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Guinea: Trade Negotiations

Volume 414: debated on Friday 31 October 1980

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My Lords, I beg leave to ask the Question which stands in my name on the Order Paper.

The Question was as follows:

To ask Her Majesty's Government whether they can make a further statement about the progress of negotiations on trade relations with the Republic of Guinea.

My Lords, since the goodwill mission in March 1980 by representatives of the Guinea Government, a payment towards the arrears of debts due under the 1976 Debt Rescheduling Agreement has been received, and we understand that further payments may be expected in the near future.

My Lords, I thank the Minister for that reply. May I ask him whether he is aware that some of us believe that the Government are perfectly sincere in their efforts to develop trade with the Republic of Guinea, but may I ask him two specific questions? First, does he recognise that the situation of Guinea, which is potentially a very rich country, is that, in common with many third world countries, there is at the moment a shortage of cash flow and the investment necessary in order to develop the very rich minerals that they have in that country? Secondly, would he agree that the release, just a couple of weeks ago, of prisoners who have been held since the invasion of 1970 makes the situation as to human rights much more palatable to those of us in this country?

My Lords, the release of prisoners and the parallel improvement in the human rights situation is of course to be welcomed wherever and whenever it may occur. As to the com- mercial implications of the first part of the noble Lord's supplementary question, the key to increased British participation in that market would of course be the restoration of ECGD cover, and I am pleased to say that an official of the ECGD is to go to Guinea in December to review the position.

My Lords, further to that last answer by the noble Lord, may I ask him whether the Government can hold out genuine hope that ECGD cover, which is so important to business in this country as well as to the economic situation in Guinea, can be restored in the near future?

My Lords, that will depend upon a number of factors, including progress with the payments under the rescheduled debt agreement.