United States. Dept. of Commerce and Labor United States. Bureau of Foreign Commerce.

Consular reports, Issues 188-191 online

. (page 5 of 102)
Online LibraryUnited States. Dept. of Commerce and Labor United States. Bureau of Foreign CommerceConsular reports, Issues 188-191 → online text (page 5 of 102)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook

agreements as low as 27s. 6d., whenever one of the independent steamships
is announced to receive cargo for New York at 25s., which seems to be of
monthly occurrence.

This reduction from about J 13 (United States currency) to about $6 per
ton from China to New York is thus inaugurated, and it is met by powerful
and opulent steamship companies, combined under what is termed a "con-
ference,** embracing nearly all of the old-established lines of steamships in
the trade between the Atlantic and Pacific via the Suez Canal.

From the rates of freight for cargo by the "conference** steamers, a re-
bate of 10 per cent is made to their patrons whose entire patronage is given
to the lines of ships in that combination, which reduces 30s. to 27s. and 27s.
6d. to 24s. 9d. (about J6).

If a similar rate of freight could be obtained for and with cargoes from
the Atlantic ports of the United States to eastern Asia, American commerce
would be benefited; but, at present, and for many years past, all of the
steamships laden with Asiatic cargoes for the Atlantic ports of the United
States generally return to Asia with European cargoes ; or, if any cargo via
the Suez Canal comes from American Atlantic ports, it is subject to double
freight — that is, from America to Europe and from Europe to Asia, with
transshipment at some European port usually.

It is high time for Americans to establish direct communication with the
freights as low from New York to Asia as from Hongkong to America and
as low as from Europe to Asiatic ports.

In order to place the Department in possession of the facts as a matter of
record and for reference, if anyone wishes to investigate this matter, I beg

Digitized by VjOOQIC


to transmit herewith copies of the advertisements* of three well-known firms
of British merchants engaged in ocean commerce, offering to convey freight
from Hongkong to New York at 25s. per ton of 40 cubic feet per steam-
ships of a large class via the Suez Canal.

A printed circular, dated July 16, 1895, issued by a British firm of the
highest character and agents for several lines of steamships, shows the rate
of freight was then at 55s. (over $13) per ton from Hongkong to New York.

Semimonthly circulars of a well-known firm of British merchants, who
are agents for several lines of steamships, show freight rates from Hongkong
to New York from July to December nominally at 30s. per "conference"

The Tesiotdaie, an independent steamship of about 5,000 tons carrying
capacity, with full cargo taken at 25s. from China to New York, left Hong-
kong on the 7th instant, and is to be followed, I am informed, by another
independent steamship of the same class next month. The Tesiotdale will
go to New Orleans for a cargo of cotton to England, and probably return to
China with European cargo.

Why should not American merchants establish relations with these inde-
pendent steamships for return cargoes at the same cheap freights for produc-
tions of American industry in competition with European productions for
Asiatic markets? American sailing ships will be driven out of this trade by
the steamships at sailing rates. Hitherto they accepted low rates for cargoes
of kerosene from New York to China, with the prospect of getting return
cargoes at remunerative rates; but when steamshii)s drive sailing vessels out
of the trade and bring to China only European cargoes, American interests

will suffer.


Canton, December 27, iSgs-



I submit herewith the most extended report I have yet made on the
foreign trade of Siam, with special reference to the opportunity open to
exporters of the United States.

The report is not only the result of careful investigation and study of
actual conditions, but is intended to be sufficiently comprehensive to answer
the questions generally asked in letters from home merchants.

I took over one hundred and fifty letters of inquiry received, made a
summary of the information wanted, and, in the course of my report, have
endeavored to answer the same, although replying to all those letters as
specifically as my time would permit.

* Filed in Bureau of Sutistics, Department of State.

Digitized by VjOOQIC


There is no doubt that now Is the time when our American commercial
interests should be made to appreciate this field; and I am humbly striving
to do my part.

There is also a gratifying growth of inquiry and an indication that proper
attention may be given to these markets, if agitation and discussion are
kept up.

The efforts now being made by Great Britain, Germany, and France to
control these markets are apparent on every side.

