THE WHITE HOUSE
Office of the Press Secretary
(Buenos Aires, Argentina)
|For Immediate Release
|October 17, 1997
PRESS BRIEFING BY
MIKE MCCURRY AND
NATIONAL SECURITY ADVISOR SANDY BERGER
Sheraton Buenos Aires
Buenos Aires, Argentina
11:50 A.M. (L)
MR. MCCURRY: By popular demand, several of you who are wrapping up your coverage of the President's very successful trip to Latin America wanted someone to come in and talk about what a successful trip it was to Latin America. And for that reason, I have produced the National Security Advisor to the President of the United States of America, Mr. Samuel Berger.
Mr. Berger, welcome to the White House press filing center.
MR. BERGER: I've never been more movingly introduced in my life. Popular demand -- I can just see it out there. Let me just say a few things and then let's go to your questions.
The President has been very pleased by the results of this trip, at least so far. We have one more day tomorrow in Bariloche. I think this is, if you step back a bit, quite a remarkable set of events, because what we're seeing here is literally a sea change in the attitude between -- a sea change in relations between the United States and Latin America. It didn't just happen on this trip, it's been happening, but this trip I think reflects it, accelerates it, encapsulates it.
I think this results from the new face of the United States in a post-Cold War period, the new face that the United States presents to Latin America and the new face that Latin America presents to the United States. In the first half of that equation, I would say that for our part what the President has conveyed over the last several days is, number one, our desire for a constructive partnership with these countries; number two, the fact that we are not threatened by their growth. This is a very important issue for them. In fact, the President has said that he welcomes Mercosur, the aggregation or the group, the alignment of the regional cooperation of a number of countries
here has been a powerful statement in South American terms of our saying, your growth, your success is not something we have to resist, it's something that benefits us.
It also was reflected, I think, in the way the President has talked about the common elements and has recognized the common elements of the problems that we face -- whether it's fighting drugs or terrorism or even dealing with twin problems of growth and equity, which we've talked about and the President has talked about throughout this trip.
A fundamental, almost existential question for South America, where the disparities have been so great, now they have this new growth -- how do they close the gap. But the President has talked about those issues not only as issues for them, but issues for us as well, and issues that we're dealing with -- how do we close the gap as we continue to grow -- and as I pointed out earlier, very much part of the fast track debate.
Now, for their part, the harsh anti-Americanism that one would have seen here I think perhaps as recently as 10 years ago or eight years ago simply is dissolving. And that's the result of a number of things that they deserve enormous credit for. We now have shared values of democracy and market economics. I think they're more trustful of our motives and our desire to seek a constructive partnership based upon mutual respect.
So I would say that we have done some serious work on specific issues while we have been on this trip -- energy and narcotics in Venezuela, education, crime drugs in Brazil, peacekeeping, environment here in Argentina into tomorrow. But just as important as the specific progress that has been made on these issues I think has been -- is the new confidence that has emerged in our relations, something that began in Miami when the President convened all the leaders in 1994, something I think that has been accelerated and intensified by this trip, and something that we will now pursue as we head towards the second Summit of the Americas in Santiago in April.
The end. Questions.
Q Sandy, will the President take any action today on the Japanese shipping situation, and what are his options under the law?
MR. BERGER: Well, this is a matter still under negotiation, so I'm not going to comment too much on it. Obviously, the FMC has voted; I don't know whether it's actually issued its declaration at this point. There are negotiations going on between the United States and Japanese officials. This is obviously a serious concern to us. The question of equitable access to shipping facilities in Japan is a very important matter
to us, and we will be pursuing it during the day and tomorrow. But I don't want to speculate on what might happen.
Q Is there a deadline when you think this might hit? There was some talk about noon today or midnight tonight.
MR. BERGER: No, I think -- I don't think it's today. But I think there are certain timetables, as I understand it, FMC procedures and it's obviously not something that goes on forever.
Q Sandy, you mentioned that the harsh anti-Americanism appears to have dissipated.
MR. BERGER: Largely dissipated.
Q As you are speaking, the television monitors are showing images from last night in the Palermo district, and I was just wondering what your take is on that.
MR. BERGER: Let me put it this way. I -- that's why I said "largely." But I don't believe an American President could have spoken in front of the memorial of San Martin, as the President did yesterday, 10 years ago in Argentina. So are there still elements in the society, are there still groups in the society that are anti-market economy, anti-American? Certainly. We're dealing here with a long history that precedes not only this President, but precedes this century. But the President has received an extraordinarily friendly and warm welcome in Argentina, as he did in Brazil and Venezuela, whether it's from the students that he met, whether it's from the people on the street, whether it's from the people he's met in and out of government. This is a country that likes America.
