THE WHITE HOUSE
Office of the Press Secretary
PRESS BRIEFING BY ON PRESIDENT'S TRIP TO APEC CONFERENCE The Briefing Room
3:54 P.M. EST
MR. TOIV: Good afternoon, everybody. As you all know, the President is scheduled to leave Saturday for his long-awaited trip to Asia for the APEC conference in Malaysia, as well as visits to Japan and South Korea and Guam. Here today to brief you on those subjects are Gene Sperling, the President's National Economic Advisor -- and Gene will talk to you about our goals for the APEC conference. Lael Brainard, our Deputy National Economic Advisor for International Economic Affairs -- Lael will tell you about the trip schedule. Ken Lieberthal, who is the National Security Council's Senior Director for Asia -- you may remember Ken from an earlier briefing he did in an earlier life, before President Jiang Zemin's trip here to the U.S.
Also here to take questions are Ambassador Steve Sestanovich who is over here from the State Department to talk about the bilateral meeting with Prime Minister Primakov. Steve may have to leave early; if so, he'll be replaced by somebody else and we'll let you know. Tim Geitner is here; he is the Treasury Under Secretary Designate for Economic Affairs.
And I think that is it. Let me just tell you one thing -- or not tell you one thing I know the question that is uppermost on your minds is the one that Joe took earlier today and that is the question of whether the President is going on this trip. None of these briefers will be able to elucidate the situation any further than Joe did. So I'll leave you with that.
Q Is he going? I'm serious. You say the President plans -- how did you put it --
Q You said "is scheduled."
MR. TOIV: Yes, and as Joe said, the President is looking forward to going, has been looking forward to going. He is, obviously, watching events elsewhere in the world, particularly Iraq, very closely. And if we have any schedule changes to let you know about, we will let you know about them.
Q Would someone go in the President's stead if the President were unable to attend APEC?
MR. TOIV: That's a hypothetical question that I don't think Mr. Lockhart would have answered.
MR. SPERLING: I apologize up front in that I have to leave in about 10 minutes, though we're well-equipped here. APEC provides a particularly good forum for the President to continue the process of forging consensus on the practical and immediate steps needed to deal with the Asian financial crisis and growth issues, and the widespread poverty and economic harm that have accompanied this situation.
In particular, at APEC we hope to continue the process of trade liberalization that is important for continued worldwide growth. As you know, in Vancouver the President and APEC leaders asked the trade ministers to deliver -- make progress on further liberalization in nine key sectors, and we hope to follow through on the commitment to make further liberalization in those areas.
We think this is critical at this time in the world economy to show that further progress on trade liberalization can and should be made to serve as a strong signal that we should not be turning back or closing up even at this difficult time in the world economy, that the benefits of open markets are too important to sacrifice at this time.
The President also will be discussing many of the steps he has been working on over the last year, and particularly laid out in his Council on Foreign Relations speech, particularly the need to help private companies restructure their debt in Asia and return to growth and expansion; the need for further social safety net reform to help deal with the transitions that are needed in this difficult time; and taking actions to ensure that we're spurring our own exports into the region.
Clearly there will also be discussion on further efforts on long-term architectures. As you know that at this -- at APEC the President called for the special finance ministers meeting that is sometimes referred to as the G-22, but the basic notion that emerging markets should be brought into the discussion with the G-7 on the long-term issues. And it's worth noting that Vietnam, Russia and Peru will be at APEC for the first time.
On the trade liberalization, which I mentioned, which goes by the initials EVSL or Early Voluntary Sectoral Liberalization, the nine areas are all areas that the United States is quite competitive in -- chemicals, energy goods, environmental, technology goods, fish-forestry, gems and jewelry, medical equipment, toys, and telecom. Just example -- environmental technology in the United States has $14.5 billion in exports, and over $20 billion in medical equipment and scientific products.
The goals is to press forward on these and continue in six other areas over the following year. As you know, APEC in the context of the information technology agreement -- the ITA -- served as the form that helped bring that together and brought to the WTO for the eventual agreement.
It has been a disappointment to us that at this stage Japan has not made more progress and, in fact, has been resistant in the areas of fish and forestry. These are the two areas that -- which are most relevant to Japan. Even though they only have between five and six percent tariffs in these areas, there's been significant resistance. Outside of these two areas, there's very little tariff reduction required of Japan, and we feel that if we -- to make progress and to discourage other countries from making excessive reservations, we are hopeful that we will be able to pull together and make progress on the trade liberalization that was hoped for at this time.
