HC Deb 14 March 1990 vol 169 cc470-1
9. Mr. Butterfill

To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry what plans his Department has to promote increased trade links between the United Kingdom and Hungary.

Mr. Redwood

My Department is taking an active interest in promoting trade with Hungary. For example, it is leading trade missions. I led one myself, and last week there was a successful industrial delegation to Hungary. The Foreign Secretary also visited Hungary recently.

We have established a know-how fund effective from the beginning of April and we have also involved ourselves with our European partners in developing European assistance for Hungary and other eastern European countries. We are making a wide amount of information available through the DTI in London and through Foreign Office posts in the relevant countries and capitals. We are also making information available more generally —for example, through a seminar in May to be led by the DTI, the CBI and the London chamber of commerce, telling British business men about opportunities in Hungary. I am pleased to say that there has already been a vigorous private sector response.

Mr. Butterfill

I congratulate my hon. Friend on the action that he is taking. Does he agree that Hungary represents excellent investment opportunities for British businesses and that it deserves special recognition as the first eastern bloc country to throw off the shackles of Socialism and to introduce democracy and the beginnings of a market economy?

Mr. Redwood

It is certainly one of the more promising areas of central and eastern Europe where business opportunities are considerable. That is not just my view but the view of the investing companies of western Europe. Many successful joint ventures have already been created by western companies and some by British companies, which I especially welcome. The Government will, of course, extend the hand of friendship and assistance and ensure that the interests of British businesses are well represented in Hungary and in the other promising eastern European countries starting out on the process of enterprise and democratic reform.

Dr. Hampson

Can my hon. Friend say whether he prefers, rather than direct investment at this stage, to support management training and the giving of technical assistance? Has he considered approaching British businesses to see whether they would second some of their younger managers to Hungary and other eastern European countries for a period? They could provide much assistance on matters such as marketing and distribution.

Mr. Redwood

The purpose of the know-how fund is to encourage such links and to help in financing the transfer of know-how. Of course, I would welcome it if British businesses made talented managers available to help in that process. I believe that many will also decide to invest in countries such as Hungary where they will learn for themselves, at close quarters, of the trading conditions and opportunities in that country. British business men are already winning contracts there and I am pleased to announce that Rank Xerox signed a contract last week for £250,000 and has already done £700,000 of business in the year so far. That is a major improvement on the conditions which existed prior to the changes that we are discussing.

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