Transcript of press conference with Prime Minister, David Cameron at the close of the G20, Brisbane, Australia, Sunday 16 November 2014
Good afternoon. First of all, I’d like to thank Tony Abbott, the Australian Prime Minister and the people of Brisbane for hosting such a successful and purposeful G20. I think we’ve achieved a good deal in the last 48 hours and it’s been a bit of well organised and well run G20.
While we’re on the other side of the world and we’re at something called the G20, my focus is very clear and that is delivering the long-term economic plan that’s helping to turn Britain around, that’s helping to get our people back to work, that’s about securing prosperity for every family in Britain. That is my focus and that’s been my focus here for the last 48 hours. And I think we’ve made some important steps forward that really help with that long-term economic plan and help with the growth and the jobs that people want in Britain.
First of all, we focused on trade. It’s good that the Trade Facilitation Agreement, so long stuck in the process, is now going to go ahead. That was a breakthrough at the G20. But also we’re very focused on the trade deals that can add to British growth, to British jobs and, in particular, we’ve just had a successful meeting between the countries of the European Union on the one hand, and the United States on the other to put rocket boosters under the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership – the TTIP – which we think can add some £10 billion to our side of the equation and can result in real jobs. And I think it’s important we start taking on the opponents of this deal and exposing some of the arguments against. This is good for Britain, good for jobs, good for growth, good for British families.
Second thing where we’ve made some important breakthroughs is an issue that I put upfront and centre at the G8 that I hosted in Northern Ireland a couple of years ago. And that is making sure that that big companies pay the taxes that they owe. This cooperation between different tax authorities to have greater transparency over tax and make sure there’s greater fairness over tax, we made some real progress. There are now over 92 different countries and tax authorities properly sharing information and, as the OECD set out at this G20 meeting, the action we’ve already taken has resulted in $37 billion of extra tax being paid by big companies. And I think this is all to the good. The more we can make sure that big corporations pay their taxes properly, the less we have to tax hard working people who I want to make sure keep more of their own money to spend as they choose. So, again, the tax issue, like the trade issue, is not some arcane, distant, dry and dusty topic. It’s directly relevant to delivering growth and jobs, and the long-term economic plan in the United Kingdom.
The third area I would highlight is the importance of keeping our people safe and I think the discussions we’ve had here about Ebola, which is obviously the biggest world health crisis we’ve faced in many, many years, I think it’s been purposeful here. Britain has played a leading role in terms of the partnership we have with Sierra Leone where we’ve deployed troops, we’ve deployed a British warship, British helicopters, where we’re training 800 people every week in Sierra Leone. We’ve seen from other countries financial commitments, we’ve seen from other countries now more commitments in terms of health workers, and the best way we can keep our people safe from Ebola is by tackling it at source and I think some good progress has been made here at the G20.
Final issue in terms of keeping our people safe is the importance of being very clear to Russia that the continued destabilisation of Ukraine is simply unacceptable. And I think there has been good unity between European countries and the United States of America. We’ve just been discussing it at the separate meeting that we will continue to maintain the sanctions against Russia, we’ll continue to keep up with the pressure and that if Russia continues to destabilise Ukraine, further measures would follow. This is important because although some have said, of course, there’s a cost to sanctions and there is a cost to sanctions, there would be a far greater cost of allowing a frozen conflict on the continent of Europe to be created and maintained. So, it’s right that we take this action.
So, I think it’s been a good G20. I think we’ve made some progress on some things that really matter to British families, British people back at home and it’s been good to be part of this work.
Happy to take some questions. Thank you.
The G20 has a tradition of overpromising and under-delivering. How meaningful is this new growth target?
And on Ukraine, do you believe the pressure that’s been put on President Putin this weekend will actually change his strategy in Ukraine or will he just be more determined to defy the lot of you?
Firstly, on the issue, I think it’s unfair on the G20 of overpromising. If you think of two of the issues that the G20 has really pushed in recent years: the first, making sure we reform, recapitalise and strengthen our banks and our financial system so that never again, do we have a situation where a bank falls over and has to be supported by taxpayers, you know, that has been largely solved by the G20 and the hard work of Mark Carney and the Financial Stability Board.
