Europe South Asia Asia Pacific Americas Middle East Africa BBC Homepage World Service Education
BBC Homepagelow graphics version | feedback | help
BBC News Online
 You are in: UK Politics
Front Page 
UK Politics 
Talking Politics 
Mayor News 
People in Parliament 
A-Z of Parliament 
Political Links 
Talking Point 
In Depth 

UK Trade Secretary Stephen Byers
"We can build social justice"
 real 28k

Tuesday, 30 November, 1999, 09:33 GMT
Free trade will boost Third World - UK
Thousands of demonstrators are gathering in Seattle

Stripping back barriers to free trade will improve living conditions for the world's poor, the UK trade secretary has promised.

The battle for free trade
Stephen Byers touted the European Union's decision to lift most tariffs on goods imported from the world's poorest countries as a step towards ending child poverty.

There is no incompatibility with free trade and fair trade. Indeed, I think the two can go together and we can deliver social justice.
Stephen Byers, UK Trade Secretary
His remarks come ahead of the World Trade Organisation summit in Seattle, where thousands of protesters are gathering.

Anti-capitalist demonstrations are also expected in London - amid fears of a repeat of the violence seen in the City, the capital's financial district, on 18 June.

London is braced for a repeat of June's riots
But the UK trade secretary, a member of Tony Blair's Labour government, insisted the best way to tackle inequality in the world remained trade liberalisation.

"We believe the best way of doing that is giving those countries access to the markets of the rich industrialised counties," he told the BBC.

The move to lift trade barriers on goods entering the EU from developing countries proved European leaders meant business, he said.

"It's a big change. We're saying that essentially all goods coming from those 49 least developed countries will have access to the European Union with no duties being imposed, giving them access to a market of 370 million people - a radical change that will begin to lift those countries out of poverty, meaning they won't have to resort to child labour."

On the vexed subject of agriculture, on which many African nations complain the EU maintains a protectionist regime, Mr Byers hinted concessions could still come.

He said "an increasing recognition that we do need to move forward as far as agriculture is concerned" existed among the 15 member states.

Stephen Byers: "Free trade can end child poverty"
Agriculture is one of the key items for debate at the 135-nation summit in Seattle.

The talks are not intended to resolve any of the issues raised, but instead set the agenda for a three-year round of negotiations starting immediately afterwards.

The British opposition leader, Conservative William Hague, agreed with the trade secretary on the need to strip back obstacles to free trade.

"Massive, nonsensical trade barriers stand in the way of global growth," he said.

"The rich nations of the world have a duty to open their markets and share growth with the developing countries.

"Free trade is a one-way street to greater prosperity for all. Protectionism is self-defeating and antiquated."

But as the trade talks begin in Seattle, much of the attention will be focused on the many protesters from around the world gathering in the city who vehemently do not agree.

Search BBC News Online

Advanced search options
Launch console

See also:
24 Nov 99 |  Battle for Free Trade
Showdown in Seattle
24 Nov 99 |  Battle for Free Trade
Roddick blasts world trade body
29 Nov 99 |  UK Politics
Target poverty, Short urges WTO
30 Nov 99 |  UK
Police braced for protest in capital

Internet links:

The BBC is not responsible for the content of external internet sites
Links to other UK Politics stories are at the foot of the page.

E-mail this story to a friend

Links to more UK Politics stories