(2) The furthering of British trade. It is the duty of the whole Foreign Office organisation, but especially of the Consuls, to give advice to the representatives of commercial firms, to report openings for the sale of British goods abroad, and generally to give assistance to British trade in its competition with foreign trade. Enquiries will, for instance, be received by a Consul at a Chinese port from a manufacturer of pottery or harness or tin-tacks, asking what type of goods will be likely to find a market in that locality. The Consul will then enquire and give such information as his local knowledge enables him to supply. Or again, a foreign country will sometimes make regulations which hinder the importation of English products. English oats may, for instance, be affected with a blight which Italy fears may infect her crops if she allows their importation. It may then become the duty of the British Embassy at Rome to make arrangements with the Italian Government in order that English farmers may not suffer by losing the market for their produce. But one important point must be remembered, because it is too often forgotten by those who criticise the Foreign Office. There is one general restriction on the activities of the Foreign Office in assisting British trade: no British official is allowed to invite, or try to persuade, any foreign Government to give orders to British firms, whether for war material or for any other article.
What we have already said applies to the relations between civilised countries. But the relations between civilised countries on the one hand, and uncivilised or semi-civilised countries on the other hand, are very much more difficult in many ways. Difficulties especially arise with regard to commerce. Many of the less-developed countries of the world, such as some South American countries and China, cannot, like their richer neighbours, undertake the development of their own resources. They lack money, scientific training, business ability, and so on. They therefore give what are called “concessions” to foreign companies or capitalists; that is, the Government of the country leases some industry for a term of years to the foreign company. The Mexican Government, for instance, has leased its oil-wells to English, American, and Dutch companies, and the Chinese Government has largely confided the construction and management of its railroads to English, French, and German companies.
Now, in many countries where this happens, the Government is not strong enough or permanent enough to guarantee proper security of tenure to the foreign company to which it grants a concession; very likely some official is bribed to grant the concession to one company and then bribed by another company to cancel it, or the Government is overthrown by a revolution and its successor cancels the concessions it has granted. By this means, British workmen may be thrown out of work and their employment may pass to workmen in the United