HC Deb 15 November 2001 vol 374 cc996-1009 1.23 pm
The Secretary of State for Trade and Industry (Ms Patricia Hewitt)

With permission, Mr. Speaker, I should like to make a statement on the fourth ministerial conference of the World Trade Organisation in Doha, which concluded yesterday. I was joined in the delegation by my right hon. Friends the Secretary of State for International Development and the Minister for the Environment and my noble Friend the Minister for Trade and Investment.

I am delighted to report a successful outcome. The Doha development agenda combines the launch of a broad new round of trade negotiations with a package of measures specifically focused on the needs of developing countries. At the same time, we welcomed two important new members, China and Chinese Taipei, into the WTO. Those are landmark achievements and we cannot overstate their economic and political importance. Launching a new world trade round has always been a key priority for the United Kingdom and our European partners. As I told the House last week, it was an outcome that we were even more determined to achieve following the atrocities of 11 September.

In the past few days we have seen significant progress in the war on terrorism in Afghanistan. At the same time, nations have come together in Doha to agree a major step forward in the war on poverty, demonstrating that the nations of the world are determined to strengthen security by sharing prosperity. By stimulating economic growth, a development-focused trade round offers the best opportunity to billions of people in developing countries to escape from poverty. With the downturn in the world economy, this historic deal gives a badly needed boost to economic confidence.

The package that we have agreed brings real and in some cases immediate benefits to developing countries—benefits for which my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for International Development has long been working. We have opened the way to greater access to the medicines that developing countries need to deal with HIV/AIDS and other serious health crises, by clarifying the existing WTO rules without compromising the incentives required to ensure that new drugs are developed for the future.

We have ensured that the European Union will continue to give preferential treatment to imports from African, Caribbean and Pacific countries—an issue that is of enormous concern to more than 50 of our WTO colleagues, including some of the poorest countries in the world.

We agreed on steps—both immediately and in the next year—that address developing countries' concerns over the implementation of previous WTO agreements. We reaffirmed the importance of building developing countries' capacity to participate in the global trading system and we emphasised the need for further capacity building to be an integral part of the new negotiations.

A new round opens the prospect of increased trade in agriculture, in other goods and in services. Such trade is the most secure path to economic progress for developing countries. If we could just halve the trade protection in both developing and developed countries the wealth of developing countries would be boosted by around $150 billion a year. For the least developed countries we have also agreed the objective of duty-free and quota-free access for their products, extending to other WTO members the principle of the EU' s everything but arms agreement.

For developed as well as developing countries, the Doha agreement will provide a significant new push in a number of areas of great importance to the UK. The new trade round, for instance, gives a real boost to reform of the common agricultural policy. In particular, we have agreed to negotiate on reductions of export subsidies with a view to phasing them out. This adds to the pressure that the EU already faces from the prospect of enlargement and strengthens our hand in moving ahead with CAP reform—a long-standing UK objective, now within our sights.

We reaffirmed the importance of sustainable development and for the first time agreed to negotiate within the WTO on environmental issues, in particular the relationship between multilateral environmental agreements and WTO rules. That was a key objective for the UK and all our European colleagues.

We agreed important first steps towards negotiations to help investment flow more freely between countries, and to tackle cartels and other anti-competitive business practices. We reaffirmed the importance of internationally recognised core labour standards, a matter on which the International Labour Organisation leads. However, it is essential that the WTO contributes to the ILO's work on the social dimensions of globalisation. We also agreed negotiations on a number of other important areas including market access and industrial tariffs, transparency of government procurement and trade facilitation, aimed in particular at cutting customs procedures red tape.

The new trade negotiations will be good for British business and good for British consumers. We are the world's fifth largest trader and we stand to benefit directly from further trade liberalisation. Again, if we could halve trade protection around the world the average income of every household in Britain would be boosted by nearly £500 a year.

What was most striking about discussions in Doha this week was the growing confidence of developing countries, with African, Latin American and the poorest countries working together increasingly effectively. At the same time, and in striking contrast to the disaster in Seattle, we saw a growing trust between developed and developing countries.

The new Doha development agenda has involved great willingness from all countries to work together flexibly and constructively to overcome considerable differences in key areas. The result is a tribute to all those involved. Certainly, all of us in the European Union owe a particular debt of gratitude to the skill and persistence of our chief negotiator, Trade Commissioner Pascal Lamy.

