THE WHITE HOUSE
Office of the Press Secretary (Manila, Philippines) ______________________________________________________________ For Immediate Release November 25, 1996
PRESS BRIEFING BY AMBASSADOR JOHN WOLF, ASSISTANT TRADE REPRESENTATIVE BOB CASSIDY, AND AMBASSADOR WINSTON LORD
The Filing Center Westin Hotel Manila, Philippines
4:00 P.M. (L)
MR. MCCURRY: Good afternoon, ladies and gentlemen. You've just heard the reading of the APEC leaders declaration. Now to tell you more about it, to trumpet substantial achievements the United States will be braying about today -- I'd actually like to call on first, Ambassador John Wolf, who is the coordinator for APEC within the United States government, and within APEC parlances, the person we refer to as senior official, which is the way they frequently refer to the Sherpa-like role of those who do the large part of the work in preparing for the APEC Summit.
Ambassador Wolf is here; also Robert Cassidy, the Assistant Trade Representative for Asia Pacific and APEC matters from USTR; and then Ambassador Winston Lord, who will have a thing or two to say about this. You might, for those of you who want to ask about Thailand, he can give you a little preview of Thailand as well.
I'll turn it over to Ambassador Wolf, and you gentlemen hold forth. Thank you.
AMBASSADOR WOLF: Thank you very much, and delighted to be with you. Thank you for joining us. We are absolutely delighted with the outcome of this, the 1996 APEC economic leaders meeting. It achieves a number of things on which we have been working very hard for the year. We should start I think by giving very great praise and appreciation to the government of the Philippines for the hard work they have done all year long. It is a tremendous challenge and they have met it in every possible way.
What I thought I would do would be go through the declaration or at least just flag in the declaration some key points that are of importance to us. And then Bob Cassidy will talk a little bit in greater detail about the information technology paragraph, which a number of you I believe would be interested in.
In the declaration, it starts with a strong push for continued liberalization as we move toward our Bogor goal of free and open trade and comprehensive free and open trade and investment in the region by 2010 for developed countries, and 2020 for developing countries. It's important in the declaration that there is a stress on comparability and comprehensiveness, the work that we all have to do next year.
The individual actions plans which the 18 economies submitted this year are good, but they all need to be better next year. And we will work during the year that Canada is the chair to begin a process which goes on for 14 years for developed countries and 24 for developing countries. This is the first step; the next one has to go beyond.
There's also reference to the collective actions, and I think it's important to remember that this is a place where APEC really can make a difference. As the declaration points out, it increases competitiveness and it reduces transaction costs. Has to do with things like putting all APEC tariffs in a database on the Internet. It has to do with paying much greater attention to intellectual property protection rights and harmonization of customs valuations. These are the things that time after time business tells us this is where you can really make your mark because you reduce our transaction costs, you reduce our cycle times, you increase business efficiency.
The next area that is important to note is that APEC acts as a catalyst to the global trade liberalization. It played that role in 1993 when leaders at Blake Island called for a conclusion of the Uruguay Round negotiations in 1993, and that was completed in December of 1993. And most people would say that the APEC call gave that boost.
Well, this year again -- this year, again, APEC is putting the challenge out for the global community. The language on the Information Technology Agreement is very important. We want to be a catalyst, we want to move forward to reach completion by the time of the Singapore ministerial.
I think that it's important to pay attention to the role that President Clinton personally has paid to this. In all of his meetings -- in most of his meetings yesterday he raised the importance of the issue, talked to President Ramos, to President Kim, Prime Minister Hashimoto who already supported the idea, about the importance of this. It reflects what the administration has been doing for the first four years -- that is, working to break down barriers, and it reflects the obvious personal relationships which the President has been able to build up in the region through things like APEC in order to make this happen.
Information technology is the big growth sector in the United States and in APEC as a whole. So we expect that this trillion-dollar sector will continue to grow at double-digit rates, and that means new opportunities worldwide and new high-tech jobs at home.
And we were just delighted with the help that President Ramos was able to give to this because it gives real meaning to the slogan that he had for APEC for 1996, which is that APEC means business.
