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Dearborn independent. [volume] (Dearborn, Mich.) 1901-1927, April 03, 1920, Image 13

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Catching Up With the Dollar in Belgium
Brussels. Belgium. March. 1920
ELGIUMi which is credited with having recovered
ua commercia activity more quickly than some
other EUTOPW countries after five year of war,
11., t c i.i vat ion of effort toward continued, in-
MMrive effort and production; but she, like other Ku
r!nein nations, is feeling the effects of the present
mSivorable exchange. It is the question dominating
others. It is apparently affecting friendly interna
Sanal relations. Proposals to remedy the situation, its
Sect on trade with America, and relations with the
United Statei, all furnish material for lengthy and
spirited discuaaion.
The Belgian manufacturer paid high prices for
toerican cotton immediately after the armistice to
ret textile nulls which generally speaking had not been
Sea try damaged by the (iermans but stripped of cer
tain parts, again in running order. The same was true
,n lome other industries where essential raw materials
Here necessary. Exchange was then showing an up
ward tendency; in fact, it was high. But raw materials
wire absolutely necessary, and no hesitancy was shown
in buying after credit difficulties had been overcome.
The wisdom of this action is shown today. La
Textile, an association of textile manufacturers with
headquarters at Ghent, which takes in all the leading
manufacturers in this branch in Belgium, has just is
sued figures showing that it is at present operating
1,800000 spindles. The number in operation in 1914
was 1,518,000. Pre-war production is being exceeded.
Order books are filled, bespeaking well for future
If textile manufacturers disregard the exchange
bugaboo, there are others in Belgium who do not take
a similar view of the advisability of buying in Amer
ica or elsewhere at the present rates of exchange which
is becoming a popular question as well as an economic
one. A big iron and steel plant near Liege is in need
of a great amount of equipment to replace that taken
away or destroyed by the Germans. It finds that Amer
ica can till its needs more quickly than any other
country. It wants millions of francs' worth of ma
chines, etc. that was the situation recently but it
too is holding off because of the high dollar rate.
By way of contrast, however, it might be said that
such is not the case with the great Homiecourt steel
plant of France, in Lorraine, which recently ordered a
blooming mill and other equipment in the United
States despite unfavorable money rates, showing the
company is determined, like the textile men of Flan
ders, to go ahead with reconstruction and production
despite the apparent exchange barrier.
In the popular discussion of the absorbing topic of
exchange Americans frequently are getting blamed in
Belgium for the high rates. Factors of economic law
are overlooked as well as other theories concerning
exchange. Certain branches in Brussels of big Amer
ican banks are attacked in the newspapers as "usurers."
Out of it all there seems to be growing a certain amount
of irritation if not ill feeling at least as manifested
by part of the press toward the United States.
The economic policy of the government has been
heretofore a very liberal one. There have been
no restrictions to speak of with regard to im
ports to Belgium from the United States or else
where. The desire has been to let the people
have everything they needed or wanted. And
they got it. The result is that for 1919 Belgian
imports amounted to 5,075,584,064 francs while
exportation were 2,296,652,748 francs.
Bouaht Many Goods Not Needed
BELGIUM became filled with all sorts of
products. Many of them are not of prime
necessity. In Brussels one frequently sees
American articles and products brought in since
the armistice which are not visible in France nor
elsewhere on the continent. The kingdom is
tull of tobacco, cigars and cigarets. Imports of
unmanufactured tobacco for 1919 amounted to 58
million francs and cigarets 30 million francs.
Belgium is a paradise for the smoker. In
ranee it ii still the "queue." and generally a
long line at that for the weekly allotment now
foied out, Imported beers from England
reached 18 million francs, wines from else
where 156 million; shoes, 62 million; perfume.
' million ; almonds, lemons, oranges and figs, 46
mllion cheese. 44 million ; clothing, lingerie and
wearing material, 550 million francs.
