George Bush photo

Joint News Conference of the President and Prime Minister Brian Mulroney of Canada in Kennebunkport, Maine

August 31, 1989

The President. Well, why don't we get started on this scrum, as we call it. In the first place, Barbara and I have just been delighted to have the Prime Minister and Mrs. Mulroney here. And we had a chance this morning -- it started out as just a chat, and ended up spending close to 4 hours talking about issues affecting not only U.S.-Canada but a wide array of issues affecting the whole world, as a matter of fact. As usual, I've learned a lot from the Prime Minister, and we've really had a substantive discussion. John Sununu and Brent Scowcroft dropped in for some of the discussion. And I can say this -- and I'll let the Prime Minister have equal time -- that the relationship between the United States and Canada, a most significant and important relationship, is in good shape.

I have found, just in the short time that I've been in this job, and with respect to the -- certainly the Prime Minister with much more experience in leading a country than I -- but I have found that I can either pick up the phone and talk to him with a frankness that is very important, or in a visit of this nature, which we deliberately billed as a private visit, talk to him with no holds barred. We agree on almost all the major issues. And where Canada and the U.S. may have bumps in the road, we can talk very frankly. He is always very frank with me, expressing the Canadian point of view so strongly, and gives me a chance to understand that position. And of course, I feel no inhibitions in telling him where the United States is coming from.

And though we have a few more hours of this most pleasant visit -- from my standpoint at least and, thus, from the standpoint of the United States, it's been an unusually productive visit. And I'm just again, Brian, so pleased, sir, that you are here.

The Prime Minister. Thank you, Mr. President. Thank you, George.

Well, I really am here to give you the impartial international assessment of the fact that there are no fish out there. [Laughter] I can certify to that. It's not the President's fault there are none -- at least not for awhile, at least not for awhile. [Laughter]

Well, we've had a very pleasant and productive visit. Mila and I and the children have enjoyed the hospitality, and we of course enjoy the Bushes and their family a great deal. And so, we had a good opportunity, beginning at breakfast this morning, to really -- the President and I -- to review important bilateral relations between Canada and the United States from the environment to trade. And then, in the course of kind of an unscheduled next couple of hours, to get more and more into international issues, some of which flow from the Paris summit, others which the President has initiated or seeks to initiate.

And Canada views this relationship as a very special one. We have the largest trading relationship in the world between our two countries; and we have currents of history and bonds of friendship that are, I suspect, unrivaled anywhere. And so, this is an indication of the value of the friendship; this is an occasion for us, as well, to seek to improve it.

We have challenges and tensions from time to time. And the best way to deal with them is in a straightforward way, and that's exactly what we've done. And I thank the President for his hospitality, which we've greatly enjoyed.

Thank you very much, Mr. President.

The President. Merci [Thank you].

Now, any questions? And why don't we do like we did before, if it's agreeable, sir -- just alternate.

Situation in Panama and Colombia

Q. Mr. President, can you tell us why you sent the State Department to make a case against Noriega at the OAS? Given the OAS's history of inaction, is that wasting our time, sir?

The President. No. Working to be sure that all the countries in the OAS understand why we feel as we do about Noriega is very important. And I am not going to give up on multilateral diplomacy. I am going to continue to work with the leaders in this hemisphere, most of whom feel as I do about Noriega, to see if we can't help the Panamanian people get what they deserve; and that is a democratic society that stems from free, fair elections. And so, we are going to continue to press the case in OAS and every other way.

Q. But they didn't come through for you before.

The President. Keep working on it; keep working the problem.

Q. Did the President discuss the President's new drug strategy, and did he specifically ask Canada to perhaps help in terms of furnishing more money and law enforcement officers to attack the drug cartel operators in Colombia?

The Prime Minister. Well, first, I should say that I share the President's view about General Noriega, and the Government of Canada has conveyed that view directly to the General in recent days. And Secretary of State Joe Clark has issued a strong statement about our view of Panama. We're very supportive of what not only President Bush but all freedom-loving people seek in respect of Panama. And the fact that it hasn't happened yet doesn't mean we shouldn't stop.

