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Office of the Press Secretary

For Immediate Release December 6, 1999
                             PRESS BRIEFING BY
                               JOE LOCKHART

                             The Briefing Room

1:15 P.M. EST

MR. LOCKHART: One quick announcement. On Wednesday, December 8th, the President will hold a press conference at the State Department Dean Acheson Auditorium, 2:00 p.m. To reserve a seat please call Jennie in my office by 4:00 p.m. tomorrow.


Q What does he want to talk about?

MR. LOCKHART: He wants to talk about the agenda for next year, what he's got in mind. I'm sure you all have questions that he'd love to take, and we'll see where we go.

Q Can you explain what it is that actually happened at the WTO and what the administration thinks about the outcome?

MR. LOCKHART: Well, I think as the President said in his statement Saturday, we made some progress, particularly on agriculture. The agriculture and services discussions will move forward. Differences remain on issues such as how we deal with labor and environment. There was some -- issues as far as our dumping laws. The negotiators couldn't reach an agreement on an agenda for launching the talks. We'll take some time now, reflect on where we agree, where we disagree, and the President remains optimistic that we'll be able to launch this round.

Q Does the President believe that his comments about core labor standards and eventual sanctions played any role in spooking developing nations?

MR. LOCKHART: No, the President does not.

Q Why not? Because they all said that they --

MR. LOCKHART: I think that the President believes he, as I've said here several times now, was articulating a view that he has laid out since his speech in 1998, and even before, about how we deal with living standards and protection of the environment. So I don't think he believes that this was something that precipitated the outcome.

I would remind you that in the discussions, they never got to labor and environment. There were significant differences on other issues. As they move forward, these are difficult discussions. They always are. It's an ambitious challenge that the President has laid down, to launch a new round so soon after the last round. And we will continue working. And the President's optimistic we're going to get this done.

Q So he was not swayed in the least by any consideration on labor and environment, and how that might reflect on Vice President Gore's candidacy?

MR. LOCKHART: I'd suggest that you go back and look at the speeches from as early as 1998 on what his views are. These are views that he's consistently laid out and he believes strongly in.

Q Just to follow up, Joe, did he personally pull the plug on the talks, through instructions to Charlene Barshefsky?

MR. LOCKHART: No. I couldn't quite tell whether it was your front-page story, or something that was on the front page of a British paper from Sunday, but a decision was made that it wasn't productive to move forward. And that was the recommendation from our team, and that's what happened.

Q What would you say the outcome of the talks have done on the President's ability to be a leader in trade negotiations in the future?

MR. LOCKHART: Oh, I think people who understand how trade negotiations work understand the complexity and the fitful nature of them. And I think the President has laid an important and ambitious challenge before the WTO. We've always understood that that would be difficult, that the complexity and the novelty of some of these issues, as far as the WTO, as a young organization, would lead to moments where differences would be articulated. But, overall, we have moved considerably since the beginning of this President, as far as opening up world trade; but there are many challenges ahead and we believe that they'll be met.

Q And you don't think this has undercut his abilities at all?

MR. LOCKHART: No, I don't think it has. We have an interest for this nation, for American businesses, American workers, American families, for free trade. We believe that the rest of the world has an interest. The question is, how do we move from mutual self-interest to a complex trade agreement. And that's the process that's ongoing.

Q Joe, when you say -- you mentioned that there had been some progress in some of those areas. Are those gains locked in? When you start talk again will they begin with the agreement on -- possibly on agriculture?

MR. LOCKHART: Yes, I think there were a number of things, particularly within agriculture. And I'd invite you over to USTR to get the specifics of those, where there were agreements. And when the talks resume on agriculture, I think there will be agreement there. There is still more work to be done, I think, in each of the areas. But there certainly was some progress mad.

Q If the President was really determined to push the notion of eventual sanctions and making core labor standards part of WTO, to what extent was that part of the negotiations with China?


