Developing Countries (Trade Preferences)

Oral Answers to Questions — Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs – in the House of Commons at 12:00 am on 19th December 1973.

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Photo of Mr Nigel Spearing Mr Nigel Spearing , Acton 12:00 am, 19th December 1973

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what further aid Her Majesty's Government will give to developing countries to meet their problems arising from the introduction of the EEC scheme of generalised preferences on 1st January 1974.

Photo of Hon. Richard Wood Hon. Richard Wood , Bridlington

I do not expect that our alignment to the Community's Generalised Preference Scheme will cause any major problems. Our bilateral aid is not primarily intended to compensate countries for difficulties arising from world trading conditions, but we always consider a country's overall economic situation when planning our aid programme.

Photo of Mr Nigel Spearing Mr Nigel Spearing , Acton

Will the Minister explain why he thinks that the overall position for certain countries, particularly ex-Commonwealth countries, will not be worsened? Is it not a fact that the draft regulations for the new European GPS will place certain countries, particularly those in Asia, at a disadvantage compared with their present position in the Commonwealth? Will he take steps to balance the disadvantages that they will thus suffer?

Photo of Hon. Richard Wood Hon. Richard Wood , Bridlington

The hon. Gentleman is overlooking the Community's declaration of intent regarding the countries to which he has referred. The Community has every intention of honouring the declaration of intent that it made.

Photo of Mr Robin Turton Mr Robin Turton , Thirsk and Malton

Will there not be a gap in the early part of 1974 with particular reference to Hong Kong, whose exports of leather goods and textiles to this country will be hampered by coming under the Community's generalised preference scheme?

Photo of Hon. Richard Wood Hon. Richard Wood , Bridlington

We have no significant aid programme for Hong Kong, although there is a certain aid flow. Therefore, the consequences to which my right hon. Friend has directed attention do not apply in Hong Kong.

Photo of Mrs Judith Hart Mrs Judith Hart , Lanark

We know that the Government are negotiating in the EEC on a number of matters concerning the developing countries, and we understand that they are seeking to negotiate rather more aid provision from the EEC to the Asian countries which, as my hon. Friend the Member for Acton (Mr. Spearing) said, will suffer greatly from the new generalised preference scheme. Is the Government's refusal to accept the official aid target of 0–7 per cent.—unlike the other countries of the EEC—proving a considerable and serious barrier to making progress with the negotiating objective that the Government have in mind?

Photo of Hon. Richard Wood Hon. Richard Wood , Bridlington

No. As I have pointed out on many occasions, the performance of individual Governments is far more important than any commitment they may make to a target, particularly if that commitment is made without any dale attached to it.