THE WHITE HOUSE
Office of the Press Secretary
PRESS BRIEFING BY NATIONAL ECONOMIC ADVISOR GENE SPERLING AND SENIOR DIRECTOR OF NSC FOR EUROPEAN AFFAIRS TONY BLINKEN ON U.S.-EU SUMMIT MEETING The James S. Brady Briefing Room
1:20 P.M. EST
MR. CROWLEY: The President had his 15th U.S.-EU summit today, in which the leaders -- President Chirac and President Prodi of the EU -- talked about a mix of trade and security issues; also regional issues, including the situation in Southeastern Europe and our collective relationship with Russia and Ukraine, for example.
So here to give you a quick readout of the major topics of discussion, we have our National Economic Advisor Gene Sperling, and the Senior Director of the NSC for European Affairs, Tony Blinken. We'll start off with Gene Sperling.
MR. SPERLING: I will be brief. Today we will be releasing a joint statement with the EU on AIDS, particularly concerning making drugs -- AIDS drugs and other drugs for infectious diseases, such as malaria and TB, more affordable in the poorest countries, and calling on our pharmaceutical industries to work towards that goal. Also, to support new innovative partnerships to increase the availability of vaccines, to work on training of health workers, AIDS test kits, and reducing mother-child transmissions of AIDS.
On the trade issues, there has been, as always, significant work and discussion on both beef and bananas. On bananas, there has been some closing of differences in the last several days. The issue was discussed between President Clinton and President Chirac, but there is no resolution at this point. However, the negotiators, people in charge -- Charlene Barshefsky and Pascal Lamy -- feel that there is reason enough to continue talking and negotiating not only in the coming days, but even in the coming hours. So that is that state.
On beef, again I think there has been some positive discussions in the last couple of weeks on trying to move from a system of sanctions to an agreement on access. This remains, obviously, a difficult issue. The EU is having their own problems in their own market with the BSE and other issues there. Again, we feel that there is reason to continue talking and seeing what progress can be made during this administration.
In the President's meeting, during lunch, he did also sound a warning to the EU on the issue of Airbus, and the concern, the strong concern of Airbus proceeding with loans on non-commercial terms. That would be in violation of the WTO Subsidies Agreement. And the President stressed his concern that if that issue was not taken seriously, and if serious efforts were not taken to work that out in a way consistent with what our view of the WTO subsidy rules are, that that could be a difficult issue between the U.S. and EU in trade in the future, and that he hoped that we could work together.
On a more positive note, the President did compliment all parties in working together on coming up with at least a temporary process solution in the area of FSC, that has been successful in lowering the temperature and hopefully giving all parties a chance to work towards resolution there.
MR. BLINKEN: Thanks, Gene. Let me just talk briefly about the security issues that they discussed. But maybe starting with just a little bit of context. As PJ suggested, this is the 15th and now final U.S.-EU summit in which President Clinton has taken part. There have been profound changes in both the EU and the EU-U.S. relationship over the eight years that it took to have those 15 summits. The EU when President Clinton started was really not more than a free trade area for Western Europe's democracies. Now, of course, it has a common currency, the strong beginnings of a common foreign and security policy, and it's in the midst of an historic eastward expansion that eventually could literally double the size of the union.
And our own relationship with the EU during that period has gone from something of a technocratic trade dialogue to a partnership that's focused on economic issues, on security issues, on trans-national issues. So I think the President noted that strong evolution in the partnership over the last eight years.
The two security issues that the leaders focused on were, first, European security and defense policy and, second, Southeast Europe. On European security and defense policy, the President applauded the strong progress that's been made by the EU and NATO in forging a close collaborative relationship that's very focused on capabilities. It's on the right track, the President said, and we're looking forward to seeing it continue down that track in the months ahead.
He pressed three points with the Europeans. First, to keep the focus on capabilities, on the hard assets they need to make their rapid reaction force deployable and sustainable and to make it effective in the field. He talked about the progress we've seen in the links between NATO and the EU, and the need to keep moving forward in that direction.
And, finally, he talked about the role of the non-EU allies countries, like Turkey, having participation in the EU security and defense process.
On Southeast Europe, a few points in specific areas. They talked about Kosovo and, in particular, the need now to move ahead in planning -- setting and planning elections that would be Kosovo-wide; the need to adhere closely to Resolution 1244, that talks about the need to move toward self-government for Kosovo; and, of course, the problem of dealing with the violence in Southern Serbia, from ethnic Albanian insurgence in Presevo.
On Serbia, there was a lot of discussion about the real progress that's been made on both the part of the EU and the United States in getting aid and assistance to Serbia after the election, Mr. Kostunica, and also in trying to welcome Serbia back into the community of nations, and on the need now to effectively coordinate all that assistance.
On the Stability Pact, which is the other thing that they talked about, again, the President expressed a lot of appreciation for the work that the Europeans had done on the Stability Pact, the pledges of assistance and now the movement of that assistance from the pledging side into actual commitments on the ground. Quick start projects are up and running. There is still more to be done, to get more of them started. And they focused a lot of attention on the need to continue to turn the pledges that have been made into actual work on the ground, so that people can be brought into Europe and brought into its economic future, as well.
They also discussed briefly the question of the U.N. scale of assessments and the need to try and include an agreement on that this week. And they also had some discussion about the relationship between Europe, the United States and Russia, and also Ukraine. Those were the key items that were discussed.
Q Gene, on the AIDS deal and the vaccinations. One, can you say specifically what it is that the announcement is that we've agreed to? And, second of all, how does the Clinton administration sign on something now that carries forth into the Bush administration?
