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Press Briefing On President's Trip To Lisbon

THE WHITE HOUSE

Office of the Press Secretary (Lisbon, Portugal)

Press Briefing By Senior Administration Officials On President's Trip To Lisbon, Portugal

Sheraton Hotel
Lisbon, Portugal

4:35 P.M. (L)

MR. CROWLEY: Good afternoon. We thought we would have two senior administration officials come give you a bit of the story behind the story on today's meetings between the Portuguese leaders and President Clinton. Senior official number one from the National Security Council, and senior official number two from the National Economic Council, but we'll do this ON BACKGROUND attributable to senior administration officials.

Senior administration official number one.

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: Thank you, Mr. Crowley. I like to say Mister; I used to have to say Colonel. I thought what I would do is just run you quickly through the meetings the President had with President Sampaio and with Prime Minister Guterres. And my colleague will focus on the economic aspects of both meetings. Let me run you mostly through the foreign policy issues that were covered.

The President first met with President Sampaio in a restricted meeting. Also present were Secretary Albright, Sandy Berger, Ambassador McGowan and Steve Ricchetti. President Sampaio began with a very eloquent review of recent Portuguese history, the last 26 years that have taken Portugal from a dictatorship to democracy, from a relatively backward country to one that's prosperous, from a country that was isolated to one that's very much engaged in the world.

I think the President was very struck by this review of recent history. He was struck by one of the facts that President Sampaio relayed to him. President Sampaio said that when he was a young man, 30 or so years ago, about 30,000 Portuguese were in the university system. Today, with the same population base, 400,000 Portuguese are in the university system. The President was very struck by this.

They talked about Portugal's increasing international engagement in East Timor and the Balkans and other places around the world. They focused some of their discussion on East Timor, in particular the need to engage the East Timorese in the reconstruction effort, and also the need to deal with the problem of refugees in West Timor. They also talked at some length about Angola, and also about the European Union's own evolution and the very important process it was going through in enlarging. And the President reiterated his strong and very consistent support for E.U. enlargement, and also for the E.U. more generally and the European Monetary Union.

And the President also talked about his hope and desire to engage in another WTO round starting this year, and my colleague can talk more about that. With Prime Minister Guterres, the President began in a restricted session again with Sandy Berger, Secretary Albright, Ambassador McGowan, Steve Ricchetti on the American side. The Prime Minister began by relaying his recent trip to Russia. He was just there, as I think you know, on the weekend in his capacity as the President of the European Union. They talked at some length about the trip. I don't want to go into too much detail about what the Prime Minister said, but he did focus on a number of particular issues that he discussed with President Putin; in particular, of national missile defense, Chechnya and economic reform in Russia.

They talked about the Balkans at some length, as well. Both agreed strongly on the need to have Russia very much engaged in the process in the Balkans; the need to work with the opposition in Serbia; also to enforce sanctions against Serbia; and, in particular, to get the quick start projects that are part of the stability pact up and running very quickly.

The President thanked Prime Minister Guterres for the terrific cooperation we've had with Portugal, particularly with regard to the Lajes Air Base. He thanked him for renewing the base agreement. They discussed at some length, also, East Timor. Prime Minister Guterres was recently there, he talked a little bit about his trip. And, again, they focused on bringing the East Timorese more into the reconstruction process and the administrative process.

They also talked about Angola. And the President described our own efforts there with the bilateral consultative commission that's trying to get the Angolans to engage in a peace process that focuses on political reform and economic reform that reaches out to those members of UNITA interested in making peace, that also focuses on enforcing better U.N. sanctions and curbing the illegal diamond trade, which is funding a lot of UNITA's activities.

They also touched on Sierra Leone. The larger conclusion, I think, from this discussion was that they both agreed there is a need to do even more to build up regional peacekeeping capacity in Africa and in other hot spots around the world.

Finally, they took note of the agreements that were signed, or will be signed today, between Portugal and the United States. I think there are fact sheets that are either out or coming out on all of those. Let me just briefly list them.