A few other things that are important to flag -- the sections on economic cooperation. There there's been a discussion that has gone on within APEC and the declaration makes clear that economic and technical cooperation is a complement to trade and investment liberalization. They aren't two separate things, they work together. Economic cooperation is what APEC is about.
Part of it deals with trade and investment liberalization and facilitation. That's the way in which we break down market barriers and allow the market to grow. But we also have to be able to do things that deal with structural impediments, and the declaration addresses a number of those. For instance, things like safe and efficient capital markets, better attention to the policy environment that is necessary for infrastructure, attention to human resource development and attention to sustainable development.
In that respect, it's also important to note that the declaration gives expression to two initiatives which President Clinton wrote to his counterparts about earlier this year in sustainable development; those are the initiatives on clean production and clean oceans. This is important because this kind of work, the attention to health in the work place, attention to the oceans, is the kind of thing that demonstrates that APEC is doing things that affect everyone. It's not just a business organization. It's something that affects the quality of life and the ability to grow in a sustainable way. APEC is about how do we continue to put in place all of the elements of growth -- by breaking down barriers, removing impediments.
So we are delighted with the outcome. Again, APEC works by consensus. Sometimes the consensus takes a little while to fashion. But I think when you look at the declaration you will see that the expectations we had were fully met. And, once again, we're delighted to have been here. We thank the Philippines for their hostship, and now it's on to Vancouver in 1997.
MR. CASSIDY: Thank you. I see that you have information sheets on the Information Technology Agreement, and so I won't go into that in much detail. Let me just say first that that ministerial declaration emphasized first endorsement of an Information Technology Agreement by the Singapore ministerial and called upon other WTO members -- it was really a challenge to other WTO members to come to Singapore to conclude an agreement.
What the leaders have done is identified what is necessary to do for an agreement is to substantially eliminate tariffs on information technology products by the year 2000. And that is the difference between the two declarations. This means the countries in the WTO will be held to that standard of reducing tariffs on substantially all of the information technology products by the year 2000.
Now, admittedly, flexibility will be required in this. Flexibility is an element of every negotiation. It was true in the Uruguay Round, in the zero-for-zero proposals and, in fact, the Information Technology Agreement owes its origins to the Uruguay Round proposal of zero-for-zero in a whole range of products.
If you recall, in Seattle, that was the time when the ministers and the leaders met in Seattle, that the ministers endorsed zero-for-zero proposals for the Uruguay Round. That was the catalyst for concluding the Uruguay Round. Again, just before the Singapore ministerial, what we see here is the ministers endorsing an end date for those negotiations, calling on other WTO participants to conclude an agreement at that time and by the leaders setting what the parameters would be of eliminating tariffs on substantially all the products that are covered by the year 2000.
I think that sort of gives you an idea. You have all the information there so I don't think I need to go through much of the details. It's a billion-dollar industry; $500 million in trade is conducted by the APEC countries. And, in fact, most of the trade is -- the products are produced in the APEC region and traded by APEC countries.
The key and the advantage for the APEC nations is the European Union. That market is a market that has been closed to exports because of the high tariff -- not closed, I wouldn't say, but substantially reduced. And by the lowering of tariffs to zero we should see from some regions of APEC, particularly ASEAN, perhaps a doubling of exports; and, certainly, we expect for the United States a significant and substantial increase in exports of IT products.
Q Can I ask you a question on this factsheet, just a quick question on the factsheet that you put out? It says that APEC leaders today endorsed the Information and Technology Agreement to be negotiated by the Singapore ministerial meeting to achieve zero tariffs on technology products by the year 2000. Zero tariffs, is that a substantial reduction in tariffs or --
MR. CASSIDY: In drafting it, what we're trying to do is to get in the various components of the negotiation. I have to get the wording correctly, substantial limiting tariffs by the year 2000.
