§ Mr. Platts-Mills
asked the President of the Board of Trade what steps are being taken to expand British trade with Eastern Europe, in view of the announcement by the United Nations Economic Commission that such East-West trade in Europe must be increased five-fold by 1952 in order to attain independence from the U.S.A.
§ Mr. Wilson
Since the beginning of 1947 His Majesty's Government have concluded trade agreements with Hungary, Poland and Russia which have led to an increased exchange of commodities of importance to the economies of these countries and of the United Kingdom.
Negotiations with Russia for a further trade agreement are now taking place. I am not without hope that the long protracted negotiations with Yugoslavia will in the near future result in an agreement governing trade and other outstanding matters and I would emphasise that the delay in reaching agreement has been no obstacle to the purchase of useful quantities of timber. We have also purchased timber from Roumania although there is no trade agreement. With Roumania as well as with Bulgaria preliminary discussions are taking place about supplies of foodstuffs from those countries.
In the agreement with Poland of last March it was foreseen that talks about long-term trade agreements should take place this year and we are now in consultation with the Polish Government on this matter.
I should at the same time remind the hon. Member that most of the countries concerned owe us very large sums indeed on account of financial and commercial debts and compensation for British property which has been nationalised. These claims cannot be ignored in our negotiations for the expansion of trade.