Let's focus more on Britain now. Foreign Trade stayed fairly constant in the time period given, in terms of the fact it was at 30% of GNP in 1870s and also at this level in 1913. As a bit of background, it was at 10% in the 1830s and 17% in the 1850s. During 1870 and 1913 foreign trade as a percentage of GNP did fall, but it recovered just before the First World War. The majority of this foreign trade was in the form of manufactured goods, although it was declining. For example, 56% of exports in 1870 were textiles but textiles only made up 37% in 1910. As far as imports go, we imported a lot of food and raw materials because we weren't self sufficient in these, apart from coal.
We'll move on to the balance of payments position for Britain now. Before 1914, imports exceeded exports. Exports of goods only made up two thirds of our imports between 1870 and 1900. However, it wasn't all bad because Britain had a very sophisticated 'invisible' sector for this time; this comprised of business services and overseas investment. With the exports of these included in the mix Britain actually ran a surplus which increased between 1851 and 1913. We have many reasons as to why a lot of funds were leaving the country in terms of these 'invisible' goods, they are split into two groups: 'pushing' funds out factors and 'pulling factors'.
'Pushing' funds out factors are basically the factors in Britain that meant it was in the best interests of investors to send their money abroad. They include:
- The safe investments in Britain gave very poor returns compared to the equivalent abroad.
- High return investments in Britain were all very high risk.
- Large infrastructure spending abroad because of industrialisation.
- Overseas governments were issuing bonds with returns of 4-5% in comparison to the 2% return in Britain.