The "substantial" deals primarily with the notion of what are the products that are being covered, what are the products that will be going to zero. And it's substantially all the products of the Information Technology Agreement. There are going to be products for nearly every country where all the products will not be covered -- the United States, the European Union, Japan, ASEAN countries, a whole range of countries have specific products, generally narrow, specific products that are difficult for them to reduce or to reduce within their time frame. So that's the concept that was trying to be incorporated there.
Q The statement says "substantial elimination of tariffs," it doesn't say anything about zero tariffs.
MR. CASSIDY: Oh, I'm sorry. The intention was -- eliminating tariffs is the --
AMBASSADOR LORD: Doesn't it say "eliminate"?
Q No, it says, achieve zero tariffs on technology products. So I take it this is incorrect?
MR. ZIEGLER: No, it is not. It's absolutely correct. My name is Jay Ziegler, I'm the Assistant U.S. Trade Representative for Public Affairs.
Q Could you say that again?
MR. ZIEGLER: Jay Ziegler.
The issue here -- substantial elimination of tariffs is exactly the language that was used in the Uruguay Round. Significance of the Uruguay Round is that it represented the record tariff reduction -- 33 percent tariff reductions in 1994 on products across the board, from agriculture to manufactured goods.
So what this language means is that nations within the WTO, the 123 member countries of the WTO will have an obligation to reduce tariffs to zero on substantially all products in the information technology landscape. That's several hundred products.
AMBASSADOR LORD: We'll come back to your questions in just a minute. But it's clear that it is going to zero. It's eliminating tariffs. It just may be a few --
Q Why is the word "substantial" necessary?
AMBASSADOR LORD: Why don't we come back to that before going to further questions, and we will get to the questions. Do you want to just follow up on this right now, or not? Do you want to make any further comments? Yes, go right ahead.
MR. ZIEGLER: This is a term that guides the principles of negotiations. I should note that had it not been for the zero-for-zero requirements in the Uruguay Round you could have expected tariff reductions in the range of 20 percent. Instead, what was achieved were reductions in the range of 33 to 35 percent on a wide landscape of products.
Now, the Uruguay Round looked at issues from the agricultural sector to aerospace and manufactured products. But what you have in information technology is a landscape of products that includes literally hundreds of items. And what we are requiring here is for countries to come forward with offers that eliminate the tariffs by 2000 and would begin to reduce tariffs by 1987, to zero in 2000, on the widest range of products conceivable.
AMBASSADOR LORD: Any more on this particular point?
Q Yes. Jay, you're not saying that the APEC commitment to substantially eliminate tariffs is the same as the goal of the ITA to eliminate tariffs, are you?
MR. ZIEGLER: No, it is the same. It is the same. The objective -- we will seek the maximum -- the United States and the quad member countries, which are the United States, Canada, Japan and the European Union, will seek maximum product coverage in the whole information technology landscape, which includes semiconductors, software, computers and telecommunications equipment.
Q Doesn't the word "substantial" give wiggle room to --
MR. ZIEGLER: The term "substantially eliminate" is, again, a guiding principle to define the objective here for trade negotiations. And if the principle of the Uruguay Round is clear and the result is clear, which was a record reduction over the 50-year history of the GATT, then I think that what you've got here is a marker that says that we will achieve substantial product coverage across the entire range of technology products going to zero by 2000.
Q Are you saying the developing countries agreed to go to zero tariffs on most information technology -- talking about developing countries in APEC?
MR. CASSIDY: Yes. For example, if you remember Minister Rafidah said that 60 percent of her tariffs were already zero in the information technology area. So, yes, this is what developing countries are. In fact --
Q -- Malaysia?
MR. CASSIDY: That is Malaysia.
Q Well, what did they agree to?
MR. CASSIDY: They agreed to this language, to -- they have agreed to go to zero on information technology products with the provision that there has to be flexibility on the product coverage and the timing. And that's the concept that is embodied in the language.
Q What else is there besides product coverage and timing?
MR. CASSIDY: That's it.
Q But you're saying they have to have flexibility on both the things --
MR. CASSIDY: On product coverage and the timing. For some of them they may need a few more years of phase out -- 2000.
Q What you've got seems good enough in the English language that still has relevance in the world. Why hype it? I mean, why have all this flupe-de-doop here?
