The Briefing Room
11:55 A.M. EDT
MS. MYERS: To begin, the President has asked me to announce today his decision to pursue with Congress the approval of legislation renewing fast track procedures to conclude the Uruguay Round of the multilateral trade negotiations. Since taking office in January, this administration's highest priority has been to strengthen the U.S. economy. We have put forth an ambitious program designed to reduce the budget deficit and increase investments in areas critical to our future economic strength. But while the administration's economic strategy starts with the enactment of the President's economic program, global economic growth from expanded world trade is a crucial part of our strategy.
The Uruguay Round, involving more than 100 nations, began in 1986. The failure to complete the Round has been a source of disappointment and frustration to the United States and many of our trading partners. A successful round would lower tariff and nontariff barriers around the world and establish new multilateral rules for world trade. It would be the single most important step we can take to open foreign markets around the world to U.S. manufactured goods, agricultural products and services.
President Clinton and Ambassador Kantor have spoken with leaders from the EC, Japan and other nations and emphasized our strong desire to complete an ambitious Uruguay Round this year. They believe that our trading partners share their commitment to the overriding importance of completing the Round.
Consequently, the President has decided, after consulting with members of Congress, to seek legislation this year needed to complete these important negotiations this year. The draft bill we will send to Congress would extend congressional fast track procedures to an Uruguay Round implementing bill provided that he notifies the Congress no later than December 15th, 1993, of his intent to enter into such agreements before April 15th, 1994.
Conventional wisdom says it will be difficult to complete this Round to expand and liberalize trade at a time when much of the world economy is in the doldrums. But the President believes that is precisely the time we must do it. We ask other nations to join us in taking the sometimes hard steps needed to bring the Round to a successful conclusion for the benefit of all nations.
Q: Dee Dee, some of our trading partners wonder why it's taken this long.
MS. MYERS: It's complex. No one said this would be easy. It's a complicated process. But we're committed to it, and the President believes we can wrap it up by the end of the year.
Q: Wait a minute. Is the question why the Round has taking so long, or is the question why it's taken to so long --
MS. MYERS: The extension?
Q: Why it's taking the President so long to ask for an extension of fast track authority.
MS. MYERS: Well, it hasn't been necessary. I mean, he's asking for an extension now. It's in plenty of time. The extension will extend, as we said, to December 15th to be signed by -- completed by Congress by April 15th, '94.
Q: Yes, but this is the first signal from this administration that it is willing to give any kind of priority to the Uruguay Round and get GATT on track.
MS. MYERS: I would disagree with that. The President has said repeatedly that he wants to conclude the Uruguay Round this year. He's committed to doing that.
Q: A trade-related question. The President's been talking tough about Iran, on the one hand, but also pledging to help the airline industry on the other hand. How does he come down on this apparent request by Boeing and GE to sell jetliners to Iran?
MS. MYERS: We're aware of their desire to make the sale and we're reviewing it. Beyond that, we have nothing to add.
Q: Do you have any concerns going in about aiding Iran?
MS. MYERS: Obviously, we're -- the embargo is still in place. We're committed to that. We're not going to do anything to aid Iran at this point. But we're aware of the airline industry's request for this. We'll take a look at it out of fairness to the industry.
Q: How long does the President think it will take before universal health care -- access to health care will be phased in to cover all Americans?
MS. MYERS: That will be part of our proposal which, as you know, has been pushed back, but will be put forth sometime in May.
Q: How long do you -- ideally what are his hopes --
MS. MYERS: Those are still the kinds of decisions that are being made. Obviously it's something that the President is committed to. He wants to see universal care, access to insurance for everybody. But those are the decisions that are still being made, and I can't comment on it until we have a proposal.
Q: Are you still on track with the scheduling of that with the problems that Hillary Clinton has been facing lately in her personal life?
MS. MYERS: Due to unforeseen circumstances with Mrs. Clinton, I think the deadline has been pushed back some. But we still look forward to a health care proposal in May.
Q: Isn't it May 17th now?
MS. MYERS: I don't think we have a firm date on it at this point. That was reported somewhere today, but there's no firm date.
Q: Dee Dee, there's a story this morning that the G-7 meeting in Tokyo in July could be moved up; quotes an unnamed administration official.
MS. MYERS: I think we'll wait and see what the results of the ministerial meeting is in Tokyo next week. I don't have anything further to say. There have been no decisions made. We'll look forward to the results of that meeting.
Q: Why would this even be contemplated? Is it possible?
MS. MYERS: I haven't heard any specific talk of that. I think we'll wait and see what happens next week. At this point we're still planning to go to Tokyo in July.
