Remarks and an Exchange With Reporters Prior to Discussions With President Eduardo Frei of Chile
President Clinton. I would like to begin by welcoming President Frei here. He leads a nation which has made a remarkable transformation to democracy with tremendous economic growth and support for market economics. And we are very much interested in broadening and deepening our economic relationship with Chile.
I also want to congratulate him on the speech he gave recently in the Ibero-American summit in Cartagena, which was a ringing endorsement of democracy, the rule of law, and human rights.
I think that during the course of his term as President of Chile, the United States will be able to work very constructively with Chile, and I believe his leadership throughout our hemisphere will be very significant. And I look forward specifically to discussing with him today what we can do to make the most of the Summit of the Americas that will be held in Miami in December.
Q. Will you be talking about Haiti? And Mr. President——
President Clinton. Yes, we will.
Q. ——is there a big increase now in the Haitian refugees, and will you open up Guantanamo Bay?
President Clinton. Yes, we will discuss Haiti. And we are discussing what our response should be. There has been a significant increase in Haitian refugees, I think as a result of political repression in Haiti, perhaps intensified anxiety over the tougher sanctions. And we're going to examine what our options are there.
We do have, as you know, another processing center coming on-line, but we have not gotten it up and going yet. And as I have said all along, we have to calibrate our response based on our capacity to deal with this.
I would also note that the safest and best thing for the Haitians to do is to apply at the in-country processing center. The rate of approval there has gone up as well. And that is the safest and best route to the United States, and I would hope that more Haitians would use it.
[At this point, one group of reporters left the room, and another group entered.]
Q. President Clinton, please, why did you invite President Frei to the White House?
President Clinton. Well, I invited him here because of the enormous importance I attach to the relationship between the United States and Chile, because of the remarkable success that his nation has had in moving to democracy and maintaining an enormously impressive rate of economic growth, because there are many issues that we need to consult on and work together on, the upcoming Summit of the Americas in December, and Haiti, just to mention two, as well as our bilateral economic relationships, which are very important. So I wanted to see him, and I'm honored that he was able to make time to come up here and have this meeting.
Q. Mr. President, what is the position of your administration vis-a-vis the U.S. trade agreement with Chile as opposed to entering through NAFTA? Would you favor Chile entering through NAFTA or through a free trade agreement which is bilateral?
President Clinton. I don't really have an opinion on that at this time. I want to discuss it with the President, and I want our advisers to be able to discuss it and just determine the best way.
The most important thing for me now is to get the Congress to approve the fast-track negotiations with Chile so that we can accelerate this economic partnership whichever way we decide to go. That's very important to me to know that the Congress will support that, because I have said all along that I thought we ought to move next with this free trade agreement to Chile, and that that could be a model for all of South America.
So my emphasis now has been getting the Congress to support this. I think they will. The President's met with Members of our Congress in both parties. And in terms of which is the best way, I want to hear his view on that, and then I want to let our people talk it through, because I just want the objective to be achieved. I don't have an opinion about which is the best way to get there.
NOTE: The President spoke at 11:45 a.m. in the Oval Office at the White House. A tape was not available for verification of the content of these remarks.
William J. Clinton, Remarks and an Exchange With Reporters Prior to Discussions With President Eduardo Frei of Chile Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project https://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/node/219922