Press Conference with Shinzō Abe, Prime Minister of Japan
It’s a real pleasure to welcome Prime Minister Abe back to the UK. And in this historic week for Leicester City I’d like to kick off by expressing just how much the football-watching public have taken to their Japanese striker Shinji Okazaki.
He played a key role in their remarkable title win and I believe he’s only the second Japanese player to win the league. His ability mirrors that of the country he represents with such distinction.
This visit gives us the opportunity to reflect on the strength of the bilateral relationship between our 2 countries, while at the same time looking to the future and our shared priorities. We are clear that we are stronger when we work together – both bilaterally and alongside our international partners. This morning we have discussed trade and investment between our 2 countries, laid some important groundwork for the G7 Summit which Japan will host later this month, and we’ve discussed how we can enhance our security co-operation.
Let me just say a few words on each of these areas.
Japan is a country that matters enormously to the prosperity of the UK. We benefit more from Japanese investment than any other country in the world apart from the US. By the end of 2014 the total value of Japanese investment in the UK was £38 billion – that’s a huge figure. It represents jobs being created, companies thriving, and our manufacturing base expanding.
Japanese firms see Britain as the gateway to Europe. That’s why more than 1,300 Japanese companies have a presence here in the UK, employing more than 140,000 people.
Japanese and UK companies have also worked together to rebuild our now thriving car manufacturing industry, with £15 billion invested from Japan since 2012.
And I was delighted recently to be in County Durham with the Chancellor last September for the opening of Hitachi’s rail factory, building trains to connect cities across the United Kingdom. And we will visit Hitachi’s London railway centre together later this afternoon.
This is a strong foundation. But we both want to see more; more jobs, greater growth and increased prosperity for our 2 great countries. And we both agree that the way to that is through a comprehensive Japan-EU free trade agreement. This deal could be worth £5 billion a year to the UK economy – that’s £200 per household.
Prime Minister Abe and I have agreed today to redouble our efforts to do everything we can to get it signed as quickly as possible, so we can all start reaping the benefits.
As G7 partners we share a commitment to the fundamental values of freedom, democracy, the rule of law, and human rights. And this morning we touched on some of the big challenges that will be on the agenda at the G7 Summit, including the global economy and trade, the Middle East and Russia. On Syria we will discuss this evening the importance of all sides abiding by the Cessation of Hostilities. And we’ll discuss Ukraine, where I’m sure we both want to see the Minsk agreement implemented as soon as possible.
We also discussed global health challenges such as the growing resistance to antibiotics. Thousands of people die every year as a result of this issue. Prime Minister Abe and I have agreed on the need for a strong and coherent global response, including providing financial incentives for the development of new antibiotics. And we discussed how we can use the G7 to advance the anti-corruption agenda that I will set out in more detail on May 12, including how Japan’s support will be vital in driving that forward.
Finally, security co-operation.
The closeness of our relationship is in part due to our shared experiences. We have both experienced the horror of seeing our citizens brutally murdered by Daesh – and likewise we share the will to see this evil organisation being defeated. Japan has been a vital partner in this battle against extremism, and our security co-operation since Prime Minister Abe last visited has gone from strength to strength.
Our foreign and defence ministers meet annually to consult on top international security issues. And I welcome Japan’s increased involvement in NATO exercises, such as Joint Warrior off the UK coast. We’ll continue discussions on global security issues tonight at Chequers.
So Prime Minister Abe, Shinzō, thank you for being here today and I look forward to continuing our talks.
I’d like to express my hearty gratitude to the expression of solidarity that I received from David, the government, and the people of Great Britain, when a recent earthquake hit Kumamoto, Japan.
The other day, Her Majesty the Queen had her 90th birthday. To this, I’d like to offer my heartfelt congratulations.
Between the royal family in Japan and the UK, we have the foundation of the bilateral relationship. I recall that, 2 years ago, here at Downing Street, I had a talk with David and announced a Japan-UK joint statement on dynamic and strategic partnership. I am happy that I am visiting the UK once again, and grateful for the warm welcome of the people here.
