters which this department will endeavour to prosecute is the formation of special trade reference sections at municipal and other libraries throughout the country.