1932 – Imperial Economic Conference

Imperial Economic Conference

21 July – 20 August 1932

The Imperial Economic Conference (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.

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.

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


  • Keith Harrop