THE WHITE HOUSE
Office of the Press Secretary
(Vancouver, British Columbia)
For Immediate Release November 25, 1997 4:32 P.M. (L)
REMARKS BY THE PRESIDENT
TO THE VANCOUVER U.S. CONSULATE STAFF
Shaughnessey Golf Course
Vancouver, British Columbia
THE PRESIDENT: Thank you very much. Thank you. First of all, this is the first chance I've had to say thank you, Ambassador Giffin. Let me thank all of you for coming, all of you who worked for the American Consulate here, for our Embassy -- both the Americans and the Canadians who are here. And those of you who brought your children, thank you for bringing your children.
I know that whenever a President comes to another country and to another community, the very happiest time is when he gets on the plane and leaves -- (laughter) -- because it's a lot of trouble. And I appreciate the trouble that you have taken to make my second visit to Vancouver a really wonderful one.
I was told that when I came here before as President in 1993, to meet with President Yeltsin, I was the first sitting President ever to come to Vancouver. Now I hope that no one will ever catch my record. But it is a wonderful place.
And I want to thank Gordon Giffin, who is almost as Canadian as he is American, for his willingness to become our Ambassador and leave his happy home in Georgia. And I thank Mary Ann Peters, who worked for me at the National Security Council before she came here as a DCM. Ken Fairfax was also at the National Security Council. He had to track nuclear materials in the Former Soviet Union; I imagine he's happier in Canada now. But he did a fine job. And Jim Tomcheck used to be on my Presidential Protection detail; he's now an Assistant Treasury Attache. And I asked him whether this was not a better job and he said, "Well, both of them were an honor." I think that was a political way of saying this is a much better job. (Laughter.)
Thank you, Jay Bruns, and thanks to all the people here at the Consulate. I do think that you went the extra mile to turn -- to move the consulate to a golf course. I know that my love for golf is legendary but this is sort of overdoing it. I appreciate you coming here because it is on the way to the airplane.
And speaking of the airplane, Air Force One and Harrison Ford, I actually made arrangements for Harrison Ford to see Air Force One for the first time when we happened to be in Wyoming. And I was present when he asked Glenn Close to become his vice president -- if you've seen the movie you know she's the vice president. And she and I were sitting there and he got down on his knees and proposed to her. (Laughter.) It was very romantic. And she said, "I can't, I'm too busy." And I looked at her and I said, "Glenn, you do not say no to the President." (Laughter). So that's how the movie came to be.
Let me say that this APEC meeting was a very important one. Historically, it may be the most important one we've had since we started meeting in my first year of President at Blake Island, Washington. We committed ourselves to a common vision of peace and stability and prosperity in the Asia Pacific region. And then we met in Indonesia and the Philippines. We adopted a plan, a strategy, a blueprint for open trade by the year 2020.
And last year, we came out for the Information Technology Agreement, to reduce to zero tariffs on computers, semiconductors and telecommunications equipment. It's now been embraced by the World Trade Organization and it amounts to a $5-billion tariff cut on American products and services. It's an enormous, positive impact for the United States and, indeed, it will also help Canada and every other country that manufactures and sells such equipment. And it will lift the living standards and the quality of life of people all around the world.
This year, we proved that our community is for good times and for challenging ones, as well. Asia's financial difficulties would have made it tempting for some of our partners to turn inward, maybe even to stay home. But instead, we agreed to open trade in nine new areas totaling $1.5 trillion in goods and serves -- everything from chemicals, to medical equipment to environmental technology. This is a really strong vote of confidence in our common future.
We also supported an action plan to meet the financial challenges that we all face in Asia. And I say that advisedly -- we all face them, because Canada and the United States will not be unaffected unless we can restore confidence and growth and forward progress throughout the Asian area.
We believe that the affected countries are doing the right thing in committing to take the right steps to remain strong, with the IMF taking the lead for international community, and with out other advanced countries backing them up when it's appropriate.
Last year, we set an agenda for more open trade. This year we set an agenda to help us meet the challenges of the international financial system in the 21st century and to tackle other problems, including global warming. We committed to working to achieve an agreement in Kyoto, which is coming up in just a couple of weeks. I can't tell you how important I think this is. The scientific evidence is overwhelming that the Earth's climate is warming at a more rapid rate than it has in thousands of years. The leader from Papua New Guinea was here, saying that he literally feared huge chunks of his country being overrun if the sea level rises. He said, it's not just our livelihood, it's our culture and our religion; it's everything about our life.
We know that global warming will lead to more extreme weather developments -- the floods in the northern part of the United States, the fires in Indonesia, things of this kind. And so we know that we have to face these together.
We have already endorsed some things that will help, including a big natural gas energy network from North to South Asia, which will dramatically cut greenhouse gas emissions that would otherwise come from coal or oil. We are going to take on the transnational consequences of environmental crises like the forest fires burning across Indonesia; we're developing an emergency program to predict, prevent and coordinate our response to natural disasters of that kind in the future.
We're acting to meet the challenges that we'll face as a community and seize the opportunities we can only seize fully as a community. And I just want to reemphasize that your work is vital to that success. It wasn't so many years ago that it would have been unheard of for a few leaders from Asia, from North America and from South America to sit around and have the kind of conversations we've had for the last two days. We didn't agree on everything, but we agreed on a great deal. And the world is better off and our people will be better off because of the work that you helped to make possible.
Again let me say a special word of thanks to all of our own citizens here at the Consulate for serving as ambassadors of the United States, and to the Canadian citizens who work to help us do our job every day.
I wish Secretary Albright were here with me. She gives a great pep talk to all of you, and she would say that one of the great unnoticed benefits of the balanced budget agreement I signed last summer is that for the first time in years we have taken the cloud off the annual debate about whether the United States would walk away from fully funding our diplomatic efforts around the world in a way that supports people like you here and in every other nation in which we're represented. The balanced budget agreement did a good thing to help fund fully our diplomatic efforts. And I hope that will give you a lot of security and boost your morale as you do America's mission in the months and years ahead.
Let me finally say a special thank-you to the people of Vancouver. Hillary and Chelsea and I had a wonderful family vacation here a few years ago at the beginning of this decade. I fell in love with the city. We went over to Victoria; we loved everything we saw over there. And when I came back today to the same place that I met with President Yeltsin four years ago, I saw again what an astonishing and unique place this is for historic and cultural reasons, and for all the modern reasons that I'm sure that a lot of you young people know and understand far better than I do.
I am gratified that we came. I'm pleased by the results of the meeting. And again, thank you very, very much for what you do to help the United States move the world to a better place in a new century.
Thank you very much.