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European Communities And China

Volume 387: debated on Wednesday 30 November 1977

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4.10 p.m.

rose to call attention to the proposed framework agreement on trade and co-operation between the European Communities and the People's Republic of China; and to move for Papers. The noble Earl said: My Lords, last week, on 22nd November to be precise, the Council of Ministers of the European Communities authorised the Commission of the Communities to negotiate an agreement with the People's Republic of China. The Community and its Member States are thus, in one way or another, involved in the development of political and economic relationships which concern more than one-third of the people of our planet—the people of Europe and the people of China.

The British people enjoy a unique position with the People's Republic as the custodian of Hong Kong until 1999. This enables British firms, universities, research institutions, leaders of cultural and intellectual life and even, I may say, Members of Parliament to set the pace in developing a relationship that should transcend the geographical separation and remoteness of our civilisations. As I observed on a recent visit to that country, the Chinese people are now embarking on a new stage in their development under Chairman Hua Kuo-feng.

After this visit I concluded, first, that the Chinese Government would continue to pursue foreign trade policies which will lead to the strengthening of the European Community politically, economically, industrially and militarily and that the proposed agreement would be an important step in the developing relationship between the Chinese and Western Europe. Secondly, I concluded that the restoration of Mr. Teng Hsiao-ping to his previous appointments would lead to the selective adoption of modern managerial skills and the pragmatic acquisition of technology and capital equipment. My third conclusion was that the Chinese Government intend to modernise their defence equipment and equip their armed forces with the most advanced equipment available.

Fourthly, there seemed to be identifiable opportunities for Community firms in the following sectors: raw materials' exploration, extraction and refining, chemical fertilisers and petro-chemical plant, insecticides, modern technology for heavy automotive equipment—the railways are most important and, indeed, railway technology generally—aircraft, defence equipment and also, perhaps, opportunities for deep-sea drilling equipment, coal mining equipment, computers and electronic components. Fifthly, it seemed clear to me that the Chinese, in order to balance their trade, might well agree to make available, on fair terms, raw materials needed by the West.

Sixthly, it was clear that the Chinese Government attached great importance to the Community's Lomé Convention, a method of trade and aid which China supports. There may well be here unexplored areas for co-operation between China and the European Community on the one hand and the developing countries, particularly in Africa but generally the ACP countries, on the other.

China and Europe, therefore, meet one another in new and, in my view, unique conditions. The Chinese leaders know that European traditions assume that mankind has more important aims than the purely material. We Europeans understand the sacrifice that all the Chinese are making for the political and economic progress of China. There is pride in China—pride in self-eliance—but China finds a Europe still struggling to unite after two catastrophic wars, still struggling to create an effective European Community, an aim wholly supported by the People's Republic.

The Chinese took the initiative in diplomatic recognition of the Community. Such recognition now calls for a response and a new partnership between us. Europe must, in my view, approach the Chinese people with the same humility which Chairman Mao advised in his famous speech on the 10 major relationships.

"It must be admitted"—

Chairman Mao said—

"that every nation has its strong points. If not, how can it survive? How can it progress? On the other hand, every nation has its weak points. Some believe that socialism is perfect, without a single flaw. How can that be true?"

asked Chairman Mao. Well, the Chairman may not have lived long enough to identify the flaws in Socialism, but he has prepared the people he led for the relationship which the European Community and China are about to build. Chairman Mao instructed his people in these words:

"Our policy is to learn from the strong points of all nations and all countries. Learn all that is genuinely good in the political, economic, scientific and technological fields, and in literature and art. But we must learn with an analytical and critical eye."

We who, I believe, have the responsibility for the political leadership of the European Community must give expression to and support the organisations that will be required to implement what the Community's Council of Ministers has now called for. Together with Chinese leaders, we must examine the particular needs of China and see where an association with Chinese manufacturing organisatons would be fruitful. The noble Lord, Lord Nelson of Stafford, and others are, I believe, doing just that. At the same time, so that the agreement should not be one-sided, let us examine the needs of the Community, particularly for raw materials, some of which can well be met from Chinese sources. The Chinese have assessed the results of recent geological surveys in the South-West of China and Tibet. Indeed, during my recent visit Tibet was described to me as the "future boom rooftop of the world". As I say, Chinese officials gave me the impression that their country would look favourably on the possibility that China might help to supply Europe's raw materials in the medium to long term.

The Community must, in my view, show a generosity of spirit and commercial wisdom which will make a lasting success of Sino-European friendship. China, as we know, is not a consumer society—at any rate, in our sense of the word—but I have seen in Chinese factories in the Northern Provinces and in the oilfields of Taching the first signs of an incipient consumer society. Chairman Hua, quoting Chairman Mao, has exhorted China to accomplish the comprehensive modernisation of agriculture, industry, national defence, science and technology in order to bring their national economy to the front rank in the world before the end of the century. "Learn from Taching", "Learn from Tachai" (the agricultural commune), "Learn all that is best in other nations", are the frequently expressed slogans of today's China.

My Lords, the Chinese people are being asked to achieve a degree of industrialisation in 23 years which took the nations of Europe more than 100 years. In a country endowed with up to 900 million souls—a great human asset—such industrialisation will be achievable only by the most methodical organisation. Industrialisation on this scale by the Chinese people in their chosen time scale will require unique working arrangements with firms and other institutions of the Community if these same firms are to prosper in helping the Chinese people themselves to prosper.

If the proposed agreement is to be implemented, a greater degree of political and economic co-ordination will be required than possibly in any other human project. In the financial sphere, the scale of the projects will require the European Investment Bank, commercial and merchant banks in each Member State, to raise substantial capital sums to finance these projects. I ask this very important question—not of noble Lords, but perhaps rhetorically: Would the Chinese Government exceptionally permit European capital to play its part in assisting the development of the Chinese economy? That is a very important question which the Chinese must answer.

Industrialisation and the innovation which accompanies it will require reciprocity in the acknowledgment and use of intellectual property, such as royalties. The agreement with the People's Republic must contemplate a more substantial relationship than has been the case in previous framework agreements of this kind. It should be a framework in which the Chinese can make substantial steps in helping to meet the needs of Community firms, particularly, as I said, for their raw materials, such as ferro-manganese, antimony, platinum, tungsten, perhaps even uranium, to name a few. At the same time these and other Community firms can take the necessary steps to help the Chinese to implement their plans. All this will take time.

