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Last Updated: Sunday, 6 February, 2005, 13:45 GMT
Jeremy Vine interviews
Please note BBC Politics Show must be credited if any part of this transcript is used.

NB:This transcript was typed from a recording and not copied from an original script.

Because of the possibility of mis-hearing and the difficulty, in some cases, of identifying individual speakers, the BBC cannot vouch for its accuracy.

On Politics Show on Sunday, 06 February, 2005, Jeremy Vine interviewed Peter Mandelson, European Trade Commissioner.

Peter Mandelson
Peter Mandelson, European Trade Commissioner

Interview with Peter Mandelson

Jeremy Vine: I'm joined live by Peter Mandelson, European Trade Commissioner, welcome to you. We'll talk about the constitution in a moment, if we can, but first of all on these trade rules; why can't we sort out the EU trade rules that are so hurting poor countries?

Peter Mandelson: Well we, we can and we are and we will do more. But the point is the that the European Union, having last year announced that it was making a very clear unambiguous offer to eliminate all of its agricultural export subsidies, and reduce domestic support for farmers, and bear in mind that support for European farmers so far, for 70% of what they produce, is now de-coupled to production. That means that instead of paying European farmers to produce more and more and more, much of which is then dumped on world markets, that is being phased out. Export subsidies can go. That means ...

Jeremy Vine: (overlap) Can?

Peter Mandelson: Yes. Let me, let me come to the point. Can go, but in the context of a multi-lateral negotiation, so that what we're doing is using our negotiating muscle, and our offer, and what we put on the table, to persuade others to do likewise; so that we have the maximum possible effect and benefit, from our offer, rather than simply what we can and would do ourselves, and that's the difference between what we do unilaterally, if you like, and what we can achieve in the multi-lateral trade negotiation, called the Doha Trade & Development Round.

Jeremy Vine: But where is the moral argument for us to sell even one tin of subsidised tomatoes to Ghana, thus destroying a job in Ghana.

Peter Mandelson: Well, it depends on what Ghana wants and what Ghana wishes to import and what Ghana wishes to trade with. I don't know, I can't comment on tomatoes in Ghana.

Jeremy Vine: Or sugar in Mozambique.

Peter Mandelson: Well, they're quite different, completely different products. I mean if you take sugar as a very good example of a regime, a protocol that operates within the common agricultural policy in Europe, much of which is linked to special preferential access, for some very poor and developing countries, countries which are now going to see those preferences eroding, as we carry out that very reform of the common agricultural policy that many people are calling for us to do; so it's not simply this, Jeremy, to say, well look, let's reform the Common Agricultural Policy, let's do this, let's do that, which will benefit, yes, some very competitive large scale producers amongst developing countries but will at the same time, hurt some weaker and more vulnerable developing countries.

And what we've got to do in Europe is make sure that we do open our markets and create market access for developing countries. Get rid of those subsidies, and stop that distortion of world markets, but at the same time mitigate the impact of those changes on some very poor developing countries, and that makes it very complicated to achieve.

Jeremy Vine: Sure, but those countries which are helped a little by the current arrangements, the help that they are given, should not sustain a scheme that looked at overall, is unfair, and you know, you're there surely to sort this out. Why wait for the US to get on board with this?

Peter Mandelson: Because it's very very important that we persuade the United States to come along.

Jeremy Vine: (interrupts) ... It might take forever, it might not happen.

Peter Mandelson: No it won't because we have the Doha Trade Round, which is working very hard at the moment, and which should I hope show, an ambitious level of successful completion by the end of next year. But you know, if you take the United States, huge Farm Bill, huge subsidies.

Jeremy Vine: (overlaps) Going up.

Peter Mandelson: Huge distortion and in fact had gone up, but now need to come down - with for example you mentioned sugar in the case of the European Union which we've got to sort out but it's complicated to do so. They've got to sort out cotton which has similarly some very difficult impact and very challenging impact on very many poor African countries, but it's not a simple matter of saying right, we can just press this button, pull that lever, and everyone will be helped. There are swings and roundabouts between developing countries, different consequences for different sorts of developing countries, in every action that we take. That makes it necessarily more complex, our response has to be more sophisticated. And it requires a very difficult and very challenging multi-lateral world negotiation, and that's what I'm engaged in at the moment.

