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Foreign Trade Balance

Volume 21: debated on Monday 29 March 1982

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asked the Secretary of State for Trade whether it remains his policy to seek a balance in United Kingdom foreign trade on a multilateral rather than a bilateral basis.

Will my right hon. Friend be prepared to show considerable patience in explaining to hon. Members on both sides of the House that the days of bilateral barter in trade have long since gone and that what matters to Britain, as a manufacturing and trading country, is to have a high level of trade which remains in reasonable balance overall?

I accept what my hon. Friend said. However, there are one or two markets, particularly in Eastern Europe, where barter remains the significant part of trade structure

Will the Secretary of State accept that whereas we all generally support multilateral agreements, it may be necessary with countries such as Japan to introduce every possible measure, including bilateral talks, to try to reduce their trade imbalance with Britian? Unilateral action may be necessary to stop their imports into Britain

The hon. Gentleman will have seen that the European Community, the United Kingdom and the United States have sought to conduct discussions with the Japanese to deal with certain aspects of their trade

Further to the question on the Japanese element in multilateral trade, is it true, as reported yesterday, that France limits imports of Japanese cars to 2, 000 per year? If so, is there any reason why we should not do the same?

The method whereby the French limit Japanese car imports is a mystery wrapped in an enigma. It would not be appropriate for the United Kingdom Government to depart from their existing voluntary restraint arrangement, which pays regard to a whole number of interests, including that of the domestic British purchaser.