But in the short term the Community must make arrangements to accommodate China's exciting traditional manufactures, in which they show great ingenuity, until such time as the Chinese people have acquired new product and material capabilities. The Community may well he called upon to make unique and imaginative changes to make a success of this challenge. For example, there could be a need for a standing conference on the development of the economic and the commercial relationship which we contemplate. This could be a conference consisting of Chinese ministerial and official representatives, the chairmen and overseas directors of large companies, bank experts, Commission and Council representatives and also perhaps nominees of the European Parliament and the Economic and Social Committee. The conference could be chaired alternately, say, by the Chinese Ambassador to the Communities in Brussels, and perhaps by the Commissioner for External Affairs. It is noteworthy that it was my right honourable friend the former Commissioner for External Affairs, Sir Christopher Soames, who inaugurated the present talks between the Community and the People's Republic.

The Commission might also now consider the establishment of a permanent delegation of the Community in Peking, such as they have in Brussels and as also exists in Washington so far as the Community is concerned. Such a delegation might differ from traditional diplomatic establishments in that it would house temporarily the senior executives of Community firms who were negotiating or implementing contracts in China. Firms and trade organisations would make contributions for these services. Among the tasks of this delegation in Peking would be the preparation of the next meeting of the suggested standing conference. Such a conference could decide, among other things, the broad principles of the contracts which Community firms would negotiate with Chinese corporations. The conference might bring together Community firms with the management, financial and technological skills required by China. It might also meet to deliberate and define the involvement of the Community in one industrial sector at a time. I should be grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Goronwy-Roberts, if he would be prepared to make comments on these suggestions. I believe that the scale of investment which the People's Republic will be undertaking each year—considerably larger than the budget of the European Communities—calls for special measures of this kind.

The European Parliament last July, in its debate and resolution on the Community's relations with China—and I am glad to see another Member of the European Parliament entering the Chamber—considered it desirable for the agreement to go beyond the customs administration provisions laid down in the standard draft framework agreement with State trading countries, and that it should contain arrangements and instructions for close and more diversified economic relations between the Community and the People's Republic. All six political groups in the Parliament were unanimous about this.

The leaders of China are looking for a response from Europe. Given equal technical and commercial conditions I am sure China is prepared to contract work to European Community firms preferentially because of their desire to strengthen Europe politically, economically and defence-wise. What will be Europe's response? It is fundamental that in defining the European response the efforts of Community firms should not be stymied by political hesitation once Member States are agreed about the response. It is fundamental that a political impulse should be given to Europe's relationship with China that engenders confidence, encourages initiatives, results in increased understanding and reaches for mutual esteem.

China is not a conventional Socialist State. It is more attractive than many other Socialist States. In a world where deeds and objectives count as much as philosophy, Europe and China will find that they have similarities and, if I may use the word, complementarities. In the historical conditions in which Europe and China find themselves, they are well matched—if they will but forge the relationship.

In moving for Papers, may I express to your Lordships the hope that neither Her Majesty's Government nor any other Government will be found wanting when China tests British sincerity towards that great country. I am perfectly happy with the views of the noble Lord, Lord Goronwy-Roberts, about this. He will not be found wanting. As for China's sincerity and self-awareness, Chairman Mao wrote on the 10 major relationships:

"China is inferior to other countries in many respects and so has no reason to feel conceited".

Let our approach to China be characterised by the same humility.

My Lords, the outcome of the Commission's negotiations, and their recommendations, will be of the first importance. Directors of the Bank of China have visited institutions of the Community earlier this year. The Chinese Electronic Society, for example, spent 40 days in the Community this autumn. Now Mr. Li Chiang, the Chinese Trade Minister, is happily with us in this country. So I think we should be hopeful of good progress. The Chinese are earnest about their relationship with Western Europe; I truly believe that. They would like to see a more effective European union. We should not, in my view, disappoint them, any more than we should in this respect disappoint, say, our Atlantic allies. I hope these few ideas may help our respective Governments in their task of bringing our great peoples of East and West together. I also hope that other Members of your Lordships' House may make some constructive suggestions in regard to the contents of the proposed agreement, if not today perhaps on other occasions. My Lords, I beg to move for Papers.

4.32 p.m.

My Lords, I am sure noble Lords from all sides of the House would wish me to thank my noble friend Lord Bessborough for his elegant, instructive, informative, and most constructive speech on the forthcoming trade agreement between the European Communities and China, and for drawing the attention of your Lordships' House to the political and commercial importance of this prospective agreement. Indeed, the enthusiasm of my noble friend is shared by all others who have had the opportunity to enjoy the hospitality of the People's Republic of China in recent months, and I believe that no one more suitable could have initiated the debate than my noble friend, as a former Minister of Science and Technology and as a current and distinguished Member of the European Parliament.

At different stages of the world's history, over centuries, there has been an interchange of the products of Chinese civilisation with the West, with intermittent withdrawal and enclosure of China behind its vast frontiers. China being the world's longest existing identifiable country is now, after a short period of withdrawal following the Cultural Revolution and other political and military events, once again taking an interest in the possibilities and prospects for better commercial and trade relations with the West. It should be pointed out that, although the West has also shared cultural and philosophical links for several centuries, the particular part of the West with which China is considering dealing, the European Community, is very young. After all, the European Community has only existed as a politically recognised organisation for the last 20 years. So I think that, in terms of years, we can indeed look humbly to the long established country of China.

This new contact between the West and China is indeed much to be welcomed. The re-opening of Western relations with China, particularly since 1970, has intensified in the last two years and has been marked, first, by the entry of China to the United Nations. Then followed a succession of visits by distinguished statesmen to China and, more recently, the very important visit, in the context which we are debating this afternoon, of Sir Christopher Soames, the then Commissioner of the European Communities in charge of external relations, in 1975. Following that visit came the appointment of an Ambassador by the People's Republic of China to the European Communities. Then followed a further initiative, this time from the West—the visit earlier this year of a European Communities' delegation led by M. de Kergoulay. All these events have led to a more favourable climate for the development of relations between these two great areas of the world.

No visitor to China can fail to be impressed by a sense of the immense potential and strength of the Chinese people; by their discipline and their service to their country. How often did we hear, "It is my duty". This was the constant reply to expressions of thanks. Their ingenuity and their skills have, as my noble friend has reminded us, been transmitted through centuries; and they are today carrying on the same traditions and expressions of their culture.

It is clear that there are several areas of national life where the Chinese people could, if they so wished, benefit from the advanced scientific and technological developments of the West, and could step more rapidly into a modern industrial era. The lack of transport facilities—and I am not referring to the battle of cars versus bicycles—the lack of high-speed trains and aircraft, and the absence of the consequent facilities, the lack of means of communication, telegraph, telephone and so on, all contribute to the isolation of one part of the country from another, impeding a more general distribution of agricultural and other products. These are all aspects which could benefit from Western scientific and technological contributions. I need only enumerate such things as aircraft, in particular Concorde, railway engineering, which has already been referred to by my noble friend, other engineering projects, energy programmes and so on. In all these sectors, if the Chinese wish it, the West could make a great contribution. Here lies a decision of vital importance to the Chinese people themselves; to what extent and at what speed do they want to draw off some of the 80 per cent. of their population in the rural areas and involve them in the work of the cities and in urban industrial activities'? This is the great problem which the Chinese people have to decide for themselves.