MR. CASSIDY: I'm sorry? (Laughter.)
Q Why this language of grandiosity toward zero when what you've got is perfectly fine? It is nothing to be ashamed of.
MR. ZIEGLER: It is perfectly good; what the leaders achieved is better. What the leaders achieved is a stronger momentum heading into Geneva, where the real work on product coverage has got to be done in the next, less than three weeks, before the WTO ministerial meeting in Singapore.
Q Could I try this another way? Would it have been the U.S. preference that no information technology products be exempted and then there would be no flexibility in the deadline?
MR. ZIEGLER: No. Actually, what you've got here is -- "substantially eliminate" is tradespeak for "zero." (Applause.)
Q Tradespeak for zero.
AMBASSADOR LORD: These are the experts. But I think, frankly, we're losing sight of the big picture here. (Laughter.)
What you've got is the fastest growing, largest area of trade in the world, the one most important for the United States, and in a matter of months you've got a commitment from 18 extremely diverse economies, some of which didn't want any mention of any year, agreeing by consensus beyond what the ministers agreed -- thanks to the intervention of the President, President Ramos and others -- to eliminate tariffs in most cases, substantial cases, by the year 2000 and cover almost the entire sector. It is a major achievement.
So I don't -- nobody knows the percentages of some degree of flexibility. This is speculation on my part, but you had the ministers with no set date -- still a good statement, but it didn't have the date, and everybody out in the media noticed that. Thanks to the President and others, we now have a firm date. I was not in on the negotiations, but one can assume, in order to get the firm date of 2000 when several countries said we're not going to have any agreement, we're certainly not going to have fixed dates or we're not going to have resounding adjectives -- in order to get this very positive outcome, you put in an adverb, meaning in a few cases that some countries will have to take a little longer on some products. That's what we're talking about.
And I think it's a major achievement. And I think to get to the year 2000, keep in the word "eliminate," which means zero, obviously, an adverb was used to get consensus so that in a few cases there could be some exceptions. Now, maybe that makes it a little bit clearer.
Okay, we'll come back. It's important.
Q In order to win the date certain agreement consensus among the 18 members, you had to insert the word "substantial"?
AMBASSADOR LORD: Well, I have to be careful here. I was not in on the negotiations -- I mean, I was in on the bilateral meetings and so on, but I was not in the discussions today in Subic or the late-night discussions last night. So I have strictly speculated, the way these things work, that that's why there is some -- in order for -- you're asking countries, after all, in a matter of months, and some leaders in a matter of hours, to commit themselves to eliminate tariffs on the fastest, most important export sector in the world. And it is no mean feat to have them say they're going to do that in three years. And look at the figures on your factsheets. And in order to do that I assume there was some give-and-take, which there should be in a consensus organization.
And it didn't say "partial," "partly," "do our best," it said "substantially." And by the English language, which were talking about here, substantially means the great bulk of this sector would be going down to zero by the year 2000 if what is recommended by the leaders of APEC is adopted by the Singapore ministerial. So that is a significant achievement, and we can fool around and laugh about semantics, but I think we ought to keep our eye on the big picture.
And just yesterday everyone was saying where's the date 2000? Well, now you've got it.
Let me step back.
Q Just very quickly, Ambassador Lord, so if we're to go to the same briefing of the Malaysians, would they tell us that "substantial" equals zero?
AMBASSADOR LORD: You'll have to ask the Malaysians.
Q I just want to make sure that when you say tradespeak you're not talking about U.S. tradespeak.
AMBASSADOR LORD: We're talking about 18 economies' tradespeak in which Malaysia, like everyone else, is committed.
Q Well, you can understand our problem if we have a U.S. trade official saying this is tradespeak.
AMBASSADOR LORD: I hope you can help with this.
MR. ZIEGLER: We're not going to get into issues of product coverage, staging and scope here. That's business really that will be determined in Geneva at the WTO in the next three weeks. What's important here is the commitment of countries to move to zero by the year 2000 on the widest range of technology products possible.