Articles and products of foreign label are
abundant. The remark is often heard by present-day
travelers in Europe that Belgium comes
near being the best provisioned place on the
continent, Americans making their first visit
jjnee the war arc surprised to find the capital
.ucn a 'land of plenty" and such a desirable
ace to stay or visit. Restrictions are nil
rnusermnts are many. Lights are bright. There
18 no lack of coal.
morS C excan8e situation becomes more and
ti acute a.'id view of the imports men
banW I ls KrowK up in Belgium, whose
its v TC lost morc than fift' I)er cent of
value, an insistent demand that the doors
V1 trie conntrv k i j
for i. r ' w i-ioNcu ior an incienniie pcriou
fJ i.1 absolutely necessary products. Ale
from Strass-
sary in these
As another remedy in the
from v , aDso'"teIy necessary pr
ft ate! w 1
times s,m,,ar things are unneces!
,v.u ' 11 ls argued. As another
uarure rr ; u --------- - - t
be autu 7 11 15 ggesiea mat an Belgians
they need t0 procurc in Germany whatever
ctajSj Belgian newspapers reproach Amen
de stork 5 British f(r buying up all avail
have absta-,ni 7rmany whi,c Bc,Kans, they say.
rained from purchases through patriotic
reaon. The best answer to this is found in the of
ficial government paper, the Moniteur, of recent date,
giving a detailed list of the licenses to purchase things
in Germany that were issued Belgians between
November 1 and 15, 1919. This shows that Belgium
like other nations, did not fail to take advantage
of the low rate of the mark to buy from the ex
enemy. The list covers about a dozen pages. The
purchases covered the greatest variety of ob
jects, from a bath tub to a million franc stock of
copper evidently an undeclared hidden war-time lot
to say nothing of dye stuffs, chemicals, raw materials
and many manufactured articles. The amounts in
volved run into millions of francs. The housewife, to
say nothing of the great iron and steel plant of Cockerill
and Company at Seraing, whose plant by t e way was
stripped or wrecked by the Germans, took the oppor
tunity to buy from the ex-enemy at the low rate of
the mark.
The third remedy suggested is long-term loans to
reduce the issue of paper money which on December
22, 1919, amounted to 4,562,685,438 francs. It is in con
nection with proposed American loans or the failure
of these that some of the Belgian newspapers are most
bitter in their attacks on America. Here is a sample
in La Libre Belgique, a morning paper of rather large
circulation, of recent issue. "The Americans, after
having received our King with frenzied enthusiasm,
have nothing more to offer us than advances at 10
per cent." The Guaranty Trust Company and National
City banks are particularly singled out.
Meanwhile, the failure of a Belgian loan in Eng
land caused another drop in Belgian exchange. Bel
gium, through its port at Antwerp, has served as a
transitory for goods to Germany. But of late the
Germans have been prohibiting the importation of cer
tain goods which have caused the accumulation of
enormous stocks at Antwerp, including many American
cigarets. The apparent willingness of Germany in its
present condition to forego the luxury of cigarets as
well as other products, and the immobilization of these
accumulated stocks also has a bearing on the general
exchange situation.
The opinion has been expressed that as time passes
the need for American and foreign products will di
minish while export figures will gradually increase and
help toward equalizing the commercial balance with a
consequent favorable effect on exchange. Exports from
Ghent, center of the textile industry, for January,
1919, have already exceeded the total amount of
Ghent exports from May 20, 1919 (when the United
States Consulate was reopened), to December 31,
1919, which amount was 4,313,433 francs. It is an
other result of the foresight of the textile manu
facturers. The largest number of vessels entering the
port of Antwerp before the war on a single day was
152. Several days ago a total of 141 was counted,
again showing how Belgium is "coming back." The
favorable showing just indicated for Ghent is the same
These Are Stoves
- "i pi
2 - f'dB
(C) KtystMt
THESE are home-made stoves used for home cook
ing in Palestine. The women there still do most
of the work and make their own stoves from clay,
using charcoal as fuel. They have imported some
American cooking utensils such as granite stew pans
and the like, and set them on the miniature stoves; in
fact, the housewife can make the stove to fit the dish
as the one shown in the picture is doing.
in the BrusscV district where declared exports to
the I nited States (the figures are unofficial but suf
ficiently exact to form an idea of increase in exports)
were for the first trimester of 1919, 103,445 francs;
second trimester, 924,513 francs; third trimester, 6,
556,6; fourth. 16,034.727 francs. Included in the last
tri-monthly period was artiheal silk to the value of 4,
923.285 francs ; gloves for 664,877 francs ; lace. 477.261
francs; skins. 400.000 francs; rags. 542.985 francs; oil,
869,330 francs; glass, 770,000 francs. The amount of
artificial silk exported in the trimester ending with
September was 697,246 francs. The demand from the
United States for artificial silk made in Belgium is
growing and at present is such that some Belgian
manufacturers are all sold out and cannot accept
more orders. Included in the export i an item of
gold bars from the Congo to the value of 2,767,423
francs. Hatters' furs and plants were also sent to the
United States in increasing amounts.
