Bilateral Trade

Oral Answers to Questions — Scotland – in the House of Commons at 12:00 am on 7th July 1993.

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Photo of Michael Fabricant Michael Fabricant , Staffordshire Mid 12:00 am, 7th July 1993

To ask the Secretary of State for Scotland if he has any plans to meet trade Ministers from overseas to discuss bilateral trade with businesses in the far east.

Photo of Mr Ian Lang Mr Ian Lang , Galloway and Upper Nithsdale

My right hon. Friend the Minister for Industry and I meet trade Ministers from the far east from time to time. Most recently my right hon. Friend has met the Prime Minister of the Socialist Republic of Vietnam and a delegation of Taiwanese business men.

I propose to visit Japan and South Korea in the autumn.

Photo of Michael Fabricant Michael Fabricant , Staffordshire Mid

I am grateful to my right hon. Friend for that encouraging reply. Does the Scottish Office intend to target particular territories? My right hon. Friend has already mentioned South Korea and Japan. Does he also intend to target growing territories such as Hong Kong and Singapore?

Photo of Mr Ian Lang Mr Ian Lang , Galloway and Upper Nithsdale

I am happy to assure my hon. Friend that we are indeed keen to do that. Our targeting has been extremely successful. In the last year for which figures are known, exports to Japan rose by 10 per cent., to Hong Kong by one quarter and to Singapore by one third.

Exports to South Korea have almost doubled. If the reports from Japan this afternoon are correct and my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister has secured from the Japanese Government dramatic tariff reductions on imported goods, that will be excellent news for Scottish industry.

Photo of Mr Calum MacDonald Mr Calum MacDonald , Na h-Eileanan an Iar

Is the Secretary of State aware that the oil fabrication industry in Scotland faces increasing competition from south-east Asia yards and particularly from South Korean yards? British Petroleum has already awarded a major order covering the Forth field to a South Korean yard and Phillips is considering giving out another major order. Is the Secretary of State just going to leave that kind of situation to the free play of market forces? Does not he believe that it is the responsibility of the Government, and particularly of the Scottish Office, to ensure that the Scottish fabrication industry can compete effectively with South Korean yards? Has the right hon. Gentleman consulted his Energy colleagues in the Department of Trade and Industry in an attempt to ensure that such orders continue to go to yards in Scotland and yards in the United Kingdom?

Photo of Mr Ian Lang Mr Ian Lang , Galloway and Upper Nithsdale

I certainly understand the importance of those yards to the economies of the areas where they are located. However, there can be no question of protecting manufacturing industry in this country from the competitive forces that blow around the world. The only way in which those yards can secure long-lasting employment and security is by being competitive and able to compete and beat the worldwide competition. It is increasingly encouraging that Scottish industry, because it has modernised and because it has invested in new technology, is now competitive and is beating off competition from around the world. Our export orders show the success that we are achieving.