THE WHITE HOUSE
Office of the Press Secretary
PRESS BRIEFING BY THE VICE PRESIDENT ON UPCOMING SUMMIT OF THE AMERICAS
December 8, 1994
The Ceremonial Room Old Executive Office Building
11:45 A.M. EST
THE VICE PRESIDENT: I'm sorry to be a few minutes late. President Clinton and I are very excited about the summit this week. We're looking forward to it. It is a new moment in the Western Hemisphere filled with hope and promise, and an opportunity to build upon the progress that all of us have made, and increase the chances that the future for our peoples will be even brighter. And we're very much looking forward to it.
The consultations in advance of the summit have been extremely successful. We have remained entirely flexible throughout, and that was a wise approach because we have learned an enormous amount from the suggestions of each and every country. This is a true partnership. It is a relationship unlike any we have seen before. And it represents a real sea change in the history of our hemisphere.
So we're excited; we're looking forward to it. We expect that it will be an occasion for genuine progress.
Q Mr. Vice President, the President of Argentina, Carlos Menem, is coming to the summit with -- and has said he will speak about two issues that are not on the agenda. One is Cuba, and the other is the fact that the United States is no longer considering the training fighter for its Air Force, and it's considered to be a blow to the aspirations of Argentina to be able to develop a very strong, healthy relation in nontraditional trade of goods, which the summit, in a way, symbolizes a hope for in the future. Do you have a comment on both of these issues?
THE VICE PRESIDENT: Not if I can avoid it. (Laughter.) We shall see. I had an excellent conversation with President Menem in Mexico City during the inspiring inaugural ceremony for President Zedillo. And President Clinton will be talking with President Menem in Miami, and I'm confident they will have a chance to discuss whatever President Menem wishes to discuss.
He is one of President Clinton's closest friends in the hemisphere, and as you may know, the relationship between the two of them is quite cordial, to say the least. President Clinton has enormous respect for President Menem, and we all admire his leadership. And so whatever he wants to discuss we will be prepared to discuss with him.
Q So you have no comment on the substance of these matters?
THE VICE PRESIDENT: I just commented extensively. (Laughter.) Thank you.
Q Mr. Vice President, Brazil did not receive initially the idea of the summit very enthusiastically. Then the date problem that, as you know, caught us in the middle of a transition --
THE VICE PRESIDENT: Yes, yes.
Q so reinforced that feeling. And during the negotiation -- heard things about Brazil being obstructionist in the process, et cetera. Going against the advice of most of his aides there, President-elect Fernando Henrique Cardoso decided to come, to be there, as, I believe, a gesture to the United States. I would like you to comment from the U.S. perspective the fact that he is coming, that there was an invitation to him, and this whole business of the Brazilian participation that seemed to be less than enthusiastic. How do you see the Brazilian presence there with those components?
THE VICE PRESIDENT: Well, I think that the single most important ingredient in producing a successful hemispheric summit has been the constructive and statesmanlike approach of Brazil to the summit. I must say on a personal note that I never saw any basis for the earlier stories in the Latin American press about Brazil's alleged negative attitude because when I went to Brasilia for consultations early on, Brazil's leadership had very constructive suggestions, indicated at the outset that they would participate fully, and that it would be the decision of the new President-elect after the election on whether or not he would participate.
But President-elect Cardoso was part of my consultations then. He and I have been friends for 15 years, and I have enormous respect for his leadership and skill. And if someone had told me at that early date that he was going to be the winner of the election, I would have told President Clinton, you may be assured that the same constructive approach that we've received so far will be continued and even enhanced under President Cardoso.
But, of course, the United States in North America and Brazil in South America are the two largest nations of the hemisphere, and the equation between the two of us is central to the future of decisions made in the hemisphere. Every country has an important voice, of course, and I don't wish to imply otherwise, but it is simply a fact that Brazil, because of its enormous size and strength and dynamism is central to the future. And so the decisions made by Brazil's leadership, outgoing and incoming, to participate constructively have been probably the most -- the single most important element in making this summit a chance to really consolidate this new moment in the hemisphere.
Q Mr. Vice President, one of the items on the agenda for the summit is the question of corruption. And I'm wondering how realistic -- what can we realistically expect in terms of agreement and of something that could actually change practices in terms of corruption as a form of impediment to trade?
THE VICE PRESIDENT: Well, the subject of good governance includes much more than a struggle against corruption. It also includes what we call reinventing government, and what other countries in the hemisphere describe with other titles. But it's important to emphasize that the issue of corruption was not placed on the agenda by the United States. We consulted widely about a wide range of issues, and in numerous consultations in Latin America, other leaders said this must be on the agenda.
