HL Deb 14 April 1981 vol 419 cc864-5

2.38 p.m.

Lord Orr-Ewing

My Lords, I beg leave to ask the Question which stands in my name on the Order Paper.

The Question was as follows:

To ask Her Majesty's Government what was the outcome of the recent discussions initiated by Lord Carrington on voluntary restraint on Japanese exports to the United Kingdom.

Lord Trefgarne

My Lords, my noble friend stressed to the Japanese Government our serious concern about the growing imbalance of trade between the United Kingdom and Japan and between the European Community and Japan. He made it clear that the Government fully support the course of action recently agreed by the Foreign Affairs Council. He emphasised that the United Kingdom, in common with the other member states, is looking to Japan to exercise greater restraint in exporting and to open up its domestic market to imports.

Lord Orr-Ewing

My Lords, is my noble friend aware that I tabled this Question in the hope that I might have an opportunity to thank the Foreign Secretary personally for the hard work which he undertakes for the country in general and for our House in particular; and, secondly, to draw attention to the fact that the imbalance of visible trade between this country and Japan is now about £800 million per annum in deficit? The agony that this is creating for our motor industry and electronics industry is alarming. Can my noble friend assure us that if an agreement has been arrived at, further talks will go on in Japan so that we can make sure that some of the assurances that the Japanese have given will be honoured, and that we shall then see them opening their borders to our exports as well as restricting imports to this country?

Lord Trefgarne

My Lords, I can assure my noble friend that the Government fully share his aspirations about the future progress of trade between the United Kingdom and Japan. As for his kind words about my noble friend, I will see that they are conveyed to the Foreign Secretary, although the reason why I am answering this Question today is because this is a matter for the Department of Trade.

Lord Taylor of Gryfe

My Lords, can the noble Lord say whether, alongside the restriction he has discussed, there was any substantial encouragement given to Japanese investment in the United Kingdom, as a means of rectifying this imbalance?

Lord Trefgarne

My Lords, certainly we do everything we can to encourage Japanese investment and other appropriate foreign investment in the United Kingdom. The noble Lord will be aware of the plans recently announced for the Nissan company to do just that.

The Earl of Halsbury

My Lords, is this not putting the cart before the horse? Are not the people who ought to exercise restraint those who resist the modernisation of archaic processes?

Lord Trefgarne

My Lords, that is another matter but it has a grain of truth in it. All the same, in this connection I think it is encumbent on Japanese exporters to exercise appropriate marketing policies.