Paper Imports

Oral Answers to Questions — Trade – in the House of Commons at 12:00 am on 26th April 1976.

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Photo of Mr John Ovenden Mr John Ovenden , Gravesend 12:00 am, 26th April 1976

asked the Secretary of State for Trade when he expects to commence discussions with the Scandinavian Governments on the review of the duty-free quota system for the import of paper products.

Photo of Michael Meacher Michael Meacher Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Department of Trade)

I expect these discussions to commence in May, but no firm dates have yet been arranged.

Photo of Mr John Ovenden Mr John Ovenden , Gravesend

I thank my hon. Friend for that answer. May I have an assurance that these negotiations about the long-term future of quotas will be completed before the 1977 figures are due to be negotiated? Will my hon. Friend also assure me that in these negotiations he will endeavour to produce a system which more closely reflects reductions in home demand and affects imports accordingly?

Photo of Michael Meacher Michael Meacher Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Department of Trade)

I hope that I can give my hon. Friend an assurance on the first matter. On the second, I appreciate that the free trade agreements have the weakness that they are not related to demand and only have implicit in them a growth factor. These matters will be taken fully into account in the review, but any changes in the terms have to be agreed with EEC countries.

Photo of Mr Roger Moate Mr Roger Moate , Faversham

Do not the present arrangements mean that the United Kingdom bears the full brunt of Scandinavian competition whilst the remainder of the EEC remains highly protected? Will the hon. Gentleman urge his right hon. Friend to examine the whole arrangement closely to see whether he can speed up the phasing out of these protective tariffs?

Photo of Michael Meacher Michael Meacher Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Department of Trade)

The differential between other EEC countries and Britain is relatively marginal until 1977, after which there will be no differential disadvantage to Britain, because the tariffs of other EEC countries and our own will be phased out at the same rate.

Photo of Mr Roger Sims Mr Roger Sims , Chislehurst

Will the hon. Gentleman take into account the fact that the operation of the ratchet clause to which he referred means that there is unused capacity in this country in the paper industry while imports are still coming in and that the removal of this ratchet clause is an essential part of the negotiations to which he referred?

Photo of Michael Meacher Michael Meacher Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Department of Trade)

No, I do not think that that necessarily follows.