THE WHITE HOUSE
Office of the Press Secretary (Ankara, Turkey)
6:15 P.M. (L)
MR. LOCKHART: Good evening, everyone. Let me give you a little fill on what the next hour will bring for you, for your pleasure.
Mr. Samuel Berger, the President's National Security Advisor, will make a brief statement and take a couple questions from you. And then we'll have a read out of the day from senior administration officials.
At about 7:00 p.m. or so I expect the Secretary of State, Madeleine Albright, to be here. She'll be here to talk about, among other things, the U.N., the U.N. arrears, the budget issues that we've been working on in Washington.
So let's start with Sandy.
MR. BERGER: Good evening. I am very pleased that a number of critical foreign policy initiatives that we had been working on -- in some cases, for many years -- have all come together today. This has truly been an important day for American foreign policy.
First, as you know, after several years of negotiation, the United States and China reached an agreement with respect to Chinese accession to the World Trade Organization. It's a far-reaching agreement. It's an agreement that is good for the United States; we believe it's good for China; I believe it's important for the world as China becomes a part of a rules-based system of trade and an agreement that I believe will strengthen the U.S.-China relationship considerably.
Second, as you know, last night the parties in Cyprus agreed to the invitation of the Secretary General to attend proximity talks in New York, starting on December 3rd, to prepare the foundation for meaningful negotiations leading toward a comprehensive settlement.
Third, we've just heard from George Mitchell, who spoke to the President, that there has been progress on Northern Ireland. He has issued his interim report, in which he expresses increasing confidence that a way forward -- there is a way forward to implement the Good Friday agreement. And Mr. Mitchell, as well as the parties, deserve a great deal of credit for their persistence and courage.
Fourth, as Joe indicated, there has been progress on the issue of U.N. arrears and debt relief. I'm going to leave that for Secretary Albright to discuss in greater detail.
And fifth, I believe that this has been a very good day for U.S.-Turkey relations. I believe the President's first day here started on a very sound footing with his meetings with President Demirel, Prime Minister Ecevit, his address to the Parliament, which I think was very well received, and his strong message to the Turkish people.
So all in all, this has been, I think, a very, very important day for us. I know the President is very pleased with these developments; and, obviously, much more work lies ahead of us on each of them. But I think there's been a great leap forward, to coin a phrase, I guess, on a number of these issues today.
Q Sandy, on the trade agreement, what did you get in this agreement that you didn't have last April?
MR. BERGER: I'll answer you generally, but I know that Ambassador Barshefsky and Mr. Sperling have briefed rather extensively in Beijing, and obviously in greater detail.
But there are about five or six areas that were unresolved or not satisfactorily resolved in April, which we now believe are satisfactorily resolved. One relates to import surge mechanisms; that is, what happens if there is a large increase in imports in a particular product; the anti-dumping protocols, which are very important to us in terms of applying our non-market methodology with respect to Chinese products; progress in the area of motion pictures, Internet access, satellites, auto financing, securities and a dialogue on capital markets.
These are all areas that were not satisfactorily resolved in April, and we believe have now been resolved. And, overall, we believe this is a very good agreement; we believe it's a win-win agreement for both China and for the United States. Obviously, it substantially opens access to the largest market in the world.
Q What did China get that they didn't have last April?
MR. BERGER: Again, I'm not going to get into the specifics of balancing this and balancing that. I think, overall, this is a package which, obviously, we felt, we feel is very much in our interest and obviously the Chinese believe that, as well -- I'll let them speak for themselves.
Q Sandy, you said that you were going to let Secretary Albright talk about the U.N. agreement, but can you give us any -- is there an agreement now?
MR. BERGER: I'd rather let her speak, she'll be here. I know it's only 45 minutes and you're anxious, but --
Q Are you willing to say whether there is an agreement or what the President gave up on --
MR. BERGER: No, I'm going to leave that subject for her. It's something she's been working on for six years.
Q Mr. Berger, I know the goal was always that China would enter on a commercially viable basis. Can you say to what extent that has happened as a result of this agreement? And, two, can you put this in the context of U.S.-China relations more broadly, which were really in the basement just a few months ago?
MR. BERGER: Well, I think the answer to the first question is this clearly is a deal which we believe is a commercially smart deal for the United States. We believe this will increase American jobs; we believe this will increase the access of American companies across a broad spectrum of products to the Chinese market. And we believe the protections we have on the import side, with some of the things that I've talked about in terms of import surge mechanisms and anti-dumping, will protect American industries from unfair or inordinate import surges from China.
So I think this is a very strong deal on a commercial basis. Obviously, each industry will look at this; each group -- labor and business -- will look at it in terms of their own particular industry. But I feel quite confident that this will have broad support across a broad range of industries and both among Republicans and Democrats.
