Hon. Donald M. Fleming (Minister of Finance):
As hon. members are aware, informal meetings were held in London last week among representatives of Canada, the United Kingdom and the United States to consider various problems arising from international trade in textiles. Officials from the crown colony of Hong Kong were also present. It will be recalled that these meetings followed an announcement by President Kennedy of the United States that a conference of the principal textile importing and exporting countries would be called for the purpose of seeking an international understanding in this field which would provide a basis for expanding trade without undue disruption of established industries. The London discussions were the first of a series of consultations in preparation for a broader international conference.
I have now received a report from the Canadian representatives at these meetings, and can report to the house that encouraging progress was made. It was recognized that the problems which have arisen in the field of textiles could best be dealt with on the basis of a comprehensive international understanding. The countries represented at the London meetings pledged their co-operation in seeking such an international solution. Further consultations will now go forward in order to obtain the views of other principal textile importers and exporters and also to seek the co-operation of the GATT and the O.E.C.D.
Hon. members will appreciate that in a matter of this importance and complexity there exist many diverse interests and views. Accordingly, it was agreed that, consistent with maximum efforts for an early solution, great care should be taken to prepare the ground before convening a formal international conference. It is expected that after
this round of consultations has been completed arrangements will be made for a ministerial meeting in the latter part of June.
I should like to assure the house that Canada will be represented at any such meetings, and that in line with our traditional position in these matters the Canadian government will give full and energetic support to this initiative. Our object is to reach an international understanding which will be fair to importing and exporting countries alike, and which will permit trade to expand without disruptive effects on our established industries.
A comprehensive international settlement will, of course, take time to accomplish. Meanwhile we shall continue to seek understandings on particular problems and with individual countries as we have in the case of Japan and Hong Kong. Needless to say, these international efforts are without prejudice to our rights under existing trade agreements to take measures where necessary to avoid injury to particular Canadian industries.