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1992 - Mr Major’s Doorstep Interview in London

Below is the text of Mr Major’s doorstep interview in London, held on Friday 20th November 1992.


PRIME MINISTER:

I am delighted to tell you this afternoon that after six years of very tough, very hard negotiations, there has finally been an agreement reached between the European Community and the United States on the most difficult issues in the GATT Uruguay Round.

I cannot stress too much the importance of the agreement that has been reached today. Over the last few weeks we have been literally on the edge of what would have been a catastrophic trade war for Europe and for the United States. The agreement that has been reached today removes the threat of that trade war, removes the threat of sanctions over our industries and is the best possible news not just for the United Kingdom but for the whole of Europe and the United States as well.

Over the past few weeks; as President of the Community, I have been pressing as hard as I can to make sure that negotiations continue, that the negotiators explored every avenue for an agreement and that a deal was reached.

I would like this afternoon to pay a very warm tribute to the Community's negotiators, Frans Andreissen and Ray MacSharry, and also to President Bush, Carla Hills and Ed Madigan, the United States negotiators, without whom no such agreement today could possibly have been reached. I believe we all owe them a very great debt for the fact that they have managed to reach an agreement on so many difficult issues.

The way ahead is now clear to reach agreement on the single most important trade deal that the world has ever seen, it is a deal that when fully in force will have a dramatic impact on world trade and on world output. It is likely to increase output by around one hundred thousand million pounds a year across the world, it will be good for the industrial countries in the West, it will be good for the developing countries as well who will find fresh markets open to them in which they can sell their produce and their goods.

I believe it is a remarkable opportunity to help lift the world out of the recession, it is clearly the single most important event that the industrial world needed to lift the gloom that has been in so many industrial countries over recent years.

The deal now moves forward to Geneva where there are still further negotiations to be had, though the essential difficulties, as I said earlier, between the United States and the Community have now been resolved. I hope that those discussions in Geneva can come to a rapid conclusion so that the deal can be finalised with the dramatic effect I believe it will have on international trade and commercial confidence.

Let me just say in conclusion, I believe this deal today will give a boost to confidence that will reinforce in the United Kingdom the strategy for growth that we set out and that was illustrated so clearly by the Chancellor of the Exchequer just a few days ago. It is quite literally the best possible news we could have had for industry, for commerce, for consumers, for free trade and for the prospect of secure and worthwhile jobs in the future. I believe we can be very happy indeed with what has been agreed today.

QUESTION:

Prime Minister, is this the best possible deal for Europe because the French Trade Minister seems to think that the British Presidency has put Europe at a disadvantage to the United States?

PRIME MINISTER:

As I said a moment ago, I think this is the best possible deal not just for Europe but for the world. This is a deal that will actually expand free trade, it is the largest free trade deal the world has ever seen. There is no nation that is involved in these negotiations that will not make gains and will also have made some sacrifices. Without this deal we would have faced a catastrophic trade war, with this deal we will have a dramatic increase in world trade and world output. There is no doubt that this deal is good for everyone, everyone across the Community, including France, and everyone outside the Community as well.

QUESTION:

But how are you going to get round the problem of selling the package to the French?

PRIME MINISTER:

The European Community's negotiators are the Commission, the Commission have agreed what their negotiators have decided, the matter now moves forward to Geneva and I have no doubt we will have a satisfactory outcome in due course.

QUESTION:

Can you be absolutely confident that you have got the majority in Europe even if France is going to vote against it?

PRIME MINISTER:

I do not believe that Europe will say ‘No’ to this deal when it is finally concluded.

QUESTION:

Does that mean that we could see a delay in agreement in voting on this section, perhaps until next year when we would put it in with a large slice of other measures?

PRIME MINISTER:

What we need to be clear about is what has happened today. What has been essentially holding up the GATT Uruguay Round have been a series of very important differences between two large trading areas the United States and the European Community. Those disagreements today have been removed, there are still other negotiations to continue, they will go back to Geneva, with Arthur Donkill in charge, and those negotiations will continue. None of the negotiators believes that the matters that are still outstanding cannot be solved and solved relatively quickly, so every last dot of the comma of the GATT deal is not in place but there is nobody close to the negotiations who now believes that the outstanding matters cannot be resolved. When they are resolved I think that will have a very dramatic effect on confidence around the world and shortly after that the deal itself will come into force.

QUESTION:

When is our recovery?

PRIME MINISTER:

Well whenever our recovery is going to be, this will most certainly help it, both in timing and it will also help it in terms of the scale of it. If what people are looking for is confidence, this trade deal today is the single most important event that will re-engender confidence in the industrial world, not just in this country but right across the industrial world.

QUESTION:

Do the French have the right to veto it?

PRIME MINISTER:

At the end of the day the European Community would decide this on qualified majority vote.

QUESTION:

Do you expect this to improve the reputation of the Presidency because both the French Trade Minister and the newly-elected Chairman of the German European Affairs Committee have been talking in terms of the British Presidency being a disaster, a catastrophe?

PRIME MINISTER:

Let us just look at some of the things that are happening. At Edinburgh we are likely to have a conclusion of the Single Market, the most important thing that the Community has wanted for a long time. Here, under the British Presidency, after six years of negotiations we have finally got a settlement between Europe and the United States on the GATT round. I suggest that people wait and see what the outcome is at Edinburgh before they pre-judge matters.

QUESTION:

Do you expect at Edinburgh to actually put the seal on the GATT deal?

PRIME MINISTER:

That depends on how rapidly the further negotiations conclude in Geneva. But the important breakthrough was the one that we needed and have got today, that is what people have been waiting to see, that today has been achieved, so it is a landmark in the negotiations and will now enable the negotiations to go ahead to a satisfactory conclusion.