THE WHITE HOUSE
Office of the Press Secretary (Naples, Italy)
BACKGROUND BRIEFING BY SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL
July 8, 1994
Hotel Vesuvio Naples, Italy
12:10 A.M. (L)
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: I'll be real brief.
Q How long did the President brief you?
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: About 10 minutes.
Q Did Murayama get sick?
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: Yes, apparently.
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: The President said that he felt that it was dehydration. He said that he had learned that in his own traveling here that he had to be -- no matter what it looked like from the outside -- that he had to know, really, when he was getting tired, and that you had to drink water kind of all the time; and that he had learned exactly how to pace himself.
Q So what did Murayama do?
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: Just felt very, very ill.
Q Did he have to leave the dinner?
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: I wasn't there.
Q He didn't vomit in the President's lap or anything? (Laughter.)
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: Apparently, yes, he did get sick and he left.
Q And he left the dinner?
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: Yes.
Q Early on, or --
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: I don't know anything beyond what I've just told you.
Q How did he act? At what point in the dinner?
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: I don't know. When we were -- Fauver told me and then I asked the President. And the President said, yes, he was clearly feeling badly.
Q It wasn't from the drinking?
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: No, no. It was the -- no, the President's view was that he was dehydrated. It was from the absence of drinking water.
Q So what's the prognosis now, do we know?
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: I don't have any -- I have given you, literally, the 15 seconds I heard on the story. I don't know anything more.
Q But he took ill at the dinner?
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: And I've just told you, that's all I know.
Q I guess when he started talking about the trade surplus? (Laughter.)
Q What else did the President tell you?
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: What he said was that he had been reminded at whoever had asked the question about whether these discussions and these meetings were worthwhile at the press conference this afternoon, and had said that one of the things that he had felt deeply about at the end of the Tokyo meeting was that first of all, it was tremendously important for the leaders of the largest industrial nations to come together, but that it had to be structured differently than it had been in the past. And that while they began it in Tokyo, that it really had to be much more open and free-flowing and much less structured so that more time was spent really investigating and really kind of thinking in a wide-ranging way about the world. And less time was spent debating communiques that staff had developed in the months before.
And he said that this worked absolutely perfectly; and that it was a fascinating, wide-ranging and important discussion from the point of view that the leaders actually began to talk about not how they deal with a particular problem, but what the shape of the post-Cold War world was to be; and that they began to talk from the point of view that it was important to kind of look 10 years, 20 years, out and work back to here, rather than deal with issues one by one by one.
And he characterized the distinction as follows: He said that, as he has said in a lot of his speeches, that the decision that was made at the end of World War II was completely different from the decision made at the end of World War I; that at the end of World War I, the nations basically made a decision to close in on themselves. And it led, ultimately, to a global depression. And at the end of World War II, there were decisions to open markets, to create wide-ranging institutions -- the IMF, the World Bank, the United Nations and so on -- and that it led to both the capacity to fight the Cold War, but also a generation and a half of enormous economic growth.
What is clear at the end of the Cold War is that the leaders have made the same decision. What is different -- and he said that it was this sort of distinction that began to contrast -- was that at the end of World War II, because there was nothing there, there was basically a vacuum, the leaders then -- Bretton Woods and so on -- created a whole set of institutions. They created the World Bank; they created the IMF; they created the United Nations; they created NATO. That then led to they created the OECD; and that it was those early decisions to create these sets of institutions that then spawned all of the institutions of the post-World War II world.
He said, we've only created two institutions; that we're now creating the WTO, and we've created the Partnership for Peace. He said, what has become clear is that we have not yet defined -- the world has not defined yet the shape of the postCold War world. And if you remember that -- I guess I didn't do much of that today, but in briefings back in Washington -- that we had all said that the point of this G-7 meeting was to ask the leaders to, in essence, pivot from a concern with a set of ad hoc issues, and basically pure macroeconomic issues, and to begin to ask the question about what's the basic architecture and what's the basic foundation of the post-Cold War world?
There is no more important question. And he said that what he was just absorbed by was the degree to which that discussion began to coalesce.
Q In all of this description, was he saying this to the other people, or this is just --
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: No, no, that's his characterization of the discussion.
Q Were there no specifics discussed at all?
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: He said that this is in the middle. He told us some of the specifics, obviously. But he said that there was an important kind of dynamic established and that he felt it would be breaking faith with the other leaders to brief in the middle of the meeting on the kinds of specifics they discussed.
Q So were these informal discussions where people were just kind of wandering around talking with each other, or how was this --
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: Well, it was around one table. And it was just the leaders, and whispered translations where that was required. And we set it up that way.
Q Were there any bad tempers?
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: Not in the meeting, no. We set it up that way.
Q How long would it last?
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: Fauver said that he had only about 15 minutes with him before they walked over. Rubin and I actually went out to dinner, so I don't know when they went over. But so --
Q They were there a long time, weren't they? Anybody look at your watch?
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: So 9:00 p.m. to 10:00 p.m., do three hours.
