THE WHITE HOUSE
Office of the Press Secretary (Manila, The Philippines) ________________________________________________________________________ For Immediate Release November 24, 1996
PRESS BRIEFING BY AMBASSADOR TO THE PHILIPPINES TOM HUBBARD
Luzon Ballroom The Westin Philippine Plaza Hotel Manila, The Philippines
10:50 A.M. (L)
MR. JOHNSON: Good morning, ladies and gentlemen. The first of our briefings today is going to be on the President's bilateral meeting with President Ramos of the Philippines. The briefing is on the record and your briefer is our Ambassador to the Philippines, Tom Hubbard.
AMBASSADOR HUBBARD: Thank you. We've just come from a 20-minute meeting between President Clinton and President Ramos at the Coconut Palace. It was a good meeting. The two of them have met twice here in Manila. They, of course, met in the states at the time of the Seattle APEC meeting, and they've met at successive meetings. So these are two leaders who know each other well and obviously respect each other.
President Clinton began the meeting by congratulating President Ramos on his leadership of the APEC meeting this year, his leadership in turning some of the goals and objectives that have been set at previous APEC meetings into concrete steps. The President also congratulate President Ramos on his leadership of the Philippines. The Philippines is very much back in business under his leadership. They registered seven percent growth in real terms in the first half of this year and are expected to continue that for the rest of the year.
On APEC, they discussed the information technology agreement a bit and both leaders voiced satisfaction that this APEC meeting has come down very strongly in favor of concluding the information technology agreement at the Singapore WTO meeting. And that, as you know, was our principal objective here.
They talked a bit about bilateral relations, particularly sharing their satisfaction that we have built a new partnership with the Philippines, one that's built on mutually beneficial economic ties, not just aid. They talked about the very large scale U.S. investment in the Philippines. We're the largest investor that's still growing -- a lot of U.S. investment in Subic, which, of course, is a special place for us because it's a side of our former naval base.
That was about the gist of this meeting. They, you know, agreed that as they were going along that they'd obviously have a chance to chat at the remainder of the events here at APEC.
Q How serious is -- this is unrelated to this --is the threat from North Korea to walk away from its commitments on giving up the nuclear weaponry?
AMBASSADOR HUBBARD: I'm afraid I'm no longer qualified to speak on that subject.
Q You must be following that issue.
AMBASSADOR HUBBARD: Of course, as one who was very much involved, I am following it from a distance, but only from a distance. I wasn't in the bilateral meetings yesterday or today. And I don't think I ought to speak on that. This is a subject that's obviously of concern to us and of concern to the Philippines. We talk a lot about it. It was not discussed in today's meeting simply due to lack of time.
Q Tell me how you can say that the two leaders are satisfied that the APEC members agree to come down very strongly in favor of including the ITA agreement in Singapore when apparently several of the states don't want anything like deadlines for eliminating tariffs for technology.
AMBASSADOR HUBBARD: Well, I think this negotiation on an ITA is one that is taking place principally in Geneva as negotiators there prepare for the upcoming meeting in Singapore. What we wanted to come out of this meeting is what we're getting. That is a strong call for concluding the agreement in Singapore.
Q Mr. Ambassador, Vice President Estrada of the Philippines seemed quite concerned that American security was so tight they stopped him from approaching the President last night at the airport. Is that something that's come to your attention? Have you had to apologize or anything like that?
AMBASSADOR HUBBARD: No, they didn't stop him. I was at the airport last night and the first person the President greeted as he got off the plane was Vice President Estrada. So I don't think there's any problem in that respect.
Q How serious is the security concern here right now?
AMBASSADOR HUBBARD: Well, we always have security concerns when the President travels or when the President is at home. The Philippines is a place where there have been security problems in the past, and for that reason, we've been cooperating very closely with them in ensuring that nothing untoward happens here. And this cooperation's been very good.
Q Does the warning issued a couple of days ago about attacks on Americans and American officials here still stand today?