Brazil likes America. Venezuela likes America. That would not have been true five or 10 or 15 years ago.
Q When you speak about -- confidence between USA and this hemisphere, which of the aspects do you think should be concentrated or be worked on in order --
MR. BERGER: I think that's a very good question. I think that we have to consolidate through the habits of cooperation rather than the propensity to dictation. I mean that not in the stenographic sense -- that is, we are working with them now in partnership on a whole range of issues -- on terrorism, on the environment, on counternarcotics, on energy, on building civil society and helping them build their democracies. And I think that as that pattern of cooperation -- I think the tone was set in Miami in '94 when everybody sat around one round table, there was no head table, there was no seat that was larger than another seat, they sat around that table as partners -- through the way we've tried to deal with the countries of Latin America.
I think this will intensify and I think it's reinforced by what's happened -- I don't want to underestimate what's happened in these countries. The fundamental paradigm --the fundamental arrangements of government in these countries has shifted dramatically since the '70s, when we had -- when we would be talking about "disappeared" in Argentina.
Q Sandy, if fast track were to fail this fall, what would it do to these trends you're describing? Would it slow them or interrupt them, reverse them?
MR. BERGER: I think it would undermine -- it would hurt our ability to take advantage of them to the fullest. The fact is that integration is going on. Trade is increasing. But as these countries negotiate trade agreements with other countries, those other countries will have a competitive advantage in these markets against us. We will be playing on an uneven playing field.
Chile, for example, has an 11 percent tariff on telecommunications equipment. Chile also has a free trade arrangement or tariff preferential arrangement with I believe every country in this hemisphere except the United States.
So American companies lost a large contract, I think earlier this year or late last year, to Northern Telecom, in part because we had an 11 percent monkey on our back. And number one in economic terms, John, I would say, it will disadvantage us. We will be paying -- our companies and workers will be -- it will be harder for them to take advantage of the growth than others. Second of all, I think politically -- I think that in this new partnership, I think the countries of Latin America still look to the United States for leadership -- not for domination, but for leadership. And I think that were we not to have fast track, I think it would be a puzzling statement to the rest of this hemisphere as to why the United States, the most successful and thriving economy in the hemisphere and in the world, was unwilling to try to lead in forming the new economic arrangements of the next generation.
Q Going back to Japan, you said that this cannot go on forever. Could you give us a sense of the deadline for the decision, and at what stage or when could the President step in?
MR. BERGER: No. I'm not going to -- I can't go beyond what I did -- simply there are negotiations going on.
Q Well, at least what is the deadline? It's not clear when --
Q Could you just clarify why you don't think the deadline --
Q Just about the deadline. Could you be a bit more clear about when this negotiation is supposed to end?
MR. BERGER: I know the negotiations are going on today. I can't honestly tell you what the concrete deadline is. If I can get more information to you on it in the next several hours, we will.
Q Can you explain why you think it is not today, sir?
MR. BERGER: Because I have been led to believe it's not today. But I'm here and they're there, and I would like to be a little more confident of my facts before I either lead you or mislead you.
Q Mr. Berger, before the trip began you gave a pop quiz on South America. At week's end, do you think more Americans are more aware of what is happening in South America?
MR. BERGER: I think so, I hope so. I think what they have seen is a far more diverse hemisphere than probably our instinctive images are. We tend to think of Latin America -- the most vivid images in our mind are maquiladora pictures that we've seen in debates about fast track. And as we saw in Rio, there continue to be -- there continues to be very deep poverty in Latin America. But we've also seen a new vitality, a new vitality among the leaders, a new vitality -- a new confidence in the democracy that they fought so hard to restore and now have back, and a new vitality economically.
I think that hopefully people in the United States see this and say that Latin America is more like us than we thought it was.
Q Does the President think that his visit has had any impact at all on his chances for fast track approval in Congress? Does this make a difference at all?
MR. BERGER: I don't know the answer to that. I think it's hard -- obviously, while we're here, the President, as you've heard, has mentioned fast track in most of the speeches. But I think it's not necessarily the right place to have -- engage in a fundamentally domestic debate in front of a foreign audience.
By the time the message gets back to people back home, I'm not sure that it has a decisive impact, but I would hope that it would have a positive impact for the reason that I said; that is, seeing that this is an enormously vibrant, growing, thriving area of the world should, I think, help convince Americans and the members of Congress that we ought to be as much a part of the growth, as much a part of that future as we possibly can.