I will turn it over to Lael. I will say that obviously some of the President's bilaterals are important on the economic front. Ken will go over some of those more. Certainly with China we not only want to discuss their economic reform efforts and some of the difficult reform efforts as they make transitions from their state-owned enterprises, but certainly the further trade progress and liberalization progress that must be made for them to be able to join the World Trade Organization.
And certainly in our trip to Japan there will be continuing discussions on the agenda that is quite familiar to all of you now, which will be particularly important in the area of the implementation of their banking program where the size of the funds put forward has certainly been significant, but significant questions remain as to the implementation -- questions and certainly the issues of stimulating growth and some of the trade issues that are still between us, whether implementing sectoral agreements as flat glass or some of the issues on steel that have arisen recently.
So let me, with that, turn it over to Lael Brainard. Lael, if not all of you know her, is the Deputy International Economic Affairs. She is the third to hold that position after Bo Cutter and Dan Turillo, and has been with us for a few years and is formally a professor of economics at MIT.
MS. BRAINARD: That's probably more than you needed to know to hear about this schedule. (Laughter.) We're leaving Saturday evening en route to Kuala Lumpur. We arrive mid-morning on Monday. The President has a very full schedule that day. He has a bilateral with Jiang Zemin of China -- also, with Prime Minister Chuan of Thailand, and Ken Lieberthal will speak about both of those in a minute.
That evening, he's going to give remarks at the APEC Business Summit. The next morning -- Tuesday morning -- he will be meeting with Prime Minister Primakov from Russia. He then starts the full agenda for APEC, and it goes through the traditional APEC agenda that's been established over the last few years.
It starts off with an agenda briefing among all of the leaders -- as Gene mentioned, we'll have new members there this year. That is essentially a chance for the host to go through the schedule and talk about the issues on the agenda. That will be followed by a meeting with the ABAC -- the APEC Business Advisory Council -- which is the private sector advisory group from which each economy appoints three members. We have three members there who will be participating in that along with the leaders.
The next morning starts the Leaders' Retreat. They will go off to a place called Cyberview Lodge. And there will be two sessions and a lunch. I believe the morning session will focus more on the growth agenda for the region and the specific trade liberalization initiative on the table. The afternoon session will focus more on a broader trade agenda, in particular the WTO process that kicks off next year as well as some issues like electronic commerce.
That evening, Wednesday evening, they depart Kuala Lumpur and they go on to Tokyo. Thursday morning in Tokyo, the President is planning to do a meeting with some local members of the business community. I believe some American business leaders will be there as well. And it will be followed with a town hall meeting with Japan's sort of next generation of leaders, young people. He has a call on the Emperor midday, and then the afternoon is devoted to bilateral meetings with the Prime Minister, and a dinner that evening.
Friday morning will replicate a little bit of the feeling of Tarrytown in the sense that Prime Minister Obuchi wanted to go off campus and spend a little bit of time with the President in a more relaxed environment. So they will go off to Hakone together and they are also expected to spend a little time on environmental issues during that day.
Friday evening they depart, arriving in Seoul. Saturday morning is the official bilateral with President Kim Dae-Jung, followed probably by, I think, a discussion with civil society -- members of civil society and a dinner later that evening.
Sunday the President will be spending some time with troops in Korea. I believe he leaves now Sunday evening, arriving in Guam. In Guam -- actually, I'm mistaken. He's leaving Monday morning, arriving in Guam Monday morning. There he will do three events. He will have a meeting with community leaders and Governor Gutierrez. He will visit the War in the Pacific World War II Memorial, and he will also have an opportunity to speak to the people of Guam. At that juncture I think he gets back on a plane and we are estimating that he returns Monday evening.
Did we lose Steve already? Carlos is coming? Okay, why don't we flip to the bilaterals that Ken Lieberthal will go through.
Q Can you describe more the audience at the town hall meeting in Tokyo and also who is at the meeting with members of civil society in Seoul?
MS. BRAINARD: Why don't I let Ken do that when he goes through the actual sort of bilateral events.
