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1993 - Mr Major’s Pool Interview in Tokyo

Below is the text of Mr Major’s pool media interview held in Tokyo on Wednesday 7th July 1993.


MICHAEL BRUNSON:

Prime Minister, the agreement at the so-called quad talks, very very big tariff cuts. Are you cracking open the champagne, throwing your hat in the air?

PRIME MINISTER:

I am certainly very pleased. They are very large tariff reductions indeed and across a very wide range. It is what we have been seeking for a long time and for an external trading nation like ourselves who live by our exports it is extremely important, not only big tariff cuts but big tariff cuts where we wanted to have them.

MICHAEL BRUNSON:

Tariff cuts and all of that, it doesn't mean a great deal I suspect to the man-in-the-street and woman-in-the-street. What does it actually mean in terms of how it will affect life in Britain?

PRIME MINISTER:

Let me try and illustrate that. I said the tariff cuts are in areas of importance to us. People who work in the ceramics industry, the glass industry, people who produce high-quality textiles will now find that markets like the United States that were difficult for them are open to them, they will be able to export more, produce more and that is going to create jobs.

It is very difficult to be precise as to what this will mean for jobs over the next decade or so, it is very much a rule of thumb guess at the moment but on the basis of the calculations others have done, including the United States, I would think probably we are talking over the next decade or so of an extra 250,000-plus jobs, perhaps 350,000. That does mean something to people in this country.

ROBIN OAKLEY:

Prime Minister, this is a package of agreed measures, is not yet an agreement. What badgering and bullying have you got to do to turn this into a full GATT agreement?

PRIME MINISTER:

85% of the GATT agreement is now practically together. I think the first thing to say is that these trade talks are infinitely bigger than anything we have seen before, it touches all sorts of areas that simply were not covered by agreements like this before. 80-90% of it is now in place. There is still a good deal more to be done. We hope we can push that through during the rest of this year. A lot to be done, it will be difficult but the prize at the end of that is very substantial for all of us, for the United Kingdom and for every other trading nation.

ROBIN OAKLEY:

One of the biggest problems may be with one of your European Community partners. Do you think the French can be persuaded to go along with this or could they yet sabotage the whole GATT agreement?

PRIME MINISTER:

I very much hope so. The French, like ourselves, are an industrial nation as well as being an agricultural nation. They too have very great interests in the industrial aspects of this particular agreement and in the service aspects so there is a lot in it for France. They still have some reserves - some concerns - about agriculture; these are matters that hopefully will be sorted out during the rest of the year. Quite apart from that, France has very great interest, as well as us, in a satisfactory agreement.

ADAM BOULTON:

The Americans have suggested that President Clinton should take most of the credit for this. Mickey Kantor said that he concentrated everyone's mind. Who do you give the credit to for achieving this breakthrough?

PRIME MINISTER:

I think everyone has been working. We certainly have been working for this, as you know, for a long time. I recall raising it at the Houston summit two years ago. I have sat there at three successive GI summits at which we have pledged ourselves to get an agreement and we have then gone away and pushed and pushed for an agreement. I don't think anyone doubts in the European Community that Britain has pushed more forcefully for an agreement than any other European Community nation but I think everyone is entitled to a share of the credit if and when it is finally sewn up. It isn't yet finally sewn up, when it is done, let us all then be grateful for it.

ADAM BOULTON:

Is this perhaps an occasion when the much maligned G7 jamboree has actually worked, that the leaders have got together and concentrated their political will and that has put pressure on the negotiators?

PRIME MINISTER:

I think the fact of the meeting has certainly put huge pressure on the negotiators. It has been clear for some time that we actually needed this agreement on market access, the reduction of tariffs, by the time of this particular meeting and I think each of the G7 Heads have put a considerable amount of pressure on the negotiators to reach an agreement so yes, I think it has helped a great deal.

MICHAEL BRUNSON:

But isn't it true that this whole GATT saga, which has been going on now for five or six years or something of that sort, is littered with false dawns? I remember for example in Washington you were issuing ultimatums telling everybody to wrap it all up in a fortnight. How can you be certain that it is going to stick this time and that people will be signing agreements in Geneva say in December?

PRIME MINISTER:

Well, of course, it is precisely because I was issuing ultimatums some time ago and others as well that we have actually pushed forward and dealt with the problems that then existed. There were problems, it looked like it was blocked, we pushed it, we have moved forward. That is exactly what we must do in the next few months.

People mustn't underestimate what this will mean. If there is one single thing that will give a boost to confidence and world trade and as a consequence of that growth and jobs and prosperity it is a successful outcome to the Uruguay Round. It is quite the most important thing we have had for many years so there is a huge prize there; everyone must push for it.

MICHAEL BRUNSON:

But you really think come December people will be putting names, signatures, on paper, say, in Geneva?

PRIME MINISTER:

It won't be for lack of effort by the British if they are not. I certainly hope so.

