THE WHITE HOUSE
Office of the Press Secretary
REMARKS BY PRESIDENT CLINTON IN PHOTO OPPORTUNITY WITH PRESIDENT ZEDILLO OF MEXICO
The Oval Office
11:09 A.M. EDT
PRESIDENT CLINTON: Let me say again how very pleased I am to have President Zedillo here and to congratulate him on his strong, determined leadership during this period of economic difficulty for Mexico. Inflation is down, the Peso is stable, the stock market is stabilized and interest rates have been cut in half. I think Mexico has clearly turned the corner, thanks to his leadership.
I also would point out that he has continued to implement the NAFTA agreement and to lower tariffs on American products during this difficult time, and he deserves a lot of credit for that. As a result of that, our exports to Mexico are now above where they were before NAFTA was passed, even though Mexico is going through this difficult time.
So I have nothing but the highest compliments for the way Mexico has handled this difficult period, and I think it's due to the leadership of the President and his team who are here. And I am delighted to have this change to visit with him.
PRESIDENT ZEDILLO: I also want to congratulate you for the international leadership that you have shown regarding the Mexican situation. I think that your decisive, effective action avoided a major crisis in the international financial system and a much higher cost for many other countries, perhaps including your own country. You have proven to have a vision, courage, perseverance. And the Mexican people recognize you for that.
PRESIDENT CLINTON: Thank you very much.
Q Mr. President, earlier you mentioned the derailment of the train. And after you spoke to us, your Press Secretary talked about the unhappiness within the administration about Congress' failure to pass the terrorism bill. I wondered if you could give us your thoughts on that and whether you think there's any legitimacy in what some members are saying -- that is, the FBI behavior at Waco and government behavior at Ruby Ridge have made people a little bit leery about passing that kind of legislation.
PRESIDENT CLINTON: First of all, what we asked for in the antiterrorism bill would not make more likely any kind of actual or alleged abuse of police authority. It would just give us the ability to deal with terrorism.
Secondly, I have been very eager to be accountable and to see this administration accountable, and to see government generally accountable for the mistakes that are made in the past, whether it was on -- whether someone believes we did something wrong at Waco -- we've had an independent review of that -- or on the Ruby Ridge thing which happened before I became President, or what we've done with the announcement we made on the radiation experiments which happened a long time before I became President.
So I think the answer is: Give us the tools we need to fight the problems of today and tomorrow with antiterrorism, but hold us strictly, strictly accountable. That's the answer. That's the balanced, fair answer. We can achieve both.
There are some things -- if the House, for example, wanted to make some modifications in the habeas corpus provisions, some other things to try to guard against abuse or protect people, they could do that. We could work that out. But to do nothing is a mistake. That's the point I want to make. It's a mistake to do nothing.
Q Is Congress playing games here, do you think?
PRESIDENT CLINTON: I don't want to characterize their motives, I just think they should act. They said that we'd have a bill by, I think, Memorial Day. And that was months ago. So we should not do nothing. We should act. If they want to work on how we should change the bill, I'd be happy to discuss that. But we need the bill.
THE PRESS: Thank you.
PRESIDENT CLINTON: I would like to again welcome President Zedillo to the United States, along with his very able governmental representatives here, and to say again how much the United States appreciates the difficulty that Mexico and the Mexican people have been through in the last several months and how much we respect the leadership that the President has shown.
It is clear to us, looking from the outside, that the worst is past, that the economy is turning around. And it is clear that the United States did the right thing in trying to provide some financial support to Mexico in that difficult period. I think the future looks good.
I know there are difficult times ahead, but I have been very impressed by the strong and steady leadership of the President and I hope that we can continue to work together until prosperity is fully restored to Mexico and we can have the kind of partnership for the 21st century that I believe will benefit both the people of Mexico and the people of the United States.
PRESIDENT ZEDILLO: (Speaks in Spanish)
THE PRESS: Thank you.
END 11:16 A.M. EDT