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Manufactured Goods

Volume 986: debated on Monday 16 June 1980

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4.

asked the Secretary of State for Trade if he is satisfied with the balance of trade in manufactured goods between the United Kingdom and the European Economic Community.

If present trends continue, will we not end up doing an increasing percentage of our total trade in manufactured goods with our partners in the EEC, while incurring an increasing deficit with them?

It depends on which figure one likes to take. Some of the trends in our trade in manufactures with the EEC are encouraging. In the first quarter of this year, our export-import ratios rather improved. The total value of exports to the EEC grew in 1979 at nearly four times the rate of our exports to the rest of the world. The total value of exports increased faster than our imports from the EEC. It depends on which sectors one takes.

Does not my right hon. Friend agree that the problem of the balance of trade with the EEC, as with the rest of the world, lies in improved productivity, fewer strikes, harder work and better deliveries?

Will not the right hon. Gentleman admit that the Common Market has had an absolutely disastrous effect on our trade and that the Government's recent sell-out on the budget contribution will do nothing at all to improve our trading position, and that it will probably continue to get worse, and even more crippling until we get out of the EEC altogether?

Our balance of trade with Europe has certainly deteriorated since our entry, but our balance of trade throughout the world has deteriorated since our entry. I therefore do not think that the hon. Member can draw any deductions of the kind he does. However, nine out of our 10 leading export markets are now in Europe. Europe is now fundamental to our trading activities.

Yes, but the trading imbalance continues to grow, does it not? At what level of imbalance—if there is such a level—would my right hon. Friend think it worth our detaching ourselves from the EEC?

My own view of the EEC goes much broader than the balance of trade. I believe that our position in the Community is fundamental to the preservation of peace and to our influence in the world. That is the reason why I would certainly not wish to withdraw.