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Barshefsky, Sperling Briefing on WTO (PART 2)

THE WHITE HOUSE Office of the Press Secretary November 24, 1999

PRESS BRIEFING BY NATIONAL ECONOMIC ADVISOR GENE SPERLING AND U.S. TRADE REPRESENTATIVE CHARLENE BARSHEFSKY The Briefing Room 12:45 P.M. EST


.... continues from previous Item...

AMBASSADOR BARSHEFSKY: Well, it's in litigation before the WTO, which is certainly the right of Australia and New Zealand. We believe we'll prevail in that case. But that litigation is on a separate track. It's on a dispute settlement track. It won't affect the discussions in Seattle at all. We work very closely with Australia and New Zealand on the full scope of the agenda, and I don't expect the issue of lamb to come up at all.

Q: When do you think it can be resolved? What's the timetable on this?

AMBASSADOR BARSHEFSKY: The litigation will take probably a year, maybe a year plus.

Q: And in the meantime, the tariffs are on?

AMBASSADOR BARSHEFSKY: Yes, indeed.

Q: What's there left to be done in the telecom services area, given the agreements we've had in that over the past couple of years? And what are the barriers in e-commerce in this division between what are services and what are products?

AMBASSADOR BARSHEFSKY: On telecom, there are about 73, 74 countries in the global telecom deal. Obviously, one goal is to expand it. That means you have half the WTO members in, half aren't in. That needs to be expanded.

Second of all, we want to go back at issues like equity, scope of coverage with respect to the newer technologies to make sure that the agreement stays current based on the way technology is moving, but also to ensure continual increases in market access.

We'll also, I think, look again at the rules on -- the pro-competitive rules. In other words, we set up a series of rules for the first time in that agreement, for example, that the regulated entity can't also be the regulator. We take that for granted, but this is quite novel, even in Europe, to some extent. We probably are going to want to look back at those rules now that we have a little more experience. With respect to e-commerce, is it a good, is it a service, I can tell you now trade minister don't have a clue.

Q: Which of the sides --

AMBASSADOR BARSHEFSKY: I think it's ill-advised to pick any sides on this. I think it's an issue that merits a lot of discussion because the implications for the way the rules operate change, whether it's a good or a service. But all I know is that I don't know of any trade minister who understands the implications of e-commerce well enough to make an informed judgment of that issue at this point in time. And I think you'll see that as an issue that absolutely merits further discussion, but will not be decided for Seattle.

Q: Can you talk a bit more about what the President will be doing out there? Will he be involved in actual negotiations? And if there had been leaders there, would he have been talking to them in terms of --

MR. SPERLING: I was going to say, when people asked the leaders question, is I think the hardest question would be if they came. And you asked what was the significance of it and what exactly would they do there. I think what the leaders would have done was they would have had a chance to speak to the trade ministers, and they obviously would have had a chance to do their own type of meeting. So I don't think that there was a -- again, I think it was a thought of giving other people the courtesy to address the trade ministers and different functions. And quite honestly, one of the concerns was that if too many wanted to do that, would it take too much time away from the actual negotiations.

I think for the President, obviously, as Charlene said, he is there and made the decision to stay over until Thursday I think, first of all, as a sign of the high importance he gives to launching a new global trade round, but also this President has put a focus not only on an ambitious marketing opening agenda, but on trying to build a new consensus on trade and to being as committed to opening markets as he is to opening this process to one that takes the concerns of labor and environment and other civil society groups.

And I think by him going out there, he will have a chance to do several things that are important. One, we have put a focus on trying to work with international organizations -- and, Bob, I think you know this from in terms of the IMF for international architecture notion, but also in the trade side -- what can we do to help use their efforts so that they have a focus on some of the important development issues on the technical issues; how can issues related to social safety nets, labor, those things be brought into -- integrated with the WTO as we've wanted them to be, integrated into other IMF and World Bank decisions.

So that will be something specific he'll be doing. He will be meeting with the heads of several of the IFFYs and others to do that.

