Speeches, etc.

Margaret Thatcher

Press Conference for Japanese journalists in London (coming visit to Japan)

Document type: Speeches, interviews, etc.
Venue: No.12 Downing Street
Source: Thatcher Archive: COI transcript
Editorial comments: 1000-1120 MT gave a press conference and interviews before her visit to Japan.
Importance ranking: Major
Word count: 4080
Themes: Agriculture, Arts & entertainment, Parliament, Industry, Monetary policy, Energy, Environment, Trade, European Union (general), Foreign policy (Africa), Foreign policy (Asia), Foreign policy (Central & Eastern Europe), Foreign policy (development, aid, etc), Foreign policy (International organizations), Foreign policy (USSR & successor states), Foreign policy (Western Europe - non-EU), Terrorism, Transport, Women

Prime Minister

This will be my second bilateral visit to Japan and my fourth visit as Prime Minister. I am very much looking forward to it. I have the greatest admiration for Japan's economic achievements. I am looking forward to seeing your new Prime Minister, Mr Kaifu, and also some of his predecessors whom I know well. I am greatly honoured that His Majesty, Emperor Akihitothe Emperor, has invited me to lunch.

The programme for my visit is a very full one and we shall certainly not be wasting any time. It contains talks with your Toshiki KaifuPrime Minister and other senior members of the Government, an opportunity to speak to representatives of various economic and business organisations, visits which will I hope encourage British exporters as well as Japanese firms who want to invest in Britain and a chance to meet some of your eminent scientists engaged on environmental research. [end p1]

There are a number of messages which I want to convey during my visit. The first is our wish for a closer relationship right across the board. This is a time of great change in the world and it is very important that the great democracies should stay close and consult with one another. I shall therefore be talking to Mr Kaifu on a very wide range of international political issues as well as bilateral matters and of course I shall be going straight from Tokyo to see Mr Gorbachev in Moscow.

Secondly, I want to use the visit to encourage Japan to open her markets further. You have already done a great deal but your global trade surplus remains very high in absolute terms—$80 billion. Naturally, therefore, we would like to see further liberalisation and deregulation in the Japanese economy and I would say just the same to Chancellor Kohl about the German economy because I believe that will encourage imports and give Japanese people a much wider choice of consumers. There are areas where it is difficult for British firms to enter the Japanese market, particularly in financial services and the Stock Exchange, and I shall be raising those problems.

Thirdly, I want to help British companies who are active in the Japanese market. Our export performance has improved over the last two years. Indeed in the first half of 1989 our exports were 30 percent higher than the previous year. But there is a long way still to go before we can match Japan's performance. [end p2]

And fourthly, I want to encourage more Japanese firms to invest in the United Kingdom. I think the experience of those who have done so has been very positive. Quite simply, Britain is the best country in the European Community in which to invest because we have the most open market and the fewest regulations.

We also, may I say, have a British Government that is just as prepared to fight for Japanese firms as for British ones when it comes to problems with the European Community. We are absolutely committed members of the European Community. We are and shall remain an excellent springboard into the rest of Europe.

That is a fairly full agenda for three days and I shall also be attending the Meeting of the International Democratic Union in Tokyo where the parties which believe in a market economy, enterprise and democracy under a rule of law come together every two years to discuss the great issues of the day.

All in all it promises to be an interesting and very important visit and I hope that by the end of it both sides will feel that relations between Britain and Japan are closer and better than ever before and that will be my aim. [end p3]


Thank you very much indeed for holding a press conference for us and on behalf of the Japanese press corps I would like to ask three questions which are very common for us and which we discussed before we came here.

First of all, what are your objectives on your trip to Japan and what are you most interested in personally?

Prime Minister

I think I have in the opening statement given my objectives for the visit to Japan and we can of course give you a copy of the opening statement, they were just waiting to see how far I would depart from it! So I think you will find those and I do not wish to put a gloss on them.


The second question is how do you evaluate the present Japanese situation in the light of the recent scandals, the defeat of the Liberal Democratic Party and the increasing predominance of women in politics? [end p4]

Prime Minister

The first part of your question is not a matter for me, I am not going to intrude into Japanese politics. May I say I am always very glad when women get on well in politics. I think it is good for women and very good for politics in the country which they represent.


The last question which is common for us is what part of Eastern Europe will you be talking about with the Japanese Government and what part do you expect Japan to play in giving aid to Poland?

Prime Minister

We shall of course be discussing the great events that are taking place in Eastern Europe because it is the first time that we have had Solidarity, or a non-communist Prime Minister of Poland, since the communists took over Poland and it is a great event to have a communist Prime Minister displaced by a Tadeusz MazowieckiPrime Minister who represents really the democratic wish of the people and it must not fail, it is a great event for the world as a whole, a great event, and it must not fail.