MR. SPERLING: Well, this is a call, a joint statement by the U.S. and the EU to seek greater commitment to work with pharmaceutical companies to ensure that there is more affordable prices for vaccines, drugs for AIDS, in the poorest countries in the world, in light of the fact that, as the President said recently, AIDS in Africa may be the number one crises in the world today. And this was a call for continuing cooperation on a number of fronts and a call on our -- a call to go forward.
Obviously, in many things we do, the next administration will have to make decisions as to whether or not they want to continue these policies. This is clearly policy that many Republicans -- I think of Chairman Leach, for example -- take strong leadership and an interest in. So I think that you would have to ask them, but this is the planned U.S.-EU summit and this has been -- these are things that have been worked on for several months and I think reflect prudent assurances and commitments of this administration that reflect a broad base of views in the United States on the need to do more and more to ensure that there is affordability, that we're not sitting there with potential vaccines and drugs that exist, but that are so terribly inaccessible to people in the poorest countries in the world.
Q And does the agreement -- does the joint statement make any commitments on either funding or regulations that would make this easier?
MR. SPERLING: Well, for fiscal year 2001, we've just had -- we've just passed a very significant commitment. So, for example, if you look at the AID budget, it has gone from $139 -- well, let me see, excuse me, this would include the AID and the HHS budget. But the complete amount has gone from $139 million in 1999, to $466 million. That is $330 million at USAID; $116 million at HHS; $10 million at DOL -- at Department of Labor; and $10 million at Department of Defense.
So, in other words, we have just passed, the President has just signed, the Republican Congress with Democrats has just passed a fairly dramatic increase in AIDS funding. So what we're trying to do in many of these situations is use the commitments we've already made to leverage up other commitments.
Let's remember that the United States provides the serious bulk of research in the world, in these areas. We'd like other countries to be doing that. The United States is one of the main contributors to the GAVI. We would like other countries to do so. So I think that it's not as much perhaps a new financial commitment as we were trying to leverage some of the commitments that we have made on the public side and hope that they would work together with us toward some goals of training, prevention, et cetera.
The other issue goes more to an issue that's been discussed on many international fronts, which is how you can work with pharmaceutical companies to encourage more affordability. And there the issue is how to do that while not taking away the resources that are needed to encourage resources; how to ensure that you're being fair to the poorest people in the poorest countries of the world, without ignoring that there is inaccessibility among poor people in the United States. And this is at least a call for both countries to move forward and make more progress on that.
Q Did the Europeans make any pledges or promises in response to the President's warning, as you put it, on Airbus?
MR. SPERLING: Well, look, there's no question there's a difference of view. I think they suggested that they are working in what they believe are the right terms. They refer more solely to the '92 agreement and, obviously, since then there's been a WTO subsidies agreement and that has to be factored in. And that's very essential to our understanding of what is within the global trade rules at this point.
But, again, I think that one of the points the President was making is that we've had issues that have been very sticky between us on beef and bananas, but we are seeing a couple of issues now -- such as FSC, Airbus -- where not only are they sticky, but the actual magnitude is much more serious. In FSC, we've seen some progress in lowering the temperature with at least a temporary process solution.
I think the President was saying, I'm not necessarily going to be here, but that as somebody concerned with U.S. trade relations, he needed to know that there was strong feelings, strong concerns, if there was to be a proceeding with non-commercial loans and aid that we think are in contravention of the WTO.
They obviously often reply that they feel that there is somehow similar -- or indirect aid that goes through Boeing, through various means of the federal government -- it's not just an apples and oranges situation, I mean, that's just simply not the case. There is nothing that happens with Boeing that is near what we see as completely non-commercial terms in which much of the Airbus financing seems to be proceeding.
Q Can you talk about this biotech panel and what that means for U.S. regulation of --
MR. SPERLING: Well, we're going to be looking at that panel. It's obviously a panel the President helped call for, a high-level consultative dialogue on this. I am not sure -- we are not sure that there is anything in there that is necessarily inconsistent with existing U.S. policy. It is our view that labeling should be required where there is a true difference in the foods or there is a risk of allergens. We have said in the past as part of our policy that we could support voluntary labeling where it could be done, where standards could be developed, so that such labeling was informative and not misleading.
We'll obviously look very closely at the report that I think was in at least one major paper today. But at this point, I am not aware that there's anything that is directly contradictory to the existing practices of the U.S. government. But, obviously, we'll look very closely and study it more and take that very seriously.
Q Gene, how do you see the WTO agreement on subsidies impacting loans and assistance made to Airbus?
MR. SPERLING: Well, I don't want to get into the -- I don't want to -- I wanted to give you a readout. I don't know if I want to turn this into a full Airbus-Boeing briefing. Obviously, one can have loans -- things that are called loans, that look a lot more -- that don't seem to really have any downside risk for the person borrowing. And when a loan takes that character, then from our view, and I think from the WTO subsidy view, that is not a loan on commercial terms. And I think that there is a lot of concern that there are so-called loans that have more of that character.
Q And just on bananas and beef, what likelihood do you think there is of seeing a resolution on these issues?
MR. SPERLING: In our lifetimes? (Laughter.)
Q During the lifetime of the Clinton administration.
MR. SPERLING: Seriously, I believe that there has been good faith negotiations on bananas and beef. On bananas, we've made clear we cannot comply with a first-come/first-served system. But we have also made clear that we are willing to work in good faith to try to resolve these differences in an honorable way that is fair to all the parties concerned.
I think that what I would say is that this has been a long and difficult issue. I would say that there has been some narrowing, and that there is at least enough hope that the parties feel it is worth their time to continue negotiating.
So I think they do -- I think we feel it is not out of the question that this could be resolved in the life of this administration. But, obviously, as something that's gone on for so many years, I don't know if one would want to bet the house on it, either.
END 2:40 P.M. EST