THE WHITE HOUSE
Office of the Press Secretary
PRESS BRIEFING BY DEPUTY ASSISTANT TO THE PRESIDENT FOR NATIONAL SECURITY AFFAIRS SAMUEL BERGER, AND DEPUTY ASSISTANT TO THE PRESIDENT FOR ECONOMIC POLICY DANIEL TARULLO
The Briefing Room
12:22 P.M. EST
MR. JOHNSON: Good afternoon, ladies and gentlemen, and welcome to the briefing on the President's forthcoming trip to Australia for a state visit, the Philippines for the APEC leaders meeting, and to Thailand for a state visit. We have two briefers today. The first will be Samuel R. -- Sandy -- Berger, the Deputy Assistant to the President for National Security Affairs. And your second briefer will be Daniel K. Tarullo, the Deputy Assistant to the President for National Economic Policy. Thank you.
MR. BERGER: Thank you, David. Good morning. Tomorrow the President leaves for a 12-day trip to Asia built around the fourth leaders meeting of the Asian Pacific Economic Cooperation Forum, called APEC. It will take him to Hawaii, where hopefully, the weather will be better; to Australia, the Philippines, and Thailand.
Let me give you a broad overview of the trip, the key events and meetings and substance, and then ask Dan Tarullo to speak in more detail on the APEC portion of the trip, which is the catalyst for this trip.
It's significant, I think, that President Clinton's first foreign trip following his reelection, just like his first foreign trip as President, takes him to the Asian Pacific region. For this President, elevating our engagement with an Asia that is emerging in importance has been a priority in his first term, and it will be, I believe, of even greater importance in his second term. In a global economy, in a post-Cold War world, America must look to the East no less than to the West.
Our security remains tied to Asia. After all, Americans have fought three wars in that continent in this century. Asia's economy accounts for now over a quarter of the world's output and a third of our exports now flow to Asia. And that's why the President has led efforts to build a real community of nations in the Asia Pacific region, based on shared security and prosperity and shared values. And those foundations are in place.
On the security side: a commitment to maintain our military presence in Asia -- about 100,000 troops -- a new security charter with Japan, an agreement that has frozen and will dismantle the North Korean nuclear weapons program, a proposal for four-party talks on the Korean Peninsula, regional security dialogue with ASEAN, and a pragmatic effort to engage steadily with China. On the economic side: the President elevated APEC, convening the first leaders meeting ever, laying out a vision for free trade in this region by the year 2010 or 2020 and beginning the practical work of realizing it. The President will build on this foundation over the next four years and that effort begins with this trip.
The heart of the trip is the APEC leaders meeting in the Philippines. Dan Tarullo will discuss that in a moment. Let me just say broadly that what we see in APEC, we see evolving is an APEC that has gone from a vision to a structure and which is now beginning to achieve practical commitments in trade liberalization. APEC is the primary vehicle for putting in place practical elements of freer trade in the world's most dynamic economic area and using the power of APEC's example to leverage more free trade beyond Asia, for example through the WTO . Dan will talk more about that in a moment.
In the Philippines, the President will also meet with three leaders of the major regional and world powers -- President Jiang of China, President Kim of Korea, Prime Minister Hashimoto. His goal in each of these meetings is to bolster the building blocks of the Asian Pacific community that we seek to create.
The meeting with President Jiang is the fourth between -- will be the fourth between the two leaders. It will come on the heels of a meeting that Secretary Christopher will be having with Foreign Minister Qian in Beijing, and meetings that have been taking place between National Security Advisor Lake and Vice Minister Liu, and meetings across a range of other U.S. and Chinese officials. Over the past year, I believe we've turned a corner in the relationship and dealt successfully with some very difficult issues, from the Taiwan Straits, on ring magnets, intellectual property agreement, and MFN extension. And that progress demonstrates that we can work together and work through our differences, as great powers must.
Many problems remain in our relationship. The two Presidents will have a broad agenda that will include regional security issues, such as the Korean Peninsula, preventing an arms race in Southeast Asia, nonproliferation, trade and human rights.
Our engagement with China is not an end in itself, it is a vehicle for building a productive, predictable, stable relationship with China both for cooperation and for dealing with our differences.
