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West Germany

Volume 167: debated on Wednesday 14 February 1990

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To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry what is the current balance of trade in manufactured goods with West Germany.

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Corporate Affairs
(Mr. John Redwood)

The deficit with Germany in 1989 was £9·6 billion on the manufactured trade account.

As the deficit with West Germany has grown by over £6 billion since 1979 and now accounts for about half the total deficit, will the Minister acknowledge that he has a problem? Does he recognise that it is his responsibility and will he do something about it? When he acts to close the gap, will he develop an industrial strategy based on British rather than foreign industry?

Many good things are happening. The Labour party never looks at the invisible account, yet we export services and earn a great deal of money from investments abroad. Do Labour Members realise that we earn more from invisible credits than from total exports of manufactured goods? Do they realise that exports were up by 15 per cent. in the last quarter of 1989 compared with 1988? Do they agree that the strategy that we have developed of a firm approach to fiscal policy and allowing enterprise to get on with the job is working? Have Labour Members seen the latest export surveys which show that exports are going well? Do they realise that their strategy would cause considerable distress?

Will the Minister at least accept that trade with West Germany has become a trade disaster area? The deficit is twice as large as the one with Japan, which is now a much more open market. Would it not do more good for British trade if, instead of spending a great deal of money on posters telling us that the internal market has arrived, the Minister considered the many examples that have been sent to him of how the Germans restrict imports for wholly bogus and non-tariff reasons?

The Government are dedicated to completing the 1992 programme. We are especially keen to remove barriers to trade in invisibles to complement the good work being done in the manufacturing sector to remove such barriers. If my hon. Friend wishes to send more details of restraints on trade that are against the EEC treaty and against Government policy, I and my right hon. Friend will pursue the matter with vigour.