HC Deb 14 March 1963 vol 673 cc1514-5
23. Mr. Warbey

asked the President of the Board of Trade what was the percentage change in the value of British imports from China and exports to China, respectively, in each of the five years 1958 to 1962, compared with the preceding year.

Mr. Erroll

As the Answer contains a number of figures I will, with permission, circulate details in the OFFICIAL REPORT.

Mr. Warbey

If the right hon. Gentleman had been prepared to give the figures to the House now, would not they have shown that there had been a very marked drop in British exports to China during the past three years? Has the right hon. Gentleman any policy at all for improving British trading opportunities where they really exist? Can we hope that during the forthcoming visit of the Chinese Vice-Minister of Foreign Trade to this country the right hon. Gentleman will do something effective to stimulate British exports to China?

Mr. Erroll

As I have explained to the House on a number of occasions, Chinese purchases from us have been adversely affected by their bad harvests and they have had to conserve foreign exchange for essential purchases of foodstuffs from other countries. However, it looks as though they have had a better harvest now and the corner has been turned, and in future we hope to profit from the good will visit of Mr. Lu to this country in 10 days' time and to see an upturn again in our exports to China.

Mr. Snow

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that there is too much talk about the unavailability of materials which can be exported from China to this country which we want? Has his attention been directed to the exchange of economic missions between China and Japan which has resulted in considerable trade between the two countries of basic materials and services?

Mr. Erroll

The geographical situation of Japan in relation to China and ourselves is very different. It is probably much easier to ship certain raw materials from China to Japan than from China to this country. A large number of products of Chinese origin are on open general licence and can be freely imported into this country if they are competitive as regards price and quality.

Following are the details:

Year Total exports f.o.b. (£m.) Percentage change over previous year Imports c.i.f. (£m.) Percentage change over previous year
1957 12.2 14.2
1958 27.2 + 123.0 18.5 + 30.3
1959 24.8 - 8.8 19.7 + 6.5
1960 32.1 + 29.4 24.7 +25.4
1961 13.1 - 59.2 30.9 +25.1
1962 8.6 - 34.4 23.1 -25.2