HC Deb 28 July 1997 vol 299 cc62-3W
Mr. Fabian Hamilton

To ask the President of the Board of Trade what steps the Government are taking to promote trade with the potential new members of the EU in eastern and central Europe. [9983]

Mrs. Roche

Ten countries of central and eastern Europe—Bulgaria, the Czech Republic, Hungary, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, Romania, Slovakia and Slovenia—have association agreements with the EU carrying the promise of EU membership on certain conditions. On 15 July, the European Commission recommended that accession negotiations start with the Czech Republic, Estonia, Hungary, Poland and Slovenia. In December, the European Council is expected to make a decision about the opening of negotiations.

The Government place a high priority on successful enlargement to the east. EU demand and competitiveness will be stimulated through expansion of the single market by up to 100 million consumers, improving the opportunities for British trade and investment in the region.

Poland, the Czech Republic, Hungary, Slovakia and Slovenia are part of a joint DTI-FCO promotional campaign—"Open for Business in Central Europe". The 18-month campaign, which began in January 1997, aims to raise awareness among British companies of the opportunities in these markets, both generally and in five identified industrial sectors—health care, automotive, consumer goods-retailing, agribusiness and IT-telecommunications-electronics.

The first part of the campaign, which has now ended, involved 13 general awareness seminars held around the UK. The second stage will concentrate more on the specific sectors, with seminars, trade fairs and inward and outward missions. It will also address a number of important issues, such as getting paid, distribution and finding an agent. This will be done through three major showcases, in London, Glasgow and Birmingham—8, 15 and 23 October 1997 respectively. The final stage of the campaign will concentrate on investment.

Trade with the Baltic states is being promoted through a series of Baltic business seminars; by providing support for trade missions and advice and information both in London and in the region. Similar initiatives are being undertaken for Romania and Bulgaria.

Assistance is available for UK companies active in the region through the know-how fund schemes to support pre-investment feasibility studies and training of key staff. The DTI overseas trade services publication "Sources of information, finance and advice on trade and investment in Central and Eastern Europe" lists these and other forms of support for British trade and investment in the region.

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