With regard to the problem in Colombia, Canada views the statements of the President as the statements of a very courageous -- very courageous man -- deserving of support not only by the United States but by all industrialized countries, and particularly all nations in this hemisphere. And we have communicated ourselves, of course, with the Government of Colombia; we expect that we will be hearing from them shortly.

The President and I discussed a number of initiatives this morning that we'll be discussing with friends and allies to try and have a more definite impact. The United States will, I suppose, respond on a bilateral basis; and so will Canada. But where there is complete agreement between the President and myself is the need to support a very courageous leader in Colombia and the need to stomp out, by every reasonable means, the terror of drugs which is devastating society in the United States and having a very serious impact as well on Canadians and people around the world.

Q. -- -- a multilateral force to be used to help stamp out those drug traffickers in Colombia?

The President. The main thing is to cooperate with President Barco in the ways that he feels are most effective. That's the best thing. There is no point on Canada or the United States or the Group of Seven [economic summit participants] or any individual country or group of countries imposing its will on a country that is now trying very, very hard to rid itself of this menace. And so, I know that I -- the Prime Minister and I have discussed this -- we would be guided by requests from President Barco in Colombia.

[The next question was asked and answered in French, and no translation was provided.]

Canada-U.S. Relations

Q. Mr. President, what areas would you say the bilateral relations have been unusually productive in these talks? And also, in what areas do you think there still remains some bumps in the road, as you referred to earlier?

The President. Well, look, on the whole area of trade, because the Prime Minister stood firm in a tough political context for a free trade agreement, dramatic progress has been made. There are still bumps in the road. There are going to still be areas that he and I need to discuss and that our trade representatives need to discuss, to iron these bumps out. And so, the broad area of agreement is relating to the free trade agreement itself, and then where we have disagreements there's going to be a case-by-case looking at problems.

We talked, for example, about a specific: There's been a fishing problem between Canada and the United States regarding lobsters. It's a matter of some concern to me. Well, we decided, look, let's talk about it frankly, refer it to our experts, and then get on with solving it. So, he has been in the forefront of change for environmental protection. And we've come forward now in the United States, trying to have a package that I would encourage our Congress to pass that would do something about acid rain, for example. But again, problems still remain until we put into effect our legislation and then move forward even further with Canada.

So, where we have broad agreements, trade agreement, there are bound to be matters as we go down the road that are going to need to be ironed out. In terms of the Group of Seven, in terms of the East-West relations, in terms of how we look at matters south of the United States border -- and I'm talking about Panama, for example -- I find that the Prime Minister and I, and Canada and the United States, are very, very much in accord. And there are other issues where we may have differences, but in these broad ones, there's agreement, and the problems come on some of the specifics. But amongst friends we can hammer out those difficulties.


Q. You talked about support for President Barco, but are there specifics in a Canadian program that would in any way be coordinated with the U.S., or is there a separate Canadian program?

The Prime Minister. Canada's already assisting Colombia in a substantial way, in terms of the administration of the -- or improving the system of justice internally within Colombia. Our security forces have been providing assistance and technology, as well. The President and I explored other possibilities where, either individually or collectively, we could be of greater assistance in responding to what is clearly a very courageous and brave voice coming from Colombia asking for understanding and support. But as the President pointed out, it is important that the definition of that agenda come from Colombia and not from us. It is up to the President to indicate to the United States, to Canada, and to friendly neighbors around the world, how we best might be of help.

Q. Mr. President, you can make suggestions to President Barco. After all, this is an American crisis, too. Can't you make suggestions, and would that include some sort of multilateral force, possibly not military, possibly some sort of -- I don't know -- you talked about the Group of Seven -- Interpol, or something like that? And also, have you considered the possibility of some sort of South American summit which would include the Peruvian and Bolivian leaders?

The President. There has been discussion of an antinarcotic summit. Indeed, I talked to President Barco about that the other day. I feel totally free to make suggestions to him. But all I'm saying is that we must be sensitive, as this man goes to work and has rolled up his sleeves and is putting a lot at risk, that we not be counterproductive in our efforts to help him. But I feel free in talking to him to discuss any subject.

And I've made clear to him, John [John Cochran, NBC News], in my last conversation with him, that, please, let us know what in addition that we might do to help. But I think you have to be sensitive in understanding of the history in this hemisphere, and you cannot try to impose a solution on a country that is struggling very hard on their own -- with international help -- to solve this problem.

