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East Germany

Volume 531: debated on Thursday 28 October 1954

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asked the President of the Board of Trade what steps he intends taking to negotiate a trade agreement with East Germany which will be of assistance to British firms wishing to increase exports to the East German market.

None, Sir. Her Majesty's Government do not recognise the East German authorities as the Government responsible for the Soviet Zone of Germany, and cannot, therefore, enter into official trade negotiations with them.

Is the Minister aware that, at the Leipzig Trade Fair, British firms exhibiting their goods found that they were at a hopeless disadvantage compared with their European competitors? Nearly every other country has a trade agreement, but the Herring Board has to do its business with East Germany by a process of barter. All this is handicapping British trade. Will the right hon. Gentleman look into the position and see whether something can be done to improve it.

The hon. Gentleman may be somewhat overstating the handicaps. All I am stating is the position. I am not in a position to enter into a trade agreement with a Government which is not recognised by Her Majesty's Government.

Is my right hon. Friend aware that there is something which he can do in this matter? Even to relax the barter arrangement a little would be most helpful to many ports in this country, and particularly to Great Yarmouth, from which herring can be sold to East Germany, which is a good market for them. We cannot make satisfactory arrangements by barter.

If there is anything, short of what I am asked in the Question about a trade agreement, that I can do to ease the individual problems of individual trade organisations, I shall be happy to look at it.