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1994 - Mr Major’s Speech to the CBI Investment Conference

Below is the text of Mr Major’s speech to the CBI Investment Conference on Pakistan, held on Wednesday 30th November 1994.


PRIME MINISTER:

Prime Minister, Mr Chairman, my Lords, Ladies and Gentlemen. It was a very great pleasure earlier this week to welcome the Prime Minister back to the United Kingdom that she knows so well. While we had been standing there over the last few moments, she and the President of the Board of Trade have been discussing days at Oxford, commenting upon the Cambridge members of the Cabinet - almost entirely favourably I should tell you, and clearly they have a great deal in common on those particular matters. But then we have a great deal in common with Pakistan on many matters. The Prime Minister and I met and had a discussion at the Commonwealth Conference in Limassol a year or so ago and on that occasion we discussed the prospect of having just such an occasion as this and from what I can see standing here, it looks to me as though this morning has been outstandingly successful and I am delighted that it has proved to be so.

Of course Prime Minister, you have a huge number of friends in this country and I think it is self-evidently the case that you have a huge number of friends in this audience as well. We had the opportunity at Downing Street on Monday to discuss a very wide range of matters. There was certainly no shortage of things to talk about. Bilateral matters, trade and commercial matters of course and at some length. Regional matters and matters of joint interest across the Commonwealth of which both Britain and now thankfully, once again, Pakistan are prominent members. I found it extremely useful to have the opportunity to discuss so many issues in such depth and the Prime Minister and I, although time limited on that occasion, could undoubtedly have talked on for many hours about the matters of interest to us.

But those talks in no sense ended at Downing Street. They sparked off a series of detailed discussions that the Prime Minister has subsequently had with other members of the Government, both as I recall from Oxford and Cambridge Colleges, over the last day or so. The Prime Minister has seen the Speaker and other leading Parliamentary figures. And discussed key aspects of the United Kingdom and Pakistani relationship with the Foreign Secretary, with the Defence Secretary, with the President of the Board of Trade, with the Minister of Overseas Development. In fact looking at your programme Prime Minister, it seems to me that thus far at least this week you have seen more of my Cabinet than I have. I shall consider in privacy whether that is desirable or not.

When we discussed the idea in Cyprus of having this Investment Conference we decided to remit it to be taken forward and I'd like to express my thanks to the CBI for their role in this but above all my thanks to all of you for being here and turning what seemed to the Prime Minister and I to be an excellent idea into a living reality that is likely I believe, to lead to a substantial increase in trade and investment between our two countries. I strongly support the development of this relationship, strongly support the Conference that we're having here this morning because there is beyond a shadow of doubt a very large potential to build on in our commercial and other relationships.

Britain and Pakistan are not new friends. We've had a friendship. Occasionally an odd edge of friction, as is so often the case amongst even good friends in the Commonwealth, has emerged in our relationship. But it's a lengthy relationship and it is a very deep relationship across a very wide range of issues. Even before this morning of course, before the signing of a £1 billion of new welcome business between our two countries, there was a great deal of business done between Britain and Pakistan. Our trade last year was almost entirely in balance. British exports to Pakistan went up significantly by around 8 1/2 per cent and we are the fourth largest exporter to that country and we are of course also the second largest foreign investor in Pakistan and I very much hope to see an acceleration of our investment there. I would like to see us do better and I think we can do a good deal better in this bilateral relationship. There hasn't been a better time for British exports and British exporters, as our trade figures show, at any time in our long history and that record in overseas investment of British companies placing their confidence in overseas countries including Pakistan. Our record in external investment is truly remarkable and I think that is a very great strength for British industry and for the British future.

