The Rt. Hon. Sir John Major KG CH

Prime Minister of Great Britain and Northern Ireland 1990-1997

1995Prime Minister (1990-1997)

Mr Major’s Speech at Jerusalem Business Seminar Speech – 13 March 1995

Below is the transcript of Mr Major’s speech given at the opening of the business seminar in Jerusalem on Monday 13th March 1995.


Looking around this room at the people who are here, I think it is, if the Trade Minister will forgive me saying so, almost an impertinence for us to talk to you about the development of investment and the development of trade. And I don’t propose to say very much this morning. We are here, Mr Hareesh and I, as facilitators, to try and bring this Round Table together, to make sure that the opportunities that we both believe are there, opportunities for British investment and trade with Israel, and Israeli investment and trade with Britain, that those opportunities, having been there for a long time, are crystalised and are taken. That is really the purpose of this meeting this morning. It has not always been the situation that the political vibes were right for that sort of exchange. They are now, and I need not set out yet again why that is the case, self-evidently it is or the businessmen who are present here this morning would not be present this morning. So the point scarcely needs to be made beyond mentioning it.

Where are the areas that the greatest opportunities may lie? Again, I think you only have to look at the vast range of interests represented by the British delegation here this morning, and their hosts, to see that the range of opportunities stretch right across the range of industrial and commercial endeavour. Some of them of course to an extent are fresh. We have leaders of some of the most successful privatised industries in the United Kingdom here this morning. We say without a blush on our cheeks in the United Kingdom that privatisation began there and we believe we have developed the most successful mode of privatisation, and we developed the most successful privatised industries that anyone has yet developed anywhere across the globe. We believe the scope for their assistance, and also the scope for assistance from the City of London in advice upon how to privatise also in Israel, is a very valuable resource that I hope will be made full use of in the discussions that will be here this morning.

I need not emphasise the virtues of the City. I would like to talk not just about large industry but also about small industry. I look forward in the United Kingdom at a range of indicators that will happen in the future. Within a very short period of years, a measurable number of years, we will find the overwhelming majority of British citizens actually working in small companies that have employees up to 100, perhaps 150 employees, the vast majority of people will work in firms like that. And those firms will be significant exporters. The trade gap, Mr Hareesh mentioned the trade gap with Israel, I must say our exporters have done remarkably well in recent years, we will happily leave one of two of them behind perhaps to illustrate how they have done so well. We have an open market, we are keen to purchase from Israel as well as to sell to Israel. We are keen to invest in Israel and we are happy to accept Israeli investment in the United Kingdom. We don’t see trade as a one-way option, and neither do the businessmen who have accompanied me on this particular visit this morning.

I don’t think I need elaborate upon those points. What I do want to do is to make something of a plea to those of you at this Round Table. It is very agreeable to meet together, very agreeable perhaps to do a single piece of business together. But if I may say so, that is to underplay what I have in mind and what I believe the Israeli government has in mind. We see this particular occasion, this particular Round Table, not as the end of a process to produce a single series of one-off deals, but perhaps as the beginning of a process that will enable a much closer business relationship between the business community in Israel and the business community in the United Kingdom, with the aim of increasing business not just in the short term but in the medium and long term.

Howard Davies, who is with with us here today sitting at the table, will recall very well the arrangements that we set up when I took a similar team of businessmen to India some time ago, permanent mechanisms were established to try and facilitate trade between the two countries, led by businessmen, supported by the CBI and the governments and by appropriate organisations in India. And since that happened there has been a very dramatic increase in investment from the United Kingdom to India, and vice versa, and trade between the United Kingdom and India, and vice versa. So although the Trade Minister and I come here as facilitators as well, I think it is open to this Round Table this morning to make themselves facilitators, to decide that they would like to replicate that sort of identity between the United Kingdom and Israel to ensure that there is a continuing follow-up.

The follow-up is important, a continuing business dialogue, building on whatever may come out of this particular Round Table, taking the opportunities that exist and building them into larger opportunities for the future, identifying today not just short-term advantages but long-term advantages.

So apart from the individual deals that may emerge, if we are really to take advantage of the opportunity that is clearly offered by the gathering together of so many senior businessmen this morning, what we really need to determine is to see a practical workplan coming out of today’s meeting, to set an agenda, to agree a timetable, to agree a series of objectives, and to agree a mechanism to make sure that the relationship that might be established this morning is a relationship that is built on in the future.

It will take a commitment from some of you, it will take time from some of you, it will take a lot of effort from some of you, but judged on the basis of what has happened elsewhere where we have tried precisely the same mechanism, there will be very substantial rewards for everyone present if that is able to be done successfully, and I very much hope that they will and I have no shred of doubt whatsoever but that the British government will support such a mechanism, I am absolutely certain that the Israeli government will and I am sure that Howard Davies will express his own views perhaps after I have gone. But as a facilitator of trade and industry, I am sure the CBI and the IOD, David Young is here as well, will be very happy to play a part in making sure that we can do that.

So that really is the essential point that I want to make this morning, not that self-evidently there are opportunities for business around this room, of course that is the case, that is why everyone is here, but that in addition to those immediate short-term investment or trading opportunities there is the opportunity given by this visit, by this meeting, by this Round Table, by the gathering together of these people, to establish a more permanent mechanism for the growth of trade and investment between the United Kingdom and Israel. And that I think would be a substantial prize to come out of this meeting and I very much hope that that is something that you will be able to agree to do.

I am able to stay here this morning alas for only a very few moments, I am due at Yad Vashem, indeed I may have been due there some moments ago from the agitated expression on the face of the British Ambassador, either that or the wrong horse was backed yesterday, but I suspect it is that I am late. So I hope you will forgive me if I am unable to stay here this morning, but I look forward to getting a full report later of what happened and I wish you every success today in your discussion. There is an opportunity, I hope that everyone will be prepared to take it, and thank you for gathering here today.