HC Deb 07 July 1983 vol 45 cc150-2W
Mr. Tim Smith

asked the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry if he will make a statement on the outcome of UNCTAD VI.

Mr. Channon

The sixth Session of the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development took place in Belgrade from 6 June to 3 July. The negotiations between the carefully prepared positions of the developing and of the developed countries were slow and far from easy, but it eventually proved possible to adopt by consensus some 20 resolutions covering all the main items of the agenda, although in some instances interpretative statements were made.

Four resolutions were adopted dealing with commodities. The conference urged countries which had not yet done so to ratify the agreement on the common fund without further delay. The United Kingdom ratified this agreement in 1981. The European Community offered to pay the subscriptions to the fund of three newly designated least developed countries not covered by the offer made a year ago by OPEC. It was agreed to press on with the integrated programme for commodities, and to look into the proposals for interim commodity agreements, as well as to continue work on processing, marketing and distribution of commodities. On a Western initiative a resolution was passed to increase the activities of the international trade centre in the marketing of commodities. An expert group is to be set up to look into the various proposals for a complementary financing facility for the stabilisation of export earnings.

The resolution on trade reaffirms undertakings and understandings in the fields of protectionism, of structural adjustment and with respect to the generalised scheme of preferences. The resolution underlines the commitment of the developed countries to halt protectionism and to work systematically towards reducing quantitatve restrictions on trade, as agreed at the Williamsburg summit.

In the field of money and finance, resolutions were agreed on official development assistance, multilateral aid, external debt, and the international monetary system. A further draft resolution, initiatied by the United Kingdom, and calling for greater efforts to remove obstacles to direct private investment in developing countries, was regrettably not adopted for lack of time.

There was recognition that while UNCTAD had a clear interest in the course of the world financial and monetary system, particularly as it affected developing countries, detailed examination of and decisions on issues affecting the World Bank and the IMF should be carried out in those fora. We welcome the fact that it was possible to reach an agreed resolution on the international monetary system.

The conference also reviewed a number of items on which work was in progress in UNCTAD's permanent machinery and agreed on further steps. In particular the conference gave its support to economic co-operation among developing countries. Resolutions were agreed on shipping and on technology.

Although a large measure of agreement was reached on action in the above fields, there was greater difficulty in reaching a wholly agreed assessment of the world economic situation. The statement which emerged was qualified in some respects by a number of developed countries, including the United Kingdom.

On the whole, this was a reasonably satisfactory result, and the proportion of resolutions on which a substantial consesus was reached is higher than in most previous conferences. Modest progress was made in a number of areas, despite the problems which are inherent in UNCTAD's methods of operation, which give inadequate opportunity for substantive discussion between the groups.

I hope that consideration will be given to improving procedures before the next conference. UNCTAD provides a forum for deliberation over a wide field, but decisions are often taken elsewhere, by national Governments and in other international organisations. The results of the conference should therefore be judged not only in terms of its resolutions but in terms of action taken, for example, in the IMF, the World Bank and GATT, and in the agreements reached at the OECD ministerial meeting and the Williamsburg summit.

I shall be placing in the Library of the House in due course the text of the resolutions which were adopted, together with relevant statements made by or on behalf of the United Kingdom. An account of the conference will be published in a White Paper as soon as practicable.

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