Remarks and a Question-and-Answer Session With Reporters on the London Economic Summit Conference
London Economic Summit
The President. Good morning. I just have a brief statement here, and then I imagine you've got something to say.
This has been a productive week and, looking back, a particularly busy year for the Atlantic alliance, and a most successful one. Despite Soviet propaganda and attempts at intimidation, NATO has remained unified and strong. And we can be thankful and proud that NATO's determination to defend Europe, defend our freedom, and, yes, defend the peace.
The summit that we just concluded demonstrates the unity of the Western industrialized nations, the enduring strength of our shared vision and values, and our resolve to advance our common interests. And so, today I leave London; I am leaving with renewed confidence that the future belongs to the free and that our great democracies can meet the challenges before us. Together, we can protect peace with liberty, create greater prospects for growth, move toward more free and open trading markets, and build an era of progress for the eighties, spreading opportunities and benefits to people throughout the world.
Sometimes people become so absorbed in day-to-day problems they forget the big picture. But step back a moment and consider the progress that we've made. In '81, the economies of the seven major industrialized nations represented here at the summit had an average growth rate of 1.8 percent, with an 8½-percent inflation. Today, our average growth rate has risen to 4 percent, while inflation has been cut in half. And in our own country, we've created more than 6 million jobs in the last 18 months.
We are succeeding. And thanks to closer cooperation, closer coordination, and thanks to steady adherence to policies that have proven to be sound, that is why we are succeeding.
And now, because by some inadvertence, I may have missed a point that you wanted to hear about.
Yes, Lou [Lou Cannon, Washington Post]. U.S..-Soviet Relations
Q. Mr. President, in the big picture of our relations with the Soviet Union, you've made a lot of appeals for them to come back to the table; you embraced a new proposal at Stockholm—but there doesn't seem to be any movement at all. What evidence is there that the Soviets are prepared in any way to negotiate with the United States or with any of the Western powers?
The President. Well, we're so accustomed to viewing the Soviets as engaged in various kinds of machinations and so forth, it's beginning to occur to some of us that maybe the silence is because they don't know what to say right now. So, we'll let them—after all, you know, this is the third leader in the period that I've been in office here. Let them make up their minds what it is, and we will keep the door open for anytime that they want to come back.
Q. Could I follow up, sir? Do you believe that they will take a different attitude if you are reelected to a second term?
The President. Well, I think there's probably more chance that we'll be talking to each other if I am than there is before.
Helen [Helen Thomas, United Press International]?
Q. Mr. President, the communique says that you'll go anywhere anytime with no preconditions to negotiate with the Soviet Union. Does that mean you will negotiate underground testing, antisatellite treaties, and the Star Wars shield?
The President. Well, Helen, I think that when you negotiate—and from my own experience back in the labor-management days of doing that—both sides, whatever is on their mind that they think are problems or facets of the problem that brings you to the table, get them all out on the table and see what the solutions might be. Yes, if this is what they want to talk about, we're very willing to talk about
Q. But we have refused—
The President. What?
Q. We have refused to talk about the underground testing—
The President. No. What we—
The President. There is one thing we have that we want on the table, and that is also that there will be a recognition of the need for adequate verification. Now, the antisatellite thing is one that is the easiest thing to hide in the world—and it's going forward in that—with the possible exception of chemical warfare. So, on our part, they know that we want to be sure that we can come together on some reasonable verifications so we won't live in suspicion of each other. And whatever they want to bring up in these others, we'll be happy to see it.
Chris [Chris Wallace, NBC News]? And then I'll—
Q. Mr. President, everywhere you went on this trip there were big crowds supporting you, but there were also tens of thousands of demonstrators opposing your policy on nuclear arms. Why, despite all of your efforts and all of your speeches in recent months, do so many people still oppose your policies in this area?
The President. Well, I don't take credit for all of the demonstrators being there for me. I don't think yesterday picked out any single individual. I think we all felt that we were being—but isn't that sort of—doesn't that go with the territory anymore, that wherever we go or governmental people go, figures go, or even if they don't go there, demonstrations have become a fact of life. Somehow people have felt that that's the way to express their ideas in a democracy. In spite of all of the legitimate channels that are open to them, they take to the streets.
And I wasn't too conscious of them—here and there, yesterday was the major demonstration, of course, but I don't think they're speaking for a majority. And I think sometimes they're unreasoning, in that as yesterday, hadn't any of them stopped to think that no one is demonstrating and they're not demonstrating in. the nation that has the most nuclear weapons of all.
Q. If I may follow up, though, sir. Why do you think it is that they oppose your policies?
The President. Well, they seem to think they have a simple answer to warfare: that if we just lay down our weapons and stand back empty-handed that somehow peace will come to the world. They haven't stopped to figure it might be the peace of the grave.
