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Mr. Streeter: I think that the Government are doing their best in a difficult situation. It is, of course, outside their power to deliver, and they must do their best, as I am sure that they do. Will the Minister comment on accountability regarding the World Trade Organisation? Does he think that WTO talks are sufficiently well reported back to the House and that Ministers focus sufficiently on the specifics of the talks as they unfold?
Hilary Benn: I recall that my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry made a statement to the House before she went to Doha to lay out the objectives that she and other Ministers would pursue. The hon. Gentleman makes a fair pointI think that it was the broader point behind his questionabout the need to ensure that the issues are discussed widely so that people from all countries may express their views to their Governments before they go to Doha. He recognises that decisions must be taken by consensus in the end.
I promised that I would turn to agriculture. Agriculture is the most important aspect of the negotiations for most developing countries because it offers the potential of the biggest gains for the world's poor. Liberalisation of agricultural trade could boost developing countries' exports by at least $30 billion a year, and perhaps by as much as $100 billion by 2015. That could lead to an annual increase of gross domestic product of almost 1 per cent. throughout the continent of Africa. Of course, Africa is the continent on which our success or failure to meet the millennium development goals rests because it is the only continent that has gone economically backwards during the past
Agricultural markets are the most heavily protected, so we urgently need to tackle distortions in global agricultural trade that are created by our high tariff barriers, the current structure of our domestic support regimes and our subsidised exports. That is especially important because it is the aspect on which many of the poorest countries have the greatest natural trading advantage. It explains why the statement made by African Finance Ministers after their meeting in Addis Ababa this month said that they note with concern that Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development agricultural subsidies have a major and negative impact on the agriculture sector in the majority of their countries. That is the voice of developing countries making the case for change.
Mr. Simon Thomas: On agriculture and the WTO, the Minister will know that only this week the United States Government decided to pursue a case against the European Union on genetically modified organisms. What is the Government's view of the use of GMOs in developing countries and, especially, of the way in which the US Government subsidise their companies to import and introduce GMOs into those countries, thus giving farmers little choice of whether to grow GM crops or not?
Hilary Benn: The hon. Gentleman raises an important point. The answer to his central question about the policy of Governments is that they should weigh up the same considerations for their countries as we are trying to do in the United Kingdom. Developing countries' Governments should take their own decisions based on their assessment and knowledge of what they think is safe and in the best interest of their countries' future. It is important that they have the power and ability to make those decisions. Others should not make those decisions for them.
Mr. Stephen O'Brien: The Minister is generous in giving way a second time. Does he recognise that the removal of the tariff barriers would encourage a greater number of cash crops to be grown, which tend to be commoditised and fall prey to the cyclical nature of commodity prices in global markets? For a number of countries, that has hindered the completion of the heavily indebted poor countries initiative. Does he agree that equal emphasis should be given to value-added manufacturing and distribution instead of having to cede that value chain to the rich western world?
Hilary Benn: I accept the hon. Gentleman's argument completely. Giving developing countries the opportunity, as he put it, to add value from goods that they produce would be a good way of enabling them to participate more effectively, and with greater benefit to their people, in the world trading process.
On reform of the CAP, the negotiations in Brussels resumed today. The deal that was put on the table last Friday is good, but there is a considerable way to go. The Government have always said that they want a
Mr. Parmjit Dhanda (Gloucester): I do not wish to break up the cross-party consensus on many of the issues raised, but does my hon. Friend have a message for Conservative MEPs, who consistently vote with the right in the European Parliament to protect the CAP rather than to reform it?
Hilary Benn: My hon. Friend makes a strong and pertinent point. The basis on which we will be judged as elected representativeswhether as Members of this House or as Members of the European Parliamentis whether by our votes, as well as by our words, we support the objectives raised in the debate, which I think hon. Members on both sides of the House share.
The second key issue is access to medicines. At Doha, we promised to make the World Trade Organisation's rules on intellectual property flexible enough for developing countries that cannot produce the medicines they need to tackle grave health emergencies. We were on the verge of a workable compromise in December last year, but the United States of America, responding to its industry's concerns, has to date blocked the deal. It fears that the proposed solution would be used by developing countries to override patents on what it regards as non-essential medicines.
Those fears have to be addressed. They are not insurmountable. We believe that the December 2002 proposals address those concerns, but it is vital that at Cancun, if not before, we are able to make progress. For many developing countries, progress on trade-related aspects of intellectual property rightsTRIPSand access to medicines is a litmus test of whether we are serious, as a developed world, about giving them the support and help that they need.
The hon. Member for Somerton and Frome mentioned the new issues, which feature prominently in the Trade Justice Movement's lobbying campaign. The Government believe that an appropriate framework agreement on the new issuesinvestment, competition and the way in which trade is conductedcould help. Competition could be aided by tackling the anti-competitive practices used by big international and domestic cartels. The basic rules on transparent procedure in Government procurement could help to promote good governance and reduce corruption.
Sandra Osborne (Ayr): Does my hon. Friend agree that it not just a question of having the capacity to have a place at the table, but is also about having a voice that is listened to so that considered opinions can be heard? Does he acknowledge that many of the developing countries have expressed grave concern about extending the agenda to include new issues if that voice is listened to?
Hilary Benn: I agree entirely about the importance of voices being listened to. If that is to be the case, voices have to be heard, opinions articulated, positions adopted and arguments advanced. As for the World Trade Organisation, the debate has moved on, and we should acknowledge that we hear fewer people saying that the WTO is the cause of all the problems and is an instrument that we should get rid of. Indeed, I noted with great interest the conversion of George Monbiot in his article in The Guardian on 24 June. He said:
Finally, a generation ago, a debate about international development would probably not have included the speech made by the hon. Member for Meriden because it would have focused far more on aid than trade. That shows how all our views have changed in the intervening period. We have learned that while aid still matters enormouslythat is why more is needed and why the Government are providing morethe chance to earn a living in the world matters more, as it can deliver more benefits. That is a huge difference between the international debate now and the debate a generation ago. However, we now have chance to make a much more important difference to the lives of the 1.2 billion people who live on less than a dollar a day. History will not judge us kindly if we fail, which is why we owe it to them to succeed.