Chargé Wilson to the Secretary of State.
Tokyo, April 9, 1906.
Sir: Referring to my telegram of March 27, as confirmed in the legation’s dispatch No. 429 of the 5th instant, I have the honor to transmit herewith this legation’s translation in duplicate of the revised customs tariff law as passed at the recent session of the Japanese Parliaments.a For convenience of comparison I have added parallel columns showing the rates of duty under the old import tariff, which include the war taxes indefinitely continued and now in force. This new law was approved by the Emperor March 30, 1906, was published in the Official Gazette on the following day, and will go into effect on the 1st of next October. Its effects will of course be felt only by goods not now provided for in the conventional tariffs in force.
On March 7, having obtained an advance copy of the law as then proposed by the cabinet, I immediately communicated with the leading American business houses at Yokohama and with the executive committee of the American Asiatic Association of Japan, requesting from them an expression of their opinions as to the effect the proposed changes in duties would probably have upon American trade. I also requested promptness in advising me in the matter, in order that I [Page 995] might report to you by telegraph if serious injury to our importations to Japan seemed threatened.
In answer to my inquiries I received numerous letters and had many interviews with our merchants. The general impression that I gather therefrom is that, while a considerable increase in duty will be levied upon our manufactures, yet, with a few exceptions, they are not of a character vitally to affect our commercial interests. Satisfaction was expressed that many of the new duties would be changed from ad valorem to specific, thus insuring greater uniformity in the levy of customs duties.
Changes in the rates on locomotives and railway supplies will, it is believed, make little difference in our sales, the largest purchaser of these products being the Japanese Government. The same comment is also applicable to leather, which is largely consumed in army and navy supplies. On printing paper, in consequence of the vigorous action of the newspaper and publishing interests, a reduction of the old duty has been made. Under the head of petroleum and its products no change has been made in the duty on illuminating oil. There is a 5 per cent increase on light oil, but this article is not largely imported from the United States. On lubricating oil there is an increase from 85 yen ($0.4233) to 1.23 yen ($0.61254) per 100 kin (132.51 pounds avoirdupois). The increase in the duty on higher grades of watches, it is believed, will give less expensive Swiss watches an advantage over the American articles. The increase in the duty on sewing machines, I am advised, should not seriously affect American sales. Manufactured tobacco remains subject to a duty of 250 per cent.
The duty on wheat flour is increased from 1.196 yen ($0.595608) to 1.45 yen ($0.7221) per 100 kin (132.51 pounds). This increase is the one that has caused most objection from our merchants, who apprehend that it will tend to check the demand for a food product that is rapidly coming into wide use in this country. It is expected that the protection to be given by this enhancement will result in the construction of flour mills in Japan or at Dalny to utilize the wheat of Manchuria, and that this may eventually enable the Japanese to obtain flour cheaper even than now. Of course, as a consequence, there would be an increased demand for American mill machinery.
The new tariff law is interesting, owing to its tendency in the direction of protection, from which one may draw some inferences as to Japan’s probable tariff policy when, in 1911, the present conventional rates will be replaced.
I have, etc.,
- Not printed.↩