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1993 - Mr Major’s Press Conference in Tokyo

Below is the text of Mr Major’s press conference in Tokyo,held on Monday 20th September 1993.


QUESTION (Sanke Newspaper):

It is indeed a great honour for me to ask the first question. My question is as follows. There are discussions to reform the UN Security Council and for Japan to become a permanent member, what is the view of the Prime Minister of the UK, do you think that Japan should become a Permanent Member of the Security Council and if so what conditions should she fulfil?

PRIME MINISTER:

We are now engaged I think in what will be a continuing debate about the reform of the Permanent Membership of the Security Council, I think that debate will take a while, there are a number of countries that have obvious credentials, Japan of course, Germany of course, but I think other countries will have ambitions to become Permanent Members of the Security Council and of course to fulfil the obligations that Permanent Members traditionally fulfil. I think that reform debate is now engaged, it will continue for some time.

The primary concern I think as that debate does proceed is to make sure that whatever the outcome of that debate may be that the Permanent Membership of the United Nations retains the same compatibility that it has at present and is able to act as sufficiently decisively as it can today. It is the effectiveness and efficiency of the Permanent Members that will be primarily in our minds as we look at the question of reform. Clearly the members likely to join the Security Council will need to fulfil the same international criteria that has been the case in the past but I have no doubt that as the debate about the reform proceeds, when it concludes, that Japan is likely to be one of the beneficiaries.

QUESTION (Japan Economic Journal):

Ambassador Kistanura [phon] in the newsletter of the Japan Society has written that the Japan/UK relationship has come to a very favourable relationship, unseen in the past, I think in terms of Opportunity Japan, Priority Japan, The Japan Festival, all of these committees have led to such a good relationship. In the eyes of Japan our relationship with the UK is something that we regard highly. In order to further strengthen our relationship what kind of things should Japan do?

PRIME MINISTER:

I think as you rightly said the United Kingdom/Japan relationship in trade and economic matters is already very strong. A whole series of initiatives - Priority Japan springs immediately to mind, the large conferences by the UK and Japan and by Japan and the UK - have built up the relationship quite dramatically over the last few years. I think there are two aspects to the relationship: the first is political and the second is economic and trade. If I could say a word about both I would then like to ask Michael Perry to say a word also about the trading relationship.

Let me touch on the political relationship first. I think that it is self-evident that Asia as a whole is being given a new priority in British policy. It is a time of dynamic political and economic change in Asia and the Pacific and I put that in the general area. But I would say more specifically that Japan is central to Britain's approach in Asia and our political relationship is closer than it has been for a long time and the relationship between Japan, Britain and other large nations in dealing with international affairs is more effective and more efficient than we have known it in the past and that is going to continue, There is a distinct wish in British foreign policy to give a new priority to our relationship with Japan and our relationship more generally with Asia.

On trade and economic matters we propose to build on the special relationship that has existed. There has been a very substantial trade flow between the United Kingdom and Japan, the recession of course has affected that, as it has affected every other trade relationship, but it is still growing and British exports, for example, to Japan have grown very dramatically in recent years. That is going to continue. The Prime Minister and I agreed earlier this afternoon that we would have a very high profile conference in London in the early part of January to carry the relationship forward. Richard Needham, the Minister for Trade, and Michael Perry as a businessman with immense experience of Japan and with particular responsibilities, will be looking at how we can carry our trade relations even further and will be making more announcements about that in the New Year.

So I do not think there is anything new and fresh that I would particularly ask of Japan, what I would ask is that we continue going in the direction that we have been going for a long time. Many of the inhibitions to access to Japan's markets have gone, some of the cultural inhibitions have not yet gone and there are still some individual areas that I have been discussing with the Prime Minister where we would like some further action. But overwhelmingly we are very pleased with the direction of policy.

So I think that the relationship will continue to develop and ripen and I would like, with the Chairman's permission, since I speak upon these matters as a politician, to ask a practising businessman with immense experience of Anglo/Japanese relations, perhaps to add a word on the trading aspects.