I pay tribute, in particular, to the state of Qatar for hosting the conference and for its excellent organisation and chairmanship. Conference chairman Kamal and the seven facilitators worked tirelessly for several days—a little longer than originally intended—to ensure that all member countries, including small and developing nations, had the opportunity to be fully involved and that proceedings were as transparent as possible. I also pay tribute 'to the World Trade Organisation's director-general, Mike Moore, and to its general council chairman, Stuart Harbinson.

I want to thank the tremendous team of civil servants from six different Departments. They worked tirelessly as a team and with Ministers to help to secure our objectives. I also thank the three additional delegation members—Digby Jones of the Confederation of British Industry, Ed Sweeney of the Trades Union Congress and Penny Fowler of the UK non-governmental organisation trade network. They made an invaluable contribution.

The UK and the EU have long sought the launch of a new trade round. We went to Doha seeking a round that would open up free, fair and sustainable trade. I am delighted today to present exactly that result to the House. However, this is just the beginning of the process. We now have to translate the agenda that we have agreed into real results for people all round the world. With more than 140 WTO members, we have taken the vital first steps. We will now work with them to complete the journey.

Mr. John Whittingdale (Maldon and East Chelmsford)

I thank the Secretary of State for letting me have a copy of her statement in advance and for coming to the House at the first opportunity after her return from Doha, particularly as I suspect that she and her colleagues may not have had much sleep in the past week.

Conservative Members clearly welcome the fact that an agreement was reached at Doha. After the failure of the Seattle meeting, it would have been a disaster if the talks in Doha had broken down. However, as the Secretary of State suggested, what has been achieved marks the beginning of the process and not the end. Is it not the case that what was achieved there was merely agreement in talks about talks, and that the really hard slog has yet to start?

The Secretary of State is right to suggest that a huge prize is at stake. The World Bank estimates that the potential boost to global income is $2,800 billion over the next 15 years. However, does she not find it slightly depressing that already the voices of protectionism are being heard, and that some of the loudest are closest to home?

On agriculture, does the Secretary of State agree that the earlier comments of EU Trade Commissioner Pascal Lamy, in defence of farm subsidies, and the resistance of the French delegation to committing to phasing them out are, at the very least, worrying signs of the battles that lie ahead?

Does the Secretary of State accept that achieving the fundamental reform of the common agricultural policy that is needed is likely to require even more midnight oil to be burned than was the case at Doha, and will she again confirm the Government's absolute commitment to the declaration's aim of reducing, with a view to phasing out, all forms of export subsidies?

Will the Secretary of State give further details of the qualification inserted in the declaration to the effect that non-trade concerns will be taken into account in the negotiations, and make it clear that it should not be used as a means of reneging on those undertakings? Will she also comment on reports that the French agreed to sign the declaration only after receiving an assurance that it did not prejudge the outcome of farm trade talks?

On TRIPS—trade-related aspects of intellectual property rights—we welcome the fact that agreement has been reached. However, does the Secretary of State accept that the pharmaceutical industry has never wished to prevent countries in the developing world from accessing vital medicines for tackling diseases such AIDS, malaria and tuberculosis? Will she none the less recognise the industry's legitimate concerns that production under licence in the developing world may lead to back-door imports of those drugs into the markets in the developed world, thus undermining the industry's intellectual property rights? Can she say what measures will be taken to prevent that from happening, and will she also clarify whether any agreement was reached on what constitutes a national emergency? Will that be left entirely for individual states to decide?

Does the Secretary of State agree that the outcome of the talks presents an opportunity for a real opening up of markets for the goods of developing countries and that it is potentially worth far more to them than overseas aid? Does she agree that we should now ensure that the assistance that we give to developing countries is focused on helping them to take advantage of that opportunity? Does she also agree that we will need to do more to persuade some of the campaigning organisations of the real value of what has been achieved?

Finally, does the Secretary of State agree that many countries deserve credit for their willingness to work for an agreement? As well as those that she mentioned, does she agree that particular praise is due to the United States of America for the success? However, does she also agree that the success in Doha in finding language and a text that is acceptable to all must now be translated in the next three years into real agreement to removing barriers and opening up markets. Is not success in achieving that objective just as important to global security and prosperity as the events in Afghanistan that have stolen the headlines in today's newspapers?