Secondly, he will have some discussions there -- I can't tell you exactly the nature, but he'll have some chance to talk in private with some of the NGOs and have a discussion and make clear -- hear their concerns and, to the degree that those may affect his discussions with Charlene during the negotiations. So I think the President does have important things that he can do because his agenda goes beyond just the kind of hard-nosed detailed negotiations that will go probably late into Thursday night -- they go into setting a tone and mobilizing support for something he hopes will help bridge the divisions that now exist in trade.

And, look, I think that when you look at what's happening in Seattle, when you look at the groups coming out, it very much confirms what the President's message has been over the last two years -- that trade is not any longer going to be just the subject of trade experts and lawyers and even industry. It is something that impacts a society in all countries on a larger basis, and people want to have their say and they want to be included. And the focus that so many organizations are having in coming out and being part of it, whether it's discussions or peaceful protest, I think all very much confirm his view of where trade must go in the future.

Q: Can I ask a question -- you said WTO was founded in 1947. And India got freedom in 1947 -- that's 50 years. So where do you put India today trade-wise and economically? And also, U.S. and India relations trade-wise and also in the 21st century -- how the world's two largest democracies will work?

AMBASSADOR BARSHEFSKY: My deputy, Ambassador Esserman, just spent a week in India, in very constructive meetings with her -- and my -- Indian counterparts. I think that for the world's two greatest democracies to have the paultry volume of trade that we do between the two countries is rather a shame. We can go through the reasons why that's probably -- why that has happened, but I do think that India has embarked on a series of reforms that are very important with respect to market opening, which we applaud, and we would like to, obviously, work with India more closely than we have in the past. And that was Ambassador Esserman's core message in going out to India.

I do think relations will improve. I think particularly the countries have quite joint interests in areas of high technology trade where India has long been a leader. Whether it's software development, whether it's telecom, whether it's e-commerce -- these new emerging areas of technologies are areas of India's expertise. And I think we really have coalesced around a work program in those areas that will be important for both countries. And I think, obviously, we would like to draw India further along the way of recognizing the importance of the environmental and the labor issues. I think that that will be quite critical as our relationship with India further develops.

Q: Ambassador, in light of Gene's comments, can you respond to some criticism from business groups who say that the administration just hasn't done enough since the last round of trade talks to prepare for success in Seattle?

AMBASSADOR BARSHEFSKY: Well, what has the administration done since the last round of trade talks? We've concluded 300 trade agreements in which, certainly, business benefits handsomely, as it should. That is to say we want to see U.S. export performance increase. We've increased U.S. exports by 51 percent over seven years. This is the largest export surge from the United States to the globe that we have ever witnessed in our history.

We've concluded and put a focus on areas particularly of U.S. expertise. Whether it's agriculture, whether it's high-tech trade, whether it's services trade, we've put a lot of our energy and focus in that. Whether it's the information technology agreement, or the global telecom agreement, or the financial services agreement -- which, in total, are far larger than the Uruguay Round was. And we continue to pursue this very aggressive path to ensure that global markets are more open in the future than they are today.

Our export performance is critical to our domestic economic health. And it is vital for the creation of high-paying jobs -- or shifting the locus of job creation toward higher-wage jobs. It's very important for our workers, very important for our farmers. And now we've concluded, apart from all of that, a bilateral agreement with China, not to mention pushing forward legislative initiatives on CBI, on Africa, so on and so forth.

I could make a list about a mile long, and I'm delighted to do that. (Laughter.) But suffice it to say that I think this administration's trade policy and trade direction has not only been right for business, it has been right for the country. And I think the proof is in the kind of overall economic performance that you see when you combine fiscal discipline -- when you combine a focus on education and job training and adjustment, and on open markets, free and fair trade, you see the kinds of results that can enure to the benefit of all Americans. With a 4.1 percent unemployment rate and the highest rate of home ownership ever, and so on and so on and so on -- you all know the statistics.

So I would say to the business community, read the newspaper.

Q: Thank you.

(end transcript)


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