HC Deb 05 June 1972 vol 838 cc1-4
1. Mr. McCrindle

asked the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry in the light of the latest trade figures, what estimate he has made of the prospects for improving the balance of the United Kingdom's trade with Japan; and of increasing the total trade between the two countries in a substantial way.

3. Mr. Blaker

asked the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry if he will make a statement about the latest trends in British trade with Japan.

The Secretary of State for Trade and Industry and President of the Board of Trade (Mr. John Davies)

In my discussions with Japanese Ministers I have emphasised my concern to achieve a more balanced and stable expansion of trade between the two countries. They showed a clear understanding of this point of view. We discussed further developments of policy that are taking place in Japan. During my talks with the Japanese Minister of International Trade and Industry we affirmed our concern that confidence in the possibility of such an expansion should not be weakened by difficulties arising from the marketing of particular products. I stressed the need for early action to remedy such difficulties. We agreed that a further meeting of officials should be held in early September to review the progress that had been made by that time.

Mr. McCrindle

I thank my right hon. Friend for that reply. Has he intimated to the Japanese authorities that unless there are clear signs over the next few months of an opening up of trade opportunities for British exporters, Her Majesty's Government may be forced to review the freedom with which Japanese exporters of ball-bearings and textiles in particular are at present allowed to enter the British market?

Mr. Davies

Yes, the Japanese Ministers realised that there were some comparatively worrying elements in their own market and its accessibility to British exporters. They also realised the difficulties that their exporters were causing in a number of specialised fields here. This was the whole subject of my discussions with them.

Mr. Blaker

Following the point raised by my hon. Friend the Member for Billericay (Mr. McCrindle), is it not true that Japanese practices in relation to imports into Japan and in relation to foreign investment in Japan are relatively more strict than those found in other most advanced industrial countries? Bearing in mind Japan's tremendous prosperity, has the time not come when the Japanese could safely relax these practices?

Mr. Davies

Yes, I think they realise that Japan has passed the point of becoming a great industrial success and that it does not need to take precautionary measures which perhaps were considered appropriate in the past. I am sure that the measures I discussed with them while I was in Tokyo were such as to give effect to the objectives outlined by my hon. Friend.

Mr. Mason

The imports of certain products have been causing a great deal of alarm in this country and we are grateful to the Secretary of State for giving the matter the urgency it requires, albeit after some delay. Can the Secretary of State say what he hopes to achieve in the short term in relation to ball-bearings, polyester fibre and electronics coming into this country from Japan and what safeguards he intends revoking under the Anglo-Japanese trade agreement if a good response is not forthcoming?

Mr. Davies

On the first point, I discussed specific measures with the Japanese in order to ease the pressure concerning a certain number of items to which the right hon. Gentleman referred. The Japanese recognised the problems with which I faced them. The safeguard provisions are those which allow the British Government, if necessary, to impede the further import of goods here in certain circumstances. The circumstances are clearly stated and would have to be met in any given case.

Mr. St. John-Stevas

Does my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State realise that owing to cut-throat Japanese competition the firm of RHP in my constituency is facing up to 400 further redundancies in addition to 400 already faced in November? Since he has had the stamina to go to Japan, will he come to Chelmsford to see what he can do to help in this appalling human and social situation?

Mr. Davies

I entirely understand the great concern my hon. Friend has in this matter. I have had the opportunity of discussions with the management of RHP and I have forcefully brought to the attention of the Japanese the particular problems of the ball-and-roller-bearing industry. Specific proposals for the relief of the situation in this industry have been discussed with them.

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