Affects American Trade
SOME of the American import and export con
cerns which have established agencies here are
feeling the effect of exchange like other American
business houses established in Europe. With some
of the firms it is utter stagnation, especially as to
imports. A number of instances could be given of
companies that are doing nothing but marking time,
watching the daily fluctuations of the dollar, hoping
it may reach the level that will mean doing some
A traveling man for the largest wholesale shoe
concern in the West came to Brussels recently. He
had a fine sample line of good American shoes. His
house thought prospects were so good that they
wanted him to take over a stock worth half a mil
lion dollars. The salesman thought it would be better
first to look over the field. On arriving he found that
besides the dollar being too high, the market was
overstocked with shoes. Like some others he is go
ing home disappointed.
Labor conditions in Belgium, long the country of
low wages, have now reached a period of stabiliza
tion following numerous strikes and demands for
higher wages, nearly all of which have been granted.
Belgian workers who left the country for Erance and
elsewhere, attracted by higher wages, are returning.
They find they can live more cheaply in their own
Production in some industries is intense ; such as,
the glass and coal industries and as shown in the tore
going, artificial silk, etc. Many American concerns from
Michigan and elsewhere are seeking to buy glass in Bel
gium, owing to the extraordina.y demand in the United
States by automobile, furniture and other concerns,
but these cannot be fulfilled. Belgian glass manufac
turers themselves are swamped with orders from all
parts of the world, the output for months to come
has been contracted for and there is little under
present conditions that can be sent to the States. Much
of it goes to the North of France. Coal production
for December, 1919, was 1.548.635 tons. This
represented a diminution of 11.8 per cent com
pared with the month of November. This was
due to strikes and the establishment of the eight
hour day in the mines since November. The
number of miners increased from 153.665 in
November to 157,711 in December. Stocks de
creased 58,719 tons during December.
Lifting of martial law. resumption of hunt
ing and orders from France have brought a re
vival also in the arms manufacturing industry
which is a noted and important one in Belgium.
America has been a customer of Belgium and
further exportations to that country are looked
for. Reports that these companies have been
manufacturing arms and material for Mexican
and other revolutionists are denied by the
More than 66,(HM tons of machinery taken
from Belgium by the (iermans have been identi
fied in Germany to date and brought back. The
number of machines represented by this tonnage
is 9.800 besides which 3.200 others have more
recently been identified.
The system of appointing national labor com
missions to consider disputes in principal in
dustries that was begun some time ago by M.
Wauters, Minister of Labor. i working suc
cessfully. It has brought about peaceful settle
ments in important wage controversies. The
latest of these concerned workers at the Ant
werp port where strikes were oi daily occur
rence. After thirteen meetings the commission
reached an agreement retroactive from Noem
ber 17 and which determines wages until De
cember 31. next.
If some Belgian farmers, particularly thoafl
in devastated Flanders have reason to com
plain of the situation in which the war has
placed them there are others elsewhere in the
kingdom who can count the recent years of tur
moil as the most prosperous they have known.
This is shown by the savings bank deposits of a
co-operative league of Belgian farmers, known
as the Boerenbond, the largest organization of
its kind in Belgium. Bank savings deposits for
1918 of this organization, according to a recent
report amounted to 212,464,881 francs, more than
thirteen times the figure for the last normal
year. Of this amount 168,834,531 francs came
from savings branches affiliated with the main
savings bank (Caisse Central) ; 2,716,386 francs
from depositors; 40,913,963 francs from time de
posits of five to ten years. The savings deposits
in 1913 amounted to 16,110,371 francs.

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