I therefore trust that my report may be given early publication in Con-
sular Reports, and that its length, which is necessary to cover the field,
will not preclude its use in full.


Little is known in the United States about Siam, its people, products,
needs, and general foreign trade. A definite idea of its location also is usu-
ally lacking. There is, in the average mind, a hazy conception that it is
somewhere in Asia and toward the south, near the equator. How to reach
its great capital (Bangkok) direct is a question that could be answered imme-
diately by very few. The letters on file at this legation and consulate-
general from prominent mercantile, manufacturing, and exporting firms in
the United States undeniably attest the prevailing ignorance. For instance.
It is not uncommon for important communications to arrive addressed to
"Bangkok, Siam, British India,*' "India,'' " Cochin China," "Southern
China," etc. A moment's inspection of a reliable map would remove all
chance of error.

Location, — Siam, the principal country of southeastern Asia, is situated
approximately between the fourth and twentieth degrees of latitude north
and the ninety-eighth and one hundred and sixth degrees of longitude east.
It has an area of about 250,000 square miles, which is as much as Japan
proper and Korea combined, or equal to that of California and Oregon. It
is bounded on the north by Burmah (British) and Tonquin (French), on
the east by Annam and Cambodia (French), on the south by the Gulf of
Siam and the Malay States, and on the west by the Bay of Bengal and Bur-
mah. While the northern section is mountainous, the southern part is a vast
level plain, well watered by great rivers and intersecting canals, forming a
natural garden of wonderful fertility, where the chief product is rice, shipped
to all parts of the world. The population is estimated at from 6,000,000 to

The capital, — Bangkok is the capital and the only city of special impor-
tance to the outside world. It has a population estimated anywhere from
500,000 to 1,000,000. Through its heart flows the Menam, the country's
main artery of commerce, both sides of which are lined for nearly 6 miles
with floating houses and shops. Running at different angles to the river
are numerous canals, many of them reaching far into the interior. These,
in turn, are crowded with floating houses and numberless boats. The prin-

Digitized by VjOOQIC


cipal European establishments and residences, the homes of many of the
Siamese nobility, the extensive buildings of the Palace, the Government
departments, the headquarters of the army and navy, are substantial struc-
tures on land. There are a few roads or streets connecting these, and some
new ones are being laid out. The majority of new commercial and residen-
tial houses are being erected on European lines. Although Bangkok has the
name of being very filthy and unhealthful, I do not think it is any worse
than the average Asiatic city. It has a good electric street-car line and ex-
tensive electric -light works.

Special characteristics. — To travelers, Bangkok and Siam present many
interesting features, especially the temples, idols, modes of life and charac-
teristics of the people, not seen elsewhere, and it is surprising that so few
persons, bent on seeing all there is in their wanderings about the globe, visit
this remarkable oriental capital. The average tourist goes from Hongkong
to Singapore and vice versa without appreciating what he is passing in cov-
ering that gap in his route.

Bangkok is quite cosmopolitan and has almost as many inhabitants of
other Asiatic nationalities as Siamese. The European and American colony
numbers about 600 and is increasing. It is large enough to support excellent
clubs and provide considerable social life. In its hands are the principal
importing and exporting firms and the large rice mills and teak- wood sawing

The Siamese, as a class, are not ambitious in trade, and the greater part
of the small retail establishments and various kinds of shops are in the hands of
Chinese. The latter also furnish the labor of the country. The Siamese
lower classes are too lazy and can make a living too easily in this land of
prolific vegetation and waters alive with fish to worry themselves about
doing hard work. Absolute pauperism is practically unknown and mendi-
cants are seldom seen. The average Siamese treats a foreigner with respect,
is not belligerent or bullying in his manner, and exhibits none of the surly
and impudent traits of the lower grades of Chinese. The higher classes are
polite and, while among themselves they may condemn the.**farangs," as
Europeans are called, they have agreeable and affable manners in their pres-
ence. English is the language of diplomacy and trade, and the educated
Siamese can usually converse in English. A passport is only required pro
forma to travel in the interior, and the only danger attendant thereto arises
from occasional bands of robbers. These, however, usually, though not
always, as late events show, confine their attacks to natives and let foreign-
ers alone.


