HC Deb 28 October 1987 vol 121 cc286-7
5. Mr. Heathcoat-Amory

asked the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster what representations he has received about the level of duty imposed by Japan on imported shoes and leather.

Mr. Atkins

The Government have received a number of representations about Japan's import restrictions on leather and leather footwear. We and the European Community continue to press the Japanese Government to reduce these.

Mr. Heathcoat-Amory

Is my hon. Friend aware that Japan operates a tariff quota system against imported footwear and leather that restricts quota and tariff at rates between 20 and 60 per cent.? Does my hon. Friend agree that this is not a reciprocal trading arrangement and that if Japan is interested in contributing towards the correcting of present world trade imbalances it could start by moving towards freer trade in this area?

Mr. Atkins

My hon. Friend touches upon a raw nerve. In the context of the leather industry and the United States and of reaching an agreement with Japan under the GATT; in 1985 the United States put the emphasis on raising its tariff barriers, whereas the EEC chose to press for market opening by Japan, and as a result achieved lower tariffs with an increasing quota.

Mr. John Garrett

Is the Minister aware that the Japanese market has been closed totally for a long time to imports of British footwear, in the interests of protecting an under-privileged class in that prosperous country that happens to make domestic footwear? Is it not the case that Britain has never made adequate representations to open up the Japanese market in this area, with the result that footwear manufacturers in my constituency have suffered considerably?

Mr. Atkins

The hon. Gentleman is aware that we take action whenever we can through the auspices of the GATT and through the European Economic Community.

Secondly, I understand what the hon. Gentleman is saying—[Interruption.]

Mr. Speaker


Mr. Atkins

We are always ready to hear any representations from any industrial sector, and we are in close touch with footwear manufacturers.

Mr. Cash

Will my hon. Friend use his best endeavours through the Uruguayan round in GATT; to ensure that effective measures are taken with the new Prime Minister of Japan, Mr. Takeshita, so that we receive a serious reduction in the amount of protectionism in Japan, which is currently contributing significantly to the difficulties in the world currency crisis?

Mr. Atkins

Yes, Sir.