12 DECEMBER 1931, Page 8

The second most dramatic incident of the week was Mr.

Runciman's speech on Friday, in which he bluntly threatened with a tariff war those countries who took discriminatory measures against British goods. The cause of offence was the depreciated exchange surcharge of 15 per cent. levied by the French Government on British -goods _only ; though similar surcharges of variable amounts are being levied on goods from some other countries- whose currency is depreciated. The levy of this surcharge is indeed, as Mr. Runciman said, " amazing " in a country against which no fiscal action was taken when the franc was far more • depreciated, and which has consistently accorded moSt4avoured- nation treatment to British goods since 1882. In spite of its precedence in time and of declarations 'to the contrary, the levy was probably to some -extent retaliatory by anticipation to British tariffs which, though aimed against no special country or trade, do in fact hit French exportS severely; and it is even suggested in sonic quarters that the levy and the contraction of the quota of British coal into France and recent heavy sales of sterling on the Continent are all part of a plan to produce panicky British support of the French case at the forth- coming Basel Conference.