HL Deb 12 May 2003 vol 648 cc108-22

7.39 p.m.

Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean

rose to move, That the draft order laid before the House on 28th April be approved [18th Report from the Joint Committee].

The noble Baroness said: My Lords, I wish to speak to the two Motions standing in my name on the Order Paper. These are two European Union external agreements, one between the EU and Chile and the other between the EU and Egypt. With your Lordships' agreement, I intend to discuss the orders together because so much of the ground covered in both agreements is of a similar nature. Similarly, with your Lordships' agreement, I also intend to take questions on the two agreements together.

I will start with the agreement in relation to Egypt. The importance to the UK and the EU of stability in the Middle East has rarely been more apparent or acute. Today, we have an opportunity to take an important step in promoting that stability.

The association agreement between the EU and Egypt aims to promote economic and social development in Egypt, and in the region. It creates a partnership, underpinned by an ongoing, wide-ranging dialogue and cemented through increased trade liberalisation. It envisages co-operation on a spectrum of issues of mutual concern, ranging from tourism to terrorism and from immigration to investment.

The agreement supports UK interests in a variety of ways. First, and most broadly, it will encourage economic and political reform in the Arab world's most populous nation, providing a key plank in the United Kingdom's policy to promote reform across the Arab world. It creates opportunities for increased UK exports through the progressive reduction of Egyptian tariffs on EU industrial products and through increased agricultural liberalisation. That dovetails with the wider UK aim of promoting global trade liberalisation and economic integration.

Equally importantly. the agreement gives the UK new means for promoting human rights in Egypt—through regular dialogue and, ultimately, the sanction of suspending the agreement due to human rights' violations.

The agreement forms part of a broader relationship between the EU and 12 Mediterranean countries, known as the Euro-Med Partnership. This new chapter in EU-Mediterranean relations was opened at Barcelona in 1995 and continues to grow and develop. Its overarching goal is to ensure peace, stability and security in the Mediterranean region. To this end, it aims to create a Euro-Med free trade area by 2010. Combining an enlarged EU of 25 countries with our Mediterranean partners will create one of the world's largest trading blocs.

Association agreements are the main instrument for achieving that target. Agreements that are similar to the one before us have already been signed with Tunisia, Israel, Morocco, Jordan, the Palestinian Authority, Algeria and Lebanon. The first four of those have been ratified and are in force—noble Lords may recall debates on them. An agreement with Syria is currently being negotiated.

Egypt shares the UK and EU aims of promoting regional stability and prosperity through dialogue, cooperation and trade. Its association agreement was signed on 25th June 2001, but until the agreement has been ratified by all parties, Egypt will not enjoy its benefits. It will not enjoy the benefit of increased agricultural liberalisation, increased EU investment or wide-ranging co-operation; nor will it be able to capitalise on the fresh impetus those provisions will bring to its economic reforms.

To date, the European Communities and four EU member states—France, Germany, Sweden and Ireland—have ratified the agreement. A further three member states will ratify within a matter of weeks. More importantly, Egypt itself ratified the agreement last month. It is an important agreement, supporting key long-term UK, EU and Egyptian objectives. The UK should ratify the agreement as soon as possible. I commend the order to the House.

I turn now with your Lordships' agreement to the EU-Chile association agreement, which takes previous agreements negotiated in the 1990s to a new level. It shows we can bring together the EU and Chile to agree an updated set of commitments, giving us the opportunity to find ways that our relationship can deliver more benefits for all of us. The agreement represents the next step in our continuing attempts to strengthen the EU's relations with Latin America. It follows the lead of Mexico in 2000 and precedes a similar agreement currently nearing completion with Mercosur. We hope that the Andean community and Central America will follow suit after the Doha WTO round.

Chile is one of the most stable emerging markets in the world and that is due, in no small part, to its decision to participate fully in world trade. 1 t is a strong commitment to this belief in free trade which allows the EU and Chile to come together to design and implement an agreement that gives the most benefit to both parties.

