HC Deb 12 February 1968 vol 758 cc945-6
43. Mr. Hooley

asked the Minister of Technology if he will convene a ministerial meeting of representatives of the European Free Trade Association countries to arrange for the preparation of a report on technological co-operation in Europe, as a counterpart to the report now in preparation by the Commission of the European Economic Community.

Mr. Benn

No, Sir. We are prepared to consider the possibility of technological co-operation with any European country and, to this end, welcome the proposals made by the Benelux Governments which include a suggestion for common action in various fields, including technology.

Mr. Hooley

Is my right hon. Friend not aware that the Six are taking this question of technological co-operation very seriously indeed? Is it not time that we took comparable steps and studies with our own partners to establish a strong negotiating position?

Mr. Benn

I do not think that technological collaboration is something where one establishes a strong negotiating position by starting on two sides. Indeed, so far as E.F.T.A., within the Stockholm Convention, has taken an interest in technology, it was to agree to harmonise standards on an all European basis. The answer that I gave, if my hon. Friend reads it carefully, will open up the possibilities which he wants.

Mr. David Price

Would the right hon. Gentleman not agree that the biggest single obstacle to increasing trade in technological products, not only between E.F.T.A. and Europe, but round the free world, is the tariff obstacle? The stan- dardisation of regulations—pharmaceutical and so on—round the world is most important, and probably G.A.T.T. and the U.N. are the two best places to do it.

Mr. Benn

I am sure that if we are serious about trade and technological cooperation, standards are of great importance. I would not say they are the only or the greatest obstacles, but without improvement along these lines there will be an absolute limit to the amount we can achieve.