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Textile And Clothing Imports

Volume 23: debated on Monday 10 May 1982

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asked the Minister for Trade what progress has been made on the negotiations regarding textiles and clothing imports from the preferential countries.

Voluntary restraint arrangements have now been concluded with Egypt and Spain, and negotiations are continuing with the other preferential suppliers.

Does the Minister recognise that the quotas for trousers and jeans are consistently the most fully utilised and that, under MFA3, they will suffer from the higher growth rate of group 1 imports? Will the Minister ensure that pressure from some Mediterranean preferential countries for substantially increased quotas for trouser and jeans are decisively rejected?

I cannot ensure that they will be decisively rejected. I assure the hon. Gentleman that whatever bilateral arrangements are concluded with the Mediterranean suppliers should be reconciled with those concluded with MFA participants and should be firmly comprised within the overall limits that have been set by the Council of Ministers of the European Community.

Will my hon. and learned Friend help the understanding of the House in this matter by commenting on the fact that, during the period of MFA2, whereas imports of clothing and textiles from developed countries have grown exceedingly, limits have been placed on the so-called developing countries and other less benefited suppliers? If so, would it not be more sensible either to impose overall control, if that is thought necessary, or to free a greater area of trade for competition than to seek continually to benefit the developed countries?

As my hon. Friend will appreciate, the underlying principle of the MFA is to provide a period of readjustment for the textile industries of the developed world, particularly the United Kingdom, to adjust to competition from low-cost countries. That is the theme of the MFA, and it is a theme that has commanded the respect of the House over the years.

Bearing in mind the difficulty of ensuring restraint on imports, if no voluntary arrangements are reached with Portugal, Tunisia and Morocco, and those countries are informed by the EEC of the import levels that will be applied by the European Community, how will those levels be enforced?

They will be enforced by the individual Governments of the member countries and the United Kingdom, in conformity with the levels that will be agreed through the Council of Ministers and notified to member countries by the European Commission.