The vast untapped resources of raw materials within the frontiers of the People's Republic of China would and could provide opportunities for that sensible and fair basis of exchange which underpins the majority of commercial and trading agreements. The principles underlying the Chinese approach to trading agreements have been clearly expressed over and over again—self-reliance, no foreign debts, the preference for exchange of goods or commodities, a reluctance to enter into world banking mechanisms which is easily understandable after the dramatic and sudden withdrawal of Soviet technicians in 1960 and the breakdown in financial exchanges which left China heavily in debt and in a disastrous technological situation. The long-term policy was laid down by Chou En-lai in 1975: first, the development and modernisation of agriculture by the 1980s, then, light industries followed by greater development of heavy industries so that, by the end of the century, it would be envisaged that China could become a fully industrialised nation.

I believe that one of the most impressive achievements in China under the chairmanship of Mao Tse-tung has been the elimination of basic poverty and hunger. No one, of whatever party or philosophy, could fail to be impressed by the apparent well-being and the feeding of these millions of people, and by the building up of the health of the nation. When I was in China, nowhere did I fail to recognise the extraordinarily healthy appearance of the children and the people of China. Whatever one says about their philosophy, I think this is a tribute which must be paid to the leadership and to the people of China. Contrary to what the Soviet Union has done, the Chinese policy has been to build up their agriculture first; that results in the comments I have made on the feeding of the people of China. The Chinese have learned their lesson from the Soviet Union. The Soviet Union directed its energies first towards the development of heavy industries and, 60 years after the revolution of October 1917, it still remains unable to feed its people without large imports from abroad. We were told over and over again in China that the wheat is sown in the Ukraine but reaped in Canada.

Already since the early 1970's, commercial relations between China and the West have intensified considerably. The European Community has consolidated its position as the second largest trading partner with China, the share of imports being about 22 per cent., and the exports about 13.3 per cent. Individual countries within the Community have succeeded in increasing their exports to China, particularly, of course, France and the Federal Republic of Germany. It is certianly to be hoped, and I share this hope with my noble friend Lord Bessborough, that the present visit of Mr. Li Chiang, Minister of Foreign Trade, to this country will lead to an increase in exports from the United Kingdom with beneficial trade exchanges for both countries.

However, as we know, since 1st January 1973 the European Community itself is now responsible for implementation of the Common Commercial Policy of the Member States. It is, therefore, for the European Communities to devise a satisfactory framework agreement with the Chinese Government which will enable commercial relations to be increased and developed, and to encourage a flow of scientific and technical knowledge and experience between the two countries. That increased flow will, of course, also imply a need for cultural exchanges and the study of languages.

The benefits of the Lomé Convention are beginning to be appreciated by not only those who are benefiting from its terms already, but those outside the Convention as well as the ratifying States, and, as I have always believed, it serves as an example of one approach of the European Community in its external trade relations which is of considerable benefit to developing countries.

Within the new trade agreement there is a need to look for new solutions. I do not believe that we can always go back on the old agreements to find solutions. A certain flexibility must be maintained to ensure that the terms of the agreement operate to the benefit of both areas of the world. I believe that with imagination, encouragement and hard hammering out of details, such an agreement can serve to contribute to the increased prosperity of the peoples of China and the further benefit to individual Member States and to the European Community as a whole.

4.42 p.m.

My Lords, I do not see how any of your Lordships can do other than support the plea of the noble Earl, Lord Bessborough, that there should shortly be in existence a "framework agreement" between the European Economic Community and China. In his eloquent and, indeed—if I may have his attention for a moment—moving speech the noble Earl fresh from his recent and clearly most profitable visit to China, has produced all the main arguments in favour of such an agreement. As I say, I do not see how any of his arguments can possibly be faulted. What exactly the "framework" will be, and how it will be operated is, of course, another matter upon which opinions, will, no doubt, differ. However, first I should like to make a few reflections on the general Chinese theme.

For the last quarter of a century this vast country of between 800 and 900 million people—no one knows exactly how many—has been going through a period of convulsions. The total abolition in 1949–50 of the old feudal system—no doubt inevitable and almost certainly in the circumstances desirable—produced a kind of vacuum in the Chinese society which was filled, as we all know, by hastily constructed communes and even more hastily nationalised industries, large and small, all often the result of the application of a rather crude Leninist philosophy. The revolutionary process was halted, renewed, halted again and eventually gained great impulsion in the so-called Cultural Revolution which, by over-reaching itself under the direction of the so-called "Gang of Four", has now resulted in what appears to be a stable régime that may perhaps be described as totalitarianism with a human face—at least we must all hope so.

Anyhow, it is a régime which seems intent above all on industrialising China with some outside assistance and even perhaps on furthering this process by allowing rather more initiative to local authorities than has been possible up to now. More especially it is, or seems to be, much less xenophobic than previously, in the sense that some foreigners are now regarded as better than other foreigners, or at least less unattractive, if only because they are obviously less dangerous! In my view—and noble Lords may disagree with me—the continuing fear of Russia has nothing to do with ideology. It is based, on the correct assumption that the Russians, with their own central Asian empire in mind, cannot view with pleasure any successful economic development of, for instance, Sinkiang by the race of Han. It is also based on the perfectly legitimate apprehension that Russian occupation in great force of Eastern Siberia and the Maritime Provinces—which since the end of the 18th century has replaced a kind of vague Chinese suzerainty that existed for many centuries—can only represent a long-term threat to the Chinese people who have, after all, withstood barbarian invasions from this very direction on many occasions in the past two or three thousand years.

The Americans, too, though happily much less unpopular since the spectacular arrival of President Nixon in Peking, still. I think, encounter a certain Chinese wariness if only because of past experience of American power, to say nothing of the position of Taiwan. Japan will always be a sort of rival, though I suspect that some day Japan will come to terms with China and abandon any tendency to do a deal with the Soviet Union, the dangers of which must be evident to any Japanese Government now or in the future. So, among all the industrialised nations, with Canada possibly as a special case, there remains only Europe, and Europe, in Chinese eyes, can only mean the European Economic Community which is to be commended, as they see it, not only as a kind of counterpoise to Russia, but chiefly, I suggest, because it is something with which the new régime can happily work without any arrières pensées or without any fear.

