THE WHITE HOUSE
Office of the Press Secretary (Santiago, Chile) ________________________________________________________________________ For Immediate Release April 18, 1998
PRESS BRIEFING BY NATIONAL SECURITY ADVISOR SANDY BERGER
Hyatt Hotel Santiago, Chile
7:53 P.M. (L)
MR. BERGER: Barry asked me to give you a readout particularly on the two bilaterals that took place subsequent to the final session, which was the beginning of the discussion of trade.
The first was with President Cardoso. There was a rather extensive discussion of the Brazilian economy. Our President congratulated Cardoso and expressed his admiration for the very tough steps that President Cardoso has taken to, in a sense, insulate his country's economy from the consequences of the Asian financial crisis. Those measures have resulted in an increase in interest rates in Brazil, the 42 percent at one time. So, obviously, they were painful, but they have been effective, and Brazil's reserves now have increased to very substantial levels and interest rates are coming down, growth is quite good.
And so they had some lengthy discussion about that and about how those decisions were made, and the President expressing the view that the markets seemed to be differentiating among economies as time goes on with respect to these financial problems.
Second, they had this discussion of Social Security because this has been one of the major projects of President Cardoso. He is in the middle of a substantial Social Security discussion in his country. Obviously, we are in the midst of a Social Security discussion in our country. In their country, for example, as I understand what he said, there's a 20 percent premium for people who retire above their highest salary, so costs have skyrocketed and they're trying to make some reforms, which, obviously, in any country are quite difficult. The President discussed a bit what some of the issues are in our debate.
There was a discussion of El Nino and the climate change and particularly the fires that have taken place in northern Brazil and the effect of El Nino on that phenomenon, which I can come back to if you're interested in it. President Cardoso had some very nice things to say about Mr. McLarty and the role he's played in putting together the summit. There was some discussion of Cuba. President Cardoso indicated that they had no intention of changing any of their policies, even though there had been reports to the contrary; that their -- the President said that it was important in his judgment that countries in the hemisphere send a consistent message to Cuba to make the transition to democracy even if we deliver that message in different ways.
And they discussed the fact that this hemisphere now increasingly defines itself in terms of its collective democracy and we should use that definition to try to put as much influence to bear on Cuba as we can through various means to encourage the transition and encourage the shift to a democratic government.
The meeting with Chretien, they discussed a bit the question of the next summit. There has been some discussion -- I think it's premature to say categorically, but I would not be surprised if tomorrow Canada were not announced as the next site of the next summit. The year for that has not been decided. There have been three years between Miami and Santiago. There has been some discussion, including I believe from -- including in the sessions today by some of the representatives of the regional development banks that it would be better to have these every two years.
Q Will that be decided tomorrow?
MR. BERGER: I don't know the answer to that. Certainly there will be a definitive statement of where the next summit will be, what country. I don't know whether or not the date will be decided tomorrow.
There was a discussion also of --
Q Sandy, is there a preference that the United States has -- two years, three years, four years?
MR. BERGER: I think we could live with it either way. I think the argument for two years is that these summits provide a discipline to get things done, and particularly since 2000 is the year in the FTAA negotiations in which there is a commitment to produce concrete results, the fact that there is a summit would tend to impose some discipline on that process.
The argument on the other side is that you don't want to hold these too infrequently and you want to have enough time go by so that there can be an accumulation of results. If I had a bet -- I think there seemed to be more sentiment for the two-year approach to the three-year approach, but I have certainly not taken a poll of that.
There was a discussion between Prime Minister Chretien and the President on their respective economies, various developments in those economies; Asian financial problems, the impact that was having on their economies; the need for continued free trade, particularly because of the Asian financial crisis -- the importance of locking in open markets so that when there are these downturns, there's not a contraction of exports.
Mexico, for example, when the Mexican economy suffered very severely in the peso crisis, because we had a free trade agreement with Mexico, our exports hardly decreased. The exports of the rest of the world went down substantially.
