Background Briefing by Senior Administration Official
The Briefing Room
3:00 P.M. EST
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: President Clinton's meeting tomorrow with President Mitterrand, the first meeting between the two leaders since the inauguration, obviously a chance to establish a good personal relationship. Also, of course, a chance for President Clinton and President Mitterrand to review what is a very broad and important bilateral-multilateral agenda.
We, the United States, works closely with France and certainly values that cooperation on a broad range of issues. I might cite, for example, the crisis in the former Yugoslavia, Somalia, the Persian Gulf, the relations with Iraq, the effort to ensure that Iraq fully implements all the relevant U.N. Security Council resolutions.
We share an interest in support of democracy and economic reform in Russia, and I'm sure that President Clinton and President Mitterrand will want to discuss in some detail recent developments in Russia. President Mitterrand will be visiting Moscow to see President Yeltsin on the 16th of March. Of course, President Clinton will be meeting President Yeltsin in VanCouver on the 3rd and 4th of April. Foreign Minister Dumas, French Foreign Minister Dumas was in Moscow last week. So we've had quite a bit of contact, each country, and will be having with Russia at the senior level.
We also have, of course, some important issues in the economic area to discuss -- the outlook for the Uruguay Round negotiations, where do we go now to complete those negotiations. We have some other issues perhaps that if time allows which might come up in the economic area -- Airbus, President Mitterrand might be interested in that subject.
That's about it. Questions. No questions. Extraordinary.
Q: Where are the French on such measures as tightening the embargo and enforcing the no-fly zone?
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: We're talking about the embargo on Serbia-Montenegro? Yes. Well, we've worked very closely with France on all aspects of the embargo, and I don't think there are any differences there. We are concentrating now on ways in which we can make the existing sanctions more effective, and this, of course, involves the joint effort in the Adriatic where both NATO and the Western European Union have ships on station to control -- or prevent access to the Montenegran ports of Bar and Kotor. We're working together with France and other allies on tightening up control over access to Serbia-Montenegro by road, by rail, and, of course, on the Danube.
And so I think that will be a subject to be discussed, what more we might be able to do, but there certainly is no -- there are no differences as far as I'm aware between France and the United States on that subject.
Now, as far as the no-fly zone enforcement resolution is concerned, as you know, the United States believes that the Security Council should move to endorse or to adopt a resolution on the enforcement of the no-fly zone which was adopted last October, but without enforcement provisions. We're obviously in touch with all the other members of the Security Council, and particularly the permanent members -- France, Britain, Russia and China. So far, these consultations continue. The United States remains of the view that it would be a good idea to move ahead as a signal of the determination of the Security Council that all the resolutions having to do with former Yugoslavia should be fully complied with.
The French have been, in the past, concerned that adoption of a no-fly zone enforcement resolution might in some way call into question the status of their forces in Bosnia. France has about 2,700 troops in Bosnia as part of the expanded UNPROFOR. Of course, the United Kingdom has forces there, too -- about the same number -- 2,200, 2,300. Both the United Kingdom and France have shown some anxiety about the way in which the Serbian forces might interpret a no-fly zone enforcement resolution. So this dialogue goes on.
Q: You don't seem to be pressing very hard for such a resolution anymore. I mean, you seem to have all but given up on such a move because of French and British objections.
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: Well, we haven't given up at all. We have not yet convinced our partners that a no-fly zone enforcement resolution should be adopted by the Security Council, and I think perhaps the President and President Mitterrand will be discussing that tomorrow. It's not a unilateral action that the United States can take, but we remain of the view that an enforcement resolution should be part of the response to the crisis in Bosnia. We have not changed our position. We continue --
Q: But you are trying to convince them and the British to change their mind --
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: We continue to work on this. It is something we believe should be done.
Q: In case there would be a multinational force to guarantee an agreement between the three factions in Bosnia, would you be ready to put your ground forces under strictly U.N. command?
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: Well, I would refer you to what the Secretary of State said on the 10th of February, and I think the President has made the same point subsequently. That is that the United States would be prepared in the event there is an agreement between the parties endorsed by the Security Council, in the context of the NATO Alliance with other interested countries -- Russia, Eastern European countries, for example -- to participate in the implementation, if you will, enforcement of that resolution or that plan approved by the U.N. Security Council.
Now, we've not gotten to the point where specific types of forces are being specified, what countries will participate and with what source of forces. We're talking about that now with other potential participants. For example, there is discussion going on in NATO now about how NATO might respond if the United Nations asked NATO to provide support for the resolution or for the implementation of the plan. But we're not at the point now where any decisions have been taken on what specific forces the United States might make available.
