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Lord Sainsbury of Turville: My Lords, I thank the noble Baroness for her comments. She can be certain that this matter is being taken very seriously at the highest level. Indeed, on a number of occasions we have made clear our views on the matter to the American ambassador and to the State Department. I totally agree with the noble Baroness that there is a very real danger that, if the exports of these countries are decimated, they will indeed turn to some of these other activities. That would be very deplorable.
Lord Peston: My Lords, although I am probably ill-advised to use the words "economics" and "bananas" in the same sentence, I carried out a study some years ago on the economics of bananas in the countries we are discussing. Is my noble friend aware that almost all reasonable research would show that Her Majesty's Government can fulfil their moral obligation to those countries with minimal interference in free trade, much as we believe in free trade? Is he aware how appalled those of us who are strong supporters of the United States are at its reaction at this time? It is shocking. Will my noble friend reassure us that our Government, together with the other EU governments, will stand absolutely firm?
Lord Sainsbury of Turville: My Lords, the WTO has clearly accepted that we have commitments to these islands under the Lome Convention. We shall stand by those commitments which we take extremely seriously. We shall make it clear to the Americans how strongly we feel on the matter.
Baroness Young: My Lords, while I greatly welcome what the Minister has said on this extremely serious issue--I speak as someone who is a supporter of both the Caribbean and of America--I urge the Government to take all the steps that are possible within the World Trade Organisation and particularly to draw to the attention of the Americans that one arm of their government appears to be supporting unlimited free trade while another is trying to deal with the narcotics problem. They are likely to have a completely contradictory policy as regards what will happen in the eastern Caribbean if those small islands are unable to grow the only crop which provides them with a suitable income.
Lord Sainsbury of Turville: My Lords, I thank the noble Baroness for those remarks. I agree totally that there is real incompatibility in the Americans' approach as between their different arms of government.
Lord Redesdale: My Lords, does the Minister agree that the needs of multi-nationals seem to far outweigh the needs of developing countries and that it may be time to renegotiate representation at the WTO?
Lord Fraser of Carmyllie: My Lords, we on this side of the House wholly agree with the question put to the noble Lord by the noble Lords, Lord Peston and Lord Callaghan. This is a matter on which I believe the House is united. There is good cause for maintaining our position. Having regard to the list of goods threatened with being subject to 100 per cent. tariff, does the noble Lord have any suspicion of other ulterior motives beyond bananas that lie behind the threatened trade war? After all, the United States is not exactly a major producer of bananas.
Lord Sainsbury of Turville: My Lords, I think I have made clear what we regard as a grave over-reaction to the situation. I also agree that the list of products is somewhat bizarre, but I do not think anything more should be read into that other than the fact that it is a bizarre list.
Lord Tomlinson: My Lords, will my noble friend the Minister welcome the steps taken by President Santer in writing to President Clinton pointing out clearly that the steps taken or threatened by the American Administration not only risk an international trade war but are also in breach of its obligations to the WTO? Will he also make clear in all these discussions that the responsibility of the world community is to make sure this issue is resolved without damage to the Caribbean states which, if encouraged to diversify any further into agriculture, will have the option only of drugs production?
Lord Sainsbury of Turville: My Lords, I think I have made it clear that this is an unfortunate episode, particularly at a moment of great economic insecurity. The WTO should be allowed to resolve the matter through the proper procedures.
Lord Judd: My Lords, does my noble friend agree that, as with the previous Question on the multilateral agreement on investment, this case illustrates the absurdity of approaching world trade from the over-simplified standpoint of level playing fields? If we are taking seriously sustained development in the poorest developing countries, the overriding challenge is how we enable countries to reach the point at which they can participate on equal terms in world trade.
Lord Sainsbury of Turville: My Lords, I remind the House that the WTO has conceded the point that we should abide by our obligations to the Lome Convention which allows the ACP producers to have a privileged position. What is in debate is the exact way the quotas are designated. This is a matter which should be resolved through the procedures for disputes.
("(2A) Each candidate shall declare that he is either--
(a) the candidate of a party (and shall name that party); or
(b) an independent candidate.
(2B) There shall be added together the number of votes given for each party's candidates in each electoral region.
(2C) The number arrived at under subsection (2B) shall be the number of votes for the party for the purposes of this Act.").
("(5A) After the allocation of seats to the parties, the order of candidates in each list shall be such that the candidates are ranked in terms of the votes each received, with the candidate with the highest number of votes appearing first.
(5B) If two or more candidates have the same number of votes, their order on the list shall be determined by lot.").