Japan of course is a member of the Economic Summit and it was at the Economic Summit, you will remember, that in our Communique we said we must give special aid, food aid, that is to send special food to Poland, she is rather short of it, and it always takes a time to get up your production and we felt that it was necessary [end p5] for the morale of both the Polish Government and the Polish people that we should try to fill that gap. And as you know I think it was £75 million that we allocated and we all share in it, and it is being organised through the Commission because Mr Delors was there and we are used to organising this kind of aid.

So Japan at the Economic Summit was right in at the heart of what we were trying to do and right in the central agreement of what we were trying to do to help Poland and your Sosuke UnoPrime Minister then did indicate that Japan was making a special extra amount of aid available for several countries, quite a considerable amount, and indicated that they would consider how it should be divided up later.

So I think Japan is playing a prominent role in helping Poland and in helping countries in the Third World.

Question (Yomuri Shimbun)

Are you planning to have a meeting with the Socialist Party leader, Miss Doi (phon) or was there any approach from the Socialist Party about a meeting?

Prime Minister

As far as I am aware I am not having a meeting with her and as far as I am aware I have not had any approach. I should not be surprised if we meet at some of the receptions or some of the many events that I am attending. [end p6]


You have mentioned you are expecting to open our Japanese market more and you have mentioned the financial market and the stock exchange membership you referred to. Other than that is there any specific field you want to ask our government to promote your exports to Japan, is there any other specific area other than financial and security?

Prime Minister

In general, yes. As I indicated in the opening statement, we would like a more open market in Japan. It is nothing like as open as ours. Britain I think is one of the most open markets in the world. It is our history, we have been used to having goods from all over the world come here, we look at those goods not according to where they came from but on value for money, always. It is just the way in which we deal with things and it has led to us being a very open market, much more so than Japan.

Also, may I say, that we have the most excellent distribution system in this country. That is to say, if you want to sell goods for retail in Britain you can get hold of a few very big retailing chains and you will have a distribution throughout the entire country which makes it very easy to sell to. You have nothing like that in Japan which makes it much more difficult. You see we are extremely efficient at retailing. We lead Japan by miles in retailing. And so you have excellent efficient goods and they plug in here to a very efficient distribution system. [end p7]

We are getting more and more efficient and very good value for money and some beautiful things and we find much much more difficulty in getting a good retail distribution system in Japan.

And so we are constantly saying: “Look, this is a major structural reform and if you do not deal with it it is really actively preventing the goods of other countries from being seen by people who maybe would like to buy them” .

There are air fares—again we have led the world in trying to get the regulations down which have kept the air fares up. Now we would very much like lower air fares to Japan and we have been on to this one for quite a time.

We all have to tackle agriculture and we all subsidise it—the United States, ourselves and Japan. But Japan subsidises it more than anyone else and you will understand when I say to you that it does seem to me very strange that a country can say: “We expect to have the markets of the world open to us on the basis that our manufacturing exports are highly competitive but we will not buy agricultural imports on the basis that they are highly competitive” . Now you cannot run the two ideas along at the same time. If you expect to export on the grounds of efficiency you must be prepared to import on the grounds of efficiency and not apply double standards. [end p8]

Now we shall have to deal with this because, as I said, all industrialised countries make some special arrangements for agriculture because they wish to keep people in the rural areas and it is vital that we should. But those arrangements cannot be vastly different so that you get enormous subsidies in one country, far greater than those in another. And we have to deal with this, therefore, through the GATT and we are prepared to deal with it in that way. I say again the same thing to the European Community. And the United States is prepared to deal with it through the GATT.

I have been raising the question of seats for two of our companies on the Stock Exchange with Mr Nakasone, with Mr Takeshita, with Mr Uno and now with Mr Kaifu. So it was not third time lucky, I am hoping it will be fourth time lucky.

Question (News Agency, Kyoto)

You mentioned in your statement that you are going to discuss a wide range of international political matters. Does it include the Vietnamese refugee problem, I think there is a common area of cooperation with Japan?

Prime Minister

Yes, I think it will almost certainly include that problem because the problems affect us all. [end p9]

I put it in the IPU speech this way, foreign affairs are nothing like so divorced from domestic affairs as they used to be. I think everyone knows that what happens in foreign affairs now affects our domestic lives as well, it may be in trade, it may be in the great political movements of the world and Japan is a very very important democracy. It may be in regional things, like the Vietnamese refugees. They are not all refugees, some of them are coming for economic reasons, and of course they are causing in Hong Kong very considerable problems. If they are strictly refugees, we all deal with them as strictly refugees. But all of these things affect us all, it would be natural to discuss them. [end p10]

Daniel Dickinson

Prime Minister, in light of what you said about women in politics, have you got a special message for Miss Doya (phon)?

