The Rt. Hon. Sir John Major KG CH

Prime Minister of Great Britain and Northern Ireland 1990-1997

1993Prime Minister (1990-1997)

Mr Major’s Speech in Kuala Lumpur – 21 September 1993

Below is the text of Mr Major’s speech made in Kuala Lumpur on Tuesday 21st September 1993.


Prime Minister, Mrs Mahatir, Honourable Ministers, Ladies and Gentlemen.

I think I speak for everyone this evening, Prime Minister, in thanking you for your hospitality here this evening, you are very kindly entertaining us this evening and it is an evening, I know, that many of us have looked forward to for a very long time. I do not propose to repay your kind hospitality by an over lengthy speech, but I will try to respond to some of the points you have made and make one or two other points that seem to me of importance in our bilateral relationship.

You spoke a few moments ago in your remarks about the Uruguay Round about the vital importance of achieving a satisfactory settlement of the world trade talks. The United Kingdom have taken the view from the outset: that if we are to see the re-engendering of confidence in the world trade outlook there is no single event more likely to produce it than the widening of free trade and a satisfactory conclusion of the Uruguay Round.

That is the position we have firmly and consistently maintained within the European Community and I know there have been some concerns over the difficulties between the United States and the European countries on the subject of agriculture. I think the meeting that concluded not all that many hours ago in Brussels has made it perfectly clear that the Blair House accords cannot be reopened, the Community negotiators are now going to return unfettered to continue their negotiations and I believe we remain on track for a satisfactory outcome to the Uruguay Round by 15 December this year.

The prize of success in that round is very great but I think it has to be recognised by every participant in the round, from whatever part of the world that they come from, that the price of failure in that round would also potentially be very great indeed. It is in no-one’s interest to see that failure, no-one’s interest to see free trade begin to shrivel, no-one’s interest to see the dangers of protection and retaliation, all of which potentially could occur if we did not have a satisfactory outcome to the Uruguay Round. I can give you a total assurance about the position that the United Kingdom will adopt.

Prime Minister, you also mentioned the very distressing problem of Bosnia, a problem I think that has touched the heart, I know, of Malaysia and has touched the heart of my country as well. I would say to you, Prime Minister, that I and my Cabinet feel as strongly about the wickedness and the intolerance that we see daily in Bosnia, and have for some time, as anyone else. We have taken over the last year or so a whole range of practical steps to assist that on many occasions have led, not just the West, but I think the whole world in the actions we have taken. We sent at a very early stage, before I think anyone else, a substantial number of British troops to Bosnia to make sure that the humanitarian aid was securely delivered. I think it is fair to say that if we had not taken that action a year or so ago there are many tens, perhaps hundreds of thousands of Bosnians alive today who would not have been alive but for the voluntary aid effort and the activities of the British troops there.

We are seeking, by the convening of the London Conference, a satisfactory outcome that is not going to lead just to a short term cessation of fighting followed by a reignition of the conflict at a later stage, it is with the intention of avoiding the misery that would follow that outcome that we have been so determined to try and seek a satisfactory political settlement.

We have looked repeatedly at what action can be taken bilaterally with the United Kingdom and Bosnia, multilaterally with our partners in the Community, and on a wider sphere through the United Nations and others, and I am delighted at the fact that Malaysia will also be sending a contingent to join us in the United Nations protection forces. I look forward to discussing this problem with you further in our discussions tomorrow.

It seems to me this evening a long time since I first came to Malaysia. It was indeed in the early 1970s and I recall it very vividly. I remember visiting – though I can’t recall precisely where it was – a fish restaurant at a lakeside that had a remarkable marketing appeal; you ordered your fish, you sat there and they rowed out on the lake and they caught it. It had a strong marketing appeal for this reason: you ordered your fish, you then waited and you became very hungry; By the time the fish arrived, you really enjoyed it and after you had eaten it, by golly, you told everyone how good that meal was and I am unsurprised that that restaurant was packed out month after month after month.

