HL Deb 31 July 1997 vol 582 cc307-8

11.14 a.m.

The Earl of Carlisle

asked Her Majesty's Government:

What support they give to firms intending to invest in the Baltic states (Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania).

The Minister of State, Department of Trade and Industry (Lord Clinton-Davis)

My Lords, a relief from owls! The main source of support for firms intending to invest in the Baltic states is the Know How Fund's pre-investment feasibility study scheme. At the European level, the joint-venture programme—JOP—part of the EU's PHARE programme assists small and medium enterprises in the EU to set up joint ventures with partners in the region, or expand existing ones. Both the overseas trade services of the DTI in London and the embassies in the Baltic states also provide information and advice.

The Earl of Carlisle

My Lords, I thank the Minister for that reply. I am sure he will know that the volume of imports into the three Baltic states from the United Kingdom compares rather unfavourably with those of our western European neighbours. Is he aware that before the Second World War 30 per cent. of all imports into Estonia—the northern Baltic state—came from the United Kingdom? Is he further aware that the Baltic states have an important role to play in the development of trade between the Russian Federation and the West? The Minister is to be congratulated on having already met Mrs. Andrikiele, the Lithuanian trade minister. Will he at the earliest opportunity have meetings with Mr. Leimann and Mr. Krasds, his Estonian and Latvian opposite numbers, so that trade can be increased between the United Kingdom and the Baltic states?

Lord Clinton-Davis

My Lords, if the Ministers concerned wish to see me, of course I shall see them. I am always delighted to meet my opposite numbers in order to engage in discussions about the prospects for enhancing trade. The noble Earl referred to the position of the Baltic states. Of course they are important, and for the reason the noble Earl has given. It is also true that since the war our trade with these countries has deteriorated, which is to be regretted. On the other hand, in the more recent past there has been a sizeable increase in our trade with the three states. That is to be encouraged and we shall use our best endeavours, in the way I have indicated, to ensure that that happens.