THE WHITE HOUSE
Office of the Press Secretary (Mexico City, Mexico) ________________________________________________________________________ For Immediate Release May 6, 1997
PRESS BRIEFING BY DAVID JOHNSON J.W. Marriott Hotel Mexico City, Mexico
8:30 P.M. (L)
MR. JOHNSON: First of all, the good news for the evening is that with the exception of a pool report when your colleagues return from this evening's festivities, this is the last encounter you're going to have with paper or spoken word on an official basis tonight. So you may rejoice.
The President concluding what we believe is a very successful day today where we found ways to address two very important issues in the Mexico-American relationship -- migration and counternarcotics -- this evening did as he likes to do whenever he travels abroad, and that is meet with those in the opposition to the government so that we can, and he personally can get a broader view of the political climate in whatever country he is visiting.
As he told you during the photo opportunity that he had with one of the gentlemen, that he does this -- he did it in Russia and finds it a very profitable thing to do. I cannot recall a single trip, of course, that I've been on where he hasn't seized the opportunity to meet with the opposition.
Each of these was scheduled for about 15 minutes and they all lasted about 20, with the ones with the two opposition parties I think being slightly longer.
The PAN and the PRD meetings were similarly structured in that the party leaders provided their party manifestos to the President in writing and read much of them to him as an opportunity to state in a very clear way and I think a concise way what their views were. And since the President's primary reason for inviting them there was not for them to listen to him, but for him to hear their views, that I think was a very constructive way to proceed.
The PAN delegation, which included two governors, the Governor of Baja, California, Mr. Teran, and the Governor of Chihuahua, Francisco Barrios, focused on migration, drug trafficking, Colorado River salinity and the desire for Senate ratification of the U.S.-Mexico sea boundary treaty. And the discussion, just like the platform that I think that they've spoken to you about in other fora, focused on their hopes for greater economic growth and a plural and competitive political process.
The governors, in addition to the presentation made by the party president, also provided letters with specific issues affecting their states with respect to issues related to more efficient border crossing, border environmental issues, crime in the border area, anti-dumping cases that exist between our two economies, agricultural exports and gun exports from the United States.
The PRD presentation, as is their party, was a bit more nationalist and populist in nature, focusing on migration and the human rights violations which they believe are ongoing, and the United States response to migration issues as well as to economic inequality and their belief that the current model is accelerating inequality.
They also, in their paper, proposed a social summit, which they viewed as something which would be much broader than governments getting together, but also those in nongovernmental organizations and other actors in a civil society who might address some of the issues that are confronted between Mexico and the United States across the board.
One of the things that they did take pains to point out, since they're sometimes viewed as a party in opposition to the United States, is their tremendous respect for U.S. arts and culture, and listed a long list of American novelists, poets, actors, architects that they thought had enriched Mexican culture during the course of the 20th century and before.
The PRI meeting, which was the briefest of the three, didn't include a party manifesto, since, of course, the President had been meeting with President Zedillo during the day. It talked a bit about the pride of their party's achievements in the Zedillo administration, their thanks to the President for his economic package and for pushing forward with the ratification of the North American Free Trade Agreement. They did mention the Mexican economy in its difficult times and it's back on the road to recovery, the issues related to migration and narcotics certification.
The party president stated that he believed that all of the subjects were interwoven and had to be addressed in large measure by economic progress, and concluded with their determination to be part of a competitive political system and their pride in having taken part in the reforms which President Zedillo had brought to Mexico over the last several years.
The President, as I said, his main goal in all these meetings was to listen, so he did not speak a great deal of time. He dedicated the bulk of his time to listening to these opposition politicians and the party leaders' ideas. But he did, in the same way he did at the press conference, explain his views and policy on migration, the need for us to have a control of our borders and an effective deterrent to illegal migration in order to sustain in the United States support for a very broad and open acceptance of legal migrants.
He encouraged all of the parties to engage in the competition of the election and explained the value he felt of the opposition. He said in the last meeting -- excuse me, in the meeting with the PRD that he probably in his heart of hearts wish he'd never been opposed when he was running, but he thought it had made him a much better office holder and a better governor in Arkansas and a better President for having done so.
