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Trade Liberalisation (Developing Countries)

Volume 470: debated on Thursday 17 January 2008

8. What discussions he has had with the Secretary of State for International Development on liberalising trade with developing countries. (179528)

All relevant Ministers discuss trade and development regularly, including in meetings of the Cabinet Sub-Committee on trade, during Cabinet and in the normal course of business. Recent discussions have focused, in particular, on the current round of world trade talks, economic partnership agreements and regional trade agreements.

I am grateful to the Minister for his answer. When next he and his colleagues meet to discuss international trade matters, will they agree that the time has come to break the logjam in the Doha round and the economic partnership agreement negotiations by urging our partners in Europe and in other rich countries to take the unilateral step of opening our markets to all low-income countries as defined by the World Bank? If they do that, I am sure that they will have the support of those on these Benches and a great number of non-governmental organisations and other experts in the field. It could be a great measure that would unify the nation and help the world.

With great respect to the right hon. Gentleman, the least developed countries already have access to the EU market, including the UK market, under the “Everything but Arms” initiative. I agree that we need to see progress in the Doha development round. We expect to see revised negotiating drafts of documents, which could potentially lead to ministerial discussions to close the round towards the end of January, or perhaps at the beginning of February. All sides will need to give ground and to show additional flexibility. I hope that the key players—the G4 members and others—will help to ensure that progress is made.