Q. Given their longstanding antipathy to American military intervention, would it be more acceptable to act in a multilateral way -- with the Group of Seven, for example?

The President. Well, there's no question that multilateralism makes great sense in trying to help. But if the question implies intervention of a multilateral force, there again, if requested -- --

Q. I'm not asking that. At the invitation -- --

The President. Oh, no question, no question that that would be better. And from our standpoint, it would be better, as it affects the neighbors of Colombia. But again, I don't want to -- just through even responding to your question -- to appear to be pushing a solution on a man who has dug in there, whose ministers are coordinating their efforts now, and to do something or say something that would be counterproductive and turn public opinion that's now mobilized in Colombia against President Barco's efforts. But, yes -- I'm sorry I missed the question -- but, yes, I think an international effort on whatever line it is -- aid, help of any kind -- would be useful.

Canada-U.S. Trade

Q. Prime Minister, could you elaborate from your point of view on the lobster issue what Canada might do? And secondly, how you would characterize what bumps in the road you see there are in the bilateral relationship -- trade, environment, whatever?

The Prime Minister. Well, the President was big on lobsters today. I was big on pork because we feel that the Americans have just imposed an unfair tariff on pork. And we discussed the manner in which this will be resolved through the mechanisms provided for the free trade agreement. But we went through a number of issues like that.

But I also point out the President's recent actions, for example, with regard to steel imports into the United States as they affect Canada, which indicates the strong commitment toward liberalized trade, towards removing inhibitions, and towards the belief that freer trade means greater economic growth for both sides.

And so, I think that the forces of free trade here and around the world, Canada and the United States, is, as Mrs. Thatcher once said, the greatest model for anybody wanting to examine the benefits of the flow from free trade. Between our two countries -- we do the largest trade in history between two countries, and at the end of the year it's roughly in balance, as opposed to huge imbalances that surge in America's trade relations with other partners.

So, we covered the entire -- well, I shouldn't say the entire spectrum, but we covered a good bit of it. And as I say, the President was strong on lobsters and not so good on pork -- [laughter] -- but we'll change that.

Q. Mr. President, on your upcoming drug plan, can you -- --

Acid Rain

Q. Mr. Mulroney, on acid rain -- --

The Prime Minister. I'm sorry, may I just -- acid rain -- very much so. We covered it, and we're getting to a solution because of the President's initiatives, for which we're very grateful. But we want a bilateral clean air accord between Canada and the United States. And the President and I discussed that as well. And that will move ahead concurrent with the action in this regard in the American Congress. I won't be satisfied that the issue is resolved until President Bush and I sit down and sign that accord. And then that will be an important day.

Q. Do you think you're any closer to an accord now?

The Prime Minister. Yes.

War on Drugs

Q. On your present drug plan, can you afford to take the emphasis off of interdiction and turn instead toward the suppliers and the users of drugs?

The President. I don't know where this is coming from, what our emphasis is going to be. I would simply suggest that people wait until I announce this national drug strategy. In fact, before I came over here, I said: "What is this story that there's a whole new emphasis being placed on how we fight drugs? It's going to have to be done on every front."

And there's been a lot of concentration, with some success, on interdiction. But the job isn't finished, and certainly we are not going to move away from attempting to interdict. So, I don't know where the speculation is coming from as to what emphasis we're going to place because when I come out with this program I'm going to urge that the emphasis be placed on all points.

Q. The drug czar [William J. Bennett, Director of National Drug Control Policy] has suggested that there will be a greater emphasis on getting after the drug user and educating and on treatment.

The President. There's going to be a new -- he is correct on that. There is going to be a greater emphasis on that. But I wouldn't say that it's going to be a greater emphasis at the expense of cooperating with Mr. Barco or cooperating with rehab or cooperating with law enforcement or going after the criminal elements more. So, we'll see. I didn't exactly see his comments, but it shouldn't be interpreted that we're going to move out of the drug interdiction field. We cannot do that.

Visit of Prime Minister Mulroney

Q. Prime Minister, can you describe what you've done in terms of recreational activities? Did the President challenge you to a game of tennis?

