HC Deb 11 November 1999 vol 337 cc729-30W
Mr. Jim Marshall

To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry what was the outcome of the Industry Council held in Brussels on 9 November; and if he will make a statement. [98300]

Mrs. Liddell

I represented the UK at the EU Industry Council held on 9 November.

The Council agreed its report to the Helsinki European Council on the integration of industry and sustainable development policy. There was also a discussion of Kyoto targets, where there was general agreement that more effective co-ordination was needed on how to take account of industry's concerns in the implementation of Kyoto targets.

The Council had a debate on competitiveness, which focused on the need for structural change and adaptability in European industry, the importance of SMEs and the role of information and communication technologies in growth and competitiveness.

The Commission presented its first market monitoring report on the world shipbuilding market which highlighted both the serious situation in the market and further clear evidence of unfair pricing by Korea. The Council with strong support from the UK emphasised its serious concern at the situation and unfair pricing from Korea and in its conclusions made clear its determination to tackle such unfair trade practices and agreed further action to this end. The Council called on the Commission and the Presidency to re-engage Korea in bilateral consultations with a view to halting the unfair competition and in parallel urged Industry, member states and the Commission to seek more detailed evidence in order to take appropriate action under the WTO. The Council also emphasised the need to continue to ensure that the conditions of the IMF rescue package were fully respected. The Council ended its conclusions by welcoming the Commission's determination to continue to pursue its obligations under the EU shipbuilding regime and to report on developments as soon as possible.

The new Commission's enterprise policy was set out and focused on promoting entrepreneurship and innovation in Europe, stimulating the growth of SMEs, tackling red tape, addressing failures in the provision of risk capital and promoting an inclusive and cohesive Information Society. The Commission stated that it wanted to see a new innovation policy process which would involve assessing the existing situation in Europe, identifying specific priorities and actions and reporting on measures taken by member states.

A number of delegations stressed the importance of investment in intangibles, particularly the knowledge base, training and life-long learning; the increased use of information technology; and the consolidation of Councils. On the latter, there was support from a number of member states for a more focused approach to competitiveness issues and for merger of the Industry Internal Market Councils as a first step. The Presidency was encouraged to settle issues at the Helsinki European Council.

The Commission also presented its: Communication on the competitiveness of the forest based and related industries; Communication on the competitiveness of the steel industry; Report on the monitoring of aid for steel; Action Plan on the competitiveness of the construction industry; and gave a progress report on the public consultation on it's competition policy modernisation proposals. The Danish delegation introduced a paper on state aid policy which highlighted the damage state aid caused to the Single Market.

The Council also adopted conclusions on the competitiveness of the forest-based and related industries.