There are other dimensions to the relationship too. Through mutual co-operation, the agreement will build and strengthen institutions and help reinforce and support democratic principles, the rule of law and good governance. We must support and encourage that in a maturing democracy such as Chile. The EU can share its experience and expertise in a wide number of areas in the technical, trade, economic and social spheres—and we can help to build social cohesion and fight poverty, marginalisation and exclusion.

Most of the EU-Chile association agreement deals with a new set of trading arrangements. As a part of the EU's ongoing programme of negotiating bilateral free trade agreements, the agreement shows us what can be done when two parties set out to achieve an ambitious result for mutual benefit. The agreement is one of the most liberal of all the EU's trade agreements and provides the model from which other trade agreements follow. It fully liberalises more than 97 per cent of all goods traded between the EU and Chile over the next 10 years, easily surpassing the level needed for WTO compatibility. Specifically, it delivers tariff-free access for all industrial goods and trade in services. Those are measures from which UK exporters stand to benefit greatly. The gains from dismantling trade barriers will continue to accrue to firms year after year, giving a substantial boost to growth and prosperity. Those benefits have already come on stream, with both sides agreeing that they should start on 1st February 2003.

On top of tariff reductions, the agreement establishes for the first time preliminary rules governing investment, competition and government procurement, in line with our objectives in the WTO round. We have also agreed a wines and spirits agreement, which will bring in more Chilean wine at cheaper prices, and allow us to export even bigger quantities of our spirits, particularly Scotch whisky and vodka.

Turning to the political elements of the agreement, we can see the benefits of an ongoing open dialogue on world events. The agreement commits the EU and Chile to regular meetings at various levels, including heads of government and ministerial level. Those meetings give us a chance to exchange views on a wide range of matters and to find areas of mutual agreement where we might work together to achieve a common aim. Areas specified in the agreement include fighting terrorism, international crime and the trafficking of illegal drugs. Indeed, that dialogue has already begun. By way of the UK's commitment to the process, my honourable friend the Under-Secretary of State for Commonwealth Affairs, Bill Rammell, participated in the inaugural association council established under the agreement in Athens earlier this year.

Further to this political dialogue, the agreement commits the EU to supporting Chile in other ways. Technical assistance and co-operation is something that the EU member states do well. Chilean policy makers, business community and civil society, can learn much from us, and likewise us from them. The agreement pushes our relationship to new heights and helps to cement relationships at all levels.

As a result of the Order in Council discussed today, the UK will be among the first member states to ratify the agreement. This sends a strong and clear signal of the UK's close relationship with Chile and the importance we attach to it. For this reason, I ask your Lordships to support the important objectives by approving the principles behind the agreement. I commend that order to the House.

Moved, That the draft order laid before the House on 28th April be approved [18th Report from the Joint Committee].—(Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean.)

7.45 p.m.

Lord Avebury

My Lords, the Minister referred briefly to the human rights implications of the two agreements. I want to concentrate on those, if I may, and not to speak in general about the liberalisation of trade, of which we of course strongly approve. We hope that that leads to greater trade between our country and the two that are mentioned in the agreements.

In respect of human rights, there is a standard clause in the association agreement which has always been used up until now. It is that in the agreement with Egypt: Relations between the Parties, as well as the provisions of the Agreement itself, shall be based on respect of democratic rights and fundamental human rights as set out in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which guides their internal and international policy and constitutes an essential element of this Agreement". The Minister said that that clause enables us, in the event of serious default, to annul the association agreement, but she did not say what steps would be taken in the period leading up to any such drastic decision. Any such decision by the European Union to cancel the agreement would surely not come out of the blue and without some previous very careful consideration of the violations of human rights that were said to have occurred in Egypt. There is no mechanism in the agreement for doing that.

We believe that the EU should consider, through some kind of mechanism, the fact that in Egypt, for example, there has been a state of emergency since 1981 when President Sadat was murdered, and the fact that, under a decree by President Mubarak in October 1992, civilians can be tried by military courts, against which there is no right of appeal. The state of emergency comes up for renewal every three years. As it happens, I understand that the next renewal is due in June. Have we made any representations to Egypt to the effect that it is inappropriate to continue those arrangements once the association agreement and its commitments have entered into force?

