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European Newspaper Journalists - Question-and-Answer Session.

April 25, 1977

FRED EMERY [The Times, London]. We tried to have a European unity parley here to get organized with questions and order of sitting. It has proved impossible. We are not going to unite. [Laughter]

THE PRESIDENT. We will make it informal. I am glad to have you here. I am looking forward to meeting with the leaders of your own countries when we go to Europe.

I will defer to your questions.


MR. EMERY. As I say, we have tried to prepare some things. Mr. President, you know that quite a few people in Europe are puzzled and some are refreshed by the way you are going about governing. How do you describe your first hundred days in office?

THE PRESIDENT. I have been pleased so far at the response of the American people to our administration. I think we have attempted to address some very difficult questions which, in the past, have been either ignored or delayed.

Last week I spent presenting our energy proposals to the American people. We have evolved and laid before the Soviet Government a comprehensive reduction proposal in nuclear armaments. We have begun to reduce the effort to sell conventional arms around the world. We have spelled out a strong position, which has not been unanimously accepted well, on nonproliferation of nuclear explosive capability.

I have, I think, accurately mirrored the American people's beliefs on public espousal of human rights. We have begun to reorganize our own Nation's Government and to commence proposals which will ultimately transform our welfare system and our income tax structure. I have made some--sometimes controversial-decisions to prevent the raising of trade barriers and have had an almost unprecedented stream of distinguished visitors here from other countries. This past week, four foreign leaders came to see me.

So, in all of these areas I think we have been fairy successful, either in beginning efforts or in some few accomplishments at this early time. The relationship between myself and the American people is very good now.

MR. EMERY. May I interrupt to say---


MR. EMERY. How about your relations with Congress---

THE PRESIDENT. That was the other clause in my sentence.

MR. EMERY.---the business community and the unions?

THE PRESIDENT. I think the relationship with Congress has been steadily improving as we have gotten to know one another. The first time I was ever in the House of Representatives was Wednesday night when I made my speech. I had never visited there before. But I believe that within the Democratic leadership now, there is a growing sense of mutual understanding and trust and consultation that has gotten to be a habit--and a good one.

I think the business community has begun to recognize that my own background as a businessman will help to color the decisions that I make about economics, and I think that I have a fairly good relationship with labor, as well.

So, in general, as a completely unbiased observer, I have been pleased. [Laughter]

We have got a long way to go. I have a lot to learn. And we are studying how to restore normal relationships with governments where those relations have been strained in the past. We are exploring some possibilities for the resolution of the historic conflict in the Middle East. We are trying to work closely with Great Britain's leaders in describing a proper role for us in southern Africa. And I think we have got a possibility at the meetings in London to more strongly establish my personal friendship and understanding with the European leaders as well. So I feel good about the administration so far.


HENRI PIERRE [Le Monde, Paris] Can I ask you a general question about Europe? Since you took office, we have the feeling in Europe that the relationship between the United States and Europe are now getting the same priority as the American-Soviet relationship. What is your general approach regarding Europe and, more precisely, regarding the European Community? Some of your predecessors, we feel, seemed to fear that a united Europe, if it comes to be, might be a competitor, might be going against the political and economic American interests. Do you share those fears?

THE PRESIDENT. No. I think within 100 hours of my becoming President, the Vice President had begun consultations with the leaders of many nations in Europe. I have already met with Prime Minister Callaghan, with the leaders of Portugal, with the European Community, NATO. I will meet with the other leaders within the next 2 weeks. And this will likely be the only trip I shall take outside our country this year. I have no other plans at this time.

I think all these items describe my deep concern about good relationships with Europe. I see no way that we can have a successful resolution of East-West problems without the full comprehension, understanding, participation with our allies and friends in Europe.

We have, in addition to that, demonstrated, I think, in my own budget proposals to the Congress, an increasing emphasis on military capability within NATO. And I intend to stay over after the conference with the heads of state, to meet with the NATO leaders as well.

The people of our country, regardless of who happens to be President, have a natural sense that our historical ties and our future are intimately related with the European countries.

