HC Deb 02 November 2000 vol 355 cc832-3
11. Mr. Win Griffiths (Bridgend)

If he will make a statement on Britain's trade within the EU. [133899]

The Minister for Trade (Mr. Richard Caborn)

The EU is the most important market for UK exports of goods and services and accounts for over 50 per cent. of total UK exports. The EU is also a major source of imports, which widens consumer choice, improves value for money and provides essential components that are then used for exports.

Mr. Griffiths

In thanking my right hon. Friend for his answer, may I ask him to congratulate all those involved in providing exports of goods and services, in which we are moving into a position of strength? Will he confirm that about 3 million British jobs are involved, and will he give further information on a standard planning region basis—in particular, on Wales?

Mr. Caborn

My hon. Friend is absolutely right to say that about 3 million jobs are linked directly and indirectly to exports of goods and services to the EU. I do not have with me the statistics that he requires, but shall provide the information in writing and place it in the Library.

Mr. Eric Forth (Bromley and Chislehurst)

With how many countries outside the EU is there a favourable trade agreement?

Mr. Caborn

There are a number of favourable trade agreements with countries outside the EU, as the right hon. Gentleman knows. The EU does not debar this country from having trade agreements with other countries, and we are effective in making favourable agreements outside the EU.

Mr. Bill Rammell (Harlow)

Given that we undertake three times as much trade within the EU as we do with the United States of America, does the Minister agree that it would be contrary to our national interest to join the North American Free Trade Agreement? Does he agree that joining NAFTA would require us to leave the EU, and why does he think the Conservative party are now proposing that?

Mr. Caborn

That is like a number of other red herrings that the Opposition trail across the political spectrum from time to time. When the matter raised by my hon. Friend was studied by the International Trade Commission in Washington, some interesting remarks were made. In a discussion of the UK's possible membership of NAFTA, which had been suggested by some Opposition Members, the ITC said that it would be insignificant for trade, as well as being a political non-starter. That description probably applies to the Opposition as well.

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