One is an agreement to cooperate on combatting Malaria in Sao Tome. The President, at his event this afternoon, will focus more on that; an Open Skies agreement that's very important, that my colleague can talk about a little more; an agreement on child support -- this is on alimony and child support recovery for Americans and Portuguese; and, finally, a deportation protocol that's very important to the Portuguese.

And with that, let me turn it over to my colleague to run you through the economic aspects of today's meetings.

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: The President and the Prime Minister had fairly lengthy discussions, in particular, at lunch, about some of the areas that are shared personal priorities for them, which will be discussed further and elevated further at tomorrow's U.S.-E.U. summit. In particular, in the area of cooperation on African development, the Prime Minister referenced the E.U. African summit which he had hosted earlier this year. As you know, that was an unprecedented summit, and the President was extremely complimentary on the importance of that summit for kicking off work in important areas and deepening cooperation.

They talked about their shared commitment to development in Africa, in particular through the debt relief initiative known as HIPC. Both expressed the desire to see that work more smoothly, more quickly, to ensure that reformers in Africa would be able to invest those important funds in areas like education and health.

Secondly, the President noted the recent passage of the African Growth and Opportunity Act as a key piece of our development agenda towards Africa, and Prime Minister Guterres echoed how important unilateral open market access is into the developed economies for development in Africa.

And, finally, they talked at some length about their joint agenda to address infectious diseases, in particular HIV/AIDS, tuberculosis and malaria. As my colleague mentioned earlier, we are engaging in bilateral cooperation with the Portuguese to eradicate malaria in Sao Tome in particular, but at the U.S.-E.U. summit tomorrow, expect to have a broader initiative that will very much carry forward to the G-8 and hopefully, ultimately result in greater focus and greater resources being directed at this health crisis.

The second area where they share a personal interest is in the area of the new economy. There similarly, Prime Minister Guterres earlier this year hosted what many refer to the "dot com summit," which for the first time articulated a hard set of targets for the European Union to achieve. He spoke of his own efforts within Portugal to hook up not only every school and library, but also to get every home hooked up, reaching out in particular to seniors, and the President spoke of his own initiatives in this area. And they finally both spoke of the importance of the government providing a sort of nurturing environment for the private sector to develop high-speed interconnectiveness between Europe and the United States going forward.

They also foreshadowed, both in those discussions and in the discussions with President Sampaio some of the discussions on the trade agenda that no doubt will also arise tomorrow, the importance in particular of launching a WTO round. They were also referencing some of the important outcomes that we're hoping for tomorrow in the area, for instance, of data privacy, in the area of trademarks, the Madrid Protocol, and third, in launching the Biotechnology Consultative Forum.

And, of course, we'll also expect that some of the areas where there are some disputes, some frictions, will be raised tomorrow. Those were less of an issue today, but in particular, the Foreign Sales Corporation tax dispute, the Airbus subsidization issue and several of the other trade areas where there are ongoing frictions.

Q The President expressed a little bit of optimism that there might actually be some resolution to some of these issues, particularly bananas and beef. Is that in the cards, or is it just going to be more talk about --

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: I would not anticipate there being any breakthroughs tomorrow on any of the particular trade issues. I will say that both sides have engaged in discussions in all of these areas.

We, for our part, would very much like to see some of these longstanding issues resolved. We have, for our part, endorsed the Caribbean proposals to end the bananas dispute, and we would very much like to see the commission come around on that. In the area of beef, we have put forward a number of proposals that we think are quite constructive and really put the choice into consumers' hands, allowing them to choose what kind of beef they want to buy. That hasn't worked. So, as you know, we're a little bit -- we would like to see these disputes resolved, and we would also like to make progress on the FSC case. We put a proposal on the table which we deemed to be WTO consistent, both in law and in fact, and have made clear that this is a framework on which we would want to entertain discussions with the European Union.

Their response on that has not been as forthcoming as we would have liked.

Q How likely will you see the new sanctions mentioned last Friday, new sanctions against European products in the beef and banana disputes?

