HC Deb 19 March 1935 vol 299 cc980-2

asked the President of the Board of Trade to what extent British exports to Italy will be affected by the new quotas which that country is proposing to impose on all imports into Italy; and whether any re-presentations will be made in the matter?


asked the President of the Board of Trade whether he is now in a position to make any statement with regard to the terms of the provisional trade agreement between this country and Italy; and what concessions it contains with regard to recent restrictions which have been placed on British trade with Italy?

The PRESIDENT of the BOARD of TRADE (Mr. Runciman)

Pending the conclusion of a definitive agreement, His Majesty's Government and the Italian Government have come to a provisional agreement with regard to United Kingdom imports into Italy. Under this provisional agreement, 80 per cent. of all United Kingdom imports into Italy in the corresponding period of last year are to be admitted into Italy subject to the following method of payment. The Italian importer will deposit the required lire in the Italian National Institute for Foreign Exchange, those lire to remain untouched until the institute shall dispose of sufficient sterling for transfer to the United Kingdom exporter. The cost of any exchange operation will be borne by the Italian importer, who will thus meet his sterling liability in full. The Italian Government guarantee that all devisen accruing from Italian imports into the United Kingdom as from the date of signature of the provisional agreement shall be devoted exclusively to the payment of United Kingdom imports into Italy. Arrangements have been made to allow United Kingdom goods to enter Italy at once in accordance with this agreement. The quota restrictions established by the Italian decree of 16th February specified varying percentages for different classes of goods, but in no case did the percentage exceed 35 per cent., and in numerous cases complete prohibitions were involved. Full details of these restrictions were published in the Board of Trade Journal for 28th February and 7th March. The effect of the provisional agreement is to make the quotas in all these cases 80 per cent. of the corresponding imports into Italy last year, under the conditions I have explained. The quotas already in existence before 16th February are not affected. Negotiations for a definitive agreement will be undertaken as rapidly as possible.


Is it not a fact that these quota restrictions which have been imposed by the Italian Government are a definite breach of the provisional agreement?


The provisional agreement was made subsequently to the imposition of the restrictions.


Will the 80 per cent. apply in particular to each commodity, or is it a general restriction? For instance, in relation to pilchards, with regard to which I have put questions to the right hon. Gentleman, do we understand that immediately 80 per cent. of the previous export of pilchards to Italy can now be resumed?


Yes, Sir; the 80 per cent. refers to the different categories.


Can the export of a commodity which has been held up in the meantime be proceeded with as the result of the agreement?


Yes, Sir; I said in the course of my reply that arrangements have been made to allow United Kingdom goods to enter at once.

Commander BOWER

Will the right hon. Gentleman bear in mind, in any further negotiations which may take place with the Italian Government, the interests of the iron and steel industry, which have been very adversely affected by this decision of the Italian Government?


The provisional agreement applies to all commodities.


Is it hoped still further to increase the quota as a result of subsequent negotiations?


I cannot say what will be the result of the negotiations until they have been completed.