Speeches, Interviews & Other Statements

Margaret Thatcher

Press Conference for Japanese correspondents (coming visit to Japan)

Document type: Speeches, interviews, etc.
Venue: No.10 Downing Street
Source: Thatcher Archive: transcript
Journalist: M. Takeuchi, Nihon Keizai Shimbun; Naotake Nobuhara, Sankei Shimbun; Kiyoharu Nagai, Yomiuri Shimbun; Yasunoir Asai, Asahi Himbun (Tokyo); Mr Yoshizawa, Mainichi Newspapers; Tatsuo Inoue, Kyudo News Service; Masafumi Nagae, Jiji Press Limited; Eiji Ito, Chunichi/Tokyo Shimbun
Editorial comments: 0930-1000.
Importance ranking: Major
Word count: 3656
Themes: Defence (general), Defence (Falklands War, 1982), Economy (general discussions), Industry, Monetary policy, Energy, Trade, Foreign policy (Asia), Foreign policy (USA), Leadership

Mrs. Thatcher

We've got a very busy programme there, a very exciting programme and I'm very much looking forward to visiting Japan again, as you know I was there first in 1977 when I visited Japan as leader of the opposition, and again for the economic summit in 1979, which took place very quickly after the election here. I have a full programme there, I'm very much looking forward to discussions with Mr. Suzuki, I, as you know, have met him twice before at the economic summit at Toronto and again at Versailles. This time I hope to have much more time to talk with him in more detail … than is possible at an economic summit. In addition I'll be seeing quite a lot of Japanese industry and some of the increasing collaboration with our own industry. I'm going to see the advanced robotic production facilities at Fijitsu Fanuc., who now have a substantial collaboration with the 600 group. I shall also see Tokai Mula nuclear power station which was built by British companies and is still largely supplied with fuel and other requirements from the United Kingdom and I'll be visiting a British promotion of consumer goods, at the Takashimaya, is that right … I tried to get it rolling off my tongue in the right way … and I'll be meeting leading British businessmen and industrialists working in Japan. In addition I will have a lot of contact with Japanese industrialists and businessmen, including those representing many firms who've invested in the United Kingdom. Now you know the history of Japanese investment in the United Kingdom is one of great success, Japanese firms have done very well here and very well both from the Japanese viewpoint and from the British viewpoint. It is to our mutual interest. The management has been superb, the labour relations excellent and the results very good. Certainly the United Kingdom is one of the most modern producers of television audio goods in Europe and I think it's a very nice touch that that factory won the Queen's award for exports in 1980. And we would emphasize that with our interest rates falling and falling inflation, it makes sense to invest in Britain and we'd like to see further Japanese investment in the United Kingdom as well as further industrial collaboration between us.

Now those therefore are some of the main themes of my visit, I hope it's going to provide an opportunity to achieve close and balanced relations, both in political and economic spheres. We've many political interests in common with Japan, not least in combating the threat of Soviet expansion in Afghanistan and other parts of Asia and the rest of the world. So closer political consultations will be valuable. We also need to achieve more balanced trade and economic relations and I'll be pursuing the possibility of increased sales in Japan of highly competitive British goods and I know that you're doing more to try to open up the market for more imported goods and I'll be hoping to strengthen the industrial and technological links between our two countries. [end p1]

As you may know, I made a special visit to see the Japan exhibition here when it came to Burlington House, it was a magnificent exhibition, I think about half a million of our people saw it, I was thrilled with it, I went round very early one morning, they gave me a special look and I thought they were some of the most beautiful things and I was delighted that it had such a splendid reception here—I was a patron of it. So we also have great interest in the cultural side as well. Once again, I am seeing the—on the industrial side—the Keidanren. We had I thought a very stimulating meeting when I was there in 1977, I remember vividly, it was a breakfast meeting and we discussed the world economic situation, the trading situation, it was altogether stimulating, we got on very well, so I'm particularly looking forward to the lunch with them this time.

Now is that enough to be going on with, gentlemen? Well, shall we now open up for questions. You've got the programme which is quite full, we don't waste time. Now shall we go round the table? …   . is there a senior one among you, or is there someone in charge who's the chairman?

Journalist

Welcome to Japan and we are very grateful to you to giving us this opportunity to put … what concrete result do you expect from your visit to Japan?

