HC Deb 18 June 1953 vol 516 cc1162-4
15. Mr. Hector Hughes

asked the President of the Board of Trade what steps Her Majesty's Government is taking to restore and develop bilateral trade between Britain and the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics and between Britain and China, respectively.

Mr. P. Thorneycroft

As regards the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics, Her Majesty's Government were represented at the recent meeting of experts which was held at Geneva under the auspices of the Economic Commission for Europe. There was a general examination of the possibilities of increased trade in non-strategic goods between Eastern and Western Europe, and I am now considering the report of the meeting.

As regards China, I would refer the hon. and learned Member to the answer which I gave earlier this afternoon to Questions Nos. 8 and 9.

Mr. Hughes

While thanking the Minister for the first part of his answer, may I ask him if he realises the close inter-relation between international trade and international peace? Will he consult the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs to devise a means of taking advantage of the improved world atmosphere relating to both trade and peace?

Mr. Thorneycroft

I think that a Question upon this matter is already on the Order Paper for answer by the Minister of State later this afternoon.

Mr. Donnelly

Has the right hon. Gentleman any plans ready, should the international situation improve, to facilitate the promotion of trade in any circumstances where it might be politically possible to do so?

Mr. Thorneycroft

Any improvement in the international situation with regard to peace will be a very helpful thing so far as the promotion of trade is concerned.

Mr. Bottomley

Is the President aware that past experiences show that the best way to facilitate trade between the Soviet Union and this country is by a personal meeting with the leader of the Soviet trade delegation resident in this country? Can he say whether he or the Secretary for Overseas Trade has, at a recent date, met the leader of that delegation?

Mr. Thorneycroft

Not just recently. I did meet him some little time ago.

Mr. S. Silverman

While appreciating that the task of the Board of Trade has been difficult in the past 12 months, having regard to the limits under which they were compelled to work, may I ask the right hon. Gentleman nevertheless to bear in mind that there is considerable risk of this country missing the boat in the matter of trade, not merely with the Soviet Union but, even more, with China, that competition among countries for this coming market is already keen and that a great many people who are preventing free trade are themselves, through Japanese agencies, now trading? Having regard to the great importance of foreign trade for our own livelihood, would it not be a great mistake if we allowed others to get in in front?

Mr. Thorneycroft

If the hon. Gentleman has specific examples of persons who are, in fact, breaking the strategic control regulations I hope he will let us know, so that they can be followed up. As to taking advantage of the opportunity brought about by an improvement in the international situation, I can only say that we should be very glad to do so.