What a chance this is for the Community! It is true that a colossal market for European industrial goods will not open up at the touch of some magician's wand. What goods or services China can absorb for the purpose of starting up its own type of industrial revolution, and how these can be paid for, must be the subject of long, patient and no doubt wearisome negotiation. However, what would be quite dreadful would be if the various nation States in the Community tried to pursue individual policies and, still more if, as is still, alas!, sometimes the case in economic relations with the Soviet Union, they compete in respect, for instance, of credit terms.

The noble Earl, Lord Bessborough, suggests that there should be a "standing conference" in Brussels and a permanent delegation of the Commission in Peking. I have no doubt at all that both would be desirable and I trust that the noble Lord, Lord Goronwy-Roberts, will accept that this suggestion is a good one. But if the Council of Ministers have any sense they will allow the Commission to take the lead in the subsequent negotiations, just as in the last few years Sir Christopher Soames so successfully took the lead in commercial negotiations when he was, so to speak, the Foreign Minister of the Community, to which fact the noble Baroness, Lady Elles, referred.

To sum up my few remarks, I would say that the coming negotiations for a profitable relationship with China—at any rate, an economic relationship with China—can succeed only if the Community firmly sets its face against those national rivalries which have prevented it from functioning successfully as an entity up till now, and recognises that only in unity lies its influence and, indeed, its potential strength. This could mean, in practical terms, the drawing up in advance of plans whereby all relevant Community firms—on the basis, of course, of fair competition—will have an equal chance of profiting from the potentially vast Chinese market and not indulge in the tempting but suicidal game of cutting one another's throats to the benefit, of course, of other powerful competitors and rivals.

Finally, if the idea of a framework agreement gets under way it will—as the noble Earl, Lord Bessborough, recognises (indeed, I think he said so)—be greatly assisted by the debates of a directly-elected European Assembly from which all kinds of profitable proposals will certainly emerge. For the Assembly is the one body in which great problems of this kind can be given political consideration from a general European point of view rather than from a narrow nationalistic one.

That is, therefore, yet another reason for proceeding with direct elections to the European Parliament in accordance with the agreed timetable. No doubt our anti-Europeans—and there are a good many in this country—would prefer, for purely ideological reasons, to appal our Chinese friends by wrecking the Community and reverting to economic nationalism. A good start in this direction will certainly be made if they succeed in forcing Mr. Callaghan to ask for a delay in the elections. How exactly such an operation would be consonant with any collective effort to profit from what is now probably the greatest potential market in the world must, alas!, be left to the anti-Marketeers to explain. But I fear that they are so prejudiced that they cannot perceive any merit in any Community action whatsoever. Whom the Gods wish to destroy they first make mad—a sentiment which no doubt can be reflected in the probably no longer repudiated doctrines of the great Confucius!

4.43 p.m.

My Lords, first, I must thank the noble Earl, Lord Bessborough, for introducing this debate. Secondly, I must apologise because inadvertently I left the Chamber for a While during his most interesting and informative address and missed what I know was something worth listening to from someone who has quite a vast knowledge in this field. I do not intend to speak for long because I, too, want to have the benefit of the knowledge that the noble Lord, Lord Nelson of Stafford, can give to this House from his engineering projects and from one of his latest visits to China and Peking, in search of trade. I am sure that the House awaits the noble Lord's address with as much interest as I do. Consequently, I do not intend to delay the House too long.

However as someone who has been interested in the Far East for more than 30 or 40 years, I should like to point out that to me the clock of history has moved right round. I remember standing for Parliament a number of times when the Conservative candidate was singing all round the constituency "We'll put Davies on a slow boat to China". Letters were pushed through my door saying that I should visit China and its red people, and that if I liked it that much I should go and live there, and rubbish like that. They did not know that history changes.

The noble Lord, Lord Gladwyn, referred to Japan making an approach to China. Japan has already done so; she has done so in Korea where they are building ships faster than we can ever do at Swan Hunters unless we must get the assiduity and the purposefulness of the workers in Korea and China in the building of their country's prosperity.

Apparently this short debate is on the proposed framework agreement on trade and co-operation between the EEC and China. Of course, we want co-operation. Some people still seem to regard China as Marco Polo did; they still seem to think that these little people run around with slant eyes and cannot speak proper English. We are dealing with one of the most civilised countries in the world, where village democracy is at a higher level than it is in some of the villages of Britain. In a sense, mark the words of village democracy. Here we are dealing with a country whose know-how is famous and a country that may solve the riddle of the Sphinx, the relationship of the machine to human beings, the balance of machinery and the power of the machine as reflected in the enslavement of the human being who is now dominated by the machine rather than dominating the machine. No one has found the answer to this problem either under Socialism or capitalism because we do not know how to distribute man's leisure profitably. I do not know the answer to that, but all the philosophers almost from eternity to the present day have looked at the problem.

Because of China's massive size and its huge population there are many diversities and the two greatest ones still outstanding are ancestral worship and, as I have said, village democracy. Whatever dictators have come into China at different times, in the village itself the democratic cell has always worked through the head man, sometimes better than it works in a British or a Welsh village. Therefore, China is not a country that we can approach in an attitude of arrogance, and if the European Community adopts a framework agreement and an attitude of, "We are better than you" or, "We are offering you a new approach to civilisation", we shall be just as likely to be turned away as the Portuguese were when they first put their feet on the shores of China centuries ago.

Fortunately, those of us who have been around in China and its vast areas have seen what I consider to be three outstanding virtues of Chinese labour—and I mean labour in the sense of human effort—namely, assiduity, perseverance and endurance. Those are characteric features of the Chinese people. No one asks on our side that the British worker should be a slave. All we ask—and I sometimes wonder whether we are asking too much—is for us to have the same honesty and quality of workmanship that the Chinese are willing to put into an effort for the sake of the nation, the village and the community.

How then should we look at this framework agreement? I should not want that framework agreement to push arrogantly aside the know-how of the British nation. Since 1792, when we had our first ambassador in China, the know-how of the British trader, British engineering and British captains of industry as they grew up was greater than that found elsewhere in the world, including the United States of America. We must not lose that. I shall give noble Lords a concrete example. I purposely travelled by train from Peking to Hanoi—,a four-and-a-half day journey. On moving up and down the train an old Chinese gentleman spoke to me in moderately good English and asked where I was going. I told him that I had to go down to Hanoi. I asked him where he was going and he said that he was going to Wuhan. He said, "I am working with the Russians on building the new bridge at Wuhan over the Yangtse River. I am 73. I am an old engineer". I said, "Where did you qualify?" He said, "I took my degree in engineering in 1910 at the Imperial College of Science in London. You had the best engineers in the world". That is how our engineering was looked at in India, the Far East, Argentina, everywhere in those days. God forbid that we should lose that! I want therefore the quality of our workmanship and engineering to be maintained. The noble Lord, Lord Nelson of Stafford, will know much more about this than I do. I am watching the clock. I notice that I have spoken for seven minutes. It will be about 10—if you are suffering.

