Norman Lamb (North Norfolk) (LD): I thank the Secretary of State for providing an advance copy of the statement and note his sense of disappointment with the outcome of the Hong Kong conference. Does he share the view of Oxfam and others that on the whole little has been achieved for developing countries? Does that not demonstrate a collective failure by the rich developed world to end the hypocrisy of, on the one hand, calling for free and fair trade, and on the other hand maintaining protection of their own economies?
Does he agree that the commitment to end export subsidies by 2013 represents no real progress, given what is already happening within the EU in particular, and avoids the wider issue of the trade-distorting effects of domestic subsidies? Overall, does he share the concern that a grand gesture in the G8 followed by an abject failure to deliver simply increases everyone's cynicism about whether anything can ever be achieved?
Following on from the questions about CAP reform by the hon. Member for Rutland and Melton (Mr. Duncan), the timetable for CAP reform within the EU fatally compromises any prospect of a breakthrough for developing countries in the Doha round, given that the date for re-examining the EU budget2010is after the date for the fast-track process in the States, to which the Secretary of State has referred. Does the Secretary of State have any plans that can genuinely re-establish the momentum of the Doha round, given the apparent intransigence of France and other EU countries and the sense of paralysis in Europe on any prospects of reforming the CAP? Does he share the view that that has been starkly demonstrated by the Prime Minister's total failure to secure a real breakthrough during the British presidency?
On the development of the EU's negotiating stance, will the Secretary of State respond to concerns about the secrecy of the process? The article 133 committee meets in secret. Those who are blocking progress can hide behind that secrecy, and no one ever knows who is the real block.
20 Dec 2005 : Column 1716
With regard to the United States, the Secretary of State seems to share the sense of frustration that no real progress has been made on a timetable for ending the outrage of US cotton farmers receiving more funding than the entire GDP of the four west African countries most affectedBenin, Burkina Faso, Chad and Mali. What can be done to get the US to move on that?
On market access for developing countries, where some very limited progress has been made, does the Secretary of State agree that that access on its own is not enough? Vital assistance is also needed to overcome gaps in infrastructure, boost product quality and improve connections to international supply chains. He referred to the Geneva taskforce. What is the timetable for that meeting? Does he agree that the exemptions negotiated by the US and Japan substantially diminish the impact of the market opening agreement?
Does the Secretary of State share the concern of many that the continued failure to reach agreement and a significant breakthrough for developing countries ultimately puts at risk the multilateral process through the WTO? I agree that a drift away from that to bilateral and regional deals would be very damaging, particularly to developing countries, but if we cannot secure agreement that brings a genuine breakthrough for developing countries, there is a real risk to that multilateral process.
Does the Secretary of State have any real confidence that the road map will achieve the progress that we need, given the failure to deliver on other significant road maps? What progress can he secure to ensure that during 2006 a deal is reached in time for the fast-track procedure to work in the United States?
I agree with Oxfam that very little has been achieved. We have always said thatwe are not trying to suggest that this is a great celebration of a huge victory. "Low expectations barely exceeded" would be a good way to put it. However, there has been progress. Had we not made the progress that I set out in six points, the conference would have been an abject failure, but it could not properly be described as such. The hon. Gentleman mentioned hypocrisy. We made that point ourselves in the DTI White Paper last July.
On export subsidies, I disagree with the hon. Gentleman. Real progress has been made. The UK had set out a positionit was part of our election manifestoon getting rid of export subsidies by 2010. Not many other member states were 2010-ersthey included Sweden and, I believe, Denmark. A great deal of concern was expressed about export subsidies. Germany, for instance, understood the issues but felt that its farmers would need much longer before such subsidies could go. Brazil and India did not want the abstract formula that was in the original textsubsidies to go after the finalisation of the round plus five years. Whereas we want Doha to finish at the end of 2006, the experience of the Uruguay round suggests that these things could go on for ever. A formula saying that export subsidies would go five years after the end of the round could have meant 2015 or 2020, so India and Brazil wanted a fixed, certain date. In the end, the fixed
20 Dec 2005 : Column 1717
date of 2013, with the progressive elimination of those subsidies up until then, and with the parallel elimination of food aid and state trading enterprises, was an important achievement.
On the timetable for CAP reform, the writing is on the wall for the fixation with agriculture. Farmers in this country have adapted and changed in line with the 21st-century knowledge economy. Many other countries have been through a painful processNew Zealand in 1985, and Australiabut they would never go back to the old days. We need a combination of the review in 200809, agreed as part of the budget discussions in Brussels, and the elimination of export subsidies. As I said in response to the hon. Member for Rutland and Melton (Mr. Duncan), the real issue in these negotiations is how we sort out market access in the EU. Once that is achieved it will ensure that we say farewell to the ridiculous situation whereby the EU spends 40 per cent. of it budget on 2 per cent. of its population.
The article 133 committee is talked about as though it is some kind of secret society, but it is merely the committee of EU officials that meets when the Council of Ministers is not meeting. The secrecy to which it is subject is no more than one would have in any Government and civil service meeting. The poor souls who slog through every day on the 133 committeethe Council of Ministers met every other day; the 133 committee met every day for hoursshould be congratulated on their contribution, not treated with suspicion.
Ann McKechin (Glasgow, North) (Lab): As my right hon. Friend will be aware, the hon. Member for Buckingham (John Bercow) and I attended the parliamentary conference in Hong Kong last week. I am sure that he shares my concern that many of the delegates to the parliamentary conference perceived last week as being a tug of war between the EU and the USA. May I urge him to follow up his suggestion that we need leadership at the very top from the world's political leaders in 2006 if we are to achieve a credible development agenda at the WTO talks?
Alan Johnson: I add my hon. Friend to the list of people who made a genuine contribution. It is not the kind of conference that one goes to in order to have fun.[Interruption.] Well, I did get this suit, but never mind that.
It is fair to say that the big beasts of the US and the EU needed to make progress on domestic support in relation to market access to the EU. The EU made a good argument to the effect that having agreed to eliminate export subsidies a year ago, although no date was attached, having agreed to duty-free and quota-free access to the EU for least-developed countries, and having put forward a serious offer on 28 Octoberit was serious, unlike the offer of 10 Octoberit was now time, in a proper negotiation, for some other countries, particularly larger developing countries, to start moving on industry so that a proper negotiation across the three elements of agriculture, industry and services could proceed.
However, I agree that we have to break the logjam. We have to ensure that when people sit down and make conditional offers they turn over their cards at the same
20 Dec 2005 : Column 1718
time, because the stage of holding cards close to the chest is well past. Heads of Government have already been involved in that, but they may have a greater role to play over the coming months.
John Bercow (Buckingham) (Con): The constructive efforts by the Secretary of State and his right hon. and hon. Friends deserved a better reward in Hong Kong than they got. Given that the failure to achieve a satisfactory deal is a frustrating inconvenience for the rich north, but literally a death sentence for all too many people in the poor south, and that western agricultural protectionism is deliberately making the poor poorer, does the Secretary of State accept that there is a powerful case not only for bilateral or multilateral initiatives but for unilateral initiatives by the European Union and the United States to end trade discrimination against developing countries in dairy products, textiles and cotton in order to give the most destitute people on the planet the chance to compete and grow?