Think of the second issue, this issue of getting companies to properly pay their taxes, this is an issue that for years had been left alone. I put it squarely on the agenda on the G8, the G20 has taken on the work and, whereas it was just a few tax authorities sharing this information so that companies had nowhere to hide, it’s now 92 different tax authorities.
So, you know, of course, summits can – you know, they can be lengthy communiqués, lots of promises and all the rest of it. I would argue that some real progress has been made by the G20 over the last few years and we should recognise that.
On Ukraine –
What about now?
The work Tony Abbott did to bring together the members of the G20 and get us all to throw in extra measures we can take to boost global growth which would result in an extra 2% of growth over the coming years for the world, as the Head of the OECD put it, he said that, if that was achieved, it’d be like adding another Australia and another New Zealand to the world economy. So, it is significant and I think, if everyone keeps those promises, we will certainly keep the promises that we’ve made. You will see extra growth, extra jobs and a boost to the world economy and I think that is important.
In terms of Ukraine, what I would say is, look, I think this is going to be a test of the stamina and a test of the political will of United States and the countries of the European Union. I think we will meet that test. I think we have done so far. I think people have been surprised that the European Union and the United States of America have moved in tandem to say that what happened in Crimea, that what’s happening in Ukraine is unacceptable, and then to take step-by-step sanctions and other measures in order to demonstrate just how unacceptable in the 21st century this sort of bullying by a big country of a smaller country on the continent of Europe to show how unacceptable this is and we must stick at it.
Now, will it take time in order to make sure that we get the outcome that we need? Yes, I’m sure that it will but I think President Putin can see that he is at a crossroads. If he continues to destabilise Ukraine, there’ll be further sanctions, further measures and there will be a completely different relationship between European countries and America on the one hand, and Russia on the other. But he also knows there is a different path that he could take. He could recognise, as he put it to me last night, that Ukraine is a single political space and recognise that that single political space should be respected and should have the ability to make its owns decisions about its own future. And if he takes that path, then we can see sanctions eased, we can see a proper relationship between Britain and Europe on the one hand and Russia on the other and we could have an altogether better future. But I think what has been good about this G20 is a very clear message has been delivered by the countries of the European Union and America to Russia about how we’re going to approach this in the months and years ahead.
Just following on from your discussions with Vladimir Putin, is it your impression now that the Russian President thinks that Bashar Assad asset has to go in Syria? Do you think there’s movement?
Well, you’d have to ask him what his opinion is. I think where there is at least some common ground is that Russia, like other countries of the world, faces a threat of Islamist extremism. And everywhere there are – everywhere there is conflict and civil conflict as there is in Syria, you see a breeding ground for this Islamist extremism. So, in spite of our profound differences over Ukraine and indeed our fairly profound differences over what has happened in Syria, it is worth keeping up a dialogue with Russia as I’ve done, and with Vladimir Putin as I’ve done over what I think is the right answer which is a transition in Syria to having a regime that can represent all of its people. To me, the answer to the problems of Syria isn’t that different from the answer to the problems of Iraq. You need a government that can represent not just Alawites, but Alawites and Sunnis and Christians and others in Syria as you need a government in Iraq that can represent Sunni, Shia and Kurd. So, there is some common ground there but there’s a lot of talking and a lot of discussion to be had.
You mentioned you were going to put rocket boosters under the EU–US trade negotiations, TTIP. I wondered exactly what that meant?
And you mentioned the opponents of the deal. Who are the opponents of the deal and how are you going to overcome them?
Well, in terms of the rocket boosters, what you’ve seen is a statement, I think, issued by Barack Obama, by United States, and I think you’ll see a statement coming out of the European Commission as well. We had a positive meeting where everyone agreed this is a deal we want to do. It is part of the European Commission’s mandate and I think there is a sense that these deals only work if you, you know, get on with the negotiations and start making agreements because otherwise people who for whatever reason oppose these agreements start gaining some traction.
