World Poverty

– in the House of Lords at 11:00 am on 1st December 2005.

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Photo of The Earl of Sandwich The Earl of Sandwich Crossbench 11:00 am, 1st December 2005

asked Her Majesty's Government:

What trade concessions have been made during the United Kingdom presidency of the European Union to help eradicate world poverty.

Photo of Lord McKenzie of Luton Lord McKenzie of Luton Government Whip, Government Whip

My Lords, the Government believe that trade can be a key driver of economic growth. The WTO Ministerial Conference will take place in Hong Kong in December, at the end of the UK presidency of the European Union. This will be a crucial milestone in helping to secure a successful conclusion to the Doha Development Agenda by the end of 2006. At the start of our presidency, a revised Generalised System of Preferences was implemented, granting improved access to the EU markets to exports from developing countries. In parallel, negotiations on economic partnership agreements with African, Caribbean and Pacific regional groupings are ongoing.

Photo of The Earl of Sandwich The Earl of Sandwich Crossbench

My Lords, it is comforting to hear about the enhanced GSP, which is one of the hopes of the African, Caribbean and Pacific countries. But is this not a UK Government position rather than a European Union position? Is it not a fact that the African, Caribbean and Pacific countries are worse off under the latest negotiating position than they would have been under the Cotonou agreement? Is it also not the case that the economic partnership agreements demand reciprocity under WTO rules? What safeguards will the United Kingdom successfully negotiate through the European Union?

Photo of Lord McKenzie of Luton Lord McKenzie of Luton Government Whip, Government Whip

My Lords, the economic partnership agreements were obviously provided for in the Cotonou agreement. We are working closely with the Commission and other member states to ensure that the agreements, when completed, will preserve the development focus enshrined in that agreement. The Government, through DfID, are undertaking research on various aspects of the agreement to help inform the negotiations, in particular to safeguard mechanisms to prevent countries being overwhelmed with cheap imports. We believe that, under the improved arrangements, the Generalised System of Preferences will deliver improved access to EU markets from developing countries.

Photo of Baroness Miller of Hendon Baroness Miller of Hendon Spokespersons In the Lords, (Also Shadow Secretary of State for Scotland - Not In Shadow Cabinet)

My Lords, what is the Government's comment on the United Nations Human Development Report on aid and trade to the poorer countries, which said:

"The currency of pledges from the international community is by now so severely debased by non-delivery that it is widely perceived as worthless".

Photo of Lord McKenzie of Luton Lord McKenzie of Luton Government Whip, Government Whip

My Lords, this is a slightly wider issue than the Question we started with. Obviously, we want all countries to fulfil their pledges. The UK is certainly doing its part. On the specific issue of aid for trade, there are significant developments which the UK is involved in to make sure that those developing countries, with support, can improve their infrastructure so that they can access the trade opportunities that are available.

Photo of Lord Dykes Lord Dykes Spokesperson in the Lords (Europe), Foreign & Commonwealth Affairs

My Lords, the EU's commitment to abolish export subsidies is a very welcome development—indeed, it is quite a spectacular new move—but, as was implied in the previous question, much more needs to be done. Can the noble Lord assure us that even when the UK presidency ceases, the Government will be one of the hardest pushers on further measures in the future, particularly with the conference at the end of the year approaching? Can he also confirm that the Government will have specific bilateral talks with the US Government to see what reciprocity equivalents they can deliver in respect of such a concession?

Photo of Lord McKenzie of Luton Lord McKenzie of Luton Government Whip, Government Whip

My Lords, we have stated our case for the removal of all export subsidies as quickly as possible. I think that 2010 is the Commission for Africa's target, and we support it. Although the EU has not fully signed up to it, we will certainly continue to press for it. The other part of the noble Lord's question relates to tariffs and access to our markets. We are looking for significant progress on that in Hong Kong and beyond, to make sure that the DDA round is successfully concluded by 2006. We will continue to have talks with other partners in the WTO to make sure that these issues remain on the agenda and that progress is made.

Photo of The Earl of Sandwich The Earl of Sandwich Crossbench

My Lords, does the Minister accept that the latest sugar and banana price cuts have done wonders for the stronger developing countries such as Brazil, Thailand and Australia and for Tate and Lyle's share price, but absolutely nothing—in fact they have done more damage—to the price that the Caribbean and African sugar producers can accept? They need that money for their ordinary budgets. How can this be done quickly to offset the arrangements that the EU is putting in place?

Photo of Lord McKenzie of Luton Lord McKenzie of Luton Government Whip, Government Whip

My Lords, the changes in the case of sugar illustrate just how complex these trade negotiations can be. The removal of domestic subsidies is beneficial to development overall, but in the short term it has had the impact that the noble Earl has illustrated. Proposals have been coming forward from the Commission. About €40 million of funding is available for transitional assistance and the next perspective, 2007 to 2013, will establish what future support is available on that basis.