Q: Well, this individual seemed to indicate that this has been given some consideration in the administration as a possibility.
MS. MYERS: At this point we're still committed to going to Tokyo in July, and we look forward to the first ministerial round next week in Tokyo.
Q: Tell us about the funeral plans today and tomorrow.
MS. MYERS: There is a memorial service today at 2:00 p.m. And then I don't have the specific details on the plans for tomorrow other than there will be a funeral service in Scranton with family and friends.
Q: When are they going?
MS. MYERS: They're leaving for Scranton tomorrow morning. They'll spend the day in Scranton. They'll come back and spend -- it's likely that they'll spend Saturday night at Camp David and return to Washington probably Sunday night.
Q: What do you hope to accomplish, see accomplished in the ministerial meetings in Tokyo next week?
MS. MYERS: Well, we hope to move forward on the development of a multilateral package of aid for Russia. We put forward a $1.6 billion package last week in Vancouver. We're working toward a second package of bilateral support. And we're looking forward to working out the terms of a multilateral aid program for the Russians.
Q: Are you concerned that the Russians seem to be blocking the imposition of tighter sanctions on Bosnia?
MS. MYERS: Well, we're continuing to discuss that. We're continuing consultations with the U.N. Security Council. We're hopeful that we'll have increased sanctions against the Serbians, and we're hopeful that we'll have a vote on that next week.
Q: Well, the Russians apparently have signaled -- have signaled that they will not go along with that.
MS. MYERS: I don't think that's clear at this point. We're hopeful that they'll agree to join the sanctions. We think it's important to press Serbia to join the peace process.
Q: Do you think it's the least that they could do, given our support for Russian --
MS. MYERS: I don't want to apply any quid pro quo here. These are separate issues. But we believe that all parties should come and sign the peace accords on Bosnia. We're hopeful that the Russians will help us put additional pressure on the Serbs. We're going to continue to put additional pressure on the Serbs through enforcing the no-fly zone, which begins Monday, additional economic sanctions --
Q: Do you think the Russians may be holding back their support because of their upcoming referendum?
MS. MYERS: Well, that's a question that only the Russians can answer. I think at this point we're committed to additional sanctions, to cracking down on traffic on the Danube, to seizing international assets of the Serbians outside of that country, to impounding trucks, boats, things like that.
Q: If we can't do that, are we now considering and are there in fact meetings today on the subject of more military force, including air strikes?
MS. MYERS: At this point we're moving forward with the discussions. We're hopeful that we'll get additional sanctions.
Q: Dee Dee, on Bosnia, Senator Biden's in Bosnia --was meeting with the Bosnian president today. And he said the Bosnian president is requesting U.S. military aid -- $50 million in U.S. military aid. What would be the administration's position on giving military aid to Bosnia and on ending the embargo?
MS. MYERS: Well, there an embargo against selling arms to the Bosnians at this point or delivery arms to the Bosnians at this point. That's still in effect. We are, of course, abiding by that. We don't have any -- beyond that, I don't have anything to add.
Q: He's saying that he would like to see that embargo, the U.S. pushed to get that embargo lifted, and get the $50 million aid.
MS. MYERS: Yes, and we believe we need to continue to work in concert with the Europeans, particularly with reference to the arms embargo. And we'll continue to do that. But I don't have anything to add about the military package.
Q: comment on the fact the Serbs found ammunition and what-not on these U.N. convoy trucks?
MS. MYERS: It's an unfortunate incident. It's troubling, although most of the parties -- the parties have so far respected the embargo. This is the first such incident. We believe it's an isolated incident. I believe the U.N. has ordered a full inspection of that. We're concerned about it, but we do believe it's an isolated incident.
Q: Does it muddy the waters though -- mess up what you're trying to do there?
MS. MYERS: I think we'll have to see. Again, the U.N. is going to take a look at it. I think that all parties so far have done a good job at honoring the embargo and not putting arms in the humanitarian aid convoys. We do think this is an isolated incident.
Q: When you're speaking about universal health care, is there any chance of making the background briefings on it more universally available to reporters who cover that beat and want to ask questions about it and get it straight?
MS. MYERS: I don't know what the ground rules -- how people were invited today.
Q: I understand it was a very selective list of -- invitations have produced like 50 people though. And there are papers that cover it with full-time reporters that weren't invited -- not just ours, but others as well.
MS. MYERS: Let me look into what the -- how that was --
Q: Where does it actually stand now? We're all in the dark as --
MS. MYERS: On the health care plan, in terms of when it's going to be unveiled?
