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THE WHITE HOUSE

Office of the Press Secretary


For Immediate Release November 13, 1997
            PRESS BRIEFING BY MACK MCLARTY, THE PRESIDENT'S 
              SPECIAL ENVOY TO THE AMERICAS, JIM DOBBINS, 
                SPECIAL ASSISTANT TO THE PRESIDENT AND 
        SENIOR DIRECTOR OF THE NSC FOR INTERAMERICAN AFFAIRS, AND 

GENERAL BARRY MCCAFFREY, DIRECTOR OF NATIONAL DRUG CONTROL POLICY

The Briefing Room

1:12 P.M. EST

MR. TOIV: Good afternoon. As you know, we're looking forward to tomorrow to an official working visit with President Zedillo of Mexico. And here to brief on that are Mack McLarty, the President's Special Envoy to the Americas; Jim Dobbins, Special Assistant to the President and Senior Director of the NSC for Inter-American Affairs, and General Barry McCaffrey, Director of National Drug Control Policy.

MR. MCLARTY: Good afternoon. As Barry said, beginning officially tomorrow, Mexico's President, Ernesto Zedillo will be visiting in Washington on a working state visit and he will meet with President Clinton for the second time in little more than six months. It's the third meeting the two Presidents have had since the state visit of President Zedillo here in October of 1995. I think that shows the importance of the relationship and the continued engagement as well.

The actual first encounter of the Presidents will be tonight at a private dinner. The meetings, I think, will portray and reflect that, quite simply, the U.S. relationship with Mexico is vital to the long-term prosperity and security of our people. President Clinton and we are committed to making cooperation work as we believe the best way to produce concrete results for the benefit of our citizens. I think as the meetings will show today and tomorrow, we are making good progress on a broader range of issues within the framework of mutual trust and mutual respect, and as Ambassador Dobbins will speak to, I think the quality of the dialogue has been quite constructive and quite positive.

Let me briefly provide some context before I ask Ambassador Dobbins and General McCaffrey to discuss their respective areas of responsibility. Our interest with Mexico are uniquely broad and deep. We share an 1,800-mile border which sees about 250 million legal crossings by our citizens, citizens of both countries, annually. Now, to put that in perspective, that's, of course, roughly about the size of the United States' entire population.

Mexico has surpassed Japan on a relatively consistent basis of late as our second largest market for our exports, our third largest trading partner. We sell more to Mexico than anyone else except Canada, and that directly supports 800,000 U.S. jobs. Mexico continues to be one of our leading suppliers of foreign oil, joining Venezuela which is our largest supplier, and Canada and others as vital energy partners in the community of the Americas.

We are jointly faced with the threats of narcotics trafficking, the complicated issue of illegal immigration, the important issue of environmental degradation and a host of other issues which we are working cooperatively to address. We are neighbors, but we also must be partners -- neighbors because of the border we share, and partners increasingly because of the values we share.

In Mexico, on the first of three trips to Latin America and the Caribbean in a 12-month period, President Clinton told the Mexican people, with our long border, rich history and complex challenges, Mexico and the United States have a special responsibility to work together to seize the opportunities and defeat the dangers of our times.

On the issues that matter most to our people in their daily lives -- securing good and high paying jobs, keeping drugs out of our schools and neighborhoods, protecting our environment and making sure that our children, and we, for that matter, have clean air to breathe and clean water to drink, maintaining fair, legal immigration while taking steps to stop illegal immigration, our two countries are working together to meet shared responsibilities. These issues do affect our daily lives -- the so-called kitchen table issues, as Secretary Albright often refers to them -- and they will reflect the agenda during President Zedillo's visit here.

Beginning with the private dinner tonight and the meetings tomorrow, I think you will see a close, personal and professional relationship between President Clinton and President Zedillo. And you also, I think, see some substantive agreements that will be signed and put into effect tomorrow as we continue to make progress over the past two years. We will codify our boundary in the Gulf of Mexico to increase certainty for investment and drilling there. We will release an executive summary of our joint strategy to control illegal narcotics-related activities. Of course, General McCaffrey will speak to that.

We will expand our extradition treaty to ensure criminals have nowhere to hide. We will sign an agreement to increase trade, particularly in environmental technology. And tomorrow the Presidents will travel jointly to the OAS to witness the signing of an agreement to stop illicit weapons trafficking, an agreement that Mexico proposed and the leaders jointly agreed to and endorsed in Mexico City. So we are setting goals and we meeting them.

