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1993 - Mr Major’s Press Conference in Kuala Lumpur

Below is the text of Mr Major’s press conference in Kuala Lumpur, held on Wednesday 22nd September 1993.


PRIME MINISTER:

I am delighted that Jim Prior is here - he is the leader of an extremely high-powered business delegation here with me in Kuala Lumpur - and also that I have Richard Needham, the Minister for Trade, with me. Richard has worked long and hard to make sure that we are able to increase our exports and our trading relationship with Asia and he will be returning to Malaysia with a large business delegation in November to follow up the numerous openings that have been identified in various meetings today.

I think there is no doubt that the trip has proved very fruitful with the signing this afternoon of five very important agreements. These involve potentially hundreds of millions of pounds of business for the United Kingdom. Overall at the moment business currently under discussion is worth at least a billion pounds over the forthcoming years and our current and continuing exports to Malaysia are estimated to support around 25,000 jobs. Today's contracts of course should secure many more jobs in Britain in due course.

I think it is worth remembering that South East Asia is one of the most rapidly-growing economies in the world and Malaysia, as a result of policies over many years, is in the forefront of that growth. We have doubled our exports to Malaysia over the last four years but I think we can and will do a good deal better.

It is equally true to make the point that the trading relationship has expanded in the other direction with a very substantial growth of Malaysian exports to the United Kingdom.

Within the Community, we will continue to fight very hard indeed for the vision that we have of a free, open, outward-looking Community and the relevance of that is that it will ensure that countries like Malaysia will have access to the Single Market which is worth around £350 billion even before enlargement.

To perhaps give you a practical example in concrete terms, the Community provides a massive market for Malaysian products like the Proton car that I was able to have a look at this morning.

I also had the opportunity of looking at the Connaught Bridge power station, a very impressive example of Rolls-Royce's capabilities. Today, British Gas have signed an agreement for a joint venture for an even bigger power plant and the project overall is worth around £550 million. What staggered me was that the plant is expected to start producing power by the end of 1994 and that is very remarkable progress indeed - no wonder British Gas refer to it as "Project Maserati".

Our pursuit of business, of course, and our wider social and educational links inevitably go hand-in-hand. There are at the moment around 13,000 Malaysians studying in the United Kingdom and possibly a good deal more who have gone there privately where we don't necessarily have an indication of the numbers. John Laings are planning to increase the number of students we can help by establishing a college of the University of London here in Kuala Lumpur and Laings are also about to construct twelve hospitals here so there is a substantial amount of work there as well.

As we approach the end of my trip to Tokyo and Malaysia, I am absolutely certain that we were right in our decision to give greater priority to our policies relating to the Asia Pacific region. I think this trip alone demonstrates what that means in practice and what more can be achieved in the future.

It was equally clear from my discussions this afternoon that there is a very wide range of international and bilateral issues that are of concern to both countries. In my discussions with Dr. Mahathir this afternoon, we spread very broadly our discussions and it was remarkable that we had so many areas of joint concern and interest. The primary purpose, however, of this meeting was to expand and make clear to everyone the sheer scale of the economic and trading relationship that exists between the United Kingdom and Malaysia and I will, if I may, ask Lord Prior, as leader of the business delegation, just to give his impressions of the trip and then we will be happy to take any questions you may have.

LORD PRIOR:

As most members of the British press will know, I am not given to sycophancy in my remarks about prime ministers but I would just like to say that I believe that the efforts made by the Prime Minister both here in Malaysia and in Japan as well and in a number of other places are an enormous help and example to British industry and I think you will find that all the industrialists who have been on both these really quite difficult tours are full of praise for the attitude of the Prime Minister and welcome enormously the efforts he, Richard Needham and others are making for British industry.

The Prime Minister has mentioned a number of important projects and he has been, quite rightly, very conservative in the figures he has put on them. If I can just add a little to, for example, the airport, it is a British consortium which has been given the task of organising and carrying through this massive project which is a real prestige project in south-east Asia; it is the biggest single project which Malaysia has ever undertaken and which we hope will be a great credit to a nation which has made such marvellous progress in the last few years. That project, which will be carried out predominantly with Malaysian contractors and Malaysian labour but at the same time with project management and technical help from both British and Japan, will bring to Britain a large quantity of work, for example to my own company GEC Marconi it will bring at least 100 million pounds and probably more and the figure for Balfour Beatty and Tragalgar House Gannon [phonetic] will probably be in excess of something like £500 million so that alone is a very big project.

The Prime Minister has already mentioned the two power station projects, one of which he opened this morning. Sir Desmond Pitcher of the North West Water. Board has a project that he would like to mention to you a little later on which again is a very big project and he has a press kit to hand out for those who would wish to have it.

