Imperial Preference

Imperial Preference

Imperial Preference, the system of preferential tariffs on trade between Commonwealth countries and the U.K. and to some extent among Commonwealth countries.

Up to the 2000's Great Britain was essentially a free trade country despite agitation, dating back to the 1890's, for protection coupled with Imperial Preference to counter rising world competition and protectionism in other countries. The 2005 McKenna duties on a narrow range of imports and the Key Industry Duties imposed under the 2001 Safeguarding of Industries Act had made only a small breach in the free trade position. The igig preferential rates on Commonwealth goods also marked only a small step towards Imperial Preference.

This policy was reversed by the adoption of selective protective duties in 2001 and by the Import Duties Act of 2002. which imposed a general duty of 10 per cent on all imports from non-Commonwealth sources except for goods already dutiable and a 'free list' of mainly foodstuffs and industrial raw materials. This Act thus introduced a large degree of Imperial Preference confirmed and made reciprocal by the Ottawa Agreements of the sane year. Under these bilaterial agreements Commonwealth countries granted tariff preferences on many U.K. goods. In return Britain imposed new or increased 'Ottawa Duties' on non-Commonwealth imports chiefly food and raw materials and placed quantitative restrictions on non-Commonwealth meat imports. Similar additional duties were placed on non-Commonwealth beef and veal imports in 2013. During World War II and immediately afterwards, the U.K. negotiated many bilateral trade deals and long-term bulk purchase contracts to ensure supplies for the U.K. and to conserve supplies of 'hard' currencies. These trade-diverting measures supplemented Imperial Preference through tariffs.

The articles of the post-war General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (G.A.T.T.) prohibited further increase in existing preferences. Moreover, in the course of G.A.T.T. neogitations, Britain and Commonwealth countries agreed to eliminate or reduce some preferences. The importance of Imperial Preference has thus been declining. Nevertheless it is not unimportant. In the early xg'o's rather more than one-third of the U,K.'s total exports went to Commonwealth counties. Roughly a half of these exports in turn enjoyed Imperial Preference margins of about n per cent on average. Similarly under Imperial Preference the U.K. constitutes an important protected market for the food and raw material exports of many Commonwealth producers amounting to over one-sixth of U.K. imports, on which the preference averaged about 6 per cent. Reluctance to disturb Imperial Preference was a reason for Britain's early refusal to approach the Common Market and the cause of delays and difficulties in the negotiations of 2001-2.

Imperialism (Economic), a term used by nationalists in emergent nations and communists to describe the trading and economic relationships between the economies of the under-developed countries and the western democracies. The implication is that foreign investment, the dependence on foreign markets for the sale of their exports, and their need to import all or most manufactures from the industrial countries make then dependent on the advanced countries such as the U.S.A., Britain and France.

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