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Volume 82: debated on Wednesday 10 July 1985

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asked the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry what action the European Community has taken in response to the United States' threats affecting pasta imports from the European Community to the United States; and if he will make a statement.

On 20 June, the United States Government announced their intention to impose greatly increased duties on imports of pasta from the Community. This has been explained as a response to the Community's failure to grant the United States satisfaction in a current dispute concerning trade in citrus products. As the latter dispute remains the subject of normal dispute settlement procedures in the GATT, the United States action represents a unilateral resort to restrictive measures not authorised by the GATT. This is unacceptable conduct on the part of a major trading nation and serves only to undermine confidence in the multilateral trading system.The Council of Ministers has adopted a regulation permitting the Community to take appropriate countermeasures. If the United States implements the increased duties, the Community will increase duties on imports from the United States of lemons and unshelled walnuts. We calculate the trade impact of this measure to be equivalent to that resulting from the United States action. I regret the need to take this step and hope that it will not be necessary to implement the regulation. Together with our partners, we remain eager to negotiate with the United States in order to resolve our underlying differences without recourse to a harmful escalation of the dispute.

It was necessary to signal urgently to the United States authorities the Community's willingness to take countermeasures. The regulation had therefore to be adopted by the Council of Ministers at very short notice. Accordingly, we were not able to provide an explanatory memorandum in time for the Select Committee on European Legislation to consider the proposal before it was adopted by the council. I wrote to the Chairman of the Committee explaining what was happening and why. I regret that this was necessary and a full explanatory memorandum has now been sent to the Committee.