§ 96. Mr. Roy Jenkins
asked the Chancellor of the Exchequer whether he will make a statement on his recent talks in Paris on the future of the European Payments Union and related subjects.
§ Mr. R. A. Butler
The recent meeting of the Council of O.E.E.C. was an important and successful one. Substantial progress was made in the liberalisation of intra-European trade94W and in the preparations for the eventual transition to a wider multilateral system of trade and payments.
On the trade side, the proportion of member countries' imports from each other to be freed from quota restrictions was raised from 75 per cent. to 90 per cent. In order that all countries should contribute to the advance, it was agreed that even those who had already reached that figure should free at least 10 per cent. of the trade on which they still retain restrictions. The new target of 90 per cent. is expected to be reached within six months of the 1st April, this being the date on which France has undertaken to return to the 75 per cent. level which she had to abandon some time ago because of balance of payments difficulties.
The Council also agreed that measures of artificial aid to exports should be discontinued by the end of 1955, and that in the meantime no new measures of this kind should be introduced.
On the payments side, the Council agreed in principle to continue the operation of the European Payments Union for a further year after 30th June, 1955, and instructed the Managing Board to consider the conditions for this renewal. The Council also instructed the Managing Board to make proposals for a European Fund to take the place of E.P.U. when the major European currencies have been made convertible, including the arrangements for transition from one system to the other when the time comes.