The ruling National Democratic Party in Egypt has a tight grip on the media and control over other political parties, NGOs, the unions and the large public sector, so that the people have no right in practice to change their government. In the 2000 elections to the People's Assembly, the opposition made small gains despite widespread arrests of activists, particularly those of the Muslim Brotherhood, which advocates the creation of an Islamic state by peaceful, democratic means. The EU and member states must make up their minds about whether the respect for democratic rights in the association agreements extends to full participation by Islamist political parties in the electoral process and in public debate on the policies of their governments. If so, as I would expect, how are they going to use the association agreements to further that principle?

If the international community is incapable of making a distinction between those who use the ballot box to further what they see as Islamic principles of government, and others who choose the path of violence for those purposes, the effect will be to cause some Islamists to think that, as an Irishman once put it, violence is the only way of securing a hearing for moderation. In Algeria—I do not need to remind noble Lords of this—the army-backed coup of 1991 inaugurated more than a decade of bloodshed and reciprocal terrorism between the state and the Islamists. That process was tolerated by Europe, but we now must face the same question across the whole region: do the various brands of Islamism constitute ideologies that compete for peoples' allegiance within a framework of democracy, or are some of them using the levers of democracy to gain power and put an end to the freedom of their people to exercise choice? If it is the latter, should the people be trusted with the preservation of their own freedom or, as in the case of Egypt, are governments justified in imposing certain limitations on human rights to prevent the loss of most of them, notwithstanding the commitments that they enter into in agreements of this sort

We should discuss these questions. According to the Explanatory Memorandum, there is, in Article 3 of the agreement, provision for a political dialogue, albeit only at ministerial and senior official level. In our opinion, there should be a much wider review mechanism, including annual reports to the Egyptian parliament and the European Parliament on the performance of the obligations under Article 2, based on material that is already in the public domain, such as the US State Department country reports on human rights practices and reports by Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch and Fédération Internationale des Droits de l'Homme. Wherever possible, that should be supplemented by reciprocal visits, such as those undertaken by the noble Lords, Lord Alton and Lord Ahmed, both of whom have visited Egypt in recent years.

In the case of Chile, in addition to respect for democratic principles and human rights, the rule of law is said to underpin the policies of the parties. It would be useful if the Minister could explain why that is not in all the association agreements. Chile is a democratic country and held free and fair elections for the presidency in 2000 and the congress in December 2001. However, with regard to the rule of law, there are still military courts which deal with crimes by military personnel against civilians, and military tribunals also have the power to deal with ordinary offences, such as terrorism, sedition and defamation of military personnel by civilians. The criminal law still prohibits the insulting of state institutions.

There are also problems concerning the human rights violations that occurred during the period of military government under Pinochet. Pinochet's immunity was lifted, but he was found unfit to stand trial. We hope that wherever there is enough evidence against leading members of the former regime and against military personnel who committed acts of torture, there will be prosecutions. It would be useful if, in the EU-Chile dialogue, the cases of victims who are EU nationals could be pursued. Such cases include British citizens. I refer, for example, to Dr Sheila Cassidy, who spoke at the first meeting of the Parliamentary Human Rights Group in 1976—1 remember chairing it—and Father Michael Woodward, in whose torture and murder Foreign Office Ministers always take a close interest.

Amnesty International says that although the amnesty for torturers and murderers provided by decree law 2.191 of 1978 has been partially suspended as a result of decisions by the supreme court, it is still contrary to international law and should be repealed altogether. That opinion has been echoed by the Inter-American Commission for Human Rights and other authoritative international bodies.

The argument that crimes against humanity, such as extra-juridical execution, disappearances and torture—which took place during the Pinochet regime—cannot be subject to any statute of limitations and that the Chilean Government have an obligation to investigate those crimes and punish the offenders, whatever the time that has elapsed since they were committed, has some force. Unlike the case of Egypt, there are institutional mechanisms within the framework of the association council, described in Part II of the agreement, for political dialogue, but nothing is said there about how the parliaments of the two states can be involved, still less the people of Chile and Britain.