Looking towards the Ise-Shima G7 Summit that I’m going to chair, I wish to work closely with David for the meeting’s success. At Ise-Shima Summit, I would like to engage in strategic discussion befitting the G7, that shares common, basic values on a variety of issues the world faces. In particular, I’d like to show the unity of G7, and send out a robust message of how we respond to the issue of global economy and threat of terrorism, which are going to be the largest themes of this summit.
So the unity of G7, that has to be clearly shown from the G7 Summit. Today, David endorsed this thought of mine, which made our meeting very significant.
In the meeting, we discussed the global economy. It could go beyond the normal economic cycle, and there is a risk of plummeting into the crisis, so, in order to avoid that risk, we have to invigorate the global economy. G7 is needed to have the flexible fiscal mobilisation in conjunction with accelerated structural reform. At Ise-Shima Summit as G7, I want to communicate an even more robust message. I conveyed this wish of mine to David. Together with David, monetary policy, fiscal mobilisation with flexibility, and structural reform, reflecting the respective situations of the countries, we must strike a proper balance between those policies; we were able to share the common recognition about that. On this point – on this visit to Europe this time, I had meetings with the leaders of Italy, France and Germany. We conducted the discussion in a similar vein.
Once again, structural reform, the fiscal mobilisation with flexibility, and monetary policies, that have to be conducted striking good balance, and we must have a good co-operation with various countries concerned. It’s very important to have balanced policies. On this point, at the Ise-Shima Summit, we agreed to have the continuation of the debate at the summit. We will have the discussion between and amongst the leaders of G7, so that we can contribute to the sustainable growth of the global economy. So, in co-operation with G7 partners I want to come out with the clear and robust message. We agreed on that.
Countering terrorism and radicalisation is also important. David and I agreed that G7 takes leadership to fight against terrorism and violent extremism. Furthermore, we discussed Japan-EU relations. Japan attaches importance to our relationship with UK as a gateway to the EU. From this viewpoint, it is heartening that David and I reconfirmed the importance of early conclusion of Japan–EU EPA and SPA.
This afternoon David and I plan to go and see the Hitachi North Pole Railcar depot. In the UK, there are about 1,000 Japanese companies operating, creating 140,000 jobs. Confirming with David the actual scene of such solid and firm Japan–UK economic relations, I’d like to tie this into further strengthening of the business relations between the 2 countries.
This evening at Chequers, the country house retreat of the Prime Minister of the UK, David and I plan to take our time and have a good talk about bilateral relations as well as global issues, such as disarmament, non-proliferation and security council reform, in addition to regional issues such as Asia, Ukraine and Russia.
In particular, I want to share my recognition with David of a tough security environment in the Asia-Pacific region, like North Korea and other issues, and confirm with him the Anglo-Japanese collaboration and cooperation be enhanced for the peace and stability of the region.
Both Japan and the UK sharing the basic values, such as the rule of law, are the major powers having responsibility in peace and stability of the world, and, as such, we are the closest security partners in Asia and in Europe. In such Anglo-Japanese relations I wish to work in closer cooperation with David to respond to Asian, European and global challenges. As for Japan we wish to make a proactive contribution in issues of special interest for Europe, such as counter-terrorism, Middle East and Ukraine among others.
Ise-Shima is a venue for the G7 summit. We have beautiful nature, culture and tradition. I hope that he will experience those. I’m looking forward to welcoming David at G7 Ise-Shima Summit at the end of this month. Thank you.
Thank you very much. We’ve got some questions now. I think the first question is Faisal Islam from the UK press.
Yes, a question for both Prime Ministers. If Britain was to leave the European Union, Prime Minister Abe, would Japan not have an interest in the relationship you describe, in having some sort of trade deal with a post-EU United Kingdom, and striking one rather quickly like it has done with Australia?
And just a domestic question to you, Prime Minister. Are you hopeful of progress in solving the junior doctors’ crisis, given that one of your ministers says there should be a pause in the imposition of contracts?