The President will meet also with Prime Minister Hashimoto who has just formed a new government. The last four years have put the U.S.-Japan relationship on the best footing that has existed, I believe, in many years through a new security charter, range of market opening agreements, now a declining trade deficit. The Prime Minister and the President will discuss outstanding issues regarding Okinawa, ways to modernize the relationship between our militaries and a range of security and economic and trade issues.
The President had a good conversation with President Kim yesterday of Korea and will meet with him as well when he is in Manila. We have built a very strong security alliance with South Korea with the aim of reducing tensions on the Peninsula. In April, as you recall, the President's proposed four-party peace talks -- these were stymied by North Korea's provocative actions with its submarine incursion. One of the goals of this meeting between the two Presidents will be to talk about how to handle the aftermath of that incident and to give new momentum to the peace talks proposal and the agreement to dismantle North Korea's frozen nuclear program and assure that it keeps moving forward.
Finally, the bookends of this trip -- excluding Hawaii, which is R&R -- will be state visits to two key allies, Australia and Thailand. Australia is an anchor ally of the United States in the Pacific, and has been a supportive and active partner of the United States in efforts from the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty, where Australia played an extraordinary leadership role; Chemical Weapons Convention, North Korea, issues of the environment, a range of issues where we work very closely together.
The new government of Prime Minister Howard has been eager for the President to visit. The President will address a joint session of Parliament in Canberra, only the second President to be so honored. President Bush was the first. He will use the opportunity to take stock of the progress we've made toward building this Asian Pacific community and his vision of what lies ahead. He will visit Sydney and the Great Barrier Reef, which I particularly look forward to, to highlight our cooperation on the environment. (Laughter.)
Finally, in Thailand the President will travel at the invitation of a King who is celebrating the 50th anniversary of his accession to the throne. The President will be the first American President to visit Thailand since President Nixon visited there. He will have an audience with the King and Queen and meet with the Prime Minister and witness signature of an important bilateral tax treaty and speak to the people of Thailand at Bangkok at a university there.
Thailand has emerged as a key strategic ally for the United States, facilitating U.S. aircraft and ship visits, and a major magnet for U.S. trade and investment. We now have an $18-billion two-way trade flow with Thailand. What's more, Thailand has just completed -- will just have completed elections for its second successive democratic transition of power -- further proof, as in the Philippines and elsewhere in Asia, that democracy is expanding in Asia just as it is elsewhere around the world.
The U.S. and Thailand are working on a close range of issues from the environment to drug trafficking, and those issues will be discussed by the President and the Prime Minister.
We shall return home, God willing, on Wednesday morning November 27th, the day before Thanksgiving, so that we can all be with our families for that day.
Let me ask Dan to talk a bit more about the specific agenda for APEC and then take your questions.
MR. TARULLO: Thanks, Sandy.
My guess is that there is a fair variation in knowledge of the background and activities of APEC. So let me spend just a couple of minutes on what APEC is and where we are with it, and then a couple of minutes on what we hope to do in this APEC meeting to advance our interests in Asia.
APEC, the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation is an organization of 18 countries in the Asia Pacific region including several from this side of the Pacific. In 1993, President Clinton invited to Blake Island and Washington State the leaders of the APEC countries. To that point, APEC had been a ministerial level operation, not a leaders operation. And in that step, what the President essentially did both was to raise the profile of the organization internationally and to indicate his own and the U.S. interests in Asia and the Asia Pacific region. The emphasis, of course, is economic, although, as in all leaders meetings, there can and are discussions of a number of things that are not, strictly speaking, economic.
In the following year, 1994, in Bogor, the leaders of the APEC countries laid out a vision for achieving free trade in the Asia Pacific region by the second decade of the 21st century. Last year in Osaka, they ratified an approach to getting to those goals of free trade in the region. This year, in Manila, in Subic, are the first efforts to actually begin realizing that plan, the first set of concrete steps to begin implementing it.
