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Volume 405: debated on Wednesday 21 May 2003

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To ask the Minister of State for International Development what support the Government are giving (a) bilaterally and (b) through (i) World bank and (ii) UN agencies, to initiatives to assist African countries to overcome non-tariff barriers to trade by meeting G8 product standards and engaging in international standard setting; and if she will make a statement on G8 members' actions to improve the availability of information on standards and transparency to trade Ministers in developing countries. [113649]

The Department for International Development (DFID) has undertaken a considerable amount of work in the important area of assisting developing countries, including in Africa, in the areas of standard setting and compliance. Bilateral trade related technical assistance projects in Malawi and Ghana have both provided support to the Standards Bureaus in those countries, to enable them to participate in international standard setting and implement the standards set by the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organisation's Codex Alimentarius Committee. The new Regional Trade Facilitation project in southern Africa, covering the Southern African Development Community (SADC) countries, also has a component to support implementation of international standards that SADC members have signed up to.Through its funding of the Trade Policy Development Project of the World bank, DFID has supported the creation of the Standards and Trade Development Facility (STDF), which has already undertaken exploratory work in Africa and will be developing projects to enable African countries to meet standards for agricultural exports. The STDF is a partnership of the World bank, World Trade Organisation. the Food and Agriculture Organisation and World Health Organisation, which attempts to strengthen donor coordination in standards related to food safety, and plant and animal health. Between November 1999 and February 2003, reports and action plans were developed in Nigeria, South Africa, Mozambique, Kenya and Uganda, examining the link between trade facilitation, standards and trade.DFID is also contributing to a new United Nations Industrial Development Organisation Trust Fund, 'Enabling Developing Countries to Participate in International Trade',which includes African countries in its first wave of projects. The Fund aims to: enhance developing country market accesses through appropriate infrastructure in order to meet and show compliance with export requirements; build capacity in potentially high productivity sectors; and provide support to developing countries that have encountered problems with meeting standards requirements for their exports.The G8 will be reporting on their actions to implement the commitments in the Africa Action Plan, including in the area of standards, at the G8 summit in Evian in June 2003. However, the European Commission has already announced the establishment of a 'Help desk' within DG Trade, intended to facilitate developing country exports to the European Union through providing information on the requirements of the European Union market, including product standards. This helpdesk will be accessible through internet or by phone and Commission and member states delegations in countries with poor telecommunications.

To ask the Minister of State for International Development what new initiatives her Department has taken since the G8 Kananaskis summit to promote agricultural productivity in Africa. [113617]

DFID promotes agricultural productivity in Africa through supporting African e 'forts to increase domestic productivity and working to cheat a fair and equitable international trading system. We do not earmark bilateral funds, but support Africa's own priorities defined in national Poverty Reduction Strategy processes, which also seek to address the many constraints that lie outside the agriculture sector. These include issues such as economic policy, trade policy and credit and infrastructure provision. UK resources for Africa will increase by nearly 50 per cent. to around £ 1 billion by 2006.The UK supports the development of a fair and equitable international trading system. We believe the G8 process can add significant political momentum to the relevant negotiations. Following Kananaskis, DFID has been supporting progress internationally on CAP reform and WTO agriculture negotiations, the reform and harmonisation of G8 preferential access schemes and multilateral trade related technical assistance to Africa.Access to agricultural technology in Africa was highlighted at Kananaskis. Two relevant initiatives are our support for the design of the African Agricultural Technology Foundation (a public-private partnership to enable access to agricultural technology) and provision of £16 million to support agricultural research for Africa in 2002–03.

To ask the Minister of State for International Development how many African-based businesses have won contracts funded by his Department in each of the last three years; what the values of those contracts were; and what steps his Department has taken to increase the opportunity for African businesses to bid for such contracts. [113621]

DFID untied its aid in April 2001, when we opened our contracting to international competition. In 2001–02 DFID headquarters awarded two contracts worth a total value of £0.37 million to African-based businesses. In 2002–03 there were eight such contracts with a total value of £10.64 million. Figures for the period before 2001 could be provided only at disproportionate cost.

We have also developed trained contracting capacity in DFID's overseas offices to allow them to make better use of both local and international suppliers for lower-value contracts. In 2001–02 DFID offices in Africa let contracts worth a total of £11.82 million. In 2002–03, the corresponding figure was £9.41 million. We do not hold a central record of the share of these contracts awarded to local businesses.

To ask the Minister of State for International Development what her Department has done to bring United Kingdom companies together with NEPAD. [113624]

DFID is supporting the Commonwealth Business Council (CBC) to develop private sector engagement in the NEPAD Programme of Action, and stimulate the increased domestic and foreign investment required for NEPAD to succeed. This work is subsumed under the principal private sector initiative in support of NEPAD—the NEPAD Business Group (NBG).NBG comprises leading business organisations that have a broad constituency—both inside and outside Africa—and are committed to helping the continent realise its full economic potential. NBG includes the following organisations that count a number of UK businesses amongst their members: CBC; Prince of Wales International Business Leaders Forum; British African Business Association; and the International Chamber of Commerce.