Q: You only briefly touched on trade when you mentioned the Airbus in passing, but there are, as you know, very deep differences, growing differences over trade. How much do you think they're going to get into this? The Foreign Minister was quoted today as saying that the U.S. risks a trade war with the EC.
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: Was this Foreign Minister Dumas that was quoted?
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: Well, I haven't seen that quote but -- this is an important part of the transatlantic relationship, the economic component. And obviously, President Clinton has put a lot of emphasis on that in his own statements on the relationship of the United States not only with Europe, but with other principal partners -- Japan, for example.
I personally don't see that we're on the verge of a trade war. We have problems with Western Europe. We have problems with other trading partners; they with us. You mentioned one -- Airbus. We have other issues on the agenda. But we also have a very rich and productive economic relationship with the countries of the European communities, France a principal one among them. I think the important thing for the discussions tomorrow is for the two Presidents to have a full review of where we are on these various issues, bilateral and multilateral, and to determine what we need to do to ensure that we don't move to a trade war because neither party would benefit -- neither the European party, nor the United States would benefit from that state of affairs.
Q: Can we expect the President to reiterate some of the things that he has said publicly here? Their Foreign Minister was referring, according to this story, to just in general the attack on what U.S. officials and the President have argued are unfair trade practices. In other words, how high on the agenda is this going to be from the President's side?
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: Well, it's difficult to say in the course of a meeting how much time will be devoted to a given set of issues or given agenda item. Obviously, the two Presidents have a lot to discuss tomorrow, beginning with issues such as how to deal with the Bosnian crisis, the situation in Russia. But obviously, the economic issues are an important part of the relationship. But I don't want to give the impression that we're talking or that they're talking about those issues against the backdrop of a crisis.
We have issues that need to be managed, need to be resolved between the United States and Europe, major trading partners. We also have a trade relationship which probably amounts to in the neighborhood of $200 billion in trade in both directions, hundreds of billions of dollars of investment, and a major shared interest in a successful and productive relationship. So I don't see us moving in the direction of a trade war. We have some issues that need to be looked at, some agricultural trade issues which have been under discussion for a long time -- oil seas, for example, goes back to the middle '80s, maybe even to 1962 if you want to go back that far. Airbus discussions have been with us for some time. We had an agreement last year. The only thing that we've done on Airbus is to say, as is provided under the U.S. agreement with the Community and the four participating Airbus partners, is that we'd like consultations as is provided for under that agreement. And we will be having those consultations.
Q: Do you think he's going to discuss Airbus tomorrow?
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: Well, I doubt that they'll get into the details of Airbus. It is an issue on the agenda between the United States and the European partners, and France, of course, is a principal participant.
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: Those discussions, those consultations will be definitely at a different level, right.
Q: Can you talk a little bit about the role these intermediaries are playing in setting up for the Yeltsin summit? You've got Dumas who just came back. You've got Mitterrand going. What sort of signals are you getting and what sort of signals are you trying to send through these intermediaries?
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: We don't have intermediaries involved in setting up the summit between President Clinton and President Yeltsin. Secretary Christopher met with Foreign Minister Kozyrev in Geneva on the 25th and we're in contact with the Russian side making the necessary arrangements. But obviously, we want to find out from President Mitterrand what their impression is of the situation in Russia. Foreign Minister Dumas was just there; he will be going.
We have very, I think, major shared interests with France in developing a coordinated approach to assisting the process of economic reform and democratization in Russia and, of course, the Russian situation is undergoing a certain amount of stress and strain right now. We want to work together with France and other partners in dealing effectively with it. I think that's also the view of the French side. So it's really more a sharing of information and an exchange of ideas about how best to deal with what is a very important shared interest.
Q: What is the thinking here on the French suggestions for an emergency G-7 meeting?
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: Well, I'll leave that to the President. I might simply say that G-7 meetings, although we're in favor of the idea of informality, that's something that's always stressed in the case of the summits. Everyone complains that the summits are overbureaucratized and routinized and too much planning and so forth. A certain amount of preparation on the summits is probably a good idea if they are to be productive. So we certainly will listen with interest if the President of France proposes, as some have suggested he might, that there be some presummit or pre-meeting of the G-7 leaders, but I'll leave it to the President to decide how to respond if that proposal is made.
Q: On that subject, President Clinton said the other day they're looking at some innovative things with regard to aid to Russia. Might he discuss some of these innovative things with Mr. Mitterrand, and can you give us an idea what they are?
