HC Deb 26 March 1973 vol 853 cc907-8
18. Mr. Lipton

asked the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry whether imports of handicraft products from developing countries will be affected by the new European Community general scheme of preferences.

Sir G. Howe

The bulk of such products are included in the schemes of both the United Kingdom and the Six, and we would not expect the alignment of the United Kingdom's scheme with that of the enlarged Community to affect their treatment.

Mr. Lipton

May we take it that, as Commonwealth countries in Asia and Africa attach considerable importance to the export of their native handicrafts, exports to this country will not be adver-sally affected by tariffs or quotas?

Sir G. Howe

As I have explained, handicraft products as defined are included in both schemes, that of this country and that of the Six, and we do not expect the alignment to involve any change in that position.

26. Mr. Marten

asked the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry whether the proposals for a new EEC general scheme of preferences will be more or less favourable to developing countries than the existing United Kingdom scheme due to end this year.

Sir G. Howe

The generalised preference scheme of the enlarged Community has not yet been established, but the negotiations for the United Kingdom accession to this scheme are being conducted in the light of the summit directive calling for an improvement in generalised prefer- ences for the benefit of the developing countries.

Mr. Marten

Are the Government trying to ensure in negotiations that Commonwealth countries do not suffer in any way by a changeover to any new system? Is my right hon. and learned Friend aware that it is on an issue such as this that many people will judge whether the Common Market is inward-looking or outward-looking?

Sir G. Howe

It would be wrong to conclude that the Community scheme would mean more restricted access to developing countries than they enjoy at present. My hon. Friend can be assured that Her Majesty's Government take account of the importance of the objective set out in the summit communiqué, namely, to improve generalised preferences, with the aim of achieving a steady increase in imports of manufactures from developing countries.

Mr. Deakins

Is it not a fact that the existing Community generalised preference scheme is much less generous than is our own scheme in respect of developing countries? Is it not ludicrous that we should have to adopt the existing Community scheme pending negotiations on an improved scheme for the enlarged Community? Surely we should have kept our own more generous scheme.

Sir G. Howe

It is not right to conclude that the Community scheme was in all respects more restrictive than our own. It is in the context of the comparison between the two schemes that negotiations are taking place for the alignment of them both.

Mr. Biffen

If my right hon. and learned Friend can obtain a new generalised preference scheme in line with what the Government themselves ideally require, even if they have not told the House what that is, does he foresee as a consequence that trade with the developing countries will be in every way as liberal as it is now?

Sir G. Howe

The premises of my hon. Friend's question are rather complex. The objective is to maintain liberalism in this pattern of trade and to move towards the objective of increasing liberalisation in the way set out in the communiqué.