HC Deb 13 June 1973 vol 857 cc1457-60
1. Mr. Deakins

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs if he will raise the issue of relationships between the EEC, the United Kingdom and the United States of America at the next meeting of EEC Foreign Ministers.

6. Mr. Marten

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what discussions have taken place in the Council of Ministers about the American proposals of an Atlantic Community contained in Dr. Kissinger's speech of 23rd April 1973.

18. Mr. Moate

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs when he expects there to be a community response to the United States proposals for an Atlantic Community.

The Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs (Sir Alec Douglas-Home)

The meeting of Foreign Ministers of the Nine on 5th June discussed the question of relations between the member States of the European Community and the United States. There was general agreement that the Nine ought to harmonise their policies on this essential question. A statement was issued at the end of the discussion, the text of which is available in the Library. The Foreign Ministers will take up the discussion again in July.

Mr. Deakins

Will the Government be able to express their views to the House of Commons before a Common Market policy is finally formulated on this issue, or does our Common Market membership preclude Her Majesty's Government from expressing independent views in this field in advance of a joint Common Market policy?

Sir Alec Douglas-Home

We could express our views, if we thought it appropriate, at any time. Of course, these matters will be dealt with in different form—finance in the Committee of 20 and trade in the GATT negotiations. Therefore, many policies have to be co-ordinated. I see no restraint on the Government's making a statement.

Mr. Marten

But does my right hon. Friend himself think that it would be a very good idea if this Parliament did that? Secondly, does he not agree that the talks on this subject should be multilateral and not bilateral, which, I think, is what the French urged upon President Nixon in the Iceland meeting the other day?

Sir Alec Douglas-Home

There are bound to be bilateral discussions with the United States all the time. As I said, the Foreign Ministers are trying to design a plan which we can put to the United States for an approach to international finance and an approach to GATT. The appropriate time for a debate in this House on this matter might be after the July meeting.

Mr. Jay

But if there is no constraint on the Government's telling us what their policy is—which I welcome—may we now know what it is?

Sir Alec Douglas-Home

Yes, Sir. The Government's policy is to agree a sensible approach to the United States in preparation for the GATT talks. There is no reason to suppose that we shall not obtain this when we have further discussions in the Community.

Mr. Moate

With regard to the trading features of these proposals, do the British Government fully respond to the American proposals for nil tariffs on industrial trade?

Sir Alec Douglas-Home

I cannot go into details on this point, but a good deal of theology that has bedevilled this question for a long time is now going out of the window. There will be practical arrangements, which will mean that Europe and the United States will approach the negotiations with a reasonably identified point of view.

Mr. Shore

The Foreign Secretary will surely recognise that the objective of a tariff-free area between North America and Western Europe is hardly a matter of theology; it is a major objective for British trade policy and, indeed, for the trade policies of the whole developed world. Surely, he can at least tell us whether it is among the Government's objectives, which they are pressing within the Council of Ministers, in negotiations later this year with the United States and with others concerned. Will lie also confirm, in this same context, whether the CAP and the major agricultural commodities covered by it will also be included in those negotiations?

Sir Alec Douglas-Home

The approaches to the GATT negotiations are the most important thing here. America has its tariff system and Europe its external tariff. When the right hon. Gentleman talks about an eventual free trade area between the two, my answer would be that one step is enough for me. Therefore, we go on talking in the Community and trying to keep a sensible approach to the GATT negotiations, which is the important thing. As for the common agricultural policy, we have made it clear that the structure of that is accepted—when in office, right hon. Gentlemen opposite said the same—but that does not mean that the policy cannot be varied.

Mr. John E. B. Hill

What are the prospects of the Foreign Ministers of the Nine meeting as a Council of Ministers of the EEC, with the power and responsibility to evolve a common EEC foreign policy, as distinct from meeting, as they do, as the Council of Nine Foreign Ministers but not with their EEC corporate status?

Sir Alec Douglas-Home

When the Foreign Ministers meet in the Council they are limited, of course, by the Treaty of Rome. When they meet in a political capacity, that is done under what is called the Davignon machinery.

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