Q The President's statement about, we'd like to see core labor standards as part of WTO and eventual sanctions for those who violate them --

MR. LOCKHART: Again, I'm not going to accept your interpretation of the President's statement, so why don't you separate that out and ask a question.

Q Okay. Did what the President say to the Post-Intelligencer, was that also part of the U.S. negotiating position with China?

MR. LOCKHART: I think what the President said was a broad statement that he had -- that indicated his feelings about how we move forward to put a global face on the economy, something that he's talked about since 1992, but most recently in 1998 in the speech to the WTO.

Q Just to follow up on that -- the labor movement is saying, we're going to oppose China because, in part, because they do not do what the President is now saying everyone should do.

MR. LOCKHART: Well, again, the labor movement can speak for the labor movement. It is, I think, manifestly obvious, the benefits that we get from China's entry into the WTO. China right now is a particularly closed market to the United States. The United States is a wide-open market to China. What we get here is a sort of one-way benefit in opening up the Chinese market to American businesses, to workers, that will create jobs and be good for continuing the unprecedented economic expansion in this country.

Q You say you haven't given up, Joe. What will you do now to try to get a new round going?

MR. LOCKHART: Well, there are some things that are locked -- there are some talks that are locked in, coming out of -- that have nothing to do with Seattle and launching a new round on agriculture and services. I think the ministers all left with the sense that some time was needed to reflect on the week. But we expect that at the appropriate time we will -- and other ministers around the country -- will work to see what the best mechanism is for launching the new trade round.

Q Joe, will the President ask for fast track status next year from Congress to reassure our trade partners who might have been watching the WTO?

MR. LOCKHART: I'm going to save potential State of the Union items for at least another couple weeks. (Laughter.)

Q Joe, why is China's market closed to the U.S. and U.S. market is open to China, number one? Number two, do you blame the demonstrators for the failure of the WTO? And also, how do you put the relations between the U.S. and the rest of the world today, after the failure?

MR. LOCKHART: History is the answer to the first one. The U.S. is the most open market in the world. We are the leading proponents in the world to free trade, and the benefits that come, both economic and non-economic.

China is closed because of the political and cultural history of China, and they believe it is now in their benefit to open up, open their markets to free flow of capital because it's in their self-interest. We believe it is in our self-interest to allow American products to go into an extraordinarily large and potentially attractive market.

As far as the second question, no, I don't believe -- I believe that many of the -- the vast majority of the protestors went to Seattle had a legitimate message and delivered it in a legitimate way. I think there were a small minority that acted in a criminal way and should be treated as such, and should be condemned as such. But I don't think that, in the end, despite all the attention they received, that they were central to the difficult negotiating issues that the discussions foundered on. These are very difficult issues, they are complex and they clearly need more time to resolve.

The third question, where we stand in the world. You know, I think our position in the world is unchanged. I think the world looks to U.S. leadership on a wide range of issues, including trade. They will continue to look to the United States for leadership.

Q Joe, a question also about the protestors. You said they weren't central to what happened. Does the administration feel that the protest in Seattle had any meaningful effect on the substance of what took place and didn't take place in the --

MR. LOCKHART: Whether there were protests or no protests, the issues that they were dealing with would have been just as difficult, just as intractable and just as complex. And I think that we will move forward, as we do in all trade talks, to try to find areas where we can agree and find some basis or some framework to launch these talks, whether there are people protesting or there are people not protesting.

Q Joe, could we do more on this topic? Does the U.S. feel that the developing countries -- Europe and Japan -- were flexible in their approach to the negotiation?

MR. LOCKHART: Well, I think, again, we made some progress on agriculture issues. But we didn't make as much progress as we needed to on some other issues. So there was some flexibility and there were some areas where we found that positions were hardened. And that's why overall we believe that some time needs to be taken now to reflect on what we've learned in the last week, to see how we move forward

Q Where have positions hardened? Specifically, where have positions hardened?

