HC Deb 06 December 1989 vol 163 cc300-1
4. Mr. Campbell-Savours

To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry what measures he intends to introduce to improve Britain's trade performance.

Mr. Ridley

The keys to trade performance are macro-economic policy, non-interference in the working of the market, the maintenance of open, competitive markets at home and abroad and not setting up an industrial reorganisation corporation.

Mr. Campbell-Savours

May I have a reflective reply to the following question? Would a falling exchange rate in any way help Britain's trade performance?

Mr. Ridley

It is not for me to answer for my right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer on matters of macro-economic policy. However, the export figures in recent weeks have shown a decided tendency to improve now that the pound is at a slightly lower level than before.

Sir Hal Miller

Does my right hon. Friend also see a need to help to protect the competitive position of our manufacturing industry against the more extreme green demands, which would lead to an increase in energy prices and drive company cars off the roads of this country?

Mr. Ridley

All those factors are extremely important in maintaining the competitiveness of British industry. If we are to improve our trade deficit, it is vital that we do nothing to put British industry at a competitive disadvantage in a level playing field game with the rest of the Community and the world.

Mr. Henderson

Given the alarming £4 billion trade deficit in electronic products, and now that British Aerospace has withdrawn its interest in purchasing Ferranti, will the Secretary of State intervene to ensure that the future of Ferranti is secured through a joint venture partnership? Does he recognise that if he fails to act, Ferranti could be gobbled up by yet another hostile foreign predator with further untold damage to our balance of trade and to jobs?

Mr. Ridley

The hon. Gentleman should look carefully at the trade in electronics. He will find that although our imports in that area are very large, so are our exports. That shows that in a modern sophisticated industry a heavy import and a heavy export are signs of success, not failure. With regard to Ferranti, it is for the Ferranti board to decide what action it wants to take with the various people with whom it is discussing its future. At the present time, I have no role to play in those matters.

Mr. Wells

Does my right hon. Friend agree that the programme that his Department has pioneered in Japan has produced a remarkable increase in British exports to Japan? Will he now consider a second phase to boost that successful programme so that we can increase our trade with Japan and thus substantially decrease our trade deficit?

Mr. Ridley

I agree with my hon. Friend, but there has also been a large opening up of the Japanese market in many different ways as the result of the pressures that my right hon. Friends have placed on the Japanese and other nations. The Japanese are trying hard to open their market to exporters in other countries. It is a combination of two factors. We will certainly redouble our efforts to make every facility available to British exporters to increase their share of Japanese trade.

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