Ms Hewitt

I thank the hon. Gentleman for his comments and questions.

On agricultural reform, I can of course confirm that the Government remain entirely committed to the objective that we have set out on several occasions—fundamental reform of the CAP, including the elimination of unfair export subsidies. We have made it clear on several occasions that non-trade issues, including issues of animal welfare that are of real concern to our constituents, should not and will not be used for disguised protectionist purposes.

TRIPS and public medicine were referred to in our exchanges last week. We will work with the pharmaceutical companies to deal with the real problem of back-door imports of cheap drugs. I draw the hon. Gentleman's attention to the section in the declaration specifically on public health. It makes it clear that it is up to member states to decide for themselves when a public health emergency exists. A number of Ministers from developing countries made the point that the phrase "public health" crisis is not the right term to use given the fact that HIV/AIDS, tuberculosis, malaria and other diseases are chronically prevalent in many developing countries. Those diseases represent the normal daily condition of public health; they are not what we would think of as an immediate crisis.

I entirely agree with the hon. Gentleman about the need to enable people in developing countries to trade their way out of poverty. My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for International Development and the UK Government have led the world in investing in capacity building in developing countries to enhance their chances not only of taking part in such negotiations but of benefiting from new opportunities for world trade. We can be proud of our achievements.

The hon. Gentleman referred to the attitude of some UK and other western pressure groups towards the agreement. I certainly observed that, whatever the state of the draft declaration as it progressed on the various days in Doha, one of the NGOs represented there regarded anything that was being proposed as an insult to the world's poor. It seemed to have a word-processor that churned out press statements that had absolutely no regard for what was being proposed and agreed. We should pay a great deal less attention to groups like that and a great deal more attention to the Governments of developing countries. Representatives of the Governments of Tanzania, Brazil, Nigeria and many others got up in the final session at Doha yesterday to say what a good deal this was and how much progress had been made for their people and for those of other developing countries.

Mr. Tam Dalyell (Linlithgow)

Does my right hon. Friend recollect that when, with good parliamentary manners and good sense, she made her pre-Doha statement, I asked her about the problem of Mindanao in the Philippines, and particularly the Muslim community and its trade in the centre of Mindanao, in the light of the heavyweight Inter-Parliamentary Union Philippines delegation? Were any officials able to make contact at Doha on that genuine problem?

Ms Hewitt

I am delighted to be able to tell my hon. Friend that not only my officials but I myself had two meetings with the Filipino Trade Minister, Manuel Roxas. We discussed the problem to which my hon. Friend refers, which is primarily a matter for my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for International Development. I shall be drawing it to her attention so that we can see what help we can give.

It was extremely helpful that my hon. Friend gave me advance notice of the problem in the Philippines because it turned out that there was a major issue for that country concerning access for its tuna products to European markets. Difficulties in resolving that issue very nearly unhinged the entire trade round negotiations. I was able to work with the European Commission in proposing an agreement to consult the Philippines on that problem. Its representatives were satisfied with that, and as a result, a potential block on agreement at Doha was avoided.

Dr. Vincent Cable (Twickenham)

May I add my welcome for the statement—in particular, the Secretary of State's belief that a new round of trade liberalisation will be good for Britain, and the strong emphasis on the concerns of developing countries over access to western markets and intellectual property rights? But does she agree that we have been here before? The Uruguay round was launched with a similar flurry of good language, and developing countries in particular felt disillusioned, even betrayed, by the lack of implementation; it is implementation that is now essential. Confidence in implementation was not helped by the fact that in the key area of textiles, eight Republican Congressmen from the United States were allowed to emasculate the agreement.

On agriculture, is the Secretary of State not embarrassed to have signed up to a form of words that has allowed the European Agriculture Commissioner this morning to crow that no reform of the common agricultural policy is now needed because negotiations will take place without prejudice to the outcome"? Is that not one of many cases of British Ministers allowing themselves to be suckered into weak agreements on agricultural liberalisation?

Following the comments of the hon. Member for Maldon and East Chelmsford (Mr. Whittingdale), is the Secretary of State not also embarrassed by the tone of the remarks of the European Trade Commissioner, who made it very clear in his statements this week that his primary responsibility was to represent producer interests in France? If he cannot act on behalf of the EU as a whole, will the Government try to ensure that we have a Trade Commissioner who is more representative of the whole Community?

