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Commonwealth Trade

Volume 640: debated on Thursday 18 May 1961

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42.

asked the Prime Minister if he will make a statement regarding his proposals for an Atlantic Free Trade Area, and for a quickened economic development within the Commonwealth; and what action is to be taken by Her Majesty's Government to assist an increase in Commonwealth trade which would contribute towards an accelerated increase in world trade.

I have been asked to reply.

My right hon. Friend the Prime Minister has made no proposals for an Atlantic Free Trade Area but, as he has said before, we need to work for the largest area of free trade that we can create. As regards the Commonwealth, the best contribution that we can make towards stimulating trade and economic development is to maintain a high level of activity at home and to continue to work towards a multilateral trade and payments system over the widest possible area, as agreed by Commonwealth Governments at the Montreal Trade and Economic Conference in 1958.

While not trying to get the Home Secretary involved in this, because he must have his hands full with his own work, may I ask whether he will ask the Prime Minister to consider recent developments in relation to the Commonwealth and the unfortunate growing support for subordinating the future of our trade to the object of setting up a European Community? Will the right hon. Gentleman bear in mind that some of us who are loyal to the Commonwealth, because many of our relatives were driven to Australia and Canada during the industrial depression, greatly deprecate recent developments? Will he ask the Prime Minister to give an undertaking that the Government will now use their influence with the whole of the Commonwealth to reverse the trends of economic development?

My right hon. Friend the Prime Minister, in answer to a Question on 16th May, gave the conditions preliminary to the possibility of our entering into an arrangement with Europe. We are in touch with the Commonwealth on these vital matters, and I will certainly convey to my right hon. Friend the observations made by the hon. Gentleman.