Finally, let me say before I turn the podium over to Jim that Mexico in many ways is the prism which the people of our country traditionally view the rest of Latin America, both in terms of opportunities to be seized and challenges to be overcome. Rightly or wrongly, our relationships with Mexico affect our relations with others in the hemisphere in the minds of our publics, so we must continue to nurture our relations in a thoughtful and a constructive manner as one of the highest priorities in this administration in order to ensure sustained support for our opening to the hemisphere and their opening to us.

We are committed to taking steps to do that, to solidify our relationships, to deepen our partnerships, knowing that sometimes the path will not always be easy or perfectly straight. That's really the central purpose of the meetings that our two respective Presidents, President Zedillo and President Clinton will have and to shape a better future for -- and a safer future for all of our citizens.

With those opening comments made, let me ask Ambassador Dobbins to review the schedule.

AMBASSADOR DOBBINS: Thank you. The schedule is a private dinner this evening in the White House. Tomorrow, they start at 10:00 a.m.; there will be an Oval Office meeting, followed by a larger meeting in the Cabinet Room with a number of the Mexican and American Cabinet participants. And then the two Presidents will travel to the OAS, where they will sign the firearms convention, which the two of them proposed seven months ago when they met in Mexico City. That will be followed by a lunch at the State Department, which the Vice President will host for President Zedillo.

As Mack said, the Mexican relationship is comprehensive and intense, almost uniquely so. As somebody who at one time or another in his career has spent many years supervising relations, both with Canada, with Western Europe and with the Soviet Union, I can assure you that there is no relationship that is as comprehensive, as intense, that involves as many members of the Cabinet as often, as frequently, and, by and large, as cooperatively as does the relationship with Mexico. And I think that's reflected in the increased frequency of these meetings between our two Presidents and the broad participation by elements of the Cabinet.

I think it's reflected by the achievements, for instance, just in the few months since the two Presidents last met. When they met, they signed an alliance against drugs. That alliance had aa number of commitments, two of which -- specific ones -- have already been fulfilled. One was to negotiate a hemispheric convention to ban illegal firearms, and that hemispheric convention will be signed tomorrow. A second was to negotiate a protocol to the extradition treaty to allow for temporary extraditions in order to ensure that criminals wanted on both sides of the border could be tried on both sides of the border before the evidence went stale.

In addition to that -- and that will be signed this afternoon at a ceremony at the State Department, where a number of other agreements will be signed. One of these is the exchange of ratification documents on our maritime boundary agreement. This was ratified by the Senate only a few days ago. It has been in the Senate for sometime, and it is a very important step toward finalizing and fully demarcating the U.S.-Mexican border.

We're also concluding a memorandum of intent on environmental commercial cooperation. The exports that the two sides had commissioned to do a study on migration have completed that and submitted that study, which will also be distributed at the State Department this afternoon.

I'll let General McCaffrey talk about the progress that has been accomplished during this period in the area of counternarcotics. And Mack has already noted that in the months since the two Presidents met, our trade has continued to grow dramatically and Mexico has become our second largest customer; our other NAFTA partner, Canada, already being our first.

On the issues that are going to be discussed tomorrow, I think we'll be pursuing the agenda as it's emerged from these frequent contacts between the two Presidents -- discussions on migration issues, discussions on counternarcotics, discussions on hemispheric cooperation and on cooperation on broader multilateral forums, discussion on environment including the issue of climate change, discussion on trade including the issues of global electronic commerce which the President also pursued in his visits to Brazil and Argentina.

Thank you. Let me turn you over to General McCaffrey for our discussion on counternarcotics.

GENERAL MCCAFFREY: Very quickly let me just point out to you some documents you have that are of importance to us, and I'll walk through one of them. You should have an Executive Summary of the Report on Progress in Developing a Bilateral U.S.-Mexican Drug Control Strategy. And we have to deliver that to the two Presidents by the end of the year. And so what we will do is, Attorney General Madrazo of Mexico and I will update at the State Department at 3:00 p.m. on where we are on this. And essentially, this is the background of that effort.

