WTO Ministerial Conference

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 4:31 pm on 7th November 2001.

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Photo of Patricia Hewitt Patricia Hewitt Secretary of State, Department of Trade and Industry 4:31 pm, 7th November 2001

I have already said—I made the point in a speech yesterday—that well meaning though many, if not quite all, of them are, those who oppose world trade and the World Trade Organisation are doing a massive disservice to the people whom they believe they are helping—the people of the poorest countries in the world. I offer one illustration of that fact. Thirty years ago South Korea was a far poorer country than Nigeria. Today the people of South Korea are 30 times richer than the people of Nigeria. One reason is the very different approach to world trade pursued not only by South Korea but by countries in other parts of south-east Asia.

I have also made it clear, publicly and privately, as have my right hon. Friends, that we in Europe must stop dragging our feet on agricultural reform. We know from our experience of the foot and mouth crisis that reform of our farming system and our farming subsidies is increasingly urgent. As I said in response to the hon. Member for Maldon and East Chelmsford, it is also essential, in the interests of enlargement of the European Union as well as the interests of people in developing countries, that we reduce those agricultural subsidies.

We are already committed, as a result of the Uruguay round, to phasing out the multi-fibre agreement on textiles. As far as investment and competition are concerned, we are seeking to strengthen the rules that will enable much greater foreign direct investment—not speculative flows—in developing countries that urgently need that capital to improve their infrastructure.

I welcome the support of Dr. Cable for the position that we are taking at Doha.