I hope that those questions can be considered, not necessarily this evening but at some time before we get down to work on implementing the two association agreements so that we can see how the Government intend to monitor and watch them over the years and take steps that are short of the drastic steps mentioned by the noble Baroness in cases in which those violations continue to occur.

8 p.m.

Lord Howell of Guildford

My Lords, I believe that I am right in saying that we are taking these orders before another place. In a sense, we are pace setting— as in many other areas—on these issues.

The time that we have allotted for the orders is short, and we are dealing with them in a sensible and expeditious way, but I note in passing that the agreements are colossal. The agreement for Egypt contains 92 articles and has a mass of annexes and protocols, and the association agreement for Chile has 206 articles and is accompanied by five volumes, each of which has about 700 or 800 pages. So vast is the documentation that when it came to my office it was marked with a label that said, "Heavy package: lift with caution: price £ 176". We can touch on only the edges of these matters and deal with the most general points. No human mind—certainly no legislature—could grasp all of the detail. In an earlier debate today, noble Lords were worried about taking 135 amendments to a Bill en bloc and maintained that they were not adequately explained. That applies just as much to taking an order en bloc that has attached to it five volumes—each of which has 800 pages—206 articles and heaven knows how many annexes and protocols.

Why do we need to put ourselves through this process at all? After all, these are Community documents and the Explanatory Memorandum states that, under Community law, they can he directly effective in the United Kingdom so long as they are sufficiently clear, precise and unconditional. The implication of the Explanatory Memorandum is that to get these matters right in our own courts and to enable rights and obligations arising from the agreement to be given effect in the United Kingdom, we must also give it our approval. Other reasons are given for dealing with the matter, but it is admitted that in legal, political and technical terms these orders are vastly complex and cover a huge range of issues.

The order establishing agreement between the European Communities and the Arab Republic of Egypt is, as the Minister made clear, part of the EU's Mediterranean policy. It is a most ambitious and worthwhile policy and it concentrates on expanding the free-trade area throughout the Mediterranean basin. I support that; it has our full approval.

The noble Lord, Lord A vebury, raised a different dimension and I want slightly to part company with him. One must ask to what extent the trade agreements can sustain all the political problems which arise in the modern world where the society of modern states is imposing standards on sovereign nations and requiring patterns of behaviour which I welcome and which are far more rigorous. One cannot separate politics and trade, but we must ask how much we must seek to use such instruments and association agreements for pursuing the utterly worthwhile and noble ends that the noble Lord outlined. It is a matter of opinion, but I question whether, if one builds too much politics into trade, one will get into the kind of trouble the World Trade Organisation got into, particularly at the famous Seattle gathering where there was a total breakdown. When looking at such complex issues and at the number one priority in each of them—in both agreements it is for a regular political dialogue—I cannot help having some degree of agreement with my noble friend Lord Hurd when he said in an interesting speech last week: I would rather we talked less about the EU's global pretentions and concentrated on making a success of enterprises closer to hand". There is a lesson to be kept in mind about weaving too many of our political ambitions, and our ambitions for greater stability and a better world order, into the more humdrum but vitally important matter of expanding our trade and reducing barriers, quotas, tariff and non-tariff obstructions to the free movement of goods and services.

I want to make a few brief comments on each of the orders. As the Minister reminded us, Egypt is the most populous Arab nation. Its population has been growing at a staggering rate. When I first visited Cairo 30 or 40 years ago, the population was 15 million, which seemed incredible. I am told that it is now probably nearer 30 million—and that is one city inside Egypt. We are looking at a nation of a colossal population which is rapidly growing and raising colossal problems and challenges for development and political organisation, at which the noble Lord, Lord Avebury, hinted.