Mrs. Thatcher

I think it's always very difficult to expect one or two particular results from a bilateral visit of this kind. I would say that we haven't seen quite enough of Japan and you always get a much better view when you go and talk to the head of government in his own country and you see the background of that country and you actually see for yourself the way things are and feel the atmosphere. The best result I expect is a greater understanding on the part of both of us of the other's problems, the opportunity to discuss with Mr. Suzuki the world economic situation which affects each and every government at this time, and a number of political problems which affect us both as well. One expects the discussions to be both deep and thorough and I very much look forward to that.

Journalist

Just now you stressed the importance to understand each other, the problems the two countries have, but may I ask in your opinion, what is the state of Anglo/Japanese economic relations, because as far as I know that the Japanese government has repeated they had only known what sort of problem Great Britain has and also now for the last two or three years, and also, Prime Minister, you have—whenever you visited Japan I understand you had to stress the importance to make a breakthrough of that very difficult problems, but what would you like to see Japan do to see relations improved? [end p2]

Mrs. Thatcher

Well, are we talking on the economic and trading side or what, because we belong to the same alliance, you know, we belong to the same political alliance and we are democracies, we believe in defending Western democracy, that's why we always meet again too at the same economic summit. In more particular things obviously we are always hoping to sell more to Japan. We believe in an open trading system. We are exporters, we have to export to live, so we understand other people's need to export to live. Indeed we export a higher proportion of our gross national product than Japan does. So, please, we understand the need to export, we understand the need to have … to keep an open trading system. What we say is that if we are to have an open trading system it has to be a truly open trading system. You can't have it more open on the part of one country than it is on the part of another, otherwise you'll get requests for protectionism. Protectionism isn't in the interests of those who are, like ourselves, big exporters. What we have to make certain is that other people's markets are as open as ours are because open trading is a reciprocal business. We also found of course, as [a country?] that has got very wide overseas interests, that in years gone by and now, we too have to invest overseas. You often have to invest overseas to keep your business because other people want to manufacture the goods in their own countries. We have a very good record of investing overseas and we notice Japan now is investing overseas and we hope she will continue to do so. We know that you have to do it to continue your production of your goods to other countries because they often insist that you do it in that country and Japan has a good record of investment here and we hope that it will increase. But it is all the time trying to say, look, things must be reciprocal, life is a two way business: we offer an open market, we expect other people to offer an open market to us on the same terms. We've been used to buying goods from overseas, our people have for generations, it's part of our history, we were traders, world traders, so people here—we're used to buying goods from overseas, looking at them only in terms of not where does it come from, are they good value for money? And we hope to see the same open market in other countries, indeed if we're to operate then we expect to have similar reciprocal advantages and of course that's one reason why I'm going to your store in Tokyo because you are doing promotion of British goods and trying to see that people do have more opportunities for selling in Japan, as Japan has opportunities for selling in other countries. So you've got …   . but I do stress we've got gatt conference coming up in November, it is in our interests to keep a truly open trading system and unless we make strenuous efforts to maintain it you'll find that there will be an increasing demand for protection. We have difficulties with particular industries, we solve those by having voluntary agreements and that's the way to do it.

Journalist

Do you imagine that we, the United Kingdom and Japan—(unintelligible)—then it … the United States, including the United States, Japan and Western Europe and the continent, that recently relations between the United States and Western Europe has soured over the steel exports of the Soviet pipeline issue, or how to deal with the international monetary crisis, or to some extent our agricultural policy, so we are very afraid, or we are very worried about, such unsure relations across the Atlantic could lead to political conflict inside the alliance. How do you comment? [end p3]

Mrs. Thatcher

We have these two particular problems between the United States and Europe at the moment. You mentioned the pipeline, and I know that Japan has certain problems, does she not on oil and gas development in the island … the island to the north of Japan? We have …   ., a number of problems and we've had to issue several orders here to enable people to complete their contracts because we believe in keeping our commercial contracts unless there's something like a war, hostilities which intervene, then that is different. And we certainly have, as the whole of Europe, with the United States, arguments about steel imports. Can I just stress that I do not believe that these will undermine the fundamental alliance between the United States and Europe on defence and political matters? The most important thing of all is that we believe in peace with freedom and we're all prepared to defend that peace with freedom and we know that it's in our interests, all of us, to stick together. So, yes, we do have these two problems but they are not going to undermine the staunch friendship on political and defence matters between the United States and Europe, particularly between the United States and the United Kingdom, and it would be the worst possible thing if we allowed it to do so. So we shan't, I cannot make that more clear. We are staunch friends of the United States and the United States are staunch friends of Britain—I'm very sorry that these two things have arisen, which I think could have been avoided but they have arisen and we have to deal with them now but we still deal with them on the basis of staunch and true friends and on the international crisis things, then we get together in the relevant forum, in the IMF, in the group of ten, in the bank of international settlements. These things are going ahead, in co-operation because it is in all the interests and mutual interests of all of us. You must never, in political life, let the smaller particular things affect the big issues. Yes, there will be small things, there always have been and there always will be, but the big fundamental thing is that those of us who believe in freedom and democracy stand together and are seen to stand together. [end p4]

