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Question-and-Answer Session With Reporters in Montevideo, Uruguay

December 04, 1990

President Lacalle. I'd like to welcome you all to this press availability. I know the important figure here is President Bush and not me, but I would also be prepared to answer any questions in my broken English, which is, of course, our common language here. I'd appreciate it if you'd identify yourselves, and I would give the floor to President Bush.

President Bush. Just a brief opening statement, with your permission, sir -- first, to say how pleased I am to be here with my friend President Lacalle. This President and his proud country are leaders on the crucial issues that face this hemisphere and the world today.

Uruguay was one of the leaders in return to democracy in Latin America. And the global trade talks that are now underway in Brussels began right here in this nation. An essential ingredient for a successful conclusion of the GATT round is agriculture, and this President has taken a world leadership position on seeing that agriculture is included and satisfactorily addressed.

In spite of the economic hardship inflicted on this country, President Lacalle and Uruguay have taken a leadership role in strongly supporting United Nations sanctions against Iraq, and I salute him for this. This isn't easy. This requires a certain degree of sacrifice for the people here, but they've been steadfast in standing up to this aggression.

And this President was the first one to telephone me after I announced my Enterprise for the Americas Initiative. And we've been talking how to fully implement that.

I'm sorry I won't be going to Paraguay on this trip; but by the time the trip is over, it will have been to here, Uruguay, and to Brazil and to Argentina. And there we will be talking about the negotiations on a far-reaching regional framework agreement on trade and investment, which is the first crucial step toward our common goal of a hemisphere in which trade is free for all.

Once again, my thanks to you, sir.

President Lacalle. Thank you, sir.

Persian Gulf Crisis

Q. Mr. President, Terry Hunt, of the Associated Press. I'd like to ask you: Last week General Jones and Admiral Crowe, both former Chairmen of the Joint Chiefs, said that they thought that you ought to give sanctions against Iraq a year to 18 months to work before you resort to military action. Do you think that's unreasonable?

President Bush. I don't agree with them.

Q. How long do you think that you should give sanctions?

President Bush. I can't say how long, but I don't agree with them.

Q. To follow that up, please: Secretary Cheney said yesterday up on the Hill that it is his personal view that sanctions just won't work, that they can't work -- that after a passage of time, the embargo will begin to slip, that Saddam Hussein [President of Iraq] is just too brutal and the Iraqi people are either too self-sufficient or too resilient to be bowed by that kind of economic pressure. Do you share that view, which is, in essence, saying that this stage and time only the threat of imminent war has the potential for making Saddam Hussein bow?

President Bush. I am convinced that Saddam Hussein, up until now at least, has not gotten the message. And the United Nations resolution speaks for itself. To me, it was loud and clear. But I don't think Saddam Hussein yet understands that. And therefore, the best hope for peace is for him to understand that all means -- all means -- necessary to fulfill these resolutions will be used against him. And I hope he gets the message.

Q. But are we at the point where we can say that it's no longer realistic to expect that the sanctions are going to bring him around to that point of view?

President Bush. Well, as you know, I've not been one who has been convinced that sanctions alone would bring him to his senses, but they're having some effect. But I -- put it this way, I thought Secretary Cheney did a superb job in his testimony. In fact, I thought it was so good that I sent him a message yesterday, and also one to Colin Powell [Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff].


Q. I would like to ask you, now that Marxist systems all over the world are falling apart, in eastern Europe, et cetera, what do you find to be the meaning of the fact that there is a Marxist mayor recently elected here in Montevideo?

President Bush. I don't know much about the Marxist mayor. But this is a democratic country; people can run for office. We elected a Socialist to the Congress of the United States -- the State of Vermont did the other day. So, I have no hangups. And I'll look him in the eye and thank him for what I understand will be his hospitality to me, but just so he doesn't ask me to endorse his Marxist views, because I think marxism is declining around the world. But I don't know what his view is.

You know, when I was in Italy, the head of the Congress there was a Marxist woman. I had no difficulty going over and speaking civilly to her, and she was very civil to me. So, I found that there's all different degrees of that, of marxism, just as there are of socialism and just as there are of, I guess, adherence to democracy. So, I have no hangups at all. If the guy wants to welcome me to the city -- I already feel welcome, and I'd like to be rewelcomed.

Persian Gulf Crisis

Q. President Lacalle, please excuse one further question to President Bush on the Gulf, which I know is not the main subject of your discussions here today.

Mr. President, there are newspaper reports today indicating that the five permanent members of the U.N. Security Council agreed last night that when Secretary Baker meets with Saddam . . . Kuwait a firm commitment that there will be no attack on him and his regime. Is that correct, sir, and can you elaborate?

President Bush. No. Do you mean when the five permanent members were in New York?

Q. Well, please don't hold me to the absolute details, sir, of what may have been the form of such an agreement. But may I phrase the question by asking you if there is such a plan, and do you and Secretary Baker plan to offer such a promise in the meetings that are coming up?