And that was about it. Some discussion of the ice storm in Canada.
Q What about Cuba?
MR. BERGER: Cuba did not come up in the Chretien meeting. I was debating whether to even just say that in anticipation of the first question, but I thought I'd add to the mystery. (Laughter.)
Q I'd like to know, on the meeting between President Clinton and President Cardoso -- last week there was as controversy regarding a statement an American general may or may not have made about the Amazon, and I was curious to know if this controversy was raised during the conversation about the Amazon and what happened.
MR. BERGER: No.
Q Why was Cuba not --
MR. BERGER: As I said, there had been a conversation that they had a few days ago about the subject. I think Prime Minister Chretien is quite aware of our views, which is that we're quite skeptical of government to government engagement producing any results, but that, in any case, we would expect the Prime Minister to raise democracy and human rights and for that to be very much of the center of his trip.
I think he was aware of that. I think from our perspective he's going to make that decision as a sovereign leader, and it's obviously his decision to make.
Q Canada is the likely host for the next summit, and there's at least one country calling for Cuba to be included in that summit. Does Chretien's trip have any --
MR. BERGER: I don't believe it should. We have not discussed this. But as I said earlier today, I think there is a particularly compelling argument, whatever particular country's individual bilateral relationships with Cuba might be, to not have Cuba either in the summit process or the OAS.
Secretary Albright has handed me the following map. The green is -- the red in 1978 is what this hemisphere looked like 1978, the red being dictatorships and military regimes. And this is the chart for what it is today. So there has been this extraordinarily dramatic change in the hemisphere, and the hemisphere now increasingly defines itself in terms of its common democracy. And the OAS has adopted a provision saying that if a democracy is overthrown, the country can be thrown out of the OAS. So in the context of that, I think it would be particularly inappropriate for Cuba to be involved in those associations, and that's a position we will argue.
Q I don't know the rules of this summit, but can the United States exercise a veto saying that they would not Cuba as a participant next time?
MR. BERGER: Well, summits generally -- first of all, I don't think this will come up tomorrow. I think this will be an issue that will come up in the planning for the next summit. Let me say, I would be very -- I would hope that Cuba would be at the next summit as a democracy; that would be the best result.
But this process does not -- it proceeds generally by consensus, but not by votes. And we would make our view known and I think that that view is quite widely shared. I must say, despite all of the questions I've received from your colleagues about Cuba's putative membership interest in OAS and the summit, I have not heard one leader mention this at all as a possibility, except for the Barbadian who said that he hoped that Cuba would be at the next summit. Maybe he was hoping for a democratic Cuba as well.
Q Sandy, did anyone during the day, either today or yesterday, mention to the President anything about the scandals, such as expressing their support for his continuing to focus and not be distracted by them or anything like that?
MR. BERGER: No, not an issue.
Q Can you tell us about the beginning of the trade discussions?
MR. BERGER: Yes -- let me see. There were about five or six countries that spoke. There clearly is very, very strong consensus for proceeding with the FTAA and I think people generally seem to be comfortable with the terms on which it's being launched. The one interesting, I thought, point was made by a number of the Caribbean countries which indicated that while they are committed to an FTAA, that there really are unique problems that a small economy has to deal with in a free trade area.
The economies, for example, have quite high tariffs and in some cases those tariffs are a substantial part of their government revenue. And they were not arguing against an FTAA, they were simply arguing that in the negotiations there be some sensitivity to the particular problems of smaller countries.
In terms of other comments, I think a number of people said in different ways, globalization is not a policy choice, it's not a decision that we have to make; it is happening, and the only decision we have to make is how we adapt to it so that we enjoy its benefits and we are able to distribute its burdens. But it's quite striking to me how widely shared that view is, that this is a global economy and that our economies are interlinked.