Q: No. Where they stand in their deliberations and producing a plan?
MS. MYERS: They're working through the process. They're starting to make a series of decisions.
Q: Do they have any decisions at all?
MS. MYERS: Nothing that we can talk about.
Q: Well, why not? Why aren't the people --
MS. MYERS: Because we're going to --
Q: being let in on what is being planned? They should have some public debate.
MS. MYERS: There will be, I'm sure, broad and extensive public debate once the package is complete. The presentation of the package will be debated widely on Congress, I'm sure among the American people, in the press.
Q: Why can't they know what you're thinking about now?
MS. MYERS: I think there's been plenty written and speculated about what we're thinking about. But we will make the details of that proposal --
Q: There hasn't -- actually not.
MS. MYERS: I would beg to differ. The details of that proposal will be available in May.
Q: Maybe some selective leaks from you people, but very little.
MS. MYERS: I would say good reporting.
Q: I would say selective leaks.
Q: Dee Dee, can you tell us what the cause was of the misinformation the other day on the President's cut?
MS. MYERS: I bear full responsibility for that. I spoke to a member of the staff and not directly to the President.
Q: And he told you it was a -- or she told you it was a --
Q: What was the question?
MS. MYERS: The question was -- Brit's still trying to get to the bottom of the great face cut embroglio.
Q: Well, I was waiting for you -- I would have waited for you to volunteer it, but since you didn't, I thought I'd ask you.
MS. MYERS: And my answer was that that was my mistake; that I did not talk directly to the President before commenting on the --
Q: Well, who gave you the misinformation?
MS. MYERS: It's not important.
Q: Yes, it is.
MS. MYERS: It wasn't the President. It was not even a member of the senior staff.
Q: But it's a credibility question.
MS. MYERS: No, it's not. It was a mistake. (Laughter.)
Q: Somebody misinformed you, and you're not unhappy about that?
MS. MYERS: I take full responsibility for it, Helen, and I apologize.
Q: Can we hope that you, perhaps, had something to say to the person who misinformed you?
MS. MYERS: I think it was an honest mistake.
Q: somebody was just guessing.
MS. MYERS: That's speculation, but I wouldn't rule it out.
Q: What's the real story now? (Laughter.)
MS. MYERS: I think the President spoke clearly about that.
Q: You stand behind his story?
MS. MYERS: One hundred percent.
Q: A thousand percent is what we usually say.
Q: No longer the case that the President's -- is to have -- phase in universal coverage by the end of his first term -- by the end of this term, I mean?
MS. MYERS: I was asked specifically what the plans were, and I said I wasn't going to comment on the specifics of the plan until we make that announcement sometime in May.
Q: I believe he said that his goal was to have it by the end of the term.
MS. MYERS: His comments stand, but I'm not going to get into the business of commenting on the specific details of the health plan. That's been our position throughout this process.
Q: Speaking of members of the staff, is there any active investigation underway to finally determine the identity of the woman who allegedly told General McCaffrey, I don't talk to the military?
MS. MYERS: No. And I believe General McCaffrey's made it clear that he does not know who that person was, whether she was a member of the White House staff, somebody coming here for a visit, or on the grounds for some other reason. I think the General's also made it clear that he believes he has an excellent relationship with the President, as do all of the members of the Pentagon who deal with him regularly and deal with the White House regularly.
Q: shouldn't there be some effort to find out who it is and if the President himself, I believe, has said to discipline that person?
MS. MYERS: There is no active investigation underway. And, again, I would remind you that there is -- even General McCaffrey says he's not sure if it was a member of the White House staff. The President has again and again said that that's certainly not -- that kind of behavior would not be tolerated here. He doesn't believe that that reflects -- it clearly does not reflect the attitude of the White House. We have a very good relationship with the military members who work here and the people at the Pentagon and other places that we deal with.
Q: It sounds like it was tolerated.
MS. MYERS: You don't know that it was a member of the White House staff, Brit. If you can find out who it is, please let me know.
Q: Bush and Jim Baker are going to Kuwait, I believe, on Sunday or Monday. Have they had any contact with the President or the administration about the trip?
MS. MYERS: No, not that I know of. I believe it's purely personal.
Q: Baker and Brady and spouses. Spring break in Kuwait. (Laughter.)
Q: Dee Dee, on the budget, the President has talked about cutting costs. And the Executive Office of the President's budget goes up quite considerably -- the supplemental in '93 and '94. It amounts to a 10 percent increase over the previous year. Can you tell us why that's true?
