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World Trade

5. Mr. Mark Harper (Forest of Dean) (Con): If he will make a statement on the EU's role in the Doha round of world trade talks. [32392]

7. Chris Mole (Ipswich) (Lab): What recent discussions he has had with EU partners regarding the World Trade Organisation talks in Hong Kong. [32394]
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The Minister for Europe (Mr. Douglas Alexander): The Doha round provides an opportunity to tackle some of the most fundamental injustices at the heart of world trade. My right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary chaired EU Foreign Ministers' discussions on the trade talks earlier this month. During our EU presidency, we have consistently made clear our ambition for a successful and balanced outcome to that round.

Mr. Harper: This year, the common agricultural policy will cost about £33 billion—equivalent to the gross domestic product of Ethiopia. Given that the Doha round talks are designed to liberalise trade and drive forward the millennium development goals and development more generally, does the Minister believe that the CAP should survive the World Trade Organisation talks in December?

Mr. Alexander: We have consistently made it clear that we want a fixed date to be set for the removal of export subsidies—one of the central elements of the CAP. I am glad to say that other countries, including the United States, have joined us in setting a time scale that they would like to be agreed at Hong Kong during this round. It is important to recognise that agriculture should not crowd out the other elements of a necessary agreement in Hong Kong—whether that means non-agricultural market access or the issue of services. A great deal of potential benefit not just for Britain but for the whole of Europe will follow from a successful conclusion to this round.

Chris Mole: Recent media reports have speculated pessimistically about the outcome in Hong Kong. Does the Minister share that pessimistic view?

Mr. Alexander: It is correct to acknowledge that recent expectations, not least as a result of the comments of the new secretary-general of the World Trade Organisation, Pascal Lamy, have begun to be lowered ahead of the critical meeting in Hong Kong next month. The British Government's position, during our presidency of the EU, has consistently been to argue for the continuing need for an ambitious and balanced outcome. That remains the Government's position.

Mr. Roger Williams (Brecon and Radnorshire) (LD): The EU Commissioner responsible for the trade negotiations in Doha is prepared to advocate reductions of 40 per cent. in some import tariffs, despite the fact that certain products—beef from Brazil, for example—cause considerable environmental damage and exploit labour. Will the Minister assure me that he will intervene and ensure that the reductions will not take place until those products are made without the abuse of environmental damage?

Mr. Alexander: From the question, I am not entirely sure towards which products the hon. Gentleman directs his concern. There has been an offer forthcoming from the Trade Commissioner, and the European Union now looks particularly to Brazil, and also to India, to match the offers that it has made, in order to regain some of the momentum that was apparent in the early autumn but that appears to have been lost in recent weeks.
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Tony Lloyd (Manchester, Central) (Lab): Where does the UK stand, in respect of the EU's negotiating position, on deregulation of services? In particular, what is our position on the potentially damaging impact of a prescribed list of services that must be privatised by developing countries?

Mr. Alexander: Britain will not only be represented by Cabinet Ministers in Hong Kong, but will speak with the collective voice of the 24 other members of the European Union, and will be represented collectively at the world trade talks by the European Commission. That is right, because given the challenges that we face from countries such as Brazil, India and—not least—the United States, it is better to speak with the collective strength of 24 other members of the EU to maximise our influence. There are discussions at the moment on the issue of services and non-agricultural market access. I will ensure that my hon. Friend's representations are directed to the Department of Trade and Industry and that a reply is forthcoming.

John Bercow (Buckingham) (Con): Given that Benin, Burkina Faso, Mali and Chad depend on cotton for between 30 and 40 per cent. of their export earnings, will the Minister undertake to work with the EU as a bloc to exert remorseless pressure on the United States to end its obscene $3 billion annual subsidy to 25,000 large-scale and inefficient cotton manufacturers and stop dumping that produce on those four countries? That policy is morally wrong, economically counter-productive and serves to exacerbate the plight of some of the most destitute people on the planet.