Prime Minister

I have no special messages except that I am always very pleased when we are able to get more women into politics and it is a great disappointment to me that in our own Parliament we have only a very small representation of women. Of the 650 Members of Parliament, fewer than 50 are women, and I think it would be very good for politics as well as for women if we were to have a bigger representation.


Prime Minister, you mentioned about the visit to Moscow on the way back from Tokyo. What kind of topics do you expect to talk with him? [end p11]

Prime Minister

The same topics, I think, that one raises almost with every leader, the great East-West topics which really are on the move and in which Mr. Gorbachev has given such a fantastic lead when he said that really, communism really was not producing either the standard of living or the standard of initiative, personal responsibility that they and everyone would like to have and he also made the very significant point, which again I referred to in my IPU speech, that he realised that they had not got the kind of legal system which is absolutely vital to a democracy, because a democracy will not prevail unless the rights of the citizens are fully and properly enshrined in a rule of law and the government is subject to that rule of law as well. So they are, in fact, expecting to do a major change in their legal system. That is quite a big topic on its own.

And also, as you know, the Soviet Union was very active with some other movements in Africa, and now they have been very positively changing their tune from solving those by supporting the movements with arms—from that, to being an ardent advocate of supporting some of the differences in Africa by negotiation—and they were active, for example, in the Angolan Namibian matter and I think, too, that they would like to see more done in Ethiopia by negotiation; and I think they would like to see some of the problems in Mozambique solved by negotiation. [end p12]

This problem spreads right across the world and the Soviet Union is active in most spheres. We are both, in fact, Permanent Members of the Security Council, so we have a lot to discuss and it was that permanent membership of the Security Council which, for example, managed to be very active in getting a cease-fire between Iran and Iraq. That cease-fire is not fully determined yet, but it did mean that the kind of cooperation we were getting among the members of the Security Council had been assisting towards a solution of some of the age-old problems in the world, of which there are still some existing.


I would like to ask about terrorism. You often emphasise the need for cooperation among the nations in order to eliminate terrorism—nations sponsoring terrorism. Does this cooperation include cooperation with the East Bloc countries and also the cooperation of the secret intelligence services such as the CIA and the KGB?

Prime Minister

We expect to get cooperation across the world, at any rate from all of the democracies, in trying to catch terrorists.

Terrorism is rule by force, democracy is rule by choice and consent. Those who harbour terrorists are anti-democracy and we [end p13] expect, therefore, cooperation in trying to extradite—we have not got extradition treaties with everyone but we expect cooperation in trying to extradite terrorists when we have the evidence to present to the country in which they are taking refuge that they should be extradited and indeed, we expect cooperation in every way.

Question (BBC Japenese Section)

Apart from being a politician, being Prime Minister, are you interested in anything in particular in Japan as an ordinary British lady, for example, cultural activity, shopping or something?

Prime Minister

We are going to have a UK-Japanese 1990 which is a great exhibition of the visual arts, which will be painting, music, theatre. That is coming in 1990 and I think you will find it is fully supported by the British Government.

I have been to your science city because I was very interested in the scientific work on a previous occasion that was going on there and I am interested in what you are doing now about the environment.

One is always interested in Japanese art—it is beautiful, exquisite; it is lovely, the composition, the delicacy of it, the beauty of the colours. One is always interested in that and have been for a long time. Unfortunately, like most very good art it is very expensive. [end p14]


You mentioned you would like to have more Japanese investment towards the UK but there is some criticism about the Japanese so-called “over-presence” in the Western World and some would say it is like a Trojan Horse—it would occupy the whole industry. The others say if the UK attracts too many Japanese investments that would invite envy or antagonism from the other members of the European Community.

Do you have any comments on that?

Prime Minister

I do not believe in envy as a suitable principle for politics—I am against it—so if other people say that Japan is choosing to come to Britain, I say, “Yes, because we have the most open, deregulated economy in the European Community and if you are complaining, the answer is that you should open up your own and deregulate your own and take your barriers down as we have!” but they have not and it is quite right, therefore, that Japan should choose the country in which she is likely to be the most efficiently able to carry out her industries and they are efficient and their efficient management and our open deregulatory society … of course we have things like standards of health and safety at work, that is the only civilised thing to do; of course you have certain rights that you cannot be wrongfully dismissed, of course we do, but we have a [end p15] good, general regulative framework and then we say: “Now you are free to get on with producing your goods. Provided they are safe you can go on and produce them well; you are entitled to export them as we export any goods from the United Kingdom to the rest of the Community!” We have won that argument, which some people attempted to fight.

So if other countries are not as successful at attracting Japanese investment perhaps the fault lies in themselves.


