HC Deb 25 June 2002 vol 387 cc721-3
2. Phil Hope (Corby)

If he will make a statement on post-Doha world trade liberalisation. [62105]

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

World Trade Organisation Trade Ministers agreed an ambitious negotiating agenda at Doha last November. Talks on that are now getting under way, but much work still needs to be done to complete the Doha round.

Phil Hope

Last week, like many hon. Members, I met constituents who are concerned that if free trade is to work, it must work for the world's poor, and not only for the benefit of the world's richest countries. Linked to that issue is my concern about the steel industry—there is a steelworks in my constituency, and I know that steel is represented in my hon. Friend's constituency. The impact of the United States' tariffs on imported steel is punishing our constituents and steel producers throughout the world. Can he assure me that the Government are doing all that they can to make the Doha development agenda a reality for the world's poor, and that we are taking firm action to ensure that the United States lifts those steel tariffs, which are illegal and unacceptable?

Mr. MacShane

I agree with my hon. Friend. Last Wednesday's trade justice lobby was a wonderful carnival that showed the best of Britain wanting a fairer world. The Government can be proud of the fact that of the major G8 countries, this country is taking the lead in arguing against agriculture and steel protection, and in increasing overseas aid.

My hon. Friend is right about steel, which is of profound concern to my Rotherham constituents. It was mainly steelworkers' presence in Seattle during the anti-globalisation movement's demonstration against the WTO that secured them their wish for protectionist measures, which do grave harm to working people in steel industries around the world. The Government have taken up the matter with the United States and talks are continuing. The European Union, too, has fashioned a robust response.

Sir Peter Tapsell (Louth and Horncastle)

Do the Government accept that since Doha the momentum towards liberal world trade, which has underpinned the prosperity of the world for the past 50 years, has come under threat, especially from the unilateral decision of the United States to impose tariffs on steel, which is all too reminiscent of the Smoot-Hawley trade tariff Act of June 1930, which precipitated the world depression? Will the British Government draw that—[Interruption.]—that sad example to the attention of America's President and Congress?

Mr. MacShane

There was some levity at the fact that the hon. Gentleman clearly remembers the Smoot-Hawley tariffs, but he is right—they were a disaster imposed by a reactionary right-wing Administration. It has always been reactionary right-wing administrations that tend to go in for protectionist measures. [HON. MEMBERS: "Oh!"] That is why Europe is concerned about forms of protection, including the farm subsidies Bill that has just been introduced by the US Administration—with, alas, the support of Democratic senators. We continue to argue against all such measures, but the House should not forget that the United States remains a huge importer and a great trading nation. Finally, when I talk about reactionary right-wingers, I am speaking about Conservative Front Benchers.

Jim Knight (South Dorset)

US protectionism as expressed through steel sanctions and the Farm Act is clearly disappointing and regrettable. Despite that, will my hon. Friend continue to press the United States to make positive proposals consistent with its undertakings at Doha?

Mr. MacShane

That is precisely what the Prime Minister will be doing in Canada later this week. We should acknowledge the doubling of aid to $10 billion that President Bush brought to the table at Monterrey earlier this year. The Government are committed to open trade, investment and creating jobs in the third world, where they are needed. It is by breaking down protectionist barriers, however they are put in place, that that is best achieved.

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