Speeches, Interviews & Other Statements

Complete list of 8,000+ Thatcher statements & texts of many of them

1981 Oct 23 Fr
Margaret Thatcher

Radio Interview for IRN (Cancun Summit)

Document type: Speeches, interviews, etc.
Document kind: Radio Interview
Venue: ?Hyatt Hotel, Cancun, Mexico
Source: Thatcher Archive: COI transcript
Journalist: -
Editorial comments: Between 2015 and 2100?
Importance ranking: Minor
Word count: 1400
Themes: Energy, Trade, Foreign policy (development, aid, etc), Foreign policy (International organizations), Foreign policy (USA), Foreign policy (USSR & successor states)

Q

Cancun has been a meeting with no decision-making intentions. Has it been successful?

PM

I think it has been very successful because all the nations who came were very positive and very practical in their approach. And they all wanted not only to give their own viewpoint, but to try to understand the viewpoint of others. So we naturally were thinking about their problems, ours are great enough, but their's are really about trying to feed their people and that's quite a humbling experience when you're short of food. But they on the other hand said, look you have got inflation and unemployment and it's important to we the developing countries that you solve both of those. Because if you've got inflation, we have to pay more for the goods you produce, if you've got unemployment there will be a move towards protectionism. So they were very positive too.

Q

What difference will it now make to the millions in the world who are starving?

PM

It means that we are going to try to work together more closely to see if we can get more solutions to some of their problems. You see many of them said, look we have one main crop, it may be oil, it may be … it may be cocoa, it may be coffee. Sometimes the price we get for that crop falls but we still have to pay the price for imports. Now what are you going to do about that? Are you going to help us with making sure that we have a more stable source of income? And that's one of the things we have to consider. You can never fix prices, but you can sometimes try to see that their income doesn't fluctuate quite as much as it otherwise would.

Q

Was there much discussion on the vexed question of commodity agreements and was any headway made, and where does your Government stand on the Brandt Commission proposals on that question?

PM

Well there are a number of commodity agreements. I think there are five at the moment which are covered. Then of course there are special arrangements with regard to sugar and from time to time we too try to negotiate new ones. I think what some of the countries wanted [end p1] was absolute stable prices, and they're not possible of achievement. I mean I can't determine how much cocoa Britain will buy, I can't make people drink cocoa or make them eat more chocolate. And as you know we have got problems now with sugar. The consumption of sugar has gone down—marvellous for children's teeth but not very good for the developing countries. But you can sometimes help them through a difficult period and the IMF help them too. And all these things were discussed. One of the things that really came out about agriculture was that they didn't want us to concentrate on food aid except in disaster times when of course they need it and through temporary shortages. What they wanted was help to enable them to produce enough food to feed their own people. So they wanted aid for agricultural development. This desire for self-reliance and independence and therefore national pride was very strongly felt and very understandably so.

Q

So will the conference mean that Britain will increase its agricultural assistance programmes then as opposed to its food aid programmes?

PM

Well, we have given quite a lot of food aid because they have needed it at the moment. I did say to them, when I spoke on this particular subject, look we have a certain amount of aid to give—you've got to tell us where you would prefer it to go. I think this year we have given £50 million in food aid but you know we needed to this year because there was a very bad drought in some countries, in Tanzania for example. And one year of flood, followed by another year of drought, followed by a third year of disaster when it had a lot of drought—so it needed food aid and that is something you must meet as it arises. But you have to decide where your other aid goes and you do rely on them to some extent to mark their own priorities. Not always easy because sometimes you will get a country saying look it isn't aid with agriculture we need but will you give us aid to build a dam which will help us irrigate, it will also help provide us with a power station—as in Ceylon. So propositions come to you and you have to choose which will be best for them and best for us.

Q

And of course back to the commodities briefly, one of the agreements that has been most sought after is over wheat and the call for an international wheat convention. Are you in favour of that or not? [end p2]

PM

We would say we supported it if it had been worked out. But nothing has been worked out about it yet. Are the stocks held internationally or presumably they would be held nationally, who finances them and so on? But it is an idea that we have supported.

Q

With world energy resources running out, and a desperate need to develop new renewable sources, has the Conference achieved a concensus on the proposed energy affiliate?

PM

I wouldn't say that world energy resources are running out, they are quite a long way from running out because of the enormous stocks of uranium in the world. All these things are finite and one does have to look for new sources which don't run out but are renewed. Now the viewpoint taken on an energy affiliate is very broadly the view which we in Britain have taken. Provided it will get extra finance, into trying to develop new sources of energy particularly in the developing countries, we would support it, indeed advocate it as we have done. If it doesn't do that it's just a new piece of bureaucracy which costs money and therefore deflects money from helping the countries. So the acid test is will it attract new finance particularly from the oil surplus countries. If it will then we are foremost in advocating it.

Q

Have you received indications from the oil producing countries that they might be prepared to support it?

PM

No I think there are not specific indications except that they are prepared to consider it further which is a very positive matter.

Q

The other important question of course is where to do we go from here. Every country in its different way has called for global negotiations. Has any sort of agreement been reached on this or not?

PM

Well alas the phrase is used and not defined by many countries and therefore many people use it in very different ways. When they have tried to define it in the United Nations they have run up against difficulties. So we decided that we must go back to the United Nations and try to get a mutually agreed basis of precisely what global negotiations means and go forward from there. We must go back to [end p3] the United Nations as a matter of urgency and try to discuss this and reach a consensus upon it. A consensus in that sense means total agreement.

Q

And presumably you would want also to include the Eastern bloc countries whose attitude has not been very positive?

PM

Oh no, their attitude hasn't been positive at all. Indeed, in 1979 we in Britain alone gave as much aid as all of the Soviet countries put together. That says a lot for Britain.

Q

Following what you have heard and learnt at this Conference, do you feel that, albeit I know you believe that President Reagan has come a certain way towards agreeing to some of the principles that the southern countries have put up, but do feel that perhaps some of the EEC countries have perhaps moved further away from the American standpoint and might you be in touch with President Reagan when you get back to perhaps try to close that gap?

PM

I think President Reagan, once he'd decided to come, and that was the important decision, said if I'm going, I'm going to be positive and I'm going to be practical and he was. And he pointed out in what I thought was a wonderful opening speech from America's position, just exactly how much America has done and of course her aid record is fantastic. She is a big country, she is a wealthy country, but equally she gives a lot of aid and she doesn't get enough credit for it. And she should get credit for it. So there is no question of urging him on—he already gives a great deal of aid and he wanted to come to this conference in Mexico called by President Lopez Portillo, he wanted it to be successful and he contributed a great deal to its success.

Q

Thank you Prime Minister.