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European Community (Exports)

Volume 21: debated on Monday 29 March 1982

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asked the Secretary of State for Trade if he anticipates a continuation of the trend of increasing trade in United Kingdom exports to other European Economic Community countries through 1982.

Does my right hon. Friend agree that, with the present trends, by mid-1984 well over half our total exports will go to other EEC member States? Does that not make it crystal clear that our continuing membership is even more indispensable and vital than we thought hitherto?

I should be pleased to see the statistics that project that. Our trade with the Community is valuable. Of course, trade is a two-way business. There has been a rise in imports as well as exports. Much will depend on growth within the Community and in markets outside.

Is the Secretary of State aware of the great anxiety in the British textile industry, and particularly the carpet industry, about the degree to which the Belgian carpet industry is subsidised, making it difficult for us to export to Europe and to meet competition from Belgian imports? What action is the Secretary of State taking or proposing to take to deal with the unfair subsidisation?

It is inherently a matter for the European Commission, but if the carpet industry or the hon. Gentleman approaches my Department to see how best we can formulate a case to sustain his point, we shall be happy to help.

Is my right hon. Friend aware that an extrapolation of the figures for trade with the EEC for the last two months of last year—an £850 million deficit in manufacturing—shows that by the year 1990 we should have a deficit in manufacturing trade of about £30, 000 million? Does that not prove the absurdity of European fanatics putting forward bogus statistics to prove unprovable facts?

Again, I am trying to be austere and detached about this highly emotional topic. Projections into the future should be undertaken only on the basis of carefully assessed scientific material.

Does the Minister think that the trend of food prices to increase is likely to continue?

Inasmuch as such a reply is required of me, I should have thought that it would be "Yes".