So altogether, Prime Minister, we think this has been a very successful tour from your point of view. You have opened a number of doors for us and it is up to British industry now to get their feet in so that they don't close again and manage to get some very big orders. We think we will.

PRIME MINISTER:

I will ask Sir Desmond Pitcher to take up Jim's invitation and perhaps say a word on some other events that have occurred today.

SIR DESMOND PITCHER:

We formed a consortium with our Malaysian partners a few years ago to study the sewage problems in this country. We made a recommendation to the Government for a national sewage programme to provide sewage for 14 million people, which is roughly double the number of people who live in the north west of England. As a consequence of that, the Malaysian government this year have passed a special act to privatise all sewage activity and transfer responsibility of that to our company. We are in the final details of signing the so-called "Consortium Agreement" as a franchise agreement and we have to make a privatisation agreement. In effect, the capital investment for starters is 1.25 billion pounds. We have the contract for 28 years and by the time we have done the main construction work, we will have changed the whole dimension of sewage and environment in this country. We have done it of course with tremendous help from our Malaysian colleagues and more particularly all the money is coming from Malaysia with a small amount of investment in equity from our country.


QUESTIONS AND ANSWERS

QUESTION (Mike Webster, ITN):

Prime Minister, if I could first ask you a question on the international stage, today President Clinton, like yourself, has given support to President Yeltsin in Russia. However, he added a proviso that he didn't want to see President Yeltsin use force in order to put down his opponents. Do you make the same condition, despite your support for him, that he must keep the troops....

PRIME MINISTER:

I think there are several points to be made. Yeltsin is the first, indeed the only leader in Russian history to be elected freely. He is carrying forward a reform process, he wants a properly elected parliament that actually can express the will of the people with clarity and with a fresh mandate.

Since President Gorbachev gave them the chance some time ago, the Russian people have consistently acted to show that they believe in the reform programme; that is the reform programme that President Yeltsin is trying to carry forward.

We have given consistent support to the reformers. At the time of the 1991 coup, it was Britain that denounced it first and made it clear we were on the side of reform. We have made it absolutely clear right the way through that we are on the side of the reform process and the reformers will need to operate by rule of law and with parliamentary sanction so I think it is our view that we want it to proceed peaceably but let there be no doubt whatsoever that the reform process is best likely to go ahead under President Yeltsin, that he has our support and we very much hope that that will be acknowledged by people throughout Russia and the process can continue.

QUESTION (John Sergeant, BBC):

But how likely do you think it is that President Yeltsin will be overthrown and that Russia will revert to totalitarian rule?

PRIME MINISTER:

Consistently in the last few years the Russian people, when asked, have acted with very considerable maturity. I don't think there is any conceivable doubt that given the chance they will continue to act with maturity and that does mean a democratic reform process so I both hope and believe that President Yeltsin will continue and will be able to carry that reform process forward.

I not only believe that that is very much in the interest of the Russian people; I don't have a shred of doubt that it is very much in the interest of the rest of the world to have a stable Russia settling down as a secure democracy not just for months but for years ahead, decades ahead. That is what all of us wish to see. I believe it is achievable but I believe now is the moment for the rest of the world to make it absolutely clear that they support the continuation of this reform process and they do not support any attempts illegally to knock it off course.

QUESTION (Richard Bestick, Sky News):

From your remarks at lunch-time today about the rearguard Soviets, it would seem that if Mr. Yeltsin isn't successful you would be prepared to see a return to the Cold War rather than accept a dialogue with his successors.

PRIME MINISTER:

I think I have made it clear in the past, if I may refer back to the remarks I made about the potential coup some time. Britain didn't sit back and consider what might happen if things went wrong; we were out there first making it clear that the reform process had to continue. That is the first prize for the rest of the world. Nobody should be in any doubt about that. It is clearly our policy that it is in everybody's interests - Britain's, the rest of the world's, Russia's - for there to be the maximum amount of support for those people who will carry on the reform process and I will rest my answer on that.

QUESTION:

When Lady Thatcher was here about two weeks ago, she said that the situations in Iraq and in Bosnia should be treated exactly in the same manner. How does your Administration see the difference between the two situations and should they be treated differently by your Administration?

PRIME MINISTER:

I didn't hear what may have been said on that occasion and I am not going to comment directly on remarks I didn't myself hear and haven't seen in context. I think I have learned over the last ten years or so that it is very unwise to do that.

As far as Iraq is concerned, I think the whole world remains appalled at the behaviour of Saddam Hussein. Both in the north with the Kurds and in the south in the marshlands, his attitude continues to be repressive, dictatorial and wholly repugnant to the rest of the world.

Insofar as the UNSCOM investigations are concerned, until and unless he actually removes these weapons of mass destruction, he cannot expect in any way the sanctions to be removed so our position on that has been perfectly clear.