President Reina of Honduras, for example, campaigned on the platform of what he calls a "moral revolution," and insisted that this be a part of the discussion. President Gonzalo Sanchez de Lozada in Bolivia said this is critical to the future success of our hemisphere. He said, "Corruption is like inflation; you will always have at least a little, but you must at all costs avoid the hyper variety." It's a compelling analogy, because when you encounter what he referred to as the hyper variety, then the productive resources of a society are diverted to dealing with that problem.
And in Ecuador, similarly, we encountered a very strong urging that this be a prominent part of the agenda -- and in other countries.
Now, it is simultaneously true that there are some voices in the hemisphere expressing a concern that perhaps this is some kind of attempt by the United States to moralize in a paternalistic fashion, and in an older era you would certainly have grounds for suspecting that. But this did not arise as a result of our insistence in any way.
We are very open to the desire by these leaders to have it a part of the agenda, and I don't want you to think we resisted. We do not. We agree with them that this is one of the keys to consolidating the freedoms treasured by people throughout our hemisphere. So we're looking forward to that discussion, but it's not going to be an effort by us to preach sermons.
I read in some -- somebody, I can't remember who it was, said, I wonder if the U.S. would make such a proposal for discussions in APEC or in the G-7. And the answer is yes, absolutely. And we have. And if the reason it's not more prominent on those agendas is that we haven't heard other countries coming back and saying, we'd like to make this a central item of discussion. In our hemisphere, other countries are saying that.
Q Mr. Vice President, while we're on the sermonizing tract, how do you deal with the issues that a lot of critics are concerned about when they look at trade agreements in the hemisphere, like for example, human rights issues, labor standards, environmental standards -- that's a real stumbling block. But a lot of countries have tried to divorce trade from these issues. Is that an appropriate tact to take?
THE VICE PRESIDENT: Well I think that one of the principle reasons for this new moment, and the optimism which surrounds it, is the way in which Canada and the United States and Mexico addressed that very question. The side agreements negotiated by Mickey Kantor and his counterparts in Canada and Mexico to deal with labor and environment issues I think provide an indication of how it is possible to deal with these issues in further efforts to expand trade. And clearly, these issues are of concern not only to the United States, but to other countries in the hemisphere, and they will always be discussed whenever trade expansion is discussed -- but discussed in appropriate ways, with sensitivity and mutual respect.
Q Mr. Vice President, how about narco trafficking and money laundering? Is that going to be a major issue in Miami?
THE VICE PRESIDENT: Sure. During the bilateral discussions that I had in Mexico City during the two days that I was there last week, a number of heads of state said that, in their opinion, we are losing the war against narcotics traffickers and narco terrorists.
And in many countries in Latin America that used to perceive the dialogue on this issue as partly an effort by the United States to put the burden on countries supplying drugs, without dealing adequately with the demand problem, that perception is changing. We are attempting to deal forcefully with the demand problem here in the United States.
But one of the elements that's new is that some countries -- in the Andes, for example -- that never in the past had a drug consumption problem in their own societies are now beginning to encounter 12-, 13- and 14-year-old drug addicts in the cities. And it is of deep concern to parents there, just as it is here in the United States. So I think on this issue as well, there is a new moment, and we want to work constructively to win a victory against the drug traffickers.
Again, some of the key initiatives have come from Latin America. On money laundering, for example, there's been a great deal of work done there. The new partnership between the United States and Mexico, for example, that President Zedilla talked about -- and in his inaugural address he said that the single greatest threat to the future of Mexico is narcotics trafficking, the narcotics problem. So this is not a north-south difference of opinion in the same way that it sometimes was in the past.
Q Mr. Vice President, I know the immigration issue is not in the agenda, the formal agenda, but can you tell us what is your position on Proposition 187? And what is your position or your opinion when all the -- this environment against immigration in the U.S.?
VICE PRESIDENT GORE: President Clinton and I are opposed to Proposition 187. It has now been adopted as a state law by the voters of California, and we must respect our laws. We will, of course. But laws must be consistent with the Constitution. And this one has been suspended pending a review of its constitutionality.
I agree with President Zedilla that the single most important answer for problems related to illegal immigration, whether it is from Mexico to the United States, of from Guatemala to Mexico, is to create more opportunities for jobs and lives with dignity in the areas from which the immigration is taking place. And, therefore, the discussion of trade and economic opportunity and sustainable development and the promotion of democracy that will take place at the summit, all is relevant to the problem of illegal immigration.
And this, after all, is not a problem unique in our hemisphere. We are witnessing a population explosion worldwide that's without any precedent in human history. We are adding the equivalent of one China's worth of people every 10 years. Ninetyfive percent of the increase is taking place in the developing countries. And so, naturally, there are going to be increasing pressures.
