HC Deb 16 February 1981 vol 999 cc14-5
17. Mr. Shersby

asked the Secretary of State for Trade to what extent the various measures imposed by the United States of America to protect domestic industry known as the Buy American Act constitute an effective non-tariff barrier to British exports; and if he will make a statement.

Mr. Biffen

The effect of the Buy American Act 1933 on British exports is difficult to quantify because of the wide coverage of the Act. There have been numerous individual complaints from British firms, and successive Governments have made representations to the United States authorities on their behalf.

Under the GATT Government procurement code, which came into operation on 1 January 1981, the United States have waived "Buy American" provisions for products covered by the code.

Mr. Shersby

Is my right hon. Friend aware that many British firms, particularly our computer firms, are having difficulty in penetrating the United States market, due to the existence of this statutory code? Will he therefore ensure that when my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister meets President Reagan shortly this item will be on the agenda so that the curious situation which has persisted since the 1930s is reviewed and, one hopes, brought to an end?

Mr. Biffen

I cannot write the agenda, but I will certainly make sure that my hon. Friend's views are given wider coverage on this matter.

Mr. Colvin

Will my right hon. Friend confirm that the Buy American Act does not apply to the trade in defence hardware? Will he therefore use his influence to persuade the Americans that the two-way street of reciprocal sales and purchases of defence hardware between the United States and the United Kingdom becomes indeed a two-way street and does not remain very much a one-way street in favour of the United States as it is at present?

Mr. Biffen

I think that my hon. Friend makes a very pertinent observation.