Q But at the same time, before a foreign audience, he urged businesses to help out, help him out on fast track. Do you have any sense whether or not more businesses are going to step up to the plate and come out or push either through advertising or through lobbying their congresspeople for fast track?
MR. BERGER: I think there are a lot of folks back in the United States that have expressed their support for fast track, including business groups and others. And I would hope that they would continue to do that.
Q Sandy, some of these nations have not had very many years to plant roots for their new democratic systems. What makes you think that -- isn't it possible that there could be some back-sliding?
MR. BERGER: I think the point -- let me start with your premise I think is right and is important to recognize, and that is here in Argentina, for example -- it's not that far in time from a very harsh period and those memories are very vivid and the restoration of democracy is still a work in progress. And I think that one of the things that the President has talked about with each of these leaders, particularly with President Cardoso, with President Menem, is how important it is to build the institutions of civil society so that the democracy that you have helped to restore is sustained.
Those institutions are an independent judiciary; those institutions are a free press; those institutions are all of those -- non-governmental organizations -- those are all extraordinarily important in terms of making sure that democracy -- the return to democracy does not reverse.
Q One of the main complaints of U.S. businessmen in Argentina is that there is a lack of respect for intellectual property rights, particularly in the pharmaceutical industry where it's just -- industries, basically -- what specific assurances have you gotten from the Menem administration that that is going to change?
MR. BERGER: This has been an issue that we have been dealing with the Argentines on for some time. In fact, I believe they're on the USTR's list of countries that have intellectual property problems in the pharmaceutical industry and others.
The President raised it very specifically with President Menem, pressed very hard with him to try to pass the laws necessary to protect intellectual property. In this case, the problem has been less President Menem than getting some of these laws through his parliament.
Q -- the President told the Argentine journalists in an interview this morning --
MR. BERGER: I couldn't hear you, and also Mr. McCurry, however, will do it.
MR. MCCURRY: Give it a try. Sandy is probably going to miss the plane -- my fault. Sorry about that.
Let me answer your question, Mara. The President had a very good interview with four leading journalists from the Argentinean community today. I should say, put that in some context, that that interview was preceded by a meeting that my colleagues, Mr. Blumenthal and Mr. Steinberg, had with some Argentine journalists that wanted to express concerns about freedom of press issues that exist here in Argentina. That was a very positive meeting and we gained a lot of understanding of the concerns that those journalists had.
The President in his interview -- and we will have the transcript available when we arrive at our next destination -- talked about a lot of things. In fact, for those of you writing trip wrap-ups, there's a very good commentary that the President had about the meaning of the trip, the importance of the stop here in Argentina. But they did ask specifically about questions related to press freedom. And the President described his conversation with President Menem about this issue and talked about the reasons why a free and vigorous press, along with an open and liberalized economy, can over time create greater opportunities for all people when it's an important part of the transitions that are occurring around the world, to marry market economics with free flows of information and a vigorous and free press.
The President noted in his conversations with President Menem of how useful it's been to have a formal structure at the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe to assist former totalitarian countries making a transition to democracy, and he suggested that there should be some type of mechanism or, what the President described as an ombudsman placed perhaps in the Organization of American States to deal in this region with standards and norms expected for the conduct of free journalism, and to deal with complaints or issues for journalists who feel like their rights to report and to cover stories are being interfered with.
That was I think the beginning of a conversation that clearly we hope will continue. We have been working within the OAS on things like judicial training and establishing norms of law enforcement and judicial proceedings, and this was another aspect of how we might take a regional forum like the Organization of American States and deal with concerns that are of issue not only here in Argentina, but in other countries in the hemisphere as well.
Q I should have tried this with Sandy, but I think all three stops, certainly in Venezuela and Brazil, there were rhetorical pledges of support for the President's goals on global warming, that developed countries be included, but that they not put unfair restrictions on their growth. Were there any more concrete pledges of support?
MR. MCCURRY: I think as you know, tomorrow in Bariloche, the President does have an opportunity with President Menem to emphasize the importance of the work we do together in this hemisphere on environmental protection, but I anticipate them having some specific things to say tomorrow that will address that question.
You'll recall that a goal of U.S. policy as we think ahead to Kyoto has been to look for ways in which we define realistic, achievable, but binding targets for emission reductions, flexibility in implementing those targets, which would require cooperative arrangements, joint implementation between countries who want to engage in, for example, market-based trading of political permits similar to what we do in acid rain reduction in the United States.
