§ 66. Sir W. Steward
asked the Chancellor of the Exchequer if he will make a progress report on his recent visit to North America, with special reference to the Government proposals for an Anglo-Canadian free trade area.
§ 68 and 75. Mr. Wade
asked the Chancellor of the Exchequer (1) to make a statement on the recent meeting of the Commonwealth Finance Ministers;
(2) what consultations he had with the Governments of other Commonwealth countries before the announcement of proposals for a free trade agreement with Canada.
§ Mr. P. Thorneycroft
My recent visit to North America covered three main meetings.
First the Annual Meetings of the International Monetary Fund and International Bank; second the meeting of the Commonwealth Finance Ministers in Mont Tremblant in Canada; and third meetings with Canadian Ministers in Ottawa on trade between the United Kingdom and Canada. My right hon. Friend the President of the Board of Trade took part with me in both meetings in Canada, and my right hon. Friend the Paymaster-General was also present at the Commonwealth Finance Ministers Meeting.
At these meetings. I stated our determination to strengthen sterling and to deal with the problems of inflation at home. I was heartened by the support which I received, which was explicitly set out in the Communiqué issued at the end of the Finance Ministers Meeting.
That meeting also proposed the convening of a Commonwealth Trade and Economic Conference in 1958, and discussed European economic co-operation, particularly the United Kingdom initiative for the establishment of a Free Trade Area in Europe. I was much encouraged by the evident desire on all sides for closer Commonwealth consultation and for the expansion of trade between Commonwealth countries, and by the understanding attitude of the Commonwealth countries to the initiative which we had taken in Europe.
The discussions in Ottawa covered among other things the proposal of the United Kingdom Ministers for a free trade 9W area with Canada. While this proposal was mentioned by me to the other Commonwealth Finance Ministers at Mont Tremblant, it would have been premature to discuss it before it had been examined with the Canadian Government.
I have arranged for copies of the communiqués of both the meetings in Canada to be available in the Library.