British Empire Economic Conference

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1932 British Empire Economic Conference
Imperial Economic Conference
Host country Canada Canada
Date 21 July 1932
18 August 1932
Venue(s) House of Commons chamber, Parliament Hill
Cities Ottawa
Participants 9
Chair R. B. Bennett
(Canadian Prime Minister)
Follows 1930
Precedes 1937
Key points
Imperial preference, tariffs, monetary standards
Postage stamp, Canada, 1932: commemorative overprint for Ottawa Conference.

The British Empire Economic Conference (also known as the Imperial Economic Conference or Ottawa Conference) was a 1932 conference of British colonies and the autonomous dominions held to discuss the Great Depression. It was held between 21 July and 20 August in Ottawa.

The conference saw the group admit the failure of the gold standard and abandon attempts to return to it. The meeting also worked to establish a zone of limited tariffs within the British Empire, but with high tariffs with the rest of the world. This was called "Imperial preference" or "Empire Free-Trade" on the principle of "home producers first, empire producers second, and foreign producers last". The result of the conference was a series of bilateral agreements that would last for at least 5 years.[1] This abandonment of open free trade led to a split in the British National Government coalition: the Official Liberals under Herbert Samuel left the Government, but the National Liberals under Sir John Simon remained.

The conference was especially notable for its adoption of Keynesian ideas such as lowering interest rates, increasing the money supply, and expanding government spending.

The United States were annoyed by the implementation of Imperial Preference as it affected them economically.[2]

It was the last Imperial Conference that any Irish government participated in, and also the last that Newfoundland attended as an independent Dominion.

British Empire Economic Conference delegates attended services at St. Matthew's Anglican Church (Ottawa) 26 July 1932.[3]

Heads of delegations

The conference was hosted by the Governor General of Canada, The Earl of Bessborough, representing King George V and included the Prime Ministers and other leaders of the Empire and members of their respective cabinets:

Nation Name Portfolio
 Canada R. B. Bennett Prime Minister (Chairman)
 Australia Stanley Bruce Assistant Treasurer of Australia
British Raj India Sir Atul Chandra Chatterjee Viceroy's representative
 Irish Free State Seán T. O'Kelly Vice-President
Dominion of Newfoundland Newfoundland Frederick C. Alderdice Prime Minister
 New Zealand Gordon Coates Minister of Public Works, Minister in charge of Unemployment
 Southern Rhodesia Howard Unwin Moffat Prime Minister
South Africa South Africa Nicolaas Havenga Finance Minister
 United Kingdom Stanley Baldwin Lord President of the Council

See also


  1. ^ "Imperial Economic Conference". Encyclopædia Britannica. Encyclopædia Britannica.
  2. ^ A. Dobson, "Economic Diplomacy at the Atlantic Conference", Review of International Studies (1984) 10, pp.143.
  3. ^ British Imperial Conference delegates attended services at St. Matthew's Anglican Church, Ottawa


  • British Empire Economic Conference, Time magazine, July 25, 1932
  • Barry Eichengreena and Douglas A. Irwin, "Trade blocs, currency blocs and the reorientation of world trade in the 1930s", Journal of International Economics, Volume 38, Issues 1–2, February 1995, Pages 1–24
  • Robert A. MacKay, "Imperial Economics at Ottawa", Pacific Affairs, Vol. 5, No. 10 (Oct. 1932), pp. 873–885
  • Maxwell Slutz Stewart, The Ottawa conference, Foreign Policy Association, incorporated, 1932
  • "Imperial Economic Conference, Ottawa, 1932. Summary of Proceedings". Journals of the House of Representatives. New Zealand. Session I-II Appendix, A-06. 1932.
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