IMPORTING 1. Foreign trade has a, twofold aspect.—In many discussions of foreign trade, attention is devoted al most exclusively to exports, and imports are almost entirely ignored. Nevertheless, the importation of goods is quite as important to the national life as exportation. The importer meets many problems pe culiar to his work and a special study should be made of them.
Importing is a reversal of many of the processes of exporting. The American importer is a. competitor not primarily in the selling, but in the buying market. He is on the look out for products which may find a sale in the United States. This trade has as much of interest and is as capable of future development as export trade. The buying power of the United States is constantly on the increase. Tho the pro tective tariff acts in one regard as a check on imports, yet in another by exerting an effect on the domestic price-level, it may also encourage them.
Much of our import trade is in the hands of for eigners. Japanese, Chinese, Greeks and Armenians play an important part in introducing the products of their home lands on account of their intimate knowl edge of those markets.
2. Articles of import.—The list of imports into the United States is quite as formidable as the list of ex ports. The following table prepared by the Depart ment of Commerce gives a condensed statement of the imports for the fiscal years These imports were invoiced from the following regions : It is interesting to note the fluctuations which have taken place in the per capita amount of imports. Here, as in the other tables, the effect of tariff changes is apparent.
The per capita amount of imports and exports by ten year periods were : The figures prior to 1820 are not reliable since they cover goods imported for reexportation.
The general character of our import trade has changed fundamentally. The importation of crude materials has increased rapidly while the importation of finished articles has declined. The export figures show the opposite tendency. The following table shows the percentage of total imports and exports of the principal groups of products over the period 1830 1919 by fiscal years ending June 30.
This table reflects clearly the gradual change of the United States from an agricultural nation, exporting food products and importing manufactured products, to an industrial nation which finds it more and more necessary to import foodstuffs, and is also increas ingly dependent upon the outside world for the raw materials used in its manufacturing plants. The in crease in the relative amount of exports of manu factures ready for use from 9.34 per cent in 1830 to 33.71 per cent in 1919 is especially significant of the change in economic organization in the country.
Altho industrially, the United States has become fairly independent of the outside world, it still pays to import manufactured articles in competition with those produced in this country, and it always will pay to do so to a limited extent, but the future of import trade will lie more especially in the introduction of ar ticles of luxury or of a highly technical nature than in the common necessaries of life. Articles which derive their value largely from expert workmanship, secret processes and artistic ability—silks, linens, woolens, cutlery, jewelry, pictures, rugs, laces and embroid ery—will continue in demand in increasing quantities.
To these manufactured products must then be added the raw materials of manufacture and the food products which cannot be produced at home, such as ores, raw metal, hides, wood, tropical and semi tropical fruits, mushrooms, cocoa, tea, coffee and spices.
3. The organization of import trade.—The organi zation of the import trade in manufactured products is the more elaborate. Many firms are both import ers and exporters. The combination is most fre quently found in houses dealing with less developed countries, those, for instance, of South and Central America, North Africa and Asia Minor, where the relatively small business of either importing or ex porting would not support the expensive organiza tion which must be maintained.