Q I'm not wrong to say any specific subjects that were discussed --
Q How long were the sherpas in?
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: The sherpas weren't in -- it sounded to me like they were not in as much as a half an hour.
Q So the dinner maybe was three and a half hours, and the sherpas were in for half an hour?
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: Three hours -- between three hours and three hours and 15 minutes.
Q But the communique is already written.
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: The communique is being drafted now. They're going to meet all night on it.
Q By whom -- who's drafting it?
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: The sherpas. All of the sherpas.
Q The Italians say that the French want some reference to the dollar or the turmoil in currency markets in the communique. Have they expressed that wish to the United States, and what's your reaction?
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: I can't comment on that. I just don't know the --
Q Could we oppose it?
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: Our view is, as you heard me say and as, much more importantly, you've heard the President say, is that we think that the world is on track now for the first time in 30 years to a low-inflationary growth policy and course, and that we understand that course.
Q Would we oppose it being in the communique reference to the dollar?
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: Our view is that the world is --
Q So we would oppose it.
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: No, we think that not in a negative sense, but in a positive sense that the policy that we embarked on last year in Tokyo and are continuing now has worked and we should continue that course.
Q Were you surprised by the market's reaction to the President's comments on the dollar today? The dollar plunged right after he spoke.
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: Is plunged the right word?
Q Well, that's what I was told. I called my desk and that's what was on the wire.
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: I don't know how much it moved and I -- the only people who can really comment on the dollar are Larry Summers and Secretary Bentsen. But the --
Q But were you guys surprised by that reaction?
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: I've sort of learned in the last three months that no matter what I personally think about the market, it is always wrong. It is wrong.
Q I mean, you are always wrong, not the market's wrong?
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: That's right, I'm always wrong, right.
Q Was the President surprised?
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: Didn't say.
Q Well, it seemed like one administration official came out later and tried to change the tune just a little bit and said that intervention in currency markets had not been ruled out. That seemed to be a reaction to what the markets had done earlier.
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: I didn't read the President as saying -- this isn't an answer to your previous question, but I've kind of learned -- it used to semi be my business and I wasn't often very right then, and I've kind of learned not to be surprised or surprised about it. But the -- not to be not surprised or surprised -- but the -- in listening to his answers to those questions, I know what he intended and I know what I thought I heard, which was no change of any kind from positions and statements that he's made in the past.
Q But it sounded later what the official was saying was a change. He was saying that intervention had not been ruled out. Again, I'm quoting our wire.
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: As the President said, there have been two interventions anyway. The President didn't say that there weren't going to be any and --
Q When did Murayama arrive here?
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: When did he arrive? I have not any idea. I know that we met with him today. I don't know whether he came in in the morning or -- he must have come in yesterday. But I don't know that.
Q I just forgot that when the President kept saying we shouldn't overreact, we all interpreted that as he wouldn't favor intervention again. Were we wrong to think that?
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: I think if there was any sense in what the President was saying, there was any different formulation than anything he has said in the past, then you were wrong. And if -- I mean, obviously, if intelligent people like you all perceive a difference, then we made a mistake in how we briefed him, because there was no intention to say anything in that area.
Q One more thing. Could I ask, the French also apparently are opposing the idea of a second round of trade talks. They told the Japanese that they would tell Clinton that we should avoid any excessive haste, let's not plunge into a new round before GATT is implemented; this would be bizarre and novel and unprecedented.
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: Well, God forbid we should ever do anything novel. (Laughter.)
Q So you don't seem too upset about their attitude.
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: These are open discussions.
Q Will that be in the communique then, something about a second round?
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: That God forbid we should do ever anything bizarre or novel? (Laughter.)
Q What's going to be in the communique?
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: On what? That topic, or any topic?
Q Economics, everything.
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: Well, that's what we've been talking about for the last two or three days.
Q Jobs, growth --
Q Will GATT be in there? Will second round be in there?
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: -- next step in liberalization will be in there in the ways we've been discussing it.
Q So the French are isolated on that?
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: That's my impression, yes.
Q How far back to the original summit scenarios do you want to take this? When Giscard d'Estaing started this thing in the beginning, he wanted no structure whatsoever. He wanted no press, he wanted no coverage. He wanted nothing but the leaders getting together and talking with their hair let down, so to speak. Obviously, it's gotten far away that with sherpas and all the other --
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: -- sherpas really -- I mean, after all, Henry Owen was a sherpa, the guy who in 1975, 1977 was --
Q This is the 20th.
Q How far back do you want to take it?
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: What the President wants -- and I think all the other leaders want -- is something that is much more, as he said, is much more informal, much less structured and advanced. He was extremely pleased with the way the evening had gone.
I don't know how far you pull it back. I mean, it's just never going to be an informal gathering that you all don't come to. But I think he felt that his interests, and all of the leaders have wanted to move it in this direction again -- that after this dinner that was a very justified -- they felt it was a fully justified certain direction to go in.
THE PRESS: Thank you.
END12:24 A.M. (L)