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Prime Minister's Visit To Far East

Volume 570: debated on Thursday 7 March 1996

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asked Her Majesty's Government:Whether they will report on the Prime Minister's recent visit to the Far East.

My right honourable friend the Prime Minister attended the inaugural Asia-Europe Summit Meeting in Bangkok on 29th February to 2nd March together with my right honourable friend the Minister of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs. This Summit for the first time brought together the leaders of Thailand, Brunei, Malaysia, Singapore, Indonesia, The Philippines, Vietnam, Japan, South Korea, China, the 15 member states of the European Union and the President of the European Commission. The Prime Minister welcomed the opportunity it offered to reinforce the relations between Europe and East Asia, politically and economically two of the world's three most important regions.The informal discussions covered a wide range of political and economic issues. The participants agreed on the need to deepen the political dialogue between Asia and Europe, to increase co-operation over arms control, human resource development, environmental protection and the fight against poverty, drugs, terrorism and other international crime.

On economic matters, there was common ground over the benefits of strengthening trade and investment flows between Asia and Europe in both directions. The meeting agreed to work for the further liberalisation of trade and for the success of the World Trade Organisation. It also recognised that intensified exchanges of science and technology, especially in sectors such as agriculture, information technology, energy and transport, were important for extending the economic links between the two regions. Finally, there was agreement on the value of closer people-to-people contacts, especially among younger generations.

The meeting set in hand an ambitious programme of follow-up work, including preparations for the first Ministerial meeting of the World Trade Organisation in Singapore in December, work on improving conditions for the flow of investment between the two regions, the establishment of a business forum and promotion of reform of the United Nations, including the EU initiative on financial reform.

The meeting accepted the United Kingdom's offer to host the second summit, which will be held during our Presidency of the EU in the first half of 1998. This is a clear signal of our commitment to developing relations with Asia and our determination to play a leading role in the evolving relationship between the two regions.

Hong Kong

During his visit to Hong Kong between 2nd and 4th March, the Prime Minister had the opportunity to hear the concerns of a wide range of the Hong Kong community about their future. He was able to reassure them that:

  • (i) Britain has a long-term commitment to Hong Kong which will last well beyond the transfer of sovereignty on 1st July 1997;
  • (ii) in the event of a breach of the Sino-British Joint Declaration, we would pursue every avenue open to us and mobilise the international community;
  • (iii) holders of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region passport would not be required to obtain visas for visits to Britain after 30th June 1997;
  • (iv) we would guarantee admission to Britain for any member of the non-Chinese ethnic minority community with solely British nationality who came under pressure to leave Hong Kong after the transfer of sovereignty; and
  • (v) we would support a Private Member's Bill to grant British citizenship to the wives and widows of the ex-servicemen from Hong Kong who fought for Britain in the war.
  • The Prime Minister also had the opportunity to visit several parts of the territory, including the new airport and the extension to the Convention and Exhibition Centre, where development is being pursued to ensure Hong Kong's continuing success.


    Korea is an important trading partner: our exports increased by 44 per cent. in 1995 to more than £1.5 billion, and we have attracted more than 40 per cent. of all Korean inward investment in Europe. The prospects for further growth in these areas are good.

    The Prime Minister had a meeting with President Kim Young Sam, their third in twelve months, at which they discussed ways to increase the co-operation between our countries, particularly in trade and investment. He also met the leaders of the major Korean conglomerates. He encouraged them to consider further inward investment here by assuring them of the major benefits of doing so. During his visit, three new Korean investments worth £2.5 million were announced, bringing the number of Korean companies in the UK to 19. Four contracts were signed by British companies for joint ventures valued at £90 million, including a co-operation agreement between BNFL and Hanjung for the building of spent fuel storage casks in a market expected to grow from £35 million to £2 billion.