Skip to main content

Multi-Fibre Arrangement

Volume 934: debated on Monday 27 June 1977

The text on this page has been created from Hansard archive content, it may contain typographical errors.


asked the Secretary of State for Trade if he will make a statement about the progress being made in the renegotiation of the Multi-Fibre Agreement.

The Community's negotiating directives for the renewal of the MFA were agreed by the Council of Ministers on 21st June. The EEC will, therefore, be able to present its detailed proposals for substantial changes in the operation of the MFA at the next meeting of the Textiles Committee in Geneva on 5th July.

Can my right hon. Friend give a categoric assurance that there will be no betrayal of British textile interests in these talks and that he will pursue the very tough line outlined to the House by the Under-Secretary of State some months ago? In addition, will he turn a deaf ear to the overseas textile interests which are seeking to lobby the Government, aided and abetted by Opposition Members, because the British textile industry is fully aware that there can be no weakening of the objectives which he and his colleague have spelt out?

I assure my hon. Friend that we propose to take a strong line in the negotiations. He is no doubt aware of the nature of the mandate which we have agreed within the EEC. It will be our objective in the negotiations in Geneva substantially to achieve that mandate.

Is the right hon. Gentleman satisfied that the European stance—which appears to be one of global quotas and no categorisation with- in those quotas—will sufficiently protect the British textile industry?

No doubt the hon. and learned Gentleman is aware that initially we had a rather different proposal from that which the Community as a whole has now adopted. However, we are satisfied that the proposal on which we are now agreed, if operated determinedly by the Commission, can achieve all the objects we shall have in mind in the negotiation.

Will the right hon. Gentleman bear in mind that there was a meeting this morning between the wool textile delegation and the all-party group at which there was general support for the Government line on this issue, but will he note two great anxieties? The first relates to the timing of the renegotiation, which is a matter of some urgency. Secondly, whatever the outcome of the MFA negotiation, the question of United States tariffs is still of major concern to the United Kingdom textile industry.

As to the timing of the negotiation, the existing agreement expires at the end of this year and, if possible, we must have a new agreement in place well before that date. We propose to negotiate the question of the United States tariff within the framework of the multilateral trade negotiations, and we hope to achieve results, because the United States tariffs in this field are undesirably high.