Ms Hewitt

There is no doubt that one real difficulty in reaching agreement at Doha was the sense among so many developing countries that they had been sold a pup—betrayed—in the Uruguay round. What makes this round so different—I referred to this in my statement—is the effectiveness with which the developing countries, which after all represent more than two thirds of WTO membership, are working together, concerting their negotiating objectives and strategies. There is now a much greater basis of trust between the developing and developed countries, but there is also a very clear requirement for developed countries to meet the commitments that we made at Doha and to fulfil the expectations that we raised. If we do not do so, that trust will be destroyed.

On agriculture, the declaration that we agreed yesterday states that of course there is no prejudging of the outcome of negotiations. We were agreeing the terms of reference of new trade negotiations; we were not seeking to have those negotiations at Doha. To say that we were not prejudging the outcome of those negotiations is merely a statement of the obvious.

The negotiations will be about reductions in agricultural export subsidies, among other matters, with a view to their phasing out. That is very clear language. It was not only supported by all European Union member states but it has raised clear expectations in developing countries, where access to developed markets in agricultural products is essential to their farmers and all those who depend on them. We shall have to meet those expectations. That means that there is enormous pressure on the EU, added to the pressure from the prospects of enlargement, for radical reform of the CAP.

I am not aware of any such comments being made by the Trade Commissioner. Not only over the past week but in preceding months, I have observed outstanding work from Commissioner Lamy in negotiating with immense skill and toughness on behalf of all EU members.

Mr. Tony Colman (Putney)

I congratulate the Secretary of State and her ministerial colleagues on the successful outcome in Doha and join her in praising civil servants for their superb work there. On behalf of the very large number of representatives of United Kingdom non-governmental organisations in Doha, I thank the ministerial team for the daily briefings and the way in which the delegation listened to the detailed points made by NGOs. I believe that the UK was the only national delegation to offer such facilities to NGOs in Doha. What time scale will the Doha development round work to, and which issues does she believe that the round should prioritise? I suggest fairer trade for developing countries.

Ms Hewitt

I am grateful to my hon. Friend for those comments. The NGOs certainly played a very helpful role in almost every case in enabling us to achieve such a good outcome. Negotiations will begin early in the new year. There is a two-year time scale of preparatory work for the new issues—notably investment and competition—and, if I remember correctly, a five-year time scale for the negotiations themselves. I agree that the priority should be to deal with market access barriers and tariffs on both agricultural and industrial products and services, which are of particular importance to developing countries.

Mr. John Gummer (Suffolk, Coastal)

I thank the right hon. Lady for her statement and the access that she gave all of us in Doha. She not only talked to us but listened to us. Will she thank the Minister for the Environment, who was the only Environment Minister from the European Union to be present? He played an important part in pressing environmental issues. Does the Secretary of State agree that it is remarkable how many environmental issues were included in the statement, and that none of us expected to do as well? Is it not true that that is very much the result of the work of the EU, working as a united force, without which such agreement could not have been achieved? The commissioner concerned showed a steadfastness that very few of us expected. He, too, ought to be congratulated on his work.

Ms Hewitt

The right hon. Gentleman is absolutely right; it was a pleasure to see him in Doha. I am very pleased that he singled out the breakthrough that we have made on of the environment. I believe that we would not have made such a breakthrough had it not been for the EU. We were the ones pressing for serious attention to be paid to environmental matters. The persistence of Commissioner Lamy on that matter was excellent. I am sure that the right hon. Gentleman's remarks about the importance of the EU will be noted with great interest in the more Eurosceptic sections of his party.

Denzil Davies (Llanelli)

Will my right hon. Friend say when negotiations on reducing export subsidies on agricultural products are likely to start, who will be negotiating on behalf of the United Kingdom and whether there is some deadline for them to end to prevent the French dragging them out ad infinitum?

Ms Hewitt

In responding to my right hon. Friend's question, I shall correct a point that I made a minute ago. In fact, the declaration commits us to concluding negotiations by 1 January 2005. In other words, there is a three-year time scale for all the negotiations to which we signed up in the Doha agreement, including the negotiations on the reduction of agricultural tariffs and subsidies.