AMBASSADOR LORD: Okay, if we could step back for a minute, and then we'll come back to your questions on any of these subjects. I would like to just take a couple of minutes to put what has happened the last couple of days in the broader context of the President's policy toward this region.
APEC, as demonstrated again today, has both met long-term objectives and brought about some immediate practical benefits, whether it's the long-term Bogor commitments or the immediate practical benefits of the ITA and the business facilitation. That is also what the President has been working on in the Pacific community the last four years. He set out four years ago to elevate this region on our foreign policy agenda, and one of primary ways he did that was convening the leaders meeting in Seattle. And you've seen what's happened in APEC ever since.
As a result, we have done just that -- namely, to elevate the most dynamic region in the world on our foreign policy agenda. The President's first trip after election in 1993 was to two democratic treaty allies in North Asia -- Japan and Korea. His first trip after reelection are to our other three treaty allies who are democracies -- namely, Australia, Thailand and the Philippines.
In addition, we have maintained our force levels in this region as a symbol of our engagement and to provide security and stability, even though we've had tremendous budget pressures. We now have as many forces in this region as we have in Europe, an historic transformation.
U.S.-Japan relationship in the wake of the President's April visit is probably in the best shape it's been in in decades. The most pressing security problem when the President came into office was the Korean nuclear threat. That has been frozen. And over a period of years, if we can go forward with implementation, it will be dismantled.
U.S.-China relations have been stabilized. There's new momentum. You know of the meeting yesterday and the agreement on the exchange of state visits.
U.S. relations with Vietnam have been normalized, together with the most advancement on the key question of MIA accounting. And we have served our regional economic and security as well as our MIA objectives and begun to heal further the wounds of war in our own society.
U.S.-Australia relations, again, reaffirmed in the declaration last July and the President's just concluded trip. And in addition to these urgent matters, the regional architecture of the Pacific community has been forwarded by the President. APEC, as we discussed, and on the regional security side, a series of regional security dialogues including the ASEAN regional forum.
Finally, I think you see in this region the advancement of values that are universal -- namely, freedom. Of course, there are exceptions, some tough exceptions we have to keep working on, and other countries have to define in their own way. But whether it's Cambodia, or whether it's Taiwan, or whether it's Mongolia, just in recent months we've seen a direction generally this region is going and it's underlined by the trip here to the Philippines where economic growth goes hand in hand with democracy, despite what some other Asia leaders say. And you see that again in Thailand.
Q Could you say whether the commitment that you have received today from the APEC leaders is stronger than that which you have received from the EU, judged by the EU's offer so far made in the WTO talks?
MR. ZIEGLER: Well, I think the jury is still out with regard to the EU's offer. We need to, in a very short period of time, begin very intensive negotiations to reach closure by Singapore.
Q Could somebody give an assessment for the prospects for success at Singapore? What's the best guess about the outcome? How optimistic is the U.S. government?
MR. ZIEGLER: Well, we wouldn't be fighting for this if it wasn't worthwhile. Someone asked the question earlier about what drove consensus among the leaders. What drove consensus among the leaders is self-interest. The nations and economies represented within APEC comprise 80 percent of global trade in information technology. The leaders recognize that it is in their interest, their collective interest, to move forward on this agreement, which will dramatically accelerate global trade in information technology.
Q -- the question, if it doesn't pass at Singapore, it's not binding on the 18 APEC countries individually; only if it's agreed to by everybody, correct?
MR. ZIEGLER: That's correct.
AMBASSADOR LORD: Could I make a comment about Singapore? One of the great benefits of APEC has been its boosting of global trade liberalization. We have said from the beginning that APEC is not a regional trading bloc; it's a building block for global liberalization. You'll recall in 1993, right after coming to Seattle with a victory on a NAFTA vote in the United States Congress for freer trade in the hemisphere, the Western Hemisphere, you had the Seattle leaders meeting and the vision there.
This in turn got the Europeans attention and helped to bring to a close the Uruguay Round. In Bogor, Indonesia, the leaders of APEC set forth these 2010 and 2020 goals for true free trade and investment. Right after that, the Western Hemisphere nations set their own goals inspired by APEC and the Uruguay Round was ratified in the U.S. Congress.
