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Special Steels (Exports)

Volume 23: debated on Monday 10 May 1982

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asked the Minister for Trade what is the value of special steels exported from the United Kingdom to the United States of America in the first quarter of 1982.

This information is not yet available. In the last quarter of 1981 exports to the United States of tool steel, high-speed steel, and stainless steel bars and rods were valued at £1 million fob. Exports of stainless steel sheets, plates and strip were valued at nearly £3 million fob.

What representations have been made by the Government to the United States' Government about the impact of any restrictions on our export of special steels to the United States? Is the Minister aware that

recession? Does he also agree that, with our increased competitiveness in world markets, as measured by recent output per man-hour trends, this augurs well for the future, particularly when the world recession ends and expansion takes place?

I certainly agree that the figures demonstrate the enterprise of British business and emphasise the considerable increase in competitiveness over the past two or three years.

Is the Minister aware that the April report of the CBI predicts that non-oil exports will decline by 4 per cent. this year over the 1979 level, which is after three years of the present Government? The same report predicts an increase in those who are pessmistic about future export prospects. Is not the CBI's evidence a more accurate picture of what is happening to our overseas trade under this Government?

The right hon. Gentleman describes it as a factual position. As he will readily appreciate, those are speculative figures which may well be falsified by events.

Does my hon. and learned Friend agree that we do not make enough of our great success in our export endeavour, which, I believe, is higher per head of the population than almost any other country? Can we not somehow use the lessons of this success to improve our share of trade in the home market?

My hon. Friend is right to emphasise that Great Britain, at least by one test, is one of the most successful exporting nations in the world, whether it be measured by the proportion of the gross domestic product or by the proportion of exports per head of the population. As regards the internal market, I have no doubt that British industry will seek to improve its position, but my hon. Friend will appreciate that trade is a two-way operation.

Following is the information:

although the volume is small, the value is very high and that severe restrictions would have a damaging impact on the BSC?

I am well aware of the importance of our special steels exports, particularly to the private steel making sector, although certain areas are a matter of concern for the British Steel Corporation. As the House will know, there is the possibility of action against exports of steel from the European Community. I can assure the House that the British Government have looked closely, so far as they have been able to do so, at the basis of these cases. Both the Government and the European Commission have made strong representations in Washington about the basis of these possible cases.