Summary of Conference

An association of steamship lines operating over a specific trade route, formed for the purpose of setting freight rates and service standards to be applied uniformly by all the member carriers. The Shipping Act of 1916 empowers the Federal Maritime Commission to oversee the activities of conferences to ensure compliance with the law, but conference rate making is, in most cases, exempt from regulation. The approval of a conference by the commission exempts the carriers involved from the penalties of the antitrust laws. The rationale for conferences is based on the international character of ocean shipping, which effectively precludes regulation of the industry by any nation. As supranational authorities, the conferences provide self-policing of the industry and, presumably, stability of rates and service.

Each conference operates through a secretariat, headed by a chairman elected by the member lines. Major policy questions or significant rate issues are addressed in executive session, attended by senior executives of the member lines. Routine requests from shippers for rate reductions are normally accommodated by the Rate Committee, which meets regularly; rate matters that are of far-reaching significance may be referred to executive session.

Although a conference issues one common tariff to which all the member lines adhere, the tariff may contain two rates for the same commodity. A dual rate conference offers a special discount rate to shippers who pledge to ship all their goods aboard the vessels of member lines; a higher rate is available to shippers who have not executed such a pledge, or loyalty agreement. A dual rate conference must give ninety days' notice in advance of any rate increase so as to permit shippers to cancel their loyalty agreements. A single rate conference offers only one rate, without discounts or loyalty agreements, and may increase its rates upon thirty days' notice.

Only one conference operates over a given trade route; it normally includes the major carriers in-volved in that trade. Carriers that elect not to join the conference are said to be independent. As a rule, separate conferences direct the export and import trade between two points, although the same carriers are often members of both the import and export groups.

In the United States, all conferences are open conferences, which is to say that any carrier can join the cartel upon application. Conferences operating between points outside the United States are often closed, and membership is restricted.

(Main Author: William J. Miller)

World Economic Conference of 1927 and the GATT Policy Negotiations

In relation to the GATT Policy Negotiations, Christopher Mark (1993) provided the following explanation and/or definition of World Economic Conference of 1927: The first attempt to negotiate a cooperative multilateral approach to problems facing the world trading system. Along with its subsidiary Conference on Import and Export Prohibitions and Restrictions, the Conference sought to counter the trend toward increased protectionism that had begun in Europe in the l870s and that by the 1920s was intensifying in all major countries. A code negotiated at the Conference regulating use of quantitative restrictionsand other trade barriers fell short of necessary ratification by one country , while a tariff truce agreed at the Conference was effectively ended upon adoption of the Smoot-Hawley Act (Sec.IV) by the United States in 1930. Although unsuccessful, the Conference served ultimately as a progenitor of the GATT .

World Economic Conference of 1933 and the GATT Policy Negotiations

In relation to the GATT Policy Negotiations, Christopher Mark (1993) provided the following explanation and/or definition of World Economic Conference of 1933: The second multilateral effort to deal with the global economic crisis of the interwar period, the Conference focused on European efforts to secure an international currency stabilization plan. Following collapse of the Conference, nations engaged in a period of competitive currency devaluations (Sec.l/) through the mid-1930s, further exacerbating trade tensions. The experience of both Conferences weighed heavily on the minds of the architects of the Bretton Woods System a decade later.


See Also

  • Communication
  • Information
  • Meeting