Mr. Andrew Lansley (South Cambridgeshire)

I add my welcome for the positive outcome and the statement of the Secretary of State. Will she amplify the implications of phasing and the timetable? I understand that there is a commitment to a fifth WTO ministerial conference in 2003. I asked a question on investment and competition policy when the Secretary of State made a statement before the conference. The implication is that some of those matters will be prepared for the formal opening of negotiations at the fifth conference. Does that mean that there is a risk of some loss of linkage between those matters and, for example, the tightening of rules on anti-dumping measures and the reduction of industrial tariffs? Or will we be able to make sure that progress on one is directly linked to progress on investment and competition?

Ms Hewitt

The hon. Gentleman makes an important point. As I said earlier, we agreed that there will be two years of preparatory work on investment and competition. We have an enormous amount to do to ensure that all members of the WTO have a common understanding of the framework of investment and competition rules that is required, particularly to increase foreign direct investment in developing countries.

That will take two years, then there will be a report to the fifth ministerial conference in 2003 with a view to opening negotiations on those matters, subject to consensus on the modality of negotiations, to use WTO-speak. As that preparatory work proceeds, we will need to ensure that it runs in parallel with, and is related to, work going on in the substantive negotiations themselves.

Mr. Harry Barnes (North-East Derbyshire)

Clearly, developing nations need access to developed nations' markets. A great deal in my right hon. Friend's statement shows that that is under way; that is most welcome. What about the other side of the coin and the markets of underdeveloped nations? They often need protection to develop their own productive forces and may need to be in agreement with one another about, for example, the sale of primary products, which may be seen as anti-competitive according to certain arguments. Were the principles that I am propounding taken into account at the WTO conference?

Ms Hewitt

My hon. Friend makes an important point. Running through our discussions and the declaration is a commitment to take into account the particular needs of developing countries including, above all, the least developed countries and small countries. The concerns of my hon. Friend will indeed be taken on board.

Mr. Christopher Chope (Christchurch)

If the words "without prejudging the outcome" only state the obvious, why does the Secretary of State think that the French spent so much time insisting that they should be included in the final declaration? Does she believe that the French have committed themselves to phasing out farm subsidies?

Ms Hewitt

I am really not here to answer for the French Government. All members of the European Union have signed up to the declaration.

Kali Mountford (Colne Valley)

I congratulate my right hon. Friend on her statement, in which she mentioned 11 September and its impact on the talks. Given that that was the background music to the talks, is she confident that the agreements made on behalf of developing nations, particularly on the matters raised by my hon. Friend the Member for North-East Derbyshire (Mr. Barnes), will stick once the music fades and that we will see genuine improvements in trade so that countries can trade their way to a further economic base?

Ms Hewitt

My hon. Friend makes an important point. The background of world events was uppermost in everybody's mind at Doha. I have no doubt at all that the events of 11 September and the conflict in Afghanistan made it easier, in a sense, to reach an agreement; there was even more understanding of the importance of doing so at the conference. I am certain that the agreement will stick, provided, as I said earlier, that the developed countries live up to the commitments that we made in the declarations. I know that the Government, for one, intend to do so.

Mr. Michael Weir (Angus)

The Secretary of State will be aware that before the Doha meeting, Christian Aid and others called for a review of existing agreements prior to embarkation on another round. Clearly, that has not happened. Are any mechanisms in place to review the delivery of promised improvements to developing countries?

Having said that, I warmly welcome the agreement on medical supplies in developing countries and congratulate the Secretary of State and Ministers on achieving it. It is only a partial agreement: there is no agreement on compulsory licensing in third countries, which may mean that developing countries without a drugs industry will be disadvantaged. Is the Secretary of State prepared to publish a detailed assessment of the agreement, particularly on TRIPS and key medicines, and say what efforts the United Kingdom Government will make to improve the situation

Finally, when the members of the delegation were listed, there was no mention of any member of the Scottish Executive. The Secretary of State gave a holding answer to my hon. Friend the Member for Perth (Annabelle Ewing) this morning, but can she now say whether any member of the Scottish Executive was part of the delegation?

Ms Hewitt

I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman for at least some of his remarks. There was no representative of the Scottish Executive in the delegation: world trade is a reserved matter. As for the agreement on TRIPS and medical access to drugs, the declaration clarifies the meaning of TRIPS—the intellectual property agreement—and therefore the rules of the WTO to ensure that people in developing countries have access to the drugs that they need without compromising the incentives to pharmaceutical companies to invest in the research and development required for new drugs in future.

