For Immediate Release May 6, 1997
THE WHITE HOUSE
Office of the Press Secretary
(Mexico City, Mexico)
PRESS BRIEFING BY
J.W. Marriott Hotel
Mexico City, Mexico
8:30 P.M. (L)
MR. JOHNSON: First of all, the good news for the evening is
that with the exception of a pool report when your colleagues return from this
evening's festivities, this is the last encounter you're going to have with
paper or spoken word on an official basis tonight. So you may rejoice.
The President concluding what we believe is a very successful
day today where we found ways to address two very important issues in the
Mexico-American relationship -- migration and counternarcotics -- this evening
did as he likes to do whenever he travels abroad, and that is meet with those
in the opposition to the government so that we can, and he personally can get
a broader view of the political climate in whatever country he is visiting.
As he told you during the photo opportunity that he had with
one of the gentlemen, that he does this -- he did it in Russia and finds it a
very profitable thing to do. I cannot recall a single trip, of course, that
I've been on where he hasn't seized the opportunity to meet with the
Each of these was scheduled for about 15 minutes and they all
lasted about 20, with the ones with the two opposition parties I think being
The PAN and the PRD meetings were similarly structured in that
the party leaders provided their party manifestos to the President in writing
and read much of them to him as an opportunity to state in a very clear way
and I think a concise way what their views were. And since the President's
primary reason for inviting them there was not for them to listen
to him, but for him to hear their views, that I think was a very
constructive way to proceed.
The PAN delegation, which included two governors,
the Governor of Baja, California, Mr. Teran, and the Governor of
Chihuahua, Francisco Barrios, focused on migration, drug
trafficking, Colorado River salinity and the desire for Senate
ratification of the U.S.-Mexico sea boundary treaty. And the
discussion, just like the platform that I think that they've
spoken to you about in other fora, focused on their hopes for
greater economic growth and a plural and competitive political
The governors, in addition to the presentation made
by the party president, also provided letters with specific
issues affecting their states with respect to issues related to
more efficient border crossing, border environmental issues,
crime in the border area, anti-dumping cases that exist between
our two economies, agricultural exports and gun exports from the
The PRD presentation, as is their party, was a bit
more nationalist and populist in nature, focusing on migration
and the human rights violations which they believe are ongoing,
and the United States response to migration issues as well as to
economic inequality and their belief that the current model is
They also, in their paper, proposed a social summit,
which they viewed as something which would be much broader than
governments getting together, but also those in nongovernmental
organizations and other actors in a civil society who might
address some of the issues that are confronted between Mexico and
the United States across the board.
One of the things that they did take pains to point
out, since they're sometimes viewed as a party in opposition to
the United States, is their tremendous respect for U.S. arts and
culture, and listed a long list of American novelists, poets,
actors, architects that they thought had enriched Mexican culture
during the course of the 20th century and before.
The PRI meeting, which was the briefest of the
three, didn't include a party manifesto, since, of course, the
President had been meeting with President Zedillo during the day.
It talked a bit about the pride of their party's achievements in
the Zedillo administration, their thanks to the President for his
economic package and for pushing forward with the ratification of
the North American Free Trade Agreement. They did mention the
Mexican economy in its difficult times and it's back on the road
to recovery, the issues related to migration and narcotics
The party president stated that he believed that all
of the subjects were interwoven and had to be addressed in large
measure by economic progress, and concluded with their
determination to be part of a competitive political system and
their pride in having taken part in the reforms which President
Zedillo had brought to Mexico over the last several years.
The President, as I said, his main goal in all these
meetings was to listen, so he did not speak a great deal of time.
He dedicated the bulk of his time to listening to these
opposition politicians and the party leaders' ideas. But he did,
in the same way he did at the press conference, explain his views
and policy on migration, the need for us to have a control of our
borders and an effective deterrent to illegal migration in order
to sustain in the United States support for a very broad and open
acceptance of legal migrants.
He encouraged all of the parties to engage in the
competition of the election and explained the value he felt of
the opposition. He said in the last meeting -- excuse me, in the
meeting with the PRD that he probably in his heart of hearts wish
he'd never been opposed when he was running, but he thought it
had made him a much better office holder and a better governor in
Arkansas and a better President for having done so.
