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Trade Minister (Discussions)

Volume 982: debated on Monday 31 March 1980

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4.

asked the Secretary of State for Trade when next he plans to hold discussions with his counterparts in the United States of America, Japan Canada and the European Economic Community on trade problems.

Since November 1979 my hon. Friend the Minister for Trade and I have between us met our counterparts in all the countries referred to by my hon. Friend the Member for Harrow, East (Mr. Dykes). We meet European Community trade ministers regularly at the Council of Ministers, and expect to continue to meet our other counterparts frequently, as opportunity offers.

I thank my right hon. Friend for that reply. This country still rightly believes in free and fair trade throughout the world, and is my right hon. Friend satisfied that there is free and fair trade in high technology products, in particular computers? Will my right hon. Friend confirm that it is impossible for us to sell computers freely on the United States market, whereas IBM can sell freely in Europe and the United Kingdom?

If there is not free and fair trade in high technology products, I ask British industry and hon. Members to bring specific cases to my attention so that we may pursue them. We cannot proceed by means of generalised statements or charges, although I am not suggesting that my hon. Friend is making a charge. We should look at specific cases of unfair trading and attempt to deal with them.

Following the enactment of the Protection of Trading Interests Bill, does the right hon. Gentleman plan to discuss the vexed question of extra-territorial jurisdiction with the United States, with or without his EEC colleagues? Has he any plans in particular to deal with shipping, where the sole beneficiary of continuing disagreement will undoubtedly be the Soviet Union?

I was in Washington the weekend before last when I discussed that matter with my counterpart in the United States Administration. In particular I discussed shipping with the Secretary of Commerce.

In such discussions will my right hon. Friend ensure that the world-wide expertise of our service industries is preserved? Does he accept that the danger is that many countries are realising the lead in many fields, such as banking and insurance, and taking steps to narrow our world-wide opportunities?

There is a problem. There are substantial non-tariff barriers and actual barriers against our service industries, such as banking and insurance. I am anxious that the Community harmonisation procedure should move forward here. I am conscious of what my hon. Friend says. Our invisible earnings generally pay for about half our imports. They are vitally important and growing in importance.

As the United States has a tariff barrier of 45 per cent. against United Kingdom woollen cloth imports and we have only 13 per cent. against United States imports, will the Secretary of State discuss equalising import tariffs in that area?

The question of wool tariffs between the Community and the United States was raised during the multilateral trade negotiations, and the previous Administration did their very best to get that very high American tariff down. Short of MTNs of a similar kind, I fear that it will not be possible to make any further progress in the immediate future. But I share the hon. and learned Gentleman's concern about the level of that tariff.