There is, however, much else that needs to be done to deal with the appalling health situation in developing countries. Last week, I referred to the £l billion investment that the Government have already made in the development of primary health care in developing countries and the $200 million that we have contributed to the global health fund, designed specifically to make those essential drugs affordable for people in developing countries. We have made an enormous advance on the matter raised by Christian Aid and the suggestion that there should be an assessment of achievements so far before entering new negotiations. However, that matter was not particularly raised by developing countries at the conference.

Ms Oona King (Bethnal Green and Bow)

Does my right hon. Friend agree that Doha represents a historic moment for developing countries because it is the first time that they have significantly shaped the global economy? Is not that because of the WTO, not in spite of it? On agriculture and the phasing out of export credits, will she push for the European Union to reduce its protectionist tendencies regarding the common agricultural policy, and is that more likely after the French elections?

Ms Hewitt

My hon. Friend is right on both counts.

Rev. Martin Smyth (Belfast, South)

May I welcome the statement and the right hon. Lady's answer about the Philippines? It is a delight to hear that Chinese Taipei has been received into the WTO. Does she agree that the example that it has given both in helping developing countries and in the political sphere of a smooth transfer of power from one party to another last year is an example for many developing nations and others?

Lest some of my constituents and others should be in touch with Members, perhaps having picked up from the media that the average home will be richer by £500, will the right hon. Lady explain where that money will go? I have a suspicion that the average home will not see it.

Ms Hewitt

When I was in Doha, I had the pleasure of meeting the Trade Ministers both from China and from Chinese Taipei. I have no doubt that both will make an enormous contribution to the WTO. The accessions represent a real strengthening of the organisation. With the accession of China, we can for the first time regard the WTO as a truly global organisation.

The benefits that will flow from trade liberalisation to families in Britain depend upon a successful outcome of the negotiation. It was once said that Britain was a nation of shopkeepers; it might be truer now to say that we are a nation of shoppers. All of us who shop, especially in supermarkets and markets, enjoy the benefits of world trade in the form of a wider choice of products and lower prices than would otherwise be the case. I have no doubt that as we enter into negotiations—it will be hard work—and as we bring them to a successful conclusion, we shall see significant benefits flowing through to British families and to British exporters.

Mr. Bill Tynan (Hamilton. South)

I congratulate my right hon. Friend on the agreement. It gives hope to many of my constituents who have been arguing for a long time that the circumstances of the poorest nations should be improved.

I accept that the agreement is only a beginning. We must ensure that the developed nations carry it through and ensure that we create conditions which, like the coalition against terrorism that has created so much success in Afghanistan, enable the coalition for the fight against poverty to produce the same sort of result. If we do not do that, we shall be failing.

TRIPS is an extremely important matter. I press my right hon. Friend on the progress that we can make to ensure that underdeveloped countries can enjoy freedom from a disease in the same way that an ordinary civilised society can. If she can give me an assurance on that, I shall be grateful.

Ms Hewitt

I know that my hon. Friend has done a great deal of work with churches in his constituency on issues that directly concern developing countries. There was a clear sense at Doha, among us all, that security in the world must go hand in hand with the sharing of prosperity.

My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for International Development has already ensured that the UK Government are playing a significant role in spreading access to medicines in developing countries. This is only in part a matter of WTO rules on intellectual property. Nine out of 10 medicines on the World Health Organisation's essential medicines list are generic drugs and outside patent protection. Even if they were all free, there must be an infrastructure of primary health care in developing countries that can ensure that medicines are properly prescribed and delivered to those who need them. That is why the investment that the Government have been making and will continue to make in primary health care in developing countries is even more important than the agreement that we reached at Doha.

Chris Grayling (Epsom and Ewell)

I welcome the progress that has been made, and support the comments made about the importance of the agreement in that it will lead to positive benefits in the developing world. I ask the Secretary of State to address in more detail the accession to membership of the Chinese. In the past, there have been considerable difficulties with China over trading, not least in the sphere of intellectual property. I would be interested to hear about the Chinese contribution at Doha, and how she feels now that trading and China will move forward in the context of this round.