Well, let me take the question about health first. I mean, let’s be clear, we want a strong NHS. It’s absolutely key to this government’s plan and programme and the plans for the 7-day NHS that we set out in our manifesto I think are vital for encouraging people and enabling people to have a secure life in our country. So we’re committed to delivering that.
I welcome the fact that there is the prospect of discussions between the Department of Health and the junior doctors. The Health Secretary has written today and has said that we’ll pause the introduction of the new contract for 5 days should the Junior Doctors Committee return to talks. And I think it’s important that, if these talks do go ahead, they focus not on the 90% of things that have been agreed but focus very much on the 10% of things that haven’t been agreed, particularly the issue around Saturday working, because it’s important to remember that this contract involves a 13.5% basic pay increase for junior doctors. And so it’s important now we discuss this issue of Saturday, recognising that junior doctors, like others in the Health Service, work incredibly hard. They do work weekends already but let’s look at this issue of how you balance the 13.5% pay rise with the other changes that are necessary to deliver an NHS that can work on more of a 7-day basis.
And it’s important, as we go into these discussions, to remember that under the contract as set out, three quarters of junior doctors will effectively be getting a pay increase, no-one working legal hours will be getting a pay reduction, and, on this vital issue of patient safety, the contract envisages reducing the number of consecutive nights that a junior doctor can work and reducing the maximum number of hours from over 90 to just above 70. So on patient safety, there’s already very strong, not just safeguards in the contract, but real improvements in terms of patient safety.
So obviously I’m delighted that these discussions can go ahead and I would urge everyone to focus on the things that need to be discussed and need to be fixed to make sure that the NHS can continue to strengthen in our country.
Prime Minister, the question for you.
The question on Brexit, this is a matter to be decided by the British people. But I believe that, because of the close partnership with the UK, Japan’s interests are also at stake. Japan very clearly would prefer Britain to remain within the EU. It is better for the world that Britain remain in a strong EU.
We want to see Britain and Europe continue to be influential actors on the international stage, contributing to rules-based peace and stability globally, including in Asia. British membership is also best for Japanese investors in the UK.
As I said earlier on, about 1,000 Japanese companies operate in the UK, employing 140,000 people. This afternoon David and I will visit one of them, Hitachi.
Many of the Japanese companies set up their operations in the UK precisely because the UK is a gateway to the EU. A vote to leave would make UK less attractive as a destination for Japanese investment.
Japan and the UK believe it is very important to reach a political agreement on the Japan/EU EPA as soon as possible this year. And between David and I, we would like to take leadership to that end. Japan’s priority is negotiating trade deals with the Europe – with the EU, a large trade area rather than individual states in Europe. Britain has a greater voice in trade negotiations because it is part of the EU.
For all these reasons, Britain’s friends around the world, including Japan, will be watching your decision on 23 June with very close attention.
I think we have a question from the Japanese press.
My question is directed to both Prime Ministers. Prime Minister Abe, you are attaching very great importance to the global economy and you are asking for the fiscal mobilisation with flexibility. At the G7, you want to communicate a robust message to that end. So, my question: in today’s meeting, in what kind of call, in what way, Prime Minister Abe called for the fiscal mobilisation with flexibility? Towards the end of this month at the summit, the G7 summit, concluding the message. What is your outlook on coming up with the message?
As I mentioned in my opening remarks, today with David we discussed how we can discuss the global economy. We spent a good amount of time. We had an in-depth discussion.
In any event, this question, between the leaders of G7, we must have a frank discussion so that we can have sustainable and robust growth of the global economy. We must be able to make contribution to that end as G7. We must co-operate mutually so that we can come up with a clear message. That’s what I want to accomplish. So in that sense, transmitting a clear message.
I think it is going to be the responsibility of the Chair. That’s my responsibility as the Chair of G7. So there is an increased level of opaqueness in the global economy. G7 is the entity which can really contribute toward the sustainable and robust economic growth of the world. To that end, we must come up with a clear message. As the Chair, I must discharge my responsibility as such. So we were able to have a good discussion which contributed to that overall goal. The discussion today I had with David was very good.