President Bush. Brit [Brit Hume, ABC News], I'm not in a negotiating mood or anything of that nature when I meet with Foreign Minister of Iraq `Aziz. And I think what I want to do is make very clear to him that the best way to preserve the peace is to go forward and fully implement the U.N. resolutions. But I don't know of any meeting of that nature of the five permanent members -- at the Foreign Minister level or any level -- to discuss that.

Q. Excuse me, sir, but such an offer, if it could be called that, would not be inconsistent with the positions you've taken. And I'm just wondering if that is indeed something you feel that you would be in a position to say at that time.

President Bush. Well, let's wait and see how these talks go. And I know what I've told you I'm going to say. And what else I'd say -- well, I'll take some time to figure that all out, but don't want to get the message softened down. The message is: Get out of Kuwait in full compliance with all United Nations resolutions. Now, I saw something that Jim Baker said to that effect the other day, and I did not have any problem with that at all.

But I don't -- Brit, I think you're on a wrong track. I don't think there was any meeting of the minds, but maybe something happened up there I'm not aware of.

Uruguayan Debt and Regional Alliances

Q. I represent Channel 10, Mr. President, and I would like to ask you how you see the regional alliances such as the MerCoSur, which is being worked on, in terms of economic development. As President Lacalle said, our wanting not help but growth -- how does all of this fit in with the treatment of Uruguay's foreign debt?

President Bush. Well, in the first place, Uruguay is taking a very forward and, I think, proper position on the debt situation. It isn't easy, but I am convinced that this forward-looking position will add to further investment in Uruguay and further confidence in international financial markets in Uruguay, which is bound to benefit the people of Uruguay.

And lastly, regional alignments don't trouble us at all because we're all moving in this hemisphere toward a much more open trading system. And that, too, will benefit the peoples of all the countries, I believe.

Persian Gulf Crisis

Q. Again, for Mr. Bush -- I am sorry -- but again, on the Persian Gulf. Is it possible that in U.S. talks with Iraqi officials that the U.S. could make it clear with Iraq that the U.S. values the resolution of the Palestinian issue, but also make it clear that the Persian Gulf and the Palestinian issue are totally separate? Can you do that -- both?

President Bush. I will not be endeavoring to do that. I think people around the world know of our interest in seeing a peaceful and permanent solution to the question in the West Bank and the Palestinian question, but there will be no linkage. There will be no linkage whatsoever. The whole world knows that Saddam Hussein has been trying for linkage, and in the talks we have there will be no linkage.

Q. Will you mention the subject at all in the talks?

Enterprise for the Americas Initiative

Q. I am from the newspaper La Republica. The Alliance for Progress was something from which we awaited solutions to get out of our situation of underdevelopment. In what way is the Enterprise for the Americas Initiative going to make it possible for us to grow, to promote the entry into our countries of risk capital, and to promote the entry into the large markets of the United States and Canada of our goods and merchandise?

President Bush. In the first place, we foresee a whole hemisphere of much more open trade -- free trade, if you will -- down the line. But secondly, you're dealing in a hemisphere that has already moved since the Alliance for Progress down the path of democracy toward free markets, toward privatization. I don't want this Enterprise Initiative to be just more rhetoric; we want action. This President wants action. But the climate for this kind of action is so much better today that I think we will be successful to go along the course we've been discussing here. We're different times, different times.

Agricultural Trade Policy

Q. On GATT, is there any room for compromise, President Bush, in your position on reducing farm subsidies? Would you settle for something less than a sweeping 75-percent to 90-percent reduction to get agreement in Brussels?

President Bush. First, we're all in this together -- Uruguay and the United States. All countries in this hemisphere want to have agriculture -- I believe all countries -- want to have agriculture as a significant part of this GATT round, for it to be successful.

But to get to your question, Gene [Gene Gibbons, Reuters], we are not locked on a specific figure; we are locked on the fact that there has to be inclusion of all categories. And I think therein lies the difficulty that's taken place in Brussels as of very, very recently.

Q. May I follow up, President Lacalle, to ask if you share President Bush's position that no agreement is better than a bad agreement on GATT?

President Lacalle. Well, we are in the same boat, as we say here, in this GATT negotiation. Of course, every negotiation has its turning point. Now we are saying, and saying loud, that it's a package that every issue must be inside it. This has hurt millions of people. This agriculture policy has hurt millions of people two ways: through subsidies that go into our own markets and compete against the products of the agricultural countries and, at the same time, through protectionist barriers that don't open the markets of certain very wealthy parts of the world to we, the farmers of the world.

But at the same time, we have the other issues. So, we are taking a pragmatic view towards the negotiation. We are saying agriculture must be inside. I'm not telling you what kind of percentage I'm prepared to accept, but it must be in the package, and it cannot be the percentage that has been officially offered up to now.

U.S. Forces in Panama

Q. President Bush, when you arrived here you said we were entering a new era in our relations. On the one hand, you're talking about a deepening of relations, and on the other, you continue having your troops in Panama. Don't you see something contradictory to that?

President Bush. You want a yes or no answer? No. I don't see anything contradictory. These are not occupying forces. These are not aggression forces. These are not forces that have raped, pillaged, and plundered the people of Kuwait. And I don't see a similarity at all.