Ms Hewitt

As a new member whose accession was formalised at the WTO only this week, and which has not yet been ratified by China, China did not play a direct role in this week's proceedings. It was not part of the discussions. It was clear, certainly in the discussions that I had with the Chinese Trade Minister, that he and his colleagues recognised the enormous challenge to China in becoming a full member of the world trading community and in ensuring compliance with the rules of the WTO. Even more important, China recognises the enormous benefits that opening up to trade will bring, especially in seeking to spread prosperity between Shanghai, Beijing and other parts of the eastern seaboard across to the desperately poor rural areas of the western provinces.

Mr. Lindsay Hoyle (Chorley)

Has my right hon. Friend made any assessment of the plight of the people of Tibet, following China joining the WTO? Another factor to consider is the aggression that has always been shown to Chinese Taipei. With the two countries joining the WTO, perhaps an assessment has been made of relationships between the two. I am sure that she will work hard for countries outside the WTO to ascertain how we can encourage more countries to join in the next round of talks.

Ms Hewitt

I am grateful to my hon. Friend for making that point. China will become a member country in 30 days now that the Doha agreement has been concluded. China and Chinese Taipei have had a long and difficult history. I made the point last week that after the second world war the central motive for the establishment of the European Union was the belief that close economic and trading links between countries were likely substantially to reduce the risk of violent conflict between them.

My hon. Friend talked about encouraging other countries to join the WTO. There are 28 other candidates seeking accession to it. The critics of globalisation who regard the WTO as some sort of evil plot against developing countries should take stock of their views in the light of the Doha development agreement and recognise that, far from seeking to escape from the WTO, developing countries are joining it at a rapid rate. That is a good sign for the future of world security and prosperity.

Mr. Jonathan Djanogly (Huntingdon)

I certainly recognise the benefits and the positive things that happened at Doha. The Secretary of State referred to the creation of a free, fair and sustainable trade platform. Does that include the bilateral trade agreements that we have seen over recent weeks, particularly that conducted with Pakistan—which will be very detrimental to a section of the UK's trade—in the absence of any parliamentary discussion of the topic? Was the matter discussed at Doha?

Ms Hewitt

The Doha declaration makes it very clear that there is a role for bilateral and indeed for regional trade agreements within the context of the multilateral agreements led by the WTO. There is a proposal from the European Commission for a bilateral agreement between the European Union and Pakistan on textiles, which are of course enormously important to that country. The United Kingdom Government have considered the agreement very carefully and we support it. We believe that it is absolutely right to recognise Pakistan's outstanding contribution to dealing with the terrorist threat from within Afghanistan.

I have personally discussed the matter with the employers and the trade unions in the textile and clothing industry. As I said to them and am happy to confirm to the House, we shall continue to work with our textile and clothing industry to enable it to become more competitive and to specialise in sectors in which we still have competitive advantage. We have already made further changes to the help that we give our industry, to ensure that it can penetrate markets abroad.

Ms Meg Munn (Sheffield, Heeley)

I am sure that my right hon. Friend will be interested to hear that I recently participated in a simulation exercise with a number of school children on the issue of world trade and developing countries. Can she tell me and my constituents what benefit we derive from working with our European Union partners within the World Trade Organisation?

Ms Hewitt

We derive enormous benefits from our membership of the European Union: half of our own trade is within the European Union. At Doha, we also saw the strength that we obtain as a member of that larger organisation, in securing a new world trade round that is good not only for Europe but for the developing countries of the world.

Norman Lamb (North Norfolk)

I welcome the Secretary of State's references to the importance of capacity building for developing countries. Will she say precisely what action she believes needs to be taken to ensure that developing countries can adequately represent themselves in the next round of talks? I am sure that she will agree that such action seems to be the key to ensuring that there is genuine and fair negotiation between the developing world and the rich northern nations.

Ms Hewitt

The hon. Gentleman is right. The United Kingdom Government had already committed £15 million to capacity building in developing countries, and last week my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for International Development announced a further £20 million of programmes. Talking in Doha to Ministers from developing countries, it was very clear that they are enormously pleased by that investment, which is helping them to train officials to take part in often very complex negotiations. I think that we saw this week at Doha very mature and increasingly sophisticated leadership from the developing countries, which, as I said, were able to concert their negotiating strategy in pursuit of their objectives. Consequently, we have achieved at Doha an agreement that is good not only for the developing countries but for us as well.