HC Deb 03 May 1995 vol 259 cc305-6
2. Mr. Waterson

To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs if he will make a statement on relations between the European Union and the United States of America. [20413]

The Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs (Mr. Douglas Hurd)

The United States is the European Union's most important international partner. With annual trade between the two sides at more than $200 billion and a total of some $450 billion invested in each other's markets, it is also Europe's most important trading partner. My right hon. Friend the Prime Minister and President Clinton agreed in Washington that Europe and north America should work together on new ways of reducing barriers to open trade and strengthening the world trading system. We shall pursue those ideas with our north American and European partners.

Mr. Waterson

I thank my right hon. Friend for that answer. Does he agree that it is very much in this country's interests to develop a more open trading relationship between Britain and the European Union on the one hand and the USA on the other? What are the prospects for developing that more open relationship within the next few years?

Mr. Hurd

I certainly hope that those prospects will become a reality. The new World Trade Organisation rules require that any such free trade areas should be genuinely free and cover substantially all trade, which would need to include such sensitive sectors as agriculture and textiles, so it will not be entirely easy. We see a useful role for Europe and north America acting as pathfinders, working together on ways of removing non-tariff barriers to trade and extending liberalisation, for example, in financial services.

Mr. Bill Walker

Does my right hon. Friend agree that, in this troubled and dangerous world, the finest way to help security would be to develop a free trade area embracing Europe and the north American free trade area? Would that not do more to stabilise conditions than almost anything else?

Mr. Hurd

I agree. As I said to my hon. Friend the Member for Eastbourne (Mr. Waterson), various steps can be taken and we hope to act as pathfinders in that direction.

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