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Footwear

Volume 164: debated on Monday 8 January 1990

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To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry what is his policy on negotiations in the EEC in relation to footwear imports from Taiwan and South Korea; and if he will press for immediate strict limitation of such imports to the United Kingdom.

The Government are prepared to support safeguard action where the conditions for such action are met and the restrictions can be fully and economically justified. In our view the European Commission's report on the impact on Community producers of imports of footwear from South Korea and Taiwan does not provide sufficient justification for such action. We have informed the Commission therefore that consistently with our general approach on trade policy issues the United Kingdom Government are opposed to safeguard action on imports of footwear from South Korea and Taiwan. We have, however, suggested to the Commission that if it were to propose some form of surveillance licensing we would give this sympathetic consideration.

To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry what is his estimate of the number of jobs in the United Kingdom footwear industry which are dependent on the maintaining of the voluntary restraint agreement with Poland.

It is not possible to estimate the number of jobs in the United Kingdom footwear industry which are dependent on the maintaining of the voluntary restraint arrangement.

To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry what assessment he has made of the number of jobs displaced in the United Kingdom footwear industry by imports from (a) Taiwan and (b) South Korea.

It is not possible to assess the number of jobs displaced in the United Kingdom footwear industry by imports from Taiwan and South Korea.

To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry if he will take steps to ensure that the voluntary restraint agreement limiting leather footwear imports from Poland remains in force for the foreseeable future.

Ministers have considered the industry's arguments for renewing the voluntary restraint arrangement (VRA) on Polish leather footwear very carefully, but have concluded that it would not be appropriate to press the EC Commission to renew the VRA on our behalf.There are three considerations which support this conclusion. First, it would be inconsistent with the Government's political commitment to assist the Poles in their progress to economic, political and social reform if we were to restrict footwear imports. Secondly, with effect from 1 January 1990 all Community restrictions on Polish footwear are to be lifted and thirdly, even if the VRA were to be renewed its effects could be totally undermined by imports of footwear on free circulation via other member states.I have told the industry, however, that we will monitor the situation and reconsider the case for the renewal of the VRA towards the end of this year in the light of experience and in the context of the Community's consideration of its general attitude to Poland. If, in the meantime, imports of leather footwear from Poland should damage the United Kingdom industry significantly I will consider the possibility of applying either for safeguard action or for anti-dumping remedies.