1887 – Ilia Chavchavadze publishes a collection of articles “Customs Policy in Europe, Free-trading and Protectionism”

1887 – Ilia Chavchavadze publishes a collection of articles  “Customs Policy in Europe, Free-trading and Protectionism”

Ilia and Free Trade in Europe

In June 1887, Ilia Chavchavadze published a collection of articles entitled “Customs Policy in Europe, Free-trading and Protectionism”. In it, he anticipated in the nineteenth century the fundamental principles of the European Union, according to which free trade and the dismantling of barriers between European countries were the main basis for conflict prevention and the well-being of the population, while the imposition of customs tariffs and barriers was a source of confrontation.

He wrote:

“Diplomacy has seen that other states could not be harmed only by settling and gaining a foothold in many other places for trade, but that a rival and hostile state could also be strangled in another way. This way is to prevent the goods of such a country from crossing its frontiers, to barricade them altogether, and to establish customs duties for this purpose and thus restricting to a greater or lesser extent the trade market and to closing it altogether… As time went on, the rulers realized that countries could use these customs duties not only financially but also politically and economically . They realized that, in this way, they could harm another state that was importing goods into their countries.

Free-trading is derived from the English word “free trade,” which in its literal translation means freedom of buying and selling. The essence of this scientific theory, which preaches the freedom of trade, is that goods for trade, whether produced domestically or imported from abroad, should be free from all customs duties and tariffs and not strangled by legislation. This theory is based on the idea that freely moving goods, not strangled by customs or other formalities, are easily obtainable and accessible to all, firstly because they increase in quantity, and secondly because they are cheap, as their price is not deliberately increased by customs or other restrictions. A country whose sole reason and essence of existence is concern for the well-being of its people should strive, as the proponents of free trade say, to make essential goods easily and cheaply available to all its inhabitants , for the more fully the inhabitants obtain necessary goods and satisfy more of the necessities of life easily and without much expense, the happier the inhabitants are economically.

This theory was introduced in Europe through the efforts of Adam Smith. Adam Smith was considered the founder of the science of political economy. Of course, initially, this theory was met with hostility by mankind and masters of destinies of mankind, who often prefer a familiar misfortune to an unfamiliar fortune. But Adam Smith’s theory did not suffer any damage from that whatsoever, and it continued to gradually gain ground. The theory of free trade worked so well and won so much sympathy that when Sir Robert Peel became Prime Minister of England in 1841 and Wellington and Aberdeen were Ministers with him, this scientific theory made its way into life. In those days, the whole of Europe hailed this occasion as the might and victory of liberalism, and the entire country praised the doer of this might and victory, Sir Robert Peel, who acquired such fame in England that he became respected by the majority. This theory found advocates not only in England but also in France; more or less famous scientists became supporters of this theory, for example, Bastiat, Chevalier, Garnier-Pagès, and others. Later on, this theory became so well known that even international law adopted it and made it the basis of all its activities . On the basis of this theory, a trade treaty (agreement) was signed between England and France in 1861 and between Germany and France in 1865.

A system of free trade existed and functioned in Europe until France and Germany came into conflict with each other. Bismark, who had previously supported free-trade , abandoned that system to spite France, turned the German customs laws towards protectionism, and restricted the flow of French goods into Germany by imposing tariffs. Of course, the action of one forced the other to act similarly, and now we see that, almost thanks to Bismark, Europe has forgotten the benefits of free-trade . Today, the previously rejected system of protection is making a comeback and rising to its feet, i.e., the system whose overthrow was hailed with great joy some 40 years ago and the free trade, which triumphed over it, was honored as the system of liberalist theory.”