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Rice & USTR Portman On-The-Record Briefing

On-The-Record Briefing With U.S. Trade Representative Rob Portman

Secretary Condoleezza Rice
Busan, South Korea
November 16, 2005

SECRETARY RICE: We'll have a brief session so everybody can go to the hotel and get a nap. I'm going to say a couple words, maybe ask Ambassador Portman to say a couple words, and then we can take a few questions.

This APEC ministerial is, I think, trying to achieve several things. First of all, this is an extremely vibrant and important region, and both the economic statistics for the region and its vibrancy and growth is just extraordinary. When you compare it really to any other region in the world, it's the most dynamic region.

And APEC is an organization, of course, started principally as an economics organization. It remains very strong on the economic side. I know that Rob has been working very hard on WTO issues here. I want to note that Rob and his colleagues did an outstanding job of getting guidelines on intellectual property rights, which were supported around the table. And one of the under-told stories is how important it is for all of us in our international contacts to push the issue of intellectual property rights because piracy of intellectual property is just a huge drag on innovation and ultimately therefore on growth. And so that's a really very big achievement.

We also had discussions of security matters. The APEC some years ago undertook to deal with conventional weapons like MANPADS that are easy for terrorists to use and has had a pretty effective regime on dealing with the MANPADS issue.

APEC also this year took up the issue of avian influenza, which President Bush, of course, has put a quarter of a billion dollars into international efforts to support transparency. And we talked about the need to support states that may be willing but not capable to deal with it. Everybody recognizes that you have to prevent an outbreak of avian flu, not try to deal with it once it has started.

So I would say the three big issues here are on economics and trade, on security and on the potential for a pandemic. But this all takes place in the context of a region where the number of democracies has grown dramatically over the last decade or so, couple of decades or so, but where obviously the issue of democratic change in China remains a major issue given China's weight and size, and where there is really one of the worst regimes in the world here in Burma in this region in Burma. And so that's the agenda we've been dealing with.

Rob, why don't you add a couple words?

AMBASSADOR PORTMAN: Well, I just agree with everything Secretary Rice said about this being such a dynamic region of the world. In fact, it's only 21 countries but half of the world's trade and more than half of the world's GDP. And it's an area that has embraced liberalization; in other words, they've reduced the tariffs more dramatically than other areas of the world have and their GDP has risen accordingly.

I like these meetings because I'm surrounded by members representing countries who really do believe in trade and the promise of trade, and there's less talk about how do affect one sector or another than there is about, gee, how do we make progress on this bigger issue of reducing barriers and therefore improving economic growth and prosperity. So it's refreshing in a sense to come to APEC.

In June we had our first meeting leading up to this leaders meeting and in that meeting we focused directly on WTO and came out with a recommendation on the non-agricultural market access issues, which is where most trade occurs, industrial tariffs, for instance, and therefore helped move the WTO process along. In fact, that's one of the most helpful things that's happened in my six months in this job.

This week, I believe leaders will embrace another statement by APEC on WTO that is, again, very specific. It talks about the need for the high ambitions to remain, also points to the agriculture negotiations and particularly market access as the sticking point. This is in a sense quite a breakthrough.

Here the two big issues we talked about economically would be the FTAs, free trade agreements. We always do something on that. This time it will focus on the crate facilitation chapters to try to make FTAs more consistent and to, frankly, increase the quality of FTAs.

And then the final one were these IPR guidelines. The Secretary already addressed them, but these are guidelines, essentially a how-to manual with regard to countries that want to improve their intellectual property enforcement deals with both the border issues, the internet issues and generally intellectual property.

Again, this was quite the accomplishment given that some of the countries represented here obviously have huge problems on their own with regard to intellectual property. I just got out of a couple bilaterals where there was a strong interest in taking up these guidelines and using them.

SECRETARY RICE: Do you have questions? Anne.

QUESTION: On North Korea, you're here with most of the other participants in the six-party talks. How large a topic of discussion has that process been for you today? And are you concerned that progress is stalling out at all and do you think North Korea is doing what it needs to do to live up to the agreements it's already made?

SECRETARY RICE: Well, I have had discussions with all of my counterparts -- the Chinese Foreign Minister, the Russian Foreign Minister, the South Korean Foreign Minister of course, and the Japanese Foreign Minister -- concerning the six-party talks. Essentially, we are all on the same page, which is that the real issue here is that North Korea needs to get very serious about dismantlement and disarmament and about verification measures, and so sort of reaffirmation of that.

It was by no means the only topic that I've talked to people here about. We've had -- I've had extensive discussions also on Iran, for instance, with both the Russians and the Chinese because they're obviously members of the Board of Governors. The Japanese are members of the Board of Governors.

But on the six-party talks we have the Statement of Principles from the September round. I think that was an extremely important achievement because it really has become now the kind of framework that everybody is working within, at least the five parties are working within.

And to your last question, I think the jury is out on whether the North Koreans are doing what they -- are prepared to do what they need to do, which is to get serious about dismantlement and verification obligations that they undertook in that framework agreement. And thus far, and Chris Hill can speak for himself on this, but thus far I think the round that just ended did not have the kind of engagement on that issue from the North Koreans that one -- that we might have expected. And so we've redoubled our efforts with all the other parties to go back to the North Koreans and say that's really got to -- that's where we've got to start.

QUESTION: You volunteered the concept of Burma. What can be done about these people who run that country? They seem to be pretty oblivious to complaints about human rights from the outside. And also, do you think that the ASEAN nations tend to coddle them and that kind of gives them a sense of reassurance?

