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Volume 884: debated on Monday 13 January 1975

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asked the Secretary of State for Trade whether, and by what amount, the United Kingdom is in trade imbalance with Japan; and what was the extent of the imbalance in each quarter of 1972, 1973 and 1974.

As the answer involves several figures I will, with permission, place a table in the Official Report. This shows that our "crude" trade deficit with Japan averaged £36 million a quarter in 1972, £43 million in 1973, and £57 million in the first three quarters of 1974.

Does not my hon. Friend regard that imbalance as very serious? Does he agree that there seem to be some grounds for suspicion that Japanese competition in Britain is not entirely fair? Will he look at the matter urgently?

We have had a number of representations about Japanese imports, particularly motor cars, but allegations of unfairness are completely unfounded. Our general trade with Japan is expanding very fast. This is one of our major priority markets. Japanese exports to this country have risen substantially, but, so, equally, have our exports to Japan. We believe in multilateral trade, and the fact that we may have a deficit on current account with one country does not necessarily mean that we should seek means in our power to restrict imports merely on that ground alone.

Why have West German exports of motor cars to Japan expanded by 20 times the amount that ours have? What was the reason in 1974 for extra imports from Japan of over £20 million worth of iron and steel?

I take it that the extra imports of iron and steel from Japan must have been because of a shortage of steel production in this country. Japan has, indeed, been exporting a great deal of iron and steel to the rest of the world. That helps to account for the way in which it has managed to overcome its balance of payments deficit on account of the oil price rise.

Japanese imports of motor cars have risen substantially, which shows that, in fact, there are no import restrictions on motor cars sent to Japan. It is sad that we have not been able to do rather better in comparison with Germany and the United States in terms of exporting whole vehicles to Japan, which is a growing market for motor cars.

Following are the figures:


Overseas. Trade Statistics basis, not seasonally adjusted

£ million

Exports fob

Imports cif

Crude Balance


1st quarter3766-29
2nd quarter4861-13
3rd quarter3581-46
4th quarter51106-55


1st quarter5699-43
2nd quarter68106-38
3rd quarter69121-52
4th quarter80118-38


1st quarter79126-47
2nd quarter89159-70
3rd quarter82136-54