MR PERRY:

The development of Anglo/Japanese trade relations has been very positive, as the Prime Minister has said, in the last 5 or 10 years. The reason for that of course is in the first place the opening up of the market here and secondly the great cooperation we have had from all involved in the process of identifying markets and bringing the goods and services of Britain to the attention of Japanese buyers. There are of course still a number of areas which we are discussing together, in particular matters of deregulation in the financial and invisible sectors but we know that these are matters which concern Japanese businessmen too and we are encouraged to believe that these matters are being addressed.

Overall we are concerned as British businessmen that we should be trading together in a multilateral trading system which means that we are judged on the quality of our goods and services, and that is all we ask.

QUESTION:

In your talks with the Prime Minister what points did you talk about and which points did you find agreement on in terms of trade and investment related matters?

PRIME MINISTER:

We touched on a number of bilateral matters on trade and we shared a view that we must carry the trading relationship forward in the way I described a few moments ago. More widely and. perhaps immediately more crucial for all of us, we spent some time discussing the Uruguay Round and share a determination that that should come to a successful conclusion by 15 December and we spent a very considerable time upon that particular matter. That is an important multilateral agreement that I believe will re-engender a great deal of confidence in the international community, engender an increase in trade and an increase in trans-territorial investment and a creation of jobs and prosperity. So we spent a great deal of time discussing that in particular.

The converse of course, about which the Prime Minister and I also agreed, was the immense damage that would be done to international confidence and trade were there not to be an agreement in the Uruguay Round.

QUESTION (Sanke Newspaper):

Today there will be a joint meeting between the Ministers of Foreign Affairs and Agriculture in Brussels and they will be talking about the agreement on agriculture to which France is opposed, do you think that if the present situation continues the basic agreement could be reached by the end of the year and did you ask anything of Mr. Hosokawa about the opening of Japan's rice market?

PRIME MINISTER:

The meeting that there is in Brussels is a very important meeting, I can express to you the United Kingdom's view about that very simply and very crisply. The European Community negotiators reached an agreement with the United States at Blair House, we have reached an agreement, we should keep to the agreement, it should not be re-opened and I see no reason for it to be re-opened. That is the view that the United Kingdom takes about Blair House. Agriculture is difficult, self-evidently difficult, but I think it cannot be permitted to prevent the completion of the Uruguay Round on 15 December, it cannot and it must not be permitted to do that so we will have to find a solution to the difficulties of individual members in the intervening period. think there are ways in which that can be done but certainly it cannot be done by re-opening Blair House, that is an agreement that has been done.

We did not specifically discuss any details from the Japanese point of view of elements of the Uruguay Round but we did discuss the necessity to reach an agreement and Prime Minister Hosokawa made it clear to me that he too favours reaching an agreement.

QUESTION (Jonathan Annals, Evening Standard Business Day):

You just expressed your commitment to securing the successful completion of the Uruguay Round, earlier this afternoon Mr Davis from the CBI said that bilateral trade agreements were dangerous and they tended to undermine and perhaps replace multilateral agreements perhaps such as GATT. What is your view of the so-called trade framework talks which began yesterday in Hawaii between Japan and the United States which are intended to increase sales of American products in Japan sector by sector and reduce the trade deficit?

PRIME MINISTER:

I share the view that was expressed by Howard Davis of the CBI, what we are looking for is a free trading, multilateral world, that is undoubtedly what is in everyone's interests, that is what the GATT Round is about and. that must have pre-eminence in our discussions and in our concern. I was not present at any bilateral discussions but if you are going to have a proper free trading system around the world then it has to operate on a multilateral basis and that is and will remain our position.

QUESTION (John Sergeant, BBC):

On a domestic matter, could you say whether you are disappointed with the reaction of some of your MPs who appear to have rejected your appeal which you made here in Tokyo yesterday for loyalty to yourself and to the government. One of them said that you were out of touch with the feelings in Britain?

PRIME MINISTER:

I am here to look after British interests at home and abroad, to advance the British interests. I do not know which Member of Parliament said that, I do not know in what context he said it, do not know in response to what question he said it, and I think in the absence of knowing any of that I am not going to comment on the remarks of one of over 330 of my Conservative Members of Parliament. I can tell you that the overwhelming view of the Conservative Party is that we have come through the recession, we have now got a satisfactory platform for what we have been seeking for a long time - growth with low inflation. That is a tremendous opportunity for British industry domestically and British industry and the British economy internationally. And it is to develop that that I am here, it is to develop that that the government's policies are directed and it is to develop that that I believe I will have the overwhelming support not just of the Conservative Party but I think of people right across the country.

