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Background Briefing by Senior Administration Officials

February 17, 1995

The Briefing Room

2:29 P.M. EST

Q: I'd like ask, when are you going to separate Canada and Europe in the State Department?

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: That's for you -- (laughter).

Q: It seems to me it's about time -- it's been quite a while --

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: -- have a respect for tradition. You see, we have -- we've had this -- Canada in the European Bureau for quite some time, for a number of reasons. And I think one of the reasons is still valid today -- that we are a partner with Canada in many issues which concern Europe. They are partners with us in NATO, in the CSCE, now the OSCE. They are members of the G-7, though, indeed, there is one G-7 partner who is an Asian nation. Still, many of the issues concern the European and Transatlantic relationship. So we deal with Canada then.

Who knows what's going to happen in 10 years, but I think right now we think the predominance of the issues are similar to those we have with other European countries.

Q: Can one of you all better clear up this border fee issue? Are we just expecting this -- are the Canadians just expecting for it to go away because it won't be enacted by Congress? Isn't it the President's proposal in his budget?

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: Well, I don't -- I think Governor Blanchard could speak best to what the Canadian view of the thing is. I don't claim to have any knowledge greater than what he would have on that. What is clear in this situation, obviously, is with the border fee it's something that has to be legislated. So by definition it will be something that we work out with Congress, and it'll be something they'll have to pass.

The point I think that we'd simply make about it is that the purpose behind the fee is to improve both the customs facilitation so that people can move across the border easier and also to improve the immigration situation along the border. And that's the chief purpose it. And that's really going to be our loadstone, is trying to improve that in some way so that we can do a better job of keeping people across the border. If you go down to Texas and so forth, there are delays that last for hours, as you probably know, in terms of people crossing the border. And it would be useful if we found a way to facilitate that.

Q: Do you expect it to go away vis a vis Canada then?

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: Again, with regard to how Canada feels about it, I think the Governor --

Q: The American point of view -- do you expect it will go away?

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: I think we're going to have to sit down with Congress and work out what's in the legislation on the issue.

Q: Are you saying you'd rather see it apply to Mexico rather than Canada?

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: No. The proposal, I believe, is on all the borders.

Q: Well, sir, doesn't this affect the economy?

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: Does what affect the economy?

Q: It certainly affects the economy on the southern border. I realize there's more down there, but doesn't this affect some the economy in Canada?

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: Well, there are different effects. I mean, clearly it affects the economy if people can't cross the border easily. And that inhibits commerce to some extent. And so part of the purpose of the fee was to deal with that problem as well.

Q: Is it possible the President will use this trip as an opportunity that declare -- (inaudible) -- dead --

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: I don't know of any intention in that regard.

Q: Isn't it considered a big mistake, and you're going to pull it back, and you had no idea of what the Canadian reaction would be?

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: No, I mean, I think all I was really saying is I think Governor Blanchard has the best sense of what the Canadian reaction is because he's closer to the situation up there. But I think what we're going to have to do is sit down and work with Congress and figure out what's the appropriate way to deal with that issue.

Q: What about the U.S. reaction? There's been a great deal of reaction up on the Hill and among governors opposed to it.

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: That's true, and obviously again in the congressional context we're going to have to work out with them what we do.

I would also add, though, there is a desire, I think, along the border also to improve the backlogs and so forth. So there are mixed goals, I think --

Q: But is it conceivable to you that the Canadian part of the fee would be eliminated and only the Mexican part would remain? Wouldn't that be a great affront to Mexico?

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: You know, I'd rather not get into hypotheticals in terms of how we might structure it and who it might affect and so forth at this point, because I think the people at OMB who are chiefly working this through need to work it through with Congress, and obviously, there are congressional people on both borders.

Q: But that's a policy matter. You know, you're speaking for the administration on policy -- can you conceive of a Mexico-only fee?

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: Again, I'd rather not speculate about alternatives until we've worked it through with Congress a little bit more.

Q: Can you shed some light on the logistics that went into the planning of the meeting with Lucien Bouchard, the -- (inaudible) -- leader, why was Preston Manning included, and why are there no photo opportunities at that event?