MR. LOCKHART: Certainly there were discussions to the end, and it's hard to go through and do a postgame analysis on an agreement that wasn't reached. So you're never quite sure in a negotiation when you get to a point of near agreement where negotiating position and where true hard and fast positions are taken. So I'm not going to try to get into specifics, only to say that there was some flexibility on some issues, but also, obviously, since we're standing here talking like we are here, some areas where there wasn't flexibility -- flexibility expressed.

Q Labor and environmental groups seem to believe that there should be no further opening without labor and environmental considerations being part of WTO. Is that the President's view?

MR. LOCKHART: I'm not sure what -- opening of --

Q No further agreements under WTO to open markets no further, trade agreements, without labor standards, for instance, being included?

MR. LOCKHART: I think the labor and environmental groups have articulated their views well, but I also think the President's articulated his view well, that as we move forward, we should consider living standards, raising living standards for all workers, and protecting the environment. And that's the view he expressed in Seattle.

Q But not now, you mean?

MR. LOCKHART: No, I think he said that it's something that we have to -- we have to begin the process of considering them, and that's what he said to the delegates.

Q I think the question -- one of the questions I have is that if it's that important to him, why not include it in U.S. negotiations with China over their WTO accession?

MR. LOCKHART: Well, our negotiations with China, I think, were successfully concluded on a basis that is commercially viable. The President has talked about WTO moving forward and looking at, and finding a way to integrate, labor and environment. And that's what we're discussing now.

Q What impact will the events in Seattle have on Congress and the administration's efforts to get the WTO agreement with China passed? I mean, do you see domestic ramifications for this?

MR. LOCKHART: I think it's hard to predict. We're going to go and make a very strong case to Congress, and I expect many elements of this country to make the case, whether it be the business community or others, that this is something that's in our interest, that's in our -- it's in the best interests of our future economic well-being, in keeping the expansion going and keeping the prosperity that we all enjoy going. And that's the case we're going to make. We'll work aggressively with our allies, both inside the Congress and outside the Congress. And we believe that we can make that case.

Q Joe, how do you think the President's proposals for transparency in the WTO did? And given the unwillingness, still, of many countries to even make their legal filings in the WTO public, what are the odds that something like labor standards are going to be agreed to --

MR. LOCKHART: Well, again, we were talking this morning that 15 years ago, people working on trade negotiations thought that they could never get the concept of intellectual property ever included in a trade agreement. And it's now a standard part of negotiating, and for obvious reasons -- I mean, who could have known how crucial intellectual property would have been 15 years ago, but clearly there were people, and they made the case.

I think the record on transparency is mixed. I think we've made some progress there, but there's obviously still more to do. And I don't think we should shy away from a challenge because it is complex, that it does seem intractable or unable to untie. There is a lot of work that still has to be done and we're going to do it.

Q Joe, two domestic issues, if I could?

MR. LOCKHART: One second, I'll come back to you.

Q Can we do more on WTO?

MR. LOCKHART: No, we've done enough on WTO. We'll come back to it if you want.

          Q    When Mrs. Clinton -- these are two domestic issues --
          MR. LOCKHART:  This is really bad when I go to Les for a little

relief. (Laughter.) But go for it.

Q That's on the record.


Q When Mrs. Clinton moves out of the White House and takes up residence in Chappaqua and begins campaigning for her election, rather than assisting the President in his duties, the President is not going to allow any more money to be spent here at the White House for a 25-member First Lady staff, is he, Joe?

MR. LOCKHART: Now, about WTO and India, there are a couple of things I want to tell you. (Applause.)

Q What about this, Joe?

MR. LOCKHART: I think the First Lady's Office has been very clear about --

Q No, no, no. I'm not asking about the First Lady. I'm asking about the President. Is he going to allow the 25 staffers to continue when she's up there in New York?