The other part of your question is that I strongly favor, perhaps more than my predecessors, a close interrelationship among the nations of Europe, the European Community, in particular.

We have a legitimate reticence about trying to interfere, but I will do everything I can within the 'bounds of propriety to strengthen those natural ties economically, politically, militarily that do exist now among the countries of Europe and to strengthen them in the future. And when the nations involved consider it appropriate, I would certainly welcome the absorption within the European Community of Portugal and Spain.

So, I think that already I have both come to realize and also have begun to act on the premise of a strong Europe as essential to our own good future and have recognized the importance of the bilateral relationships with the nations involved.


VITTORIO ZUCCONI [La Stampa, Turin]. Mr. President, about NATO, do you think that NATO is still a viable alliance as it is now after 30 years of existence, and do you foresee or wish any change? Do you think the Europeans should do more in their own defense? You might share your thoughts on NATO with us.

THE PRESIDENT. Yes. I think the NATO military alliance is a cornerstone of our own national security. I think the degree of cooperation that has evolved from NATO since its inception has helped to tie our nations together in political and economic and social ways. So the military alliance has been a core around which our good progress has been enhanced.

I have been concerned about the need for a more fair sharing of military supplies and weapons among the countries involved. It ought to be a two-way street and, to the extent that we can have common understandings about standardizing weapons systems, I believe that we will increase the portion that does come from the European suppliers.

I would hope that within the next 12 months, that the other leaders and I could acquire a renewed commitment to NAT() principles and improvements on a multilateral basis. I am quite reluctant to move unilaterally in this field because I am so new. I have a lot to learn from the leaders of France and Germany and Great Britain and other countries where they have been involved so long.

The last point is that the differences that we have had among us, I think, can only be resolved among the heads of state. And with the Leopard tank and the AWACS system--these matters are of tactical importance, but they don't endanger the total commitment of our countries to share in our future security. And although France is not a complete partner in the process as far as mutual defense is concerned, that is not a matter of great concern to us.

We have among the American people an almost unanimous belief that NATO is a very beneficial commitment to us. So, I see no danger of a deterioration in the NATO alliance.


MR. ZUCCONI. That leads inevitably to the question of the political situation, certainly, in the European countries, among which Italy and France--how do you react to the growth of the Marxist left, so-called Eurocommunists in those countries? How would you react to the possibility of coalition governments in a member's country, with a role for the Communists in it?

THE PRESIDENT. I think the first premise on which we function is that the European citizens are perfectly capable of making their own decisions about political matters through the free election process.

Within my own memory, this is the first time that all the NATO countries have been democracies. And I think this is a very good evolution that we have already witnessed.

Secondly, we prefer that the governments involved continue to be democratic and that no totalitarian elements become either influential or dominant. And I would hope that the democratic parties would prevail during the coming years in the struggle for political authority.

I believe that the best way we can prevent the enhancement of Communist political strength in Europe is to show that democratically controlled governments can function effectively and openly and with humaneness and a genuine and continuing comprehension of what people need and expect from government.

To the extent that we fail as democracies, as democratic leaders, to live up to the ideals that exemplify our own commitments, to that extent we open the opportunity for Communist parties to be more successful.

So, to summarize, I think each country has to make its own decisions in the electoral process. I am pleased at the enhanced degree of commitment to the democratic governments. We certainly prefer that the democratic parties prevail in the future. And we can encourage that process not by interfering in electoral procedures within countries themselves, but making the system work ourselves.


HORST-ALEXANDER SIEBERT [Die Welt, Bonn]. Mr. President, the economic summit is only a couple of days away. The meeting of the heads of state shows clearly how interdependent the economies are, and that this interdependence is rapidly growing. How much sovereignty is the United States willing to give up in the decisionmaking process?

THE PRESIDENT. None. [Laughter]


THE PRESIDENT. Not to give up sovereignty. I think within the bounds of sovereignty to be maintained by all the nations, though, cooperation is very important.