MR. LIEBERTHAL: Thank you, Lael. Let me take up an array of issues that are kind of more the political and security side of all of this. First, some questions have been raised as to why we should attend the APEC meeting, given that it is taking place in Malaysia. And the answer to that is very simple. The APEC meeting is important. It's a major international group in which the U.S. has played a central role all along. That meeting is taking place in Kuala Lumpur, but we are going to Kuala Lumpur in order to attend the APEC meeting.
This is, therefore, not a bilateral U.S.-Malaysian situation. The Malaysians have not asked us for bilateral meetings. We have not asked them for bilateral meetings. Our rubbing shoulders with Malaysian officials will be totally in the context of the APEC meeting itself. But we regard that meeting as warranting American participation and support.
While the President is in Malaysia, he will hold several meetings with other leaders there. Shortly, we'll have a briefer in to tell you about the meeting with Primakov. Let me tell you about the two other major leaders. One is with Chuan of Thailand. The meeting with him will primarily give us an opportunity to congratulate him on pursuing the IMF agenda for economic recovery in a rigorous fashion.
We think Thailand has moved along very substantially. If you look at their economic performance, they're in what could be called a virtuous cycle. In other words, they have essentially stabilized their foreign exchange rate; interest rates have come down. They are beginning to attack foreign direct investment. They still have a lot to go, but this is the kind of path that we anticipated and we want to show our support for what they have done there.
In the process, they have, if anything, become a more democratic country. And an underlying theme of the President's trip is the kind of intersection, if you will, or compatibility of moving in a more democratic direction and doing better in economic performance with the kind of information-based market economy that will be key to prosperity in the 21st century.
The President will also meet with Jiang Zemin of China while at APEC. That meeting is one that is seen as essentially laying out between the two men an understanding of where our bilateral relationship will head over the course of the coming year. So this is not merely to kind of sustain the summit diplomacy and to pat each other on the back. It is not simply to check the boxes of what we have done since the last summit. It is rather to see where we can really move forward in our agenda and make this constructive partnership work.
Q Where does the President want it to go, if you'll elaborate a little?
MR. LIEBERTHAL: Some of the key issues here are WTO accession -- I'll say a word about each of these, if you wish -- but WTO accession, cooperating with regard to North Korea, Chinese consideration of membership in the Missile Technology Control Regime, MTCR, and the human rights agenda.
Why don't we save for Q&A my specific comments on any of those, but you've noted them down. I'm happy to elaborate on each of them in response to your questions, but we want to run through the basic brief here and then let you focus on where you want.
So the meeting with China we regard as an important meeting and as a kind of looking to the future. It will not produce a press statement, but hopefully it will produce some real energy in the relationship as we go into the next year.
We then move on to Japan. In Japan the President will have the opportunity, in no small part through that town hall meeting, to carry the message of APEC to the people of Japan. That message, we anticipate, will be a message that favors open markets, but also that recognizes the critical importance of Japan's developing demand-led growth domestically as a core element in Asian regional economic recovery and indeed in global economic growth. And coming from APEC, this will give the President a good opportunity in an interactive fashion with citizens of Japan to make those points and also to hear what they have to say.
Someone asked about the composition of that group. It's basically young people, ages 21 to 45, from different walks of life. There is a mix of professionals and just an array of people from very different sectors. There will be two different locations -- live, I believe, and plus citizens of Japan will have the opportunity to submit questions in advance by Internet. So most of this will be the President responding to questions that people in Japan raise either live or through the Internet.
In addition, the President will be talking with the Japan about security issues on the bilat. Those security issues will focus in part on how to deal with North Korea, because North Korea has been behaving in ways that none of us would really like to see -- and also some alliance issues that are very well-known to people who follow the U.S.-Japan alliance. These are longstanding issues that I'll get into again if you wish to raise them in the Q&A.
On the economy, I think Gene basically covered what he plans to do on the bilat on the economy, but the economic bilat is quite important.
He then moves over to Korea. In Korea, the economic side of the issue is more -- kind of similar to what he's doing in the bilateral meeting with Chuan of Thailand, which is to say to congratulate the Koreans on sticking to a course that is a very difficult course; that while it is the right prescription we think for long-term growth and prosperity, in the short-term it produces an enormous amount of social dislocation and pain. He wants to say essentially that he understands that and to encourage them to stick with that course.
He also regards Kim Dae-Jung rightly as one of the outstanding democratic figures of Asia and wants to acknowledge that, and there will be discussion of democracy issues in Asia and there will I think a program on democracy -- or a forum on democracy that will be discussed.
