No. 58.
Mr. Denby to Mr. Bayard.

No. 144.]

Sir: I have the honor to forward herewith for your information an extract from the Shanghai Courier, giving a report of an interview between Sir John Walsham, Her British Majesty’s minister to China, who has lately arrived in Shanghai, and the committee of the general chamber of commerce, which was desirous of bringing to the minister’s attention several matters which affected seriously the trade of Shanghai, the most important of which being the unsatisfactory system of duty drawbacks.

Sir John Walsham replied that he thought a solution of this difficulty might be reached by making the bonds for these drawbacks the equivalent of cash, or by allowing them to be held as payable for any duties at an open port custom-house.

I have, &c.,

[Inclosure 1 in No. 144.]

interview of the chamber of commerce committee with sir john walsham, bart.

The following report has been courteously sent us by the committee of the Shanghai General Chamber of Commerce:

Sir John Walsham, Her Britannic Majesty’s minister in China, having arrived at Shanghai on his way to Peking, the committee of the general chamber of commerce, deemed it desirable to take advantage of his presence here, with the view of bringing to his notice several matters of interest connected with the trade of this port, which have for a longtime engaged the attention of the chamber, and regarding which the chamber has from time to time addressed the representative of the foreign powers at Peking.

In the hope, therefore, that, in concert with the other ministers, he would use his best endeavors to bring to a speedy and satisfactory conclusion these pending questions, the committee asked Sir John Walsham to give them an opportunity before he left Shanghai, of placing him in possession of the views of the foreign merchants, whom they represented, and in order that he might be made acquainted with the steps which had already been taken by the chamber in furtherance of those views, the committee submitted to him copies of the correspondence that related to some of the principal matters in question, viz:

The general conservancy of the rivers including the dredging of the Woo-sung Bar.

The present unsatisfactory system of duty drawbacks.

The collection in the settlement of the tax on opium known as likin, in connection with which the committee said they would be glad to receive any information which Sir John Walsham might have it in his power to give with regard to the probable operation of the Cheefoo agreement of 1876.

Her Britannic Majesty’s minister, in reply to the invitation of the committee, informed them that it would afford him very great pleasure to meet them, and named Saturday, the 22d instant, for the purpose, in case this date should not be inconvenient to them.

The interview took place at Her Britannic Majesty’s consulate-general at 11 o’clock on that day, when the following members of the committee were present: Messrs. J. G. Purdon (chairman), J. J. Keswick (vice-chairman), W. Brand, F. E. Haskell, C. M. Dice, A. G. Wood, and George R. Corner (secretary).

Having been introduced by Mr. Alabaster, her Britannic Majesty’s acting consul-general, Mr. Purdon offered Sir John Walsham, who was accompanied by Mr. Townley, a member of the legation at Peking, and his private secretary, a cordial welcome to China, on behalf of the chamber of commerce and the mercantile community [Page 94] of Shanghai, and expressed at the same time their gratification at having an opportunity of meeting him on his way to Peking.

Sir John expressed his sincere thanks for the heartiness of the welcome, and begged to assure the committee that he was very sensible of the great kindness which had been shown to him and his family since their arrival. He was obliged to them, he added, for having furnished him with an occasion for becoming personally acquainted with the representatives of the chamber, and of learning their views and wishes in respect of matters which affected the community, and he need scarcely assure them that no effort would be spared on his part to assist in promoting and furthering their interest.

Alluding to the points to which the committee had more especially called his attention, he would first of all say a few words on the subject of the Cheefoo agreement, and the desire of the committee to be informed as to how the matter stood at present. As they were doubtless aware, the coming into force of this agreement depended on the terms of an additional article which had been signed by the two Governments, and which modified in certain respects the terms of the original agreement, the application of the tax on opium known as likins figuring amongst such modifications. When he left London early last month he understood that the negotiations between the two Governments were proceeding satisfactorily, and he should not therefore have been surprised on arriving at Shanghai to learn that an arrangement had been come to for giving effect to the operation of the article. He had not, however, received any further information on the subject other than the fact that Her Britannic Majesty’s Government had agreed to allow the additional article to be put into force at once, and possibly therefor, although he did not pretend to say that such was the case, any delay that had occurred might be due to the fact that the labors of the joint commission which was to be appointed under the Cheefoo agreement had not yet commenced.

As regards the dredging of the river, the foreign representatives at Peking had, he believed, within a recent date, been interesting themselves in the matter, and there was good reason for hoping that dredging operations might shortly be undertaken.

With respect to drawbacks they were of three kinds, as pointed out in the memorandum attached to the report of the chamber of commerce for 1884. It appeared, however, that the complaints of the mercantile community had reference chiefly to the hardship entailed by what were known as coast-trade drawbacks, on the grounds:

That they must be applied for within twelve months after arrival of the produce at the port of re-entry.
That they are not exchangeable for ready money as in the case of drawbacks for import duty on foreign goods re-exported to a foreign country or to another treaty port.
That they are available only for payment of other coast-trade duties at the port of issue.

Sir John said that he concurred with the committee in considering that the complaint of the mercantile community on this head was well founded, and he would use his best efforts to aid in obtaining a remedy for what, in the majority of instances, must cause not only serious inconvenience to the exporter, but also no inconsiderable loss. Perhaps a solution of the difficulty might be found by making the bonds for these drawbacks the equivalent of cash, or by allowing them to be held as payable for any duties at any open port custom-house.

The chairman replied that he thought this would be so.

The committee then thanked Sir John for their reception and withdrew.—Daily News.