HC Deb 03 July 1991 vol 194 cc304-5
6. Sir Michael McNair-Wilson

To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry whether he will make a statement on the progress of the talks between the members of the European Community and the European Free Trade Association.

Mr. Sainsbury

Good progress has been made towards the creation of a European economic area in the talks between the Community and the European Free Trade Association.

Sir Michael McNair-Wilson

By how much have British exports to the Community increased over the past 10 years? Can my hon. Friend give similar figures for our trade with EFTA?

Mr. Sainsbury

I shall write to my hon. Friend with the details, but he will be aware that our exports to the Community have grown substantially, as have our exports to EFTA. Even in a difficult world trading environment, with a recession in EFTA countries such as Sweden, our exports this year are well ahead of those for last year by volume.

Mr. Cohen

When will the Minister do something about the rotten COCOM agreement, which is contrary to free trade in Europe? Has he not had correspondence from me and OPT Optical Fibres in my constituency, which wants to export sub-standard fibres to the Soviet Union, but cannot because it is blocked by the agreement and the Government? That is affecting its business, and jobs are going to the wall. Has not the managing director written to the Minister to say that the DTI is letting down British industry in this respect? When will the Minister do something about this rotten agreement instead of living in the cold war?

Mr. Sainsbury

The hon. Gentleman has, as on other occasions, introduced a subject that I find hard to relate to the negotiations between the EEC and EFTA. He will know that the COCOM arrangements are important for the security of our country. Therefore, I hope that he will have due regard to them.

Mr. Donald Thompson

When my hon. Friend conducts these talks, will he refer to the seemingly endless stream of Chinese textile goods coming through Denmark to be dumped in this country, sometimes as cheap as 17p a pair?

Mr. Sainsbury

The matter to which my hon. Friend refers is being considered, although it would not be directly affected by the negotiations which are the subject of the original question. However, bringing EFTA countries into a European economic area will improve trading opportunities for British industry throughout Europe.

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