HC Deb 30 April 1998 vol 311 cc184-5W
Sir Alastair Goodlad

To ask the Secretary of State for International Development what representations she has made to the Generalised System of Preferences Working Group about the proposed regulation; and if she will make a statement. [40149]

Clare Short

Two key regulations have been discussed and agreed within the Generalised System of Preferences Working Group during the UK Presidency. These are the Regulation on Least Developed Countries (LDCs) and the Regulation on Special Incentives. UK policy on both of these is set out in the Government's White Paper on International Development published in November 1997. DFID has worked closely with DTI—which is the lead Department in formulating and implementing the Government's policy.

The proposed Regulation on LDCs was agreed by the Council in March this year. This requires the EU to extend market access terms, similar to those available under the Lome Convention, to the nine non-ACP LDCs and to apply these retrospectively from 1 January 1998. We therefore welcome this Regulation which we see as an important first step towards our long-term goal of duty-free market access to the EU market for all LDCs and for the eventual agreement to eliminate tariffs on LDC products within a bound WTO scheme.

The proposed Regulation on Special Incentives provides for additional trade preferences to be granted to developing countries that meet certain labour and environmental standards. The Government attach considerable importance to these proposals as a mechanism for signalling to the developing world that our concerns about raising standards are not driven by protectionist motives. The GSP Working Group has concluded its deliberations on the proposal which will be submitted to the Council in May. The Group will soon be considering how technical assistance can be offered to those developing countries who wish to access the scheme but who lack the capacity to meet the required standards.