Later I came as Foreign Minister to the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting. Tonight, I come for the first time as Prime Minister for us to have some bilateral discussions here in Kuala Lumpur and I. think one thing unites those visits across now more than 20 years; it is always a pleasure to step off the plane in Kuala Lumpur, to land among friends both old and new and to be in a particularly lovely country but one thing changes, one thing is always different – from one visit to the next at a truly breathtaking speed Malaysia changes. It may be a truism to say that Malaysia is one of the most dynamic countries in the world’s fastest-growing region but the point about truisms is that they do tend to be true and this makes Malaysia an invariably exciting country to visit.

You, Prime Minister, have presided over a remarkable process of modernisation since you took the reins in 1981, a process that has seen manufacturing rise to two-thirds of your export earnings. You are well on the way to the target you set in your approach to Malaysia’s future “Vision 2020” and I look forward to seeing myself tomorrow one of the jewels in your industrial crown, the one you mentioned, the Proton car plant. I of course know its products already and I believe that the company sells more of its models in Britain than to any other country anywhere in the world.

Of course, as any visitors to the great manufacturing areas of my own country can bear witness, there is often a heavy price to be paid for industrial growth but I believe Malaysia has succeeded in modernising without losing her charm and in fact quite the reverse, you are now attracting more tourists than ever; thousands of Britons come here for pleasure as well as for business; I come, I am delighted to say, for both and many of them like Prince and Princess Michael of Kent will now be following your example by taking a ride on the Eastern and Oriental Express.

So the flow is two ways and just as Norma and I and Richard Needham, who is with us this evening, are accompanied by a team of eminent businessmen whom you have kindly invited to join you this evening, so Malaysian businessmen are ever-present and ever-welcome in the United Kingdom and so too – for you also touched upon this point – are your younger generation. We are proud and delighted that so many thousands of Malaysians are choosing to further their education and training in the United Kingdom. It gives us a unique part, I believe, to play in the building of your future and it means, I hope, that in that famous year 2020 British politicians and British businessmen will find themselves surrounded by old and good friends just as we do this evening.

I hope those young Malaysians and the British friends they are making will grow up as strong supporters of a modern Commonwealth but the Commonwealth also has changed and Malaysia has been influential in that process of change. You have just played host to the Commonwealth Forestry Conference and I understand and am unsurprised to hear that it was a very great success. In a month’s time, you and I will join over 40 other friends in the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting in Cyprus and five years from now Kuala Lumpur will play host to the friendliest of all international tournaments, the Commonwealth Games and yet the Commonwealth, in some curious fashion rather like the British constitution, has always been hard to define; you know it is there, you know its importance; it is not an alliance, it is not an economic community; it is not a political bloc; it is not a geographical entity. It is a good deal easier to say what the Commonwealth is not than actually to set out what the Commonwealth is and it may be baffling to outsiders but I think that you and I know the answer to that. It is above all a network of friends. What happens outside our Commonwealth meetings, be they of foresters or lawyers or finance ministers, matters as much as the proceedings within those Commonwealth meetings. You meet a colleague, you don’t need much introduction; you speak the same language metaphorically as well as literally; you know that if you have a problem some time down the road you can pick up the phone and seek his advice or seek his help. You won’t always agree – that is not necessarily a part of the Commonwealth as we both know – you won’t always have the same approach but you should always retain that indefinable element of personal friendship that is so distinctive to the Commonwealth and so difficult to find in any other international organisation.

So may I this evening very sincerely thank you for greeting us in that spirit of friendship. You don’t need me to tell you, I hope, that you and Mrs. Mahathir and all your colleagues will always be greeted in precisely the same spirit whenever you come to London. You mentioned at the outset of your remarks that relations between my country and Malaysia are in such good shape. In our discussions perhaps over dinner this evening and certainly tomorrow, I know that we will both work hard to keep them that way. It is a longstanding tradition we have, it is a tradition we cherish, it is a tradition I look forward to building upon so perhaps I may invite all your guests this evening also to join me in proposing, Prime Minister, a toast to you and Mrs. Mahathir and friendship between the United Kingdom and Malaysia.