It is utterly in our interest that this huge Arab nation should be stable; should be more prosperous; should have faster economic growth; and should be an effective player not only in the Middle Eastern arena but in the world community. It is certainly of a size to do so and in history it has done so. Egypt is a major beneficiary of EU aid and I understand that there are current commitments from the EU of about 850 million euros and many programmes in addition.

I would like to know—it may be impossible in the time we have today—a little more about how that interacts with UK bilateral aid and direct links with Egypt; that is, UK/Egyptian affairs and UK/Egyptian aid and technical assistance. It is a bit of a hobbyhorse of mine to know how the whole EU aid programme in all its aspects interrelates with those parts of aid activities that remain with the nation states. I confess that I am in a constant state of unhappiness about the linkages between the EU programmes and the national programmes. I share a bias, which was shared by the outgoing Secretary of State for International Development, that the EU programmes leave a very great deal to be desired and that we rue the day when so much authority was handed from nation states, with their highly efficient programmes, to the EU organisations. We were in favour of more coordination but creating a gigantic fifth wheel to the pattern of aid programmes in Europe may not have been such a marvellous idea as many people argued at the time.

I would also like to know how the measure sits alongside the large volume of United States aid which I understand goes to Egypt. It is important to make judgments when we are trying to work out positive moves to assist the development of poorer countries around the edges of the Union, or in the Mediterranean area, and assess how our efforts coordinate with or contradict the efforts of the other major aid donors and trade partners of, in this case, Egypt. How do such issues fit in? It would be useful at some time—perhaps not today—to have a clearer picture.

Nor is it totally clear why Egypt is so poor. Why has its rate of growth been so inadequate, despite the colossal aid it has received over the years? I suspect that we should be looking at different criteria for stimulating growth and development; perhaps at ideas such as those of Hernandez de So to, who says that the real reason for a vast city such as Cairo, teaming with enterprise and skill, still being poor lies in the total lack of property rights and not in lack of aid or anything else. If one can somehow raise the standards of good governance that underlie property rights, particularly the rule of law, one will begin to see Egypt again prosper as a mighty nation. It could well do so, but is not at the moment. That is one of the greatest human rights and our efforts should be enabling and encouraging that. I hope we can bear that thought in mind.

I turn briefly to the Chilean agreement. It is a vast series of agreements and a huge document. It begins once again with the emphasis on a political dialogue. It makes one feel a little uneasy about who is held to account for implementing all of the agreement. I suppose we have an adequate opportunity at national level. I suppose that the European Parliament does its job, but I have no idea because I do not have the time or resources to catch up with the full combing through of all the texts. I ruminate—there will be debates to come on this—that if the convention draft constitution proposals go forward and give the EU as a legal entity even more power to make agreements and settle issues without involving the national parliaments, that will be an even more serious challenge to accountability and to trying to catch up with what is going wrong.

Frankly, the explanatory memorandum for the Chilean agreement does not tell us much, so one has to turn to the press release which goes with the signing of the agreement last November in Brussels. On that occasion the EuroChile prize was awarded to Mr Soledad Alvear, the senior Chilean: Mr Christopher Patten, commissioner, and Mr Pascal Lamy, also a commissioner. On that occasion Mr Lamy said that it was a model of 21st century relations. They did not mention what I believe the noble Baroness rightly mentioned and what all of us have in mind, which is the excellent wine from Chile and the really remarkable story of lifting Chilean wine exports into the highest level of world quality in a matter of a few decades.

The agreement also mentions that we shall be able to talk about various developments, both political and other kinds, of the kind mentioned by the noble Lord, Lord Avebury, and that there will be consultation with the EU Parliaments on the Euro-Chilean dialogue. I would love to know how those consultations will go forward, whether they add up to genuine discussion or whether it is just a matter between the European Parliament and various Chilean bodies.

Does the order cover European Union aid to Chile? From reading the documentation I think not but I may be wrong about that. Overall, we take the matter on trust rather as your Lordships were taking on trust earlier debates and propositions from Governments because we cannot absorb all the detail. But these are two nations which we want to prosper which have made great strides. After a stormy political period, Chile has done particularly brilliantly in many areas in very recent years. Egypt has yet to prosper in the way I believe it should and could do in which open societies, free trade and good governance really prevail and allow the Egyptian people to play their full part in world politics.