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: I presume that you're talking about the carousel -- the implementation of the carousel provision and the most recent trade legislation. There, it's not new sanctions, there is no new retaliation, it is simply implementation of a new law which requires us to engage in a public comment notice to possibly shift the retaliation list from one set of products to another periodically. And we have started that process by publishing a public notice on that. I don't know whether that issue will come up.

Q Can Briefer Number One shed any light on whether -- can you elaborate on any impressions the Portuguese may have brought back from their meeting with Putin, specifically about the NMD, which you mentioned?

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: Two things, I think, worth saying. First, the Prime Minister said that he found President Putin extremely well prepared, well briefed, very much into the details of everything that they discussed, and also very open to talking about every subject on the broad agenda, and talking about things in a very frank and open manner. He said he was struck by that.

On national missile defense, suffice it to say that the Russians expressed concerns about the possible decision to deploy a limited national missile defense system and about the ABM Treaty, about START III -- don't want to go into any more detail characterizing it.

The President repeated to Prime Minister Guterres something that, of course, the Prime Minister knows, which is that the President has not made a decision on -- if and when he does make a decision, it'll be based on the criteria that I think you're all familiar with -- the threat, the feasibility of the technology, the cost and, of course, the larger impact on arms control. And to that I think it's important to emphasize that what we've been doing with the Europeans over the last several months -- particularly in NATO, but also bilaterally -- is to engage in a very intensive series of consultations and discussions, focusing on every aspect of this problem. And this is something that has gone very, very well.

Q Could you tell us whether the Portuguese also expressed concerns about the deployment of the national missile defense?

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: No, the Prime Minister didn't. He simply relayed what he had heard from President Putin and didn't otherwise engage in a discussion of the subject.

Q Did he relate --

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: That really wasn't the tenor of the conversation. What he was, I think, trying to do was to convey to the President what he'd heard from President Putin, not only on national missile defense, but also on on a host of other subjects -- on the Balkans, on economic reform, on Chechnya, et cetera.

Q So the Portuguese took no official position on --

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: He did not take a position with the President on it.

Q How long did this discussion last -- the briefing, or debriefing, if you will, on --

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: On Russia?

Q Exactly.

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: I didn't have the watch going. I would say probably somewhere in the vicinity of 10 to 15 minutes; it was part of their restricted session. They covered a number of things in that; that was probably about almost half of the session, so 10 or 15 minutes.

Q Would it be accurate to say that what President Putin expressed to the Prime Minister was consistent with previous Russian statements? No change? No change?

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: Yes. Yes, that's correct.

Q On the trade issue, on the WTO round, or at least starting a WTO round, I think the European Union has said they want to do it, but the U.S. is reluctant. Now you're saying the U.S. wants to do it. Why do we have this discrepancy in the viewpoints?

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: In fact, I think that both sides have expressed their desire to move forward. And, in particular, we have made some progress in the WTO in recent months. We have made progress in starting the built-in agenda, the so-called built-in agenda, which are the discussions on agricultural market opening and agriculture more generally; and, secondly, on services. Both of those discussions are now up and running in the WTO.

The other area where we've made progress, working very closely with the European Union, is to offer expanded market access to the least developed, in the context of WTO discussions. And so there has been some progress and we will continue working on issues such as that, even as we talk about what an agenda for the round might me.

In terms of the agenda for the round, obviously, we have some areas of priority in common and some areas of priority that differ somewhat. And the question will be whether we can develop an agenda that is broad enough and inclusive enough to include the interests of the developing countries, as well as the major developed economies.

Q On Chechnya, did what the Prime Minister -- heard from President Putin indicate that there was any change or any softening or any progress on the Russian position on Chechnya?

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: The Prime Minister was struck by the fact that President Putin seemed to acknowledge to him that there had to be a political solution to the problem in Chechnya. He noted, and I believe he's actually stated on this on the record in the press conference -- I haven't seen the transcript, but that's my understanding of what happened from the Prime Minister -- he noted, President Putin noted that some 100 Russian soldiers were soon to go on trial for alleged war crimes and other atrocities.