Mr. Alexander: I assure the hon. Gentleman that we are pressing the United States on that issue, but his very specific points also make a general point. All of us who are genuinely concerned for the interests of developing countries—I certainly count the hon. Gentleman in that group—have an interest in seeing the multilateral talks succeed. The experience after Cancun was not that it led to a radically better deal being offered to such countries as he mentioned. In fact, it led to the US signing bilateral trade deals, with great imbalances in negotiating strength represented within those individual bilateral discussions. If we want to avoid a rash of bilateral deals that are disadvantageous to the interests of developing countries, all of us—and certainly the British Government—have an interest in ensuring a successful outcome to the Hong Kong meetings.

Mr. Adrian Bailey (West Bromwich, West) (Lab/Co-op): I welcome my right hon. Friend's comments about the reduction in export subsidies from the EU, but will he stress—not only with the EU, but with other countries—that the huge potential benefits to be gained from the cancellation of world debt for developing countries could be undermined unless the developed world recognises the need to reduce export subsidies that undermine the economies of those countries?

Mr. Alexander: I take my hon. Friend's point. We have always seen 2005 as the opportunity to align the progress that was made in June, when European Ministers agreed effectively to double bilateral overseas development assistance from the European Union, with
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the decisions reached by Finance Ministers—confirmed at Gleneagles in July—on the significant multilateral debt relief that my hon. Friend mentions. The third element of the trinity was the need to try to make real progress in Hong Kong. All of us recognise that if we have the right outcome in Hong Kong and when the round is concluded, it will offer the opportunity not only for more jobs and prosperity in the European Union but will be fairer for the developing world.

Miss Anne McIntosh (Vale of York) (Con): The UK has enjoyed traditional trading links over many years with Commonwealth countries, as the EU has with the ACP countries. In particular, sugar and bananas have had a great role to play in the Caribbean. What future will there be for those products and, in particular, for the Caribbean countries that export to the EU and to the rest of the world after the Hong Kong round?

Mr. Alexander: A range of issues are related to the hon. Lady's question. First, on sugar, fundamental reform was agreed last week, thanks to my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs. There is ongoing consideration as to what level of support can be provided directly during a longer transitional period than was initially envisaged.

Secondly, there is the issue of economic partnership agreements. Before the European presidency, the British Government set out a position that, I am glad to say, has found favour not just with NGOs in the United Kingdom but with other countries that are affected by changes such as those of which the hon. Lady speaks; but we need to continue to work, as the British Government, during the British presidency to make these cases to our European partners. That is why, when my right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary chaired a meeting on trade talks, I took the opportunity to make the case to other European partners that if we got this round right there would be an opportunity to be both pro-jobs in Europe and pro-poor in the world—and that, particularly in relation to the sugar and banana regimes, a successful outcome would provide considerable gains not just to those individual countries but to us all.

Mr. Tom Clarke (Coatbridge, Chryston and Bellshill) (Lab): Given the Government's laudable commitment to millennium development goal 8, does my right hon. Friend agree that the issue of trade far transcends even crucial matters such as aid and debt; that the European Union can indeed exercise a substantial role, coupled with the United States; and that, on these matters, transparency would indeed be welcome?

Mr. Alexander: My right hon. Friend makes an important point. It is hard to overstate the contribution that trade can make to the fulfilment not just of the millennium development goals but of those countries' potential. That point was driven home to me recently when I was reading speeches made by President John F. Kennedy during his term in office in the United States, when he spoke at the beginning of one trade round of the potential of helping developing countries such as Japan. If one looks around the world, one realises that it is hard to find an example of a country that has managed to lift its population out of poverty other than by having an
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open trading system. That is why we regard Hong Kong as having the potential to take forward the work that we have begun during 2005, but I fully accept the point that my right hon. Friend makes that it is a vital and very significant element in that trinity of increased development assistance, reduced debt payments from developing countries, and, of course, the fairer trade system that I know he favours.

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