HC Deb 10 November 1999 vol 337 cc553-4W
Mr. Sayeed

To ask the Secretary of State for International Development if she will review the effects of existing trade agreements on developing countries, with particular focus on smaller communities and their environment, before the WTO Seattle Conference in November. [97889]

Clare Short

Work by the WTO and the World Bank suggests that the gains to developing countries from the Uruguay Round will have been as large, or larger, relative to income, as the benefits to developed countries. The gains by small states from trade agreements and the effects on their environment vary greatly according to their differing patterns of production and the extent to which they benefit from trade preference schemes.

Initial studies on the possible effects of the new Round identify the potential for considerable benefits for developing countries in agriculture and manufacturing. With regard to the environmental effect of the forthcoming Round, the Government strong support the European Union's Sustainability Impact Assessment. The objectives are to develop a methodology for sustainability impact assessment and to use that methodology to make a broad qualitative assessment of the Round's sustainability impact. The Government will continue to liaise with both the European Commission and the consultants in order to contribute to, and learn from, this work.

At country and regional level, DFID is working with the ILO, national governments, NGOs, trade unions and civil society organisations to promote workers rights. For example in south-east Asia we are supporting the ILO's programme to tackle trafficking in women and children across the region. Women and children are often tied to the commercial sex industry in conditions of bonded labour. We have also provided funds for Christian Aid's programme on bonded Child Labour in India.

We are also funding Anti-Slavery International to provide support to six countries to ratify the Convention on the Worst Forms of Child Labour. Anti-Slavery International has considerable expert knowledge on the issue of bonded child labour.

Mr. Sayeed

To ask the Secretary of State for International Development what plans she has to(a) review market access for developing countries and (b) assess the impact of zero tariffs for agricultural and textile exports from developing to developed countries. [97892]

Clare Short

We are continuing to work within the EU for the best possible access to EU markets for developing countries, in support of our efforts to integrate them into the multilateral trading system. The UK and EU are already committed to providing duty free access for essentially all exports from Least Developed Countries by the end of the next round of multilateral trade negotiations.

My Department is in the process of assessing the effects of further trade liberalisation in agriculture and textiles, including improved market access and reductions in tariffs. Within the context of the next round of trade negotiations, to be launched at Seattle later this month, we will be pushing for reductions in tariff barriers, especially in areas where there are tariff peaks, as for textiles, footwear and leather, and where tariffs escalate as for processed agricultural products.

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