HC Deb 13 May 1968 vol 764 cc189-91W
81. Mr. Marten

asked the President of the Board of Trade if he will make a statement on the European Free Trade Association meeting recently concluded.

Mr. Crosland

The E.F.T.A. Council and the Joint Council of Finland and E.F.T.A. met in London at Ministerial level on 9th and 10th May. The outcome of the meeting is recorded in the following communiqué:



The E.F.T.A. Council and the Joint Council of Finland and E.F.T.A. met at Ministerial level in London on 9th and 10th May. Mr. Anthony Crosland, President of the Board of Trade of the United Kingdom, was in the Chair.

In the E.F.T.A. Council, with the Finnish Minister present in a personal capacity, Ministers reviewed developments in European integration since their meeting in Lausanne in October, 1967. They noted that efforts by Member countries to open negotiations with the European Communities had so far been unsuccessful. They reaffirmed their continuing determination to work for the wider integration

which each was started, the amount so far spent on each, the amount recovered from customers, the names of such customers, and the gross expenditure and receipts estimated for the current financial year.

Mr. Benn

The following information has been provided by the Atomic Energy Authority:

of Europe which has always been an objective of E.F.T.A.

Discussions are at present proceeding within the European Economic Community on the possibility of interim solutions, including trading arrangements, pending the enlargement of the Community. Such solutions, which cannot be considered as a substitute for wider integration, might reduce the effects of the division of Europe. Ministers expressed their readiness to consider in a positive spirit any constructive proposals that might be put forward by the Community, provided that these proposals were in conformity with their international obligations. All E.F.T.A. countries should have the possibility to partipate from the beginning in any negotiations for a trading arrangement which might follow, without renouncing the aim of their respective government policies to achieve either membership of the Community or any other form of participation in a wider European market. All Ministers undertook to consult fully in the event of any proposals being addressed to them individually or collectively.

Ministers were unanimous in their view that, so long as the establishment of a single European market remained out of reach, their co-operation in E.F.T.A. should be actively pursued. Accordingly, they instructed the Councils at official level to work on lines set out in a programme which covers a wide range of activities. This programme, which takes account of the proposals put forward by the four Nordic E.F.T.A. Governments, is based on three main principles: first, to improve still further the trading opportunities opened up by the Free Trade Area; secondly, to permit a more precise interpretation of the provisions of the E.F.T.A. Convention, including the rules of competition; and finally, to extend consultation within E.F.T.A. in a number of fields. In reviewing current E.F.T.A. business, Ministers took note of the extent of agreement reached by the working party on government aids, and instructed the Councils at official level to pursue the study of the subject.

Ministers discussed the impact on E.F.T.A. trade of the proposed expansion of aluminium smelting capacity in the United Kingdom with the assistance of government aids available under general legislation and the effects which this could have on Norwegian exports. At the Councils' request the United Kingdom and Norwegian Governments agreed to have urgent further bilateral talks on this topic and to report to the Councils on them. The United Kingdom Minister said that his Government would take full account of these talks in arriving at decisions.

Ministers expressed their satisfaction that the partners in the Kennedy Round of the United States had found it possible to envisage an accelerated application of the agreed tariff reductions. They recalled the constructive offer which E.F.T.A. Governments had made in this direction. They agreed to keep in close touch with each other and with the other participants in the Kennedy Round in order to maintain the present high degree of liberalisation of world trade.

At the invitation of the Austrian Government, the next Ministerial meeting of the Council will take place in Vienna on 21st and 22nd November, 1968.