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Statement showing the quantities and values of the principal general exportations from Belgium to the United States for the years 1876 and 1875.
NOVEMBER 21, 1877. (Received January 11, 1878.)
Report upon the commerce and navigation of Antwerp for the year 1876.
I have to submit the accompanying tabulated reports of the commerce and navigation of the port of Antwerp for the year 1876.
These tables have been carefully compiled from official sources placed at my disposal by the authorities of the port and by the minister of finance at Brussels, whose courteous assistance I wish publicly to acknowledge. The quantities are official, the result of the actual declarations of shippers, verified by the customs officers when they refer to special importations, but otherwise they are not always perfectly reliable. The values are mostly approximative, computed from a tariff of prices, modified and corrected annually at the department of finance at Brussels. These valuations are based chiefly on the prices-current of Antwerp and Brussels, on the proposals of the government inspectorgeneral, or on private information.
GENERAL AND SPECIAL COMMERCE.
The table of importations embraces general imports, which comprise three categories, as follows: importations declared for consumption, those for bonded warehouses, and those for direct transit; whereas special importations include the first class and such portions of the second as may be subsequently removed from the custody of the customs officers by declaration for consumption and consequent payment of duties. I have preferred to tabulate the general importations for two reasons: first, special importations convey a false impression, in that they do not represent the actual commerce of the port or kingdom, since under existing regulations they are made to include large quantities of merchandise in direct transit; for, in order to obviate certain formalities, many free articles, such as grain, cotton, petroleum, hides, &c., although intended to pass in direct transit, are declared first for consumption, and afterwards for exportation, which process assimilates these articles to Belgian productions and classifies them with special commerce. Secondly, Antwerp being essentailly a commercial city, its prosperity depends more upon the quantity of merchandise handled, whether special imports or transit goods-that is, more upon the activity and magnitude of her commercial movement-than upon the amount consumed or manufactured in the kingdom. Consequently the transit trade becomes a most important factor in the commercial prosperity of this port, and in order to arrive at a full and just idea of the progress and magnitude of the trade of the port of Antwerp, an examination of its general commerce becomes a necessity.
INCREASE OF COMMERCE.
The following tabulated statement shows the importations, exportations, and transits at the port of Antwerp, from 1867 to 1876, stated in millions of francs:
Importations (general Exportations (special
Total. By sea. Other. Total. By sea. Other. Total. Direct. trepot.
The foregoing table shows for the decade embraced the extraordinary increase of nearly 100 per cent. in the general importations by sea, while the special exportations show an increase of about 50 per cent. The period of this great development dates back to 1871, when, during the Franco-German war, Antwerp received an impetus that has never been lost; for 1876 surpassed by 75,000,000 francs, or 353,000 tons, the importations by sea of that eventful and until now unparalleled year of 1871. The special exports, and those in transit, of the tables embrace only such merchandise as quit the port of Antwerp with documents obtained from the two Antwerp bureaus, to the exclusion of those which pass through Antwerp by virtue of having executed the custom-house formalities at any other bureau of Belgium. This accounts for the apparent disparity of the general exports with the general imports at Antwerp, the former being only 50 per cent. of the latter, whereas for the kingdom these last exceed the former by only 13 per cent. Were it possible to obtain the same care and exactitude in regard to the declaration of the quantities of the exports as for the imports, this excess, in all probability, would be greatly reduced or entirely removed; for it cannot be possible that such an industrious and economical people as the Flemish should consume more than they produce. The fact remains, however, that in absence of official verification the declaration of exporters is not always trustworthy.
THE TRANSIT TRADE.
This port, from its geographical position, possesses extraordinary advantages for the development of an immense transit trade, unequaled perhaps by any port on the continent of Europe. Holding a central position, easy of access, it serves as a natural outlet for the manufactures of France, Germany, and Switzerland, and an inlet for the production of the entire continent of America as well as those of the Mediterranean, India, England, and Scandinavia. Consequently large quantities of textile fabrics, yarn and thread, iron, machinery, beer, and gin pass out annually through the port in transit, while still larger quantities of coffee, fruit, rice, wood, wool, cereals, oils, and resin enter for the interior of the continent.
The table does not exhibit the full magnitude of the transit trade at this port, embracing as it does only the quantities declared at the two Antwerp bureaus, and excluding all transits from the other bureaus of the interior, and likewise, generally, all free goods that pass as special exports. In the table the transits for 1876 amounted to 35 per cent. of
the total exports at Antwerp, but for the kingdom they amounted to 50 per cent. If to this could be added the amount of free goods passed as special imports and exports the ratio would be increased to probably 75 per cent. of the total commerce of Antwerp.
COMPETITION OF FLUSHING AND TERNEUZEN.