He noted his support for an independent inquiry commission. He also noted his support for an OSCE mission, although he said that there were technical problems that need to be worked out. So the tenor of what Guterres heard from President Putin was, as he described it, Putin being quite open about the problems in Chechnya and the need to find a political solution while, of course, strongly defending Russia's position on what it was doing and why it was doing it.

Q On the discussions on Africa, was there any talk about the role of diamonds in fomenting conflict?

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: Yes. There was a discussion both with President Sampaio and with Prime Minister Gutterres. They discussed the need to curb the illegal diamond trade. They discussed the fact that this trade was helping, in effect, to fund and fuel some of these conflicts, much the way narco trafficking in different parts of the world was helping to fuel conflict there. And there was an agreement on the need to look hard at what could be done to better curb this illegal trade.

Q What exactly is this AIDS initiative --

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: Earlier this year, the administration announced their intention to intensify efforts using a four-pronged approach. One is an expanded bilateral funding of research into these diseases for which no vaccines yet exist. And so there is a substantial doubling, I believe, of our funds.

Second was a contribution to GAVI, the Global Alliance for Vaccines and Immunizations. So we have pledged to try to donate $50 million to GAVI. Again, there, the intention is to ensure that existing vaccines are distributed broadly to those most in need.

Third, that we would work to develop a private sector incentive to give the private sector greater financial reward for engaging in research towards the development of new vaccines for these diseases, because the diseases disproportionately afflict those least able to pay for vaccines and so there is not a sufficient market incentive.

And the fourth area is to work with developing countries such as Uganda, for instance, where the political commitment of the national government has made all the difference in turning around the infection rate.

And that kind of a framework is one that I believe the E.U. is also very comfortable moving forward on and we have worked to develop a joint initiative in this area. Similarly, the Japanese, as hosts of the G-8, have expressed a lot of interest in tackling this critical problem, which is both an economic problem for many African countries and a health problem.

Q Is there a number on the joint initiative? Is there a dollar figure?

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: There is no new dollar figure on the U.S.-E.U. discussions. But I believe through this initiative, through discussions at the G-8 and more generally, we will begin to see a little bit of a snowball effect in terms of the industrialized governments putting up money against these goals.

Q Do you expect some sort of joint statement, then, tomorrow, saying we're going to bring this unified approach to the G-8 and hopefully get the rest of the G-8 nations to sign on it?

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: I do expect there to be some kind of a joint statement of the aims on this. I don't think it will be G-8 focused; it's U.S.-E.U. focused.

Q Back on Chechnya for a moment. What is the United States' assessment of what Mr. Putin said in Moscow? Does this represent progress or --

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: Let me defer on that to later briefers. I don't want to characterize it, I just wanted to really convey what was said, but not -- thanks.

Q The President made a reference in his opening remarks today to stability in the Balkans. What exactly will he be telling the E.U. people tomorrow that needs to be done there?

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: Well, I think a number of things. First of all, and most broadly, a need to continue to move forward on the stability pact. There was a very encouraging donors' conference recently, where a number of commitments were made to quick start projects. These are projects that would really bring a tangible difference quickly into people's lives.

I think one of the things the President will focus on is the need to actually quickly start these quick start projects and get the funding there, so that they can move forward and so that people can really begin to feel a change in their day-to-day lives. That's for the region more broadly.

More specifically, and more focused on other areas -- in Kosovo -- no doubt he will talk about the need to sustain our commitment there, the Europeans sustain their commitment. I think he will point to the strong improvement in burden sharing in Kosovo that we've seen in recent months. He'll also talk about the need to fully fund the activities of the U.N. mission there. We've done better on that, but there is still a budget shortfall that will need to be made up; and also to get more police into the region, to get more judges, civil administrators, et cetera.

Finally, I suspect he will talk about the need to keep sanctions strongly in place against Serbia and to continue to isolate Mr. Milosevic, restate his conviction. But, ultimately, we won't see a democratic Serbia until there is a change in the government in Serbia.

Q For the past two weeks, European leaders have been engaged

MR. CROWLEY: We'll make this the last question, I think the President is about to speak. He is speaking? All right. We'll cut it off at this point.

END 4:58 P.M. (L)


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