REPORTER. Mr. President?
THE PRESIDENT. Yes, ma'am?
Q. Tell us all about it.
THE PRESIDENT. Well, we have an extremely good relationship with the Dominican Republic, as you know. President Balaguer has set an example for all leaders in this nation in changing his own country and his own people away from a former totalitarian government to one of increasingly pure democracy. And the commitment that he's shown in preserving human rights and leading the other nations in this effort have been an inspiration to me.
I doubt that any other two countries have worked more closely together in matters relating to our own hemisphere, in the United Nations than has the Dominican Republic and the United States of America. We cooperate on the sugar agreement. We cooperate in our debates in the General Assembly of the U.N. We cooperate in matters that relate to the Organization of American States.
We've been talking to President Balaguer about the upcoming elections next year, which will be open and free and, I think, which will be a model to everyone on the universality of the right to vote and the free expression of the people's will in choosing their own government.
So, in the last 7 years, there's been unbelievable progress made in the Dominican Republic. President Balaguer pointed out to me that there's a great need for us to realize that their major crop, their major export item is sugar, and what we do here in our own country has a profound impact on the well-being of his own people.
And of course, we hope that we'll have an international sugar agreement during 1977. We produce tremendous quantities of sugar in our own Nation from sugar beets and cane. And of course, we also import large quantities of sugar.
So, these discussions, particularly with him and with the other nations, are very important to me.
Q. When do you think the Senate is going to bring up these treaties, and are you confident of the result?
THE PRESIDENT. I'm going to do the best I can to have the treaties ratified. And I think that we will succeed. But the time schedule is something that I can't predict right now. It's going to be a matter of great importance to me and to our country and to this hemisphere, and I think a failure to ratify the treat), would have very, serious consequences.
Q. The Hill leaders are saying it won't be 'til next year. Do you accept that that's probably what will happen?
THE PRESIDENT. Well, that is, I think, a guess at this point that would be good. But I've talked to the leaders on the Democratic and Republican sides, and if it seems apparent that we have enough votes to ratify the treaty during this session of Congress, they've all assured me that that would be their desire.
Q. Don't bring it up if you don't have the vote.
THE PRESIDENT. That's right.
Q. What do you mean by "serious consequences"? You've said that several times now. Do you mean war?
THE PRESIDENT. Well, no, I wouldn't want to predict war. But I think it would be a serious disappointment on behalf of all the nations of this hemisphere in the refusal to ratify the treaty by our country. I don't, obviously, predict war. But there would be a deterioration of the relationships between our country and almost every nation south of here.
Q. Do you see your own relationship to other foreign policy questions tied to your success or failure on this particular one?
THE PRESIDENT. Yes, to some degree, yes, because it tests the character and the will of the American people to do what's fair, what's right, what's decent, and to treat other nations with respect, and at the same time to enhance the security and well-being of our own people. And I think it would be a reflection on our judgment and our fairness if the treaty was not ratified.
Q. And if it is ratified, do you then have a better hand in the Mideast, on SALT, on other questions?
THE PRESIDENT. I think my own position would be enhanced in that it would be a show of support for my administration by the Congress and the people, yes.