Journalist

The world is in recession now, there is … the international financial climate is turbulent. Do you think that Japan and Britain should act together … should act together on this matter, or do you think Japan especially should take action?

Mrs. Thatcher

We will talk about these matters, in some ways I wish we had another economic summit just ahead, you know, it would have been very useful and convenient for us all to have been talking about these things in October,—as it happens you know the world economic summit tends to come in June and July and quite a lot has happened since then. But we can't all get together again and therefore we have to have a number of bilateral discussions with each other. You're quite right, it is very serious and we have to try to act together to come out of it, we were relieved at the versailles summit that it looked as if the increase in the price of oil was at an end and we hoped that that would give us some possibility of getting out of recession because of course there has been a ten fold increase in the price of oil over about eight years. As you know, and we know, it's a colossal amount to absorb and what's happened is that the money which would otherwise have gone to purchasing other goods and materials has had to go to the purchase of oil and therefore other industries which would have been flourishing have suffered because there's not been the money to buy those goods. Now we're all concerned with how are we going to get out of this recession. We did, I think, have a very good communique at Versailles, which said that above all we must keep inflation coming down, their confidence in the future. We must in fact see that we do not have too big a deficit on our budgets because if we have that interest rates go up and it's important for the confidence of those who wish to start up business or expand their business, that we have low interest rates. So we've got to come out of this recession in a sound way, we now have problems with a number of countries, as you know, who've borrowed extensively over the period of the oil crisis and we have to find a way of dealing with those debts and rescheduling them and of getting through this difficult period. We can get through this difficult period, we have to discuss how to do it together. What we all seek is the same thing, an increasing volume of world trade, trying to get increasing financial stability, and you only get increasing financial stability when each and every country follows sound financial and economic policies.

So really I'm very glad to have the chance of talking to Mr. Suzuki and other members of your government about those things. Very pleased indeed because they're affecting us all. Even the superb economic record of Japan is finding itself affected by world recession and we will have quite extensive talks about it.

Journalist

Prime Minister, we have had a private consultation amongst us Japanese journalists, before today's meeting about wasting time …   .

Mrs. Thatcher

… of time.

Journalist

Ah yes, the question …   .

Mrs. Thatcher

Ah yes, yes. [end p5]

Journalist

… the question of the Falklands and we have reached the conclusion that we cannot avoid the question of the Falklands issue here, and I would like to ask one question about the Falkland issue and as a matter of fact, when we had …   .

Mrs. Thatcher

Look, you don't have to avoid any questions.

Journalist

Ah, yes.

Mrs. Thatcher

You don't have to feel shy about asking them, none of our own journalists do, so please don't, I mean, you ask what you wish. I will answer as best I can.

Journalist

Thank you, and some people say that the Falkland crisis has clouded Japanese relations. What do you think about this?

Mrs. Thatcher

At the beginning Japan supported the resolution. The Security Council resolution 502, and naturally we were very pleased. She did not feel able to follow it up with trading sanctions as some other countries did, then we had a difficulty when Japan voted with the Soviet Union and against ourselves and the United States and we were very disappointed and rather upset by that. But that is past, the Falklands campaign has been fought and won and freedom restored to our people, the territories are British sovereignty, the people of British administration, they are British, they are restored to British freedom and justice and you really can't conduct life on the basis of one or two disappointments in the past. The Falklands campaign is over, we are now concerned to develop the Falklands, we're also concerned to increase our friendship and good relations with Japan. Life't too short to dwell on one or two things which were disappointing, but they are over. Right. Now what other difficult questions?

Journalist

Prime Minister, I understand you're going to China after Japan and I presume you'd touch on the future of Hong Kong and I'd be very happy if you could … explain what future you envisage in that area.