The missionaries are popular with the people of the country and seldom
are the objects of ill feeling. They undoubtedly have done, and are doing,
great good in Siam, and I do not in the least sympathize with the cynical
criticism that prevails among Europeans. I say this deliberately, with nearly
a hundred missionaries under my jurisdiction and after a careful study of the

Digitized by VjOOQIC


situation. The American residents are chiefly of this class, but I note an
increase also in the number engaged in other pursuits.


The British control the major portion of the European foreign trade of
Bangkok, with the Germans next, while there are a few Danish, Dutch, Ital-
ian, and French houses, respectively, of importance in the order named.
Two important drug stores are owned by Americans. Of Asiatics doing a
large import and export business, the Chinese are far ahead of all others, while
after them come Indians, Senegalese, Malays, and Javanese. The Japanese
are at present also making an effort to enter the field and have recently es-
tablished several firms and a small banking house.


I do not hesitate to say that I believe there is room here for a good, re-
sponsible American house or trading company. If such were started with
sufficient capital, with managers who would study the needs and desires of
the people, selling both directly and on commission, introducing all kinds
of American products that might find a market, and providing a means for
the Siamese to have direct relations with the exporters of the United States,
I am confident that it would be successful. It might require a year or more
to place it on a thoroughly paying basis, but the ultimate reward would be
sure if the management were tactful, persistent, and not discouraged by
some disappointments at first. It might be said that when a party in Siam
now wishes anything which is or can be manufactured in the United States,
he is at loss how he shall proceed to get it, and sees before him long delays
of correspondence and inquiry before he has sufficient data to place his
order. On the other hand, he goes to the local British or German house
and in a few minutes can determine the order. Were a responsible Amer-
ican house established, this great difficulty would be obviated. The advan-
tages of having houses controlled and managed by men of the same nation-
ality as the home exporters can not be overestimated. The experience of
Great Britain and Germany prove this, and their consuls often refer to it in
their reports.


There is the advantage of extraterritoriality in Siam, which places all firms
under the respective jurisdiction of their own consular authorities and makes
them theoretically on home, not foreign, soil and free from the action of
native officials. Siam hopes for the day to soon come when she can ask the
great powers to make treaties, similar to those they have recently signed with
Japan, abolishing extraterritoriality. The great commerce carried on by
Bangkok is largely due to the protecting and fostering influence of extrater-
ritoriality and it is not probable that it will be given up until the advantage
of such a step is quite apparent.

Digitized by VjOOQIC



Two regular British steamship lines connect Bangkok with the great ports
of Hongkong and Singapore. There are twelve first-class steamers, averaging
about 1,200 tons each, running to Hongkong, and eight, averaging 650 tons
each, to Singapore. In addition to these, there is quite a fleet of tramp
steamers and many sailing ships. Bangkok is approximately 850 miles from
Singapore and 1,400 miles from Hongkong. At Singapore, connections are
made with all the European lines which have connections in turn at home
with the United States; at Hongkong, with the several different American
and Canadian lines running to San Francisco, Portland, Tacoma, and Van-
couver. From the Pacific Coast to Siam requires only one change, at Hong-
kong, and from New York, a steamer occasionally leaves direct for Singapore,
but usually transshipment is made at a European port. Freight rates to and
from Hongkong and Singapore are not excessive, though, perhaps, higher
than if the present companies had strong competition. Mail matter from
the United States to Siam commonly requires forty days, but sometimes is
received in thirty-five days, hence about two and a half months must be
counted upon for replies in correspondence. Siam is in the International
Postal Union.


There are large banking agencies here which have representatives in New
York, Chicago, and San Francisco and readily execute bills of exchange.
There are three newspapers, two published in English and Siamese and one
exclusively in English, which reach the moneyed and educated classes of
Siamese and foreigners. They provide good advertising mediums and could
be patronized with advantage to American firms. Two are dailies and one
is triweekly. The proprietors are all British subjects, and in this way a very
distinct advantage is gained for the trade of Great Britain. Following a
natural and logical course, they lose no opportunity to advance the commer-
cial interests of their home country; and yet the Bangkok press has taken
no position adverse to American interests and has been uniformly kind and
liberal in its treatment thereof. Although this is not always true of news-
papers in the Orient, I would say that, on the whole, the press of eastern Asia
seems ready to open its columns to discussions and reports on American
trade matters.