And then, finally, on the security side, he again wants to go over the Korea situation -- the North Korea situation -- with the people in Seoul. So to sum up, one of the underlying security issues for China, Japan and Korea is how to deal with North Korea, and it's important for us to get coordination and mutual understanding and cooperation among all three -- two of whom are alliance partners of us, one of whom cooperates with us -- in order to handle the North Korea issue effectively.
And then we have econ issues that go all the way through these meetings and then some other particular issues in each bilat.
With that, let me turn it over to Carlos Pascual, who is Senior Director for -- covers Russia -- I've forgotten what your whole directorate is called -- but, anyway, covers Russia, to go over the bilat with Primakov. And then we'll open it up to your questions.
MR. PASCUAL: Just very briefly, the President will see Prime Minister Primakov on Tuesday. It will be the first meeting that we have with the Prime Minister since he's taken on his new position and moved from being the Foreign Minister. This will be for us an opportunity to hear from Prime Minister Primakov about his economic strategy, about how he sees Russia moving ahead and dealing with the current kind of economic crisis it has, what his thoughts are about promoting economic stability, and what Russia's plans are to try to restore economic growth over time.
It's also going to be an opportunity for us to talk about specific steps that could be taken on the nonproliferation front and addressing concerns that we've had in the past. All of you have seen recent indications that there may be movements on START II. That will certainly be an issue for discussion. We hope that we can mark some additional progress, moving along on that front.
Obviously, it's been discussed in recent days in the press the situation of records of POWs and MIAs. Depending on what final information we get today from Senator Smith and Ambassador Toon who have been in Russia and have been working on this issue, that will be -- may be an issue that requires additional follow-up as well.
It's a relatively short meeting of just about an hour, so we don't expect any major developments coming out of it, but it is an opportunity for us to continue to work on these issues which have been a longstanding part of the bilateral agenda.
Q Carlos, as long as you're -- what does this say about Yeltsin that he's not there --
MR. PASCUAL: Well, we're glad that President Yeltsin did come back from Sochi and has begun to reengage again. We hope his health is better. It's obviously of concern that -- if he isn't well, but we don't have additional information from what you've actually seen. This evening, I understand that he did not participate in the dinner with Obuchi. That probably shouldn't be surprising because he hasn't been engaging in an extensive schedule.
Most clearly, in terms of authorities and responsibilities, it's been most clearly placed by the Kremlin itself, when Mr. Sysuyev, the spokesman for the Kremlin, indicated that responsibility for day-to-day economic issues and for economic strategy is going to be with the government and with the Prime Minister, and President Yeltsin is going to be the guarantor of the Constitution. Exactly how that breaks down into specific responsibilities over time we still don't know. These are sort of a general statement of principles that they've laid out, but I don't have much more for you than that.
Q What about Iraq -- any discussions with Primakov?
MR. PASCUAL: Obviously, in terms of the developments on regional issues, there may be a whole range of regional issues that come into play -- Iraq, Kosovo -- and we will decide on what the specific items are as we're close to the time.
Q Carlos, can you give us an update on how things are looking from the Russian perspective as far as any kind of military action -- conversations with them recently and how are they going?
MR. PASCUAL: I can't comment on that, sorry. I haven't been directly involved in the Iraq issue, so I'll pass on the question.
Q On the economic front, is there going to be an agreement on this debt relief proposal that was written about I guess yesterday in the Wall Street Journal?
MS. BRAINARD: You're referring to the APEC meeting? I think Gene was talking earlier about our broad recovery agenda which I think is shared by most of the leaders in the region, and we are hoping to make progress on all of the priorities, all of the different pieces that he talked about -- Japan's critical role, the need for it to expand its own economy, absorb more of the exports from neighboring economies in the region. We want to make some progress on the need for stronger social safety net spending in the region.
As you probably know, as the IMF programs have taken hold in many of the crisis-stricken economies, they've been able to expand their fiscal spending on social safety net kinds of programs. And there has also been an initiative for the World Bank and the ADB to augment financing for that.
We certainly -- among those priorities, the one of getting the corporations and companies in the region out from under crushing burdens of debt and the associated connection to strengthening the banking system; alleviating the credit crunch is very important, and we would like make some progress in that area.