As you know, we've completed a fairly well-defined threat assessment earlier in May in which we identified the problems on both sides of the border that we're trying to address, and agreed that the common requirement was demand reduction -- so far predominantly a U.S. requirement -- and then we had to both operate against production and trafficking in the two nations. And then, finally, we had these other crimes -- the system we had to oppose -- money laundering, violence, corruption, chemical diversion as the fundamental requirement to be addressed.

The two Presidents did sign a 16 specific area alliance and committed themselves to the binational strategy. And now here we are, we're on an update point. We're really in the final phases of developing our document in which we have begun to outline specifically demand reduction objectives, how specifically we're going to dismantle crime organizations and how we will do these other major elements of the crime syndicates we confront.

I would flag your attention to the next step which may be even more difficult. Once we have a common strategy -- we did that in the United States with our National Drug Strategy -- we then have to operationalize it and turn it into something concrete and specific and which can be measured. So when we have agreed on this binational strategy, the next step will be to define performance measures of effectiveness, and that will require some tough dialogue between two friends to make sure we achieve our purpose.

I would also point out to you -- you have in your packets volume one of the report to Congress -- we went back and formally updated the U.S. Senate in September on where we are in cooperation between Mexico and the United States. And then, finally, I would have you be aware of the Department of State report on Enhanced Multilateral Drug Control Cooperation. This is a hemispheric approach. We're aiming at April, Santiago, the Summit of the Americas, and so our discussions with Mexico, our binational cooperation is really a major step en route to a more cooperative hemispheric approach.

Final announcement, if you allow me to make it, we will -- we also are announcing today that we are -- intend to have a March 18 to 20 in El Paso, Texas, a binational demand reduction conference, and we're going to try and bring together the authorities on both sides of the border to talk about the fundamental issue at stake, which is drug abuse by our young people and drug addiction in the general population.

As many of you are aware, drug abuse in Mexico is a fraction of that of the United States. However, it is a major and growing problem. And so we think this is another element of this binational strategy we've got to get serious about.

That's it. Thanks very much.

MR. MCLARTY: We'll be glad to try to respond to your questions.

Q Does the President have a message for Mexico regarding the future of trade relationships in Latin America after the failure to win passage of the fast track legislation?

MR. MCLARTY: Well, certainly, President Clinton and President Zedillo will be talking about the bilateral trading relationship between the United States and Mexico and the NAFTA, including Canada. And I've already noted, as Ambassador Dobbins underscored in his comments, that our trade is at an all-time high, and Mexico has become our second largest market. I think without any question, the Summit of the Americas agenda will be one of the topics -- important topics that the two Presidents will cover, including the FTA process, and I'm sure they'll be addressing that tomorrow.

Q Can you summarize the weapons treaty that's being signed? What does it do?

MR. MCLARTY: Jim, why don't you take the weapons treaty.

AMBASSADOR DOBBINS: Okay. General McCaffrey may have something to add. What the treaty does is establish requirements for licensing and handling the export and import of firearms, and procedures by which illegal firearms can be tracked, and requirements that states cooperate in doing so and bringing to justice those who violate these norms.

So it's a system of requiring licenses for export, requiring countries exporting to get the permission of the importing government as well as whatever commercial arrangements are in place, and procedures by which weapons are found which are believed to be illegal -- countries have ways of exchanging data on the serial numbers and other information so that they can be computerized and then a system can go back and find out who sold that weapon and who they sold it to.

In many ways, it requires countries to adopt procedures that are in place in the United States for tracking firearms, and creates a standardized system for doing so -- it creates requirements for doing so and criminalizes in international law and in arrangements between these countries illegal shipments of firearms.

MR. MCLARTY: Barry, do you want to add anything?

GENERAL MCCAFFREY: I might just add this, an item of enormous significance, of course. You know, I remind people, we had almost 1,100 police officers killed or injured by firearms last year, and on the Mexican side of the border, the losses among police prosecutors in the Armed Forces have been significant, and a lot of these weapons do either originate in or transit through the United States. So ATF has done absolutely brilliant work in trying to establish common ways of filling out computer input so we can track where weapons come from. That's already been happening in the last several months. Now, we're going beyond that. We're going to try and bring this illegal gun traffic which is related to the drug industry under control.

You're also going to hear the OAS talk about the same thing. We had some really spectacular progress at Lima, Peru last week about the same subject.