The importance of Asia as an economic matter for the United States is difficult to overstate. Already, two-thirds of our trade is with Asia Pacific members, about half with countries in the Asia Pacific itself -- that is excluding Canada and Mexico. It is, as you all know, the fastest growing area of the world -- double-digit growth rates year after year are not unusual. And obviously, there's a tremendous opportunity in Asia for the United States to export more, to continue to support U.S. business and workers in their efforts to export, creating good jobs and solid financial positions for U.S. companies.
This year we moved the whole agenda forward in a way that is part and parcel of the President's economic policy, an important element of which, as you all know, is increasing exports. At APEC this year, we hope to both use these regional discussions to push forward a multilateral trade-liberalizing agenda, and to use the forum itself to harvest some of these first efforts at trade liberalization within the region.
A third outcome that we hope to achieve is to get the leaders to instruct their environment ministers to begin work in a couple of important environmental areas for the Asia Pacific region as a whole.
Let me say a few more things about each of those three aims -- the multilateral liberalization, the regional liberalization and the environmental discussions.
In Blake Island in 1993, the President urged the leaders to talk as a group, as APEC, about the importance of finishing the Uruguay Round of multilateral trade negotiations, something which was, as you know, completed the next year. This year, he hopes to use the APEC process to give a boost to U.S. efforts to achieve an international technology agreement within the world trade organization. This agreement would eliminate all import duties and a broad range of items in the information technology area, a $1.8 trillion set of industries. Obviously of substantial importance to U.S. interests, it is a growth area for us domestically, it creates good jobs for U.S. citizens. It would be a terrific accomplishment for U.S. economic interests. Thus, our hope is that the leaders as a whole will give the same kind of impetus toward moving ahead on an ITA this year as they did to completing the Uruguay Round in 1993.
Second, as I said, there will be some first steps towards the concrete activities of liberalizing trade in the region. The final offer lists are not in yet, there are still 10 days or so to go, but we've already seen that there will be some tariff reductions, there will be some harmonization of non-tariff barriers, which, heretofore, have created problems for U.S. and other businesses. And so we are hopeful that we will indeed have a good concrete start on what is going to be an extended period of step-by-step liberalization.
Finally, last year the Vice President and the President -- this year in a letter to all of the APEC leaders, proposed a work program in the area of sustainable development and the Asia Pacific environment. And what we anticipate is that this year the APEC leaders will launch a work program to develop and implement clean production technologies in the Asia Pacific region and another to try to improve the quality of the shared Pacific marine environment, to wit, the Pacific Ocean.
A final note on the meetings themselves, the G-7, which has been going on for about 20 years, provides an opportunity once a year for the leaders of those countries to discuss whatever basically is on their mind and whatever they think is important to their countries.
The APEC forum is beginning to have some of those same attributes. It provides an opportunity from our perspective for the President to be able to see his colleagues from the Asia Pacific region in a group to supplement the kind of bilateral meetings he has with them and to hear the way in which they are thinking about a variety of issues, to establish closer personal relationships with them, and thereby to strengthen his own and our own capacity to pursue our interests in the region.
I've seen it quite graphically in the G-7 context how much difference it makes to be able to deal with your peers as a leader, and I think that same kind of dynamic is beginning to develop in APEC, although, obviously, it doesn't have quite the history and it's a somewhat larger group.
I think -- let me stop there. Rather than address any of the bilateral economic issues, let me stop there and let us take questions.
Q There's been quite a bit of dissatisfaction expressed by governments in the region about the regional American individual action plan. Has that changed or is it likely to change before the leaders get together?
MR. TARULLO: Well, the individual action plans produced by all the countries obviously have as their starting point where their country's trade policies are today, and ours are obviously among the most open in the world and the region. What we have done in our individual action plan is to affirm those policies and to indicate those areas in which we would like to push further.
We have made proposals in a variety of areas and indicated a willingness to negotiate away tariffs in a variety of areas as well. So I think that our individual action plan is a good start for us, just as we hope that the IAPs from the other countries will be good starts for them.
Q So it hasn't changed and it's not going to change?
MR. TARULLO: Well, I don't -- by change, changed since when?
Q Well, as of the last two months, say.
MR. TARULLO: Well, it may have been modified in the last two months. I don't anticipate any significant changes between now and Manila.
Q Can you talk about the impact of the information technology agreement on the economy in the United States?
