|Previous Section||Index||Home Page|
Mr. John Whittingdale (Maldon and East Chelmsford): I thank the Secretary of State for letting me have a copy of her statement in advance and for coming to the House at the first opportunity after her return from Doha, particularly as I suspect that she and her colleagues may not have had much sleep in the past week.
Conservative Members clearly welcome the fact that an agreement was reached at Doha. After the failure of the Seattle meeting, it would have been a disaster if the talks in Doha had broken down. However, as the Secretary of State suggested, what has been achieved marks the beginning of the process and not the end. Is it not the case that what was achieved there was merely agreement in talks about talks, and that the really hard slog has yet to start?
The Secretary of State is right to suggest that a huge prize is at stake. The World Bank estimates that the potential boost to global income is $2,800 billion over the next 15 years. However, does she not find it slightly depressing that already the voices of protectionism are being heard, and that some of the loudest are closest to home?
On agriculture, does the Secretary of State agree that the earlier comments of EU Trade Commissioner Pascal Lamy, in defence of farm subsidies, and the resistance of the French delegation to committing to phasing them out are, at the very least, worrying signs of the battles that lie ahead?
Does the Secretary of State accept that achieving the fundamental reform of the common agricultural policy that is needed is likely to require even more midnight oil to be burned than was the case at Doha, and will she again confirm the Government's absolute commitment to the declaration's aim of reducing, with a view to phasing out, all forms of export subsidies?
Will the Secretary of State give further details of the qualification inserted in the declaration to the effect that non-trade concerns will be taken into account in the negotiations, and make it clear that it should not be used as a means of reneging on those undertakings? Will she also comment on reports that the French agreed to sign the declaration only after receiving an assurance that it did not prejudge the outcome of farm trade talks?
On TRIPStrade-related aspects of intellectual property rightswe welcome the fact that agreement has been reached. However, does the Secretary of State accept that the pharmaceutical industry has never wished to prevent countries in the developing world from accessing vital medicines for tackling diseases such AIDS, malaria and tuberculosis? Will she none the less recognise the industry's legitimate concerns that production under licence in the developing world may lead to back-door imports of those drugs into the markets in the developed world, thus undermining the industry's intellectual property rights? Can she say what measures will be taken to prevent that from happening, and will she also clarify whether any agreement was reached on what constitutes a national emergency? Will that be left entirely for individual states to decide?
Does the Secretary of State agree that the outcome of the talks presents an opportunity for a real opening up of markets for the goods of developing countries and that it is potentially worth far more to them than overseas aid? Does she agree that we should now ensure that the assistance that we give to developing countries is focused on helping them to take advantage of that opportunity? Does she also agree that we will need to do more to persuade some of the campaigning organisations of the real value of what has been achieved?
Finally, does the Secretary of State agree that many countries deserve credit for their willingness to work for an agreement? As well as those that she mentioned, does she agree that particular praise is due to the United States of America for the success? However, does she also agree that the success in Doha in finding language and a text that is acceptable to all must now be translated in the next three years into real agreement to removing barriers and opening up markets. Is not success in achieving that objective just as important to global security and prosperity as the events in Afghanistan that have stolen the headlines in today's newspapers?
Ms Hewitt: I thank the hon. Gentleman for his comments and questions.
On agricultural reform, I can of course confirm that the Government remain entirely committed to the objective that we have set out on several occasionsfundamental reform of the CAP, including the elimination of unfair export subsidies. We have made it clear on several occasions that non-trade issues, including issues of animal welfare that are of real concern to our constituents, should not and will not be used for disguised protectionist purposes.
TRIPS and public medicine were referred to in our exchanges last week. We will work with the pharmaceutical companies to deal with the real problem of back-door imports of cheap drugs. I draw the hon. Gentleman's attention to the section in the declaration specifically on public health. It makes it clear that it is up to member states to decide for themselves when a public health emergency exists. A number of Ministers from developing countries made the point that the phrase "public health" crisis is not the right term to use given the fact that HIV/AIDS, tuberculosis, malaria and other diseases are chronically prevalent in many developing countries. Those diseases represent the normal daily condition of public health; they are not what we would think of as an immediate crisis.
I entirely agree with the hon. Gentleman about the need to enable people in developing countries to trade their way out of poverty. My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for International Development and the UK Government have led the world in investing in capacity building in developing countries to enhance their chances not only of taking part in such negotiations but of benefiting from new opportunities for world trade. We can be proud of our achievements.
The hon. Gentleman referred to the attitude of some UK and other western pressure groups towards the agreement. I certainly observed that, whatever the state of the draft declaration as it progressed on the various days in Doha, one of the NGOs represented there regarded anything that was being proposed as an insult to the world's poor. It seemed to have a word-processor that churned out press statements that had absolutely no regard for what was being proposed and agreed. We should pay a great deal less attention to groups like that and a great deal more attention to the Governments of developing countries. Representatives of the Governments of Tanzania, Brazil, Nigeria and many others got up in the final session at Doha yesterday to say what a good deal this was and how much progress had been made for their people and for those of other developing countries.
Mr. Tam Dalyell (Linlithgow): Does my right hon. Friend recollect that when, with good parliamentary manners and good sense, she made her pre-Doha statement, I asked her about the problem of Mindanao in the Philippines, and particularly the Muslim community and its trade in the centre of Mindanao, in the light of the heavyweight Inter-Parliamentary Union Philippines delegation? Were any officials able to make contact at Doha on that genuine problem?
Ms Hewitt: I am delighted to be able to tell my hon. Friend that not only my officials but I myself had two meetings with the Filipino Trade Minister, Manuel Roxas. We discussed the problem to which my hon. Friend refers, which is primarily a matter for my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for International Development. I shall be drawing it to her attention so that we can see what help we can give.
It was extremely helpful that my hon. Friend gave me advance notice of the problem in the Philippines because it turned out that there was a major issue for that country concerning access for its tuna products to European markets. Difficulties in resolving that issue very nearly unhinged the entire trade round negotiations. I was able to work with the European Commission in proposing an agreement to consult the Philippines on that problem. Its representatives were satisfied with that, and as a result, a potential block on agreement at Doha was avoided.
Dr. Vincent Cable (Twickenham): May I add my welcome for the statementin particular, the Secretary of State's belief that a new round of trade liberalisation will be good for Britain, and the strong emphasis on the concerns of developing countries over access to western markets and intellectual property rights? But does she agree that we have been here before? The Uruguay round was launched with a similar flurry of good language, and developing countries in particular felt disillusioned, even betrayed, by the lack of implementation; it is implementation that is now essential. Confidence in
On agriculture, is the Secretary of State not embarrassed to have signed up to a form of words that has allowed the European Agriculture Commissioner this morning to crow that no reform of the common agricultural policy is now needed because negotiations will take place
Following the comments of the hon. Member for Maldon and East Chelmsford (Mr. Whittingdale), is the Secretary of State not also embarrassed by the tone of the remarks of the European Trade Commissioner, who made it very clear in his statements this week that his primary responsibility was to represent producer interests in France? If he cannot act on behalf of the EU as a whole, will the Government try to ensure that we have a Trade Commissioner who is more representative of the whole Community?