HC Deb 28 May 1957 vol 571 cc199-200
24. Mr. Russell

asked the President of the Board of Trade if he is aware that several of the articles listed in Schedule B of the recent Anglo-Australian Trade Agreement such as mowers, cement-making machines, channelling machines, and certain hand tools, enjoyed preference of 25 per cent. or more before the agreement came into force; and what estimate he has made of the effect on United Kingdom exports if the margins of preference on these and other articles are reduced to the minimum of 7½ per cent.

The Minister of State, Board of Trade (Mr. Derek Walker-Smith)

Yes, Sir. These items have in recent years accounted for about 3 per cent. of our exports to Australia. I am confident that, as my right hon. Friend the then President of the Board of Trade said on 12th November last, our exporters to Australia should be sufficiently competitive to hold the market notwithstanding the reduction of preference margins.

Mr. Russell

If that is the case, how is it that Australia is not satisfied with the preference margin that she gets from this country? Surely if Australia is not satisfied, we are being rather complacent in being satisfied with the reduction in the preference on our exports to Australia?

Mr. Walker-Smith

I do not think I said anything to justify the charge of complacency. It is true that some of our preferences are being reduced, but my hon. Friend, who has so much expert knowledge of this subject, will appreciate that the preferences we now have are certain for five years, whereas the previous preferences were at six months' notice.

Mr. Gordon Walker

In order that the full impact of this Agreement upon our trade and upon Commonwealth preferences can be properly considered by hon. Members, would the right hon. and learned Gentleman try to initiate a publication setting out the reduction of tariffs on all the various items that come into the Agreement? Until we get that, it is very difficult for us to judge the effect of this Agreement.

Mr. Walker-Smith

I have, of course, carefully studied what the right hon. Gentleman said about this on Thursday night, and we will certainly give consideration to his suggestion.