So you've seen a ratcheting up in each case where APEC, the most dynamic economies in the world, get out in front of the world, give it incentive to liberalize trade on a global basis. That's what is being attempted here as we look towards Singapore in a couple of weeks.
Q A question for Ambassador Lord on another subject. There is a report that in the last few weeks, perhaps during Secretary Christopher's trip to Beijing last week, that the United States tried to get the Chinese to agree to not target each other's countries but the Chinese refused. Was the offer made and did the Chinese refuse and what reasons did they give?
AMBASSADOR LORD: Okay. We would favor a de-targeting agreement with the Chinese, even as we have one with the Russians. It would be primarily symbolic. We're not aiming weapons at each other, but it would be a confirmation. And it would be a useful symbolism. So we would favor that. The Chinese prefer to link it with no first use, which we cannot agree to. So it's correct, this issue has come up and we'll keep working at it. We think it would be very useful, indeed, to do it but we'll have to keep talking to the Chinese about it.
Q Did this exchange come up during Secretary Christopher's visit?
AMBASSADOR LORD: Yes, it did. That was not the first time. It came up when ACTA-Director Hollum was in Beijing a few weeks ago.
Q I'd like to try this ITA question one more time from a different angle. If APEC is sending a message to the other WTO partners, would that message have been stronger if the word "substantially" had not been included and it simply would have said "eliminate"? Would that have been a stronger message?
MR. ZIEGLER: The message that APEC has sent is absolutely clear. This is to be the maximum product coverage moving tariffs to zero across the information technology sector. That is a pretty clear message and pretty clear instructions for the members of the WTO in embarking on their work in the next three weeks.
Q I'm not disputing that. I'm asking you, would it have been any different if that word "substantially" was not included.
MR. ZIEGLER: This clearly advances the objectives laid out in the ministerial declaration. And furthermore, I think if you look at the chemistry in the WTO and the 123 members there, what's been achieved here at APEC is a powerful catalyst to push these countries toward agreement in Singapore.
Q But you didn't answer his question.
Q It's a yes or no question.
Q Would you have preferred the word "substantially" not be included?
MR. MCCURRY: Listen, we have beat this one to death. It's a term of art in trade. It flows from the precedent of the Uruguay Round. The language itself -- it's debatable whether it would have been stronger or not, and we're not going to debate it any further.
Q Mike, what is the process, though, by which the exceptions for particular industries are made? Does each country submit an application, look, we don't want this? Is such and such covered?
MR. ZIEGLER: This really involves the negotiations. Each country submits offers. There are ongoing consultations in Geneva --
Q Submit offers to who? To WTO?
MR. ZIEGLER: Yes.
Q And that's negotiated country by country which countries get exceptions for which products.
Q So are you predicting success at Singapore now?
MR. ZIEGLER: We have a lot of work to do before Singapore. It's a little early to get in the prediction business.
MR. CASSIDY: I just want to say in the Uruguay Round much of the tariff negotiations took place in the last few weeks of the Uruguay Round. So it's not unusual that you would see a situation like this where you have a few weeks and you're putting together a large package.
This Information Technology Agreement had its origins in the Uruguay Round as part of an electronic zero-for-zero. So, in a sense, a lot of work has been done by many of the countries already. Now the question is refining it more.
Q Ambassador Lord, is there any update you can give us on the B-24 wreckage that was discovered by the Chinese and will a videotape be made available to the American public?
AMBASSADOR LORD: I'm sorry, I can't help in either one of those, Wolf. But we will follow up. Maybe Mike has something on the videotape situation. I have no more information.
MR. MCCURRY: Wolf, the Joint Chiefs have got the videotape and the material now. They're analyzing it. They're, actually -- once it is Monday business hours back in Washington, the Pentagon is going to begin looking to see what they can find out about a likely mission.
