HC Deb 25 February 1970 vol 796 cc1194-5
48. Mr. Farr

asked the President of the Board of Trade how British exports to the European Free Trade Association in 1969 compared with 1968.

Mr. Mason

They increased by 22 per cent. in value.

Mr. Farr

I thank the right hon. Gentleman for that reply, but can he explain why the trade of Britain and her E.F.T.A. partners in 1968 was so bad and why Britain was the only country in E.F.T.A. which did not increase its mutual export trade?

Mr. Mason

I see no reason why the hon. Gentleman should question one year in the total of our partnership with other E.F.T.A. countries. Our total exports rose by 14 per cent. in 1969 in comparison with a rise in exports to E.F.T.A. of 22 per cent. We have done quite well there. Our export performances in the individual E.F.T.A. countries varied from a 14 per cent. increase in Norway to over 30 per cent. in Switzerland and Austria. Why should we quibble about that?

50. Mr. Eddie Griffiths

asked the President of the Board of Trade whether he is satisfied with the development of British exports to the European Free Trade Association during the past year; and what plans he has for promoting such exports in the future.

Mr. Mason

Yes Sir; the growth of our exports to E.F.T.A. in 1969 was more than 50 per cent. greater than that of our exports as a whole. We shall be mounting an extensive programme of promotional activities in E.F.T.A. countries this year, notably a trade drive in Finland and three shopping weeks in Sweden. I have recently visited both Finland and Norway to see these important markets at first hand, and I hope to visit Sweden in April.

Mr. Griffiths

Is my right hon. Friend taking steps to congratulate the people concerned on this excellent performance? Is he satisfied with the development of trade with E.F.T.A. countries for the future?

Mr. Mason

We are satisfied with the trade developing in E.F.T.A. I think that this is a particularly notable performance by British exporters.

Sir K. Joseph

Before going in for so much complacency, will the right hon. Gentleman acknowledge that it is the combination of a record world trade boom plus stagnation at home plus devaluation that is helping British industry to export so well?

Mr. Mason

Devaluation undoubtedly is helping but we should praise the British exporters for grabbing the opportunity it has given them. It is becoming rather sickeningly obvious that right hon. and hon. Members opposite are afraid that Britain is now able to stand economically on her own feet.