asked the President of the Board of Trade whether he has any further statement to make about import relaxations in view of the decision by the Organisation for European Economic Co-operation on 2nd November that member countries should adopt the objective of removing quantitative re-trictions before 15th December, 1949, on at least 50 per cent. of their total imports on private account from other member countries as a group, in the respective field of food, feedingstuffs and raw materials, and manufactured goods counted separately.
Yes, Sir. As the House is aware, His Majesty's Government have already made a substantial contribution to this objective in the form of open general licences for a wide range of imports into the United Kingdom which I announced on 29th September last. This contribution alone accounts, on the statistical basis laid down by the Organisation, for 83 per cent. of total private account imports of food and feedingstuffs from the participating countries as a group, for 37 per cent. in the case of raw materials excluding oil and for 49.7 per cent. in the case of manufactured goods.
I am now in a position to announce the removal of import licensing restrictions on imports into the United Kingdom from a further list of goods, mainly raw materials, but including some manufactured goods. As before, these relaxations will in general take the form of open general licences, valid as from 5th January next. The open general licences will extend to imports of the goods concerned from all the countries to which the previous relaxations applied. Full details will be printed in this week's Board of Trade Journal.
Together with the relaxations already in force these new relaxations will fully discharge His Majesty's Government's obligations under the Organisation's decision of 2nd November. In the raw materials group our relaxations will now extend to some 68 per cent. of imports in 1948 from the participating countries, and in the manufactured goods group to something over 50 per cent. For foodstuffs, as I have stated, we are already well over the 50 per cent. figure.
In determining the further commodities to be placed on open general licence the Government have continued to bear in mind the considerations mentioned in my statement of 29th September.
In view of the fact that the President of the Board of Trade has announced further relaxations, does not he think he might have waited until he has heard what the other member countries are prepared to do today in order to reciprocate in their attitude towards the liberalisation of intra-Euro-pean trade?
No, Sir. All the nations who participated in O.E.E.C. entered into an obligation to table their proposals for achieving a 50 per cent. figure by yesterday, and I think it would be completely contrary to the lead we have given in the matter if we had waited to see what other nations were going to do.