HC Deb 08 February 1966 vol 724 cc205-6
Q5. Mr. Ridsdale

asked the Prime Minister whether, in his recent talks in Washington, he discussed the question of the lowering of tariffs and following up the initiative that was taken by the late President Kennedy in this respect.

The Prime Minister

Sir, in all my talks with President Johnson, the joint desire of both Governments to give effect to the late President Kennedy's proposals for lowering tariffs and dealing with other impediments to world trade, has been central to our examination of world economic problems.

Mr. Ridsdale

Why has the Prime Minister not done mote in the last year to breathe new life into President Kennedy's liberalising initiative? Surely it would be very wrong to make the strengthening of Atlantic relations re-conditional on the uncertain process of European unification? Surely it is possible to ride both these policies in double harness?

The Prime Minister

However that may be, the reason why faster progress has not been made in the Kennedy Round over two or three years—right hon. Members opposite suffered the same difficulty as we have suffered—has been the long slowing up of the process due to the inability of the E.E.C. to negotiate particularly on agriculture. We all know why it happened. This is one thing which cannot be blamed on either the present or the previous Government.

Mr. Grimond

Will the Prime Minister assure the House that it is the policy of the Government to reduce tariffs? Can he say when the 10 per cent. surcharge will be removed?

The Prime Minister

Yes, of course it is our policy to reduce tariffs and we want to ensure that the Kennedy Round is a success. If it is held up indefinitely we shall have to consider other methods of giving effect to the same objective. When the surcharge was introduced I said that we regretted it as a retrograde step because it might be regarded as a protectionist measure. It is not a protectionist measure and as soon as it is safe to remove it we shall do so.