Persian Gulf Crisis

Q. I'm Charles Bierbauer of CNN [Cable News Network]. A question for each of you, if I may. Let me start with President Bush. You've repeatedly made reference to the economic cost of the Persian Gulf to countries such as Uruguay, Brazil, Czechoslovakia. Some in your administration say that those costs are unwarranted given the current oil availability. Are you doing anything at all, or should you, to reduce the oil prices and to reduce the burden on these countries?

President Bush. The economic burden on these small countries and on the United States are heavy. You heard Chairman Greenspan [Board of Governors, Federal Reserve System] testify the other day. And all I can do is try to make clear as best I can as President that there is not an oil shortage today. And hopefully, some of those speculators will listen to that and look at the facts and see that that is true. In the meantime, countries are being devastated by the price that is driven through speculation or driven through fear.

And lastly, I can make clear that this is not going to go on forever. I think some worry very much about that. And it is not going to go on forever.

World Power Alignment

Q. President Lacalle, I wanted to ask you a related question. In June, at the OAS [Organization of American States] meeting, you voiced concern about the weight the superpowers exerted upon the other Latin American nations -- the inequity of that historically. Do you feel in this instance of the Persian Gulf and in general that you are still feeling the exerted weight of the superpower of the United States upon your country?

President Lacalle. I think that in the quality of international relationship, the world has changed. Of course, small countries prefer a multipolar world than a bipolar world. And I think we are in the midst of a big change. We haven't realized what the year '90 brought as a change of the political equation the world over. Of course, these historical facts are seen afterwards, and we rationalize them afterwards. But I think a whole new time of much more equal relationship between the countries, big and small, is dawning. And the interdependence of the economic problems makes everybody feel that we are in the same boat once again, the same example. So, I think that, of course, the power, the presence of important countries and big powers like the States are felt much more than other countries. But we are in an era of mutual respect and consultation that will, I think, substitute the world we knew last year.

Technology Gap

Q. President Bush, your Enterprise for the Americas Initiative -- in putting forward the idea of a free market, does it take into account the gap between underdeveloped countries and the impossibility that the underdeveloped countries have to compete technologically from the point of view of know-how? Does the Enterprise have any plan in it to do something about technological or technical conversion to allow the underdeveloped countries to compete with the large ones?

President Bush. Mainly through technology transfer. And, yes, the United States is moving vigorously forward with countries in terms of technology transfer. I'm not sure that's directly responsive.

Q. In view of the fact that the underdeveloped countries find it impossible to acquire this know-how.

President Bush. Well, it's not impossible. And the answer is: Move briskly to privatization, to free markets, to market economies, and keep going down that path. And that will attract investment, and that investment will close the technological gap. So, I'd say that is the answer to countries that are moving forward now into this period of change.

Leftist Governments in South America

Q. When Allende was President of Chile, as a Socialist government, Chile was considered to be a security risk to the United States. If Uruguay were to bring to power a coalition of the left -- Socialist Communists, et cetera -- if that kind of coalition came to government, would it be considered to be a risk to the security of the United States? And secondly, the Enterprise for the Americas regime -- would it apply to a country which would elect a Socialist government?

President Bush. The success of the Enterprise for Americas depends a lot on moving down this market-economy route. Most Socialists governments or Communist governments want the goods and services produced to be owned by the state. That is a formula for disaster. That is a failed formula. So, the question is very hypothetical, but it seems unlikely to me that the country would move in that direction these days, when you see the whole world moving away from the failed ideology of communism.

[At this point President Lacalle knocked over a glass.]

President Lacalle. It's a gimmick. [Laughter]

Argentine Military Rebellion

Q. Yesterday, we were witnesses to what happened in Argentina. Do you think that democracies are stable in this part of the continent?

President Bush. Yes, I do. And I think that the incidents yesterday, as I read it, were aimed not at the government, but it was a military-versus-military controversy. And so, I am very pleased to be going to Argentina, and I salute President Menem there for what he has done and is trying to do in moving Argentina further down democracy's path and doing something in the economic system along the lines that we've been talking about here today.

Meeting With President Lacalle

Q. What bilateral issues were dealt with in your meeting with President Lacalle, President Bush?

President Bush. Mainly, sir, on trade and investment. We're talking about science and technology. Indeed, as a result of our preliminary meeting, President Lacalle has very generously invited my Science Advisor, Dr. Bromley, to spend an hour with him today on that subject. And so, these were the main subjects, but there were one or two others I think we touched on. But those were the main subjects -- trade, investment, economics dominated the meeting on a bilateral basis, sir.

The technology also touched on the environment questions. Even though those are global, there are some interests of bilateral concern there.

President Lacalle. Thank you, everybody. Welcome, once again to Montevideo.

Note: President Lacalle spoke at 2:45 p.m. in the Salon de Actos at the Edificio Libertad. A reporter referred to the Mercado Comun del Sur (MerCoSur) negotiations to create a Southern Cone common market, composed of Brazil, Argentina, Uruguay, and Paraguay. Ellipses in these remarks indicate that material was missing on the press release. A tape was not available for verification of the content of the question-and-answer session.

George Bush, Question-and-Answer Session With Reporters in Montevideo, Uruguay Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project

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