HC Deb 14 July 1980 vol 988 cc1028-30
3. Mr. Squire

asked the Secretary of State for Trade what representations he has made to the Government of Japan concerning their non-tariff barriers to British exports.

The Secretary of State for Trade (Mr. John Nott)

Recent Japanese action benefiting United Kingdom exports has been mainly in the area of tariffs and taxes, although there has been some relaxation of other barriers. We propose to maintain pressure directly and through the European Commission for the continued opening up of the Japanese market to our goods.

Mr. Squire

I am grateful to my right hon. Friend for that answer. Will he consider the tobacco industry, as there is a virtual monopoly in Japan covering both the import of tobacco and its distribution?

Mr. Nott

My hon. Friend is right. We export some tobacco products to Japan, but my hon. Friend's comments are broadly correct.

Mr. Hal Miller

Will my right lion. Friend put the question of our exports to Japan in the context of our overall trade with that country, including invisibles? Does he realise that unless there is a favourable balance on the whole, pressure will greatly increase for measures to be taken against the import of motor cars?

Mr. Nott

Our deficit with Japan is larger than that with any other country. I think that my hon. Friend will agree that trade is multilateral. We have a large surplus on some of our trade with countries in that part of the world. That surplus would not be so large if we were to cease trading with Japan. That is an extreme example, but I am sure that my hon. Friend will agree with it. The deficit with Japan is a matter of concern to the Government.

Mr. Marlow

As my right hon. Friend says, the deficit with Japan is of great concern to this country. It is a growing deficit. We import from the Japanese two and a half times as much as we export to them. The figure is over £1,000 million. Why must we have their motor cars in this country? Why cannot we stop them from coming in? It will not affect the competitive position of any industry in this country if we stop Japanese cars from coming in. The Japanese, because of their overwhelming balance of trade in favour of themselves with us, will not be able to take action against us. Why do we not stop their motor cars from coming in? That will benefit our industry.

Mr. Nott

Principally because we are one of the world's major trading nations, and we are a signatory to a whole range of international agreements, as every British Government have been for the last 100 years. We cannot single out one product and ban that because it happens to be coming in to our disadvantage. Imports of Japanese cars have been relatively stable at about 10 to 11 per cent. of our market for the last three years.

Mr. John Smith

Will the Secretary of State confirm that a treaty exists between this country and Japan which would permit the United Kingdom, if it wished, to impose import controls? Secondly, on the question of motor cars, will he clarify what the Lord Privy Seal was doing in discussions with Datsun? If Datsun intended to breach the informal agreement, what was the Secretary of State going to do about it? If it was not going to breach the informal agreement, what is the present position about that agreement? Will the Japanese adhere to it?

Mr. Nott

Mr. Speaker, if I were to abide by your ruling I would say "Yes", and sit down, but the answer to the right hon. Gentleman's first question is "Yes". Secondly, the Lord Privy Seal was entertained by Nissan to what I understand was an excellent lunch. [HON. MEMBERS: "Oh!"] It is a serious matter. The present level of imports of Japanese cars is running at about the same level as last year, when the right hon. Gentleman had some responsibility in these matters. I do not know whether there is anything else with which I can help him.

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