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Adam Price (East Carmarthen and Dinefwr): The Secretary of State stresses the need to bring benefits to the poorest countries, with which I am sure we all agree. However, in that case, I fail to understand why she does not even consider as serious the proposals that many developing countries should have a public health exemption from international patent rules, thus enabling those poor countries to import cheap drugs to protect their citizensmuch as the United States has been able to do recently with the anti-anthrax drug, Cipro. It will be interesting to learn what discussions she holds with the Secretary of State for International Development on that vital issue. Will the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry promise the House that she will bring pressure to bear on her American colleagues to ensure that the same trading concessions are given to Nigeria, India and other textile-producing countries as to Pakistan; or will the rules of trade continue to be based not on justice and equity but on the economic self-interest of the west?
Ms Hewitt: The hon. Gentleman raises two important points. We believe that the flexibility that already exists
I remind the hon. Gentleman that if we simply set aside intellectual property rights we will destroy the incentive for pharmaceutical companies to invest massively in the research needed to develop new drugs to deal not only with diseases in the developed world but with the diseases of poverty.
I am sure that the hon. Gentleman recognises the considerable efforts and risks that the Government and people of Pakistan are taking in relation to the terrorism of Osama bin Laden and the Taliban. He will also recognise the real efforts that the authorities in Pakistan are making to deal with the menace of drugs. It is in recognition of both facts that the European Commission has recently made a proposal, which we support, for bilateral improvements in the textiles arrangements with Pakistan. I certainly hope that the United States of America will take a similar position.
I fully understand the concerns within our own industry on that subject, and I recently met the employers and KFAT, the National Union of Knitwear, Footwear and Apparel Trades, to discuss the subject. It is appropriate that we recognise the efforts that Pakistan is making and take further steps, along with those that we shall be taking in the WTO, to assist Pakistan to export in a sector that is of enormous importance to it.
Roger Casale (Wimbledon): I thank my right hon. Friend for her statement and welcome the emphasis that I know she will place, on behalf of the British Government at Doha, on using any forthcoming trade round to eliminate poverty around the world, and allowing the world's poorest economies to develop their potential through trade at the same time as we move to unshackle the world's poorest societies from the unmeetable and unbearable burden of debt. Does she share my concern that, despite the popular impression that the process of globalisation is accelerating, we are experiencing not only a global slowdown in economic growth around the world but, critically, an even greater slowdown in the growth of trade as a share of world output? Is it not the case that trade liberalisation must be an overriding imperative for the world community, not least because global recession would have catastrophic consequences for the world's poor?
Ms Hewitt: I agree with the point that my hon. Friend has made. We face a real slowdown in economic growth, in trade and in foreign investment, especially in the developing countries. The real disaster would be if, in response to the economic slowdown, the countries of the developed world were to retreat into isolation and protectionism. Our best response to the economic slowdown as well as the terrorist attacks is to advance the cause of free and fair world trade, in the interests of the developing countries above all but also of the west.
Mr. Andrew Lansley (South Cambridgeshire): The Secretary of State will be aware that the linkages between issues are some of the most important aspects of the trade round. May I invite her to add a little more on the question
Ms Hewitt: Anti-dumping is one of the largest issues in the implementation basket that we have to consider, and the point that the hon. Gentleman makes about the need for effective competition authorities is absolutely right. If we can achieve more effective regimes for competition and investment across the world, we shall create a much better climate for foreign direct investment around the world. However, we must also recognise that, for developing countries with very little governmental capacity, those are difficult new issues that we are asking them to take on. I believe that we shall make progress on that at Doha, but we shall then need to reassure developing countries that we are not asking them to do too much, too quicklyagain, another reason why my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for International Development has been boosting our investment in capacity building.
Mr. John Battle (Leeds, West): Every day, poor countries lose some £1.4 billion because of unfair trade rules, while a quarter of the world's wealth is owned by 200 transnational corporations, so more just trade rules are crucial. Although I generally welcome my right hon. Friend's positive approach to the Doha conference, may I tell her not to put all her faith in improving and getting fairer international trade rules and urge her also to encourage and support local and regional trading, which is vital to poorer countries' economies?
Ms Hewitt: I entirely agree with the points that my hon. Friend makes. Local and regional trading agreements are not an alternative to the multilateral trading agreements that we can achieve through the World Trade Organisation, but as our own experience in Europe demonstrates, they are none the less extremely important, especially to developing countries, for which they undoubtedly represent the best route out of poverty.
Mr. Christopher Chope (Christchurch): Will the Secretary of State tell us what specific proposals the European Union has to put on the table at the conference in relation to liberalisation in trade in food, which is fundamental to resolving world poverty issues? Will she tell the House how many of her 14 colleagues from other EU countries she thinks support her commendable philosophy of world trade liberalisation?
Ms Hewitt: Of course, the EU and the European Commissioner negotiate in the WTO on behalf of all 15 members of the EU. Commissioner Lamy, to whom I pay tribute for his work so far, is clear about the negotiating remit that the EU has given him and about the need to secure agreement on moving forward on agricultural liberalisation. There are non-trade issues, including animal welfare, about which the European public have expressed real concern, but, as with
Judy Mallaber (Amber Valley): My right hon. Friend has referred to the concerns expressed in the clothing and textiles sector. Will she expand on what issues relating to the sector she thinks may be raised during the talksand what is the Government's position on them?
Ms Hewitt: I pay tribute to my hon. Friend for the work that she has done with the textiles industry, which is enormously important in her constituency and, indeed, in mine. The textiles issue is immensely important to developing countries, which is why they seek further liberalisation and, in particular, a reduction of tariff barriers in the western countries, and we will consider that issue very carefully. As I said in my recent discussions with industry and union leaders, we will also consider ways in which we can work even more effectively to ensureas quotas are phased out, which we have already undertaken to do, and as tariffs are reducednot only that the industry can move even more effectively into more advanced and higher-value-added products but that any tariff reductions that we make are matched by tariff reductions in developing countries, enabling our industry to gain access for its products to new markets in other parts of the world.
Mr. Richard Allan (Sheffield, Hallam): I am pleased that the Secretary of State referred to intellectual property, but disappointed that it is not one of the United Kingdom's priorities for Doha. Does she recognise that the concentration of intellectual property rights in the wealthiest countries could be harmful? Although the intellects that lie behind the property come from all over the world, the rights invariably end up in the home countries of the largest companies. Is she worried that the structural inability to develop strong portfolios of intellectual property in some developing countries may work against their need to reduce poverty?