Jeremy Vine: Okay, on the Constitution, people need to be persuaded in this country that Britain ought to sign up. You are on the EU Communications sub committee, so I'm assuming you're going to be acting as a persuader. How are you going to sell it?

Peter Mandelson: I think the best way to sell Europe to Europe's citizens is to demonstrate that the EU is genuinely changing gear, making growth and jobs and the policies needed to create those its top priority because that's what's most important to people and that we show that in what we do as a European Commission, we're enabling Europe to work better to the benefit of all its citizens.

Jeremy Vine: But it's not at the moment is it. That's the point.

Peter Mandelson: Well I don't think it is in every respect, which is why ..

Jeremy Vine: (overlaps) High unemployment, low growth.

Peter Mandelson: I think that - well, it's why I think that this week's announcement by the European Commission to re-cast, re-think its economic reform policies, the policies of investment to build a genuine future knowledge economy in Europe, as well as equip people individually to embrace that change and to make sure that they are properly educated and trained and properly supported to benefit from those economic changes.

Now you've seen this week from the European Commission, I think a very major change of gear. I think there's an amendment of our direction. I think we're putting in place now, policies which are genuinely going to work for Europe, and as I say with their top priority and create growth and jobs in Europe.

Jeremy Vine: But I mean, this amendment of the direction is an indictment as well in a way of what has happened in Europe so far isn't it. And the Constitution is an argument for us, or for Britain, binding itself more tightly in to something that's not working.

Peter Mandelson: What the creation of a single market has given Britain is huge economic benefits; nobody questions that. We have more opportunities to trade, to invest, much greater stimulus to competition, to innovation with all the economic dividend that comes from that.

Jeremy Vine: And the Working Time Directive and the Agency Workers Directive.

Peter Mandelson: But it can work better and differently, even so. And in the case of the measures that you've described, we've got to make sure, not just in those measures, but right across the board that how Europe regulates, is done in a way that doesn't have unforeseen consequences, that doesn't place an onerous and unnecessary burden on business, which impedes their ability to perform in world markets because we're not just competing against ourselves in Europe, we're competing and facing economic challenges from North America, from Asia, from China, from India. (interjects) That's why we have to step up our game.

Jeremy Vine: But then why, at this moment, as you say, that Europe is amending the way it does things, is it coming out with something called the Agency Workers Directive.

Peter Mandelson: Because the Agency Workers Directive, if implemented, in a sensible way can give support and protection to working people without harming job creation and without making the labour market more inflexible but it always depends on the small print. You know, it depends on the detail of these measures and what I'm insistent on, and I have some responsibility now for this within the Commission, is to make sure that we apply a proper competitiveness impact test to everything we do; every piece of legislation, every directive that comes out of Brussels now, must be tested for its impact on economic competitiveness and that's what the new Commission is committed to doing.

Jeremy Vine: Final subject, very quickly, and a very important one; the British rebate, the British rebate is 2.7 billion pounds a year, our net contribution is 4.1 billion, including the rebate. Are you in favour of the British rebate?

Peter Mandelson: Yes I am in favour of the new budget being organised in a way that Britain, makes sure that Britain continues to get a fair deal. At the moment ...

Jeremy Vine: The rebate. Are you in favour of that?

Peter Mandelson: Yes, that, that is what the rebate is. At the moment we take out far less than we put in because we don't benefit in quite the same way from the use of structural funds or, or CAP spending. Now what the rebate is about is rectifying that imbalance.

Jeremy Vine: So you're arguing against your colleagues who want it scrapped.

Peter Mandelson: And in one way or another, that fairness, that fair deal has to be maintained. How it is, is a matter for negotiation which will come during the course of this year.

Jeremy Vine: Peter Mandelson, European Trade Commissioner, thank you very much indeed.

End of interview

NB:This transcript was typed from a recording and not copied from an original script.

Because of the possibility of mis-hearing and the difficulty, in some cases, of identifying individual speakers, the BBC cannot vouch for its accuracy.

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The next Politics Show will be on Sunday, 13 February, 2005 at 12.30.
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