Q General, could you elaborate on the link between gun runners and drug runners?

GENERAL MCCAFFREY: Just one point on this agreement. I think it also demonstrates the sustained cooperation between the two countries. This was discussed in Mexico City and agreed upon.

Go ahead.

Q Can you elaborate on the links between gun runners and drug runners and how this agreement might have any impact on that at all?

GENERAL MCCAFFREY: Yes. Well, you know, I've listened with interest to our sensitivity, the U.S. side, on is there necessarily congruent organizations which are running drugs and running guns. The answer may well be no. What is clear to us is that if you go to the security chief of the state of Rio in Brazil, he's dealing with a city of 12 million people; there were 9,000 homicides last year and over 1,000 police killed and wounded. Some of those weapons came through Paraguay, the United States, the Caribbean. So I think all of us in the U.S. are committed to trying to bring to a halt this massive international movement of illegal weapons, which are a threat to all of our police forces. And it's clearly tied to the most vehement form of criminal activity which is the drug business.

Q General McCaffrey, what are some of the proposals that the U.S. government and the Mexican government have to shore up some of these border problems as far as drugs coming into America?

GENERAL MCCAFFREY: Well, there is a ton of things going on. Some of them, I might add, have not been well reported on because they're below the federal-national radar screen.

AMBASSADOR DOBBINS: A lot of them are in that report you see.

GENERAL MCCAFFREY: Yes. It really is worth looking at that volume one of the report, which talks about, for example, a binational border liaison mechanisms -- eight BLMS established by treaty. It's not just drugs, it's waste sewage treatment; it's migration; it's whatever. We have enormous cooperation between sister city police forces -- El Paso-Ciu dad Juarez, Tijuana-San Diego. And then at a higher level, the Mexican authorities are trying to stand up probably by the end of Christmas the binational border task forces. We think we'll get some enhanced cooperation out of that mechanism also.

In all of these areas, I might add, the sensitivity is to ensure that only the police, prosecutors, judges, and the laws of a nation have any authority in the air, land and sea borders of that nation. We have to have that as a fundamental aspect of this cooperation.

Q On the two -- are there two deals to be signed this afternoon? On the temporary extradition treaty, do we have that kind of arrangement with any other nation?

AMBASSADOR DOBBINS: I think we do with one or two countries. I don't think this is a first ever, but I think it's fairly rare, and I think that, in that sense, this is, if not unprecedented, a significant step forward.

GENERAL MCCAFFREY: Mexico has perhaps three other nations they have this arrangement with.

Q No, but do we have it?

GENERAL MCCAFFREY: And I think we do also.

Q And also, will the maritime agreement settle all outstanding border disputes with Mexico?

AMBASSADOR DOBBINS: It creates a process for settling the last. The treaty was negotiated about 20 years ago; it created a maritime border and it also -- it left unsettled certain area in the middle of that, sort of what's called the donut hole, in the middle of the Gulf of Mexico -- an economic zone. And the Mexicans have said they're prepared to negotiate a resolution of that, but they want us to first ratify the agreement we signed 20 years ago. And the Senate has now done that.

And one of the reasons for doing that is that we both discovered that there is a lot of oil potentially in that not so much disputed zone, as undemarcated zone. And we and the Mexicans need to decide where to draw the lines so that our respective industries can explore that area. And this is apparently a potentially extremely valuable area and, therefore, this is an important step toward demarcating that last zone.

Q But there's no drilling in this area currently, or is there?

AMBASSADOR DOBBINS: That's right.

MR. MCLARTY: Cragg, that's right. There's no drilling. This will clarify the boundaries. I think Ambassador Dobbins said it right; I think from the investment standpoint -- I was in Houston on Monday -- clearly, investment is going to go ahead and start to take place while this process continues.

Q On extradition, is this something that requires Senate ratification?

AMBASSADOR DOBBINS: It will require -- yes. It's a protocol to the treaty and will require Senate ratification. And the Senate --

Q Are there constitutional questions about it, or not?

AMBASSADOR DOBBINS: No, I don't -- I mean, I can't guarantee it will get ratified, but I don't believe it raises -- it doesn't raise any unique questions. And, of course, we've consulted with the Congress.

Q Following up on your comments on trade, after the failure of fast track do you see these meetings in a way reviving the initiative of the free trade of the Americas by the year 2005? Do you see that as probably dead at this point?