My warning is that we must not let relationships with the new China he stultified by the massive bureaucracy that could be built up in a European framework unless it is carefully watched. At the moment we are strangled with bureaucracy throughout the world. Bureaucracy, as much as anything, is causing so much of the ill feeling that exists in society today. If we are building up machines again with masses of bureaucrats, it stultifies initiative and stultifies progress. The Common Market has an affinity for bureaucracy. Let us choke that.

I would draw attention to the report we debated the other day on the Select Committee on Commercial Agents with Portugal, Morocco, Tunisia. Let us be careful that we do not draw up masses of verbiage. When businessmen negotiate—captains of industry or financiers—in the last analysis one will work down to the grain of professional common sense that those men have acquired over years and years of work in their trade or industry. It is the same in a profession. You do not saddle a surgeon or a GP, I hope, with masses of bureaucracy and ask him to fill five forms when he is building up a diagnosis of a man suffering with bellyache or a bile condition. This is one of the things we seem to have forgotten in the world we live in today.

My Lords, I wonder whether the noble Lord would allow me to intervene?

My Lords it is a pity to interrupt me, but the noble Baroness can interrupt me with pleasure.

My Lords, I was going to say how very much we agree with everything that the noble Lord is saying.

My Lords, that is wonderful. You see how the clock has gone round. There was a time when they might have said, "Sit down, Lord Davies". This is the right time of the year to talk about China. October is the busy time for trade fairs. I should like a delegation not just to go to China for fun but to go there and watch our commodity buyers, our market men sweating it out at the trade fairs. I am delighted that more firms are getting involved.

A number of high-level representatives of business leaders, technical negotiators, have all been there, and that is where I pay my tribute to the noble Lord, Lord Nelson, for his mission together with Sir John Keswick. Then, 20 company chiefs were led by the noble Lord, Lord Roll of Ipsden, head of Warburg, the merchant bankers. These were all excellent efforts. We should like to know what they think, and advice must be taken from these people when the Common Market are trying to negotiate a new framework. One Vice-Premier, Wang Chen, confirmed his Government's interest in the Harrier Jump Jet aircraft. We could sell them in China. We want the Government to step up their help to honest merchant adventurers who are trying to enter into this difficult market. I see that the 10 minutes allocated for my speech are up: I might take 11 minutes.

Finally, we should pay a tribute to the marathon efforts of those who work their hearts out at trade fairs. If any noble Lords have been to Kwangchow to the trade fair and the market in commodities, which is pretty well the most important of the lot, they will know how, at a humbler level in trade, the merchant adventurers, the commodity dealers, have to sweat it out without the comforts of VIPs to try to get markets for Britain. British traders are still in the fore. Do not let us lose that. The autumn trading session now is important. When Edmund Dell, our Minister of Trade, went there and offered a visit to a Foreign Trade Minister, Li Chiang, who is now here, it was a great move on the part of the Government.

I have come to the end of saying my part because we want to listen to the noble Lord who follows me. I would point out that China is now setting up a new container terminal port at Tientsin. The first container terminal in Hsinchiang is now nearly finished. This is a new stage in China's approach to modern trading methods. Therefore, whatever framework may be built up by the Common Market, never let the British people forget that we have the know-how and the ability, and I hope that whatever the European Community does we shall not be stultified by frameworks that may be littered with bureaucracy rather than the know-how of our engineers and traders.

5.6 p.m.

My Lords, I must first of all thank the noble Lord, Lord Davies of Leek, for his kind comments. I should like to endorse everything he says about those who sweat it out in trade fairs in Canton and elsewhere to promote China trade. I should also like to pay tribute to my noble friend Lord Bessborough for introducing this debate on trade with China. We do not hear enough about this great country, with its enormous distances, its great resources, and its vast population of 900 million people.

My noble friend Lord Bessborough spoke on this subject more from the point of view, understandably, of the European Community. I must speak to it from the point of view of British trade with the People's Republic of China having since 1973, been president of the Sino-British Trade Council—that is the area advisory group for China for the promotion of British trade—and having in my company a certain involvement with trade in this country. I have had the privilege, as the noble Lord, Lord Davies, said, of recently leading an important trade mission to China. I am only sorry that my noble friend Lord Roll is not also here to speak in this debate, as he also led a similar mission quite recently to that great country.

I agree very much with the analysis which my noble friend Lord Bessborough made of the situation in China. He was there a few months before myself, and I. agree with many of his conclusions. The only thing we have to bear very much in mind in considering China is that it is very easy to think of the great history which lies behind this country, and its ancient civilisation, but if you go to China, you will find that the history of China begins in 1949 with "liberation". That is the starting point of new China, and that is what we are dealing with today. My comments will be largely confined to the question of increasing trade with the China of today since liberation in 1949.

It is fortuitous that this debate has come up when this country is receiving one of the most important delegations from the People's Republic of China that we have ever received. My noble friend Lord Bessborough referred to this, but I should like to emphasise it.

The Minister of Foreign Trade, Mr. Li Chiang, is here with his delegation. He has been Minister of Foreign Trade since 1973. He is a very good friend of this country, but he is here for the first time. What is even more significant to my mind is that he has with him the Vice-Minister in charge of the planning commission, Mr. Yuan. These two gentlemen have come to this country for the first time and they have come here specially; they have come to this country first, before proceeding to France and then returning home.

Perhaps I should explain to noble Lords who are not familiar with trade with China that the Ministry of Foreign Trade is in fact the purchasing department for that great country. It has within it a series of trading corporations which do all the buying all over the world for that country. It also has within it the China Council for the Promotion of International Trade (CCPIT), which is the opposite number, if you like, of the Sino-British Trade Council here, with which we have extremely friendly relations and which promotes China's international trade. Commercial councillors in all the countries, including this country, also represent the Ministry of Foreign Trade.

The Planning Commission is concerned with the long-range planning for the whole of that great economy. It is concerned with the production of the five-year plan—I say "production" and not "publication" because in fact it is never published, which is a pity because it would be very useful reading for those of us who have to do trade with China. It is responsible for safeguarding the feeding of 900 million people, to which my noble friend Lady Elles referred. It has to do the necessary planning to ensure that those people are properly fed, and I am sure that those who have visited China will agree with me that today they are properly fed. It is concerned with planning the whole of industry, the whole of the nation's internal consumption, and it is concerned with the planning of foreign trade—where that trade is done, how it is done, who it is done with and how foreign exchange is allocated. It is also responsible for making changes to those plans, changes brought about by such national disasters as the earthquakes in 1976 which threw the economy completely off course. It is also concerned with adjustments to the plans with changes of Administration, with which it has been very much involved recently until the present Government came to power. Therefore, the Planning Commission is an extremely important body in the People's Republic of China. We have in this country at the moment a visit of great significance, and I wish to say how much I and others concerned with China trade welcome the excellent reception that has been given to this mission by Her Majesty's Government.