What will you be saying to the Japanese Government on the subject of environmental protection?

Prime Minister

What I have said in so many speeches—and you can read them—it is absolutely vital that we get international cooperation on this matter. If just a few of us do it, it will not have sufficient impact on either the ozone layer or the carbon dioxide layer and the greenhouse effect, without which we should not be here, but it is like many things in life, it is good in certain quantities and bad if its gets too far because we do not know what the climatic changes would be. Of course this was a major subject of the Economic Summit and which we all agreed on in the communique there. [end p16]

It is vital that each of us agrees to do similar things and vital also that we look after the regional things. For example, Japan will also be very interested that the sea does not get too polluted and so therefore, we have to have arrangements to render harmful toxic substances harmless and just as science has created some of the problems, so science will be able to solve the problems and we look to good scientific solutions, otherwise there are no solutions at all.

Japan has been active in cooperating with the ozone layer and the chlorofluorocarbons that we have not to use and accepts, I think, the targets for getting them down because that is very damaging. And we are also always looking at energy efficiency and how to get up the amount of energy for a similar amount of carbon dioxide going into the atmosphere, but there is already too much going in, so we have to use our energy most efficiently. The local pollution I have indicated.

She will also be interested in giving some of her aid to the countries that have tropical forests and those, of course, in Asia as well as in Brazil and in part in Africa because those fix some of the carbon dioxide which would otherwise go into the atmosphere and we are giving aid to ensure that we can see that those tropical forests are not cut down but that more of them are planted because too many have been cut down. [end p17]

I think you will find Japan is very active in these things and sometimes when the Third World comes along and says: “Look! We cannot afford to do those things—you created the problem, you must give us compensation if you are going to do them!” the answer to that is: “You cannot afford not to do them, because there is severe climatic change and the monsoons move north where you have got more desertification in your areas and there is moisture coming down in your areas, you will be among the first to be hit, so it is in your interest just as much as ours to do everything we can to conserve the atmosphere round our planet!”

I think you will have seen and felt the same thing when we saw the pictures of Voyager 2—incidentally, a technology well over twelve years old—and you saw the arid surface of the moons and the arid surface of the other plants, it really does make us realise how uniquely privileged we are that we have this atmosphere round our earth, which is one that supports life and therefore we have got to conserve it—and I am sure Japan will play her full role in doing that.


I want to confirm are you going to discuss with Mr. Kaifu about the open market of the agriculture programme, including the … and the other one is that we understand you want to James Cato [James Capel?] to participate in the Tokyo Stock Exchange Market. Is it all your equipment about the financial open market? [end p18]

Prime Minister

Those two firms ought to be in the Japanese market.

I am told that there is not enough room for them on the floor of the stock market and then I say—and I have said this, I think, to three of your Prime Ministers now— “But Japan has been selling us the most sophisticated computers so that we do not have to have a stock market floor! How come you are not using them?!” so the reasoning does not withstand cross-examination and we do feel strongly about it. It is part of the attitude one comes up against. We keep our markets open—it is to our advantage to do so—and I think you will find that people will object very strongly indeed if the countries that benefit enormously from other people's open markets refuse to open theirs up to the same extent.

As I indicated, we all subsidise agriculture. Not at this Economic Summit but the previous one in Toronto, we had quite a discussion about this because there is a mechanism for comparing the subsidies called the “Producer Subsidy Equivalent” in which you take all the kinds of aid that each country gives and give them a certain number of points so that you can add it up to what is the producer subsidy equivalent of each country. You may do your subsidies and help in different ways, but you add them all together in each country and I think ourselves and Europe were very similar and I think Japan on rice was, of course, giving subsidies way way ahead—possibly on beef too—of any other country and we agreed that that is a method of comparing subsidies and we agreed it has got to be discussed at GATT. [end p19]

We are ready and willing to do things to get the subsidies down, but we are not prepared to do them when other countries do not.

The Common Agricultural Policy has tackled quite a number of its problems over the last two years, but we still have quite a way yet to go, so it is not going to be an easy negotiation for any of us because we all believe in keeping people in the rural areas as well; it is vital, in the phrase we loosely use, for the social fabric of our country, better for the wholesomeness of life of our country that it has good rural areas. The people in the rural areas have an attachment to the soil, a feeling for the soil, a responsibility and do make their own decisions—they are very much a part of the life of a country. But we nevertheless have to deal with this. Big subsidies we are giving and also sometimes the fact that those big subsidies are protecting your market and they are stopping Third World countries whose only exports sometimes are agriculture, from being able to pull themselves up by their own earnings. [end p20]

So yes, all of this we shall discuss. I have been discussing it for quite a long time with Japan. Gradually, we are getting somewhere.



Prime Minister

We have not done too badly this morning in the number of subjects we have taken.