Press Briefing by Secretary of State Warren Christopher
Main Press Tent
Port of Miami
5:20 P.M. EST
SECRETARY CHRISTOPHER: This has really been a landmark day for our hemisphere. That's not just my view, my own interpretation, but it's the view of many of the leaders. I've just come from the afternoon meeting where they were summing up, and one after another of them pronounced it a landmark day, a renaissance for the hemisphere, an extraordinary event.
It's clear that, led by President Clinton, the 34 democratically-elected leaders achieved an extraordinary degree of economic and political cooperation. To anyone familiar with the history of our hemisphere, the cohesion and commitment that they had, that they brought together here, demonstrated an unprecedented degree of cooperation. I think when historians look back on this weekend in Miami, they'll see it as a turning point in the integration of a prosperous, stable and democratic Western Hemisphere.
As you know, President Clinton set forth three goals for this summit -- first, to open markets and create a free trade area within the hemisphere; second, to improve the quality of life for all of our people; and third, to strengthen the regionwide movement to democracy. The leaders did more than just embrace those goals; they acted to fulfill them. This summit is emphasized by the specific actions that have been taken; a detailed process to implement them; 23 action plans, including over 100 action items together with mechanisms to ensure their achievement. I believe in all my experience, it's the most fully articulated summit of this kind that I've ever seen. That's the result of very good preparatory work, but also a high degree of convergence and cooperation by the leaders of the countries of the Western Hemisphere.
On the first goal, the goal of trade, President Clinton and the other leaders agreed to establish free trade area of the Americas by the year 2005 -- a market that will encompass more than 850 million consumers at that time. The leaders decided that the agreement should be comprehensive and cover a broad range of barriers to the flow of trade and investment. They set a detailed timetable, including regular meetings of the trade ministers to make sure that the work gets done. This particular initiative reflects the commitment and determination of our administration to put economic security at the heart of our foreign policy together with GATT and NAFTA and APEC, this agreement will spur trade and investment in a way that will generate jobs and prosperity for all of our citizens. We regard this kind of commitment, what we've done in the three areas, as being one of the hallmarks of our administration's foreign policy.
Under the leadership of both President Clinton and Vice President Gore, who, as you know, chaired the luncheon meeting, the leaders also agreed on common steps to meet the challenges that transcend national boundaries. They adopted specific measures to conserve natural resources and to preserve the environment. These steps include the establishment of partnerships for sustainable energy and for pollution prevention. They also set very ambitious goals for education and health care.
I've just now come from the third session, which was chaired again by President Clinton. This, the session on promoting, protecting democracy in the hemisphere. The leaders were clearly united in their belief that sustained economic growth and improved quality of life depends on strong, accountable democratic governments.
Before turning to any of the specific actions this afternoon, I'd like to mention a very moving meeting that I had yesterday with President Aristide of Haiti. This was the first time I had seen him since I accompanied him back to Haiti on the 15th of October; indeed, this is the first time that he's left Haiti since then. Assisted by the international community, he's done a great deal to enable Haiti to rejoin the hemisphere's community of democracies. Indeed, I think his hard work and that of the Haitian people reflect the kind of spirit that was all the way through the meeting today. It's a way to safeguard democracy, the return of democracy to Haiti with an inspiration to all those who were there.
When he began the discussion of the safeguarding and protection of democracy, President Clinton turned to President Aristide and said he thought it would be appropriate and natural to ask him to speak first. He did speak in a very eloquent way and received the only sustained ovation that I heard during the afternoon. Clearly the leaders were all very moved by the remarks that he has made.
At this afternoon's session, the leaders endorsed eight initiatives that strengthen legislative, judicial and law enforcement bodies that protect our citizens and that uphold democracy. I'll just highlight a few of these. First the strengthened democratic institutions will bolster the ability of the OAS to foster dialogue, support legislation and electoral reform, and improve the administration of justice. We'll do this by making additional funds available to the OAS.
To combat corruption, the leaders agreed to forge links between the OAS and the OECD in the fight against commercial bribery and to try to ensure better ties between law enforcement authorities. The leaders endorsed Venezuela's proposal for a hemispheric agreement to extradite and prosecute those engaged in corrupt practices.
I was very impressed by the concern that, I would guess, probably 10 of the leaders who spoke this afternoon had about corruption and how big an enemy corruption is of democracies and their countries, and the satisfaction they found in the commitment to try to root out corruption, both within countries and in terms of international transactions.
In another initiative to attack narcotics traffickers, the leaders agreed to target the financial networks by identifying and prosecuting money launderers and by permitting governments to freeze and seize their assets.
To defeat terrorism, they agreed to increased action against the scourge in this hemisphere of people who try to kill to get their ways. Among action measures here was that the OAS will convene a special conference on terrorism. For its part, the United States agreed to redouble -- double its anti-terrorism assistance and to expand the role of the FBI and the other law enforcement agencies to help our neighbors who have problems with terrorism who request that help from the United States.