For example, Caldero said, globalization is not an option to be considered, it's a fact that has developed very quickly. But I would say that -- only about five or six leaders spoke in that session and I think probably it was getting to be about 6:20 p.m. at this point and I suspect the discussion will continue tomorrow.
Q There was another bilateral meeting -- the President of Mexico. I wonder if you can tell us what they discussed.
MR. BERGER: I can't because it was not -- they sat next to each other at lunch. I have not had a chance -- I didn't ask the President the nature of the discussion. I will try to find that out.
Q What about the bilateral with Menem of Argentina? You didn't mention that either.
MR. BERGER: I talked about that at the earlier briefing. I would refer you to the transcript of the other briefing. I can remember it -- I'm not that old. First of all, the President expressed his gratitude to Menem for the response that he has provided in Haiti; when we were in Argentina we asked if they would help police trainers and police monitors, and they responded very swiftly; the support that they provided in Iraq, where they were prepared to provide military support. There was some discussion of Cuba in that session in which Menem said, I know there have been questions about whether we are changing our policy on Cuba; we are not changing our policy on Cuba.
There was one other subject that came up --
Q Will there be any other bilaterals?
MR. BERGER: First of all, there is a fair amount of time -- I mean, there was a lunch for two hours, and I assume that there were -- I just did not ask the President, and should have. I assume that there were one-on-one discussions during that. Tomorrow there are a few others planned. I think President Banzer of Bolivia and -- no one is here to help me, so I look around here plaintively.
Q To what extent have the other leaders either publicly or privately expressed concerns to the President about the status of fast track?
MR. BERGER: I think they -- I have not heard it raised. I think it came up in one -- I think Samper mentioned it this afternoon, but accepting the proposition that we started the Uruguay Round without fast track authority -- without adequate fast track authority, and we'll start this round without fast track authority. I don't think they're overly concerned with it at this point. I think that they realize the President is deeply committed to it and will push for it very hard and that when the time comes, that we will secure it.
Q Was his public reassurance aimed at preempting any complaints from them about it?
MR. BERGER: Well, it certainly is a -- if he hadn't mentioned fast track in his opening remarks, it would have been -- the questions would have been, why didn't the President mention fast track in his opening remarks. I think he wanted to reassure them that he remains totally committed to this, that he intends to continue to push for it, and at the appropriate time we will go forward. And I do believe, as does the President, that we will prevail.
Q Will the President push very hard in the current congressional session for fast track?
MR. BERGER: I can't answer that question at this point. We are continually talking with members of Congress, both in the Republican and Democratic side, and we will move forward, obviously, when we think the moment is right.
Q -- during his presidency?
MR. BERGER: Without doubt.
Q In terms of bilaterals or pull-asides, do you expect him to meet with President Wasmosy at some point?
MR. BERGER: It's not set up, but President Wasmosy met with Secretary Albright yesterday, and I would like to try and arrange that. I mean, I think it would be, if we can, a useful thing to do. These bilaterals -- because this meeting is -- they started at, whatever, 9:30 a.m. or 9:00 a.m. and went until 6:30 p.m. -- there's not as much time for bilaterals as, for example, at Miami or any other APEC meeting. And so we've tried to do these a little more informally. But I think it would be useful for the President to have an opportunity to speak to President Wasmosy and tell him that we will support him in defending democracy and the constitutional process in Paraguay.
Q Did Clinton give to Menem the same message he gave to Cardoso in the sense that everybody has to work together for democracy in Cuba?
MR. BERGER: Yes. I mean, what the President said is very similar -- that is, different countries are going to pursue it in different ways, but we should be very clear about what the overriding objective of our policies are. The overriding objective of our policies should be, in our judgment, achievement of democracy ion Cuba. We've heard a lot of talk about democracy all day, and the enormous sense of pride that the countries that have gone from red to green feel in having done that. We're standing in Chile, where people reclaimed their democracy. The Cuban people are entitled to no less.
THE PRESS: Thank you.
END 8:13 P.M. (L)