In terms of our relations with China, I think this is a -- first of all, obviously, the threshold criteria for us reaching an agreement is a commercially viable agreement. That is, is this an agreement that's a good agreement on the merits? And we believe that this is a very good agreement on the merits. But, beyond that, it is unquestionably an important step forward in terms of our relationship.
First of all, I think it's very important that China now will -- assuming that it reaches agreements with the other countries, EU and others, with whom it has not yet completed its bilateral agreements, and enters the WTO -- it will become part of a global rule of law with respect to all of the issues involved here. It will open its markets, and therefore open its country, even more to the outside world.
And perhaps most importantly, this reinforces the momentum towards internal reform that has been going on in China. In order for China to have made this decision to open its markets to competition, it's going to have to move forward on its internal reforms to make its industries competitive. All of that will make China, I believe, a more open and hopefully more pluralistic, ultimately, place.
In terms of our bilateral relationship, I think this brings our bilateral relationship to a very, very strong level.
Q -- on Taiwan and arms control, Sandy? Does this offer any opportunities there?
MR. BERGER: No, this agreement is a trade agreement. It does not deal with issues of arms control or issues of Taiwan. Taiwan also, separately, has been negotiating for accession to the WTO. It is very far along. And I suspect that China's accession will help Taiwan in the process of accession with a number of countries that have seen those two as related to one another.
Q Could you please clarify Congress's role now with regard to the WTO agreement? I know that Congress doesn't determine whether or not China joins the WTO, but what is Congress's role regarding the U.S. trade pact with China?
MR. BERGER: Basically, two -- well, the principal role of the Congress is with respect to the granting of permanent national -- permanent MFN, essentially, to China. That has to be done by congressional statute, permanent NTR. I expect that we will submit that proposal to Congress sometime early next year, and I hope that it will have broad support. That will obviously be an opportunity for the Congress to express itself.
If any of these provisions in this agreement -- and I'm not sufficiently familiar with the specific details to know the answer to this -- require changes in U.S. law, obviously, that would require congressional action. But, generally, an accession agreement does not require congressional approval, per se.
Q So if Congress doesn't agree to permanent normal trade relations, does the rest of the deal collapse?
MR. BERGER: Well, I don't want to assume that. I believe that we will move ahead on -- China will move ahead with other countries now, and hopefully in completing its bilateral agreements with the EU and other countries, and I would assume it would want to move fairly rapidly toward accession. And we will move forward with seeking permanent MFN.
And, again, I believe that when Congress has an opportunity to study the terms of this, recognize the tremendous benefits to American industry and American workers around the country, and the protections that we obtained for import-sensitive industries in this agreement, that there will be broad support for it.
Q But just to clarify, is it required?
MR. BERGER: Is what required?
Q Does China -- do you have to have both for all of this to come together?
MR. BERGER: We have said to China that we will seek -- we will make a strong effort to obtain permanent NTR with -- China knows our system very well. They know that Congress has a mind of its own and is an independent branch of government and we have to work with Congress to get that approval. They understand that.
Q Could you discuss arms sales to Turkey? In particular, sale of attack helicopters?
MR. BERGER: I will let the senior administration officials talk specifically more about the meetings. The issue came up only -- it came up in the context of President Demirel making a number of -- a statement about a number of areas in which the United States could be of continuing assistance to Turkey, one of which related to military-to-military cooperation. But it was not specific.
Q Is China going to be able to take part in the Seattle round of WTO talks?
MR. BERGER: Well, I believe at the very least, China will be there as an observer. And whether it is there as a member of the WTO obviously depends upon what happens with respect to the other bilateral agreements that it needs to strike.
Q Did -- discuss the Aegean issue, and to which effect?
MR. BERGER: I'm sorry, the last part of your question?
Q The Aegean issue, and to which effect?
MR. BERGER: To what effect?
Q Yes, sir.
MR. BERGER: There was a great deal of discussion of U.S.-Greek relations in general, the Aegean, Cyprus. I think it was in the context, basically, of the President welcoming the steps that have been taken by the government of Turkey and the government of Greece, actually preceding the earthquake and then, perhaps, to some degree, intensified by the earthquake, towards some greater degree of reconciliation.
The President said he thought that was very important. He encouraged it. He hoped there would be further steps in that direction. He thought that Greece and Turkey, as true allies -- they're certainly our allies in a NATO sense, but as true allies -- over the next 25 years could do far more for their people and their country than as countries with a continuing antagonism. So the President very much encouraged the process of confidence-building measures and other steps that would build the greater degree of contact between the two countries and the two peoples.
