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Foreign Affairs Council

Volume 164: debated on Thursday 21 December 1989

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To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs if he will publish a statement on the outcome of the Foreign Affairs Council on 18 and 19 December.

I represented the United Kingdom at the Foreign Affairs Council and at a working dinner with the Soviet Foreign Minister in Brussels on 18 December. My hon. Friend, the Minister of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs, represented the United Kingdom at a joint EC/EFTA Ministerial meeting on 19 December.The Council began with a discussion of follow-up to decisions taken at the Strasbourg European Council, in particular on the European bank for reconstruction and development, and on economic and monetary issues.The Council took note of the Commission's report on meetings with the US Administration on 14 and 15 December and confirmed the importance it attaches to close EC/US relations. I and other Ministers warmly welcomed Secretary of State Baker's wish, expressed in his recent speech in Berlin, to see a further strengthening of the United State's relationship with the Community.On specific EC/US issues, Ministers discussed the implications of the findings of the GATT panel on the US complaint against the EC's oilseeds regime, and expressed concern at lack of progress in the dispute over import of meat treated with hormones.The Council then discussed the Community's relations with Japan. It also agreed to the submission in Geneva on 20 December of a paper on long-term agricultural reform in the Uruguay round.The Council called for early consideration of a mandate for the negotiation of a trade and commercial and economic co-operation agreement with the GDR. It also took note of a Commission report, completed on 18 December, on Turkey's application for EC membership and agreed that it should be examined in depth.The Council also approved the Commission's negotiating mandate for a trade and commercial and economic co-operation agreement with Argentina and agreed a mandate for the negotiation of a second stage trade agreement with the Gulf Co-operation Council. The Commission informed the Council that negotiations with Andorra on a customs union had been successfully completed. The Council also reached a satisfactory agreement on the Poseidon programme of support for the French overseas departments.On 18 December, the Commission and presidency, on behalf of the Community, signed a trade and commercial and economic co-operation agreement with the Soviet Union, and a second agreement on textiles. The co-operation agreement is an important landmark in the EC's relations with the Soviet Union, symbolic of the new relationships emerging between the Community and eastern and central European countries as political reforms and economic restructuring take hold. The agreement lays the foundations for a stronger EC relationship with the Soviet Union, which we welcome. Its significance, and the importance of developments in the Soviet Union and eastern Europe, was noted at the subsequent dinner with Mr. Shevardnadze.On 19 December EC and EFTA Ministers agreed to open substantive negotiations on a new, more structured relationship in the first half of next year. Our joint aim is to extend as far as possible the single market to include EFTA. The United Kingdom fully supports this important decision, and will continue to play a full and constructive role in the negotiating process: a successful outcome would open the way to a new stage in EC-EFTA relations, benefitting all parties, and reflecting the Community's commitment to a liberal single market, open to all.The text of the joint conclusions agreed by EC and EFTA Ministers on 19 December will be placed in the Library of the House.