As I search for a proper way to exemplify the sovereignty and independence of our own Nation, I want to make the right decisions that are best for our own people. I don't think there is any doubt that our own people are best served when we do cooperate with our allies, when we have open and free trade, when we have a proper concern about the less-developed nations, when we do have military security, when we have international lending institutions like the World Bank that can function effectively, when we have a proper and multilateral approach to solving the chronic and rapidly deteriorating energy circumstances--all those things that are multilateral in nature and require cooperation and unselfishness can enhance, I believe, the legitimate sovereignty of nations and the protection by leaders of the sovereignty.

So, with the exception of your use of the word "sovereignty," I think that we need to be sure that our actions are unselfish and predicated on proper consultation and a sharing of both opportunity and the resolution of problems.


MR. SIEBERT. The American economic growth has accelerated, and you, Mr. President, recommended a sharply reduced stimulus, fiscal stimulus, for 1977.


MR. SIEBERT. Has the focus of the summit altered? Will you still press for higher internal deficits and lower external surpluses by Germany and Japan?

THE PRESIDENT. We have left intact an economic stimulus package for the 1977-1978 years, the 18-month period, of a little more than $20 billion, which we consider to be adequate.

It still is a substantial amount of stimulus effort, and I would hope that the countries that are relatively affluent and economically strong might provide some stimulus for the rest of the free world economy.

There is an element of trade which is of concern. The OPEC nations have a positive trade balance of about $40 billion. All the other nations in the world who are their trading partners have to have a deficit of about $40 billion. To the extent that the strong nations like ourselves, Japan, Germany, and others, can absorb part of that deficit, it takes that requirement away from the much weaker nations who have to share it with us.

So, to that extent, I am willing for our country to experience some controllable international trade deficits for a while. And we have cut our own national budget deficit down from about $65 billion to $47 billion or $48 billion this year. Next year it is going to go up some.

But I think that it is a matter of each nation deciding on its own what is best for its citizens but, at the same time, recognizing that when we are selfish and try to have large trade surpluses and a very tight restraint on the international economy, that we make the weaker nations suffer too much.


MR. SIEBERT. Mr. President, are you carrying major proposals to London, and what kind?

THE PRESIDENT. I think those specific agenda items would best be reserved until we get there. You are perfectly at liberty to talk to the people in the offices of the Secretary of State and the Secretary of the Treasury. But as far as my own comments as President, I think I would rather wait until later to talk about that.


MR. EMERY. Can I bring you back to energy? We are very struck by the fact that at the same time as you can mention an item like "unselfishness" on American commitments to help allies with their petroleum deficiencies in times of crisis, through this conference in Paris, at the same time energy always seems to be the biggest source of discontent and discord between us. Look at the results of the Middle East war and the energy crisis that followed.

Now, your own nuclear energy policy, which, while many leaders give lip service to, they seem to be in some concern over, namely, your ban on plutonium and what you intend to do in terms of international policy.

So, my question really is, how can we stay united and be so disunited assuming, if I am correct, that Germany and France go ahead with their nuclear deals?

THE PRESIDENT. I think you would have to go back, to save time, and read the minutes of my press conference when I described our own reprocessing policy. I made it clear that I was not trying to tell Germany and France, Great Britain, Japan, what to do within their own countries. We have actually built and attempted to operate two reprocessing plants unsuccessfully.

We are blessed with moderate quantities of uraniuin ore and large quantities of coal and reasonable quantities of natural gas and oil. I don't believe that within the next 20 years we will need to move to commercial use of the breeder reactor, which is the initiation of the plutonium society. I cannot speak for other countries.

I am very much aware that the waste products from our own light water reactors, using enriched uranium, are being held intact. They are not being destroyed or wasted. If we should need in the future, they will be there.

The third point is that I am deeply concerned if nations who presently do not have the capability of building nuclear explosives should have them. And we are going to do what we can in the trade of nuclear fuels and nuclear power plants to reduce that number of nations who have the ability to build nuclear explosives.