The duty placed upon importations is 3 per cent. The exact wording of
the treaty in regard to the duty is as follows :

On the articles of import, the duty shall be 3 per cent, payable at the option of the im-
porters either in kind or money, calculated upon the market value of the goods. Drawback
of the full amount of duty shall be allowed upon goods found unsalable and reexported.
Should the American merchant and the custom-house officer disagree as to the value to be
set upon imported articles, such disputes shall be referred to the consul and a proper Siamese
officer, who shall each have the power to call in an equal numl)er of merchants as assessors,
not exceeding two on either side, to assist them in coming to an equitable decision.

Digitized by VjOOQIC


Thus, it may be seen that there is every reason to expect fair treatment
from customs officials, and if that is not realized, there is proper appeal.
Duties on exports from Siam are also fixed by treaty. The chief customs
officials are Europeans, with Siamese assistants.


The total value of the foreign trade of Bangkok in 1894 amounted to
J41, 752,406 (silver).* Of this, exports were ^24,668,950 and imports $17,-
083,456. That the trade of this port is rapidly increasing is shown by com-
parison with the returns of 1892, when the total was ^19,509,269, of which
exports were 1 10,084,07 7 and imports 19,425,192. This is a clear gain in
two years of over 100 per cent in both exports and imports. f In quoting
from the customs returns, it is impossible to tell exactly to and from what
countries goods go and come respectively, as they are invariably classed as
exported to or imported from Hongkong and Singapore and not points be-

Exports, — How completely rice dominates the exports from Siam is
shown from the value of shipments in 1894, which were 116,358,574, or 66
per cent of the total, and this does not include broken rice, valued at ^486,-
346, and paddy, at ^50,364. The major portion found a market in Hong-
kong and Singapore. Europe purchased rice to the value of J 1,5 19, 7 38 and
Brazil came next with 11,075,714. A small amount only went direct to the
United States, but a considerable quantity was resold in Hongkong to Amer-
ican buyers. The rice of Siam is generally of a good quality and the demand
for it is destined to increase.

Teak wood, the next export in value after rice, was shipped in various
shapes to the amount of ^1,264,768. This is purchased in large quantities
for shipbuilding, and the British navy is an important consumer for the best
classes of the wood. The French navy has bought in this market to some
extent recently. Europe is the chief market, with Bombay next, taking
most of the second quality. Very little goes to the United Stales, but with
no duty for its importation the demand for its use in shipbuilding should in-
crease, as it is conceded that it has few, if any, superiors for that purpose.

Exports of gums, including stick-lac, gamboge, gum benjamin, gum dam-
mar, and cutch, were 1 188,01 4 (Mexican). There is a demand for these in
the United States and quite a trade could be developed if well handled.

Of seeds, the chief exports were: Pepper, ^315,520; cardamom meal
and cardamoms, $192,297; teal seed, $77,122; pease, $18,582; and lotus,

Sugar exports were only $34,518, which represents all that is left of what
once promised to be a large industry.

*The dollar used throughout this report is the Mexican dollar, valued at 51.7 cents (gold) in 1894.

f The consul-general, in his estimate of the increased value of Siamese foreign trade, overlooks the differ-
ence in the value of the Mexican silver dollar in 1893 and 1894, viz, 71. z cents in the former and 51.7 cents
(gold) in the latter year, a difference of 19.4 cents on the dollar. Reduced to American gold values at these
respective rates, the trade of 1892 amounted to ;^i3,8x6,4i3, and, in 1894, to $31,585,994 — a gain of 56.93 per

Digitized by VjOOQIC


Under the head of animal products, exports of buffalo and cow hides were
$189,214; buffalo and cow horns, $57,857 ; ivory, $43,846; armadillo skins,
$5,875; rhinoceros horns and hides, $9,245 ; and tiger skins, only $396.

Fish exports were large, of which the chief were : Dried plahaang, $770,-
198; dried platoo, $487,550; and mussels, $145,798.

Birds* nests represented a growing export of $443,393.

