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Japanese Imports

Volume 33: debated on Monday 6 December 1982

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asked the Minister for Trade whether he will introduce port of entry requirements for Japanese imports similar to those used by France and other members of the European Community.

No, Sir. Such measures would almost certainly not be compatible with our international obligations or our current domestic legislation. The French requirements are already the subject of complaint in the GATT and are currently subject to challenge by the Commission.

Have not the Japanese been getting away with blue murder in international trade for many years? Is it not time for the Government to do what the French Government have done, not to secure unfair terms of entry for our goods, but merely to give notice to the Japanese Government that we expect the entry of our goods to Japan to be treated in the same way as Japanese goods coming here?

That message has been loudly and forthrightly given, as will emerge from a later answer. However, I do not believe that it would advance the case of the United Kingdom or the Community to adopt measures subject to challenge in international and national courts.

Have not the French, as becomes them, found the most elegant method of, at one and the same time, pursuing strictly French national interests and, in theory, supporting an open trading policy? Are there not lessons for us all in that example?

I would not challenge my hon. Friend's choice of adjective, but I am not sure that the French have substantially advanced their case by the methods that they are allegedly adopting. It is not elegant to be challenged in the European Court or before a GATT tribunal. Other methods can be just as effective to support the United Kingdom's interests.

Does the Minister accept that, although the French method may not be elegant, it is effective, as they are applying 25 sets of regulations to stop Japanese penetration into their market and the Commission will not investigate all 25? Have they not been extremely successful in ensuring that Frenchmen are not unemployed because of excessive Japanese competition? Is not the Government's response of taking no step that might offend European rules and regulations extremely disadvantageous to our people?

I should not like to comment in depth on the economic policies of a friendly power, but I point out that the French rate of inflation is considerably above ours and accelerating, as are its unemployment figures.

Will my hon. and learned Friend reconsider his answer to the hon. Member for Huddersfield, East (Mr. Sheerman) and recall that the West Midlands has a number of eminently suitable sites for port of entry control and a large labour force with the skill, and only too willing, to analyse the nature of manufactured imports? May I particularly commend Aldridge-Brownhills as having all the necessary features?

Should we ever be tempted to adopt the methods recently canvassed—I hope that we shall not—I shall bear my hon. Friend's suggestions in mind.