Speeches, etc.

Margaret Thatcher

Speech to International Meeting on Cooperation and Development (Cancun Summit)

Document type: Speeches, interviews, etc.
Venue: Cancun, Mexico
Source: Thatcher Archive: ?press release
Editorial comments: Between 1030 and 1500 local time?
Importance ranking: Major
Word count: 993
Themes: Energy, Trade, Foreign policy (development, aid, etc), Foreign policy (International organizations)

We are all very much aware of the poverty and misery endured by so many people in the world. For many countries the problems are getting worse, not least because of high oil prices and the pressures of population growth.

We want to help as much as we can. We are already doing so. We shall continue to help despite our own problems. Britain's aid programme exceeds one billion pounds this year and is particularly high in relation to our national income per head. Our record in private financial flows is second to none nearly five billion pounds last year. Aid and private flows together amounted to about 2.5 per cent of our GNP in 1980.

We should help in ways which are mutually beneficial to both developing and developed countries. We all depend on one another for our prosperity. We in Britain know this better than anyone. We export one-third of what we produce and import one-third of what we consume. This is more than any other major industrial country.

The European Community, of which Britain currently holds the Presidency, also understands this message. the Community is the largest trading partner of the developing countries. Its Member States contribute nearly one half of the official aid provided by the industrial countries.

Our main aim at this summit is to look for practical ways of helping poorer countries to develop their resources. Whether in agriculture, minerals, industry or commerce. It is true that the international development strategy of the United Nations pointed out last year that “primary responsibility for the developing countries rests upon those countries themselves” . But we have to find ways to enable both peoples and governments to realise their countries' full potential.

It makes sense for each government to create a framework within which the enterprise and energies of its citizens can flourish. We believe that the history of economic development since the war demonstrates that those political systems which provide maximum freedom for the private sector and which have encouraged, rather than restricted, trade and investment have done best.

If we here are to preserve and expand world trade and development to our mutual advantage, we must show more understanding of each others' needs and problems. We should look for policies which help and do not harm our neighbours. Many colleagues already have [words missing.] [end p1] the term seems to mean different things to different people. Indeed this is one of the problems which we face at this meeting. Surely we can all agree that what we need are global discussions and global understandings, involving all countries and covering all subjects in the original General Assembly resolution. As far as we are concerned, we are quite ready to enter a new round of preparations for global negotiations. If that were agreed among us, it would be a positive, practical lead to come out of this meeting. We believe specific agreements must be worked out, in clear and precise terms, in the specialised bodies which have their own constitutions, knowledge and experience.

Above all, we must not compromise the effectiveness or integrity of organisations like the World Bank and the IMF. Otherwise these bodies will become less able to help, and private lenders and investors will become less willing to help.

There are four specific areas for treatment at this summit: food, energy, trade, and finance.

With rapidly increasing populations, the first priority must be for developing countries to grow more food for their own people.

It is wrong to encourage reliance on food aid. Apart from emergency situations.

Increasing local production depends on creating the right incentives for farmers and on improving research, marketing, investment and storage. We are ready to help and are now increasing the aid we devote to research. Meanwhile, we are providing fifty million pounds a year in food aid to deal with temporary shortages.

In the energy field, developing countries need more investment to build up their own resources. the private sector can play a major role, if countries create the right conditions for investment. There have been suggestions for an energy affiliate in the World Bank. Assuming this will attract additional funds which would not otherwise go to the World Bank, particularly from oil surplus countries, we will gladly support it. If not, we need to find different methods of achieving this objective. Whatever is done, industrial countries must conserve energy themselves, to relieve pressure on world markets and therefore on prices.

The expansion of trade between developed and developing countries, and indeed between developing countries themselves, is essential to achieve a rising standard of living. In spite of two world recessions in the last eight years, we are preserving and enlarging the open trading system. Even in textiles, a difficult sector for industrial countries because of growing unemployment the share of world markets taken by developing [words missing] [end p2] but as developing countries grow stronger they too should open their markets more widely, if the open trading system is to be maintained.

International financial flows play a key role in development. They must be put to the best possible use. Developing countries will benefit if they can pursue policies which will attract private investment and a continuing flow of bank lending. That requires fair treatment for investment from abroad and policies which demonstrate creditworthiness.

Where the IMF can give a seal of approval to a nation's policies, financial flows will be encouraged. the World Bank, for its part, is expanding co-financing with the private sector. This is one way in which the scarce governmental resources on which these organisations depend can be made to go further.

Direct aid can then be concentrated on the poorest countries, which depend most on aid because they have the least access to private finance. That is why over sixty per cent of Britain's bilateral aid goes to the poorest countries, and why we have accepted the target of 0.15 per cent of GNP for aid to the least developed.

At this summit we cannot commit countries who are not taking part. but we can give a lead. Let us direct our discussions to practical solutions to the real problems.