MS. MYERS: I haven't seen or looked at the specific figures, but when we made the announcement, I believe it was February 9th, about reducing the White House staff, we said we would have a 25 percent reduction from election day to the beginning of the next fiscal year, which is October 1, '93. I believe that those goals are met. And I don't know the specifics of the budget. I can look into it.
Q: The numbers in the budget of personnel don't change essentially. They go from $398 in '92 to $408 in '93 to $401 in '94. But the dollar figures go up sharply.
MS. MYERS: It's the total budget of the office of personnel -- the way we -- you have to remember how we defined it. We excluded OMB and USTR. And the budget -- it was a 10 percent reduction in the overall budget, which is more than just personnel.
Q: I'm not asking about personnel. And the point you make about the reductions makes this sharp increase in dollars even more meaningful. It's just not explained.
MS. MYERS: I'll have to get back to you, but I think that there's -- I'm sure that we meet our goals of a 10 percent reduction. It's not the -- it wasn't OPM either. It was the White House -- it was specifically White House staff.
Q: The Executive Office of the President is the $400 -- the inside staff -- and it goes up sharply.
MS. MYERS: But the budget we were looking at was roughly a $200 million budget. So I'm not sure how that is defined versus how --
Q: This is a $40 million budget. This is the White House internal budget. And it's up big.
MS. MYERS: But, again, we defined it a little more broadly. The total budget we were looking at was $200 million. We said we would reduce that budget by 10 percent, and I'm sure we have.
Q: Is the President trying to refurbish his image with the military in the overview sense, the different things that have been held recently that he's done; does he feel he has a problem?
MS. MYERS: No, I don't believe that is to be the case. He is the Commander-in-Chief. He will continue to meet with --confer with the military, as he has done throughout. He's met with the Joint Chiefs now twice. He talks with General Powell on a regular basis. He talks with Secretary Aspin on a regular basis and other senior military officials. The relationship by all accounts is a good one. And the President will continue to make periodic trips to the Pentagon and meet regularly with his security advisors.
Q: And you don't say that has anything to do with doing any missionary work?
MS. MYERS: No. He went over there specifically to discuss the bottom-up review and a variety of national security issues. That is something that is certainly within his realm of duties as Commander-in-Chief. He is also making periodic visits to all the agencies and departments. As you know, he's visited OMB and Treasury and now the Pentagon.
Q: And no missionary work involved in the McCaffrey invitation to jog?
MS. MYERS: No. General McCaffrey is a jogger. The President regularly --
Q: No, but he just ran into him in the corner, you mean?
MS. MYERS: No, he invited him to jog with him. He regularly invites people to jog with him, as you know.
Q: Well, there's a huge universe of people who jog, but I mean -- and a lot of them are in the military. Why him?
MS. MYERS: He was on the trip. He was part of the official delegation.
Q: Dee Dee, while the President is out of town, has he been calling any senators to lobby them on the stimulus package? Or has he been doing anything else -- trying to get that bill through?
MS. MYERS: I believe he's made some calls but I don't know to whom or how many. I think he's been mostly occupied with tending to his family, but I think he has spent a little time talking both to the White House staff and I believe he's made a few calls to members of the Senate, but I don't know who.
MS. MYERS: I don't know who. I don't know.
Q: Can you tell us about the discussions with the military yesterday on Bosnia?
MS. MYERS: The talked about a number of things. I don't want to go into the specific details other than General Powell and Secretary Aspin discussed a range of issues.
Q: And meetings today at the White House on Bosnia?
MS. MYERS: It's -- I would say there is a principals meeting, but it's not specifically on Bosnia. As you know, the principals meet regularly. I 'm sure Bosnia will be among the topics discussed.
Q: Who are the principals.
MS. MYERS: I'll have to get back to you.
Q: Senior staff here, you mean?
MS. MYERS: And I believe there will be a few others.
Q: NSC types?
MS. MYERS: NSC types. I don't know -- I don't have the whole list.
Q: Are Christopher and Aspin coming, or is it a deputies meeting?
MS. MYERS: No, it's principals.
Q: Is it based on any new decisions?
Q: Who will chair it -- Tony Lake?
MS. MYERS: I'm not sure what the structure of it -- if it's Tony or -- I believe it is.
Q: Your NSC colleague is here, maybe he can help us.
Q: Can you give us --
MS. MYERS: Tony's chairing it?
Q: Who else?
Q: Who's there -- cabinet principals.
Q: Well, come on. (Laughter.) If we knew that we wouldn't be asking you who they are.
Q: Christopher and Aspin --
MS. MYERS: Christopher, Aspin, Powell, Lake.
Q: What's it based on? What is the premise?