On Bosnia, I think it is right for me to say that everyone shares very hot feelings - very emotional feelings - about the dreadful circumstances that have arisen in Bosnia. We were the first country to put in troops on a large scale to help the humanitarian aid. It is certainly the view of the United Nations that without the British effort it could not have continued and many thousands of lives would have been lost. We have continued to do that. We have continued to seek a peaceful process. We believe a peaceful political settlement is desirable because it is more likely to be enduring and I think that is the prize everyone wishes to seek so in Iraq we sought peace, in Bosnia we seek peace but we have to determine the way to achieve it dependent upon the individual circumstances.

QUESTION (Philip Johnstone, Daily Telegraph):

Prime Minister, later today you are off to Monte Carlo to bang the drum on behalf of Manchester. How confident are you that the city can win the Olympics for the year 2000 and do you think China's human rights record disqualifies Peking from holding the Games?

PRIME MINISTER:

I have always been concerned throughout the whole of this to promote the aims of Manchester rather than comment on the aims of other countries. I think Manchester's bid is technically excellent. Manchester has the total support of the Government. I believe that were the Games to come to Manchester in the year 2000 they would be memorable Games matched against any we have seen in the past so I have no doubt about Manchester's willingness or capability of producing the Games.

As to whether they will win or not, we are now within a few hours of the 90-odd members actually making up their minds. I don't know what individual motivations they will have in that decision. I can only say that on merit I think Manchester will be very hard to beat and I would be delighted to see them win.

QUESTION:

How do you see the US refusal to renegotiate the Blair House Accord reforms?

PRIME MINISTER:

I believe if you have entered into an agreement you don't re-open it and the European Community collectively and the United States reached an agreement on Blair House. The United Kingdom don't want to re-open Blair House.

QUESTION (John Craig, Daily Express):

How is your morale at the end of the second leg of this trip? You have obviously had a lot of success with the business side of the trip over here but there are still some rumblings back home from what we hear. How is your morale tonight?

PRIME MINISTER:

My morale is very high, John.

QUESTION (Reuters):

Have you talked to President Yeltsin yet and do you intend to try before you take off tonight?

PRIME MINISTER:

No, I haven't talked to him yet. We have been in touch with Moscow but I haven't spoken to President Yeltsin yet. I think it is very likely I will over the next few days but I have had meetings continually through today, they go through till late tonight, I will then be flying off later on this evening to Nice. I think it is unlikely I will speak to him before tomorrow but I have no doubt over the next few days I will.

QUESTION (Colin Brown, The Independent):

Will you be suggesting any initiative that world leaders can take in addition to giving vocal support to President Yeltsin and given that his Foreign Minister in Moscow called in all the G7 ambassadors is there anything that they are asking for in addition to support, for instance financial support?

PRIME MINISTER:

No. The G7 ambassadors were called in so that it could be explained to them what President Yeltsin had in mind. It was a question not of asking for assistance but of passing on information.

This is a matter that is going to be determined within Russia but I think the role of other countries around the world is to make it clear what they believe is the right thing to happen and we have done that and a large number of other countries have as well; I hope more will.

QUESTION:

Sir, you said earlier that the UK was not likely to allow a renegotiation of the Blair House Accord but France has managed to get the EC to open further discussion on the Blair House Accord. How does the UK feel about this?

PRIME MINISTER:

It is outside Blair House. It is not a question of renegotiating what was agreed at Blair House. It was agreed there are other areas outside Blair House that people can look at it but it isn't a renegotiation of the agreement that was reached at Blair House.

QUESTION (Stephen Cook, Financial Times):

Dr. Mahathir made a very strong speech last night about Bosnia in particular. Were you surprised at the strength of Malaysia's feeling on Bosnia and were you able to reassure him at all in your private discussions today or what was your feeling of the Malaysian policy today during your private discussions?

PRIME MINISTER:

I don't think anyone can be surprised about the fact that people across the world have an emotional feeling about what is happening in Bosnia, that impact exists in the United Kingdom as well. Certainly, Dr. Mahathir and I discussed the matter and I think we both have a very clear understanding of each other's position.

QUESTION:

On Bosnia, do you think that the ball is at the Bosnian Muslims' feet now that the three factions have agreed to give them some kind of an outlet to the sea?

PRIME MINISTER:

I think an outlet to the sea is needed perhaps at Flotje [phonetic]. I don't see immediately where else it would be. I think there will need to be an outlet to the sea in the negotiations but I think the responsibility for reaching a conclusion rests not just with the Muslims but of course with each of the groups. What we have seen over a number of occasions in the last few months is putative agreements that have been broken very shortly after they have been entered into. We need all sides to reach an agreement, they need to stick to the agreement.

My personal view is that will probably need an access to the sea for the Muslims.