ROBIN OAKLEY:

This could be the last summit of its kind if you have your way. What exactly are the reforms that you want to see in the G7 summit process and what support are you getting for them?

PRIME MINISTER:

I just want to make it more informal. I think the idea of the Heads of Government and perhaps on occasions other Ministers getting together to talk about matters that affect all of us in what economically is a shrinking world is a very good idea. I don't object to that at all. The better Heads of Government get to know one another, the safer world we will all live in. What I do want to cut down is some of the jamboree aspects of these very large gatherings, perhaps too much ceremony, perhaps too many artificial additions to communiques at the end of our discussions.

What is vital I think for everyone is that Heads of Government can have close contact and can speak freely and frankly to one another about problems. I don't want that artificially pre-cooked. I want them to have the opportunity of free and open conversation so I would like a great deal more informality on these occasions in future.

ROBIN OAKLEY:

A lot of you are suffering from political traumas at home. Indeed, this meeting has been described as a meeting of the world's strongest countries and the world's weakest leaders. Do you feel that your clout is weakened here by the fact that there is an opinion poll at home this morning calling you the most unpopular Prime Minister this century?

PRIME MINISTER:

It is true of everyone here, not some people here. Everyone here is facing precisely the same problem. There is a malaise about. People are concerned. I think it is partly a result of the recession and it spreads right the way across the industrial world. People are concerned. We had many years in the 1980s when across the industrialised world there was steady growth, each year people felt a little better off, there was security, a certainty.

Suddenly the recession has cut that off and people are bewildered I think, they are not quite sure what has happened. In each individual country, they believe it is solely the responsibility of their particular government. When we meet together, as you have just observed, all these governments are in exactly the same position and we need to work together to bring the world economy round out of this recessionary phase and back into growth. That is what people want - certainty, confidence, growth, prospects and hope again - and that is what we are seeking to provide.

ADAM BOULTON:

President Clinton also picked up on that notion of a malaise. Pointing for example to Italy and Japan and indeed to the United States, he said that the malaise has been something which has forced the politicians into reforms and he cited funding changes in the United States. Why is it that you don't think the British system needs reform when so many others are changing?

PRIME MINISTER:

But I have been arguing for a whole series of economic changes. I did so at Copenhagen and I am doing so here again. I think we have to address some of the long-term problems that have been there that perhaps were masked by the buoyant growth there was across the world through much of the 1980s. Once one strips that away - and the recession has effectively done that - I think you can see some structural problems in each and every one of the nations gathered here at the G7 that need to be dealt with.

We have been discussing that today. The malaise you refer to has been referred in our discussions today by almost every Head of Government. It isn't uniquely a British phenomenon, it is a worldwide phenomenon. People are now beginning to address it. I think that is very attractive and the more we address it the more we can explain to people why there are difficulties and how we propose to get out of the difficulties, the more likely we are that they will give us their support in doing so.

The seven nations gathered here have I think beyond doubt the most sophisticated electorates in the world. Let us explain to them what the long-term difficulties are and how we propose to get out of them. Some of the ways of getting out of them may be difficult, they may be painful but if people know what the problem is and what the solution is, I believe they will accept that solution provided they are satisfied it is in their interests and in the interest of their country to do so.

ADAM BOULTON:

With reference to Britain, what are those long-term changes and painful changes which people should be facing up to?

PRIME MINISTER:

There are a series of things that I have been talking about for some months and they won't be particularly fresh to you. We certainly have to get rid of the fiscal deficit that we have - the fact that the Government is spending a good deal more than its revenues will allow - that has to be dealt with. We have to look at many of the costs that are in danger of rendering all of European, including British, industry uncompetitive to Japan, to the United States and to the Pacific Basin. We have to look at regulation, red tape, those frustrating controls that prevent small, medium and large-sized businesses from expanding and creating the jobs we need. That is an illustration of the changes we need, by no means an inclusive list but those are the sort of things we all have to address if we are to get our economies growing in the way we want to see them grow.

ROBIN OAKLEY:

Bilateral meetings on these occasions can be as important as the main round-table sessions. President Clinton, while he has been here, has been putting all the emphasis on relations between America and Japan and America and Asia. Do you feel that the United States has a new focus and are you worried about the state of the special relationship after the differences with the US on Bosnia?

PRIME MINISTER:

Not in the slightest. The United States and the United Kingdom have a community of interests. We are very close together. We have a common outlook on almost every problem, of course not every one but on almost every problem around the world we have a common outlook. We are in regular contact at all levels of government, not just my level speaking regularly to President Clinton, the Foreign Secretary, the Chancellor of the Exchequer, at official level, We have far closer contact with the United States than they would have with many other countries. Of course, on these occasions they seek to make up that deficit of contact with people when they are here. We have that contact all the time. I see no difficulty at all now, there hasn't been in the past, isn't now and won't be in the future over that very close identify of interests and common interests that we have with the United States.