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Anti-Dumping Procedures

Volume 984: debated on Monday 12 May 1980

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asked the Secretary of State for Trade whether he will take new initiatives on anti-dumping.

The existing antidumping procedures provide an adequate framework for dealing with well-founded complaints of dumping. The European Commission is well aware of my concern that speedy and effective action must be taken to protect industry when dumping is causing injury. The Department of Trade retains an anti-dumping unit to help British industry in preparing complaints.

Does the Minister recall that the balance of trade deficit in textile goods for 1979 was nearly £700 million and that it is currently running at a higher rate? This is caused partly through dumping of cheap imports and is also a contributory factor to the massive number of jobs being lost in the textile industry. Is not the hon. Gentleman standing truth on its head when he says that the position is satisfactory? Is not the truth that the EEC is slow and unwieldy, and it appears to be totally indifferent to the needs of the British textile industry?

I am afraid that I cannot accept what the hon. Gentleman says. The procedures exist. They are there to be used. The industry is often much better at making allegations than establishing them with facts. We retain the anti-dumping unit precisely to help British industry prepare its cases. Where there is a well-founded case, we get action.

Is my hon. Friend satisfied that procedures are working adequately with regard to alleged dumping from behind the Iron Curtain? It is difficult to get evidence of the genuine cost structure of the home market within those countries.

I agree with my hon. Friend. That is why there is a wide range of goods subject to quota and control in trade with Iron Curtain countries. In those agreements, there is a price clause—aptly named considering who asked the supplementary question—that allows us to take action on grounds other than dumping grounds. We have, therefore, two opportunities. We have dumping and the price clause mechanism. We have used the price clause, for example, on Romanian suits.

Following the imposition by this country of generous quotas on United States exports of yarn to this country a few weeks ago, will the Minister confirm that the United States Government are threatening to impose further restrictions on exports of woollen textile products from this country to that country? As the West Yorkshire wool textile industry sees virtually no benefit from the quotas on yarn imports, will the Minister assure the wool textile industry that he will reject totally such measures? Will he have consultations with the industry urgently with a view to presenting a full case?

I do not know whether the hon. Gentleman saw the reported remark by an American official, who described American action on wool textiles, were it to be taken, as the equivalent of shooting oneself in the foot. In other words, we think that action on wool textiles would be a totally futile gesture. There are negotiations going on between the EEC and the Americans about compensation for our action under article 19 on polyester filament yarn. We shall do what we can to make sure that this does not apply to wool textiles.

Is my hon. Friend aware that the protectionism advocated by Opposition Members, which goes well beyond anti-dumping restrictions will lead to much higher prices for the consumer in this country—a matter to which Opposition Members do not often refer?

That point is not made as often as it ought to be made. It is interesting that the Consumers Association and the Retail Consortium have started forcefully to make this point. It should be taken into account in discussion on import controls.