MR. LOCKHART: You get to decide the questions, I get to decide the answers. So here is my answer: I think the First Lady has been very clear about how she'll perform the dual roles that she'll have and her answers satisfy me.

Q And what was the President's reaction to that huge billboard near Gore headquarters in Nashville, showing him hugging the Vice President with the lettering, one of our greatest Presidents? And when was the last time the President either hugged or even had lunch with the Vice President?

MR. LOCKHART: I think the President just believes he's one of the greatest Presidents, so I think it might not pass the truth in advertising.

Q Wait a minute. When did he last have lunch with the President and hug him? (Laughter.)


Q Next? Oh, we're embarrassed.

Q On WTO, I was saying the President did his best, I believe, by going there to support the talks to succeed, but somehow many delegates were not ready, depending on the Third World countries, and also, what do you think of the future, where and when the next rounds of talks will take place for WTO?

MR. LOCKHART: It's Monday after Friday. I mean, all the trade ministers and delegates worked very hard last week. I don't expect that the first order of business this morning is to pin down exactly when they'll meet again or how we'll move forward. I think there -- obviously, some time needs to pass before we can effectively come up with a strategy for moving forward. So I don't have an answer for you now, but I don't think that means that the process won't move forward.

Q President Bush said sometime ago that it's time for the U.S. to move towards India -- because India is now going to be, in the 21st century, one of the most important countries as far as economy and trade and all that. What do you have to say -- how the President is going to move after this? And they would talk -- the President and the Indian delegates at the WTO were sitting at the same table, but they were not talking.

MR. LOCKHART: Well, I don't think we try to rank the importance of our relationships. The U.S.-India relationship is obviously quite important and one that the President spends a good bit of time concerned with and working on, and that will continue.

Q Has the White House gotten any information on the school shootings and does the President have any immediate reaction?

MR. LOCKHART: Well, I expect that at the event the President will have something to say at the top. We have basically the same information that the media has gathered. Justice and ATF are on scene, but the state will take the lead in this case. We, obviously, know that a 13-year-old went in and performed -- perpetrated an act that, sadly, we've seen now too often in this country. But I expect that the President will reflect on this in a few minutes.

Q Joe, does the President see any need to rethink the wisdom of spending hundreds of millions of dollars, perhaps billions of dollars, of tax money to crash things into Mars?

MR. LOCKHART: Well, I think we should hold off our, again, postgame analysis until NASA has had a chance to implement all the contingency plans they have. Obviously, if they're not able to do this this evening, it does not bode well for this. And, obviously, if this doesn't work, there will be -- Dan Goldin will initiate a review of what went wrong with an eye towards correcting it.

Q Joe, the Supreme Court announced this morning it would take a case that could lead to possibly revoking the Miranda rule. Is the President a supporter of the Miranda rule? Does he believe that suspects should be read their Miranda rights?

MR. LOCKHART: The President, through the Justice -- the Justice Department, reflecting the President's view, has filed a brief on that case, which is available at Justice.

Q Joe, what is your reaction to China starting work on a strategic submarine that will be targeted at U.S. nuclear forces, and carry small warheads similar to American weapons?

MR. LOCKHART: Well, I am not going to comment specifically on intelligence reports, but broadly speaking, we know that China is expected to deploy a more modern nuclear force in the decade ahead. And in the same broad context, there is no indication that China is using U.S. technology in its deployed nuclear forces.

Q Joe, the Chairman of the State Department's Advisory Board on Arms Control is Dr. Richard Garwin, who the New York Times just recently reported is taking along opponents of the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty in hopes of getting it before the Senate again. And I have a two-part question: does the President have full confidence in Dr. Garwin.

MR. LOCKHART: I have no reason to believe otherwise.

Q Does the President know about his having proposed to the Senate his emplacement weapons for strategic defense plan, to put hydrogen bombs under 100 U.S. and Russian cities with detonation buttons in Washington and Moscow, as reported previously by the New York Post and other --

MR. LOCKHART: -- fine newspapers? (Laughter.)