Q Has Japan agreed to that?
MS. BRAINARD: At this juncture there is a variety of discussions on this important issue. This is a priority that the President laid out in the Council on Foreign Relations speech. And subsequent to that, there has been a lot of work on this area. But at this juncture there is just a large work program as opposed to a specific initiative.
Q So Japan has not agreed? That would be a no?
MS. BRAINARD: No, that would not be a no. There is a work program. This is something that will be discussed at the meeting. Japan is a very important part of our work, our cooperative work in this area, and that will continue to be true.
Q Is the United States willing to put forward any of its own funds to back such an effort, or would it seek funds exclusively from other countries and multilateral agencies?
MS. BRAINARD: Again, there is a work program that involves a variety of initiatives. There is no specific funded initiative at this juncture.
Q So the U.S. is open to the idea of using its own money for this?
MS. BRAINARD: I think what we're looking for is the best way of moving forward the corporate sector restructuring and the financial sector restructuring.
Q On the corporate debt restructuring, the debt was announced today -- not announced, but that was proposed -- Japan has also announced a plan, the Miyazawa plan. And I was wondering how you envisioned the plan that the U.S. is proposing different from the Miyazawa plan. What are the differences in the two?
MS. BRAINARD: The Japanese government has announced that it has a certain amount of money that it wants to make available for a variety of initiatives in the region, which I believe you're referring to as the Miyazawa plan. The priorities that they have discussed in using that financial assistance is very much similar to the priorities that we have articulated. And indeed we're working cooperatively with them on those priorities, bilaterally and also multilaterally.
The other thing that is, of course, extremely important for Japan to contribute to the region's recovery is getting its own domestic economy moving again based on domestic demand-led growth.
Q But where do you see it being used? Is it for the corporate debt overhang or social safety net, or both?
MS. BRAINARD: My understanding is that the specific uses of that money are still being discussed. As I understand it, though, the priorities that they have articulated are very similar to the ones that I just articulated -- things like trade finance, things like credit enhancements to get private investment flowing again, things like social safety net spending, and things like corporate and financial sector restructuring.
Q A scheduling issue -- when the President meets with U.S. troops in Korea, where will they meet? At the DMZ, or someplace else?
MR. LIEBERTHAL: No, they will not meet at the DMZ. There will be two places where the President is on military ground, if you will. One is the Korea Training Center, the KTC, and the other is Osan Base. He will -- depending a little bit on the weather. If the weather is kind to us, at the Korea Training Center, he will view U.S. and ROK troops together and have a chance to address the troops, have lunch with them and so forth.
He will then leave Korea from Osan Air Base, which is also the site of anti-chemical weapons, Patriot battery, and so forth. While there, he'll address the people at the air base in a brief set of remarks, and then leave from Osan.
Q I didn't understand the meeting with civil society in Korea. Who is the meeting with?
MR. LIEBERTHAL: This again is a roundtable discussion with a group of individuals from various sectors of Korean society. It is, as much as anything, for the President to understand some of the social consequences of the changes that Korea is now going through -- those consequences are very severe -- to both understand that better himself and to express his concern about that.
So it's an opportunity for him to get out of the kind of standard official setting where he's standing up there and telling people what he thinks, and instead to learn something directly from people who are involved in various sectors of Korean society.
Q Are they supposed to be talking about the consequences of the economic downturn in the region, or more generally about life in Korea?
MR. LIEBERTHAL: They will be to talk about anything they want to talk about, but I think the idea is to focus on Korea. This is not seen as an opportunity for him to hear economists talk about what has to be done for the region as a whole; it's an opportunity for him to talk to people in various sectors of Korean society about what they think is going on in Korea, and to talk with them about what he thinks probably needs to happen in the future and get some sense of how they react to that.
Q Could you talk about what the President or other people traveling with him will be saying to the Malaysians about the treatment of Anwar? And will anybody, particularly Secretary Albright -- I know there has been talk that she might meet with Anwar's wife -- has any decision been made on that?
MR. LIEBERTHAL: Let me say first, we have had a number of our top officials specifically comment on the situation in Malaysia, bemoan the apparent movement away from democratic principles and toward more authoritarian methods there. Secretary Albright has made a statement of her own. Secretary Rubin has made a statement. Vice President Gore has made a statement, and so forth. So we've been relatively vocal on that issue. I think it is quite possible that Secretary Albright, while in Kuala Lumpur, will find an opportunity to meet with Anwar's wife. That is not confirmed, but that is certainly something that she would like to see occur if it can be arranged in an appropriate fashion.
