HC Deb 15 May 1996 vol 277 c945
17. Mr. MacShane

To ask the President of the Board of Trade what steps he is taking to strengthen the global regulation of free trade. [28373]

Mr. Lang

The Government attach a high priority to developing the multilateral trading system based on the World Trade Organisation. The WTO ministerial meeting in Singapore in December should set in train a comprehensive work programme to carry forward the process of multilateral trade liberalisation, building on the achievements of the Uruguay round.

Mr. MacShane

Does the Secretary of State agree that one of the biggest impediments to world free trade is the increasingly protectionist approach of the United States of America? Will he protest to Washington about, first, its ban on beef imports from the United Kingdom; secondly, the level of subsidy given to each American farmer which is twice the amount received by European farmers; thirdly, the outrageous embargo on Cuba, which is now threatening British firms; and, fourthly, the withdrawal of world telecommunications liberalisation from WTO discussions because it is not convenient for Motorola? Will he tell the protectionists in Washington to open up and support free trade?

Mr. Lang

I again welcome the Labour party's change in tone: it is suddenly against protection and in favour of free trade. We have identified all the points raised by the hon. Gentleman and they will continue to feature in our discussions. I hope that he will welcome the great progress that was made during the Uruguay round under the general agreement on tariffs and trade and the substantial improvements that have occurred.

As to the hon. Gentleman's last point about telecommunications, the negotiations have been postponed and we shall work hard to ensure that they are concluded in time for the arrangements to come into force as targeted originally.

Mr. Dunn

Does my right hon. Friend agree that the Labour party's defence of free trade is as absurd as a whistling pig? Does he agree that the Conservative party is the only party that favours free trade? We oppose every form of regulation, whether from Europe or from elsewhere in the world.

Mr. Lang

My hon. Friend is absolutely right. He may have noticed in the press the report of my speech in which I identified 2020 as the target for achieving global free trade. That will be attained through a series of steps, the first of which will occur in Singapore this year when the British Government will lay before the meeting an agenda that will move incrementally towards freer trade.

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