MS. MYERS: They meet periodically.
Q: This is not a special meeting?
MS. MYERS: They meet periodically. They'll discuss a number of issues. Again, I am sure Bosnia will be among them.
Q: In talking about Bosnia, what do you think of a high profile Democratic senator, like Joe Biden, parachuting into Sarajevo and basically declaring from over there, I think we ought to -- United States -- he see's eye to eye with the President on almost all matters of foreign affairs.
MS. MYERS: I think that's been a long held position of Senator Biden's and I think that as a member of the United States Senate he's certainly free to travel and make his opinions known as he see's fit.
Q: Dee Dee, the President nominated this week a Chicago attorney who doesn't have any trade experience, I believe, to be the U.S. coordinator or ambassador to the Uruguay Round. Is this person going to be the chief negotiator to GATT? And if so, what is the advantage of doing that rather than using the USTR?
MS. MYERS: Mickey Kantor is the chief negotiator to GATT. There will be a number of other people that work on it but, as you know, Leon Brittan and Mickey Kantor are the two principal people who are going to try to reach agreement on the Uruguay Round. Mickey's taken a very direct role in this.
Q: Didn't he pick a new negotiator today -- I mean, earlier this week?
Q: Deputy to -- great trade --
MS. MYERS: Yes, but Mickey will be the principal -- Mickey and Leon Brittan are going to be the principal negotiators on the Uruguay Round as we push toward a conclusion.
Q: Then what will this guy do?
Q: This thing has been hung up for two years.
MS. MYERS: I defer to the USTR on that.
Q: This thing has been hung up for two years on ag subsidies. Is there some new plan or how can they shake it loose?
MS. MYERS: Well, I think Mickey said he was not going to discuss his negotiating strategy in public, but obviously -- and I don't think anybody ever believed this would be easy; but there is reason to believe that we can reach a conclusion. A number of the principal parties involved and all the nations generally have said that they think it's time. They all want a good agreement, and we're going to push toward a conclusion.
Q: early next week. What's the President doing on Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday?
MS. MYERS: Don't have any details of the schedule yet. We do expect him back on Monday. I think the only thing that's firmly on is his meeting with Prime Minister Miyazawa on Friday.
Q: Is he planning any active campaigning for the stimulus package, particularly out of town?
MS. MYERS: I think he will take advantage of the interim to travel. We don't have any specific plans, but I think sometime --
Q: The interim's getting real short.
MS. MYERS: The President has travelled regularly since being inaugurated and he'll continue to do that. With the exception of the last couple of weeks, it was generally a day a week.
Q: This isn't an ad hoc schedule is it? I mean does the President have any projection of what he does -- (laughter) -- or is it that you just don't want to tell us?
MS. MYERS: Helen, I know this may be difficult for you to understand, but given the circumstances surrounding his family his schedule has been up in the air for the last week.
Q: I know mean that. But you --
MS. MYERS: And I apologize if that's inconvenient for you.
Q: It isn't a question of that. You surely know what's going to happen next week.
MS. MYERS: Helen, I'm not hiding any details from you -- I promise. We just don't have final agreements on it, and as soon as we do and we can release them, we'll be happy to share them with you.
We really do want you to cover these events. This is not about --
Q: We don't need the sarcasm; we just would like to know what will be the focus of his attention.
MS. MYERS: As soon as I have details of that, I'll be happy to share it with you.
Q: When you said he's expected back on Monday, is that deliberate or were you saying by Monday.
MS. MYERS: No, he'll be here Monday. I expect him back, probably Sunday night.
Q: There's an Easter Egg roll that's every year. Is he going to be part of that?
MS. MYERS: The First Lady is hosting it, and the President will probably be there.
Q: Do you expect the announcement of an AIDS czar this week or early next week.
MS. MYERS: Don't have a specific date. We expect one in the relatively near future.
Q: What was the question?
MS. MYERS: AIDS czar.
Q: What are the President's plans, if any, for the gay march? Is he planning to be here?
MS. MYERS: Still don't have any specifics.
Q: Is he planning to be here to participate?
MS. MYERS: Don't have any details about that schedule yet.
Q: timetable that you're looking for for the fast track extension of the GATT process.
MS. MYERS: December 15th. This would extend conclusion of negotiations to December 15th, congressional approval by April 15th of `94.
Q: When does it end now --
MS. MYERS: I'm not sure what the exact date is.
Q: I think it's up, isn't it? Isn't it up?
MS. MYERS: It's close. I don't think it's expired yet.
THE PRESS: Thank you.
END 12:15 P.M. EDT