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European Community—Japan

Volume 15: debated on Monday 14 December 1981

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asked the Secretary of State for Trade if there are further plans for co-ordinated European Economic Community approaches to Japan to encourage a more equitable and economically stable trading relationship with the Community; and if he will make a statement on the present position.

At the meeting of the Foreign Affairs Council on 8 December a list of requests for specific action was adopted. The list is being transmitted to the Japanese Government. It stresses the need for Japan both to open up her home markets and to moderate her exports in sensitive sectors. The Council will be assessing the Japanese response in February 1982.

As I have addressed the question to the Secretary of State in his communautaire role, I hope that he will not be as tetchy as he was last time. Is there any time scale on the request to the Japanese or any threat of retaliatory sanctions if they do not respond positively? With reference to the right hon. Gentleman's earlier remarks about Scotch whisky, may I remind him that he is here as a representative of the Tories and not of Suntory?

I am sorry that my tetchiness provokes such music-hall humour. I will do much to avoid that in future. The hon. Gentleman must not take the fact that I remind him that he belongs to the most communautaire party in the House as a sign of tetchiness. As to the time scale involved, I have said that the Council will be assessing the Japanese response in February 1982 and I cannot go beyond that.

Will my right hon. Friend continue, both directly and through the channels of the Community, to make it clear to the Japanese Government that we are anxious to see an expansion of open world trade, but that the continuation of such free trade depends on all countries opening their markets to one another and that if calls for restrictionism continue to grow it will be the fault of the Japanese themselves?

I am happy to give that assurance to my hon. Friend. The same points have been noted by the American Administration as well as the nations of Western Europe.

Will the right hon. Gentleman confirm that the less the Japanese import from other countries the more capital they have to export to other countries?

Yes. That is why I think that the two factors should be kept clearly in context.

Will my right hon. Friend accept that everyone wishes to encourage and support his efforts to liberalise Japanese trade? Does he agree that if we want to turn the recession into the most catastrophic international slump, the best way of doing so would be to endeavour to insist that every country's trade must balance exactly 50 per cent. with that of every other country?