Q Can you address the parallel situation of the host country, in this case Malaysia, opposing free market principles advocated by the United States?
MR. LIEBERTHAL: Well, you know, the choice of Malaysia as host was made four years ago, and no one anticipated four years ago that this kind of situation would arise. The U.S. wants to go into this meeting with a positive message. That positive message has a core economic component that Gene and Lael have laid out. There is also, to my mind, a tightly related political component that we will articulate, and that is the compatibility -- I mentioned this briefly; let me just take an additional moment on it -- the compatibility between democratic forms of government, if you will, democracy and good governance, and doing well with a free market economy in the Information Age.
When you think about it, more democratic societies have a stronger commitment to the rule of law. They allow for decentralized decision-making and individual initiative. They allow for the free flow of information. They produce governments that are more responsive to the needs of society, and also more legitimate in the eyes of the people when they have to make tough decisions.
These are all elements of a mix that enables you to do better in response to economic crisis, and we think is a mix that enables you to do better given the nature of the international economy that is developing out there for the coming century.
So that if you look historically, countries in deep economic crisis have tended to go either toward a much more authoritarian kind of system. The most dramatic example, obviously, is Nazi Germany in response to the Great Depression. Or in a more democratic direction, if you will, the New Deal in response to the Great Depression.
We are encouraging countries to go more toward the democratic side. And if you look at the countries with whom the President is having bilateral meetings and whom he's visiting, the Thais have gone in a more democratic direction. He will meet, although not for the same length of time as with the Thais, he'll meet with the Indonesians. Secretary Albright will be going to Indonesia and Thailand after the APEC meeting. The Indonesians have moved in a more democratic direction. He'll be going to Korea. They have moved in a more democratic direction. This is something that we want to highlight, both kind of conceptually and in terms of where the President chooses to spend his time.
Q Did the United States ever seriously consider not going to this meeting because of its opposition, its disapproval of the way the government of Malaysia is tending?
MR. LIEBERTHAL: I am not sure what is required to qualify for "seriously considering," but let me say all the way through we have felt that it is very important for the United States to be well represented at the APEC meeting and to play a significant role at this meeting.
Keep in mind, please, that APEC is the one multilateral organization that both includes all major economies of Asia and, historically, has included the United States as a major player. You do not walk away from that kind of vehicle, if you will, because of some other set of political concerns. Rather you try to stress what you need to stress in order to achieve long-range, major goals that are important for this country and you deal with the other elements as they come up.
Q But just to be clear, to follow up on a previous question, you don't expect the President himself to directly express in any way his dissatisfaction with the Malaysian government, other than by not meeting one-on-one with -- Mahathir.
MR. LIEBERTHAL: I, frankly, cannot tell you exactly what the President will and will not say. He will have the opportunity while in Kuala Lumpur to make various remarks and he may choose to comment on the Malaysian situation. But we'll have to wait to see what his actual comments are.
Q To clarify in Indonesia, you said that the President would be meeting with the Indonesians. Is that sort of a pull aside with Habibie, rather than a formal, sit-down --
MR. LIEBERTHAL: It is a shorter meeting with Habibie, and it's a shorter meeting with Habibie in part because Secretary Albright will be going to Indonesia shortly afterwards and there's a limit to how many long meetings you can have while you're attending the APEC meeting within the constraints of time that he's in the city. But he did -- let me stress, if I can, he did want to meet with Habibie because he does want to encourage the Indonesians to continue to move down a path toward the elections this coming year, which will produce, presumably, a legitimate government that has the political stability necessary to attract foreign direct investment and to improve the lives of their people.
Q What day is that meeting?
MR. LIEBERTHAL: The meeting with Habibie is on the 17th, at 5:00 p.m.
Q Any other short meetings?
MR. LIEBERTHAL: Yes, although I don't want to give you a definitive list because the short meetings can change a little bit. But he certainly will be meeting with the Sultan of Brunei, with President Estrada of the Philippines and with Habibie.
Q You had mentioned North Korea is going to be a threat, a security threat going through the meeting with Japan, the meeting with China. What direction are you trying to get everybody to go on board toward? What do you want everyone to agree to?
