Press Briefing by Senior Administration Officials
The Briefing Room
11:40 A.M. EST
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: Thank you very much. Good morning. You heard the announcement by the President that the Summit of the Americas will be held in Miami in early December of this year. We think this is an optimum moment to hold this historic summit. It can build on the conceptual convergence in the region; the conceptual convergence -- the movement toward political democracy and open markets; and, secondly, to build on the substantive symmetry that we find in the hemisphere -- substantive symmetry in the sense of countries, both industrialized countries and the developing countries of the region having a similar agenda.
We are all interested in strengthening our democracies and making our economies more competitive in the global economy, and in addressing our social agenda.
We envision two baskets of themes at the summit, although, of course, the ultimate summit will be the result of intensive consultations with the other countries of the region. As the statement by the Press Secretary indicates, two broad themes -- the first being democracy and good governance, how to strengthen our governance and defend democracy effectively. If the 1970s was -- the challenge of the '70s was human rights, how to protect human rights; if the triumph of the '80s was the installation of electoral processes in the region, the challenge for the '90s is to make democratic governance effective, to have a state that works for all of the people.
We believe that it's possible that there should be no more pendulum swings back away from democracy to authoritarianism in the hemisphere. We feel that, unlike in the past, there's a very broad coalition of interests, both in the United States and in Latin America, that make possible this optimism about the consolidation and deepening of democracy.
In the economic area, the second main theme -- trade expansion, investment and sustainable development. We want to foster an open regionalism -- a hemisphere increasingly integrated by trade and investment flows, but open to the global economy and increasingly competitive in that global economy.
There will be, as the President and Vice President indicated, an intensive process of consultations -- a multilayered process of consultations -- consultations, of course, at the official level among governments. There will be close consultations and working relationships with the multilateral institutions, which was symbolized today.
For those of you who were there at the ceremony, the audience was addressed by representatives from both the Organization of American States and the InterAmerican Development Bank. We have already been consulting closely with them; we will continue to do so.
Representatives from those institutions expressed their great satisfaction at the convening of this event and their enthusiasm about working closely in making it a success. We also see intensive interest and consultations with the business community and with other nongovernmental organizations both in Latin America and in the United States.
Finally, with regard to the origins of this event, certainly the leadership came from the President and from the Vice President. In a broader sense, I think the idea for such an event really arose from the collective consciousness of the hemisphere. It was an obvious -- there was an obvious need to do this, following up on the NAFTA, following up on conceptual convergence and the substantive symmetry that we see throughout the region. Mr. Thomas from the OAS mentioned that in 1989 the OAS had passed a resolution calling for, in fact, such a meeting. And we feel now the moment was exactly right for such a meeting.
With that, let me open it up to questions.
Q: Will President Aristide be attending, and if so, playing what role?
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: President Aristide will be invited as the legitimate democratic-elected head of state of Haiti.
Q: Vice President Gore said that he was going to go to Latin America two times. The first time is next week or two weeks from tomorrow. The second time, where is he going to go and what's the date?
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: The first trip is from March 19th through the 22nd. The centerpiece of that trip is to give an address in Buenos Aires before the World Telecommunications Union Conference. He will also visit Bolivia and Brazil, as well as Argentina; and, of course, meet with the leaders of all of those countries. He has a diverse agenda, which will include bilateral issues as well as, of course, consultations about the Summit of the Americas.
In reference to the second trip, it's more tentative. He does want to make a second trip to the region, and his staff now is working on dates and places. That's all I can say about that right now.
Q: Can you give us any sense of the logistics in terms of how long the conference will be? How many people are expected to attend?
Q: The dates?
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: The President said early December. We are thinking of one and a half to two-day meeting in Miami to be attended by the heads of state. We have not decided beyond that, with regard to size of delegations or other details.
Q: When Vice President Gore first announced this, there was some discussion that Peru was kind of in a gray area. Is President Fujimori invited to this?
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: President Fujimori is the democratically elected head of state. Hence, he will be invited. We have expressed our continued concern about the human rights situation, and will continue to do so, in Peru. But he is certainly democratically elected and, therefore, will be invited.
Q: To what extent will this meeting be used to discuss further countries joining NAFTA?
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: I think, certainly, as the press release says, the issue of trade expansion will definitely be on the agenda. The United States government -- the NAFTA process has just, after all, been complete; January 1 being the beginning -- the inauguration of the NAFTA process. We are intensely discussing now, within the U.S. government, the exact modalities of our trade policy, post-NAFTA. So I assure you the issue of trade expansion is on the agenda. But exactly how that proceeds is something we are still considering.
Q: Do you think that by then, by December, would you have closed a free trade deal with Chile?