And then third, a principle that we have stressed over and over again is the participation of the developing world along with the developed world. And of course the President's message in Venezuela, Brazil, and Argentina has been that you have to be part of the solution. I'm very hopeful, as we are here now, that we'll have some very specific, concrete things to say tomorrow on that and that President Menem will talk about his attitudes on these subjects. And that will be an important aspect of the stop tomorrow.
Q Mike, you've been at the podium during past face-offs with Japan, many of them. How would you compare this in terms of seriousness? And is this threat of detaining and blocking ships a real one, or is this part of the negotiating process?
MR. MCCURRY: This is an unusual way in which a trade concern is being pursued because it's outside some of the contours of what we normally think of as the trade disputes and successfully resolved with Japan in the past. But at the moment, it is being, I think, reported as a much more dramatic episode than what the reality is at this point.
Remember, the Federal Maritime Commission to my knowledge -- Anne, correct me if I'm wrong -- has not yet delivered to the United States government, specifically to the Transportation Department, any result of action that it has contemplated that would require any action by us. And at the meantime, our negotiations are pursuing that.
We clearly are going to pursue the penalties. The $3.8 million in penalties that have now been assessed because of Japanese port practices have to be paid. Not only, by the way -- they are now adding up beyond that. That's only the amount that covers the period through the end of September, and in the first half of October additional penalties have been assessed. So those penalties are going to have to be paid or the underlying practices that are of concern are going to have to be addressed.
And I think our negotiators are making that clear. But given the strength of our relationship with Japan, the importance of our commercial transactions, we would hope and expect that this matter would be resolved short of any more dramatic or more escalatory proceedings, but we'll have to wait and see.
Let me move on to something we need to do before you all leave here. The President again this morning used his line item veto authority to save taxpayers $19 million. He cancelled eight projects that are in the 1998 Energy and Water Appropriations Act. This is the sixth time the President has used the line item authority, and if you accumulate what the President has done up to now, he has saved a total of roughly $2 billion for U.S. taxpayers by his exercise of this authority.
I think it's also accurate to say that no doubt his use of this authority has been a deterrent as the appropriations process unfolds in Congress so that additional wasteful spending is not included in other bills that have not yet been completed.
Today's actions affect five water projects that the President did not request in his budget. Those projects are either new -- they're not part of any ongoing project, or they have greater costs than benefits, or they are largely recreational in purpose and affect only a limited number of people, or, it was the belief of the President, they should be funded at the local level.
The President also cancelled three other projects that he believed represented unwarranted subsidies to corporate interests.
Details on all of these projects are going to be briefed at the White House in about 45 minutes by OMB Director Frank Raines and representatives of the Army Corps of Engineers and Bureau of Reclamation and Energy Department, which are the agencies that are affected by the President's actions. They will have a lot more detail on those individual projects, and we can get a readout on that briefing when we arrive at our next stop.
Q Mike, can you tell us what states?
MR. MCCURRY: Yes, the states in which these projects are located are Indiana, Alaska, Pennsylvania, Mississippi, Virginia, Arizona, and then there is one -- the two Energy Department projects are really not specifically located in one state. I think one of them looks like -- was supported by members of the Minnesota congressional delegation so there might be some tie-in to Minnesota. But there will be more detail provided up at the White House on each of those.
Q Did President Clinton make any effort to contact Senator Lott on the project --
MR. MCCURRY: Those notification have been, as we have been doing with the line item veto, have been done locally -- have been done through our representatives up in Washington -- I think specifically through Congressional Affairs, although some other White House staffers may have been involved as well.
Q -- when you talk about specifics, are you going to actually put forward the negotiating position tomorrow?
MR. MCCURRY: John's question was, did we make any specific headway on the arguments that the President has made here in the region with some of his counterparts that he's visited with. And I think we will see some evidence of some specific progress, at least with respect to our cooperative efforts with Argentina on that issue when the two Presidents address it tomorrow.
On the larger question of when is the United States going to begin to move more publicly into a discussion of its negotiating positions for the Kyoto conference, as we've said all along, we expect that to happen during the course of the upcoming meetings next week in Rome, but I can't get any more specific than that.
There is still, by the way, still work to be done on some fundamentally important choices the President has to address. He's been getting briefed on and off about this, has had several meetings back in Washington with his advisors. I expect him to get some additional written material on the issue over the course of the weekend, and no doubt there will be some meetings at the White House prior to any final decisions.
Q Mike, I just wanted to be sure -- there are five water projects and three energy projects?
