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Volume 984: debated on Monday 12 May 1980

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asked the Secretary of State for Trade if he will take action to ensure that in practice United Kingdom exports to Japan are treated no less favourably than Japanese exports to the United Kingdom.

We will continue to press, directly and through the European Commission, for removal of obstacles which concern British exporters and for the further opening up of the Japanese market to United Kingdom exports.

Since the trade gap between Britain and Japan continues to widen, so that the Japanese are exporting to us more than £2 of goods for every £1 worth that we send to them, and since exhortation of the sort that the Secretary of State tried in Tokyo in January appears no longer to be working, is it not time for the Government to get tough with the Japanese and to impose countervailing duties and non-tariff barriers until the Japanese start to play fair in world trade markets?

I cannot agree with the hon. Gentleman's diagnosis of the situation. Our exports to Japan are not growing as quickly as we should like, though they amount to more than £600 million and are not to be written off lightly. In addition to exhortation, we have arrangements which, in one way or another, already control more than one-third of Japan's exports to this country.

Will my hon. Friend confirm that the Japanese car industry voluntarily limited exports of cars to this country and that those who took advantage were Continental manufacturers rather than British manufacturers? Will he confirm that many of the restrictions and regulations applying to goods imported into Japan apply equally to domestically produced goods?

I agree with the first and second parts of my hon. Friend's question. He is right. In the last three months of 1978, when the Japanese sent in no cars, the net result was that the British share of the market remained absolutely static and that German, French and Italian cars took up the strain. If that happened, Opposition Members would immediately start complaining about the increase in our deficit with the EEC.