1902 Encyclopedia > Spain > Spain - Foreign Commerce

(Part 11)


Spain - Foreign Commerce

Possessing such varied resources as it does, and being peculiarly favourably situated for commerce, Spain might be expected to take a leading place among the trading communities of Europe. This it did at one time hold, when the treasure acquired by the discovery of America and the conquest of Mexico and Peru was squandered in the purchase of various commodities from England, the Netherlands, and other countries. This period of outward prosperity, however, was also that in which the seeds of decline were planted. The expulsion of the Moors from Granada was contemporaneous with the discovery of the New World. Hundreds of thousands of Moors were driven out from the country on subsequent occasions, and in the act Spain lost the best of her agriculturists and handicraftsmen. For the stay-at-home industry by which the resources of the land could be developed as they had been by the Moors the Spaniards of that day had no taste. Excited by the hope of rapidly-acquired wealth and the love of adventure, the more enterprising spirits embarked upon a career of discovery, and agriculture and manufacturing industry fell into contempt. The mercantile supremacy of the country was thus short-lived. Political causes supervened to hasten the country's decline, and it is only within recent times, since the introduction of railways, that the commerce of the country has begun to revive. The average value of the imports and exports combined during the period of ten years from 1875 to 1884 was equal to rather less than £2 per head, [302-1] as against about £18 per head during the same period in the United Kingdom; but even this state of matters shows a considerable advance compared with 1859, when the total value of the exports and imports was equal to only about £1, 12s. per head. The following table (VIII.) gives total value in round numbers of imports and exports, with percentages from and to Great Britain and France, at various dates from 1849 (the year after the opening of the first railway in Spain) to 1884:—

== TABLE ==

On the average of the five years 1879-83 the principal exports, in the order of their importance, were wine, metals and mineral ores, fruit, oil, and cork,—wine being by far the most valuable ; the principal imports, in the order of their importance, raw cotton, brandy and spirits, sugar, machinery, tobacco, coal and coke, timber, cod-fish, iron (wrought and unwrought), hides and skins, chemical products, cocoa, cotton manufactures, and mineral oils. The large imports of cod-fish (from Norway and British North America) are due to the large consumption of fish, especially during Lent; the great demand for mineral oil as a source of light is a consequence of the dearness of coal. It is interesting to note the high place which cocoa takes among the imports. The average import of that commodity is nearly double that of coffee, and that of tea is quite insignificant (in 1884 only 155,777 lbs.).

The foreign commerce of Spain is chiefly carried on with the United Kingdom, France, Cuba, and the United States. In the ten years 1873-82 France, the United Kingdom, and the United States together (in the order named) furnished on an average rather more than 67 per cent, of the imports, and the United Kingdom, France, and Cuba (also in the order named) received on an average during the same period 75 per cent, of the exports. Next to the three countries mentioned, those which had the largest share in the import trade during the same period were Cuba, Portugal, and the Argentine Confederation, and in the export trade Portugal, the United States, and the Argentine Confederation. From the United Kingdom Spain received in 1884 chiefly coal and coke, iron and articles in iron (articles in wrought-iron and steel, however, in rather greater amount from Belgium), locomotives (also from Belgium), jute and jute yarn, hemp and flax yarn, sulphur (for use in the vineyards), and alkaline carbonates ; from France, chiefly wool and woollen goods, silk and silk goods, and wheat flour ; from the United States, petroleum, raw cotton, and tobacco (also from the Philippine Islands) ; from Cuba chiefly sugar and fine woods ; from the Argentine Confederation chiefly untanned hides and skins and animal fats. Wheat was received chiefly from Russia, and spirits from Germany, which also supplied a large proportion of the sugar consumed in the country.

Of the principal export of Spain—wine—by far the greater proportion goes to France. In 1884 that country received four-fifths of the common wine, and the quantity is rapidly increasing. The wine classed as full-bodied also went chiefly to France, but that entered under the head of sherry and similar wines was imported chiefly by the United Kingdom. The destination of the minerals is shown above (Table VI.). Oranges were sent mainly to the United Kingdom, France, the United States, and Germany ; raisins chiefly to the United States and the United Kingdom ; olive oil chiefly to Cuba, Denmark, and France, but in considerable quantity also to other countries ; esparto grass almost entirely to England; cork and wool chiefly to Portugal and France ; cattle chiefly to Portugal and England ; raw silk mainly to France ; and wheat flour and chickpease chiefly to the Spanish West Indies.

The foreign trade of the country is of course carried on mainly by sea. In 1884 more than 80 per cent, both of the imports and exports were transmarine, and of the land commerce by far the largest proportion is with or through France. The smallness of the trade with Portugal, which on an average furnished less than 14 per cent, of the imports and received less than 5 1/2 percent, of the exports during 1873-82, is partly due no doubt to the similarity of the chief products of the two countries, but also to the defectiveness of the communications between the two countries, a circumstance largely accounted for by the physical conditions already alluded to. The introduction of railways has as yet only partially served to bring the countries into more intimate relations. On the first of January 1885 not a single line connected with the general system of Spanish railways entered Portugal north of the Tagus, though Lisbon was connected by rail both with Madrid by way of Caceres and with Valencia by way of Ciudad Real and Albacete. At the date mentioned, however, a railway intended to connect Salamanca with the mouth of the Mondego was in course of construction, and a branch from the Portuguese coastline in the north was in process of being connected with the Spanish railway to Coruña, and by way of Leon with other northern seaports.

The foreign commerce of Spain is greatly hampered by the number and amount of the custom duties, which are imposed on all the principal articles both of export and import. On imports the duties vary from 6 to 28.33 per cent, of the value of the commodities, the highest duties being upon cotton yarn, sugar, and cocoa (to protect home or colonial industries). For protective reasons high import duties are levied also on iron manufactures, woollen manufactures, live animals, coffee, and wine. Export duties are levied mostly in proportion to quantity. In the case of sherry it amounts to 200 pesetas (£8) per hectolitre (22 gallons); full-bodied wines pay 112 pesetas per hectolitre, and ordinary wines 33 pesetas per hectolitre. In the case of " the most favoured " nations slight reductions are made in the amount of the duties, and under a treaty which came into operation on the 15th of August 1886 Great Britain enjoys the benefit of the most favoured nation treatment in consideration of a reduction in the import duties levied at British ports on Spanish wines.


302-1 An increase in the population since 1877 at the rate of .35 per cent. per annum allowed for in making the calculation.

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