General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade

Oral Answers to Questions — Trade and Industry – in the House of Commons at 12:00 am on 19th March 1973.

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Photo of Mr Douglas Jay Mr Douglas Jay , Battersea North 12:00 am, 19th March 1973

asked the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry what reply he gave to inquiries by Mr. Peterson, President Nixon's special representative, on his recent visit to London about the United Kingdom Government's attitude to the international trade negotiations due to start this autumn.

Photo of Mr Raymond Fletcher Mr Raymond Fletcher , Ilkeston

asked the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry what recent discussions he has had with the United States Government about United Kingdom Government proposals to be put forward in the international trade negotiations under GATT later this year.

Photo of Mr Edward Garrett Mr Edward Garrett , Wallsend

asked the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry whether he will make a statement about his recent discussions in London with President Nixon's representative on the proposed GATT negotiations for further liberalising international trade.

Photo of Mr Thomas Boardman Mr Thomas Boardman , Leicester South West

My right hon. Friend's talks with Ambassador Peterson last month and the discussions he had in Washington in January are part of a continuing dialogue between our two Governments on current problems. He empasised our concern for the success of the multilateral negotiations. Our participation in the preparatory work within the EEC has the same objective.

Photo of Mr Douglas Jay Mr Douglas Jay , Battersea North

Since that answer means almost nothing and since we were constantly told that one of the main purposes of joining the EEC was to achieve major reforms from within, can the Minister give an assurance that the British Government will propose major reforms of the common agricultural policy in these trade negotiations?

Photo of Mr Thomas Boardman Mr Thomas Boardman , Leicester South West

Agriculture was one of the topics discussed in the wide-ranging discussions between Ambassador Peterson and United Kingdom Ministers. The United States has put forward a number of ideas on ways in which trade and agriculture might be developed. These are being considered. These consultations are going forward and the right hon. Gentleman will know that it would be premature at this stage to say any more about the course which they are taking.

Photo of Mr Neil Marten Mr Neil Marten , Banbury

What is the British view in the consultations which we are having with the other countries? Are we not entitled to know?

Photo of Mr Thomas Boardman Mr Thomas Boardman , Leicester South West

The question of informing the House of the way in which the discussions are going is a matter which is being kept under review. It is obviously out of the question to reveal one's hand before the action is joined.

Photo of Mr Tony Benn Mr Tony Benn , Bristol South East

The Minister will be aware that this issue has come up time and again. Is he aware that if the Government are not ready to tell the House what their objectives are, we have no criteria by which to judge the extent to which they have succeeded? Is he further aware that if secrecy is to surround our negotiating position on each occasion Parliament will lose any opportunity to influence the Government's efforts in such negotiations?

Photo of Mr Thomas Boardman Mr Thomas Boardman , Leicester South West

The right hon. Gentleman knows that we, like the United States and the rest of the Community, share a strong interest in the liberalisation of international trade. He will also be aware of the importance of each party taking the other's point of view during the coming months in preparation for the meeting later in the year.