MR. TARULLO: Yes. The core of it is the following: Our information technology industries are high-growth industries, obviously. They are interested in exporting to the rest of the world; and from our vantage point, the more trade barriers come down in those industries, the better it is for our businesses, precisely because we have a comparative advantage. So, for example, with respect to computer systems or telecommunications equipment, it is very important that we be able to gain access to other markets because what that does is to allow our companies to produce more and, thus, to export more.
I would hesitate to quantify the benefits from this. I mean, it's always a bit of guesswork. But let me give you an order of magnitude. We're already supporting a couple of hundred-thousand jobs through exports. We're talking about areas of the world that are very high growth and that have a very high incipient demand for high-tech items. And, thus, the growth possibilities for the whole -- basically, if you take the coast of the United States from the Silicon Valley through Austin, around through Research Triangle in North Carolina and right up to Route 128 in Boston, are enormous. And then, in between you've got a lot of our big capital equipment manufacturers.
MR. BERGER: A trillion dollar sector --
MR. TARULLO: -- $1.8 trillion, that's right. It's a huge, huge sector.
MR. BERGER: A $1.8 trillion sector. It's a huge part of --
MR. TARULLO: So what we are basically doing is talking about, in specific terms, what the President has talked about in general terms -- the need to open markets for U.S. exports, and the realization that those exports support jobs that pay better than the average wage in the United States.
Q Are there countries other than Japan that have high tariff and other barriers to our information technology?
MR. TARULLO: Yes, the tariffs vary from country to country, but even five to seven to 10 percent tariffs can be significant. And if you're talking about countries whose exchange rates are -- whose currency is tied to the dollar, then, obviously, the elimination of even seven to 10 percent tariffs gives you an advantage in that market.
Q What countries are they?
MR. TARULLO: What countries are they? What are some of the --
MS. BRAINARD: Well, just to give you an example, some of --
MR. TARULLO: This is Lael Brainard, on the NEC-NSC staff.
MS. BRAINARD: Just to give you an example, computer tariffs in countries like the Philippines, Indonesia in particular, China are something like 20 times higher than our computer tariffs. So we stand to gain enormously from the reduction of those tariffs to zero if we manage to accomplish that through the information technology agreement.
Also, let me just clarify, there are 1.8 million jobs in the U.S. economy currently that are associated with producing these goods. We are producing something like $100 billion worth of exports already and the growth in this sector is just tremendous. It's $1-trillion sector worldwide in terms of production. So this is a large sector and it's growing very fast. Our exports in this sector are larger than in some of the other major export sectors that you would think of, such as aircraft and automobiles.
Q I'm sorry, what is the couple hundred thousand number you mentioned?
MR. TARULLO: If you sort of derive from that how many jobs are associated with exports -- a bit, again, imprecise, but if you look at gross production and then look at the amount that's being exported, you have some sense.
Let me just clarify one other thing, remember the effort on the ITA is an effort to get a global agreement. So the reduction in barriers would also be in Europe and in other parts of the world as well.
MR. BERGER: Can I just add one other clarifying element here? The sequence is the following. We have an APEC meeting in November. Our objective is the get a strong endorsement from APEC directed towards the WTO ministerial meeting which will be held in December where a global agreement could be achieved. So just as Dan said, in '93, we leveraged the APEC into the Uruguay Round, this is the same effort, and we think that if there is a strong endorsement, a strong impetus by APEC going into that meeting, it will have a substantial impact.
Q Let me just make sure I understand on ITA. Then the individual parliaments or congresses will have to ratify --
MR. TARULLO: It depends. We in the United States, the executive in the U.S. already have the authority to reduce tariffs in these sectors. It's residual authority from that which was granted prior to the Uruguay Round. This differs country by country. In some countries, the executive -- the governing group would have the power unilaterally to reduce. There may be parliamentary actions required in some other countries.
Q Following on that, do you expect that President Clinton will talk about fast-track authority again while he --
MR. TARULLO: I don't expect conversations about fast track. I mean, the fast track is a matter for the executive and the Congress to discuss, and while we anticipate those kinds of consultations, I don't think it's really an international subject of discussion.