And for General McCaffrey, if I may, the Ambassador of Mexico yesterday said that -- indicated that somehow drugs are taking the lion's share of attention in the relationship between Mexico and the United States, and that while it is a very important issue, it does not reflect -- I think I can actually quote him -- the relative weight of that issue in terms of the total agenda between Mexico and the United States. Would you agree with that?

MR. MCLARTY: Let me touch the trade first, General. In terms of -- this is, of course, a working visit to President Zedillo in Mexico. So the emphasis will clearly be on the bilateral trading relationship, both the fact that it has grown in a very material and meaningful way with exports by both countries reach an all-time high and from a hemispheric standpoint, clearly that will also be on the agenda. And I would remind you that our exports are growing to Latin America twice the rate they are to any other region in the world. So both will be on the agenda, as well as some of the one or two percent of problem areas that we have between our two countries that will inevitably arise in any trading relationship.

Q But you don't see the initiative as dead, though?

MR. MCLARTY: No. I think both Presidents will be talking about the ways to deepen the trading and investment relationship certainly between the NAFTA partners and beyond.

GENERAL MCCAFFREY: Clearly, all of us recognize that there are absolutely massive economic, political and cultural linkages between the United States and Mexico, and they're growing broader and more important to both nations year by year. Just to listen to Mr. McLarty's recitation of the statistics of cross-border movement, it's unbelievable. It's the biggest open border on the face of the Earth.

I would also add, though, that within that context, both nations, President Zedillo has stated that drugs are the number one national security threat to Mexico. It is clear in our own case that we have 14,000 dead a year and $70 billion worth of losses. So I think both nations are fundamentally committed to addressing in a cooperative manner the violence and the corruption that are the by-products of this criminal enterprise, and I think it's a very important issue to both of us.

Q General, could I ask you on two issues, the first being drugs -- how can the U.S., or can the U.S. be taken seriously in its war on drugs in the eyes of Mexico when you have several initiatives to legalize marijuana, most prominent the one here in Washington, which seems to be stepping up?

GENERAL MCCAFFREY: Well, clearly, in a democracy there's always an open debate on a whole series of ideas. There's no question in our mind, the American people are adamant that we're not going to legalize Schedule I drugs. I just don't believe that methamphetamines, crack, pot or heroin are going to be added to our workplace, our schools, our communities without even more massive damage to our society. So I don't think it's going to happen. Our commitment, whether we're talking to government or the American people, is pretty unshaken.

Now, we've also said, though, the heart and soul of our strategy is to talk to 68 million American kids. So prevention and education is a central pillar of our effort. And we're grateful we've got bipartisan support out of Congress to do that -- a $16-billion budget, and we're seriously addressing the treatment gap. Donna Shalala and Dick Riley have made major initiatives, a 21-percent increase in programs aimed at goal number one of the National Drug Strategy. I don't think there's any question about our commitment.

And then, finally, on law and order -- look, we've locked up 1.6 million Americans at the local, state and federal level, and, unfortunately, a considerable number who require drug treatment are there because they're compulsive drug users, and, therefore, they're unemployable and they're involved in criminal conduct. So I think Mexico and the United States share a common view of the danger of all of this.

Q Sir, I realize you're Army, but what do you think about Army Assistant Secretary -- comments that the Marines are extremists and that the Marines are real dangerous?

GENERAL MCCAFFREY: The only comment I have on the United States Marines is, thank God that they exist, because they're a proud fighting organization, and that the defense of the nation rests fundamentally upon their readiness to go. So I'm glad they're part of it.

MR. TOIV: We'll take just one more.

Q During this visit, will the President inform President Zedillo who his choice is to be Ambassador to Mexico, or has he already?

MR. MCLARTY: No, he has not.

Q Has Zedillo been told already?

MR. MCLARTY: The President, I think, understands clearly that this is a very important ambassadorial post. All ambassadorial posts are important, but this is a particularly important one. We thought we sent a well-qualified nominee to the Congress; regrettably, he was not confirmed. The President will be making a decision on this shortly and announcing it when he's ready.

Q Will the perspective person be at the lunch tomorrow? (Laughter.)

MR. MCLARTY: Jim was in charge of the invitation list for the lunch.

Thank you.

END 1:40 P.M. EST