MR. LIEBERTHAL: Good question, I'm glad you raise it. There is not a single direction -- we don't have a set of answers that we want to lay out for everyone and get them kind of marching along our path here. As I'm sure most of you know, the U.S. Congress mandated in the closing days of its last session that we appoint a policy coordinator for Korea and undertake a serious review of policy toward Korea.
Part of what the President will do is to explain that situation and what the policy review entails to the Chinese, to the South Koreans and to the Japanese, and will stress that in the process of this policy review we want to fully consult with our allies and friends in the region. The fundamental issue here is not one of moving away from what's called the agreed framework, the basic architecture, if you will, of how we try to prevent the North Koreans from making nuclear weapons and from threatening their neighbors, but rather how do we strengthen that by getting the North Koreans to actually act in the way that they have committed themselves to act.
We view the way we approach that with a view to strengthening the agreed framework and putting it on a solid base politically here and, in reality, in Northeast Asia. And we want to do that with the full knowledge and participation of our Asian friends and allies. So that's what I intended to signal by commenting on North Korea.
Q Is the President going to be appointing somebody to lead that review?
MR. LIEBERTHAL: Yes, he is mandated to appoint a policy coordinator for that review, so he is appointing a policy coordinator. I, frankly, can't remember whether I'm allowed to comment further on that or not, so let me not, no.
Q Will the President be doing a news conference during this trip?
MR. LIEBERTHAL: Yes, there will be a news conference at the very end of the trip, at Korea -- right before departure from Korea. I think that's -- is that the only one? It's a joint press conference at the end of the trip in Korea. Lael, do you want to flush that out at all?
MS. BRAINARD: Saturday, before the Civil Society dialogue, he's doing a press conference.
Q Will there be a press statement after the Primakov meeting -- you said there wasn't one after Jiang Zemin.
MR. PASCUAL: Probably not. (Laughter.)
Q -- right after a meeting with China you -- four areas of discussion. Do you expect any tangible progress, like --
MR. LIEBERTHAL: As I mentioned, we do not plan to have a press statement at the end of that meeting. Our purpose in going into that meeting is to try to get the best feel that we can between the two leaders as to where progress can be made, some sense of the pace of that progress and how best to proceed from where we are now to where we want to be.
In that sense, do I hope for some progress in this meeting? In that sense, I do; but it's not in the sense of signing any kind of agreement or having something to announce at the end of the meetings. It's rather, in my view, so the President will come out of that meeting and will direct me and others who deal with China on where we should be moving, what our priorities ought to be and what the benchmarks are as we go forward.
Q Do you have an assessment of how the various leaders who the President will be meeting with view the impeachment process ongoing and whether or not it will have an impact on the President's credibility or his ability to deal with these leaders, which will be going on at the same time that the President is in Asia.
MR. LIEBERTHAL: No, I don't know what's in their heads about that. I do know that the President remains, I believe certainly in any area I deal with, he remains extremely effective. And I think the other leaders -- just judging by how anxious they are to meet with him and how full the agendas are when they sit down with him -- I think they take him extremely seriously. But I can't comment.
Q On the nine sectors that you had mentioned Japan has shown resistance, particularly on fishery and forestry, but the momentum for most countries seems to be going towards not coming to full agreement on liberalization and something less than full agreement. Is this an up or down situation for the United States? Is there anything that you can envision that would be less than full agreement on these nine sectors?
MS. BRAINARD: The agreement that we hope to reach is to make progress, as much progress as possible. As you may recall from the information technology agreement on the tariff side, this is the first step of a two-step process. And so what we hope to do is take the results we achieve this year into the WTO framework and use it to get multilateral commitments.
So, in that sense, this will be an ongoing project or an ongoing challenge. We certainly hope to get as many countries participating in as many sectors with as ambitious targets as possible. But I think as Gene mentioned earlier, the environment in the region is a difficult one. A lot of economies are experiencing substantial declines in growth, many of them substantially negative growth. So it will be difficult for them to make progress.
I think if we can make some progress on the trade liberalization front it would be really quite important, an important signal of the region's determination to stay integrated into the world trading system and to get back on a recovery track.
Q Can you comment on what your latest information is on what the Japanese have been doing to try to get some of the other countries to side with them in this dispute and what your reaction is to what they're doing?