MR. MCCURRY: There are five water projects, one Bureau of Reclamation project. I mean, five Army Corps of Engineers projects, one Bureau of Reclamation project, and two Department of Energy projects.
Q Just following up on the global warming question again, given that the President hasn't decided yet what -- targets he's going to shoot for, how is he going to be able to conduct conversations with the Presidents of Latin America beyond generalities about the notion that we should all make -- as long as it's cost-free?
MR. MCCURRY: Because the fundamental -- in a sense, our negotiating position is made clear by the principles that we have. If you have binding emission targets, the question of what those targets are set at is an important question, but not as significant as the fact that you are actually going to set binding targets.
Second, if you are insisting on flexibility of implementation, that suggests the whole way in which you structure the control regime to achieve those targets. And I think that's widely known.
But, third and most importantly in terms of our conversations here, if you insist on participation by the developing world, the question is how, under what terms, and the discussions the President has had with his counterparts here have been about what role the developing world would play in an international regime to control the emission of greenhouse gases.
Q Is Argentina a developing nation?
MR. MCCURRY: It would be -- those terms for purposes of defining what your emission levels are have been defined. There have been different negotiating positions that have been advanced on what is the level of CO2 or other outputs that would trigger certain kinds of designations. But that's still part of what's being discussed by negotiators.
All right. Do we need a briefing tomorrow or if we just have a couple people in and around the environment of that available so you can talk to them. I'm not planning to do anything else tomorrow unless events dictate it.
Q Can you tell us what the radio address is about?
MR. MCCURRY: The radio address is on education. While I'm here I'll give you a brief snapshot of the week ahead. The President anticipates returning -- one of his underlying themes of this trip has been the importance that education plays in sustaining the kind of economic growth that is important in this hemisphere; that the strength of the global economy is going to depend on well-educated workers and a work force who are able to acquire new skills and use them as we see all the changes occurring in the global marketplace.
Well, that is very relevant to a debate back home on national standards and on how we invest in the kind of training and teaching that will produce the work force of the 21st century that's equipped to compete in these kinds of global settings.
The President is going to make a strong argument next week that we need national standards, even though there are members of Congress, mostly from the other party, that don't believe we need national standards. More ironically, there are members of -- some of the same members saying not only do we not need standards, we also don't need to invest in teaching people to read and to do some of the things that would be measured in national tests.
So I think the President is going to join that debate, and his radio address is going to be more broadly about generally the importance of educational standards. But I anticipate next week being a week that's filled with a lot of debate about how we're going to produce world-quality, high-class education for American children.
On Monday, the President doesn't have any public events, but I'm going to have Secretary Riley over at the White House to talk about some interesting ways in which kids can prepare for college, specifically with respect to mathematics preparation.
Tuesday, we've got a number of college presidents in town who are going to support the President's America Reads initiative, which, as I just indicated, has been under -- facing criticism in Congress.
On Wednesday, we aren't ready to say what we'll be doing on this day. You should say it's possible we'll make an announcement this week since we said we might do it, but don't rule it out, don't rule it in. You get the kind of flavor -- okay, if you can't catch that hint you're all asleep.
Thursday is the child care conference, right -- the White House Conference on Child Care on Thursday. And that's going to be a lot of fun and interesting. And on Friday, the President will address the Annual Conference of the National Board of Certified Teachers.
So it's a week that's going to be devoted to the education and care of America's children, something that is part of the ongoing commitment of the President as he advances his objectives in his second term.
Q Is he going to be doing anything on fast track? Is that important?
MR. MCCURRY: Of course. He's been doing some things on fast track even during this trip, but we will continue -- I think one thing that will certainly happen next week is, as we do after all foreign policy trips, there will be briefings for members of Congress about what we've done during the course of this trip, the importance the President attaches to all of the things he's talked about with respect to free trade and why that, hopefully, will be impressive to members of Congress as they consider that vote.
Q What did you say is going on on Wednesday again? I'm sorry.
MR. MCCURRY: I already said it.
Q I know, but I need you to repeat it for me.
MR. MCCURRY: I didn't say anything. I just read a note that said we're holding it open, but nothing is scheduled for that day.
Q Friday the teachers are doing what? Is it national standards or charter schools or --
MR. MCCURRY: Yes. Over the course of the week we're going to spend a lot of time talking about why we have to measure ourselves against national standards that will world-class, well-educated kids. And then, second, we're going to talk about why -- in order to achieve those standards and measure against those standards, we need to invest in things like training teachers so that they can go teach kids to read, which is the America Reads initiative, or developing the volunteer participation that we foresee as well.
Okay, that's the week ahead. Over and out.