Looking toward the G7 summit, I would like to solidify the co-operation with him, and, during the G7 summit, with the leaders of the G7 countries, I want to have a clear discussion so that I can come up with the robust, forceful and clear message.
Well, thank you. We very much agree that we need to address all the risks in the global economy, that we need to do so on a co-operative basis, that we need to give a great priority to structural reform – things like the Japan–EU free-trade deal which could bring such a bonus to both our economies. But I think it’s right, in the country that gave us Robin Hood, to be clear that we should use all of the 3 arrows when we’re addressing global economic challenges.
But I’d very much agree with what Shinzō said, which is that we need to respect the different situations of different countries. We need to be flexible. Sometimes different countries need to do slightly different things because of their circumstances, but we look forward to a G7 where we talk about how we co-operate to avert risks in the global economy, and ensure strong and stable and job-rich growth, which is what we want to see, and is very much the goal of this government.
Right, I think we’ve got George Parker from the Financial Times.
George Parker from the FT. Mr Cameron, a couple of quick questions to you. It’s possible, when the G7 moves to Italy, that Donald Trump could be representing the United States. Do you think you owe him an apology for calling him ‘divisive, stupid and wrong’?
And specifically on Japanese relations and the situation in the South China Sea. Is there a sense – I think it’s a view held in Japan that maybe Britain’s courting of China is undermining British relations with Japan, and specifically do you think the UK will support The Hague Tribunal’s ruling on Chinese expansion in the South China Sea?
And to Mr Abe, a question to you as well on the British relationship with China. Do you think that Britain’s gone too far in its courting of China and would you like to see more UK support when it comes to your dispute with China over the South China Sea?
Well, first of all, on the US elections, it’s obviously a matter for the voters in the United States to decide who they choose as their next President. That’s an obvious and important point to make. I have to say that, knowing the gruelling nature of the primaries and what you have to go through, anyone who makes it through that extraordinary contest to lead their party into a general election, you know, certainly deserves our respect.
But what I said about Muslims, I won’t change that view, I don’t change that view. I’m very clear that the policy idea that was put forward was wrong, is wrong and will remain wrong. So I’m very clear about that.
On the issue of British-Japanese relations and our relations with China, I would say actually that Britain’s relations with Japan are extremely strong. I think we’ve seen that again and again with the economic partnership we have, the massive investment into our country. But I would highlight 2 areas where actually the relationship is growing in its strength. One is defence co-operation, which I think if we were Japanese and British Prime Ministers standing here 10 or 20 years ago, this wouldn’t have been such a live and active issue, and the partnership, the co-operation, increasingly the purchase of equipment and joint exercises: those are all new features of the relationship and ones we want to build on.
And I think the other is the potential for Japanese investment into our nuclear industry, as we see the rebuilding of the British nuclear industry and the prospect for Japanese technology and Japanese-backed nuclear power stations in Anglesey, in Gloucestershire, in Cumbria. This is a huge, new opportunity. So I think the relationship is very strong.
Specifically, on the South China Sea issue, you know, we back the United Nations law on the sea, and we will always – we believe in a world where we have strong institutions and a rules-based framework for countries to act within. That is a key foreign policy aim of the United Kingdom and I think of Japan too, and we were discussing that this morning.
Thank you. On the question on South China Sea, indeed. Rule of law: that is the cardinal importance. There is a challenge against that and there is an attempt to change a status quo unilaterally. So we are the like-minded countries. We share the values: the rule of law, freedom, democracy. So we share basic values. Those countries must co-operate in coping with the situation. The freedom of navigation and freedom of overflight, that is important for the prosperity of the region. In order to protect that, rule of law must be complete and thorough. That is how I feel about it.
So in that sense, we share universal values. That is G7. So G7 is the place from which we must come up – come up with a clear message. That is demanded. And whenever we make an assertion, we must base ourselves on the international laws. We must not resort to coercion or intimidation, trying to alter status quo. That’s not something that we should be following in resolving any product – problems. Rule-based, law-based, peaceful resolution of the conflict must be the case.
Between the Philippines and China, there is an arbitration tribunal going on. We are attaching great importance to that.