Right Hon. C. D. Howe (Minister of Trade and Commerce):
Mr. Speaker, I would like to take this opportunity to inform the house that the ninth session of the contracting parties to the general agreement on tariffs and trade is being brought to an end in Geneva. The session, which began last October, has been a long and important one. Naturally, since the discussions are confidential, it has not been possible to inform hon. members of what has been going on. However, I know that members of the house have a strong interest in the GATT and will want to know what has happened as soon as possible.
This ninth session really had two purposes. In the first place, it covered the normal routine business for which the members of the GATT assemble approximately every six months. In addition, however, at the suggestion of quite a large number of the contracting parties, there was a review of the articles of agreement, and consideration of the constitution of a new organization to administer the agreement. By far the greater part of the work of the session was related to these matters.
In addition, the firm binding of the tariff schedules under the agreement comes to an end on June 30 of this year, and recommendations have been made to governments tor the future of tariff schedules. This is one of the matters about which I shall make a full explanation at a later date.
Accordingly, this ninth session has covered a wide range of subjects. This includes the
tariff schedules to which I have just referred. It has also included a review of the basic rules of trade and of the various escape clauses. These escapes include those provided for countries in balance of payments difficulties and also those provided for underdeveloped countries. The review has covered the provisions of the agreement for agricultural trade, and further arrangements have been made leading toward the accession of Japan to the general agreement. Finally, a good deal of attention has been paid to the possibility of putting the GATT on a rather firmer organizational basis; so far, as hon. members will recall, it has only been applied on a provisional basis.
Delegates of 35 countries are now on their way home from Geneva. When they get home they will inform and advise their governments. Some, of course, have a good deal farther to go than others, and it has been agreed that complete information regarding the ground covered in the ninth session will be delayed for two or three weeks in order to give all concerned an equal chance to digest it. At the appropriate time, and as soon as I can, I shall be making a full statement in the house. In the meantime some announcements are being made by common agreement in Geneva. I shall draw them to the attention of the house as they become available.
The information to be released in Geneva in the near future will refer chiefly to the routine items of the ninth session, rather than to the review and amendments of the articles of agreement. These items are all closely interrelated and their over-all effect can best be judged by reviewing them as a single parcel. I am sure hon. members will agree that it would be most satisfactory if I made a complete statement later on, rather than two or three piecemeal statements, even though newspaper reports will be appearing from time to time.
However, I think I should make it clear at this time that the GATT will go on. We already have an agreement which is being provisionally applied by the member governments, and this agreement will continue.
In regard to amendments that have been proposed, I have only one remark to make at this time. This is to say that while they do not add up to as strong and effective a GATT as I had hoped last October when the
1810 HOUSE OF
Inquiries of the Ministry review began, they do add up to a more satisfactory agreement than I had feared when I returned from Geneva last December. The result is not as good as it might have been, but it might have been much worse. It will continue to be in Canada's interest to adhere to the GATT.
Subtopic: CONCLUSION OF NINTH SESSION