QUESTION (Todo News Service):

In your talks with the Prime Minister, on specific matters I am sure you talked about individual matters, I am imagining this, could you please tell us what kind of dialogue you had with the Prime Minister concerning individual matters?

PRIME MINISTER:

We touched on a very large number of international matters, I think it would probably take between now and midnight to run through all the background and. ramifications of what we covered in our two hour session. But in terms of international matters we discussed China, we discussed Russia, we discussed the United Nations, I touched upon that earlier, we talked about Hong Kong, we discussed a range of matters related to GATT, we touched on bilateral matters, we touched on UN peace-keeping, we touched also on the subject of Prisoners of War, we touched also upon a scheme that we were able to announce today, funded by the British private sector, to take some Japanese post-graduate students from Japan to study at Oxford University in the United Kingdom and we were able to announce that today, we discussed the arrangements for the joint UK/Japan Conference to which we attach great importance, that will take place in January. Later on in the afternoon I discussed with the Foreign Minister a range of Asian matters, Cambodia took a fair amount of our time there. I would not promise you that that is an inclusive list but I think it gives a broad indication of the sort of matters we discussed.

QUESTION:

Before you came to Japan we heard that, perhaps emulating President Bush's visit to Japan, you were bringing a lot of businessmen with you and that you were going into top sales here in Japan, there were such rumours before you came, but in that regard did you have any strong request to make to the Japanese government?

PRIME MINISTER:

The British private sector is very able to make its own requests. You are quite right that I brought with me a very high powered delegation of very senior British businessmen and as I said earlier, and I am happy to repeat to this larger gathering, I think probably the most senior delegation of British businessmen ever collectively to leave the United Kingdom and certainly the most high powered delegation ever to accompany a Prime Minister abroad, Michael Perry is the leader.

We had a series of discussions with the Kadanran [phon] this morning and I have had a series of meetings, of which I think you know. But I suppose the underlying point is this. We are still extremely keen to attract inward investment into the United Kingdom from Japan, I think that has been very successful from the point of the Japanese investor and I can certainly say it has been very welcome and very successful from the point of view of the United Kingdom. I wish to make it absolutely clear that we are happy to see that continue.

Other than that what we are concerned about, and what Japan is concerned about, is opening up the world trading market so that decisions may be made upon merit in terms of trade, investment and the awarding of contracts, and it was matters relating to that that formed the bulk of our discussions throughout the day.

QUESTION (Jiji News Service):

I would like to go back a bit to Japan becoming a member of the Permanent Five, you mentioned that you talked about this with Prime Minister Hosokawa. On your part, if Japan wishes to become a member of the Permanent. Council, what specifically would you request from Japan and in your talks with the Prime Minister did you mention what kind of conditions you would attach for Japan to become a member?

PRIME MINISTER:

There would be no specific Japanese conditions that we would expect Japan to follow, what we would expect is that any new members, whomsoever it may be, Japan, others as well if there are other additions, what we would expect is for Permanent Members to be able in principle to play a full role, as have the existing Permanent Members, across a whole range of responsibilities, including peace-keeping, the provision of troops from time to time and finance. So what we would wish is to ensure that the Permanent Members remained effective and to ensure that all the Permanent Members were able and prepared to undertake the same responsibilities that the present Permanent Members could take.

But we would not be asking for any special or different responsibilities from any new applicant, whether Japan or anyone else.

QUESTION:

Given your strictures about the silly and stupid noises off about your leadership that you have been saying here, do you think it was a politically wise judgment for the Chancellor to actually pull a rabbit out of the hat about a leadership campaign going on in London involving himself, the Home Secretary and Mr Portillo? There are suggestions that you feel lonely and isolated as Prime Minister, is the job getting at you and isn't loneliness and being solitary part of the hazard of the job?

PRIME MINISTER:

I have had some pretty extraordinary questions in the last two years, Gordon, three years, some of them actually from you, but I think that one probably takes the biscuit think the second part of it, Heaven alone knows where these nonsenses come from and I cannot speculate on that, it is not for me to suggest where everything that appears and is published comes from, if I did that no doubt I probably would feel very lonely and isolated, but I don't, so I am not.

