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Question-and-Answer Session With Reporters During the International Meeting on Cooperation and Development in Cancun, Mexico

October 23, 1981

The President. Good morning.

Q. You came here to listen and learn.

The President. Yes.

Q. What did you hear and what do you know now and what did you learn?

The President. Well, I think more about the specific problems of some of the nations that we're here to find a way to help—more specifies as to their particular problems. All in all, I think they've been fine meetings, and I think great progress has been made.

Q. Have any of the delegates, Mr. President, said anything to cause you to change your thinking about foreign aid or how you could help the poor people of the world?

The President. No, but you have to remember that there's no one at that table that has done more in the line of foreign aid than has the United States. And we're concerned, have been for some time, that our foreign aid would be as effective as it can be. And many times for a program that gigantic, and over the years, you know that it can fall into ruts. And the aid is being delivered, but you want to make sure that it's getting to the people that it's intended to help.

So, we had a very good discussion yesterday on food and agriculture for the countries that have that problem. And I think we've made a contribution to them, in proposals as to how we could go in—you might say that that's a task force route—and find out exactly how their own agricultural output could be improved.

Q. You said great progress was made. How do you interpret that, in what way?

The President. We had a very open discussion, identifying the point at which possibly aid isn't being as effective as it might be.

Q. There have been various interpretations as to whether you went for the global negotiations or you didn't—couldn't quite tell by the speech.

The President. Helen [Helen Thomas, United Press International], I think that it's a term and what the term means to various people. If there are those there, and possibly there are, who by global negotiations interpret that to mean some gigantic new international bureaucracy to be in charge, that we would be opposed to that.

If global negotiations means that we continue negotiations as to how all of us can help resolve these problems, we're perfectly willing to—

Q. How about the United Nations? Would that be a good place for global negotiations?

The President. Well, we think in some of the organizations that are already existing in the United Nations, that we direct our efforts and their efforts more specifically to doing things that need doing—for example, such things as the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund, other U.N. organizations that are being directed toward being helpful—and from out of this to learn the specifics, that we can go and work with them to make them more effective.

Q. [Referring to the sale of AWACS and other air defense equipment to Saudi Arabia] Are you going to give the bad news to [Prince] Fahd today?

The President. What bad news? [Laughter]

Q. Good news?

The President. No, we're going to keep on fighting. I look forward to getting back Monday morning and going to work some more.

Q. You're not discouraged then?

The President. I'm cautiously optimistic.

Q. We've heard that before.

The President. Well, the last time you heard it, it worked. [Laughter]

Q. Thank you.

Note: The session began at 8:22 a.m. in the President's suite at the Cancun Sheraton Hotel.

Ronald Reagan, Question-and-Answer Session With Reporters During the International Meeting on Cooperation and Development in Cancun, Mexico Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project

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