The Prime Minister. To his great regret. [Laughter]

The President. Now, wait just a minute for clarification. [Laughter]

The Prime Minister. The wind, however, intervened, preventing me from inflicting great damage on his reputation. [Laughter] So, we haven't gotten around to that. But we've been swimming -- we've been out in the boat -- --

The President. Horseshoes this afternoon.

The Prime Minister. -- -- a little fishing -- by me, unsuccessfully. [Laughter] So, we've had a good time, full time.

Drug Flow Across the Canadian Border

Q. What about the flow of drugs across the U.S.-Canadian border? How serious a problem is that?

The President. Is this for the Prime Minister or for me?

Q. Yes, for the Prime Minister and for you, Mr. President. The flow of drugs across the U.S.-Canadian border -- how serious a problem do you regard that as being? And are you prepared to ask for American aid in bolstering your forces along that border? And, Mr. Bush, are you prepared to supply that aid? Was that discussed?

The Prime Minister. Well, there are lots of problems, and I suppose that's one of them, but it's not really a major, major one when you rank it alongside the others. The fact of the matter is that we have a growing problem of our own in Canada, which is one of abuse of this substance, the same way as the United States has. Canada is becoming a progressively important dropping-off area of drugs destined for the United States. And we have been working very actively to interdict those drugs destined not only for Canadians but for transshipment into the United States, and with some considerable success.

There's a great deal of cooperation, a very intimate degree of association and cooperation, between all agencies in the United States and in Canada. And the interdiction is very, very successful at the Canadian-American borders. And would the same situation prevail elsewhere, we'd be in better shape.

But as the President pointed out, if you have a country the size of ours or a smaller one, as long as you have access by ports, by air to that, you can transship drugs directed for the United States. And it's our obligation to be as severe and as rigorous as we can in interdicting shipments destined for the United States as -- with the same enthusiasm or the same vigor as we apply to trying to stop shipments to our own people.


Q. Mr. Prime Minister, would you consider an aid package to Colombia if it was requested similar to what the United States is contemplating, to what President Bush is planning?

The Prime Minister. The drug problem in Canada takes its origin in producing nations. And the producer who is in the process of destroying the young Canadian is exactly the same who's destroying the young American -- exactly. He is the same venal, corrupt individual who seeks to profit by destroying young people in all our societies. And so, Canada will -- Canada already is being helpful to Colombia. But if the President of Colombia were to ask us for further assistance, either as members of the G - 7 or simply in a bilateral relationship, we would respond. And we would respond with enthusiasm because we don't see this as an American problem or a Colombian problem; this is a problem of any decent human being who wants to keep this cancer out of his or her society.

Food Assistance for Poland

Q. Mr. President, Senator Dole said this morning the administration is considering an emergency allotment of food assistance to Poland. Can you explain what's in the works on that front? Is this something that's apart from the discussions now underway under the auspices of the European Commission?

The President. Well, one of the things that we did at the G - 7 meeting in Paris was to set up a coordinating committee. And one of the things that will be activated in regards to this food request is that committee. Mr. Delors [European Communities Commission President] is heading it. Bob Dole came back here with Secretary Dole, stopped in here, and made clear to me that, in their opinion, there was a need for immediate support in the food area.

And that is one where we ought to be able to do more. We've done a lot. But we will be working that problem this coming week and trying to comply with the wishes of the various leaders in Poland. So, I think we can do more there. But again, we have -- as you know, when we treat with food aid -- we have budgetary problems just like other countries do. But when it comes to food, why, I think the world should have the quickest possible response.

Q. Can you give us an indication of how much, how quickly?

The President. No, we haven't got the numbers on it yet, Norm [Norman Sandler, United Press International].

Q. Mr. President, do you want to try it in French? The highlights of this -- --

The President. Mais non. J'ai -- I learned my lesson in Ottawa -- not to try. [Laughter]

Visit of Prime Minister Mulroney

Q. What is the highlight of the visit for you?

The President. The highlight? Well, I don't know that I can single one thing out, but if it does nothing else, it symbolizes the friendly relationship that we have with Canada. And I am determined that as long as I am President, I will never take for granted friends. It is very important, from what I need to learn to do my job better, to stay in touch with Prime Minister Mulroney. And this visit has been as good, if not better, than the other such visits we've had, even when I was Vice President. We had a relationship where we could talk very, very frankly. We could get out our disagreements, as well as the things we agreed on -- no acrimony. And he's had a lot of experience in these G - 7 meetings and in other international meetings; and I find it extraordinarily helpful to me to just bounce ideas off him -- and maybe vice versa -- when it comes to East-West relations; when it comes to the changes in Eastern Europe; when it comes to what's happening in Central America, or indeed, in Asia.

