§ 17. Mr. Teddy Taylor
asked the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry if he will initiate an inquiry into the reasons for the level of the deficit in manufacturing trade with the EEC; and if he will make a statement.
§ Mr. Alan Clark
The causes of the deficit, which are many and complex, were examined in a report by the Select Committee on Trade and Industry in June 1984.
§ Mr. Taylor
As the current deficit, which is almost £9 million, is equivalent to the loss to Britain of almost 1 million jobs, does my hon. Friend not feel that this is a matter into which the Government should inquire ex,tremely carefully, especially in view of the effect that this could have on us when oil revenues diminish or cease? Will my hon. Friend be willing to examine the abuses of Britain's trade and the consequential loss of jobs that stem from the operation by Germany of the inner German trade,,_ agreement, which is desperately unfair to Britain and British jobs?
§ Mr. Clark
I know of my hon. Friend's special concern on matters of German trade, and I have written him a letter on various aspects of it. He is right in saying that there is a problem with inner German trade, and it is something to which we should be giving our attention. The outward processing aspect has already been considered in 935 the course of arranging the mandate for the renewal of the multi-fibre arrangement, and I think that he will be pleased with the results of that.
§ Mr. Kennedy
Does the Minister agree with the hon. Member for Southend, East (Mr. Taylor), and others who are critical of our balance of trade position with other member states of the European Community, that one of the major reasons for our unfavourable position is the cut of nearly 20 per cent. in manufacturing investment in Britain since the Government came to office?
§ Mr. Clark
I do not know whether a cut in manufacturing investment has anything to do with it. However, I am certain that the lack of competitiveness of British goods. which allows such easy penetration of our domestic markets in so many sectors by the products of other member states, is probably at the root of the problem.
§ Mr. Thurnham
Does my hon. Friend agree that, with the current level of exchange rates, the prospects of increasing our exports to the EEC are better than ever before?