The Rt. Hon. Sir John Major KG CH

Prime Minister of Great Britain and Northern Ireland 1990-1997

1996Prime Minister (1990-1997)

Mr Major’s Speech to the Society of British Aerospace Companies – 5 March 1996

Below is the text of Mr Major’s speech to the Society of British Aerospace Companies, held in Seoul on Tuesday 5th March 1996.


The British Ambassador has a very compelling way of encouraging you to speak to audiences, he just announces that you are about to do so. But happily on this occasion I have no inhibition about that, not least because although this is my first visit to Korea I found it an enormously entertaining and worthwhile day and I look forward to coming back again.

I came here today essentially to follow-up the meeting that I had with President Kim Young-Sam in London just a year or so ago. When we met then, we identified the opportunity for a much enhanced trade and investment relationship between our two countries, and between Korea and the rest of the European Union, and we proposed some ways to expand that trade. We wanted to take stock of what we had agreed a year or so ago.

We had of course met just a day or two earlier at the Europe-Asia summit where, amongst other things, it was agreed that Britain would host the next summit and the Republic of Korea would host the third summit.

When the President and I met a year or so ago, we agreed that we should try and increase the economic relationship between our two countries. Since then British exports to Korea have increased by about 45 percent, and Korean exports to the United Kingdom by 61 percent, and our two-way trade has increased very dramatically.

You can find the same sort of relationship in the interchange of investment, British in Korea and Korean in Britain. Indeed Britain now takes 40 percent of Korean investment across Europe, whilst Britain in turn is Asia’s largest single investor. So I think there is a very firm basis for our two countries on which to build.

One of the changes that we are seeing around the world at the moment is I think an increased understanding across the world of the very remarkable changes that are happening in Asia, not least of course in Korea. The economic growth, the economic enthusiasm of what is happening in this part of the world is remarkable by any yardstick.

I have no doubt that the growth of trade between Europe and Korea, between my country and Korea, are bound to increase. We have signed a whole series of agreements to directly cooperate in a number of sectors, and as a result of that that is bringing a lot of British trade missions here to Korea and vice versa.

This reception marks the work of one of those trade missions – the Society of British Aerospace Companies. The aerospace industry is a key industry around the world, a key industry for Britain, and we are delighted to be working so closely with Korea as far as it is concerned. Certainly intensive cooperation is already under way. British and Korean companies are already working closely together on Korea Satellites, through the sales of Airbus aircraft, Rolls-Royce engines, Lynx helicopters, and I think that track record speaks for itself.

I look forward to going back home on some future occasion in an airbus frame, a Rolls-Royce engine, with a Lynx helicopter in pursuit just in case I need it when stopping en route. Though if I do that I will have some explaining to do to British Airways.

Let me just say that contacts between our countries of course are not just confined to business and governments. I think that contacts between the whole of Europe and the whole of Asia are becoming increasingly important.

So, of course, are contacts between people. There has been a very rapid growth in the contacts between Europe as a whole, the United Kingdom specifically, and Korea over recent years. We have, for example, an increase of Korean students in the United Kingdom of 20 percent last year and 20 percent the year before. I am also told that the United Kingdom is the top destination in Europe for Korean tourists and that none of them come to watch our cricket team, which I personally find astonishing.

We have, I think, complementary strengths – Europe, Britain, Korea. The partnership that may have seemed just a distant dream to many people a few years ago is becoming daily an increasing commercial, industrial, political and social reality. I am delighted that is the case, and delighted for the somewhat unexpected and impromptu opportunity that the British Ambassador has given me to say so. I am not sure what his next posting will be, but I will give it careful consideration. If he really behaves, I will leave him in Korea.

Thank you for being here.