The Government regard imports from non-market economy countries as dumped if their price to the United Kingdom is lower than that of comparable goods imported from market economy countries.
Is the Under-Secretary satisfied that the criteria being applied are sufficiently precise to prevent the dumping of men's leatherwear and made-up clothing? Is he absolutely satisfied that the criteria applied to measuring the true costs of production in the COMECON countries are as precise as they need to be to deal with this very difficult question?
There is no way in which we can possibly measure the cost of production in a non-market economy country. We do not apply that criterion because we could not follow it. Tightening up the GATT is obviously a matter not merely for Britain but for other GATT countries. However, I should like to point out to the hon. Gentleman and all others interested that it is in their own interests as a major trading nation to ensure that, although there are rules and that they are stringent and widely observed, they are not made so stringent that they could be used against us and our own exports.
Does my hon. Friend agree that, whatever difficulties there may be about the preciseness of the definition, we have recently moved into a surplus in trading with many of the countries described in the Question and that most of the economic forecasters predict that we shall move into substantial surpluses with many of these countries in the years to come?
We have surpluses with a number of East European countries at present, largely as a result of their exports to Britain falling off because of the recession in Britain and in other industrial countries. When, as we all hope, the recession ends next year and world trade takes an upturn, their exports to Britain, France and Germany and other industrial countries should automatically increase.
Is not the present GATT meeting in Geneva a splendid opportunity for the Government to take an initiative in attempting to have "dumping" redefined, as widespread violation of the dumping provisions of GATT appears manifest in many countries? Is the Secretary of State satisfied that the Government are showing sufficient initiative? Would it not be in their interests to take a greater interest and thereby take some of the steam out of the pressure coming from behind them to introduce selective import controls?
I am anxious, as the House will know, to ensure that there are not breaches of the anti-dumping code and law of the GATT. I should be interested to receive any evidence that the hon. Gentleman wishes to offer of widespread breaches. An important factor as regards large trading countries is that the United States has not fully aligned itself with the GATT antidumping code. So far this has not had a major effect, but there are a number of inquiries taking place in the United States now in which dumping is being alleged against British and other European goods but in which those making the allegations do not have to show material injury. That is a very important and adverse fact from our point of view.
Is the Secretary of State aware that the Opposition are not satisfied that the present measures against dumping are adequate? Nor are we satisfied that his Department is giving as much help as it might to those who have great difficulty in establishing what the price is in the domestic market of the goods being shipped to this country. This is particularly so in the context of the comparisons with the non-market countries. What initiative is the Secretary of State taking in the EEC to show that its views expressed in the negotiations reflect these fears?
A number of discussions are taking place, but in the context of the multilateral trade negotiations let us be realistic. The multilateral negotiations offer us a major opportunity to look again in a searching way at the GATT anti-dumping code. Again being realistic, the timetable for reaching agreement in the MTNs is one which must look more to 1977 than to 1976. In the meantime, if the hon. Gentleman has any specific proposals that he wants to put to me with a view to making this more effective, he will find me entirely willing to consider them, because I have no doubt that both sides of the House have a united interest in this matter.
What steps is my right hon. Friend taking to promote the export of British cars to Japan? How optimistic is he about the likely outcome of the voluntary agreement that he reached in Japan this year on the subject of the import of Japanese cars into the United Kingdom?
That is a somewhat different question. I am expecting further talks between the representatives of the British car industry and the Japanese car industry to take place in December. When those talks have taken place, I shall be able to give a much firmer reply to my hon. Friend's important question.
My Department has received ten formal applications for antidumping action since 1st May. Of these cases, one has been withdrawn and one completed to the satisfaction of the British industry. Five are under urgent investigation and three are awaiting further evidence from the applicants.
Is the hon. Gentleman aware that his answer again demonstrates the slowness of his Department in dealing with what is, on the basis of evidence from both sides of the House, a very serious problem? Is he aware that if his Department had taken action about shoe imports from COMECON countries three years ago, we should have had some satisfaction? As it is, we have a mild abatement from that source, but now the whole industry is concerned about the possibility of across-the-board import controls, which it does not want.
We are considering urgently and sympathetically whether to introduce surveillance licensing. We had a voluntary agreement with COMECON countries to restrict imports of men's leather footwear, but complaints from the footwear industry come right across the board. There are, for instance, complaints about imports of ladies' leather footwear from Italy and other areas, and of cheap footwear being imported from Brazil. The complaints are not confined to COMECON countries. When the hon. Member criticises the slowness of my Department, he should realise that, although there are many complaints against dumping, it is easy to bandy accusations but less easy to get an industry-wide case supported by the whole industry and based on serious evidence that can be investigated.
Is my hon. Friend aware that the answers we have had from the Front Bench today have been very disappointing? The introduction of selective import controls is not part of an academic exercise. If my hon. Friends had been out of work for three or four months, they might take a different view of this issue. Does my hon. Friend recall that the document "Labour and Industry", passed by the Labour Party conference, called for selective import controls, as did the general secretary on behalf of the party as a whole? Is it not lime that my hon. Friends listened to what the party said on this issue instead of listening to hon. Members opposite?
We are ready to listen to people throughout industry, let alone to hon. Members on both sides of the House, about the problem of selective import controls. I am sorry that my hon. Friend has found our replies disappointing, but Government policy on this matter is evolving.
We have to take account of our international obligations, but we shall do what we can to protect the legitimate needs of British industry. My hon. Friend may not realise it, but, although I have had no personal experience of unemployment, I need no lessons from the Labour Benches about unemployment. My father's life was destroyed in the 1920s and 1930s by unemployment, which left a scar on him and bitter memories for me.
Does the hon. Gentleman agree that the voluntary agreement with COMECON countries is useless for the shoe industry, because, although the imports of men's shoes have been reduced, imports of women's and children's shoes have been increased? As this voluntary agreement has obviously failed, what proposals have the Government for helping the industry?
I do not accept that the scheme has failed. It covers a particular category—men's leather footwear—and it is being observed. We shall be keeping a close watch on it both this year and next. The fact that countries choose to increase imports of other commodities is a different situation which can be looked at afresh.