And in responding to the PRD's views on the North
American Free Trade Agreement, he did assert his view that it had
helped speed the recent recovery and make it more -- not only
more rapid, but broader, and in his belief that over time it
would help in some more visible ways to ameliorate poverty and
broaden the middle class in Mexico.
Hearing no questions --
Q Wait. What's attribution on this? And you
were in the meetings, obviously.
MR. JOHNSON: I was in the meetings, and you can
attribute this to me by name.
Q One of the PRD folks came out of the meeting
suggesting "President Clinton was amenable to the idea of
reexamining the economic motto, it seems some aspects of the
economic motto need to be looked at carefully. Is that true, did
President Clinton suggest -- give any suggestion --
MR. JOHNSON: The President certainly gave no
suggestion that he saw a need to reexamine the North American
Free Trade Agreement. But as he said before, he believes that
governments need to take steps as best they can to ameliorate
some of the effects of economic inequality.
He, for his part, has sought to do so on the basis
of some of the -- recently he mentioned that his success in this
recent budget agreement, having the Republicans agree to remove
what he felt were some of the onerous and unjustified parts of
the welfare law which denied benefits to legal immigrants, his
strong support for -- public support for education, including tax
incentives and other incentives for higher education. I think
that that is -- they may have inferred some things from that that
went beyond what he said.
But his focus were on those types of issues and the
need for governments to address those kinds of issues and the
ability of the governments to do so.
Q Did the election come up? What was said about
it? Who said it? What did the President say?
MR. JOHNSON: The elections were talked about in
some form in all of these meetings, the President encouraging
them to compete very forcefully and to take advantage of the new
era here. He mentioned, of course, the elections which were
coming up in July and they talked about their desire to compete
forcefully in all the elections which were going to be
Q Did the President say he hoped the elections
would be honest --
MR. JOHNSON: I think the President is pleased to be
here in a time when there is tremendous reform going across the
Mexican electoral process. You're asking a question that was not
posed in that form.
Q David, when he talks about NAFTA and trade
tomorrow, do you expect the President also to give some hint of
when he can propose fast track legislation -- actually, now that
the balanced budget is over? He hasn't actually sent anything up
to the Hill.
MR. JOHNSON: I think what the President has said is
that he wants to pursue a policy on fast track, he wants fast
track authority, but he believes that the most effective way to
do that is to have a consultative process with people on the
Hill, with others in the country that have very strong interests
in fast track, so that when a piece of legislation is submitted,
it's something that will command bipartisan support. It would be
quite simple to send up a piece of legislation and have it fail,
but he doesn't want to do that. He wants to engage in the
consultations ahead of time so that it will, in fact, succeed.
Q Why is the President choosing to go to Mexico
to talk about the NAFTA when there are a lot of people back home
that have strong feelings about it? Why didn't he give a speech
there first before addressing the Mexico people?
MR. JOHNSON: I think this is an opportunity to come
to Mexico -- he welcomed the President of Mexico back several
months ago into Washington -- I guess more like two years ago
now, but --
Q Why is he giving an address to the Mexican
people about NAFTA when a lot of American people are waiting to
have NAFTA justified and explained to them?
MR. JOHNSON: I think the President justified and
explained and fought very hard for NAFTA ratification. He has
explained to the American people on a number of occasions his
views on NAFTA. I think in his first visit to Mexico during his
presidential term, or during his time in the presidency, it is a
very opportune moment to explain to the Mexican people the
benefits that both of our countries have received from this
fundamental opening up in free trade area throughout North
Q David, it was kind of an accident this year
that the binational groups met at the same time the Presidents
were having the summit here. But was there any thought or has
there been any discussion given to making that an annual event,
an annual presidential summit, coincidentally with the binational
MR. JOHNSON: I have not heard any discussion of an
annual summit as part of the binational commission. As you know,
the binational commission brings together a good portion of both
Cabinets, and we found it a very effective tool. But I'm not
sure we're going to be adding a summit on to it each and every
THE PRESS: Thank you.
President Clinton's Tour of Mexico, Costa Rica,