And so, the highlight is not only the personal chemistry that I think is good but the fact that we can talk as neighbors in a very unfettered way about a wide array of problems without fearing that we're going to have some misunderstanding or some leak, or something that's going to embarrass either one of us. And that is important. That is a very important point.

Canadian Lobster Exports

Q. Mr. Mulroney, what do you say to the American lobstermen who say you're killing their prices by having your people catch these puny lobsters and then export them here before they're able to grow big enough to reproduce? What do you say to us?

The Prime Minister. Well, the President made a very strong case in respect to that this morning, and he advanced some persuasive arguments that I have instructed my officials to begin examining. And this matter, which is very important to the United States, will be resolved in much the same manner as we seek to resolve others: in a friendly, constructive spirit. We didn't resolve it today, but the President certainly made a very, as I say, persuasive case, as I hope I did in other areas.

Panamanian Elections

Q. Mr. President, back on Noriega?

The President. This is the last question, the one that always gets you in trouble. Yes, come on, Michael [Michael Gelb, Reuters]. [Laughter]

Q. Do you plan any further sanctions, or do you plan to recognize Mr. Endara as President?

The President. Well, we were, curiously, discussing that just today. Clearly, we're not going to recognize Mr. Noriega. We've got sanctions in place that will continue. We are considering what additionally might be done. And I've never seen a coming together in world opinion as there is on this one amongst the major nations: that Noriega ought to get out. And I was very pleased with the Canadian initiative, on its own, making clear to Noriega that he's subverting the democratic way. And other leaders have done this.

We had [Danish] Prime Minister Schluter up here the other day, as you know. And he felt, rather than make a joint European demarche, that it's better for countries individually to go forward, as Denmark has planned to do. Mrs. Thatcher has taken a strong position. I think we just got a letter from her today on this.

And so, there's a lot going on in terms of making clear to Noriega that he is just not only aborting the will of the people, but he is frustrating sound, normal relations with a lot of countries. So, let's hope that reason will prevail. But we're going to keep going forward, and we will consider what additionally we might do. There's a high frustration level. I'm ready to concede that, but we are not going to give up on this. We are not going to permit the will of the people of Panama to be thwarted by this dictator, especially at a time when the whole hemisphere is moving down democracy's path.

Thank you all very, very much.

Q. Do you think Noriega is providing a safe haven for the drug barons?

The President. I don't know.

Q. Mr. President, there are rumors that there's another coup attempt being planned in the military right now in Panama. Any comment on that?

The President. No comment on that.

President's Vacation

Q. No more fishing?

The President. Oh, yes. Would you like a fishing assessment? Would you really like to know -- --

Q. Yes. [Laughter]

The President. I told you what I thought yesterday, and this is getting out of hand. And so, between now and when I leave on Monday, I guarantee you -- I positively guarantee you that this jinx will be broken. I've seen a lot of good .350 hitters bat about .178 for a while. Then they come out of the slump and move forward. My record fishing in these waters is well-known. It's a superb record, a record of bountiful catches. And somehow, something's gone wrong for the last 13 days -- [laughter] -- something's happened. But I promise you -- I promise you that -- in fact, we're thinking of having a poll to take a media person with us when Barbara and I go out to thwart these evil rumors that I don't know what I'm doing fishing. It's gotten out of hand. When I see it on national television, I know we've got to put an end to this monkey business. So, we will prevail. And besides that, everyone knows fishing is a team sport. [Laughter]

The Prime Minister. I just want to issue a formal denial here. It is not the case that there are out in the bay Canadian frogmen with Nova Scotia salmon ready to put on anybody's line. [Laughter]

The President. I hope they will be.

Note: The President's 22d news conference began at 2:06 p.m. at Walker's Point.

George Bush, Joint News Conference of the President and Prime Minister Brian Mulroney of Canada in Kennebunkport, Maine Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project

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