Lord Hylton

My Lords, the noble Lord, Lord Howell of Guildford, has correctly identified the lack of solid property rights as a brake on Egypt's development. It may be also that the United States aid to Egypt has been less effective because it has been largely military in character. When the Minister replies on Chile I hope that she will be able to say whether she can foresee similar trade improvements being extended to Argentina? If that could be done in the fairly short or medium term it might help Argentina to recover somewhat more rapidly from its recent serious economic problems and that in turn might help Mercosur, the South American cone of economic cooperation to become more of a reality than it is at present.

Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean

My Lords, three of your Lordships have raised quite a lot of questions, which I shall do my best to answer. The noble Lord, Lord Howell, is right in saying that the agreements are lengthy. Indeed, they took quite some time to negotiate. However. I am sorry to say that I was staggered to learn that the cost of a copy of the Chilean agreement to the general public is £ 176. I think that that is a very heavy price.

However lengthy and long these negotiations were, I do not think any of your Lordships believe that they are fundamentally contentious agreements, although the noble Lord, Lord Avebury, raised some particular questions about human rights. As I said in my opening remarks, the agreements on which we have to focus are principally about trade. None of us operates on trade without reference to what is happening in international relationships. In human rights terms, we expect certain standards of those with whom we conclude these kinds of agreements.

Perhaps I may say to your Lordships that—and. this touches to a certain extent upon what the noble Lord, Lord Hylton, said—in the EU we are now concentrating our trade negotiations through the WTO. Commissioner Lamee has said that EU resources should he put behind trying to liberalise trade internationally through the WTO and particularly in building up for the discussions we shall be having in Cancun in Mexico in September.

I have a certain sympathy with the point made by the noble Lord, Lord Howell, about bilateral agreements and their importance. I think that to set bilateral agreements entirely on one side in the European Union would be a mistake. I hope that in the longer term that is not a path down which the European Union is trying to tempt us to go. although I can see the sense in concentrating our resources in the way that we arc at the moment.

I turn first to Egypt. It already enjoys duty and quota-free access to the EU for its industrial products under the 1977 co-operation agreement. However, by liberalising trade in agricultural products and increasing EU/Egyptian co-operation in economic areas the agreement will promote Egyptian exports into the EU. The noble Lord raised an important question about what he perceived to be a lack of prosperity on Egypt's part. It is important to see that this is opening up those markets for Egypt in a way that we hope will consolidate its position

Of course the agreement will cover 90 per cent of EU/Egyptian trade. The United Kingdom supported better and faster market access for EU exports. Perhaps it is disappointing that more was not achieved. I am bound to say to your Lordships that in acknowledging that, I hope that we will also acknowledge the positive side of the agreement.

I turn to the very interesting point raised by the noble Lord, Lord Avebury, as to the human rights issues around the Egyptian agreement. It is important that the articles on political dialogue provide for regular exchanges on subjects of common interest, such as peace, democracy and regional development. Human rights will be a part of that dialogue, as under the association agreements with other countries in the region. The noble Lord will be familiar with those agreements.

In addition, the European Union can take what are described as "appropriate measures"—including of course, as I mentioned, the suspending provisions in the agreement—if it considers that Egypt is failing to meet its obligations. The noble Lord asked quite rightly: how is that done? Monitoring through the heads of mission will continue. That will trigger, if necessary, an ability to raise the matter at association council and committee. There will be a continuing dialogue after ratification.

We always have very senior ambassadorial representation in Cairo. I was there recently. We have an exceptionally good mission in terms of the numbers of British diplomats. So we are able to monitor the situation and to bring matters to the attention of our colleagues should that be necessary.

The monitoring of human rights concerns by Parliament is an important point, not just for Parliament in this country but for parliaments in other European Union countries. But of course the competence, as the noble Lord will know, rests at European Council level. The Council will consider the views of national parliaments and, quite rightly, the views of the European Parliament itself.