Mrs. Thatcher

Well, of course when I go to China I will be discussing Hong Kong with the Chinese government, with Premier Zhao Ziyang and with Mr. Deng Xiao-ping. You would not expect me to say in advance exactly what one will say to him, it would be discourteous if I were to do so, but it would be astonishing if we did not discuss hong kong, so of course we shall. So can I leave it at that. Now …   .

Journalist

Recently some reports said that some Japanese right wing extremists were planning to have some action against you in Japan and the police want … did you hear this news from Japan?

Mrs. Thatcher

No, I didn't, but I'm used to extremists not liking me, I don't like extremists either. I'm quite confident in Japanese security but if you are a politician, in the public eye, the head of your country's political system, and you believe in getting things done in life, then you become controversial—all right, that's just a part of life—I don't like extremists from the right or left, I'm a firm democrat and I believe in our democratic system but those of us who believe in our democratic system must never be put off by extremists, that is what they wish and we must go on proclaiming the things we believe in, going round and doing the things we wish to do and we must never be put off by extremists. [end p6]

Journalist

We understand that you are to meet Mr. Kolamata President of Nissan motor industry, what are you hoping from him?

Mrs. Thatcher

I met him before when I was in Japan in 1977 when I went round one of his factories, he's, if I might say so, he is a delightful person and was a wonderful host on that occasion and of course we will talk together. He's chairman of a great big company in Japan, we'll talk about many things and I very much look forward to meeting him again. I haven't seen him since that time.

Journalist

Prime Minister …   .

Mrs. Thatcher

…   . you're unhappy with the answer … (laughter) I think he's a delightful person. He's a very …   . one of the extremely able people. I think he's a very wise person and I look forward to talking to him but can I stress I look forward to talking to him on a basis of complete confidentiality and I think that is the best basis, both from his viewpoint and from mine. I look forward to talking to him as a friend and I know he will talk to us as a friend of Britain.

Journalist

Prime Minister, I understand that one of your major purposes in Japan is the …   . the political consultations with the Japanese …   .

Mrs. Thatcher

… of Japanese …?

Journalist

… the Prime Minister, the Japanese Foreign Minister.

Mrs. Thatcher

Yes, indeed.

Journalist

What kind of role do you expect Japan should play in the Western security …   .

Mrs. Thatcher

I don't think that's a matter which we could discuss only bilaterally, I think it has to be discussed in a wider forum and with the United States. Naturally Japan has to defend her immediate seas around her and she is the best judge of how she does that but I think this would have to be discussed in a very much bigger forum, it's not for me to discuss it alone. But let me say, if you believe in democracy, as Japan does, you must be prepared to play your part in defending it. I don't think Japan will quarrel with that in any way, democracy is very important to Japan. Again of course you've got the immediate problems, you always have to be prepared to defend your fishing fleets and so on and your ships in your own waters. Any other questions, because please don't think that you have to be shy at all? [end p7]

Journalist

To be shy, is that is part of being Japanese?

Mrs. Thatcher

Have to be shy of what?

Journalist

It is one of the precious virtues of the Japanese, so sometimes Japanese politicians think that Western politicians speak very … too frankly but the Japanese find this …   .

Mrs. Thatcher

…   . have I spoken too frankly?

(laughter) The Japanese complain that we speak too frankly? How else does one come to an understanding when one says what one feels, I hope in a nice way?

Journalist

Yes, that is a very interesting point …   . but just now you, Prime Minister, said that the talks with Mr. Kolamata would be conducted on the basis of complete confidentiality but, you know, in Japan, even at a board meeting the top men sometimes hesitate to speak frankly, not frankly but how shall I say—don't speak too much.

Mrs. Thatcher

… don't say too much? But I don't come to Japan to keep silent.

Journalist

No, we understand. (laughter)

Mrs. Thatcher

I think you could be …   . I think what we're saying is this: I think you can be both frank and tactful and kind, so I think you need all three things …   .

Journalist

…   . frank …   .

Mrs. Thatcher

And tactful and kind—and the fourth one, if you like, understanding. Frank you must be, tactful about it to get your message across, kind because you're friends and that's the best way to get on together and understanding—so that you understand the other's problems as well as your own. All right? Well, that was a nice bonus wasn't it?

Journalist

Thank you very much.

Mrs. Thatcher

Thank you very much.