AMBASSADOR HUBBARD: Well, we received a report about the possibility of such an attack. Our policy is always to disseminate that kind of information. As I say, we've been cooperating very closely with the Filipinos on security.
Q Then it still stands then?
AMBASSADOR HUBBARD: That still stands, yes.
Q Were there bombs out there, live bombs, or was it just a training exercise, or can you clear that up?
AMBASSADOR HUBBARD: Yes, I'll have to refer you to the Philippines government on that. There have been lots of different reports, different Filipino spokesmen saying various things. All I can say is we've been cooperating very well with the Filipinos.
Q Personally, you know the answer to the question and you just can't answer it?
AMBASSADOR HUBBARD: I don't personally know the answer.
Q Was it true that the President's motorcade had to be diverted from its original route because of a security concern last night?
AMBASSADOR HUBBARD: I'm not aware of that if that's the case.
Q Go back to the ITA. Certainly you would agree that the United States and some Asians countries have different views about how fast tariffs and so forth should be eliminated. Many of these smaller countries are concerned that their fledgling computer industries will be overwhelmed by competition. Isn't there a difference there?
AMBASSADOR HUBBARD: Well, I think our basic analysis is that the Asian countries, including the smaller Asian countries, can only benefit from removing tariffs from information technology products. The fact is the highest tariffs and many of the high tariffs are in Europe and many of the producers of information technology products are out here in the Asia Pacific region. So we think these countries only stand to gain. Now, various calculations obviously go into that, but our argument is that it's good for these countries and they seem to agree with that by endorsing conclusion at Singapore.
Q The question is have you convinced them to go along with your timetable, your idea of timetables?
AMBASSADOR HUBBARD: As I say, that's not an issue here at the APEC meeting as far as I'm concerned. I'll leave the detailed answers to this to the people from USTR actually conducting the negotiation. Negotiation is happening in Geneva, building up to the Singapore meeting. What we wanted here was a boost and we got it.
Q A unanimous boost?
AMBASSADOR HUBBARD: Yes, yes, a unanimous boost for conclusion in Singapore.
Q But you didn't get anything on the timetable, did you, the year 2000?
AMBASSADOR HUBBARD: As I say, our principal objective was, as far as timing was concerned, was to get everybody's agreement that it should be concluded in Singapore, and we got that.
Q But that's not what President Clinton said in Australia in his address to the Parliament. He said he wanted something by the year 2000. You're backing away from that?
AMBASSADOR HUBBARD: The concept has always been the negotiations in Geneva are taking place on the basis of concluding such an agreement by the year 2000. All the details are not yet worked out.
Q Which countries oppose including this specific timetable in the statement here?
AMBASSADOR HUBBARD: I'm afraid I've been too busy running around with Secretaries of State and Commerce and Agriculture, not to mention the President, I really have not been in the center of those negotiations.
Q Should the leaders here ignore those protest groups, including the ones that were trying to go to Subic Bay today and who say that the APEC -- the whole international formula does not help those below a standard economic scale?
AMBASSADOR HUBBARD: No, they shouldn't ignore them. I think many of these groups are raising genuine issues that should be, and in fact, are being addressed in the APEC context. I refer you here to President Ramos's speech in opening the APEC. I've heard various of our spokesmen agree that in addition to opening markets, creating a framework for open trade and investment, APEC, in fact, needs to worry about how best to ensure that this economic activity, this business activity, benefits all elements of society and wins the support of all elements. We happen to think free and open trade is good for everyone. It creates growth.
The Philippines is a wonderful example. They began very seriously deregulating their economy, eliminating barriers, opening up about three years ago, and the result has been three years of growth. For the first time in a very long time in the Philippines, they have a chance to go off in the future with sustainable growth. But you have to deal with these concerns and grievances.
Q Dave, can you answer the question about the President's motorcade -- was there a diversion?
MR. JOHNSON: I'll see if I can find out about that. I can't answer it now, but I'll see if I can find out.
THE PRESS: Thank you.
END 11:29 A.M. (L)