HC Deb 21 May 1979 vol 967 cc679-82
8. Mr. Meacher

asked the Secretary of State for Trade if he will make a statement on UNCTAD V.

9. Mr. Tim Renton

asked the Secretary of State for Trade whether he intends to take a part in the fifth United Nations conference on Trade and Development.

25. Mr. Forman

asked the Secretary of State for Trade if he will make a statement on Her Majesty's Government's policy for UNCTAD V.

Mr. Nott

The Government will be working, together with other developed countries in the European Community and more widely in OECD, for a constructive debate at the conference on the central issues of trade and development. My hon. Friend the Minister of State will be going to Manila to lead the United Kingdom delegation in the final week of the conference.

Mr. Meacher

Given the Secretary of State's constantly-stated objection to protectionism, what offers are the Government making to developing countries to open up the British market to increased imports from low-cost countries? If there are no offers, what does the Secretary of State mean by saying that he believes in free trade?

Mr. Nott

That is a very strange question, posed in those terms and coming as it does from the hon. Gentleman. I believe—as I think the hon. Gentleman implies—that trade is vital for the developing world. We wish to encourage it in every way possible. I have been able to look into the position, and I believe that the newly-industrialised countries have provided a good market for our exports in the past few years. We could have greater trade with these countries, and I am hoping to promote it.

Mr. Renton

I am glad that the Minister of State will be going to Manila for the last week of UNCTAD V. Bearing in mind the disarray of the Third world countries, what attitude will the Minister take towards thé common fund and other attempts to stabilise foreign exchange earnings of poor but important exporters of primary raw materials?

Mr. Nott

My hon. Friend the Minister of State will be confirming the previous Government's commitment to the common fund. That has already been done in the negotiations in Manila. As my hon. Friend the Member for Mid-Sussex (Mr. Renton) says, commodities are vitally important for the less developed countries and for the group of 77. That is one of the main topics now being discussed.

Mr. Forman

Will my right hon. Friend instruct his Department to give the highest priority to the removal of non-tariff barriers which also conflict with the interests of many developing countries? If we are to get out of the international recession which is now hitting the whole world, is there not a good chance that developing countries can help the developed world to do so effectively?

Mr. Nott

The removal or the elimination of as many non-tariff barriers as possible is vital for the future of world trade and the livelihood of those in the less-developed countries. I hope that the final discussions of the Tokyo round will be satisfactory in that respect.

Mrs. Dunwoody

May I take it from what the Secretary of State says that he intends to do something about the so-called safeguard clause that the EEC operates against the Third world? That provision makes it extremely difficult for a developing country to negotiate a trade agreement within the EEC. It is out-and-out discrimination.

Mr. Nott

If I understand the hon. Lady's question correctly, the proposals for new selective safeguards are under discussion as part of the final negotiations in the Tokyo round. When the developing countries are included in the final discussions with the developed world on this subject we shall be interested to see what happens. However, I cannot predict the outcome of the discussions as they have not yet taken place.

Mr. Hooley

Will the Government honour the commitment of the previous Government to write off the £900 million of debt of the developing countries? Will the Government press at UNCTAD for a more general consideration of the debt problem between the Western world and the developing countries?

Mr. Nott

I regret to tell the hon. Gentleman that I need some notice of that question. I shall reply to him in writing as soon as possible.

Mr. William Clark

Does my right hon. Friend not agree that, although trade with the Third world may or may not be desirable, what is vital to the United Kingdom is our balance of payments and unemployment figures? Rather than give generalised approval to the concept of trade with the Third world, will my right hon. Friend assure the House that he will scrutinise carefully every area?

Mr. Nott

Interestingly enough, I was examining the figures and I should like to quote an example to my hon. Friend. Between 1975 and 1977, over 30 per cent. of our trade surplus in manufactures came from trade with the newly-industrialised countries. That is one of our largest trade surpluses. The future of the developing world is intimately tied up with our own industrial prosperity.

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