As far as the first part of your question is concerned, I do not think it applies at all and I have simply no idea what led you to ask that part of the question.

QUESTION:

Did you discuss with Mr Hosokawa today the Yugoslavian problem and can you tell us is the war in Yugoslavia at its end and who or what is an obstacle to peace at the moment?

PRIME MINISTER:

The answer to the first half of the question is we did not this afternoon discuss Bosnia but it is quite probable that we will have the opportunity over dinner when we meet later on tonight to continue our discussions on a range of matters and I would imagine that Bosnia would be amongst them.

As for the impediment to peace, it is difficult to determine precisely where it is, it seems to be a moving impediment, I do not think one can point the finger at any particular group and say they are the impediment to peace, the fact of the matter is that we want everyone to decide that they are going to reach a peaceful settlement and as this winter approaches it becomes increasingly urgent that that is the case. Last: winter the difficulties of delivering humanitarian aid were serious enough but last winter was fortunately a relatively mild winter in Bosnia, we cannot be certain that this winter will be the same, it may be a good deal more savage and that would mean that the hardship, particularly with the extra period of fighting damaging the infrastructure and communications ever more daily, would potentially be a disastrous occurrence.

So I think there is a very great premium on every participant deciding that it is necessary to reach an agreement and reach an agreement speedily. The negotiators, David Owen from the United Kingdom amongst them working for the United Nations, are working very hard to achieve such an agreement and I hope that every wise international friend of Bosnia will put whatever pressure they can on the participants to make sure that an agreement is made and crucially kept. I think people are getting pretty cynical, month after month after month, of artificial bogus agreements being signed, promised and broken within hours of their signature. So I think we want to see some concrete action by each of the participants in this dreadful conflict.

QUESTION:

I apologise for coming back, Prime Minister, but the Chairman asked me whether I was satisfied with the answer and as I am not I thought I might just come back. Was it wise for the Chancellor to talk about a leadership battle going on in the party against you?

PRIME MINISTER:

He did not, as far as I am aware he did not and there is not and I am not aware of one and there is not one and I know it is a great disappointment to many people because it will undoubtedly be very newsworthy but the fact is there is no vacancy and neither is there going to be one.

QUESTION (NHK):

There exists a feeling of a great debt from World War II, there were many POWs and there is now an issue of compensation, what is your view regarding this issue? In relation to the reform of the UN Charter, do you think that this enemy clause regarding Japan should be excluded?

PRIME MINISTER:

Upon the latter point there was no suggestions about the exclusion of Japan, the question of reform is under discussion and Japan is clearly a prime applicant should there be extension of the Permanent Membership. As far as your earlier question about Prisoners of War, the Prime Minister reiterated his earlier comments and we are having continuing bilateral discussion to see whether we can find a conclusion to this affair, but I do not think it is helpful to comment beyond that.

QUESTION (Reuters):

In your discussion with the Prime Minister or with any of the business leaders did the current level of the Yen come up and its possible effects on trade?

PRIME MINISTER:

No we did not directly discuss that, there is a very strong Yen at the moment and we discussed exchange rates generally but we did not discuss the particular point which you ask in your question.

QUESTION (TASS):

You mentioned that you discussed Russian problems today, could you go into more detail?

PRIME MINISTER:

Only up to a point. We were looking at the reform programme in Russia, the difficulties that have been overcome and the opportunities and difficulties that lie ahead, that was the general thrust of our discussion. we both share a wish to see democracy firmly entrench itself in Russia, we understand the difficulties there have been but also the immense progress that has been made over the period of the last five years and we find that progress immensely reassuring. Nobody is in any doubt about the difficulties that lie ahead and we were just casting our mind forward to some of those.

QUESTION (John Craig, Daily Express):

You said today that we are on our way out of the hole, if that is right, why is it then that Conservative MPs are still sniping from the sidelines, as your Conservative Party Chairman describes it?