Q Sandy, assuming Secretary Albright has good news later -- and we won't get into that, one way or the other -- assuming she does, have the budgetary issues affecting foreign policy now been pretty much resolved? And maybe, after you finish, maybe Joe would just give us an update on where we think we are in the budget process right now.
MR. BERGER: Well, I think we've made a lot of progress, John. I think that, from where we were a month ago, the foreign operations bill, which was roughly $3-plus billion below what we needed, when you include Wye, was plussed up to include all the Wye money, which is extremely important towards the peace process, and nearly $800 million in other programs. So not everything we asked for, but a significant closure of the gap.
On the Commerce, State and Justice bill, again, there have been significant add-backs to that bill with respect to peacekeeping, for example, where there are missions now in East Timor and Sierra Leone, where there's not one American -- well, in Timor, we have a few American soldiers, but none in Sierra Leone. This is burden-sharing. Other countries are on the ground doing the peacekeeping, but we have to help pay our share of the cost, and Congress has added a significant amount, but not all of that money back.
The two remaining issues that are of importance to us in the foreign policy area, obviously, are U.N. arrears and the debt initiative that the President announced in Cologne, which would enable us, both bilaterally and multilaterally, to substantially increase debt relief for the poorest countries, but those who are engaged in a process of reform.
Those are two very important, outstanding issues. As I say, I think some progress has been made, and I'll let Secretary Albright amplify on that.
Q Mr. Berger, there was some tough talk coming today from the Russians, saying that they will resist any outside interference on Chechnya, which presumably includes any advice from the United States. Do you have any sense that they are going to listen to Mr. Clinton's advice or the advice of anyone else, and if they don't what would happen?
MR. BERGER: I think that there is -- first of all, it's certainly not, I think, anybody's intention to intervene in a military way in the situation in Chechnya, which is part of the Russian Federation. I think there's great concern on the part of the United States and the Europeans and others as to the level of civilian casualties, and the number of refugees that are being created by the course of action that the Russian government is on.
And I know this will be discussed when the Russians are here, and I hope that the wide diversity of countries that have these concerns and apprehensions will register. These are -- many of these countries, including the United States, are friends of Russia. Our concern is not in any way to weaken Russia. Indeed, that's exactly what we don't want to happen. But as a friend of Russia, we believe the course that it's on now is likely to be counterproductive.
Q Are you still expecting Yeltsin -- are you still expecting Yeltsin to come to Istanbul? Apparently the Russians are not saying anything about his plans yet.
MR. BERGER: There was an earlier statement that indicated that he would come. I have not seen anything that either contradicted that or reaffirmed it.
Q Along those same lines, President Clinton said that Russia's action in Chechnya may hinder its integration with the West. Can you amplify a little bit on what that meant?
MR. BERGER: Where did he say that?
Q In one of his speeches today.
MR. BERGER: I don't think you quoted it exactly right. I think that what the President said was that -- obviously, to the extent that the international community is concerned about what is happening in Chechnya, it makes it more difficult for governments to provide Russia the kind of support that Russia needs. I don't think -- I think that's simply a fact.
But, you know, the support we are providing for Russia now, say bilaterally, is, number one, for reducing their nuclear weapons and helping them to do a better job of containing, storing their nuclear materials; and, two, money that goes not to Moscow, but goes to democracy programs around the country. It would not make sense for us to affect that money. Nor would it make sense for us to affect the IMF money, assuming the economic and transparency criteria are met, because that goes to the very stability of Russia.
So I think that you will hear or see, in Istanbul -- which has a lot of other issues on the agenda, I would point out -- a rather general expression of views to either President Yeltsin or Prime Minister Putin, that this course is not a wise one.
MR. LOCKHART: Thanks, Sandy. John, did you want to do something before I bring them up?
Q Budget update --
MR. LOCKHART: Yes, I think they're still working on a number of fronts, including on the Interior bill, on some of the environmental riders that have been so troublesome to the administration. That work is incomplete. I think Secretary Albright can give you some better sense of some of the work that remains with Commerce-State-Justice, with U.N. arrears and debt relief. That's not complete yet.
I think there's also some continuing discussion about some disaster relief in the aftermath of Hurricane Floyd. So there are a number of ongoing issues that still have yet to be resolved, but they're working all day today, and I know it is the stated goal of both Houses to try to wrap things up sometime today or tomorrow.
Q Would the President sign any agreement while he's away, or wait until he gets back to D.C.?
MR. LOCKHART: Well, if they can't get something done, we'd have to do the continuing resolution from here, obviously. As far as how we would do any bills that come down, I don't know that we've even talked about that yet.
END 6:35 P.M. (L)
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