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General Agreement On Tariffs And Trade

Volume 889: debated on Monday 24 March 1975

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asked the Secretary of State for Trade what are the objectives of the Government in the current round of GATT negotiations in terms of average percentage reductions in tariffs on industrial goods; and if he will make a statement.

We wish to see the largest possible reduction in tariffs on industrial goods as can be negotiated bearing in mind the need for reciprocity. We also wish to ensure that the deepest cuts are made in the highest tariffs. The negotiating directives for the Commission which the EEC Council agreed at its meeting on 10th February are a worthwhile step towards these objectives.

Will the Secretary of State say whether Britain will have a negotiating status in its own right at these talks? Is it the case that in broad terms the Community is aiming at cuts of between 25 and 50 per cent. on industrial tariffs? Does not the general move towards freer trade in industrial goods mean that if Britain leaves the Common Market industrial tariffs will be no impediment, or very little impediment. to British exporters?

It is in our interest and that of the developed countries as a whole that we should resume post-war progress towards greater free trade and the elimi nation of trading barriers. I am therefore glad to say that the general objective of an overall cut of between 25 and 50 per cent. has been agreed. It is, of course, a fact that the Commission, not the British Government or any other Government, will be undertaking the negotiations with other countries in Geneva in the course of the multilateral trade negotiations.

Will the Secretary of State contemplate adding to the agenda, unless it is already there, consideration of the dumping problem? It seems to many of us who respect the point that the right hon. Gentleman made about the need for a free flow of trade that there are an increasing number of instances where dumping is a significant problem and where, for some reason or another, the British Government do not seem willing to act, certainly in the short term.

We are certainly willing to consider any serious case that is put before us alleging dumping. The protection against dumped imports is one of the matters which will be discussed during the course of the multilateral trade negotiations.