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: Right now, today, as we speak, Ambassador Kantor is leading the U.S. delegation to the inauguration of Eduardo Frie. That certainly is a signal that we are -- that one, we have great respect for Chile, for its democratic traditions, for its ability to meld democracy, macroeconomic stability and social equity. It's also a signal, a reaffirmation, as already stated by the President on several occasions to pursue a free trade agreement with Chile. But with regard to the exact timing of that, I can't say anything about that.
Q: Can you briefly explain a little bit about this new expression "good government". What is the meaning of that and who is to set the standards for good and bad government?
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: Let me suggest that my colleague take that.
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: Good governance is a way of stating how governments should work, anticorruption, efficient provisions of services and, if you'll notice what has happened in the elections in Latin America and the Caribbean over the last few months and the ongoing elections, the discussion is anti-corruption. It's extraordinary how the hemisphere has converged at the same time that in the United States we are reinventing government.
It is interesting the connection between economic reform and anticorruption, good governance. Governments are found all over the hemisphere that the greatest tool they have to fight corruption is the freeing up of markets, the ridding of centralized control, the ridding of import restrictions, et cetera. You get rid of these things and you find that you have diminished the opportunity for corruption. And this has been found throughout the hemisphere. And just as with human rights and democracy and the environment, countries, individuals, leaders from Honduras to Ecuador to Argentina are talking about doing these things, making the changes in government that will provide more efficient services and rid the system of opportunities of corruption and they want support. They want support across country lines. They want support of nongovernmental organizations.
And this is the kind of feeling that has caused us and others to say, this should be a central theme, one of the central themes of the summit. It is rather exciting. We put it in, good governance, in a line of development of convergent themes, to use one of Richard's phrases -- human rights, democracy, antidrug affairs, environment and now, good governance. It's something that it is now correct for all of us in the hemisphere to be talking about and we're rather excited about it.
Q: Are you concerned in any way that the scandal of Whitewater could undermine the authority of the United States and bring these issues --
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: No.
Q: and who is to set the standards for good or bad governance? Who is to say X government is pursuing objectives over good governance in this area or in that area? Who is to say --
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: I would say, first of all, that this is not a judgmental operation. No one is setting up a series of, this government is corrupt or that institution is not corrupt. The idea is, through consultation, we governments throughout the hemisphere, private groups -- and there are many who are concerned with this issue -- we are going to be engaged in a series of consultations from now until the end of the year to try to develop initiatives, ideas, what can we do to support anticorruption, good governance, efficient services throughout the hemisphere. It is not a judgmental affair. No one is making judgments about who is corrupt and who is not corrupt.
Q: This conference is being held less than 100 miles from Havana. Is there a message for Fidel Castro in this conference? And how much would you expect issues of Cuba and Haiti to come up in the actual --
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: There's a message. There is a clear, very clear message, and it is throughout what the President said, it's throughout the press statement. The invitation is to democratically-elected heads of state. We are trying to support, defend democracy in the hemisphere. And the absence of the most clearly nondemocratic, antidemocratic head of government in the hemisphere is a clear message that the hemisphere is converging, has converged on democracy. The odd man out will remain out; Cuba will remain outside until it becomes democratic, until it respects human rights. Clear message.
Q: Do you expect these issues to surface at all in the conference?
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: I don't know. They very well could. There is no inclination on the part of the U.S. government to say what will be raised and what will not be raised. This is truly a consultative process.
Q: Do you think he will --
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: It is clear from the President's statement that the invitation is issued to the chiefs of state, or heads of government of democratically-elected governments in the Western Hemisphere, and that includes everybody but Castro and Cuba.
Q: In the process of preparation, do you see the possibility of the U.S. position converging towards the general Latin American position on the way to treat Cuba, on the way to bring Cuba towards a democracy? Because there -- it's a point that there is obviously a difference of opinion.
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: The U.S. position is very clear. It is embedded in law; it is stated well in the Cuban Democracy Act. The United States relationship with Cuba will change only when Cuba becomes democratic and respects human rights. We believe that that is what the hemisphere wants as well. And the U.S. position on Cuba is governed by law, by long-standing policy.
Q: A follow-up to that. If other heads of state during your consultation period from now until December raise the issue, for example, as many countries have, that the trade embargo should be lifted, is the United States likely to change its position?
And also, even if it's only democratically-elected heads of state, will there be a delegation of Cuban exiles invited to participate?
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: To the latter, I simply don't know about the exiles. But in terms of what it takes to end the United States embargo against Cuba, this is embedded in the law. It has been stated repeatedly by President Clinton and others, and again, when Cuba becomes democratic and respects human rights, then there can be a change in the U.S. embargo -- not before then.
Q: Will you try to establish any connection, any link between this summit and the one of the -- American countries?
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: This stands on its own in the sense that we are consulting with all the countries in the hemisphere, with one exception, to discuss issues. If they want to raise connections, fine.
THE PRESS: Thank you.
END 11:56 A.M. EST
William J. Clinton, Press Briefing by Senior Administration Officials Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project https://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/node/269473