Q How would you quantify or measure the sense of enthusiasm from the meeting for this? What's your goal -- to get 60 percent endorsement, 85 percent endorsement?
MR. TARULLO: No, no. What we want -- we want a statement by the leaders as a whole -- saying let's push this thing forward.
Q But the stronger the language you can get to be there, the better?
MR. TARULLO: Correct. Absolutely.
Q -- these communiques in advance, since you already know what they're going to --
MR. TARULLO: They always get drafted in advance, and there are, in my experience at least, changes, emendations right up until the day or two before. That's certainly always the case in the G-7, and I think it's been the case in APEC as well.
Q Frequently, you hear American executives in the electronics area say that their biggest problems in Asia have nothing to do with tariffs because in a lot of countries, the tariff level is physically not that high. The big problem are the non-tariff barriers, barriers against investment in electronics industries in these countries, preferences for home producers. Is there anything in this agreement that will get around those larger issues?
MR. TARULLO: This agreement is a tariff-based agreement. However, through the pursuit of the basic telecommunications service negotiations, which, if they liberalize telecom services 10-day de facto to liberalize procurement of telecoms and other high-tech equipment, and through the continuing efforts in the WTO on government procurement to deal with the kinds of non-tariff barriers you referred to, it's sort of a multi-pronged agenda. What we're trying to do is to get some impetus for the ITA, and to be able to take some of that impetus to Singapore so that there, we can try to get everybody on board to push the thing along. But you're quite right; there are other elements that are non-tariff elements that need to be pursued independently as well. What I think we don't --
Q Would you characterize this as then solving the easiest of these problems first?
MR. TARULLO: No. I would say it would deal with one significant set of barriers, and then there are others to be dealt with. I think what you wouldn't want to do is say we're not going to do anything until we can do everything.
Q How good is the chance that you won't get the strongest possible impetus that you need going into the ITA and the whole thing basically falling apart?
MR. TARULLO: Well, I don't know that -- it's not looking for something to either color less or not color less. What I think we're looking to do is t get a statement from the leaders which basically says, here is a goal worth aiming towards, and for us in the United States, and for us -- for Ambassador Barshefsky to be able to take that statement to Singapore in early December and, in effect, have the consensus of this hugely important part of the world for moving that agenda forward -- that's really what we're looking for.
Q Are you getting enthusiastic support from countries, like the Philippines?
Q Let me ask the question a different way. Who are the holdouts?
MR. TARULLO: Why don't we go in front first.
Q Let me just ask that same question for a moment. Who is holding out against the language that we would like to see coming out of the meeting?
MR. TARULLO: Well, I'm not sure that there are any individual holdouts as such. I think that there are probably questions -- there are going to be questions on the coverage of this. It's going to be broad in any case, but there are going to be negotiating issues about whether one product category is included or another product category isn't. Indeed, I think some of our European trading partners have such questions.
So I don't -- what I don't anticipate is a kind of holdout, but I also don't think you want to get in mind that there is some clearly defined agreement that you either get in APEC or you don't get. What you're really looking for is the leverage to move the process forward, just as we used it in '93 to move the process forward as well.
I'm sorry, someone was asking a question over here.
Q Are you getting support from the countries with the higher tariffs that you're getting from others, like the Philippines, Indonesia, countries with the highest tariffs -- are they giving you the support for this agreement that you need?
MR. TARULLO: We are definitely getting a sense of a willingness to move the thing forward, and, of course, there are going to be negotiations. I mean, let me be clear about that. As you know, trade negotiations involve lots of details about what's in, what's out. But what I think we should be able to achieve by the time of APEC is a statement by the leaders as a whole that this is an important goal and that we ought to push it forward.
Q Dan, in mid-1985 there was a major crisis in the Japanese financial system which it was feared that it would have systemic risk in the United States and other -- mobilize to try to stave that off. Now there have been coming statements from people like Kenneth Courtis from Deutschbank in Asia and others warning that a similar situation is developing. Will this be a subject of discussion at the APEC meeting?
MR. TARULLO: A similar situation in Japan?
Q In Japan or in the Asian markets.