Now, you asked who are these people and what are the arguments against it? I – the argument that I was making at this meeting between European countries and the USA is we have to take on the arguments against. I think there are very weak. There are people who argue in some way this could damage the National Health Service. I think that is nonsense. It’s our National Health Service. It’s in the public sector; it will stay in the public sector. That’s not going to change. It will remain free at the point of use. There is no threat, I believe, from TTIP to the National Health Service and we should just knock that on the head as an empty threat.
I think other people believe that somehow these investor state resolutions that can cause problems – well, we’ve signed trade deal after trade deal and there has never been a problem in the past. I think we need to make two arguments for – for TTIP and maybe in a more clear way. One is the classic free trade argument for growth and jobs and investment. Britain is a trading nation, it’s how we made our way in the past, it’s how we’ll make our way in the future. The opportunities for Britain of trading more with the United States of America are clear and there for all to see.
But there’s a second argument which perhaps will appeal more, perhaps, to some of those who are nervous about these deals, which is – look, if Europe and America can make this agreement, an agreement that will actually deal with a lot of things like environmental standards and food standards and other standards, then actually you’re going to have two organisations, the EU on the one hand and America on the other, that have an interest in decent and robust standards, rather than standards being set by countries making ad hoc deals with – with other countries in the world and not having those standards in place.
So I think there’s a very strong argument that needs to be on those grounds as well. So I’m hopeful of progress. I sensed an enthusiasm from both the other European countries in the room and also from the President of the United States to get on and do this.
On the economy, I read a lot of warm words and good intentions there – who wouldn’t want an extra 2.1% growth, especially if you’re in the eurozone – but isn’t this just wishful thinking? And on the environment, there’s a passage about the Green Climate Fund – President Obama has put $3 billion dollars into that. For the sake of your own credibility, won’t Britain’s contribution have to be substantial as well? Do you have a figure on how much we will be putting into that fund?
First of all, on the global economy, I mean, let’s be clear about a couple of things. First of all, Britain comes to this G20 with a strongly growing economy, with a record fall in unemployment this year and evidence that our long-term economic plan is working. Indeed, the head of the IMF, Christine Lagarde, said that at this G20 it is Britain and America that are leading the pack in terms of the economy.
But we should be clear about the second thing which is there are some worrying warning signs in the global economy that are threats to us and our growth. There’s the difficulties in the eurozone which is, you know, close to being on the brink of a third recession in just six years. There’s the concerns about stability and safety because of Ebola, because of Ukraine. Other countries aren’t growing as fast in the developing world as they have been. So there are threats and issues that we need to be very alert to.
Now, in terms of what the G20 has done, I think it has cleared some of the concerns out of the way. I think the work on financial stability is important. I think the work on companies paying their tax is important. But we need to be very alert to the fact that of course there are these other threats to the British recovery which we need to address. I think if every country that has come here does the things that they said they would in terms of helping to boost growth, for instance, signing these trade deals, then we can see growth continue. But, you know, I’m not at all complacent about the position we’re in because we’ve worked hard, we have got a growing economy, we have done the right things, but we need to be very aware of the threats that we face.
On the Green Climate Fund – Britain has already set aside a substantial amount of money for green climate funds and all we have to do now is to decide how much of that already set aside money to put into this specific fund and, as ever in these things, Britain will play its part and will play a very positive part. I think it’s been good actually, on this occasion, that some other countries have been encouraged to come forward and put some money down. But everybody knows, Britain will play our part because we have already set aside – set aside money, so when we make an announcement, it won’t be new money, it’s money already – already set aside for that purpose.
Okay, one two three along here.
There are reports overnight that Jihadi John was wounded in an airstrike. We don’t know whether they’ve – whether that’s right, but would you be happy to see him wounded or killed out there rather than coming back to the UK to face justice? And what sort of message should young people thinking of going to Syria draw from this?
Well, we should be in no doubt that I want Jihadi John to face justice and, you know, for the appalling things – the appalling acts that have been carried out in Syria. But I wouldn’t make any comment on individual issues and strikes and the like. You wouldn’t expect me to do that. I think the point though is clear that, if people travel to Syria or Iraq in order to conduct terror operations against British people, British citizens or people back here in Britain, then they are putting themselves in harm’s way and there shouldn’t be any doubt about that.
