HC Deb 10 November 1970 vol 806 cc116-7W
Mr. Kenneth Baker

asked the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry if he will make a statement on the outcome of the recent meeting of the Ministerial Council of the European Free Trade Association in Geneva.

Mr. John Davies

The E.F.T.A. Council met in Geneva at Ministerial level on 5th and 6th November. The outcome of the meeting is recorded in the following communiquéThe E.F.T.A. Council and the Joint Council of E.F.T.A. and Finland met in ministerial level in Geneva on 5th and 6th November, 1970 under the chairmanship of Mr. Kjell—Olof Feldt,—Sweden's Minister of Commerce. in a review of current activities of the Association Ministers noted that E.F.T.A.'s trade had continued to grow in the first half of the year and that further progress had been made towards the removal of non-tariff barriers to trade. They welcomed in particular the signing of the Convention on Inspections of Pharmaceutical Manufacturing which should provide a stimulus to trade and which is open to the participation of other countries. They expressed the hope that the Convention would be ratified as soon as possible by all E.F.T.A. countries. E.F.T.A. Ministers with the Finnish representative taking part in a personal capacity had a full discussion of the prospects of achieving wider European integration. They expressed their satisfaction with the progress achieved so far in the negotiations between the European Communities and the three E.F.T.A. countries which had applied for membership and with the fact that all the other E.F.T.A. countries would start their discussions in Brussels this month. Ministers welcomed the fact that following the opening of negotiations for accession on 30th June, 1970 the Chairman of the Council of Ministers of the European Communities stated that the Community considers it desirable that agreements with the various E.F.T.A. countries should come into force at the same time. This indeed corresponded with the conviction of E.F.T.A. Ministers recorded in their last communiqué the full terms of which they reaffirmed. Ministers emphasised their strong interest in safeguarding as an important part of an enlarged European Community the free trade already established between E.F.T.A. countries. They declared that they would continue to work towards this end. Ministers noted that with the starting of negotiations and discussions between all E.F.T.A. countries and the Communities the procedure on which they had already agreed for a continuous exchange of information and for consultation would come fully into effect. Ministers have repeatedly stressed their determination to do all they can in G.A.T.T. and elsewhere to ensure that the momentum of world trade liberalisation should be maintained. At their present meeting they expressed their concern regarding recent developments that could lead to the introduction of new restrictions on trade. They emphasised the importance for the world economy of liberal trade policies which have played and still play a prime rôle in assuring economic growth in all parts of the world. Ministers continued to give their full support to the work being done in G.A.T.T. in this context. They also noted with satisfaction the results recently achieved on the establishment of a generalised scheme of preferences for the benefit of the developing countries and emphasised the necessity of settling at an early date the points that are still open. They expressed their determination to undertake the necessary steps for the early implementation of the scheme. On the invitation of the Government of Iceland the next Ordinary Meeting of the Councils at ministerial level will be held in Reykjavik on 12th and 13th May, 1971.