And the process has to start somewhere, and in our own Nation's history, it happened to have started with me. It was a campaign commitment of mine, shared, by the way, with my opponent, President Ford, and I have no reticence about imposing it.

This is a matter of contention. We would prefer that reprocessing plants not be sold to other nations of the world, particularly those who have not signed the Non-Proliferation Treaty. But some of the trades or contracts had already been initiated or consummated.

We have let our views be known, but we recognize the autonomy of nations to deal as they see fit.

So, I think that the present competition and some degree of disharmony among nations on energy might very well be exacerbated badly unless we all try to conserve energy as much as possible.

And I am not criticizing other nations when I say that I am very glad that we have finally moved, after being wasteful to the extreme degree for so long, toward a new policy that will be built around conservation of all kinds of energy supplies. And I would guess that our own action, as a very powerful, influential nation, might induce other countries to join with us in a mutual commitment to both inventory energy supplies, assure a more fair distribution in the future, and reduce the waste of them.


MR. SIEBERT. Mr. President, you spoke already about foreign trade, about the protectionist pressure in the United States growing. Do you think you can resist the demands of the unions and some' industries? What is your philosophy on international trade and what are your objectives?

THE PRESIDENT. Yes. I can't guarantee it, but I believe and I hope that I can resist pressures of this kind. Among all the nations who will be participating in the economic summit, I would guess that our unemployment rate is the highest. It is running in excess of 7 percent. And with the high unemployment rate comes extraordinary pressure to get ones own workers reemployed.

My position on trade restraints was spelled out very clearly during the long campaign that I conducted. And it is based around the hope that whenever American jobs are excessively in danger, that we can best resolve this question by bilateral and voluntary agreements on the importation of overly competitive goods.

I think this is the case in shoes from Taiwan and South Korea. I think it will be the case with color television sets from Japan. And I would hope that this would be an adequate pattern.

The Congress of the United States has the authority under the law to override my decisions if they are not considered to be adequate. But I believe that I can prevail.

MR. SIEBERT. The industrialized world must find answers to the demands of the developing nations or the North-South conflict will become more serious. What is your position on commodity arrangements, common funds, and the debt Situation? Let's put it this way: What can we offer them?

THE PRESIDENT. Again, I think that specific question can best be answered at a later time. f have my own ideas about it, but they will be much more firmly developed when I get to the London conference.

And as we approach the CIEC [Conference on International Economic Cooperation] meeting which will follow immediately thereafter, I would hope that the advanced industrial nations could provide a more uniform, comprehensive, and compatible approach to that very serious question. I just don't feel that I am qualified at this point---

MR. SIEBERT. At this point, perhaps, you can take this. How do you look at the future role of the international organizations like World Bank and the International Monetary Fund? Do you think those roles should be broad and they should get---

THE PRESIDENT. I think they should be broadened and strengthened. I believe that this is very important.

MR. SIEBERT. Thank you.

THE PRESIDENT. In the multinational trade agreements and GATT [General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade] and OECD [Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development] and the International Energy Agency and 'the World Bank, regional banks--I believe that is a proper place for continuing multilateral interrelationships. And I think in many instances, it is better to approach the problems of the nations of the Southern Hemisphere through those mechanisms than through bilateral actions. There are a few exceptions. But I will do all I can to strengthen those entities that are discussed.


MR. ZUCCONI. Mr. President, let's move again from North-South to East-West.

A few people might have been concerned about the situation and the relationship between the United States and the Soviet Union. Let me put it bluntly as the man in the street would. Are we in for another cold war?

THE PRESIDENT. No. I think not. We proposed to the Soviet Union two options: one was a fairly quick ratification of the basic agreements that had been derived from the Vladivostok conference; the other option is our preference, and that is a much more drastic and deep reduction in the level of nuclear armaments, with a prohibition against the evolution of new weapons systems, and a much more open capability of confirming that the agreements are being honored.

The worst that can happen, in my opinion, is a standoff at the present pace of development, which would be very unfortunate. I don't believe that either the Soviet Union or we want to continue this armaments race which is very costly and also increasingly dangerous.