MS. BRAINARD: I think what we are engaged in is a sort of regional negotiating process with a large number of trading partners. And I believe there is, to some degree, a calculation on the part of each economy that their offer will, to some degree, depend on the ambitiousness, the quality of other country's offers. So it's in that sense that we keep saying that we would like to see Japan try to make some progress on those two vital sectors, where they really have the most to give.
Q Can you give us any sort of benchmark on what that would mean? I'm sorry to be dense about this, but I don't know, when you say progress on those two sectors in particular, is there some sort of number you're looking for?
MS. BRAINARD: There is not a particular number. I think as Gene said earlier, they have tariff averages that are substantially higher in those sectors than in their other sectors, which is why it would be nice to see them putting their tariffs -- some tariff offers on the table, some substantial volume of products in each of those two sectors. But in terms of precise numbers, no, we don't have particular targets.
Q How do you respond to the Japanese assertion that any trade liberalization efforts should be voluntary? Nobody should force anybody to do anything, that's a basic principle --
MS. BRAINARD: Well, arguably, all trade liberalization is voluntary. So we would hope that they would recognize it is in their interest, as the second largest economy in the world and the largest economy in the region, to really participate in this. I think Japan does recognize they have a special responsibility in the region, and that's why participation by them is so important.
Q But they have -- difficulties facing the domestic industry in Japan, the Japanese government is now saying that they can't do this at this moment. What's the point of forcing them to do this, if what you're saying is it's voluntary efforts?
MS. BRAINARD: Again, I think we recognize that the environment in the region, the financial economic environment is particularly difficult this year for many economies. Many economies are suffering a great deal and a great deal more than Japan. And it's difficult, I'm sure, for everybody to make any kind of movement on open trade. But by the same token, that's why it is so very important to show that APEC really is capable of continuing to move forward, even in the trickiest of times.
Q This meeting is going to take place now in an environment where -- in previous meetings it was enough to sort of get together, but now you've got a major regional crisis. If you fail to convince the Japanese government to do this, and you don't get your private sector financial arrangements out in time or they're not approved, is there any standard by which the success or the degree of success of this meeting should be judged? Or is just going to be sort of ambiguities and vague talk of progress as has been somewhat the case at previous meetings, and we'll all go on? How should we measure what you do?
MS. BRAINARD: I will leave to you to decide how to characterize whether or not this meeting is successful. We're hopeful that it will be an important forum for the leaders of this region to talk about the financial crisis.
Again, as Ken was suggesting earlier, this is quite a unique forum. The President has invested a lot of his own time and energy in it. As you know, he convened the first leaders' meeting. And over time, this forum has become very relevant to the key economic issues of the day. And I think we want to see leaders really grappling with the economic challenges and agreeing on a set of priorities for addressing them. And I think we are hoping to see that coming out of this meeting.
MR. LIEBERTHAL: Can I add just one line to that, if I may? Most of you have a great deal of experience in traveling with the President and so forth. You know how difficult it is to have a time that is somewhat unstructured when leaders can really talk to each other. And the leaders' meeting at this conclave allows leaders of 15 economies to spend literally hours together with a lot of fluidity in what they say.
And so it's an almost unique opportunity to get together key people from the most -- what to my mind is the most important region of the world and have them interact on an intensive basis. You're always looking for measures of success, and you're right to do so. But one of the underlying elements of this that make it important is precisely, simply the opportunity to, face to face, bat things around.
Q Some of the countries are countries in Latin America. They worry how the crisis will affect them. How is the President going to address this fear in this particular forum? Is it going to be --
MS. BRAINARD: I think that we have, from our Latin American partners, Peru will be in attendance for the first time, and Mexico and Chile are members of APEC. In terms of the crisis, I think the President has spoken to the crisis in a variety of fora and really has spoken on the short-term measures and the long-term measures which I think pertain to Latin America as they do to other regions of the world.
One of the things that I think was very important is the attempt to strengthen the IMF and to give it new tools for the new types of financial situations we see in recent years, and in particular the precautionary financial facility, which was really put in place to help countries ward off crises, countries that are already carrying out good policies.
In addition, he wants to continue discussions and progress and a work program towards significant reforms to the international financial architecture. I'm sure the leaders will talk about some of the transparency surveillance issues that are important for Latin America as much as they are for Asia, indeed as they are for this country.
Q Thank you.
END 4:35 P.M. EST