The silk industry is not much developed, and exports only reached $39,-

Of minerals, tin comes first, with exports of $61,492, an increase of
$20,035 over the preceding year. A fair proportion of this went to the
United States. This trade could be a source of great revenue to Siam, as it
possesses some of the best mines yet opened in the world. Gold exports
only amounted to $1 1,268, but there is at present quite a boom in gold min-
ing. French companies are investing heavily.

Aside from teak, given above, other valuable wood exports were : Ebony,
$130,154; rosewood, $125,348; sapan wood, $52,342; and agilla wood,

Just what amount the United States bought of all the foregoing, it is im-
possible to determine, as the purchases were made either in Hongkong or
Singapore, but, probably, a greater amount than is generally supposed.

Imports. — Of the total imports ($17,083,456), textile fabrics represented
the largest class. Principal among these were : Shirtings, white and gray,
$1,238,498; chowls, $782,644; twists, $672,571; miscellaneous piece goods,
$625,292; prints and chintzes, $265,347; colored piece goods, $172,080;
woolens, $27,111; cotton thread, $17,386; cambrics, $11,495; canvas,
$9,608. The greater porporlion of these came from Europe, while Bombay
supplied a lesser proportion. The United Slates cut very little figure in the
total, chiefiy because no regular effort has been made to push American
products of this nature.

Of food importations, the chief were: Sugar, $377,21 7 ; wines and liquors,
$178,000; tea, $124,288; molasses, $83,193; fruit, $82,910; salt garlic,
$82,850; flour, $72,564. Of these, flour comes entirely from the United
States via Hongkong, and the demand is increasing. California wines might
find a fair market, but no special effort has been made to supply them.

There are no exact figures on canned goods and specially packed pro-
visions, but they must have been imported to a very large value. Milk, con-
densed and sterilized; butter in i-pound and 2-pound tins, pease, asparagus,
and vegetables and fruits of all kinds, meats, salmon, lobster, oysters, hams,
cheese, properly tinned or packed, have a growing demand, and the products
of the United States should compete more extensively with those from
Europe. A small quantity of hams, canned milk, fruits, meats, and fish are
already imported from the United States, mostly through London. Canned
baked beans, brown bread, corn flour, cracked wheat, oatmeal, evaporated
and dried fruits, breakfast bacon, bs^king powder, lard, pickles, and other
similar products of the United States might find a direct market.

Digitized by VjOOQIC


Hardware importations were ^274,836 ; brass and copper ware, $221,616;
earthenware, $178,485 ; crockery, |i 14,259; glassware, $89,280; silverware,
$71,322; cutlery, $42,887; corrugated iron, $53,566; copper and zinc
sheathing, $47,226; plain iron and steel, $51,524.

Machinery of various kinds was imported to the value of $146,489, but
was used mostly in rice mills. Machinery of the same kind, but much im-
proved, is made in the United States.

Under ** miscellaneous imports " is kerosene oil, $483,946. The greater
part came from the United States, but Russian and Sumatra oils are now en-
tering the market in increased quantities. Other important imports were :
Jewelry, $244,104; ship chandlery, $163,249; paper, $152,860; guns and
ammunition, $99,825 ; shoes, $50,015 ; hats, $39,900. Under the head of
unclassed is the large total of $1,727,292, but not so arranged in the customs
returns as to be of any advantage.


In addition to the many articles and supplies given above, I would note
the following which might be exported to some extent from the United
States if the market was properly handled and developed : Novelties of all
kinds that will save labor, now finding a ready sale at home, and not ren-
dered unsuitable by tropical heat ; new electrical appliances, such as short-
distance telephones and electric fans ; locks of improved patterns, typewriting
machines, letter presses and copying arrangements, combination-lock safes,
harness and harness dressing, carriage builders* supplies, wheelbarrows, dig-
ging tools, edge tools, carpenters' tools, improved lamps and lamp fittings,
toys, scales, cooking utensils and household tools, glass and wire goods for
the house, musical instruments, cheap watches, pumps, general hardware,

Online LibraryUnited States. Dept. of Commerce and Labor United States. Bureau of Foreign CommerceConsular reports, Issues 188-191 → online text (page 5 of 102)