HC Deb 19 November 1973 vol 864 cc936-8
15. Mr. Carter

asked the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry if he will make a statement on the recent trade talks with Japan.

Mr. Peter Walker

During my discussions with Japanese Ministers in Tokyo in September I emphasised our desire for an expansion of economic relations with Japan and the need to avoid situations which threaten the balanced development of trade. I pressed for the easing of the remaining hindrances to the rising volume of British exports to Japan and discussed the possibilities of Japanese investment in Britain and co-operative ventures in the field of nuclear energy and in third countries.

Mr. Carter

Is the Minister aware that trade between Japan and the United Kingdom is at present based on very unequal positions? Is he aware that in the case of the motor car industry, for example, Japanese manufacturers obtain virtually unimpeded entry into the British market but that British exporters trying to get into Japan face all kinds of difficulties, not altogether due to Government influence? Does he not agree that, unless the Japanese Government and the internal economic workings of Japan come to terms with the fact that we want equal opportunity with them, retaliatory measures will be taken in this country against Japanese products?

Mr. Walker

I agree that this has been the situation in the past and all sorts of barriers, including tariff barriers, have impeded British exports, including those of the motor industry. I discussed with Japanese Ministers the various practices which have impeded the motor industry in the past and I am satisfied that these have now been eradicated. The difficulty now is to get the level of production in the British motor industry which will enable it to export to Japan. However, the hon. Member was correct when he referred to past customs, but these have been dropped by the Japanese and there is now considerable opportunity there.

Miss Joan Hall

I hope my right hon. Friend believes that there will be increased opportunity, because many British industrialists have felt that it is easier to get a camel through the eye of a needle than it is to get goods into Japan, particularly with regard to textiles—

Mr. Speaker

Order. This is Question Time.

Miss Hall

Does my right hon. Friend believe that it will be easier for British suiting material and made-up British cloth to get into Japan than it has been in the past?

Mr. Walker

Yes. The illustration that things generally are improving is that in the first 10 months of this year our exports to Japan were up by 80 per cent.

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