HC Deb 18 November 1974 vol 881 cc890-1
28. Mr. Roper

asked the Secretary of State for Trade if he will make a statement on the improvements in the European Communities' generalised scheme of preferences offered to developing countries for next year.

Mr. Shore

At its meeting of 12th November the EEC Council of Ministers agreed on improvements to the Community's Generalised Preference Scheme for 1975. I am pleased to say that a number of these will be of help to developing Commonwealth countries in Asia. Furthermore, the Council has agreed to a fundamental review early next year of the Community's strategy for the future development of the scheme. I will circulate the details of these conclusions in the OFFICIAL REPORT.

Mr. Roper

May I congratulate my right hon. Friend on his success in these negotiations? Does he agree that the extension of the generalised scheme to agricultural products represents an important success? Is this not in itself one step forward in our renegotiation of the terms of entry?

Mr. Shore

I am grateful to my hon. Friend for his kind remarks. While it is welcome that some agricultural products should be included, the House must be made aware that it is a very modest step.

Following are the details:

The most important improvement is one providing for a considerable reduction in the number of products where the preferential trade is subject to particular restrictions. This, along with an overall increase of the order of 15 per cent. in the trade which can benefit from the scheme, affords additional scope for all beneficiaries.

Other improvements, of particular interest to the Asian Commonwealth, represent a further step in the implementation of the Community's joint declaration of intent towards them. They cover the tariff treatment of lute and coir products, of particular interest to India and Bangladesh; a substantial increase in the tariff concessions for tobacco produced by India; an agreement in principle to include a range of tropical oils of interest to South-East Asian developing countries when the trade provisions of the new Convention of Association come into effect; an improved concession on plywood which will be of particular value to Malaysia; and there are a number of small additions to the coverage of the scheme in the agricultural sector.

One of the Government's objectives has been to improve the position of Hong Kong, against which we have to discriminate in the Community's Generalised Preference Scheme. It has been agreed that from next year Hong Kong will be included as a beneficiary for rubber and plastic footwear, which are her major interests in so far as footwear exports are concerned. The Community has also undertaken to look further next year at the question of the exclusion from the scheme of her textiles.