PRIME MINISTER:

I described to you what the economic circumstances undoubtedly are. We were in recession for far longer than I would have wished, for a couple of years or so, it was longer and it was a deeper recession than I wished. Self-evidently Britain is now out of recession, the CBI for example think our growth will be rather higher than the Treasury have forecast, but I think there is no doubt that we will have the highest growth in the Community this year and a higher level of growth next year and again the highest level in the Community. So I think when you ally that to the fact that our exports are booming, our productivity has risen, and I think there is no doubt when one puts that against the other economic developments that we are seeing domestically, that the British economy is recovering in precisely the way we would wish it to recover if we are to have a sustained period of growth with low inflation. It has not been easy to achieve that, it has been very painful not least for many companies and many people in the United Kingdom, but it has been achieved, what we now have to do is to use that platform to make sure we can sustain it over a very long period and that is the matter that concerns me.

As far as sniping concerned, politics is sometimes about sniping, but it does not alter the realities and the realities are that the thing that is of greatest importance is the growth of the British economy, the return to increasing prosperity and the opportunity to put more British citizens back to work, that is what. I am concentrating on, that is what the government is concentrating on and I fervently hope that is what every Member of Parliament will concentrate on.

QUESTION (NHK):

Four years from now Hong Kong will be returned to China, this is a relevant question, the UK had a colony over the past 150 years, how do you view this UK colonial rule in Asia for this past 150 years? In 1902 there was an Anglo/Japanese alliance but during World War II we had a different relationship, how do you view Japan's dominance in Asia during World War II?

PRIME MINISTER:

I think there are some things, I am predominantly concerned with looking at the present day position and what the opportunities are for the future. But as far as past colonial rule is concerned, a great deal of that was a long time ago, I think it offered a great deal to a large part of the world. At the moment we are moving towards the end of British responsibility for Hong Kong, that will end formally in 1997, that does not mean we will not continue to have a very strong and powerful affection for Hong Kong, we most certainly will, it does not mean we will not have a continuing interest in Hong Kong, we certainly will, it does not mean we will not continue to have a great deal of trade relationships with Hong Kong and investment in Hong Kong, we most certainly will do all of those things, and what we are concerned to do is to make sure that Hong Kong is able to continue as a free and open entrepot in the future, just as it has done in the past, and I think in our negotiations with China we will be able to achieve that outcome.

QUESTION:

Concerning the privacy law in terms of press coverage in your country we have heard a lot about the possibility and need for protection of privacy being discussed in your country, about self-regulating bodies being established, what does the government think about this, are you thinking about some legal approach to this matter or are you going to leave it in the hands of the self-regulatory bodies? In this regard it seems like the White Paper is delayed in being produced, could you explain the situation?

PRIME MINISTER:

I think you have heard the evidence of your own ears that our friends, the British press, are not repressed, they look like a pretty free and open press to me and I have absolutely no doubt that they will be as irrepressible in the future as they have been in the past. We do have a report that was commissioned on the subject of that matter and we are examining that report and will make our announcement soon, but I think we had better finish our examination and I do not think it would be prudent to make any announcement of that sort in Tokyo, I think that is an announcement that will be best made when conclusions are reached in London.

CHAIRMAN:

We would like to end this Q and A session, can we have any message to the Japanese people regarding your visit here to Japan, can we have the last remarks from you, Prime Minister?

PRIME MINISTER:

I would simply wish to say this in conclusion. The relationship between Japan and the United Kingdom has grown and widened and deepened very significantly over the last decade or so, one notices that most obviously in the trading and economic relations, I think one increasingly sees it in international cooperation as Asia becomes self-evidently more authoritative in the world at large, So I regard our relationship with Japan as extremely important and I am delighted to have had the opportunity of returning to Japan for the second time in just a few weeks.

There are as you may know, or perhaps you may not know, there are many tens of thousands of Japanese students in the United. Kingdom and there are quite a few British students in Japan and I think that shows the extent to which as the generations move on the relationship between our two countries becomes ever closer and think that is a very welcome development and I welcome the opportunity to express it.

CHAIRMAN:

Thank you very much, Mr Prime Minister. In a very tight schedule you joined us and we appreciated very much your joining us at this National Press Club. From the Japan National Press Club, as is customary, I would like to present you with a small memento of this occasion. This is a pen done with Japanese craftwork.

PRIME MINISTER:

Thank you very much, I think this is the way to conduct a press conference and I think you have probably set a precedent that I am sure my colleagues from the United Kingdom will wish to follow on every future occasion.