That's another reason why expanding free trade and economic opportunity is incredibly important. President Clinton just signed the GATT treaty this morning, which marks an historic step in the right direction.
Q Mr. Vice President, that leads me to something. In the last few days, and even in The Washington Post this morning, there has been some talk that the Clinton administration may have -- problems to get the Republican Congress to get along with the administration in terms of trade and the policy toward this hemisphere. I'm wondering, sir, how do you answer to those analyses that seem to point to a very weak administration and unable maybe to apply its compromises to its commitments?
THE VICE PRESIDENT: Well, we're just now completing the most successful two years of trade expansion in the history of the United States of America, and we will continue to expand free and fair trade in appropriate ways this coming year.
I mentioned the signing of GATT this morning. Senator Dole was there. His leadership and that of the new incoming Speaker of the House, Newt Gingrich, along with their Democratic colleagues, was instrumental in passing both NAFTA and GATT. As we propose fast track legislation in the future, I'm confident we'll have bipartisan support. I think you will be pleasantly -- if you believe that partisanship will stymie further progress on trade, I believe you will be pleasantly surprised at how much bipartisanship there is in the United States, regardless of which party controls the Congress or the White House.
Q Mr. Vice President, is the Clinton administration preparing a new set of -- a new measure or measures on illegal immigration, domestic measures that would sort of be your answer to the concern, while it would be an alternative to Proposition 187? Perhaps, for example, more border guards, that sort of thing?
THE VICE PRESIDENT: We have already increased the number of border guards dramatically, long before the debate over Proposition 187. We believe that successful control of our borders is the essential element in dealing with illegal immigration.
We oppose Proposition 187, as I mentioned earlier, because we think that it is -- it's wrong. But in opposing it, we said that we agree this is an extremely serious problem which must be addressed, and that one of the ways to address it is to control our borders. And we intend to do that.
Q Do you think you'll step up the border --
THE VICE PRESIDENT: We already have, and we're in the process of doing that -- that is an ongoing process which we will continue.
Q You don't foresee any more announcements on this subject soon?
THE VICE PRESIDENT: Well, there -- it is an ongoing process, and with each improvement in the past there have been announcements. And no doubt there will be in the future. But it is an ongoing process that is resulting in a beefed-up border patrol, as we are already seeing.
Q Do you foresee any creation of specific mechanisms to follow up any concrete agreement you reach on the summit? Do you plan to strengthen up the OAS and all the inter-American organizations?
THE VICE PRESIDENT: Well, Dr. Gaviria is doing an excellent job. And when I made a formal address to the OAS a few weeks ago I stated the desire of the United States to work through the OAS to address a large number of problems and we will certainly continue doing that.
As for other mechanisms to follow up on what happens at the summit, the draft plan that has not yet been finalized, but it does anticipate a number of smaller follow-up meetings in various areas of interest. But the way those take place will have to be decided by the leaders, and that process is still continuing. So it would be premature for me to anticipate what the leaders will decide on that.
Q What concrete steps do you believe are likely to emerge from the summit, or do you think that it is merely a new round, a beginning of a much longer process? Do you expect concrete action?
THE VICE PRESIDENT: Oh, yes.
Q And as a reporter, what kind of story would you anticipate that you would write for the Sunday morning editions one week after the summit is over?
THE VICE PRESIDENT: Well, we should write that story now, in other words. (Laughter.) Is that what you mean?
Q If you were writing it, what do you predict --
THE VICE PRESIDENT: So if I know what's going to happen at the summit --
Q What concrete steps --
THE VICE PRESIDENT: -- instead of waiting to have that written the day after the summit, I should give it to you so you can write it now before the summit. I was a reporter for seven years. (Laughter).
Q As a good reporter, what do you anticipate?
THE VICE PRESIDENT: I think you'll see a good deal of concrete action that will leave the most determined cynic convinced that this was an historic meeting that led to increased hope for the future throughout the hemisphere. And I think you'll see agreements in each of the areas on the summit agenda.
I am going to resist giving you details because the final decisions must be made by the leaders themselves, and it would be wrong to prematurely predict what they might decide. But certainly you've see already some speculation about trade and the other areas as well. There will be announcements there of concrete agreements; no problem.
Q Mr. Vice President, I don't mean to be a party pooper. I write for the Peruvian press, and my questions relate to something that President Fujimori of Peru said over the weekend -- Sunday, specifically. He said that he was skeptic about the outcome of the summit. And I quote, "I believe that we are generating huge and false expectations." "Moreover," he said, "I don't believe that we will come out from that meeting with a stronger America, measures that will effectively help the people." He came close to saying that it was almost a waste of time coming to the summit. What will you have to say --
THE VICE PRESIDENT: Well, I think it's very useful to lower expectations -- (laughter) -- so that we will have an even better chance of exceeding them. So I think he's performed a service there. (Laughter.)
