HC Deb 16 September 2004 vol 424 cc1445-6
6. David Cairns (Greenock and Inverclyde) (Lab)

What benefits she expects will accrue to trade relations between Israel and the EU from the new EU neighbourhood policy.␣[189175]

The Minister for Trade and Investment (Mr. Douglas Alexander)

The European neighbourhood policy offers closer co-operation between the EU and Israel in areas of mutual interest, including trade, in return for political and economic reform. We believe that engaging with Israel on the basis of shared common values will be beneficial to the EU-Israel relationship.

David Cairns

I thank my hon. Friend for that answer. Does he agree that increased trade between the EU and Israel is vital both economically, for the people of Israel and the Palestinian Authority areas—whose economies are closely intertwined—and politically, because it gives the EU a greater stake in the middle east and, therefore, further legitimises its role as a member of the Quartet? Conversely, however well intentioned calls for sanctions are, they would be damaging politically and economically.

Mr. Alexander

I know of my hon. Friend's close interest in those matters and I concur that reducing our level of commercial contact would not strengthen our influence at a critical point in the middle east process.

Ian Stewart (Eccles) (Lab)

My hon. Friend may be interested to know that I am in the process of establishing a new all-party group on conflict management and resolution. Does he agree that the lesson of Northern Ireland is that peace helps to generate trade and industry and that trade and industry help to generate peace? Is not that transferable to a new and enlivened peace process in Israel and Palestine?

Mr. Alexander

I pay tribute to my hon. Friend's work and wish every success to the organisation that he is in the process of establishing. We can look closer to home than Israel and the Palestinian situation for evidence of the case that he makes. If we consider recent economic progress in Northern Ireland, where record inward investment following the peace process has been self-reinforcing, his point is well made.