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The President's News Conference

November 24, 1931


THE PRESIDENT. I have to announce that Mr. Robert Lincoln O'Brien of Boston has been appointed Chairman of the Tariff Commission. Mr. [Theodore G.] Joslin will give you a note about his background and history. As you know, for many years he was the editor of the Boston Herald.


Just for background, there are one or two points on the recent British action with regard to tariffs. One of the difficulties which confronted the English people for the last 2 years has been the growing adverse trade balance and the drain which it placed on their exchange and gold situation. And the purpose of their action is to correct that situation by a decrease in the volume of imports.

The American goods affected amount to 1.6 percent only of the total exports of the United States to Great Britain. Its effect is very much larger in its proportions to other countries than ourselves. The fact of the case is that our American foreign trade is much less competitive than is generally thought, and that is a fair indication of the ratio of competitive goods in our exports. In diminishing the amount of competitive goods to England in competition with their own industry, the list, as I have said, works out at less than 1.6 percent of our total exports to Great Britain.

There is no disposition in the United States to take any action whatever about it. It is entirely within the domestic authority of Great Britain. It is not our concern. We have a concern for the strengthening of the British financial situation. The prosperity of Great Britain adds to the prosperity of the whole world. Just as we insist upon conducting our own domestic policies, so we have no right to criticize anyone else for any domestic arrangements which they may set up in their own protection and interest.

Q. Mr. President, does your information tell you what countries are more seriously affected by the British proposals than our own ?

THE PRESIDENT. No, I haven't got the data here.

The British going off the gold standard obviously lowers the production costs in Great Britain, and might presumably increase exports of the British to the United States. That event happened on the 21st of September, as I recollect, and there has been no evidence of any increased imports into this country yet of any character. The British have been able to compete with our people in the matter of coal trade in some foreign points more severely, but otherwise than that we see no effect of it at all on our foreign trade. And again it comes back to the fact that a large part of the British exports to the United States are not competitive with our goods either. If production costs in England should turn out to be so much lowered in competitive goods as to cause dumping in the United States, the Tariff Commission can deal with those questions within its authorities, but I do not anticipate that anything of the kind is going to happen.

Otherwise than that I haven't any news today.

Note: President Hoover's two hundred and twenty-third news conference was held in the White House at 12 noon on Tuesday, November 24, 1931.

On the same day, the White House issued biographical data on Robert Lincoln O'Brien.

On November 20, 1931, Great Britain adopted an emergency tariff act authorizing its Board of Trade to impose emergency duties of up to 110 percent on importation that it held to be abnormal. The initial order under the law levied duties amounting to 50 percent ad valorem on a long list of articles.

Herbert Hoover, The President's News Conference Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project https://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/node/206942

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