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Japan

Volume 978: debated on Monday 4 February 1980

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16.

asked the Secretary of State for Trade what progress he made in his recent meetings in Tokyo with regard to developing trade between the United Kingdom and Japan; and if he will make a statement.

During my recent visit to Japan, I met Ministers of the Japanese Government, senior representatives of Japanese industry and commerce and members of the British business community in Japan. Our talks covered a broad range of economic and trade matters.

I am grateful to my right hon Friend for his reply and for the efforts that he and the Minister of State have made to develop trade between this country and Japan. Was he able, when in Japan, to raise the question of the structure of the liquor tax, to which I have referred on a previous occasion? Was he able to point out that, with the change in the rate of exchange, it is likely that Scotch whisky will shortly attract a much higher rate of tax? This is bound to affect sales. Was he able to persuade the authorities to adjust the tax?

While in Japan I raised this important matter with the Minister of Finance and with the Minister of Trade and Industry. I asked, particularly, that the threshold should be raised. I pointed out that this was our single largest export to Japan. But it is a budgetary matter. Just as my right hon. and learned Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer is not keen to disclose the contents of his Budget in advance, neither is the Minister of Finance in Japan. I did, however, make strong representations.

Was my right hon. Friend able to make any assessment, while in Japan, of the immense efforts that the Japanese are putting into industrial robotics?

I have to confess that I do not know what industrial robotics are. If I did, I am sure that I would have made representations about them.