Your relationship with Tony Abbott has been described as a ‘bromance’. The Australian government was hesitant to deal with climate change at the G20. How did you convince your bro’ Tony to talk about climate change at this meeting?
And you said that every nation should bring something along to the Paris climate talks – you’ve just sort of dealt with that from the British side. What would you suggest to your friend Tony to bring along himself?
Well, we have a very good relationship. We work well together. I’ve got a lot of respect for what he has been doing, particularly on the economic front here in Australia. In terms of this meeting and climate change – we were always going to discuss climate change. The G20’s core purpose is very much about the economy and the issues – sometimes they can sound rather dry, these issues of financial regulation and the rest of it, but they’ve been very, very important to delivering stability and growth in the global economy. But we always discuss climate change at these meetings, not least because, you know, you’ve got the two – the world’s two biggest carbon emitters, China and America, round the table. I think it was a good discussion that we had, because I think the steps that America and China have taken, I think, move things forward in terms of getting a deal in Paris.
Britain obviously comes here with, you know, a very, very strong record: the first country in the world to introduce climate change legislation; the first country in the world to introduce a green investment bank; a country in the world that has the largest offshore wind market of any country in the world. We have made real steps in reducing our carbon emissions and in setting our country on a path of reducing carbon. I believe we should try and reduce carbon at the lowest possible cost, that is the aim that we should have.
In terms of Australia, look, it’s not for me to lecture others. The point I make is that everyone has to bring something to Paris. Clearly, Australia has already set out how it’s going to cut its carbon emissions by some 5%. I think it’s a 19% cut on usual business. But I think there’s compelling arguments to say that everyone should, you know, look at their own country, think what they can do to help bring about a global deal. But that global deal will crucially rely on the biggest emitters – on China and America – really stepping up. Because it’s when that happens that I think other countries that account for a smaller percentage of the world emissions can see the point of joining in. But I would urge everyone to join in.
Prime Minister, Iran nuclear talks is coming upon 24th November. Do you think whether Iran reached to an agreement or not, or a deal, do you think relations between Iran and the UK would improve, or is it basically related to the agreement?
Well it’s obviously the biggest determinant, I think, of our relations. Obviously, you know, it was a real set-back in our relations what happened to the British Embassy in Tehran. We have started the process of very gradually rebuilding a relationship, and I’m the first Prime Minister I think for 35 years to meet with an Iranian President, as I did with President Rouhani in New York.
But I think absolutely key to this relationship will be achieving a deal that demonstrably makes sure that Iran is a distance away from ever developing a nuclear weapon. That is – the Iranians say they have no intention of having a nuclear weapon, they want a purely civil nuclear programme. If that’s the case, they shouldn’t have any difficulty signing the sort of agreement that is envisaged. But I think these talks are absolutely vital. I think Iran, you know, faces a very clear choice to have that sort of agreement that can then progressively lead to Iran having a more normal relationship with the rest of the world, or continuing down the course that Iran has been going down, in which case the sanctions that have been put in place – and they are tough and robust sanctions, including the EU oil embargo – will continue.
So that’s what we face. I very much hope a deal will be achieved but it has to be achieved on the basis that Iran can demonstrate that it is not taking the military nuclear path.
On the Ukranian question, you mentioned some further measures: what exactly further measures are you considering, on top of the sanctions, which clearly haven’t delivered desired results to stop Mr Putin doing what he is doing?
Well, what the European Union has set out, I think, very clearly, is a step by step approach and so far I think we have been true to those steps that when Russia has done something further to destabilise Ukraine, a further step has been taken. Now, I hope that isn’t necessary. I hope that, even at this late stage, President Putin takes a different path. But I think he knows that, if he were to continue down the destabilisation path, further measures like those that have already been introduced would be introduced by America and the European Union.
But let’s, as I say, let’s hope that isn’t the outcome. It’s not the outcome any of us, any of us seek. But I think that Russia needs to know that there is a real unity of purpose between America and the European Union in making sure we don’t have some permanent frozen conflict on the continent of Europe. If that is to happen, I don’t think the relationship between Russia on the one hand and Britain and Europe and America on the other hand, can be the same.
Thank you very much for coming.