Bosporus Bridge Contract

Oral Answers to Questions — Trade and Industry – in the House of Commons at 12:00 am on 5th June 1985.

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Photo of Mr Bowen Wells Mr Bowen Wells , Hertford and Stortford 12:00 am, 5th June 1985

asked the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry if he has raised with the general agreement on tariffs and trade the credit arrangements for the Bosporus bridge contract.

Photo of Mr Norman Tebbit Mr Norman Tebbit , Chingford

The arrangements for export credit operation involving elements of aid are handled under the consensus and development aid committees of the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development rather than under the GATT. The Government are currently exploring within those OECD groups the issues raised by the type of credit arrangements offered by Japan for the second Bosporus bridge.

Photo of Mr Bowen Wells Mr Bowen Wells , Hertford and Stortford

Is it not unacceptable that the Japanese Government should put my right hon. Friend in the position of losing a major contract to the Japanese for bridge building although we produced the lowest contract price? Because of the use of subsidised export credits and trade in aid-type arrangements, the Japanese have won this major contract and, thus, are able to penetrate a market that was previously dominated by the British, with a consequent loss of jobs for the United Kingdom. Yet, the Japanese refuse to accept proper trade terms for the entry of our goods. Is it not essential that my right hon. Friend negotiates a watertight arrangement to put our manufacturers and exporters on the same basis as Japanese business men?

Photo of Mr Norman Tebbit Mr Norman Tebbit , Chingford

I well understand my hon. Friend's anxiety. As I said the last time when I answered questions on this matter, it does not appear that the Japanese broke any undertakings and agreements on aid. However— [Interruption.] If the House is finished, I shall continue. However, what I find—[Interruption.]

Photo of Mr Bernard Weatherill Mr Bernard Weatherill , Croydon North East

Order. I seldom see the Secretary of State lost for words. Let him continue.

Photo of Mr Norman Tebbit Mr Norman Tebbit , Chingford

I am not lost for words, but I have no intention of shouting above this bear garden, and the sooner hon. Members stop shouting, the sooner we shall get on. [Interruption.]

Photo of Mr Bernard Weatherill Mr Bernard Weatherill , Croydon North East

Order. Perhaps I should not have said that.

Photo of Mr Norman Tebbit Mr Norman Tebbit , Chingford

Of course you should have said that, Mr. Speaker. Mr. Speaker is always right.

The point about the Bosporus bridge contract, which I have sought to make both here and in discussions with the Japanese authorities, is that their dumping of cheap credit to obtain this contract is incompatible with the assurances and policies announced by Mr. Nakasone, under which the Japanese are seeking to limit their trade surplus. That matter is being taken up forcefully with the Japanese authorities, and unless they pay attention, before long other countries will take protectionist measures against them. I hope that they will draw back from the position into which they are getting before it is too late.

Photo of Mr Bryan Gould Mr Bryan Gould , Dagenham

In the light of the predatory policies being pursued by the Japanese, and in the light of what the Secretary of State has just said, does he accept that this is hardly the time to contemplate unilateral disarmament in trade of the sort with which the Government seem to be flirting in the wake of the Byatt report? Will he listen to the views of the National Economic Development Office, published today, and of his Department's overseas projects board, and ensure that British firms which seek major contracts abroad are not left defenceless against the Japanese and other foreign competitors?

Photo of Mr Norman Tebbit Mr Norman Tebbit , Chingford

It is not my habit to flirt. When I get started, I get on with it.