The Investment Promotion and Protection Agreement which the Prime Minister and signed this morning will help to reinforce those economic links. Not create them, but reinforce them. Provide another element upon which we can build a larger and better relationship and it was, if I may say so, a particular pleasure to have the opportunity of signing it before an audience that has a great relationship already between Pakistan and the United Kingdom and an audience that represents much of the best of industry and commerce from both of our two countries. In Pakistan Prime Minister, you are in the midst of building a modern Muslim state. Easy to say. Less easy to do. It takes a great deal of political courage to undertake many of the changes that the Prime Minister is seeking to bring about in Pakistan. It is easy to set the objective. That is never a difficulty. What is more difficult is to determine how you reach that objective step by step, difficult decision by difficult decision, overcoming obstacle by obstacle and yet that is the task in which the Prime Minister and her government are engaged in Pakistan at the moment.

Much has been done. Much that is remarkable has been done. You have introduced bold and important economic changes, restructuring, liberalisation, privatisation - I'm not sure yet whether you have privatised the Post Office, but I recommend it. A little chat with an Oxford colleague will tell you all the advantages of privatising the Post Office. Advantages that I wholeheartedly endorse and look forward to the day when they are wholeheartedly endorsed by a large number of other people as well. Some of those changes Prime Minister are inevitably painful and difficult, but they are necessary and the fact that you are seeking to bring them about, their introduction I believe is remarkably enhancing Pakistan's image amongst overseas investors and trading partners and I think if I may say so, the evidence for my assertion is sitting in front of you, businessmen, British businessmen, a fairly hard-headed bunch in my experience. Charming of course, wise of course, the epitome of all the virtues of course but hard-headed. And yet they have formed their judgement of the changes that are being made in Pakistan and it is a favourable judgement and I believe as a result of that there has rightly, in my view, been a sea change in British companies perception of Pakistan, of their role in Pakistan and of the extent of the business and commercial relationship that can exist between our two countries. So our economic ties are growing and I think beyond a shred of doubt they will grow further. The agreements that we've just witnessed covering areas from hydro-electricity to tourist infrastructure testifies very eloquently to that and I hope that the Investment, Promotion and Protection Agreement will foster that growth and I hope too, that areas in which I believe Britain has unrivalled expertise could also be put to good use in Pakistan. We certainly have unrivalled expertise in all the mechanisms of privatisation and I know that is an area of great interest to Pakistan and one where I believe the United Kingdom can offer a great deal of advice and assistance as your programme rolls ahead.

I know, Prime Minister from our discussions in Limassol and elsewhere, that you share my belief, Britain's belief, in free trade. The United Kingdom has fought hard for free trade within the European Union. And I have to tell you from time to time we have to fight hard for free trade in the European Union. You and I Prime Minister have both argued exactly the same case concerning GATT at the Commonwealth Conference and together Britain and Pakistan, you and I, our respective Ministers, are committed to working for greater trade liberalisation around the world and I think the very strong support for the GATT/Uruguay Round by both Pakistan and the United Kingdom illustrated that very clearly.

As we meet here on this occasion, Pakistan offers a favourable and an open environment for foreign investment. Many British companies have already recognised this. Many more in the future I am sure will come to recognise this and I am sure that today's Conference and your very welcome visit here, will encourage many others to do so.

So let me just conclude by saying this. That I wish you a very successful Conference, not just a successful Conference, but a Conference that plays its own part in identifying trading and investment opportunities between our two countries. There is no doubt, no doubt whatever, that those trading and investment opportunities exist. What we need to do, the Government, but above all businessmen in both countries, what they need to do is to root out and develop those opportunities and then bring them about. I'm here this morning Prime Minister and you're here this morning because we both share the wish that that is precisely what will happen. That the trade we have seen will not just be sustained but will grow and flourish in the future. I look forward to a future Conference on another occasion with the same cast list once again assembled, but perhaps in a much larger venue with a much larger cast list, when we can report a much larger trade and investment flow between our two countries. That this will happen I have no doubt and when it does happen we may be able to look back on this occasion and on this Conference as the catalyst for bringing it about. Thank you for being here this morning.