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Shipping

Volume 938: debated on Monday 7 November 1977

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22.

asked the Secretary of State for Trade what steps he intends to take to ensure that the merchant navies of Warsaw pact countries do not capture the trade of British and other EEC merchant navies by the use of unfair trade.

28.

asked the Secretary of State for Trade what further discussions he has had with the USSR regarding the activities of its merchant fleet.

31.

asked the Secretary of State for Trade what positive results he can announce following the recent consultations with the USSR over maritime problems.

I visited Moscow from 18th-22nd October for further discussions with the Soviet Minister of Merchant Marine, notably on the question of rate undercutting and the provision of excessive capacity by Soviet shipping lines. The outcome was disappointing, in that the Soviet side declined to take early steps to solve specific problem cases, although it remained willing to talk in general terms about an accommodation with Western shipping interests. We shall now be considering jointly with our EEC partners and others the question of an appropriate Western response to the shipping practices of the East bloc countries. I will be replying in greater detail in today's Written Answers to the hon. Member for Wirrall (Mr. Hunt).

asked the Secretary of State for Trade (1) what progress he has made in persuading the Russian authorities to stop undercutting freight rate ;(2)whether his policy of non co-operation rather than confrontation with the Russian authorities over maritime problems has succeeded ; and if he can now announce agreed solutions to the current difficulties ;(3)what progress he has made in recent consultations over the threat to British shipping posed by the Russian provision of over-capacity on certain liner trades ;(4)whether he can announce agreed guidelines for the orderly development of maritime trade following the recent consultations with the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics.

I discussed a wide range of issues with Mr. Guzhenko, the Soviet Minister of Merchant Marine, during my recent visit to the USSR. The purpose of my visit was to review progress made in achieving an equitable resolution of the problems that face us, not just in the bilateral seaborne trade but, more importantly, on certain international trade routes where our shipping companies face undercutting of freight rates by the Russian merchant fleet and the provision of excessive capacity. I said in June that we had agreed that a meeting should be held in August in the USSR between officials and shipping interests from both sides to examine the possibilities of establishing mutually acceptable guidelines for Soviet participation in international maritime trades. I emphasised, however, that we required proof from the Soviet Union that parallel progress must be made in specific cases of difficulty. There has been little such progress. Accordingly, though there was a useful first round in August, 1 made it clear to the Soviet Minister that further work on trying to establish a set of general principles would have to be postponed.The outcome of my talks was, therefore, disappointing. We are, of course, considering and consulting urgently with others, particularly within the EEC, how the West in general should develop a common strategy to defend our shipping interests. Nevertheless, it is still my hope that the USSR will reassess its stance and provide specific evidence of translating into reality its declaration that it desires accommodation rather than confrontation.

asked the Secretary of State for Trade what success he has achieved in establishing a fairer balance between United Kingdom and Russian ships in bilateral trades between the United Kingdom and the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics.

When the Soviet Minister of Merchant Marine visited the United Kingdom in June there was agreement that we should move towards parity of carryings as between United Kingdom and Soviet vessels. The recent introduction of a container vessel in the United Baltic Corporation service between the United Kingdom and the USSR is a welcome move towards achieving this aim.