Q Have you met with him?
THE VICE PRESIDENT: Yes, I met him in Mexico City, and I look forward to meeting him again in Miami, and I hope that when the summit has concluded, he will agree that we have exceeded his expectations.
Q Mr. Vice President, it seems a few weeks ago that the Miami Summit will be ceremonial without a big success. But in the last days, the U.S. is trying to push -- and to President Clinton -- chose the OAS to sign the GATT Treaty. What happened in the last weeks? Why right now the U.S. is -- push for -- get a free trade agreement and to set up a date?
THE VICE PRESIDENT: Let me see if I understand your question. You're asking -- what is it about President Clinton going to the OAS to sign the GATT agreement that is inconsistent with --
Q No. I said -- I'm trying to say that I think this is a very good thing for the Latin American countries that President Clinton decided to go to the OAS to sign the treaty.
THE VICE PRESIDENT: Yes, absolutely.
Q And, also, it seems a few weeks ago that the U.S. didn't push enough to get --
THE VICE PRESIDENT: A date?
a date or just to set up a date for the free trade agreement, and so --
THE VICE PRESIDENT: So, what happened?
Q many people asked just, well, what happened in the last days?
THE VICE PRESIDENT: To make it more positive?
THE VICE PRESIDENT: Well, that's a good question. The answer is that we always anticipated that the final three weeks before the summit would be the time when all of the elements were pulled together to produce progress.
Our elections were the first week in November, and I'll let you in on a little secret: We consciously avoided having too much discussion about the concrete elements of the summit here in the United States before the election, because of some concern that, inevitably, the passions of the election campaigns might make it more difficult to get the kind of outcomes that we want at the summit.
And so, there was always for us, at least, an element of last-minute timing with respect to the preparatory process. So what might look like a last-minute reprieve was actually a little more anticipated than it might seem. And again, the very positive contributions of other nations during the last three weeks, especially during the consultations at Airlie (ph.) House in Virginia made possible a great deal of progress.
Q Well, Mr. President, now I have to write for Venezuela, and you have said too much; I hope that you give us very, very specific answers. I wondered, first of all, you know, how much contribution have you received from President Caldera. We know he has saved -- he has really been strong about fighting corruption, and he said this week that he expects the kind of -- that from the summit, to come out with a kind of treaty or something like that.
Now, I wonder: Is the United States willing to support an inter-American agreement to extradite and punish the criminals and recover the money that they have been taking out of the countries?
THE VICE PRESIDENT: We have great respect for President Caldera. We appreciate the active and positive participation of the Venezuelan leadership in preparing this summit, and we wish to work closely with Venezuela on these and other issues.
I'm not going to prematurely give specifics of what the leaders might decide in this area, but I can tell you that there has been real progress, and again, this was an issue pushed on the agenda by Latin American countries, and we are very supportive of their initiative, and we expect there to be -- we expect that you will see progress.
Q Mr. President, one clarification upon NAFTA and the summit. The trade agreement that will be announced that will be billed in Miami seems to be one that will have convergence of the difference of regional agreements, and not necessarily an extension of NAFTA. At the same time -- at least Mexico, the United States and Canada will announce that Chile will be next in line for NAFTA. Are these things the same or separable? Is the agreement arrived at in Miami by the leaders concerning the convergence of subregional agreements one thing and the invitation to Chile to enter NAFTA something else?
THE VICE PRESIDENT: Yes. (Laughter.) Let me say -- (laughter) -- I'm kidding about that answer. Let me say that where your suggestion about Chile is not something I'm going to confirm. It is true that on the schedule, there is an anticipated announcement by the leaders of the United States, Canada, Mexico and Chile, but I am not going to comment on what the announcement might be.
It is also true that the leaders throughout the hemisphere are anticipated to make an announcement about trade relating to the entire hemisphere. But I'm not going to speculate on what that might be.
Q Do you have any advice on environmental issues?
THE VICE PRESIDENT: I'm very excited about the decision by President Zedillo to establish a separate new environment ministry. I am -- to break into two parts the former department and the new head of this environmental ministry is well-known to us. She has an outstanding reputation for her great skill and diligence and good judgment, so I'm very encouraged by that, and by his statements about the environment.
Q And in energy, in Venezuela, there have been concerns about the emphasis of seeing the energy issue only through the -- (inaudible.)
THE VICE PRESIDENT: Well, sustainable development encompasses both the economy and the environment. I'm going to have to go, thank you very much. Thank you.
END12:17 P.M. EST