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Japan

Volume 126: debated on Monday 1 February 1988

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10.

To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs if he will make a statement about his recent visit to Japan.

I believe that my visit helped to strengthen the increasingly active and productive relationship between Britain and Japan. Foreign Minister Uno and I discussed a wide range of international issues, many of which we shall need to tackle together. I urged him and other Japanese Ministers to reinforce their efforts to reduce Japan's surplus. I also pressed our case on outstanding bilateral issues.

I welcome my right hon. and learned Friend's comments and the speech in which he pressed the Japanese to open their country to inward investment. Can he now tell us the position on the application made by Cable and Wireless for membership of a consortium to compete with KDD?

On the Cable and Wireless question, I understand that the arrangements now in prospect meet the requirements that we have been pressing with that company and on its behalf for some time. When I was in Japan I emphasised that the United Kingdom will continue to press vigorously for the redress of any grievances in trading conditions. It is right to say that the Japanese gave me much assurance of their determination to respond effectively to such representations.

Was the Foreign Secretary able to raise with the Japanese the wholesale killing of whales in the Antarctic in breach of international agreements? Were the assurances that they gave him any more convincing than those given about the balance of trade?

Our interest in the effectiveness of the international whaling convention is a matter about which representations have been made to the Japanese Government.

My right hon. and learned Friend will be happy to know that the Scotch Whisky Bill completed its Committee stage this morning. Can he tell the House what has happened about the GATT council's decision that Japan should have a common tariff for spirits—for both imports and local manufacture—and how that will help Scotch? Have we made any progress?

I congratulate my hon. Friend on the success of the Bill to which he referred. I know of his intense interest in this subject over many years. It is right to say that I do not share his general interest in the topic to quite the same extent.

I have been concerned about Japan in that context. Access for Scotch whisky was at the top of my agenda when I first went there as Minister for Trade and Consumer Affairs in 1973. It has taken a long time. With the support of the European Community we had to take the matter to the GATT panel, which reported in favour of our case. In December the Japanese accepted those findings and announced that they intended to reform their liquor tax in the right direction to give effect to those findings. I impressed upon them that we expect the recommendation to be implemented in full and emphasised that we shall look carefully at the detailed proposals and at the changes that should come into effect without further delay.