The second level of achievement would be a ratification of the basic Vladivostok terms. And I would never give up both the hope and the effort to move toward ultimate elimination of atomic weapons altogether. Over a long period of time that should be our goal. And I would hope that when I go out of office, that we will have reduced the level of nuclear armaments substantially throughout the world.

MR. ZUCCONI. So, you are still optimistic even in the short term?



MR. PIERRE. About the human rights policy, do you feel satisfied how it is going?--and I will ask you a nasty question. THE PRESIDENT. Please go ahead.

MR. PIERRE. We read in the press recently that the three leaders of the Russian trade union couldn't get visas. So, how can it be reconciled with your declared intention of making easier the entry of this country? Belgrade will come soon---

THE PRESIDENT. Compared to what we have done in the past, we have lowered the barriers altogether, almost. This was an exception, and I was not involved in the decision. But I certainly support it.

There are no prohibitions now against American citizens traveling anywhere in the world, initiated by us. For the first time, Americans can go to North Korea, to Vietnam, to Cambodia, to Cuba. They couldn't a couple of months ago. We have removed the constraints in our own Nation on travel as well as from aliens.

There will be a need to change the basic American law that was written during the cold war. I would be in favor of removing all restrictions on travel, except those that have to be; that would be minimal.

As far as the human rights effort is concerned, this is a position that is compatible with the character of the American people. It is one that is almost overwhelmingly supported by the American people. It is one that will be permanent. And it is one that has to be pursued in a very sensitive way.

We can't change the structure of governments in foreign countries. We can't demand complete compatibility in a system of government or even basic philosophies with our own, 'but we reserve the right to speak out freely and aggressively when we are concerned.

So, I think that although there has been some temporary adverse reaction to our position on human rights, perhaps in the Soviet Union, in Brazil, and maybe a few other countries, I don't intend to back down on it.


MR. EMERY. This is a very brief question. We are struck by the fact that you are willing to coordinate your policies with Britain in seeking to avert a race war in southern Africa; and yet, in the case where there has been an invasion, apparently, across the frontier into Zaire from neighboring Angola, you appear to wish to stay out of any involvement and-how shall I say it--leave it to the French? Is that a fair characterization, and can you tell us what your policy is?

THE PRESIDENT. We have an aversion to military involvement in foreign countries. We are suffering, or benefiting, from the experience that we had in Vietnam. It would not be possible for the American people to support an invasion force with the United States into the Shaba region of Zaire.

We have continued to send Zaire aid and supplies, C-130's, ammunition, fuel, medical supplies, parachutes, and so forth.1

1 On May 5, the White House Press Office released the following clarification of the President's statement:

The President was referring to the fact that previous administrations have supplied ammunition to Zaire. This administration has not sent any ammunition to Zaire and is not sending any during the present crisis. Zaire has a total of five C-130's provided by previous administrations and will shortly be receiving an additional C-130. We have continued to supply spare parts for C-130's.

We obviously did not interfere in the decisions made by the Egyptians, Moroccans, the French Government, to give Zaire more direct aid. We certainly don't disapprove it.

I think when the European countries or the African nations, because of close political and historical ties with Mobutu and his government, are inclined to be more active in their help for him, we, you know, would certainly approve of that, of their prerogative.

So, we would like to see the boundaries of the African nations honored. We are friendly with Mobutu and the Government of Zaire.

We do not intend to get militarily involved, unless our own security is directly threatened, in the affairs of other countries.

We honor and respect and appreciate the action that the French and the Moroccan and Egyptian nations have taken.

MR. EMERY. Thank you.

THE PRESIDENT. I have enjoyed it.

MR. EMERY. We enjoyed it. I am sure we could go on.

THE PRESIDENT. I wouldn't want to bore you. [Laughter]

Note: The interview began at 2:30 p.m. in the Oval Office at the White House.

As printed above, this item follows the text of the White House press release, which was released on May 3.

Jimmy Carter, European Newspaper Journalists - Question-and-Answer Session. Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project https://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/node/243848

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