MR. TARULLO: I'm not aware -- I don't think that topic is on the agenda. The APEC finance ministers do meet as a group, number one. Number two, with respect to Japan, Secretary Rubin and Deputy Secretary Summers have ongoing relationships bilaterally and through the G-7, but I don't know of anything special planned on the financial system of any country.
Q On the bilateral with the Japanese, the last one that President Clinton had at the G-7 had insurance talks high on the agenda and they set a deadline for reaching agreement on that. That passed July 31st. We have a new deadline, December 15th, coming up and talks starting, indeed, tomorrow in San Francisco. How high on the President's agenda will that be with Mr. Hashimoto to resolve these insurance disputes once and for all?
MR. TARULLO: Well, I would expect that that will be a topic of conversation. As you correctly point out, the two leaders discussed the matter in Lyon and although a final agreement was not reached by the deadline that they set, as you recall, Ambassador Barshefsky was able to negotiate an interim agreement which kept basically the situation in its status quo stage. And now, I think that the President and Ambassador Barshefsky believe that we should be ready to move to a final conclusion.
I might add that the announcement of financial sector liberalization in Japan, which is still not fully developed at least as far as I know, may provide some opportunities since liberalization generally would presumably entail such possibilities.
MR. BERGER: Let me just add one point. I don't anticipate the session between the President and the Prime Minister to be a negotiating session. And I am sure the President will express his serious interest in that and some other trade issues that are outstanding. But the purpose of this meeting is not to negotiate sectoral issues. That's, obviously, for our trade negotiators.
Q Sandy, can I ask you about Clinton's meeting with Jiang?
MR. BERGER: Yes.
Q How would you characterize the personal relationship now between these two leaders, and how soon would you foresee them meeting beyond these marginal meetings during summits at the U.N. and at APEC and moving to direct visits by each leader to each country?
MR. BERGER: Well, I think the personal relationship between President Clinton and President Jiang has always been good. Their meetings -- and I think I've participated in them -- or not participated, I've observed most of them -- have been forthright, open, friendly, constructive meetings. I think we've come through a difficult period in the relationship. I think we have put the relationship on a more stable footing.
Secretary Christopher announced some time ago he felt, at the ministerial level, we needed to proceed to regular meetings between our Secretary of State and their Foreign Minister. And the first one of those will be held. In general, we believe high-level meetings are useful. But precisely what form that would take or how that will evolve remains to be seen.
Q Are you at a point now where you see this thing evolving where you'll exchange visits during the second term?
MR. BERGER: Well, I don't want to rule anything out or anything in. It's not a decision that has been made. I expect that the two Presidents will talk about this relationship can evolve in a positive direction.
Q Do you expect the Vice President to go to China anytime soon?
MR. BERGER: Again, no decision have been with respect to that. I think the general question of how we continue to build an upward momentum in the relationship through exchanges at all levels I think is something that we will continue to discuss. But I think --no, as I say, no decisions have been made.
Q Would you be surprised, Sandy, at an announcement of a visit at the vice presidential or even presidential level?
MR. BERGER: I don't want to predict one way or the other. I don't think that we're at that point.
Q Can you go into a little more detail on the status of the four-way talks?
MR. BERGER: Well, the four-way talks that were launched, as you recall, by the two Presidents -- President Kim and President Clinton in Cheju at their meeting -- there has been, at various times, some expressions from the North of some interest in pursuing this in some form. But, I think, in recent weeks the fallout from the submarine incident has soured an already pretty sour relationship between North and South, and at this point I think the four-party talks are not progressing. And I think one of the things that President Kim and President Clinton will talk about is how do we now move forward in trying to promote that initiative, as well as to continue to maintain momentum on, for example, the agreed framework, the nuclear agreement.
Q Mr. Berger, some people might look at this trip and wonder why the President is leaving the country for such a long period of time at this transition period. What would you say to that, and how much time do you think he's going to have to devote to transition issues while he's on this trip?
MR. BERGER: Well, I think for the President, APEC and developing our relationship with the Asian Pacific community has been a vision of his from the very beginning. It was one of his first major foreign policy initiatives -- that is, convening the leaders of the Asia Pacific region for the first time in history. And that has built -- that has been built upon now to a goal of free trade and is beginning now to be cultivated, hopefully, in some concrete agreements. So he feels very strongly about the need to continue to maintain the momentum at APEC.