These measures were, I think, in my experience, productive of the strongest degree of consensus that I've seen, as I said, in any international conference. In prior years, with the strains that have sometimes been felt between the United States and the countries of Central and South America, this kind of an action would have been thought to be well beyond the range of possibility. Now, I think the countries working together have chartered a path where additional summits in the future will be even more productive.
The leaders agreed to build on the summit's achievement. At a lunch I hosted today for the foreign ministers where we had about a two-hour discussion on the subject of democracy, we agreed to review the progress that had been made at the OAS ministerial next June, and then the following year to once again review progress and decide whether and when the next summit would be held.
In addition, there will be a series of ministerial meetings and government-to-government meetings over the next two years in what I believe will be a continuous dialogue within the hemisphere to implement the actions that were taken. The summit has launched what is going to be called the Miami process, I think, which gives us, as President Clinton said, a dazzling opportunity to build a community of nations committed to the values of liberty and the promise of prosperity.
I'll be glad to take a few of your questions before Dr. Brown comes on and addresses the narcotics issue and before you have a background briefing on more specific items.
Q: How will the American free trade agreement affect NAFTA itself? And would you please comment how has the relationship between Mexico and the U.S. been affected after the acceptance of Proposition 187 in California?
SECRETARY CHRISTOPHER: I'm not sure I heard the first part of your question, but with respect to the second part of it, the United States has indicated that we have concern about Proposition 187. As President Clinton has said, that is then a matter of concern to him and to the United States. The proposition is under legal challenge in the courts, as you know.
When I met this morning with the new Mexican foreign minister, Mr. Gurria -- we discussed that in some length and detail and emphasized the importance of not allowing Proposition 187 and the controversy about it to affect the relationship between our two countries. It's an issue that we will work through, but I certainly don't see it as affecting the overall relationship between the two countries.
The relationship through NAFTA is a very strong one, which gives such a positive note to our relationship as was indicated several times today. And the relationship between President Zedillo and President Clinton in the meeting that they had in Washington is starting out on a very positive and very mutually supportive note. So I don't see 187 as affecting the underlying strength of the relationship between the two countries.
Q: Mr. Secretary, did President De Leon raise the question that Central Americans are concerned about action on Cuba? And if so, what was discussed and what was resolved on that issue?
SECRETARY CHRISTOPHER: I understand that the rules of the road here are that I don't identify particular countries or particular presidents or leaders. The issue of Cuba was raised this afternoon. It was discussed from two or three different vantage points, and I think will not go beyond that.
There was concern expressed, and I think there was a strong feeling that this time there were 34 leaders of democratically-elected governments, and when the next summit is held, all hope that it will be 35 if the entire hemisphere at that time have reached democratic position.
Q: Mr. Secretary, the question I wanted to ask you following up on his issue is, you've mentioned there are over 100 actions items that were placed on the agenda. Is Cuba one of those action items, or is it just going to remain a hope, rather than some decisive action taken by the U.S. and the OAS to ensure that there will be a 35th democratic nation in Cuba?
SECRETARY CHRISTOPHER: I don't believe that any of the action items is directed specifically at Cuba.
Q: Mr. Secretary, how do you -- how the U.S. expect to succeed in Haiti when apparently you are not willing to commit yourself to disarm the thugs in Haiti?
SECRETARY CHRISTOPHER: We're not willing to commit ourselves to what?
Q: To disarm them.
SECRETARY CHRISTOPHER: Well, the United States initially put 20,000 troops into Haiti, and we've maintained a very strong military presence there to ensure law and order, to provide a safe and secure environment. Great progress is being made in that regard. A number of weapons are being turned in. And I think we can establish a safe and secure environment through law enforcement techniques and law enforcement officials.
One of the things that was mentioned today is that the first class of the police academy will be enrolled in January. In addition to that, there's been a good deal of police training already done there. There will be law enforcement authorities there who will be dealing with the problems that exist in Haiti. And so I don't think that secure environment is dependent upon collecting all the guns that exist in Haiti as has been said. That would be a very formidable, indeed, almost impossible task.
Q: How can the United States help the democratic process in Haiti economically?
SECRETARY CHRISTOPHER: Well, I think the best way for me to answer that question is to go back to the meeting that I had with President Aristide yesterday. And he would say the creation of jobs is the number-one priority in Haiti, and I think the United States does not disagree with that. We've put together a task force of government officials to identify sectors of the economy where there can be some early job creation. We know that there's a longer-range problem. But we're going to be focusing on those sectors of the economy where there is early job creation. That's an absolutely essential part of the role that we're trying to play there to get the government of Haiti and the economy of Haiti and the whole structure there up and running again. And that will be the best help, I believe, that we can give to democracy in Haiti.
Q: Mr. Secretary, it has been estimated that it's costing the U.S. hundreds of thousands of dollars on a daily basis to keep the safe haven in Guantanamo Bay. Is the Clinton administration or your department going to take any other steps like it did in Haiti to provide some sort correlation, like with President Menem, for democracy on the island, besides the Cuban embargo? Are you going to take any tougher stance on Castro to become democratic, other than the Toricelli bill?
SECRETARY CHRISTOPHER: Would you repeat the question. I'm not hearing you very well.
Q: Okay. It has been estimated that the U.S. is spending over $300,000 on a daily basis providing aid to Guantanamo. Is the U.S. going to take another step to democratize Cuba like it did in Haiti, besides the actual embargo?
SECRETARY CHRISTOPHER: We are dealing with that problem in the most effective way that we know. There are a number of things that are being done. Some of the Cubans in Haiti are being considered for humanitarian mission to the United States. Others are being encouraged to go back to Cuba to apply for admission to the United States under the new 20,000-person quota that we have agreed with the government of Cuba on. Others are leaving for neighboring countries in the region, and a number have just gone there within the last few days.
But the underlying problem has been the protection of our borders and to ensure that we will control the immigration issues rather than having it be controlled by others. And as I say, we're dealing with that problem in the most humane and effective way that we can, but it also is necessary way that we can, but it also is necessary to do it in the context of an orderly process.
Q: To follow up on that, Mr. Secretary, these people fled Cuba because of a dictator of a communist regime. But yet, we're asking and encouraging them to return back to the island where they were originally persecuted. Isn't that a contradiction there?
SECRETARY CHRISTOPHER: Well, we're encouraging them to go back and to try to take advantage of the immigration numbers that we agreed with the government of Cuba would be made available. That is the best way if they want to reach the United States; indeed, it is the only way under current circumstances, except for those limited humanitarian cases.
Q: Mr. Secretary, Chile is widely anticipated to be the next member to enter what's now know as NAFTA, or the North American Free Trade Agreement. And Mercosur goes into effect on the first of January, and as a common market those four countries will have a common external tariff. Will that preclude any one of those countries entering into NAFTA individually? In other words, Argentina won't be able to negotiate entry into NAFTA because that would violate its common external tariff agreements with Brazil, Uruguay and Paraguay.
SECRETARY CHRISTOPHER: I think I'm going to leave that fairly technical question to others. I don't know the technical answer to that question. But I think, in the longerterm, it is certainly contemplated that NAFTA will be extended, or a NAFTA-like arrangement will be extended to all the nations of the hemisphere. And I'm sure there are techniques that can be worked out.
What has been done here is that all the nations of the hemisphere have committed themselves to free trade by the year 2005. As Fred Bergsten said today, this will drive the trade agenda in this hemisphere over the next decade. But when you take this together with APEC, it means that the two agreements will drive the trade agenda in the two fastest growing areas for the next decade or two. That's a very signal achievement.
When I was in Jakarta, it was clear to me that there would be a competitive liberalization of trade by a number of the countries. Even though the two dates in APEC are 2010 and 2020, it is clear to me that many countries will go faster than that. And I think the same thing will happen here. Countries will see it in their own self-interest to liberalize trade. So when you take together the two agreements, the one in Jakarta and the one here today, I think there's been really a stunning achievement for the liberalization of trade, which will dominate the scene in those two regions, those two significant regions, over the next decade and possibly two decades.
Q: Mr. Secretary, you said you were very much impressed by the number and the concern of the leaders regarding corruption. Can you tell me if there are concrete steps ahead in the Plan of Action to deal with this problem on a hemispheric basis?
SECRETARY CHRISTOPHER: Well, let's take the question of commercial corruption, or the bribery of foreign officials. That's been a subject that's long interested me. When I was in government in the late 1970s, we launched an initiative on that which has not made any progress, but we started again this year in the OECD and got a commitment from all the OECD countries to take meaningful steps to try to wipe out commercial bribery of government officials. What's been done here today is to set up an arrangement between the OAS and the OECD so that their working groups will focus on this together.
The reason this is of such great interest to me is that in almost every case, American companies are put at a disadvantage by commercial bribery because our companies are limited by our very strict laws in that regard, whereas companies in other countries have a much freer hand.
So if we can level the playing field it will be of great interest to American businesses. And when I have gone around and talked to American businesses abroad, that's been a point they've made over and over again.
So the best thing we can do is to work closely together with the OECD to see if in each of the countries we can't get legislation at least roughly comparable to U.S. legislation, which makes it a crime, of course, for U.S. companies to engage in commercial bribery in order to get business abroad.
Q: Is there a date set?
Q: The exclusion of this summit remarks commitment with democracy in this hemisphere. Can we expect any foreign measure in order to promote the free elected government, democratic government in Havana?
SECRETARY CHRISTOPHER: Well, the United States, of course, follows the Cuba Democracy Act, which is the policy overwhelmingly endorsed by the members of our Congress in both past administrations and this administration. As you know, that act is in two parts. There's first the embargo, and then there's the communication aspects of it.
The act also contemplates that if the Cubans, if President Castro takes steps toward market reform or toward democracy, that will be answered by carefully calibrated steps on our part. We urge the Cubans to take that kind of step so that we can respond in a carefully calibrated way. That's the current policy that we're going to be following here in the United States, as I say, in the context of the Cuban Democracy Act.
Thank you very much.
END 5:45 P.M. EST
William J. Clinton, Press Briefing by Secretary of State Warren Christopher Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project https://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/node/269552