HC Deb 16 October 1991 vol 196 cc298-9
5. Mr. Amos

To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry if he will make a statement on the United Kingdom-Japanese trade balance.

Mr. Sainsbury

Between 1986 and 1990 the value of United Kingdom exports to Japan more than doubled, while imports rose by only a third.

Mr. Amos

Does my hon. Friend accept that the Government have done more than any other to increase free trade at home and abroad, but that it also has to be fair trade? British exports to Japan have fallen this year and the British visible trade gap with Japan is still running at well over £4 billion per year. Will he ensure that Japan opens its markets to British goods on the same basis as the British market is open to Japanese goods? Will my hon. Friend warn the Japanese that if they fail to do so, they will be subject to retaliation from the EEC?

Mr. Sainsbury

The figures that I have just given show that British exporters are succeeding extremely well in the Japanese market, which is not so difficult a market as some people think. In the current year, British exporters are holding their share of the market while all our EEC competitors have been losing their market share. There are a few barriers still in the Japanese market, such as high tariffs on finished leather products, but I can assure my hon. Friend that I, my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State and other Ministers will continue to work to remove those obstacles so as to open the Japanese market fully in the same way as we have successfully opened many other markets.

Mr. Cousins

Will the Minister confirm that the loss of an order for Rolls-Royce Trent engines to Japan Airlines followed directly from the refusal by British Airways to buy a similar engine for its British fleet? Will the Minister also confirm that he has done nothing about that, proposes to do nothing about it, and that the laissez-fairies are in full control in his Department?

Mr. Sainsbury

I wonder whether the hon. Gentleman is aware that one of the largest ever single export orders to Japan was won recently by British Aerospace. The order was worth £445 million and was to provide search and rescue aircraft to the Japanese self-defence force.

Mr. Colvin

Further to that supplementary, is my hon. Friend aware that Japan is the world's second biggest domestic market for civil aircraft? Is he also aware that the Japanese aerospace industry is only 20 per cent. civil and that in the short term there are tremendous opportunities for British exporters of civil aircraft to Japan, particularly the regional jet? Also, in the long term Japan would like to enter into collaborative ventures with British aerospace companies in order to develop its own aerospace industry.

Mr. Sainsbury

I agree with my hon. Friend that there are considerable opportunities for the aerospace industry in the Japanese market. The successful contract to which I referred is evidence that British Aerospace and its suppliers are beginning to get into that market, which has hitherto traditionally been supplied by the United States.

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