And in responding to the PRD's views on the North American Free Trade Agreement, he did assert his view that it had helped speed the recent recovery and make it more -- not only more rapid, but broader, and in his belief that over time it would help in some more visible ways to ameliorate poverty and broaden the middle class in Mexico.
Hearing no questions --
Q Wait. What's attribution on this? And you were in the meetings, obviously.
MR. JOHNSON: I was in the meetings, and you can attribute this to me by name.
Q One of the PRD folks came out of the meeting suggesting "President Clinton was amenable to the idea of reexamining the economic motto, it seems some aspects of the economic motto need to be looked at carefully. Is that true, did President Clinton suggest -- give any suggestion --
MR. JOHNSON: The President certainly gave no suggestion that he saw a need to reexamine the North American Free Trade Agreement. But as he said before, he believes that governments need to take steps as best they can to ameliorate some of the effects of economic inequality.
He, for his part, has sought to do so on the basis of some of the -- recently he mentioned that his success in this recent budget agreement, having the Republicans agree to remove what he felt were some of the onerous and unjustified parts of the welfare law which denied benefits to legal immigrants, his strong support for -- public support for education, including tax incentives and other incentives for higher education. I think that that is -- they may have inferred some things from that that went beyond what he said.
But his focus were on those types of issues and the need for governments to address those kinds of issues and the ability of the governments to do so.
Q Did the election come up? What was said about it? Who said it? What did the President say?
MR. JOHNSON: The elections were talked about in some form in all of these meetings, the President encouraging them to compete very forcefully and to take advantage of the new era here. He mentioned, of course, the elections which were coming up in July and they talked about their desire to compete forcefully in all the elections which were going to be forthcoming.
Q Did the President say he hoped the elections would be honest --
MR. JOHNSON: I think the President is pleased to be here in a time when there is tremendous reform going across the Mexican electoral process. You're asking a question that was not posed in that form.
Q David, when he talks about NAFTA and trade tomorrow, do you expect the President also to give some hint of when he can propose fast track legislation -- actually, now that the balanced budget is over? He hasn't actually sent anything up to the Hill.
MR. JOHNSON: I think what the President has said is that he wants to pursue a policy on fast track, he wants fast track authority, but he believes that the most effective way to do that is to have a consultative process with people on the Hill, with others in the country that have very strong interests in fast track, so that when a piece of legislation is submitted, it's something that will command bipartisan support. It would be quite simple to send up a piece of legislation and have it fail, but he doesn't want to do that. He wants to engage in the consultations ahead of time so that it will, in fact, succeed.
Q Why is the President choosing to go to Mexico to talk about the NAFTA when there are a lot of people back home that have strong feelings about it? Why didn't he give a speech there first before addressing the Mexico people?
MR. JOHNSON: I think this is an opportunity to come to Mexico -- he welcomed the President of Mexico back several months ago into Washington -- I guess more like two years ago now, but --
Q Why is he giving an address to the Mexican people about NAFTA when a lot of American people are waiting to have NAFTA justified and explained to them?
MR. JOHNSON: I think the President justified and explained and fought very hard for NAFTA ratification. He has explained to the American people on a number of occasions his views on NAFTA. I think in his first visit to Mexico during his presidential term, or during his time in the presidency, it is a very opportune moment to explain to the Mexican people the benefits that both of our countries have received from this fundamental opening up in free trade area throughout North America.
Q David, it was kind of an accident this year that the binational groups met at the same time the Presidents were having the summit here. But was there any thought or has there been any discussion given to making that an annual event, an annual presidential summit, coincidentally with the binational meeting?
MR. JOHNSON: I have not heard any discussion of an annual summit as part of the binational commission. As you know, the binational commission brings together a good portion of both Cabinets, and we found it a very effective tool. But I'm not sure we're going to be adding a summit on to it each and every year.
THE PRESS: Thank you.
END 8:40 P.M. (L)