As you recall, he was unable to go last year to Osaka because of the close -- shutdown of the government, and it came right at the time of the intense negotiations. I think he's deeply committed to the vision of an Asian Pacific community. I think he believes in his second term that developing our relationships with Asia are extraordinarily important, building on the foundation of the first term, and I think he thinks, therefore, this trip is extremely important. He'll have a little bit of vacation time on the front end which I think he richly deserves after the grueling campaign that you all endured, most of you endured.
So I think this is about the actual trip, exclusive of a few days off, is a little more than a week, and I think he felt as long as he was going to Manila, that it was important, he wanted -- has wanted to visit Australia, to solidify that relationship. Australia is with us day-in, day-out. The most recent example is the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty, which would not have happened without our working with Australia, and we just can't take for granted our best friends.
And Thailand I think is important because it is, I think, representative of the new ASEAN countries that are making this transition to democracy and I think he felt it was important, substantively and symbolically, while he was there, to stop in one of those countries.
Q And the second part of the question, how much time is he going to have to spend juggling transition decisions while he's out of the country?
MR. BERGER: Well, it's a pretty busy schedule, but the President is never out of communication with his folks back home. There's lots of long flights and there are lots telephones.
Q How about launching the mission to Zaire, which presumably will start while the President's on the road? Are you traveling with him?
MR. BERGER: Yes.
Q Who is going to keep him up on that, and how much time will he have to devote to that?
MR. BERGER: Well, a, the answer is, yes I will be traveling with him and, b, you know, this is a President who has been for his entire first term a President that's traveled extensively around the country. And we, in this age of instant communications, can talk with the President when he's traveling, just as we can talk to the President when he's here. It hasn't inhibited the conduct of American foreign policy if he's in California or if he's in Michigan, and the fact that he'll be traveling abroad will not stop decisions going forward. And I assume that we'll be in touch every day. National Security Adviser Lake is staying here; he'll be working on Zaire and other matters, and will be in constant communication.
Q I'm trying to get an idea -- there are several apparently significant questions still to be answered involving the Zaire mission. I'm trying to get some understanding of how much time you'll have to spend focusing on that.
MR. BERGER: It will take as much time as he needs. There are some very long plane flights. As you look at the map, and you all have traveled in this region, there will be as much time made on the schedule as is necessary. First things first.
Q If the President has not named his second-term national security team -- Secretary of State and Defense and so forth -- before he leaves, is that at all a complicating factor when he meets with foreign leaders?
MR. BERGER: No, I don't believe so. The American people have named the next President, and so there is -- in our form of government, he is the Commander-in-Chief, he is the principal architect of foreign policy. So the captain of the ship will be meeting with these people. And I think it's only natural, during a transition, that there is some turnover and some change in the team, but I don't see it being at all a problem in terms of his ability to function effectively.
Q -- do it by day's end?
MR. BERGER: No reason to believe so, but --
Q Could I just ask you a detail question, just quickly, about the APEC action plan? The U.S. action plan, does that go all the way to 2010, or is that just sort of a couple of years?
MR. TARULLO: No, the whole -- that is what is being done now or proposed to be done soon. The way that APEC will operate is unlike other trade negotiating fora, where there is a long set of negotiations usually taking place over a number of years, at the end of which there is one package of things, and you have to wait for the end to get any concrete steps taken. In APEC there will be year-by-year accretion of liberalizing measures. So this year what you're getting is the first set of such measures, which either have been taken or will be taken or are proposed to be taken soon. And then next year you'll have another set, and so on, as you approach the second decade of the 21st century.
Q Can you raise the window at any specific measure that you could talk about now that has been agreed and will be coming out of that?
MR. TARULLO: Well, as I say, the action plans, in some instances, are still being revised or amended. We already know, for example, that Indonesia will be reducing it's MFN tariffs significantly, and that, obviously, has import for us. Other countries will be taking similar steps. I believe that there is an agreement among all -- there is a consensus among all the APEC member on a mutual recognition agreement process for food, safety and health standards. And that, obviously, helps facilitate imports as well.
THE PRESS: Thank you.
END 1:05 P.M. EST