HC Deb 12 February 1973 vol 850 cc969-71
15. Mr. Marten

asked the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry if he is now in a position to explain the attitude which Her Majesty's Government will take towards the forthcoming GATT negotiations.

16. Mr. Jay

asked the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry what policies the Government intend to put forward in the international negotiations on trade and tariffs due to open in September.

Mr. Peter Walker

The United Kingdom will pursue, in concert with its partners in the enlarged Community, the objectives adopted by the October 1972 summit meeting of encouraging the development of international trade on the basis of progressive liberalisation.

Mr. Marten

Can we have an assurance that, before the Government adopt a common policy towards the Common Market approach to these negotiations, the House will have an opportunity to express its views and tell the Government what it thinks they ought to be doing? Will the Department lift another corner of another of its seven veils and assure us that they will press for the reduction of the common external tariff?

Mr. Walker

The liberalisation of international trade has been the policy of successive Governments in this country over a period of years. It has now been adopted by the Common Market as its approach to these trade negotiations. If the House wants to discuss the decisions made at the summit conference, approaches can be made through the usual channels.

Mr. Jay

Are there to be any specifically British proposals in these extremely important negotiations, or do the Government no longer regard themselves as the Government of an independent country?

Mr. Walker

When the right lion. Gentleman was President of the Board of Trade and became involved in a number of detailed negotiations for liberalising trade, he did not bring to the House every liberalising measure he had in mind.

Mr. Benn

This is the second time today that the right hon. Gentleman has said that he cannot reveal the stance of the Government before the Community discusses the matter. First, it was regional policy. Do we take it, therefore, that he regards himself as being unable to make statements to the House about the British Government's policy until the EEC has in every case reached a view?

Mr. Walker

I wish the right hon. Gentleman would listen to the answers. I made clear the policy of the Government which was agreed at the summit conference last October.

23. Mr. Moate

asked the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry if Her Majesty's Government share the objective of the United State Government to secure the elimination of all barriers to international trade; and if he can yet make a statement about the British position in the forthcoming multilateral trade negotiations.

Mr. Peter Walker

Such an objective has not been put forward by the United States Government.

Mr. Moate

Does my right hon. Friend agree that the present currency crisis adds even more to the urgency for requiring reductions in agricultural and industrial protectionism and that these views have been expressed in the past by the United States administration? Even if that is not the case, would it not be helpful for the success of the GATT talks in the autumn if the British Government were to give more public support and an enthusiastic commitment to securing a reduction in tariffs, especially industrial tariffs, as soon as possible?

Mr. Walker

I recently had talks in Washington with the United States Government about this. My right hon. Friend the Prime Minister had talks with the President on this topic. We very much urged on the United States Government the belief expressed at the European summit that it was vital for world trade that there should be a liberalisation on both sides.

Mr. Jay

Cannot the right hon. Gentleman at least say that the British Government will at once propose drastic liberalisation of the common agricultural policy in these negotiations?

Mr. Walker

This is a matter for detailed negotiation on both sides. We have agreed to the common agricultural policy as it is. Agricultural products will certainly be among the items discussed but not the policy, which is an agreed policy.