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Latin America

Volume 931: debated on Monday 9 May 1977

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asked the Secretary of State for Trade what discussions he has had with the Chairman of the British Overseas Trade Board about export promotion in Latin America.

I am in regular contact with the Chairman of the British Overseas Trade Board about the board's export promotion activities, including those in Latin America.

The Minister must be extremely worried about our lack of success in Latin America. Is he aware that only 2·9 per cent. by value of our exports went into that market in 1976, and that that was a lower figure than in 1974 or 1975? Will he say what fresh impetus the Government intend to give to marketing in that area?

Although the hon. Gentleman is quite right to quote the figure of 2·9 per cent., it compares favourably with the 2·5 per cent. for our visible exports to the Eastern bloc, Russia and Eastern Europe, and is by no means insignificant.

With regard to fresh initiatives, in the last couple of years we have organised two major British industrial exhibitions in Sao Paulo and Caracas. In Brazil, too, our largest market, we have substantially increased both our trade and investment. We recently signed a memorandum of understanding that identified particular areas for co-operation when we are trying to get increased industrial development.

What are the prospects of exports of British engineering products such as the high-speed train and the advanced passenger train, in view of the extension of railways in Latin America?

I am sure that they are considerable. At the time of the visit of the President of Brazil we signed economic agreements with that country about steel and rail development plans, in each case worth probably well over £100 million. I hope that the rolling stock that goes with the rail manufacture will follow this.

Is the Minister aware of the considerable advances being made in selling to Chile by countries such as France and Germany? Notwithstanding the Government's well-known attitude to the political régime in that country, will the Minister make clear that he has no objection to the expansion of trade with it?

As has been made clear by my right hon. Friend's predecessor, although we have embargoed military supplies, normal facilities are made available for trade with Chile and ECGD cover is available subject to normal review and normal underwriting criteria.