The Rt. Hon. Sir John Major KG CH

Prime Minister of Great Britain and Northern Ireland 1990-1997

1997Prime Minister (1990-1997)

Mr Major’s Speech in Lahore – 14 January 1997

Below is the text of Mr Major’s speech to the Pakistan-UK Investment 2000 Seminar, held in Lahore on Tuesday 14th January 1997.


Prime Minister, Ministers, Distinguished Guests, Ladies and Gentlemen. I am delighted to be here this morning at this seminar and I am extremely grateful to the Prime Minister for joining us here on this occasion. I think that will be very much appreciated by all our guests from the United Kingdom.

I think, as some of you may have known, I had hoped to return later on this morning for the closing session. But Parliament is a hard task-master and recently scheduled Parliamentary business means that I dare not fail to be back in time to vote in London this evening. So I hope you will understand the exigencies of that, but I no doubt will get a very full and detailed report of your discussions later on this morning.

I have to say that there were people in London, hard to imagine it but there were people in London who thought that given the present political uncertainty in Pakistan and the imminence of a British general election some time before 1 May, but not I can exclusively reveal before 3 February, some people thought that perhaps I should have stayed in the United Kingdom and not come on this particular visit. Well let me say I didn’t agree with them, I think they are profoundly wrong. I think there were some very sound reasons for coming and I would like just to illustrate one or two of them.

The relationship between the United Kingdom and Pakistan is very long-standing, very long-standing in business, in intertwined history, in many cultural and legal matters, as well as in many parts of the country with a shared language. And the reality is Pakistan is going through a difficult phase as it comes up to the general election. Well I don’t believe you just stand by your friends in the easy times, friends visit friends at the difficult times as well and I think that was the second reason for being here at the moment.

There are in any event some very good, very hard-headed reasons for pressing ahead. There is tremendous untapped potential in Pakistan, potential for the people of Pakistan, for the development of Pakistan, for growing prosperity in Pakistan, and as a result of that for inward investment from the United Kingdom in Pakistan as well.

Our commercial relationship is clearly very substantial now; it is going to be far more substantial in the future. But I don’t believe that a commercial relationship based on history is remotely sufficient. The global market base is more intensely competitive for trade and investment every year. And what we need to ensure, and by we I mean the Pakistan government, the British government, businessmen in Pakistan and businessmen in. the United Kingdom, what we need to ensure is that our relationship stays thoroughly up-to-date if we are to make sure that the right investment takes place, that that is satisfactory and that that is competitive in the present world market.

Ian Lang, the President of the Board of Trade, and r have brought with us a very powerful delegation of leading British businessmen. They are in essence the decision-takers. Some of them have very long interests here already, others are exploring the opportunities for a new market. It is clear to me from what they have said to me, of what they have seen and what they know of the country, that they share my view of the enormous promise that exists for the future development of Pakistan. They recognise the potential of a country with the highest average GDP growth in South Asia over the last 15 years and perhaps the most liberal and deregulated economy in the region, though there, as in the United Kingdom and elsewhere, there is still scope for further improvement in the future that we all look forward to seeing.

And the recent trade and investment record between our two countries is impressive. In terms of investment, the United Kingdom is poised to become Pakistan’s leading overseas investor in both of the last two years. British companies have invested more in Pakistan than any other country has done. Indeed last year 30 percent of all new foreign investment in Pakistan was from the United Kingdom. And in terms of trade, bilateral, trade is now worth nearly 1 billion pounds sterling a year – up by nearly 50 percent since 1990.

Now those are astonishing figures. But if I may say so, I think they only scratch the surface of what is possible in the years to come, and one of the reasons for this seminar is to make sure that that potential is fully tapped. I can see every prospect of the growth continuing provided, and in business and politics there is always a provided, sometimes more provided in politics than business I discover, but provided that businessmen can plan on the basis of sound and determined economic policies, and the prospect of real returns for their investment in both the medium term as well as the short term.

And perhaps there are some other key requirements as well, well understood and acknowledged, I know, by those I have spoken to over the last few days in Pakistan.

First, political stability is clearly vital for investment, both domestic investment and certainly for inward investment. And I strongly support, Prime Minister, your present efforts. In the end, trade and investment will only flourish in the long term against a stable political background.

And second, of course, rapid follow through. Businessmen are sometimes impatient. Having started upon a deal they are quite keen to finish it and I think that is a highly desirable way to proceed. So in practice, contracts awarded in principle need to be concluded and carried forward in practice for the general benefit of all, and that is the way in which businessmen will have a firm basis on which to plan.

And third, and I was delighted to hear what the Prime Minister had to say, continued liberalisation and deregulation leading to progressively freer trade. We in the West do not have entirely clean hands on the question of free trade, there are still barriers to trade in Western Europe that need to be lifted. I am certainly in the business of making sure that they are lifted and I hope progressively they can be lifted in Asia and other markets as well. The sooner collectively we can move towards wholly free trade around the world, the greater will be the flow of trade and the greater will be the benefits to people in every corner of our world.

But of course trade and investment, self-evidently good for business, is self-evidently of benefit to both sides but to the wider community as well. They have a trickle down effect, bringing benefits to the whole society, they promote wider regional stability. And I see very great benefits for all South Asian countries in continuing to pursue moves towards-greater regional trade and cooperation, particularly perhaps through SAARC. A great deal has been done, more needs to be done and very much hope that it will be done.

This is a special year for Pakistan, the Golden Jubilee Year. Over the next 12 months we shall be working hard on a series of commercial events, both to mark this special year for Pakistan and to boost our commercial relationship further. Let me illustrate some of the things that will be happening very briefly. In March the Royal Yacht is due to visit Karachi. The Lord Mayor of London will lead a series of business seminars on board the Royal Yacht dealing with financial services, oil, gas, environmental technology. There will be trade missions coming to Pakistan from British Invisibles, the Southern Asia Advisory Group and the London and Sussex Chambers of Commerce to name but some, others will be arriving as well. The British Council will be organising a series of special exhibitions and other events, all leading up of course to the visit of Her Majesty The Queen in October of this year.

So that is a very substantial series of events that will take place to mark the Golden Jubilee. I hope we will see the Golden Jubilee as something not just marking 50 years of past success, but beginning to put in place the prospects for much greater success and a much closer business and political relationship in the future.

So it is, Prime Minister, going to be a very busy year for all of us. I have every confidence that it can be a very rewarding year as well. The Ministry for Industry and the Prime Minister in their remarks a few moments ago both spoke of the nostalgia of the past and the shared elements of history between Pakistan and the United Kingdom. That is very important, it provides a background upon which we can build. But more important is looking forward to what can yet be achieved. If we look forward, if we plan securely and carefully then I think our joint trading and investment prospects are very bright indeed in the future. What has been done is impressive, what can be done is almost unlimited.

That, Prime Minister, is our purpose in being here today, to make sure in some small way today that those opportunities are taken in the future. I hope they will be, I know that they can be and I wish you well in bringing them to fruition.