The competition of Flushing has proved harmless to the interests of Antwerp. When, several years ago, the superb new docks of Flushing, and a railroad to connect that port with the Rhine and the interior of Germany, were under construction, fears were entertained that Antwerp would lose a large portion of her transit trade. The new Dutch port at the mouth of the Scheldt was represented as the sword of Damocles hang. ing over the head of the great commercial metropolis of Belgium, but the record of the last three years has shown conclusively that these apprehensions were groundless. The suspended sword has acted as a check upon reckless abuses and a stimulus to merchants and municipal authorities to remedy defects and develop every possible facility and improvement for the dispatch of business in this port. It is now claimed that Antwerp being farther in the interior and having a shorter line of communication to the Rhine than Flushing, the difference of expenses will more than equalize the extra cost of ascending the Scheldt, since water communications must always be the cheapest. Another principal reason for the slight influence that Flushing has exercised upon this port arises from the fact that to change the settled currents of commerce requires marked advantages. Since all the principal commercial houses of the surrounding countries are already established permanently or represented financially at Antwerp, they would find it expensive to transfer even agencies to Flushing, which would become a necessity if Flushing should to any great extent supplant Antwerp.
But while Flushing has lost for the present any serious claims of rivalry that she recently possessed, another Dutch port, situated on the Scheldt, about 10 miles above Flushing, is now regarded as the special rival of Antwerp, namely, Terneuzen. Terneuzen is but a very small Dutch port at the mouth of the canal leading from the Scheldt to Ghent, but the general government has been negotiating with Holland in order to secure a ship-canal from Ghent to the Scheldt by Terneuzen. To secure the consent of Holland the Government of Belgium proposed to enter into a treaty with Holland granting terms which the people of Antwerp pronounced too liberal, viz, that Terneuzen should possess the same rights and privileges, and the same railway tariff, as Antwerp. The proposition was defeated last year in the Chamber of Deputies, but Antwerp is fearful that it may be introduced again and passed, in which case this port would doubtless suffer a material loss from the competition of such a near rival. The authorities and commercial people of Antwerp would obviate the danger by the construction of a ship-canal by way of Bruges, to enter the North Sea at Huyst or Blankenberghe, thus giving Ghent a direct outlet to the sea, without creating a dangerous rival on the Lower Scheldt.
The total value of the general importations at the port of Antwerp for 1876 was, as per inclosure A, 1,057,089,163 francs, or $204,018,208, being an increase of over 15 per cent. when compared with 1875, and an increase of nearly 20 per cent. over the value for 1874.
DUTIES ON IMPORTS.
The entry-duties are levied on the merchandise declared for consumption. The amount collected for 1876 at Antwerp was 7,946,740 francs, of which sum 3,432,131 francs was collected from merchandise stored in
bonded warehouses and afterwards declared for consumption. The following articles furnished the largest revenues during the year, and paid the following duties:
Coffee, 13.20 francs per 100 kilograms.
Wood, oak and walnut, 1 franc per cubic meter, round or squared; other timber, 3, 6, and 9 francs per cubic meter, according to size and condition. Fruits pay as follows: almonds, 20 francs; citrons and figs, 6 francs; prunes and raisins, 15 francs per 100 kilograms, and others 10 per cent. ad valorem.
Tobacco-leaf, 13.20 francs; cigars, 258 francs, and other manufactured 42 francs per 100 kilograms.
Sugar, refined, pays a duty of 51.13 francs per 100 kilograms.
Iron, cast and scrap, 0.50 francs; manufactures of, 4 francs, and wrought, 1 franc per 100 kilograms.
Sirup, 15 francs per 100 kilograms.
Textile fabrics, woolen, 260 francs per 100 kilograms, or 10 per cent. ad valorem; cotton, from 7.30 francs to 14 francs per 100 kilograms; linen, 10 per cent. ad valorem, and silk, 300 francs per 100 kilograms. Brandy, 72.50 to 145 francs per hectoliter of 50 degrees.
Beer, 6 francs in casks and 7 francs in bottles, per hectoliter.
The amount of duties collected on the eleven foregoing categories was over 7,000,000 francs, or about 90 per centum of the whole amount collected. The Belgian tariff of duties on importations contains 49 categories, embracing 147 subdivisions or separate duties. Of these last, only 29 are ad valorem, which are, almost without exception, 5.10 or 15 per cent.; which last amount occurs in only two instances, viz, for spices and cotton prints. Manufactured articles embrace all the remainder, and pay 10 per cent., whatever may be the nature of the material, with the exception of shawls, laces, jewelry, and manufactures of wood, which pay 5 per cent. ad valorem. Thus the great mass of the duties in Belgium are specific, and collected principally on a very few articles relatively.
The following table presents, in a condensed form, the chief articles of importation, their magnitude and changes, for the last three years: