Press Briefing by David Gergen, Counsellor to the President
7:21 P.M. (L)
MR. GERGEN: I really don't have much to add to what's already been said here, but I was asked to give a brief readout from this afternoon's session. Before I do that, I might point out with regard to the market access agreement that a couple of weeks ago, the President decided that there were two areas where he could make a special difference in this summit if he exercised his leadership, stepped into these two issues and tried to give them both a lift.
Those two areas were on the market access agreement and on aid to Russia. And so he leaned into both of those issues. He spent a good deal of time on them. And then last week he talked to several leaders, as well as the government --the rest of the administration, talking to others. He had personal phone calls last week with Chancellor Kohl, with Prime Minister Major, as well as Jacques Delors. He had a couple conversations with Jacques Delors.
In the conversation with Mr. Kohl, he recalled with regard to the market access question in the Uruguay Round that when Chancellor Kohl visited Washington earlier this year, you may remember from a press conference that Mr. Kohl said to the assembled group there that he did not think that the leaders could come to this summit in Tokyo and make yet another declaration as they had in the past, that they were going to complete the Uruguay by the end of this year, unless they had something to show in Tokyo. And he said he thought that the press simply would not be willing to accept that -- there would be horse laughs from the press.
And when the President called Mr. Kohl this last week he reminded them of those comments and pushed to get this market access agreement done. And as he said today, the United States is particularly appreciative of the efforts of the other countries. And Mickey Kantor said earlier today how helpful the Japanese had been.
Now, with regard to this afternoon's session, it was very long, but the President's statements were quite short. The process there in this first round was that the Japanese -- as leaders of the group thought that they should go around the table, and each one of the heads should make a statement. The President made the last -- going around the circle was the eight speaker. The session started about 2:30 p.m. He had an opportunity to speak around 4:00 p.m. He decided to keep his statement fairly brief. He spoke for eight or nine minutes in his first intervention about what he'd like to see achieved at the summit, what he would like the focus here to be. And then he spoke a second time when there was a second round about the performance of the U.S. economy.
Now, with regard to the first statement, there were four issues that he wanted to put on the table for further discussion at the summit. The first was global growth. He pointed out that the United States in his judgment was doing exactly what other nations have asked the United States to do for a number of years not, stretching back some many years now, asking the United States to lower its deficits. And he has said essentially we are taking the tough steps now and it's important that others do their share in making tough choices as well.
The President, I think, repeated some of the themes that you all have heard, both at the university speech today and in his speech in San Francisco and elsewhere on this focus on global growth -- his belief that old equations may not hold anymore, that productivity does not equal jobs and growth in the way it has in the past. He has felt that in this summit with regard to global growth that the agenda should be expanded, it should not be -- not only include trade and macroeconomic coordination, but also these microeconomic issues -- the question of job creation and structural unemployment.
He pointed out that more people work overtime with less leisure than in days past. He said today we work more hours than in 1969 and at 1983 real wages. So the global growth issue was very much uppermost in his mind. The second issue that he wished to raise there was market access. He told the other leaders it was very important to build on what was achieved here to complete the round by the end of the year. The third issue was the structural unemployment question. And he found that in the discussions there was more focus on jobs, on job creation --a welcome focus on that. The fourth issue was Russian aid. And, of course, we'll hear more about that in the days ahead.
Now, suffusing all of this and running through all of this, the President's comments on this first intervention, was a very strong populist theme, that he felt -- he urged the other leaders that it was important that governments get closer --become closer to their people and that the G-7 process be brought closer to people. He said that people were hurting in all countries, and that there was anxiety and insecurity in the industrial countries, and it was particularly important they build confidence in the future, to define the future.
He said we need to secure democratic rights, personal security, greater hope and bonds of community. And he said that defining the future will give people a greater sense of personal security. He said we have to define the future for people in terms of democratic values and also economic security. As governments, what we owe -- we have to define what we owe to people and what they owe to society in return. This was a theme that you've heard before about reciprocal responsibility -- a theme he sounded in the United States in the past.
So there was a good deal of discussion on his part about this whole notion of confidence and making government more effective, giving people a greater sense of security about the future. He said we, as leaders, have to produce growth and jobs. He also said we ought to be proud of what we've done for Russia and add to the stock of prosperity for the world. In that regard, he mentioned debt reductions for the developing nations, he mentioned NAFTA and he mentioned APEC and a meeting in Seattle; and I think we'll hear more about that in the next couple of days.
He also had one process point, and that was, he felt that every meeting of the G-7, these future summits, should address one big issue and make that matter to people back home. There has been a tendency in these summits, as you know, to move in many, many different directions at once. But he thought it would be important in future summits to take on at least one big issue and address it.
Now, in the second intervention, which was brief, as I noted, he discussed his economic program, the efforts he's been making with regard to the deficit. And he said that he thought that this program would serve the United States very well in the short term, but he thought that in the long-term it was particularly important to the United States that there be better coordination on growth policies and there be a greater emphasis on solving the structural unemployment problem and on opening trade. There's emphasis on trade, and as Secretary Bentsen said earlier, a very, very strong emphasis upon jobs and the creation of jobs.
Now, just for planning purposes, the dinners were running a little late tonight. I'm expecting that he may have a bilateral meeting, a brief bilateral meeting, after the dinner with Prime Minister Major, assuming the hour does not get too late. And I can't give you a time on this. We will try to do a brief readout on the dinner tonight. I'm not sure how definitive it will be, but we'll try to do that.
If you have any questions -- I know you've had a lot of briefings today, but if you have any questions I'll try to take a couple.
Q: What about -- you talk about big issues. I just wonder, when is Bosnia going to be a big issue? Did he even mention it in the meeting?
MR. GERGEN: This first meeting was about the global economic outlook. The dinner tonight is going to be on political issues, and there will be another session tomorrow. There will be a political communique out tomorrow. We'll have to wait and see. But I think you can be sure that ex-Yugoslavia, or Bosnia, will be very much on the minds of the leaders in these discussions.
Q: Did any of the other -- tell us how the other leaders reacted to the, if at all, to what the President said and just the general tenor of what they said. Was it --
MR. GERGEN: To tell you the truth, it is my understanding that his first meeting -- most of the meeting was taken up by individuals making statements, that there was not time for a great deal of dialogue in this first meeting. Now, presumably there will be more dialogue in the next day or two.
Q: No discussion of --
MR. GERGEN: Well, there was some -- it was some very modest discussion. The President came away feeling that there was a theme running through many of the presentations about jobs, which he was pleased about. But there was not much give-and-take.
Q: Do you think the credibility of these summits is undercut by the fact that the leaders talked up on Bosnia last year and then failed to deliver; and this year when the issue is tougher, they seem to be simply walking away from it?
MR. GERGEN: I think the credibility of these summits is undercut when leaders come here and promise an end to the Uruguay Round three years in a row and promised that it be completed the end of each one of those years, and then not be significant progress. Now, that's why the President has been so encouraged about what's happened here today. And that's why he wanted to put an emphasis -- I think it was true of other leaders. There's been a -- all of us who have been through these summits know how much rhetoric has been produced.
Q: Could you address, though, the Bosnia question?
MR. GERGEN: I don't think it's appropriate to address the Bosnia question in this context until they have had a chance to have a further discussion about it. I think we'll have more to say, I presume, about Bosnia before this is over.
Q: David, most of the heavy lifting on the Uruguay Round is still ahead of you. Is any thought being given to reconvening a G-7 summit later this year if the negotiations don't look like their going to achieve a year-end result?
MR. GERGEN: I'm not aware of any discussion like that. I think we've had extensive briefings here. I notice some of your colleagues are crawling under the table when the Uruguay Round is mentioned.
Q: Were there any lighter moments, and where is the bilateral going to be held with Major?
MR. GERGEN: I'm not aware of lighter moments, and I don't know where the bilateral is going to be held.
