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Moscow Trade Conference

Volume 499: debated on Tuesday 22 April 1952

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58.

asked the President of the Board of Trade what authority the recent British delegation to the International Trade Conference in Moscow had to negotiate agreements; and if any definite proposals have been made to Her Majesty's Government by the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics or China as a result of this conference.

59.

asked the President of the Board of Trade what reports he has received on trading arrangements made between British nationals and Governments of countries beyond the Iron Curtain at the recent Moscow conference; and whether export licences will be granted for the fulfilment by the British nationals of their parts in these arrangements.

60.

asked the President of the Board of Trade if he will make a statement on contracts arising out of the recent Economic Conference in Moscow.

Her Majesty's Government was not invited to send representatives to this conference, and the members of the British delegation had no authority to negotiate any formal trade agreement.We have received no proposals from the Governments of the U.S.S.R. or of China following the conference. The Board of Trade have received reports from certain individual members of the delegation, but it is still not clear precisely what exchanges of goods are envisaged. It is understood that the main Russian interest was in the purchase of textiles, particularly wool tops and worsted yarns to the value of about £2 million, in return for the purchase by us of certain foodstuffs.In the case of China, an exchange of goods each way to the value of £10 million is apparently contemplated, comprising sales of textiles of various kinds, chemicals and metals against a variety of Chinese products. As far as is known, no firm contracts have yet been made. I cannot say whether applications for import and export licences, where these are necessary, would be granted in all cases. That must depend on the nature of the goods and our licensing policy, especially as regards the export of strategic materials.If contracts for the sale of textiles and other consumer goods from the United Kingdom are concluded as a result of the conference, we should naturally welcome this outcome. But I would remind the House that merchants in this country and in the Far East have always been ready to sell such goods to Russia and China, and the Board of Trade has lost no opportunity of impressing upon the Soviet Trade Delegation here our interest in trade of this kind.