HL Deb 17 December 1993 vol 550 cc1495-7

Lord Campbell of Croy asked Her Majesty's Government:

What they expect to be the next steps in the international arrangements within the GATT organisation.

Viscount Goschen

My Lords, the agreements settled this week will be signed at a ministerial conference, not before April 1994, formally concluding the Uruguay Round. The delay arises from the need to complete the legal texts. The agreement establishing the World Trade Organisation will then be open for signature. An implementing conference in early 1995 will decide on arrangement for the entry into force of the agreements.

Lord Campbell of Croy

My Lords, I am grateful to my noble friend for that Answer. Yesterday the House expressed its general satisfaction that an agreement had been reached, but will the new World Trade Organisation make future GATT rounds unnecessary? What is the programme now for the negotiations which were not completed, in particular on financial services and shipping, both of which are of concern to the United Kingdom?

Viscount Goschen

My Lords, it is too early to say whether further rounds will be required, but there is widespread agreement that new issues will need to be discussed. It is important to note that all service sectors were covered by the agreement. We expect there to be further discussions on financial services to improve the liberalisation commitments that have so far been made, but no formal process has been agreed. The negotiations on maritime transport should begin no later than one month after the ministerial conference next spring.

Lord Rea

My Lords, can the noble Viscount say whether copies of the GATT agreement will be available for those noble Lords who would like to have some light holiday reading? When will both Houses of Parliament have an opportunity to debate GATT in preparation for ratification?

Viscount Goschen

My Lords, the Government intend to present a White Paper on the results of the round in the new year. That will be made available.

Lord Harmar-Nicholls

My Lords, is it not the position that any action which is necessarily to flow from the agreement cannot become operative until after April? If things are done in the interim, what is the sanction?

Viscount Goschen

My Lords, the situation is as I have described it. The agreement has been settled. It has been agreed, but it has not formally been signed as yet. As I have said, the delay arises from the need to complete the legal texts.

Lord Morris

My Lords, can my noble friend explain briefly why it takes such a very long time between the agreement being struck and the agreement being implemented?

Viscount Goschen

My Lords, it is important to note that the Uruguay Round was the most ambitious set of trade negotiations ever. By the end, 117 nations were negotiating on a wide range of sectors. A delay was inevitable in such complex negotiations on difficult issues which affect so many countries.

Lord Taylor of Gryfe

My Lords, will the White Paper, which will inevitably deal with the impact of GATT on our domestic economic situation, also cover the impact of GATT on the under-developed countries?

Viscount Goschen

My Lords, I do not think that it would be appropriate for me to comment on that at the moment, but the White Paper will obviously cover the important issues. The agreement was significant for third world countries and has been widely welcomed.

Lord Richard

My Lords, can the Minister tell us what process of ratification the Government have in mind for GATT? Is it to be done under the prerogative as a normal Foreign Office treaty or in some other way?

Viscount Goschen

My Lords, I have described the situation as regards the European Community. Both the Community and each member state will sign and ratify the World Trade Organisation agreement Member state ratifications will follow national constitutional processes.

Lord Campbell of Croy

My Lords, can my noble friend add any more to his reply on whether further rounds are expected, as has been the case in the past, such as the Uruguay Round, given that there is now a new World Trade Organisation?

Viscount Goschen

My Lords, as I have said, there are bound to be further discussions on the various issues that are outstanding. It is important to note that the creation of the World Trade Organisation puts the system of international trade rules on a secure institutional basis for the first time. It will provide a better system of settling trade disputes and stronger disciplines on unilateral action.

Lord Harris of Greenwich

My Lords, will the noble Viscount be good enough to answer the question put to him by the noble Lord, Lord Richard; namely, will that be done under the prerogative or will legislation be put before Parliament?

Viscount Goschen

My Lords, I believe that legislation will not be required.

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