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: As far as innovative things are concerned, we want to find ways in which assistance can be provided most effectively to the process in Russia -- economic reform, political democratization, liberalization. The proposal that was adopted at the summit in Munich last year, involved a package of assistance based in large measure on the role of the International Monetary Fund and the other international financial institutions in one way or another. And what needs to be looked at now is how we can, if you will, find perhaps a better way to assist Russia if that approach, the approach that was adopted last year has not worked, or at least not worked entirely.
So we have some issues that need to be discussed. They won't be resolved, obviously, tomorrow, but points such as how to deal with the debt of the former Soviet Union, which is still out there, the Paris Club discussions, how can the international financial institutions provide assistance -- these are the sorts of things that need to be looked at.
Q: It sounds like you're saying that that idea from Munich hasn't worked. Is that what you're saying?
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: It has worked to a degree. A good deal of assistance has been provided to Russia. If you'd look at the numbers, you'll see that, although some of the assistance -- specifically the currency stabilization fund and the IMF program, some of the IBRD support -- that's still outstanding --a good deal of assistance has been provided.
What can we, collectively and individually, do above and beyond what was agreed to be done in Munich last year to assist this process. Of course, we're not just talking about Russia, we're talking about all of the former Soviet Union -- Ukraine and the other newly independent states.
Q: Is the U.S. leaning toward, as you said, creating some -- well, finding some other way -- does that mean creating some new organization, or maybe the G-7 taking it over directly?
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: I wouldn't want to get into what specific ideas might be under discussion or under consideration. We're not looking for a new organization. We're not looking for new organizational approaches. We're looking for ways in which assistance can be provided to this process effectively and quickly.
Q: To clarify, will the consultations on Airbus take place concurrently with this meeting? What do you have to -- what do you want to consult about? And also, if I might -- will the President have anything to propose on the Uruguay Round?
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: As far as the Airbus consultations, the Airbus consultations will be conducted by USTR and those will be at a different level and they won't take place tomorrow. We've requested the consultations as is provided under the agreement in the European Community on the behalf of -- the four Airbus partners have said they agree, that they're prepared to do that. And those will take place -- I'm not sure exactly when. You can check with USTR and see if a date has been agreed. I don't think one has been.
So tomorrow I wouldn't anticipate any specific discussion on Airbus. The agreement, as you know, does provide for exchanges of information on the existing programs and it also, of course, establishes limits for government support of future programs above and beyond the A330, A340 program. So basically this is something that needs to be discussed at the working level, and that's what will take place.
Now, what was the second part of your question -- about the Uruguay Round?
Q: Yes, sir. Does he have any proposals to make to get those moving?
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: I wouldn't think so -- not at the discussion tomorrow. I think the President and the President of France would want to review the status of the negotiations and what needs to be done, what are the principal obstacles, and how can we best move ahead. The government of France has indicated that for the time being it has some problems with an important part of the package that was agreed last year; namely the Blair House agreement on dealing with the agricultural export subsidy issue. So that is a problem which might be discussed tomorrow, but not in any great detail I wouldn't expect.
Q: You don't sound like you're very optimistic about getting anywhere on the Uruguay Round then.
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: Well, it's not a bilateral issue between the United States and France. France is not the negotiator in the -- it's an important subject, one that needs to be looked at. And I think the two Presidents need to see where each side is and what we can do right now to move ahead. But I don't anticipate, I don't think you would anticipate negotiations tomorrow at the senior level, at the top level between the United States and France.
Q: Why not?
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: One point I might just make in this, France does not negotiate directly -- the European Community negotiates for France. So this would not be a negotiation per se.
Q: Ambassador Kantor seemed to imply a while back, though, that the administration may have some problems with the Blair House agreement, too. I mean, is there a suggestion here that they might want to reopen it? Is it going to be taken up?
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: No.
Q: What's the time on the program tomorrow? What time does he arrive?
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: The President arrives via Concorde at Dulles, I think around 10:30 a.m. or so and will be coming directly here. He'll have a private session with the President and then a larger working lunch. And I suspect it will all be finished by about 2:00 p.m.
Q: And then they have a news conference or something like that?
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: Turn to the expert.
MS. MYERS: Yes.
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: There will be a press availability at 12:15 p.m., after the private meeting and before the lunch.
Q: Sir, what is the state of play on the Blair House agreement? Has there been a formal request to reopen those negotiations?
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: No.
Q: Will counterterrorism be a part of tomorrow's discussions? If not, was there any contact at the lower levels between the two governments in the blast in New York?
