EC trade deals 'cost consumers millions': Level of prices blamed on protectionism

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Indy Politics
(First Edition)

TRADE DEALS concluded in secrecy by the EC and aimed at protecting European industries are costing consumers billions of pounds in higher prices, according to a report published today.

A deal between the European Community and Japan on car sales will add an estimated pounds 230 to the price of every car sold in the Community over the next seven years. Japanese cars sold in the EC will be pounds 743 more expensive.

The report, published by the National Consumer Council, is said to be the first detailed analysis of international trade from the consumer's viewpoint. Examples cited include electronic goods such as CD players, video recorders and computer printers, which cost UK buyers pounds 274m more than they should, because of EC steps to protect home manufacturers from overseas competition. Across the EC the extra bill is more than pounds 1.29bn.

Clothes would be an estimated 5 per cent cheaper and a much bigger range of cheap clothing would be available but for the multi-fibre agreements limiting EC imports from poorer textile-producing countries. The EC's farm policy increases a family of four's food bill by more than pounds 17 a week. Over the next seven years EC car-buyers wil pay pounds 23.4bn in higher prices.

The council says the United States is equally guilty of protectionism yet there is no evidence that it makes home industries more efficient. It means consumers have less to spend, so protectionism may lead to job losses, or 'stifled' job growth, in parts of the economy not being shielded.

The report says decisions are taken by the EC behind closed doors. Consumer bodies are denied non-confidential information made available to producers and minutes of meetings are not made public.

International Trade: The Consumer Agenda. NCC, 20 Grosvenor Gardens, London SW1.