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: My understanding is that Mr. Bouchard and Mr. Manning both requested a meeting. And Ambassador Blanchard, in Ottawa, contacted them both to indicate that, as Ambassador Blanchard said, in the tradition of Presidents meeting with opposition leaders in Canada, that we would be happy to arrange something.

Q: But isn't this leader more than just an opposition leader? He wants to break the country up.


Q: That's the point that is being made up there, that this is somewhat unprecedented, because he's not just a Republican, you know, under a Democratic president.

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: Well, he is leader of the opposition in the Federal Parliament, and the President is meeting with him in his role as leader of the opposition.

Q: The Canadian officials say -- Canadian officials have told me that there is no precedent of the United States -- of a visiting United States -- the President visiting in Canada, meeting with the opposition leaders. Canadian officials have said that yes, there has been an occasion where a -- where the president -- where a visiting president met the opposition leader, but this is by no means an established routine.

In other words, my question is, what is the United States' interest in building up and boosting the standing of a man who tries to break -- was trying to break up the country, an important neighbor of the United States? Where is the --

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: Well, I don't think we see this meeting with either Mr. Bouchard or Mr. Manning as an effort to build them up. We see it very much in the context of the kinds of visit presidents, including this president, have made to Canada and other countries in meeting with democratically-elected leaders who represent different views.

Q: A meeting with the President is no boost?

Q: It's no boost? Is it neutral? Is it -- nobody is going to make anything out of it?

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: Well, I don't -- well, our intention is not to make anything out of it other than a meeting with a democratically-elected leader of the opposition.

Q: Did they say what they wanted to discuss?


Q: Is it one meeting with the two leaders?

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: No, there will be separate meetings.

Q: Do you know when that is scheduled --

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: I don't know when it is in the schedule yet.

Q: Do you know how long the meetings will be?

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: I anticipate they'll be, perhaps 10 to 15 minutes each.

Q: Will somebody discuss the rabies question? I understand we're getting a lot of help from Canada on rabies. And did you all give it to us, did Canada give it to us, or did we have to buy it, or do we have advisers down there in Texas helping with the horrible rabies problem now?

ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: We'll take that question and get you an answer later on.

Q: In the address to Parliament, are there any high points that you could focus on that you could tell us? Are we going to get any real news out of it or --. You can be honest.

Q: It's on background.

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: I haven't seen the draft. I don't think any of us have. But I think it will be a good speech, an interesting speech.

Q: But, I mean, is it basically like --

Q: Do you know what the theme of the speech is going to be?

Q: Yes -- relationship of the speech --

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: I think the theme of the speech, overall -- again, without having seeing the draft of the speech -- will be the kinds of the themes that Ambassador Blanchard laid out -- a celebration of a really extraordinary and unique relationship; ways in which it provide tangible benefits to both nations; ways in which we strengthened it, and ways in which we look to strengthen it, including one issue that hasn't come up quite so much today, but I think will get a lot of attention at the visit is the signing of a rather extraordinary aviation agreement, we hope.

Q: What is in that agreement? Highlights?

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: The civil aviation agreement, which was concluded on an ad referendum basis by the negotiators yesterday in Ottawa will liberalize and detransform aviation relationships between the United States and Canada.

As any of you know who has tried to fly between the United States and Canada, the routes can often be circuitous. We right now have a very restrictive agreement that limits air rights to certain specified city pairs. So, in many instances you simply can't fly nonstop between rather proximate cities in the United States and Canada.

This agreement, which we expect will be finalized in the course of the next week, will transform that relationship so that within three years any airline in the United States and any airline in Canada can fly from any Canadian city to any U.S. city which they would like to.

Q: Is the issue of UNPROFOR likely to come up, and will there be any discussion of a possible American military role in exiting Canadian and other U.N. troops from --

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: I think what you'll -- again, we don't know exactly what they're going to talk about, but I think you can expect a full range of international, international security issues will come up, particularly peacekeeping, in which Canada is very active. Canada has, as you know, 2,000 troops in the former Yugoslavia, so I'm sure that UNPROFOR will come up and also --

END2:39 P.M. EST

William J. Clinton, Background Briefing by Senior Administration Officials Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project

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