HC Deb 19 April 1955 vol 540 cc4-6
7. Mr. Philip Bell

asked the President of the Board of Trade to make a statement about the result of the recent negotiations in Geneva for the review of the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade and the accession of Japan to the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade.

Mr. P. Thorneycroft

Her Majesty's Government have now given consideration to the results of the recent Review of the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade. We have, of course, been in close touch with other Commonwealth Governments throughout the discussions. For the convenience of the House, a White Paper, containing a full statement of the Government's policy together with a complete text of the Agreement as revised, will be available in the Vote Office later today.

The Government are satisfied that it is in the interests of the United Kingdom to reaffirm their adherence to the principles and objectives of the General Agreement, and they propose accordingly to signify their support for the revised Agreement in due course by signing the protocols of amendments and the agreement on the Organisation for Trade Co-operation. It is the view of the Government that legislation should be introduced to permit the imposition of countervailing and antidumping duties.

A White Paper, embodying a statement of the Government's policy in regard to the possible accession of Japan to the General Agreement, will also be available in the Vote Office. The Government have decided that for the time being they would not be able to accept the obligations of the General Agreement towards Japan, and they desire that trade relations with Japan should continue to be dealt with by mutually negotiated arrangements. But the Government are anxious to put our commercial relations with Japan on a more permanent footing, and they are inviting the Government of Japan to enter into negotiations for a long-term commercial treaty.

Mr. Bottomley

The President of the Board of Trade said that Commonwealth Governments were consulted. Can he give an assurance that no difficulties have arisen from those consultations, particularly in relation to Japan?

Mr. Thorneycroft

It would be hard to say, on anything as complicated and complex as the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade, that there were no difficulties whatever. One of the objects of this consultation was to resolve any difficulties, and it was very successful.

Mr. Woodbum

Would the right hon. Gentleman try to bring about the cessation of some of these trade practices adopted by the Japanese, whereby they obtain sample designs in this country and crash into the markets before the British manufacturer can get going with his own designs?

Mr. Thorneycroft

Those practices have given rise to some concern. Whether they are appropriate for a trade treaty or not is a matter to be decided, but all these matters will be taken into account.

Captain Duncan

Can my right hon. Friend say whether there is anything in the White Paper relating to the safeguarding of horticulture, and whether there will be an opportunity for the horticultural industry to make representations about increased tariffs if necessary?

Mr. Thorneycroft

No, Sir, there is nothing about horticulture specifically, though included in the White Paper is a waiver extending the provisions which allowed rather more flexibility before on the unbound items to the bound items. With regard to further applications, I have, on behalf of the Government, increased a fairly wide range of horticultural tariffs only recently, but in other cases it would be a matter for application and inquiry.

Mr. Bottomley

Can the President of the Board of Trade say whether there were difficulties between the Commonwealth countries as such, and although they were resolved within the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade, can he give an assurance that they were resolved before the general meeting?

Mr. Thorneycroft

I think I can say that perhaps seldom has there been greater unanimity in a general approach to trading matters throughout the Commonwealth.