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Tokyo Round

Volume 974: debated on Monday 19 November 1979

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asked the Secretary of State for Trade whether he is satisfied with the speed of implementation of undertakings agreed at the general agreement on tariffs and trade, Tokyo round.

At the Tokyo summit last June the leaders of main industrialised countries committed themselves to an early and faithful implementation of the agreements negotiated in the Tokyo round. The main agreements are to come into force on 1 January 1980 and I expect that timetable to be adhered to by the main participants.

At the meeting tomorrow, will my right hon. Friend impress on the European Commission and the Council of Ministers that no further delay will be tolerated in implementing the undertaking to protect the textile industry from unfair competition based on cheap feedstocks and cheap energy sources?

Yes. I believe that the time for fact finding is over. We have been pressing for action for many months and I expect the Commission to announce tomorrow that it wishes to obtain the Council's authority to hold urgent talks under article 23 of the GATT. I consider this matter to be of great importance and intend to raise it tomorrow.

Is the Secretary of State prepared to restrict the entry into the United Kingdom of viscous yarn?

As I said to my hon. Friend the Member for Rossendale (Mr. Trippier), I intend to go to the Council tomorrow and these matters will be debated. I believe that we have sufficient facts to decide in the Council tomorrow how to go forward, and I expect that the Commission will propose action under article 23 of the GATT.

How does my right hon. Friend view the closure announced on Friday of Courtaulds Redscar mill in Preston, with the loss of 2,600 jobs? Does he recognise that that is an indictment of Government policy, both Labour and Conservative, on the import of cheap textile goods?

I am concerned to hear of the closure, but approximately 12 per cent. of the textiles sold in this country come from low-cost sources, and the overwhelming proportion of those supplies from low-cost producers are under some kind of import restraint. I am deeply concerned to hear of the closure in my hon. Friend's constituency, and perhaps he will give me more details later.

The Secretary of State will be aware that during the Tokyo round the previous Government raised the question of cheap man-made multi-fibres coming from the United States which are cheap because of cheap energy sources, and special arrangements were made under the negotiations for the matter to be raised. Does the right hon. Gentleman think that it is satisfactory that so many months after the Government took office they are still at a fact-finding stage? Does he agree that action should be taken under the rules that were negotiated?

I have said three times that I am going to the Council tomorrow on the matter. I must also point out that, with such a depressing outlook for world trade, it is vitally important for other British industries, including the wool textile industry which is a large exporter to the United States, that if possible we solve these problems by agreement and go through the agreed international procedures and not take unilateral action. I could not be more aware of the concern that is felt in the country and the House on these fibre imports, and I am anxious that we should move forward as soon as possible under article 23.