HC Deb 07 February 1973 vol 850 cc122-3W
Mr. Arthur Lewis

asked the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry whether he will make a statement on his recent overseas tour; and to what extent, during his visit to Canada, he discussed tariff problems resultant upon Great Britain's entry into the Common Market; and what assessment he has made of the effect on Great Britain's trade with Canada of changes in tariffs.

Mr. Peter Walker

On my visit to North America from 24th to 31st January I met leading members of the United States Administration, including Mr. Shultz, Secretary of the Treasury, Mr. Casey, Deputy Under Secretary for Economic Affairs at the State Department, Mr. Dent, Secretary of Commerce, Mr. Butz, Secretary of Agriculture, Mr. Flanigan, Special Assistant to the President for International Economic Affairs and Mr. Eberle, Special Trade Representative, the Senate Finance Committee and Mr. Wilbur Mills, Chairman of the Ways and Means Committee of the House of Representatives. I also met Mr. Peterson the former Secretary of Commerce. In Canada I met Mr. Trudeau and leading members of his Federal Government, including Mr. Turner, Minister of Finance and Mr. Gillespie, Minister for Industry, Trade and Commerce; also Mr. William Davis, Prime Minister of Ontario, and members of his Government. While in Toronto I addressed the annual dinner of the Toronto Metropolitan Board of Trade, one of the most important business gatherings in North America.

In these meetings I had wide ranging discussions on trade matters, including prospects for multilateral trade negotiations and for United States trade legislation, and I emphasised the strong interest of the United Kingdom and of the Community as a whole in the success of these negotiations. I impressed upon the United States Administration the importance of obtaining from Congress satisfactory authority to negotiate with the United States trading partners mutually beneficial agreements leading to the substantial reduction of barriers to trade. I assured the Americans of the continuing interest of this country in further developing our very important trade with them. I told them of our continuing concern at the maintenance of a number of trade barriers affecting our exports to their markets and our anxiety that pressure in the United States for new protectionist measures, if yielded to, might lead to a damaging trade war.

In Canada I pointed out that, far from cutting our ties with Canada, United Kingdom accession to the Community and the faster growth in our economy expected to follow offered new opportunities for the expansion of Anglo-Canadian trade and investment. Nearly 60 per cent. of Canadian exports to this country will continue to enter free of duty. In these circumstances, the increased attraction of our market following United Kingdom accession to the Community outweighs the loss of preferences previously enjoyed by Canada under our tariff.

I also discussed with the Canadian Government a number of specific issues, including the future of British preferences in Canada following the ending of our bilateral trade agreement, emphasising the importance of giving reasonable notice to traders of changes in rates of import duty which may in due course be expected to follow the ending of commitments on preferential treatment of British goods. My judgment is that British exporters, given their existing stake in and knowledge of the rapidly expanding Canadian market, will be well placed to increase their trade there.