Q: Were you in the room?
MR. GERGEN: No. As you know, it's quite limited who's in the room. As you know, the process is now that one of the sherpas, in this case Bob Fauver, has a little machine there and he can send out notes and we got notes. And I talked to the President about it and George talked to the President about it on the way over here as we had a chance to do it. We were hustling through trying to bring you the briefing by Mr. Kantor earlier.
Q: Is the President frustrated by the absence of give-and-take -- very structured?
MR. GERGEN: I think frustrated is too strong a word. I know he would like more give-and-take in the next few sessions.
Q: Is he going to ask that future summits be structured differently so that --
MR. GERGEN: He has some thoughts on that question. He likes very -- he likes give-and-take and he likes flexibility. He like a chance to roam. That's sort of his bent. He likes a chance to sort of think big ideas. I think that's one of the reasons he wanted to introduce the notion of structural unemployment. It's a subject that everybody has been talking about in these various countries but nobody has really sort of put on the tables. It's one of the reasons he wanted to put it on the table here at this summit.
I don't want to overextend this. Why don't we cut this off.
Q: Do have an answer to my question from last night on the -- women at the embassy?
MR. GERGEN: I thought you'd forget. I thought I referred you to the embassy. Didn't I refer you to the embassy? Or was that just -- I did take the question? I'll be back. Okay.
Q: Was there any sense of the other leaders taking the measure of the new kid on the block?
MR. GERGEN: I think it's too early to say that, Terry. They're going to have these other bilaterals. I think we'll probably have more to say about that later. I think you ought to ask them. Sure, I think that's what happens in these sessions. And I think the President came here -- you know, he made a comment not long ago that -- back in Washington that when he first went to the National Governors Association he tried to size up the players; he tried to size up what the dynamics of the group were so that he could make a contribution. And I think he -- as you know, he became a leader of that group. And I think that's his approach to meetings like this.
Q: David, how did he size up --
MR. GERGEN: He hasn't done that yet. At least to my knowledge.
Two more questions and let's cut this off.
Q: Do you have any concern that the statements that have been made by you and other administration officials here on this market access agreement may be a little extravagant? I mean, nearly every superlative imaginable has been used. What are you going to say if there is ever a GATT agreement? That it's the millennium or what? (Laughter.)
MR. GERGEN: Well, we're going to keep the thesauruses very, very nearby. (Laughter.)
Q: In the subsequent sessions, will it differ from the statement by statement by statement structure? Will he always have to wait an hour-and-a-half to speak? (Laughter.) I don't imagine he enjoyed it -- waiting, that is. And I'm wondering when the -- what is the --
MR. GERGEN: He found it very instructive.
Q: What is the plan for the give-and-take that you're talking about?
MR. GERGEN: Well, typically these sessions -- as you know, the first session is given to long interventions and there is a statement -- what is called interventions. And they each -- each head has a chance to do that. And then normally they get into more and more give-and-take as time goes on.
In the past summits the dinner tonight has often been more of an icebreaker in terms of allowing people to unwind a little bit and be -- and deal with each other in a more normal way.
Coming back to Brit's point, Brit, I think we're sensitive to your point. And -- but there is a widespread feeling in the American delegation that this agreement today was important -- that it does have serious implications for jobs and that people ought to recognize that. But I think there's -- as the President himself said today -- or tonight -- there are difficult negotiations ahead. Everybody understands that. There are some difficult issues still to be overcome, and there's no guarantee of success here. But this has been a genuine breakthrough. As you know, the expectations were quite low only 10 days ago. And so there has been a good deal of progress and people are encouraged about it.
Thank you, and we'll be back sooner than you'll probably appreciate.
Q: What's the Major bilateral about?
MR. GERGEN: They just wanted a chance to get together. There's not a -- he's trying to get together with each one of them for a few minutes.
THE PRESS: Thank you.
END7:35 P.M. (L)
William J. Clinton, Press Briefing by David Gergen, Counsellor to the President Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project https://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/node/269221