My mission went to China at a very timely moment; it was there as the new Administration under Chairman Hua came to power and when new economic objectives were declared. Those objectives—this was made plain to us—leave the doors open to foreign trade. It was also made clear to us that the objectives would be governed by the so-called Four Modernisations: the modernisation of agriculture, industry, science and technology and defence. It was also made clear to us that the policy of self-reliance and development of their own resources would remain a cardinal policy of the present Administration, but equally it was made clear that that policy did not mean that they would not buy from overseas where advanced technology was necessary for the development of their economy or where their own resources were not adequate to meet their needs.

It was made quite clear to me that this opened great opportunities for British industry to develop its trade with the People's Republic of China, provided—this was emphasised—that our prices, delivery and technology were competitive. It is therefore very important to convince the Chinese that we can meet those criteria, and that is the prime consideration we had in mind in our mission; namely, to convince the Chinese purchasers that that was the case. That is what we have to do to this important mission now visiting this country.

In this respect we have one important advantage, and that is that we are able to show both the user and the supplier working closely together, often the user being a public enterprise—such as the Coal Board, the Steel Corporation or British Rail—working alongside the manufacturers and suppliers of plant. It is very convincing to the buyer of plant when he can see such plant in operation and can see close collaboration existing between those who develop and manufacture plant and those W. ho use it. The object of our mission, which contained members of public as well as private enterprises, was to put this across to our friends in China, and this equally will be the objective of those charged with looking after the mission to this country.

Our mission was extremely well received; the reception we had was very friendly indeed and I agree with my noble friend Lady Elles that the hospitality accorded to us was excellent. In addition, we were given every facility and assistance to talk with the people who mattered in the cause of trade and co-operation between our two countries. We met, of course, the officials of the Ministry of Foreign Trade, all the various trading corporations dealing with different ranges of plant and commodities, and we met—rather unusual on these occasions—the user Ministries, who had very meaningful talks with the experts I had the privilege of having on my mission. We also had discussions with technical societies; in the People's Republic of China technical societies are not learned societies in the sense we have here. They are groups of technically qualified people working in the same field and who are intimately involved in decisions on the purchase and installation of plant. We also saw the Bank of China, which is intimately involved in the financing of overseas trade. We had many useful and lengthy discussions with all those people, including visits to plants.

It was made clear to us that the Chinese are looking into the possibility of purchasing supplies from overseas and of obtaining co-operation in meeting the needs of the Four Modernisations to which I have referred. I believe that British industry has much to offer China in the possible areas of interest—and what are they This is something which interests so many of us in industry. As I see it, they include the coal industry—they have vast coal resources—the steel industry and the metallurgical industry. My noble friend Lord Bessborough referred to "the boom on the rooftop of the world". That boom will not take place until the transport is available to move the materials from the rooftop of the world, and that is going to be a very long haul. I would put it that way. However, there is plenty of scope elsewhere for the metallurgical industries to assist in the needs of this great country. The oil industry is expanding fast, and with it the chemical and petrochemical industries. The power supply industry is an essential to all these programmes. Communications for a country of this size are of great importance. Finally, there is the question of defence—opportunities can arise in any or all of these fields.

In looking at all these areas, I should like to emphasise how important it is to maintain the momentum of the technological advance in these industries in this country, if we are to be able to convince buyers such as our friends in China that we have the latest technology. They are very far-sighted. They go around the world. They know what is happening, and they see what are the development programmes which the supplying industries are pursuing. If those programmes are not sufficiently advanced and progressive, they pass on to another country where they find more advanced technology. Therefore, the sale of plant is not just a question of sweating it out at the Canton Fair, though that is a very important part of the matter, but it is also a question of ensuring that a progressive technological policy is pursued in our industries in this country, if we are to convince them that we have the equipment they need to meet their programmes in the years ahead.

In conclusion, I should like to emphasise that there is much goodwill and much friendship towards Britain in the People's Republic of China. In this respect I also want to add to the remark by the noble Lord, Lord Davies of Leek, about meeting during his visit to China a Chinese who spoke English. I had a similar experience. During my recent visit to Shanghai I visited a generator plant, and I was met by the chief engineer who showed me around. He spoke perfect English. I asked him where he had learnt his English. He said: "I learnt my English in your factory in Trafford Park, where I spent two years after completing my degree at Liverpool University." So we have much goodwill among many people in that country.

There are many opportunities for developing both trade and areas of co-operation between this country and China. My noble friend Lord Bessborough referred to a possible Community approach to this question. I find his proposal very interesting, but at the same time somewhat puzzling. China is a highly competitive market. It is one of the great competitive markets of the world. Some of our biggest competition comes from Europe, and at the present moment, quite frankly, we are not doing quite as well as some of our European partners. We have to do better. It is a hard market. We have good friends, but they are good negotiators, and they will negotiate with those who make the best offer. We will be in competition with our friends in the European Economic Community. I am a little puzzled therefore about how we should co-operate in Europe, while at the same time we are in very strong competition. Perhaps the answer is that the co-operation must start, as I think it is starting, on a political level, and then perhaps go on to an economic level. But I still believe that we have quite a way to go before I can visualise co-operation on the industrial level. I see an interesting market, a challenging market, but I see a competitive market in which one of our biggest competitors will be our friends in the European Economic Community.

5.24 p.m.

My Lords, first, I should like to offer my sincere congratulations to the noble Earl, Lord Bessborough, on his excellent speech. At the end of his speech he asked for constructive suggestions, and I have two to make. But, before putting them forward, I should like to say that I had the opportunity of visiting the People's Republic of China in 1961. I think that I was the first Member of Parliament—at least, the first Conservative Member of Parliament—to go, and I went alone. There is a great advantage in going alone. One can go more places, and see more things intimately. I visited six cities, and I went everywhere by train. As the noble Lord, Lord Davies of Leek, will know, the trains are not exactly fast, but they are clean and pleasant to travel in. One acts a marvellous opportunity of seeing the people and seeing how the country is run.

I took an all-Party delegation to China in 1973, and I was able to state there what I thought about China when questioned, as one so often is, by the Press. I was able to say quite sincerely that the changes in housing, in consumer goods, in the appearance of the people—both how they were dressed and how they were fed—were amazing. I was able to say, too, how much happier they seemed, and how much freer they were. When I went to the Great Wall, I saw that they were carrying little transistor radio sets and thoroughly enjoying themselves, having picnics. That was quite a change since 1961.