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: I'm not aware of any contact between -- specifically involving the World Trade Center explosion between the United States and France, although we do have an ongoing dialogue on questions involving counterterrorism. I'm not sure whether specifically we've talked with them about that. I'm not personally aware of it. I wouldn't think that this would be on the agenda of the meeting between the two Presidents.
Q: What sort of discussions might the two Presidents have concerning Russian food aid?
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: Well, food aid is obviously an important part of what we do, both the United States and the European Community, in support of Russia and the other new states. I'm not sure that there's any specific food aid subject on the agenda tomorrow. We, of course, have had some discussions recently with the Russians ourselves when Deputy Prime Minister Shokhin was here last week talking with Secretary Espy and others about conditions for continuation or resumption of U.S. shipments.
I think the European Community has recently shipped some additional food aid to Russia or sales of wheat to Russia. But I wouldn't think that this would be a major subject tomorrow.
Q: How does the President propose to pay for any new aid?
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: Aid to Russia? Well, there is a proposal that the Freedom Support legislation would be continued and augmented in Fiscal '94, and that, of course, will be submitted to the Congress.
Q: Is he going to ask for a new tax?
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: This is part of the overall program of assistance and the funds for that will be found within the existing revenue envelope, as I understand it. No new taxes are being requested for assistance to Russia and the new states as far as I'm aware.
Q: Do he would have to cut spending someplace else?
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: Well, you can readjust within programs. Russia's not the only country that has received assistance from the United States. You can make adjustments. Those are the kinds of adjustments that you make on a year to year basis.
Q: Do you expect Mitterrand to raise the problem of the U.S. involvement with Vietnam like they did last month --
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: Well, Vietnam is a subject which might be discussed. President Mitterrand was just in Southeast Asia, visited Vietnam. Perhaps he would want to inform President Clinton what his impressions were. We, of course, have some very specific problems with Vietnam that France doesn't have. You had them several years ago, like 1954-55. (Laughter.)
Q: There will be important national elections in France at the end of the month.
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: Oh, really? (Laughter.)
Q: Some think that the conservatives are going to take over. Is there any feeling in Washington that Mitterrand might be a lame duck President or that he will not -- he's not really representative of what the French government --
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: Well, as far as I'm aware, the President's term will conclude in 1995. So we see President Mitterrand as the President of France until he ceases to be President in 1995. The legislative elections are a fact of life on the 21st and 28th of March, and we'll not the outcome with interest as everyone else will.
Q: Will the President be offering any specific suggestions on some themes that he's raised in the past, things he'd like other industrialized nations to do -- namely, opening markets, helping Third World countries and former communist countries get their economies moving in order to create bigger export markets for America and other industrialized -- does he have any specific -- he seemed to indicate the other day that he's going to really hammer on this at the G-7 summit. So does he have some specific things he wants France and other countries to do?
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: Well, as we look toward the Tokyo summit in July, I think the emphasis in the process, including the discussions tomorrow, but in the meetings of the sherpas leading up to the summit will be on what all of the G-7 partners can do to achieve the objectives you cite -- that is, to set the world economy on a growth pattern and to ensure better trading opportunities for a number of countries -- Russia and the other newly independent states of the former Soviet Union among them. We all have some common objectives there. So I'm sure --
Q: But what specific things might the President ask France to do?
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: Well, each country has to approach the G-7 summit and this process of macroeconomic policy coordination on the basis of its own domestic policies and its own opportunities, its own possibilities. The United States, of course, is, through the President's initiative on growth, going to be contributing to an increase in world trade. We would think other countries might well be able to do the same. The Japanese are talking about a domestic package. That's the sort of thing that might be discussed in connection with the sherpa process. France may have its own contribution.
Q: Are there two sherpas? Who is the sherpa?
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: I'm not quite sure who that person will be. It's not -- I really don't know. But there's a team -- someone from the White House side, someone from Treasury, someone from State. It was Mr. Zoellick until recently, but now there will be somebody else. (Laughter.)
Q: What happened to Mr. Zoellick?
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: Gee, I don't know. But there will be a sherpa. I'm just --
Q: I understand that there's two sherpas -- one from State, one from the White House this year, which is an unusual state of affairs. Do you know anything about that?
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: Well, I don't know anything about it. I'm sorry, I don't mean to be evasive, but I'm just not sure who it will be. There will be a sherpa team, though, I can assure you of that.
Q: I've never doubted that.
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: You never doubted that for a moment, did you?
Q: Thank you.
END3:23 P.M. EST
William J. Clinton, Background Briefing by Senior Administration Official Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project https://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/node/269110