HC Deb 25 June 2002 vol 387 cc733-4
12. Ms Meg Munn (Sheffield, Heeley)

What his assessment is of the effect of US steel tariffs on world trade. [62115]

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs (Mr. Denis MacShane)

The United Kingdom believes that the United States steel measures are economically unjustified and inconsistent with World Trade Organisation rules. We fully support the European Commission's response. The US measures will increase prices for US steel consumers and decrease trade.

Ms Munn

I thank my hon. Friend for that reply. A recent report from the Progressive Policy Institute, a Washington think tank, outlines how much the US tariff policy hurts both the poor in the US and the poor of developing countries. Does he agree with me and many who took part in the lobby of Parliament last week by the trade justice movement that the claim by the Indian Trade Minister that the rich countries want the developing countries to remain exporters of only primary products appears correct? Yet only international trade on fair and equitable terms will help the poor in both the developed and developing world to improve their lot.

Mr. MacShane

My hon. Friend is right, and that is why the Government are strong advocates of progress in the Doha development round and of winding down steel but also agricultural protection on both sides of the Atlantic. The only way in which the world can grow and develop is if the tariff barriers are dismantled and trade, investment and job creation are increased.

Mr. David Heath (Somerton and Frome)

Is not the crude protectionism of the United States steel tariffs compounded by the US Farm Act? Does not that make a nonsense of all the American rhetoric over the years supporting free trade and correctly criticising the common agricultural policy? Has it been brought home to the American Government that there is a real risk of their unilateral actions derailing the whole post-Doha development round? If so, how will the world put back together what should be a process towards free and fair trade?

Mr. MacShane

The United States has debated this and I have read commentaries and speeches by politicians and commentators who are highly critical of the measure, which, of course, was supported by Democrat Senators on the Hill. However, we should not forget that the huge trade deficit that the United States runs represents immense imports into America, each of which represents a job for someone around the world. We will keep arguing firmly and strongly for free trade. I invite the Liberal Democrats to ask their friends—particularly those in the anti-globalisation movement who are hostile to trade—to support the Government on this crucial matter.

Rosemary McKenna (Cumbernauld and Kilsyth)

I associate myself totally with the comments of my hon. Friend the Member for Sheffield, Heeley (Ms Munn). Many UK companies are struggling in this area and have formally applied for product exclusions. What steps have been taken by the Government to assist those companies?

Mr. MacShane

I have a direct constituency interest myself, as much of the steel made in Rotherham is exported to the United States. Corns and my steelworker constituents warmly welcome the extraordinary energy shown by my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry and my noble Friend the Minister for Trade and Investment in their discussions with the US Administration to seek the necessary exemptions for as many British steel products as possible.

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