Noble Lords will recall that, in 1961, the Russians had just left, taking with them all the materials they could, as well as all their blueprints. This represented a great crisis for the Chinese, so I was rather privileged to be there at that time. In 1973, I was taken to see the Nanking Bridge, which is a copy of the great bridge over the Yangtse. I was amazed at what they had been able to achieve on their own in such a short time. It is an extraordinary bridge. It is a double railway bridge, with a four-lane road above it. It is a great help in opening up other areas in the neighbourhood.

The noble Baroness, Lady Elles, said that the Russians had concentrated on industry, whereas the Chinese had concentrated on agriculture. I believe that one of the reasons why the Chinese have been so successful is that, for the first time for centuries, people have enough to eat; and the other great factor is that there is no civil war. This gives them the encouragement to carry on with their work.

I am very pleased that the noble Lord, Lord Nelson of Stafford, gave us such an interesting speech on expansion of trade. It is interesting to note that the Chinese Minister of Foreign Trade, who is visiting Britain at present, is the first such Minister to have been here for 30 years. This is an event that we should remember for some time. But he is also going to France, and I know that, on the whole, the French and Germans respond more quickly than the British in regard to trade. I, too, visited factories, including steel factories, where I saw the old Bessemer system working. I also went to tractor and textile factories. I found that between 1961 and 1973 tremendous progress had been made.

I turn now to the two suggestions that I should like to make today. I am concerned here with the cultural aspect, which has not been mentioned so far today. There is now a Europe-China Association, of which I am a member. I hope to persuade some noble Lords and others who are interested in securing a better knowledge of China to join this association. We held our first conference in Montreaux, in Switzerland, and I should say that the membership is not restricted to EEC countries; it is wider.

I am glad to say that the second conference of the Association was held in London, and the dinner took place in the House of Lords. There were 17 different nationalities present, and we had the honour to have the Minister, Mr. Evan Luard, to address us. In July, we ran a seminar for one week at Lady Margaret Hall, Oxford. That seminar discussed education and art, which are very important in getting to know people personally. Courses were run by the Chinese in German, French, and English, and these are being continued in the various countries for those interested, either through correspondence courses or by attending classes.

I believe that to be able to speak the language and to be able to understand other people's cultures is one of the most important efforts we can make. I was delighted that among those who attended the conference was the Italian Minister for Communications. He could not speak a word of English, but he had his speech written out, and he was so full of life that we all felt that we could understand everything he said. He was so enthusiastic. This is the kind of spirit we want.

We can help with the technical information, but I should like to see far more interchange of, particularly, students—another point which has not been mentioned. I think that to get young people interested in our various countries and to give them some knowledge is very important. One has to remember that at the present time most of the leaders of China are rather on the older side, and it is very important indeed to enlighten the younger people, if we possibly can, on the different types of life: and they should not go only to universities or colleges, but should be allowed to see factories and other things of interest to them. So I suggest that as many people as possible in Europe should join the Europe-China Association—the headquarters are in Brussels, and I can give your Lordships the addresses and all the details—and that your Lordships should also, please, join the Great Britain-China Association in this country. This is headed by the right honourable Malcolm Macdonald, and has done a great deal of work. We have had the pleasure of having Lady Elles and Lord Bessborough to speak to us, and many of the visiting delegations. Also, delegations are arranged by the Great Britain-China Association. And recently we have had I think eight Chinese journalists here, who are at present touring the country. The impression they take back, if they can print it in their papers, may make a great deal of difference to the relationship between this country and China in the future.

I should therefore like to put those two suggestions to your Lordships: that more people might take an interest in joining the various cultural associations, which can broaden their outlook and make for a better understanding between this country and China as well as, through the Europe-China Association, between the other European countries and China, in order that we do not talk only business but can, because it is so important, get a better understanding of the people themselves. Because one of the great things about having a better partnership or co-operation with China is the fact that it may help to keep the peace of the world. This is one of the great things which I hope will come out of future co-operation between the EEC and China.

5.32 p.m.

My Lords, the noble Earl, Lord Bessborough, has indeed rendered your Lordships' House a signal service in introducing this very important subject for debate today. Indeed, a much wider audience, I am sure, will consider what he has said with such authority and grace, as they will the content of what I regard as an extremely valuable and important debate. Britain's trade relations with China span many centuries, of course. It is true that political and economic structures in China and in Europe have changed inevitably with the passage of time, but the basic need and opportunity for trade and exchange between the two peoples remains. In pursuance of a common commercial policy towards the State-trading countries, in 1974 the Member States of the Community, as we have heard, decided to terminate their bilateral trade agreements with such countries, and the Community circulated to them draft outline agreements on which it was suggested that negotiations should be based. The response from the Chinese came during the visit of Sir Christopher Soames, Commissioner for External Affairs for the European Communities—or, as he has been described by the noble Lord, Lord Gladwyn, the Community's Foreign Secretary—when he went to China in 1975. The Chinese then appointed an Ambassador to the Community, and expressed a wish to take up the Community's offer to negotiate a trade agreement.

As the noble Earl reminded us, intervening political changes in China inevitably delayed matters, but in July 1977 the Commission delegation, led by M. de Kergorlay, visited China to discuss with responsible authorities in Peking the shape and nature of an agreement. These talks bore fruit, and the Foreign Affairs Council of the Community approved, on the 22nd November this year, an outline negotiating mandate for agreement. Meanwhile, British businessmen have been visiting China. A regular exchange of trade missions covering specific industries has been built up; and in the last few weeks or so there have been two major British trade missions consisting of senior industrialists representing important sectors of British industry, led by the noble Lord, Lord Nelson of Stafford, and the noble Lord, Lord Roll of Ipsden. I am sure I am speaking for everybody in the House when I say that we have listened with interest and great respect to what the noble Lord, Lord Nelson of Stafford, has had to say during this debate. We are grateful to him and others for the great work they have already achieved in increasing meaningful commercial contact with China, and we wish him and his fellow industrialists even greater success in the future.

The noble Earl, Lord Bessborough, has himself, of course, visited China—it was this year, I believe—as the guest of the Chinese Institute of Foreign Affairs. I personally, and I am sure many other noble Lords, have read with great interest his speech to the European Assembly on the 17th November on the subject. He, of course, speaks with authority of China's ambitious plans for a development of her economy—in particular, perhaps, of the raw materials which China possesses in such abundance and desires to develop. There is, therefore, an acknowledged need in China today for Western equipment and technology. What one noble Lord called the "complementality" of the situation is certainly in that direction pretty obvious to us all. I believe that we in Britain and in Europe can help to meet this need. We have heard from my noble friend Lord Davies and others the conditions in which this country can rise to the occasion. To a very large extent it rests with us, with leadership not only among management but among those who guide our workforce.

