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Japan

Volume 938: debated on Monday 7 November 1977

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18.

asked the Secretary of State for Trade if he is satisfied with the level of British exports to Japan.

Our exports have grown 35 per cent. in sterling terms in the first nine months of this year, 24 per cent. in dollar terms. This is a creditable achievement, but we should be able to do much better. I am in touch with the Japanese about means of encouraging further imports from the United Kingdom.

I welcome that news, but would not my right hon. Friend agree that, in addition to the Japanese barriers to our exports which he mentioned earlier this afternoon, there is also a British self-imposed barrier— that of relative ignorance of the Japanese market? Will he urge British companies seeking seriously to penetrate the Japanese market to train some of their executives in a study of Japan and its language in the way as the Japanese have studied our culture and our language with successful results?

Certainly, but I think that my hon. Friend, who is expert in this matter, will agree that this relative ignorance has been substantially reduced in recent years by the definite attempt by major and, indeed, smaller British firms to penetrate the Japanese market. The figures I have read out show that they have had some success, but we need a great deal more success before this situation will be anything like satisfactory.

Does the Secretary of State agree that there is a good case for the use of voluntary quotas between Japan and this country on matters such as special steels, which would allow us to export more to Japan and seek to reduce its level of imports to a more balanced figure?

The hon. Gentleman knows that in a number of cases already such voluntary restraint arrangements exist. I believe that in world trade generally it will be necessary to have such arrangements in order to reduce the effect that aggressive export drives can otherwise have, taking account of present levels of unemployment.

Is not one of our most important potential exports to Japan the reprocessing of nuclear waste? Is there any calculation of how much money has been lost through our inability to make up our minds about whether the process is safe?

As my hon. Friend knows, the Windscale inquiry has just been completed, and I hope that the report arrives at a conclusion that will enable us to take advantage of this great opportunity.