As I understand the situation, either party can take appropriate measures if it considers that the other side is failing to fulfil its complete obligations under the agreement, including in respect of the principles of fundamental human rights. Therefore, I believe that there are many mechanisms which can be triggered should we feel that Egypt is not living up to its obligations.

I turn to the interesting questions raised by the noble Lord, Lord Howell. as to aid. He was particularly worried about what he saw as the failings of European Union aid towards Egypt. It is a UK priority to support reforms aimed at improving the effectiveness and management of European Union aid, including the MEDA programme which provides aid to Egypt. We support the European Commission in taking forward this reform agenda and I think that we are reasonably happy with progress to date.

I understand that the United States is also looking to pursue a free trade agreement with Egypt. However, that ambition is in its early days and no negotiations have actually started. Last week President Bush also spoke of a US/Middle East free-trade area. That is still very much a German idea, but none the less it is interesting that he is thinking in that way.

I stress to noble Lords that the investment pattern between this country and Egypt is interesting. For example, the noble Lord may like to know that United Kingdom companies invest into Egypt six times the volume of money of United States companies. That is a quite remarkable figure. It is one in which this country can take a certain amount of pride, and perhaps one upon which others should reflect.

I turn to issues concerning Chile. As I said, the agreement is part of strengthening bilateral relations in Latin America following the EU-Mexico agreement concluded in 1997. Both the EU and Chile view the agreement as strengthening political links and building on co-operation and assistance projects while giving our economies a real chance to benefit from trade liberalisation. The points made by the noble Lord, Lord Howell, emphasising issues concerning Chilean wine and our whisky are most important. Those are huge products for both economies and it is good to see progress in that respect.

I turn again to the important points made by the noble Lord, Lord Avebury, about human rights. Let us consider the question of the rule of law. The agreement reiterates our commitment to strengthening the rule of law in Chile, which is an integral part of the political and co-operation parts of the agreement. Since the earlier framework agreements concluded in 1991 and 1996, that has been our aim.

The noble Lord is concerned about the working of the military courts. We support the correct use of judicial procedures, according to the nature of the case in question. With regard to the use of military courts, we would use the agreement to influence the Government of Chile to follow what we believe to be the correct internationally recognised procedures. Of course, that means that civilians should be tried in civilian courts.

I turn to the issue of peace law 2.191. We have always been concerned that human rights abuses committed during the military dictatorship are thoroughly investigated by the Chilean authorities, and that those found responsible are brought to justice. We support the repeal of the 1978 amnesty law. I am of course aware of the abuses relating to Father Michael Woodward and William Beausire. We formally registered with the Chilean Government our continuing interest in the cases of both those individuals. As I said, we have always been concerned that human rights abuses be properly investigated and President Lagos has said that his government is committed to ensuring that the courts have the necessary independence to advance the process of human rights cases. So we have received those assurances from the Chilean President.

Article 9 of the agreement provides scope for parliamentary co-operation between the Chilean Congress and the European Parliament. However, no article covers co-operation between national parliaments. That is for the consideration of national parliaments individually, rather than as part of the agreement.

The noble Lord, Lord Hylton, asked whether the Chilean agreement was to be a precursor for one with Argentina or, indeed, Mercosur. As I said, we are not entering into heavy bilateral negotiations with other countries at present, because the Council is concentrating on Cancun and the WTO. Negotiations on association agreements with Chile and Mercosur started together in 1999, but negotiating with a regional bloc is necessarily more complex than with a single country. As I know from discussions that I have had when in Chile and elsewhere—certainly in Brazil—frankly, it can be very difficult to press ahead with such negotiations. However, we hope to conclude the EU-Mercosur association agreement in line with the Rio Work Programme agreed in 2002. We hope to approach the final round of negotiations later this year.

I hope that I have answered your Lordships questions to your satisfaction, and that you will now feel able to pass both of the orders.

On Question, Motion agreed to.