China has a potential for massive and sustained economic growth, and therefore presents an equally massive opportunity to Western Europe, including the United Kingdom. In the People's Republic the will and discipline exist to bring about rapid change, and Britain, within the Community, hopes to be in the forefront of China's partners in this development. A trade agreement will strengthen the existing basis for economic co-operation, to our mutual advantage.

There are also sound political reasons for Britain and the Community to open up their relationship with China. In the long term, benefits—political, cultural and commercial—must flow to both sides from increased contacts. There will develop a better understanding by the Chinese of the Western World, and of China by the West. Through our businessmen, scientists and technicians, and, as the noble Baroness, Lady Vickers, reminded us, through our scholars and students—through interchange at that level also—we in the West would hope to improve our contacts and understanding in China and our developing co-operation with their Government and their people. So the exchange of trade and technology will also improve and enhance the exchange of information and ideas. I have often said to my counterparts in the totalitarian East of Europe and could equally say it to the Chinese—although I bear in mind the distinction between China and other countries that come to mind when the words Communist or Socialist is mentioned—that there is a readiness to exchange technology and there should be an equal readiness to exchange techniques or, more precisely, philosophies.

I believe that, as these exchanges—these interchanges, as the noble Baroness described them—proceed at all levels, they will imply an increased exchange of philosophies, of ideas, of attitudes to society; and it is in that way that the two great systems of the world—broadly speaking, the dirigiste and the democratic—may grow towards each other rather than attempt to subdue one another.

The Government welcome the proposed trade agreement which will, we hope, be signed in the new year. In passing, I hope that the noble Earl will detach himself from the attentions even of a former Chancellor of the Exchequer to take full note of this very encouraging piece of information which I bring to him and to the House. I will repeat what I have just said. Pace a former Chancellor of the Exchequer, the Government welcome the proposed trade agreement which we hope will be signed in the new year. We strongly favour the improved contact with China and the exchange of visits, and we particularly welcome the Chinese Minister of Foreign Trade, Mr. Li Chiang who is at present in this country—and may I express my appreciation of what the noble Lord, Lord Nelson of Stafford, had to say about the part that my Department and, if I may say so, I, personally, have played in making quite sure that this very eminent Chinese leader was (as he, himself, assured me yesterday) received in this country in such a way as to meet every one of his requirements. I know that the noble Lord particularly wishes to extend to guests from China, and particularly guests of Mr. Li Chiang's calibre and importance, the traditional British graces and hospitality. We have done so, and he is very pleased indeed. So is Mr. Yuan whom the noble Lord himself knows well and took care to mention.

I now turn briefly to a number of specific points made by those who have taken part in this debate. In his very comprehensive and constructive speech, the noble Earl raised a number of points of which the Government, I can assure him and the House, will take very full account. We are certainly prepared to look carefully at the interesting proposal which the noble Lord has made about the establishment of a permanent Community delegation in Peking, a proposal which received the powerful support of the Front Bench Liberal spokesman, the noble Lord, Lord Gladwyn. We will wish to see whether we could usefully discuss this with the Commission negotiators before they meet the Chinese. I would expect that a joint committee would certainly flow from and support the proposed agreement. It is usual, under agreements of this kind, to establish a joint committee, as the noble Earl knows, and I would expect that practice to be followed on this occasion.

My noble friend Lord Davies of Leek, I think, raised the question of fairs and exhibitions in Peking. I am glad to assure him that discussions have taken place in Brussels and Peking with a view to mounting an exhibition in Peking. It is expected that a small delegation from the Commission will visit Peking early next year to put the proposal to the Chinese authorities.

As I have said, the noble Earl had powerful support from the Liberal Benches and, certainly, from the Opposition Front Bench. From both came speeches which I am sure the noble Earl, like me, welcomed very much. There has been a singular unanimity of view in the House this afternoon about this matter. I fully share it. Part of my responsibilities in the Foreign Office is a special oversight of our relations with the Peoples' Republic. I am very glad of this. Noble Lords may have wondered from time to time, having regard to the variety of subjects on which I am expected to be able to make some answer from this Box, whether the world is my parish. In a sense it is; but I am glad to say that I have special responsibilities for a number of subjects and for certain parts of the world and that China is one of them. It gives me very great satisfaction, as clearly it does to other Members of the House, to work for a new rapprochement and a new consensus of purpose and, eventually, (who knows?) of humane philosophy between the old West and the very new East.

We are, of course, dealing with an ancient civilisation which has revived itself and renewed itself with new ideas. We, too, are an ancient culture and an ancient civilisation and we, too, have survived and renewed ourselves with new ideas. We are doing so now. I think that the "complementality" of the East and West may well be specially signified by the co-operation of the United Kingdom and the Peoples' Republic.

5.48 p.m.

My Lords, I am most grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Goronwy-Roberts, the Minister with responsibilities in regard to China, for having made such a very valuable and encouraging speech. To me, this has been a mini-debate more satisfactory than any other I have partaken of in 21 years in this House. I found it extremely satisfactory and I am very happy that by some extraordinary chance I was fortunate in the ballot just at this moment when we welcome to this country Mr. Li Chiang the Trade Minister and Mr. Yuan, the Vice-Minister of the Planning Commission. I should like to repeat the welcome which other noble Lords have already given.

There are very few points I have to raise. As I say, this debate as I have said has been fortunately timed. I think it is a good idea, in Community matters, that we should express our views in our own Parliaments before negotiations have been concluded, or even started, and that we can give our views and that they can be taken full note of by our own Government and also by the Commissioners concerned in Brussels. I should like to thank all who spoke: my noble friends Lady Files, Lord Nelson of Stafford and Lady Vickers and, of course, particularly, my noble friend Lord Nelson of Stafford for the tremendous contribution which he has already made to the aims of the proposed agreement.

I do not think that competition will necessarily be impeded by the formation either of a joint committee, such as the noble Lord, Lord Goronwy-Roberts, mentioned, or even ultimately a standing conference. In the case of some firms which have partners in France, Germany, Belgium or Holland, there could not be much to impede their progress if there was a delegation in Peking and a standing conference. The noble Lord, Lord Roll of Ipsden, greatly regrets not having been able to make his maiden speech on this occasion. Unfortunately, it was impossible for him to come to the House this afternoon. He assures me that he is going to make his maiden speech fairly soon. I am sure that it will be in a very important economic debate.

I should like again to thank all noble Lords, including the noble Lord, Lord Gladwyn—whom I very often call my noble friend—and the noble Lord, Lord Davies of Leek, who also in a way is a friend, too, for having taken part today. I am grateful to the Government for having supported the ideas which we have adumbrated. I beg leave to withdraw my Motion for Papers.

Motion for Papers, by leave, withdrawn.