Q Yes. I would say -- you've now confessed you're starting to read the Washington Times --

MR. LOCKHART: No, no. I read the London Observer. I saw it the day before, but that's -- (laughter.)

Q I see. Well, what about Garwin? What about --

MR. LOCKHART: Darwin --

Q Garwin, not Darwin.

MR. LOCKHART: -- he had a lot to say. I mean, Darwin was good. I liked him.

Next? (Laughter.)

Q On a follow-up to China, does the United States see a threat from this more modern Chinese nuclear force?

MR. LOCKHART: Broadly speaking, we believe that we have a superior -- a clearly superior nuclear force, and understand the threat, and have the ability and the resources to address it.

Q Joe, can I follow up on the Mars question? The President can't be happy that we're spending all this money and not getting any return.

MR. LOCKHART: Well, again, you're asking me to comment on a mission that is not yet complete, or we don't know the results of. You may know what the results are; I don't. So I'm not going to draw any conclusions from it.

Q I know you talked about this, this morning, but can you again say what the White House reaction is to Castro's claims of kidnapping and a six year old in Florida should be returned?

MR. LOCKHART: Obviously, this case, as we've discussed is one that may eventually end up in court but for right at this moment is an immigration matter.

Let me address the other part of what he said, though, which is that what we do, take a dim view of are the kind of threats that Castro has made. We take the safety of our diplomats and American personnel very seriously and we expect Cuba to live up to the obligations they've undertaken to keep those Americans safe.

Q Joe, you mentioned earlier this morning that the United States -- the White House was taking no official position on the raft boy. Could you recount that for us and tell us why that is?

MR. LOCKHART: I think I just did.

Q I'm sorry, I was walking up. I'm sorry.

MR. LOCKHART: Okay. The transcript will come out.

Q Thank you very much.

Q Anything on the budget meeting?

MR. LOCKHART: No. Because it started late, I didn't get to go, so I haven't gotten a readout on it. But it would have been boring, anyway. (Laughter.)

Q Any reaction to the Russian ultimatum over -- they've given everyone five days to clear out or be killed?

MR. LOCKHART: I think we've made it very clear that a military solution is possible; that they need to move toward a political dialogue to resolve these issues. So we're obviously deeply concerned about this ultimatum and we've made that quite clear.

Q Will it have any repercussions on U.S.-Russian relations if they follow through with their threat?

MR. LOCKHART: I'm not going to answer a hypothetical, only to say that we've made very clear our deep concern over this ultimatum.

Q Joe, if an American child were held in Cuba, would we think that's a matter for Cuban courts to settle?

MR. LOCKHART: It would depend on the circumstances.

Q Well, how about identical circumstances?

MR. LOCKHART: I don't know exactly what the circumstances here are, and that's why there are people working on this.

Q Are you concerned about the situation outside our interest section?

MR. LOCKHART: I think clearly, we take the safety of American personnel very seriously and take quite a dim view of any threat to Americans, and we expect the Cubans to fulfill their responsibility.

Q We understand that there are Cuban soldiers outside the interest section. Have you gotten an update on that and what they're doing there?

MR. LOCKHART: Again, we will respond appropriately and deal with any security threat because of the seriousness of our concern for American safety. But we do expect the Cubans to undertake the responsibility and -- deal in a responsible way with American citizens there.

Q Have you done any kind of preparations to move people out of the interest section if it becomes necessary?

MR. LOCKHART: I'm not going to get into what we may be prepared to do or not do.

Q You say it was also an immigration matter. What's the juncture between the state courts and immigration?

MR. LOCKHART: That is a technical question that I'd ask you to go to INS for. I just don't know. I don't know the specific --what triggers what and within any legal process, whether it be INS or state custody.

THE PRESS: Thank you.

END 1:40 P.M. EST