One of the things we don't know here that presumably the military folks who are analyzing this data are looking at to see if they have any tail number or any identifying mark from the aircraft itself. If they do, they will be able to go back through military records that they were going to try to access on Monday and get a better sense of what the mission was and when the reported loss was of the aircraft. So the Pentagon, I think, will be in a better position to brief on that. They expect to do that as they can as they develop more information Monday back in Washington.
Q Two quick questions for Ambassador Lord. First is on the detargeting issue that was just raised, did that subject come up in the meeting with Jiang Zemin yesterday?
AMBASSADOR LORD: No.
Q Secondly, the South Korean government seems to indicate that they're agreement to go ahead with the implementation of the agreed framework and all of the other agreements that we discussed here yesterday was contingent on first having this gesture from the North. You didn't quite go that far in your briefing yesterday. Are you and the South Koreans on agreement on that point?
AMBASSADOR LORD: Yes, we're in agreement. And I think you'll see as the weeks progress on that. I want to make clear we are very close together on this. They have, understandably, a major political problem in their society given the provocations from the North. We're very sympathetic with that. They also recognize it's in no one's interest to lose the nuclear freeze and to keep the four-party talks on the table. These are no mutually inconsistent. And I think you'll see over the coming weeks that we can move ahead.
Q But that means that you are confirming that the North has to make gesture first.
AMBASSADOR LORD: No, I'm not confirming that at all. I thought I was relatively --
Q Your point is, gesture first, then everything else?
AMBASSADOR LORD: Gesture can take many forms. So it -- I don't want to get into sequence and the exact nature of gestures. I am saying that they've got to improve the atmosphere. But there are many aspects to carrying out KEDO which we discussed yesterday at some length. And so therefore, you may not have technicians going North right away, but you have others ways to make clear that KEDO is still going forward.
Q But sequence is the whole issue here, though. Forget for a moment what form the gesture takes. Is there an understanding with South Korea that the gesture, however you define it, must come first?
AMBASSADOR LORD: I think I can't go beyond what the statement said yesterday. But we feel we're on a good track here.
MR. MCCURRY: Okay, I think that we're done. Anything else?
Q -- President talk about to the embassy? Is he -- can you give us some sense of what to expect whenever that comes?
MR. MCCURRY: Yes, when he talks to the embassy, he will -- I expect him to first to congratulate the people of the Philippines for having successfully posted this APEC session and to express a lot of gratitude to Ambassador Hubbard for the very fine work the embassy staff has done and obviously compliment the people from the embassy and from all our extended embassies in the region who have lent personnel to the posting embassy here for a successful visit by the President and a successful work by the U.S. delegation at the APEC meeting.
Obviously the President then will talk about the importance that APEC has played. I expect him to say how encouraged he is that APEC is moving from the vision that was created by the leaders in Blake Island in 1993 into a real plan of action laid out in the declaration today making concrete the goals of free trade and investment by the year 2020 that the APEC leaders have identified.
He obviously will talk about how pleased he is with the language in the declaration related to the information technology agreement, talk about how important that will be for the people of the United States, in which we are tying to create high-paying jobs, especially those in the high-tech area. The principal part of the President's economic strategy for the future is boosting investment in the American people that will lead to greater productivity in sectors like high information technology sectors. And all of the work that is being done to liberalize trade will be part of the strategy the President has of creating those types of jobs in the 21st century.
I expect him to say that the information technology products that the leaders were talking about today are very much to the 21st century what bridges and highways and railways were to the 19th century -- the real infrastructure upon which economic activity and productivity can be built.
It's a pretty good speech. Maybe I'll just continue giving it for you. Of course, whether he uses it or not remains to be seen. Anyhow, that's the general thrust. So that's -- I expect him to cover all those things.
Last question, and then if someone needs Thailand, we'll do Thailand.
Q That's what I was going to ask about -- Thailand.
MR. MCCURRY: Okay -- well, back here, yes.
Q About North Korea, Ambassador Lord. Can you confirm the report that a deal has been made between U.S. and North Korea about the release of the American who was captured in North Korea? And Congressman Richardson is on his way to North Korea from Tokyo?
