The Rt. Hon. Sir John Major KG CH

Prime Minister of Great Britain and Northern Ireland 1990-1997

1991Prime Minister (1990-1997)

Mr Major’s Commons Statement on the Group of Seven – 19 July 1991

Below is the text of Mr Major’s statement in the House of Commons on the Group of Seven meeting, given on 19th July 1991.


The Prime Minister (Mr. John Major) : With permission, Mr. Speaker, I will make a statement on the economic summit held in London from 15 to 17 July, and the subsequent meeting with President Gorbachev. I was accompanied at the summit by my right hon. Friends the Foreign Secretary and the Chancellor of the Exchequer. The economic declaration and the separate political declarations issued at the summit have been placed in the Library of the House.

The themes of this summit were “Building World Partnership” and “Strengthening the International Order”. Our common aim was to build on the movement towards freedom, democracy and the open economy which was the theme at last year’s Houston summit. I believe that we achieved valuable and productive results. In the political discussion, there was full support for our proposal for a United Nations register of arms sales. We agreed to consult on the guidelines that apply to conventional arms sales, and we agreed on restraint in the transfer of advanced technology weapons. We agreed also that donor countries should take account of military expenditure when deciding on aid programmes. We also agreed a number of steps in preventing the proliferation of nuclear, biological and chemical weapons. We agreed that we should make preventive diplomacy a top priority in the United Nations. We proposed the establishment of a United Nations disaster relief co-ordinator so that the United Nations can in future take the early action that has sometimes been missing in the past.

We agreed also on the need for confidence-building measures by both sides in the Arab-Israel dispute, including the suspension of the Arab boycott and of the Israeli policy of settlement in the occupied territories. We encouraged South Africa to pursue policies that will permit normal access to all sources of foreign borrowing. That is vital to enable the economic growth that will be necessary for a successful conclusion to the political negotiations.

In our debate on the world economy, we recognised increasing signs of economic recovery. These are welcome, but require us to maintain policies aimed at sustained recovery and price stability. This means prudent and vigilant fiscal and monetary policies, to bear down on inflation.

All the summit leaders recognised that the world cannot afford a failure in the Uruguay round of trade negotiations. We committed ourselves to completing the round by the end of this year. Crucially, we committed ourselves to remain personally involved to ensure that that happens to resolve any disputes. Action will be needed on services, intellectual property, trade access and agriculture. We reaffirmed our commitment to support reform in the countries of central and eastern Europe. For them, trade access is vital. We cannot encourage them to build market economies and then deny them a marketplace in which to sell their goods. The European Community has led the way in offering access through the association agreements which are now being negotiated.

We devoted a lot of time to the problems of developing countries and secured agreement on the need for additional debt relief measures for the poorest, most indebted countries, going well beyond the Toronto terms agreed in 1988. I have been pressing for this since I launched the Trinidad initiative as Chancellor.

At the summit, we committed ourselves to work for a successful United Nations conference on environment and development in June next year. By the time of the conference, we aim to have achieved, in particular, a framework convention on climate change and agreement on principles for forest conservation. We also hope to negotiate by the end of next year a framework convention on bio-diversity. We agreed also to support financially the implementation of the preliminary steps of a pilot programme for the conservation of the Brazilian rain forests.
Earlier summits have stimulated effective action in tackling the trade in illicit drugs. This year, we asked the Customs Co-operation Council–on the basis of an initiative by the United Kingdom–to intensify its work and liaise with international traders and carriers to curb the spread of drugs.

These global issues require the involvement of all. Developing countries and east European nations are playing an increasingly active part. But one great country has been until now largely detached from the international economic system. That is the Soviet Union. We had a productive, substantial session with President Gorbachev. It was an historic occasion. The emphasis was on informal, frank and direct discussions.

We reached agreement on six specific points. The first was special association with the International Monetary Fund and the World bank. Both the fund and the bank have a wealth of experience in helping Governments to work out their own economic reform programmes, especially in the crucial areas of fiscal, monetary and structural policies.

Secondly, the international institutions–the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development and the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development–as well as the IMF and the World bank–are to be asked to work closely together in their support of the Soviet Union. They can provide the Soviet Union with practical advice, know-how and expertise to help create a market economy.

The third point was intensified technical assistance. We believe that there should be greater co-operation in the following sectors in particular: energy, defence conversion, food distribution, nuclear safety and transport. Yesterday, I announced an increase in Britain’s know-how fund assistance from £20 million to £50 million.

The fourth point was improved trade access to markets for Soviet goods and services. This would also help to attract more inward private investment.

Fifthly, it was agreed that, as chairman of the summit, I should, on behalf of summit colleagues, follow up our meeting and visit Moscow before the end of the year to review progress. I look forward to doing so.

Sixthly, we agreed, in response to President Gorbachev’s invitation, that Ministers of Finance and of Small Business should go to Moscow for discussions with their Soviet counterparts. My right hon. Friend the Chancellor hopes to do so soon.

This was a landmark meeting with President Gorbachev. It will, I believe, be seen as a first step towards helping the Soviet Union to become a full member of the world economic community. I believe that it was a successful summit, and I commend the outcome to the House.