SECRETARY RICE: Well, I don't think that we get the kind of international condemnation of what's going on in Burma that we really need. I understand that a lot of countries that are neighbors of Burma feel the need to engage them, but I would hope that that engagement also takes the form of being serious about the really quite appalling human rights situation in Burma. And not just Aung Sun Suu Kyi. I mean, we're talking about really systematic efforts to silence any critics of the regime, to put human rights organizations completely out of business. Burma is a very bad case and so we are talking to people here. I felt it important to mention Burma in my remarks because too often it kind of falls off the radar screen of people who are concerned about -- people who don't concern themselves every day with human rights and democracy issues.

QUESTION: Madame Secretary, just to go back to North Korea, do you have any idea when the next round will start and what are your -- what are the other parties telling you?

SECRETARY RICE: Well, I don't have a -- we don't have a time certain. I think people think that it will -- you know, that we're not going to go probably much past the end of the year. But I wouldn't -- I don't know that we will get it done before the end of the year. But I don't think there's going to be a long hiatus. I mean, nobody is anticipating kind of the kind of hiatus that we had for a year or something like that. I think these will be -- I would expect they'll be regular but it needs to -- the next one needs to have the North Koreans come seriously prepared to talk about dismantlement and verification.

I think one of the concerns when we did the Statement of Principles was that, you know, we were all very clear on the sequencing concerning the light-water reactor, but one of the first things that the North Koreans did was to start talking about their light-water reactor, as they did, as you know, in the proposals they made. So we have to have a different -- the North Koreans need to have a different attitude and a different approach when they come the next time.

Peter, you've got the last question.

QUESTION: Yeah, actually, I have -- I came with two questions I wanted. The first thing is you said that you're speaking to the Russians and the Chinese about Iran. Is there any movement on that in terms of their attitude towards eventual referral?

SECRETARY RICE: Well, let me answer that first. Actually, what I was speaking to them about, the diplomatic activities that are underway. I mean, there is a lot of diplomatic activity. You know the EU is apparently making other proposals. The Iranians have said they want to review it. I principally wanted to hear really with the Russians and others how they think the diplomacy has gone because, as I've said, the real key here is that the 24th we will go back to the Board of Governors, but we're going to do a referral at a time of our choosing. I think we've got the votes at any time but we really want to key a referral to how the diplomacy is going.

Thus far, I don't -- I haven't met anybody in these discussions who think that the Iranians have yet made a serious move toward returning to negotiations that might be consequential. But you know, we've still got several days. We'll see.

QUESTION: And the other one I just wanted to ask you is again about Doha because there has been sort of a round of acrimony between APEC on one hand and the European Union on the other hand, at least (inaudible), and I was wondering if you think that the prospects for success in Hong Kong are getting worse rather than getting better right now.

SECRETARY RICE: Over to you. (Laughter.)

AMBASSADOR PORTMAN: I just still hold out hope that given the importance of the round that we can figure out a way to come together, even in the next couple weeks, before the Hong Kong preparations need to be finalized. I'm going back to Geneva again next week. I'm meeting with the European Union as well as some other key countries. And we're still hopeful. I was asked in a press conference now whether the U.S. is withdrawing our offer, and the answer is no. The U.S. is instead going to keep engaging and hopefully we can come together.

QUESTION: Right. Okay, that's hope but it doesn't sound -- it sounds like you're less encouraged.

AMBASSADOR PORTMAN: Well, no, I mean -- again, maybe I'm just infected by the enthusiasm of the 21 nations here. I mean, everybody here says the same thing. I mean, all of them, you know, from China to Chile, which is that these talks are critical to the economic growth of their countries and to the global economic growth that otherwise would not occur. It's a once in a generation opportunity to truly enhance economic growth and alleviate poverty, and that opportunity cannot be brushed aside. So there will be a lot of pressure on all of us to come together.

The final resolutions will not be in Hong Kong but it was never meant to be the end of the process. It was meant to be a milestone and to establish a roadmap. The roadmap may be a little more ambiguous than we'd hoped it'd be. But Hong Kong, you know, will go on and, again, I'm hopeful in the next two weeks we can make some more progress toward a more definitive roadmap. But there will be a Hong Kong. I am confident that the European Union is not done negotiating because it's just too important.

SECRETARY RICE: Let me just mention on this, too, that one of the kind of stories that got lost even at the Summit of the Americas was the degree to which there were so many countries that spoke favorably about the need for a successful Doha round. I think you saw when the President and the Brazilian President got together, President Lula, they talked about the importance of Doha. They talked about the importance of the agricultural subsidies proposal that the President had made, the trade-distorting subsidies that the President had made. And while the President again repeated that, you know, we're not going to unilaterally disarm in a sense, but the sincerity of his proposal has had an effect on a lot of developing countries that are looking for similar actions from others. And so it's not just the energy of the people here, but you had a lot of energy in Argentina also, from those countries about Doha.

QUESTION: Madame Secretary, just a quick one. When you talked to the Russians and the Chinese today, did you talk about Syria at all in terms of the UN?

SECRETARY RICE: Yes, we did talk about Syria as well and the need for the Syrians to cooperate. You know, this issue of where the interviews take place of Syrian officials, I think my view, and I didn't hear a contrary view, is that this is really up to Investigator Mehlis. If he -- wherever he wishes to do it, he, according to the UN Security Council resolution, has the right to do it. And this is something the Syrian Government needs to settle with him.

Okay, thanks. 2005/T19-19

Released on November 16, 2005


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