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United Kingdom—European Community (Trade Balance)

Volume 972: debated on Monday 22 October 1979

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asked the Secretary of State for Trade what is the present imbalance of trade between the United Kingdom and her EEC partners.

The United Kingdom's published crude trade deficit with the EEC in the third quarter of 1979 was £607 million, on a seasonally adjusted basis. Because of various distortions to the figures so far this year, this is likely to understate the underlying deficit.

Does the Minister agree that if we excluded oil and food the position would be much worse for this country? Can he offer any hope that in the future our trade with the EEC will be in balance?

I accept the first part of the hon. Member's remarks, but I must point out that our trade with the EEC is the fastest growing part of our trade. Germany is our biggest trading partner. France is third, the Netherlands fourth, Ireland fifth and Belgium and Luxembourg are sixth. Our main trading partners are now the EEC.

Does my hon. Friend agree that it is no use having a very large volume of trade if one is constantly in deficit?

The answer to improving our balance of payments figures with the EEC is better performance and better productivity, which are our responsibility and not that of our partners.