Trade Tariffs

by Mark A. Nye
Issue No. 238 - February 1993

Several times during the past year my monthly article has consisted of reprinting, with a short commentary, an article first published in one of the trade journals. These articles have dealt with issues then affecting, in some manner, the glass industry. At the same time they have illustrated to today's readers that nothing has really changed during the past 50-60 years. Change the names, change the subject from the glass industry to another type, and the articles could have come from contemporary publications.

This month's article continues along these same lines. It deals with a trade agreement signed in March l938 that reduced the tariffs on glass imported from Czechoslovakia. The reduction in tariffs lowered the price the consumer had to pay, thus cutting into the profits of American glass manufacturers whose costs were traditionally higher. However, little did either side realize how short a time was left before all imports from Europe would be halted by war.

The original article, published in the April 1938 issue of Crockery and Glass Journal, was captioned: "What About The Czecho Treaty? Here are leaders thoughts on it." The text was as follows:

"Signing of a reciprocal trade agreement with Czechoslovakia last month brought, naturally, an immediate flow of comment from American glass manufacturers. The American Glassware Association of which most manufacturers making ware competitive with Czechoslovakian ware are members, will probably act, as it acted before the signing of the treaty, as the functioning body through which the manufacturers will band together to promote the use of American glass to the consumer.

"This program is the only one at press time which has been definitely considered, viz., a consumer educational program bringing out the beauties, styling points, and quality of American glass. No particuar appeal to the government for a revision or change in tariff provisions, as affecting the glass industry, is expected to be made.

"The text of the treaty as affecting the glass industry, follows:

                                              Old          New
Paragraph     Item                            Rate         Rate
217   Bottles and Jars
         holding over one pint................1 cent       1/2 cent
                                              per lb.      per lb.
218-C Illuminating glassware and parts:
         Prisms and
         Chandeliers..........................60%          30%
         Chimneys.............................55%          30%
         Globes and
         Shades...............................70%          45%
         Wall Brackets........................60%          30%
         Others ..............................60%          40%
218-D Plated or Cased Glass...................60%          45%
2l8-E Perfume Bottles, hand-made..............75%          37 1/2%
218-F Glassware, blown or colored.............60%          50%
218-0 Pressed Glass Tableware unpolished......50%          25%
219   Cylinders, crown and sheet glass:
         Not Over 864 sq. in..................1 26/64      1 l/8 cent
                                              to           per lb.
                                              1 62/64
                                              per lb.
         Over 864 sq. in. in size.............2 1/4        1 3/4 cents
                                              to           per lb.
                                              2 52/64
                                              per lb.
230-D Glass and Manufactures, such as:
        Other types of Glass and 
        Manufactures..........................No change
        Blocks and Bricks.....................50%          40%

"The one clause in this treaty which has been particularly puzzling, and stands as a potential source of argument, is the one referring to pressed, unpolished tableware (218-G). Manufacturers anticipate a great influx of this ware and also difficulty in determining exactly what is "unpolished" glass from certain points of view.

"C. B. Roe, president of the Fostoria Glass Company; Arthur J. Bennett, president of the Cambridge Glass Company, and James E. Duncan. 3rd, of the Duncan & Miller Glass Company, have all registered particular protest, since the reduction in hand blown ware of 10 per cent particularly affects this type of leading manufacturer.

"Said Mr. Roe: "We were greatly disappointed at the decision made hy the State Department, reducing the present tariff on blown ware 16 2/3% and automatically applying to all other countries having treaties with the "most favored nation" clause in them.

"It simply means that that much more stemware, for instance, will he imported, leaving that much less for the American manufacturer to produce, which seems rather an odd way to try to get American labor back to work. This, however, is not unusual as nothing the government has done up to date has helped the industrial and employment situation, but, rather, has retarded it.

"Of course, the reduction on pressed ware from 50% to 25% will no doubt result in a largely increased importation of that class of ware which was already coming in in very fair quantities and at ridiculous prices even before this change in the tariff."

"Said Mr. Duncan: " ... I wish to make the following comments on this matter. The treaty with Czechoslovakia naturally is going to hurt the business of all the quality manufacturers, particularly in the cut and rock crystal polished stemware and flatware fields. American glassware manufacturers should insist that fire polished glassware come under the 10% reduction class rather than under the 50% reduction class, otherwise we will see a flood of this import glassware that will make it all the more difficult for American manufacturers to stay in business.

"This can all be summed up in the remarks of Abraham Lincoln on the tariff question as he saw it: "If we buy foreign made products we have the product and they have the money; if we buy American-made products, we have the product and We also have the money.

"Said Mr. Bennett: "... First, I interpret from what I have learned, that blown glass, having a value of over $8.00 each, has been reduced from 60% to 50% duty.

"Second that pressed, unfinished glass has been reduced from 50% to 25%.

"I am at a loss to understand whether these are two additional brackets to the former existing tariff and apply only to these two specified lines. I believe that this must be the case, and, if so, the damage is not so great.

"I take this position because no mention is made of blown glass having a value of less than $8.00 each, and I assume that the reduction on the pressed unfinished is to apply on pressed, unfinished glass - and to this only, since no mention is made about regular pressed goods which are fire finished or polished.

"If as above stated these two new brackets are to cover these individual cases, and in the absence of any specific reference to regular blown goods or regular fire polished pressed glass, it is fair to assume that the existing or previously existing tariff would apply to them, but on this there seems to he some question of doubt."

"Mr F. L. Fenton, of the Fenton Art Glass Company, suggests that it may be possible for State Legislatures to individually prohibit the influx of imports into their State.

"D. M. Smith, vice-president of McKee Glass Company, pointing out the losses to American manufacturers which he feels are unavoidable, says, concerning possible remedy, as follows:

"The best concerted action would be to change the Administration this coming November and this can only be done by arousing all of the voting people in this country, that these foreign trade concessions not only affect the glass manufacturers and glass workers but it is true in every line of work, including agriculture."

My copy of the article ended here. I do not know if there was more, Regardless, does this not sound like discussions about the new North American Trade Agreement being heard today?

Accompanying the article were photographs of Mr. Bennett and Mr. Duncan.