AMBASSADOR LORD: I'm sorry, I didn't get the last -- the second part.
Q Is Congressman Richardson on the way to North Korea through Tokyo? And do you think -- and if that's the case, what do you think the impact on of that released American has on U.S.-Korean relations? And also, do you take it as a gesture of some sort for the improvement in the Korean situation?
AMBASSADOR LORD: Well, I can't confirm the exact -- I, frankly, don't know what's in the public domain on this, so I'm not going to deny anything here. But I'm not sure I can be in a position to confirm about the actual travel. But I wouldn't steer you away from speculation in the press.
Let me say that, assuming what you've said is not inaccurate, it would be a positive move, obviously. But on the other hand, Mr. Hunsinger (phonetic) never should have been held in the first place. But we would welcome his release. This is not related in any way to the kind of issues we've been talking earlier. This is strictly a separate issue.
Let me also that any travel by prominent figures to North Korea we closely coordinate with our South Korean friends.
MR. MCCURRY: Thailand.
AMBASSADOR LORD: A quick pre-brief on Thailand. I'll do it briefly. We can do more if you want more details. The President is visiting Thailand on the occasion of the 50th anniversary of the accession of the King of Thailand to the throne, so it's a very meaningful year in Thailand's history and in U.S.-Thai relations.
Very briefly on the schedule, and I know the White House will give you more details on this, getting in roughly 9:00 local time this evening. And the President and Mrs. Clinton will have an audience with the King and Queen. Tomorrow morning the President will meet with the Prime Minister and we expect him to meet with other Thai politicians and leaders as well. There will be a signing of an extremely important tax treaty, which is the single highest priority for American business in Thailand and will be of substantial help to our trade and investment there.
The President will give a speech at Chulalongkorn University. And he will meet with the U.S. Embassy, and then there will be a state dinner. And then he'll return to Washington.
Very briefly, we have a many-layered relationship with Thailand and all these themes I expect to be sounded while he is there. We have security, economics, and values. On the security, as I've already mentioned, this is a treaty ally and a very important one. We have more military exercises with Thailand than any other country in Southeast Asia, perhaps in the region. We have major exchanges and dialogue on security access to their facilities, military sales, and thus the security dimension is very important indeed.
On top of that, you have the economic dimension -- Thailand's booming economy, and up until very recently it is the fastest growing economy in the entire world. It's still one of the fastest. And we have major trade and investment interests, and I've mentioned the tax treaty.
And finally, Thailand has just been through a second straight free election, demonstrating Thailand's commitment to democracy, and that growth and open societies go hand in hand. And finally, we cooperate not only in these bilateral levels but in many regional and global issues -- APEC being one, and of course they'll talk about APEC and now the upcoming Singapore ministerial in the WTO; and regional security dialogues being another. So those are some of the major themes that I would expect.
They would also -- quite a bit of attention to narcotics issue, which is very important and which Thailand has been very cooperative, as well as some Southeast Asian regional and political issues.
Q That was my question. But General McCaffrey, I gather, will be there. Do you expect some specific communique or any kind of specific initiative coming out?
AMBASSADOR LORD: I don't believe so, but I don't want to -- I'm not sure, to be totally honest. But I do know that he is there to underline the importance of fighting narcotics internationally that the administration attaches and also the fact that you need cooperation on this kind of issue. And Thailand is very important and has been very cooperative. As you know, Southeast Asia is a major part of our problem and Thailand is a major part of the solution.
MR. MCCURRY: You may want to check when we get there. He's just been there, had some meetings with Thai officials and had, I think, a press conference with his counterpart. And the Thai government is working on eradication -- poppy eradication, principally.
Q So there may be something?
MR. MCCURRY: Yes, there may be, I think, a little bit in the -- it's probably in the local press when we get in there.
Okay. Thank you. I'll see you all back in Washington in December -- which was a clever way of saying I don't plan to do a briefing on Wednesday, for those of you who will be traveling back with the President. We probably will not have a briefing Wednesday at the White House. So have a happy Thanksgiving, you turkeys.
END 4:45 P.M. (L)