London Economic Summit
Q. Mr. President, the summit leaders, you and the other leaders, confronted three very urgent economic problems—high American interest rates, the threat of default by debtor countries, and the possibility of an oil cutoff—and came up with solutions for none of these three. Couldn't the American taxpayers wonder whether this was really worth the time and money you spent?
The President. Oh, I disagree with that, that we didn't come up with answers for any of them. We had very thorough discussions of all of these problems, and we came to great agreement about how you go forward now in dealing with these problems. They aren't problems that you suddenly say, here, we will automatically do this if something else happens. We have a general agreement about the necessity of us all staying together in the event of another oil crisis for two reasons: not only to see that we don't have economic breakdowns in countries because of the lack of energy, but also that we do not see the panic increase in prices, that has occurred before, which could set back the recovery that's taking place in every one of our countries. But all of those things we dealt with.
Q. Well, sir, just to follow—you said that there was agreement. But there was certainly no agreement on interest rates. You were the only one of the seven who said that they were not linked to budget deficits. Do you feel that possibly you could be wrong about that?
The President. No, because I'm the only one there that with figures proved it. Right now our deficit as a percentage of gross national product is lower than that of three other nations that were present, and one nation alone was lower than ours, and one nation was tied with ours. But if you lump them all together—and roughly their combined gross national products are about equivalent to ours—and you would find that their percentage of deficit in toto was greater in regard to gross national product than ours.
What I was able to establish is that the connection between deficit and interest rates cannot be established at all. When we made our greatest cut in interest rates, from 21 1/2 down to 11, the deficit was going up. But you go on to the next column of inflation in all of those countries, and you find that that's what the interest rates are tied to, is inflation or the fear of inflation. And in our country, because we've been so successful with curbing inflation, I have to say it is the fear that we still are going to let inflation get out of hand.
Q. Mr. President, when you say that the Soviets don't really know what to say right now, are you indicating that perhaps Mr. Chernenko is in over his head or maybe just too old to do the job? [Laughter]
The President. No, I'm—.
Mr. Speakes. 1 Last question.
1 Larry M. Speakes, Principal Deputy Press Secretary to the President.
The President. But wait a minute. I was really pointing at someone else. So, after his, I'll take hers back there.
But, no, I think that there come times when—since they sort of rule by committee, the Politburo, that there isn't a consensus there on the course that they should be taking right now. And this was presented in a very fine article in the Economist a short time ago that said that maybe the bear is hibernating.
Q. Mr. President, the statement on terrorism that was issued here outlines some proposed actions but, apparently, not a coordinated plan for action. What do you think the significance of that statement is, and what kind of discussions were held on cooperation on preemptive strikes?
The President. I don't think anything came in the nature of thinking in terms of attacking someplace if we believed—but we did discuss thoroughly the problems of terrorism, the fact that—actually the greatest defense against it is to try and know in advance what some of the plans are and what they're going to do. And for that reason, we've come to great agreement on the sharing of intelligence information of all kinds between us.
It isn't the kind of problem that you come down with a hard and fast plan, which you then discuss publicly. You come to an agreement about, number one, the necessity of dealing with it; number two, then, what together we can do to better deal with it. But you don't spread the details of that around.
Mr. Speakes. Thank you, Mr. President. Q. Well, just to follow up. Secretary of State Shultz said there were a great many ramifications that go beyond defensive measures. What kind of a signal are you trying to send here?
The President. Well, I think what the Secretary was probably referring to is the fact that more and more we are seeing certain countries in the world more or less endorse openly the use of terrorism. And that is a separate problem also to deal with.
Mr. Speakes. Thank you, sir.
The President. Well, they've told me
Q. When are you going to Scotland, Mr. President? The Scots say you really belong there. [Laughter]
The President. Well, on my mother's side, her father came from Scotland. We didn't know much more about his line than we had about my grandparents on my father's side. But then on the maternal side, my mother's family, the family came from Epsom in County Surrey, just south of London here. And we do know something about them, how they got together and baked bread in the backyard in a brick oven that they built and—to get enough money to come to America.
Q. Are you going there next year, sir?
The President. What?
Q. Are we going there next year, sir?
Q. No, before the election.
The President. What?
Q. Before the election, you've got to go there. [Laughter]
Q. How many Scottish voters? [Laughter]
The President. I know you would never believe this— [laughter] —but the decision to go to Ballyporeen was in response to a longstanding invitation from them once they had established and told me what I did not know about my family. And I also had an invitation from the previous Prime Minister of Ireland and from the present Prime Minister of Ireland, and this date was set a long time ago— [laughter] —for the summit. And I didn't see why I could fly over Ireland to England without stopping by and accepting those invitations.
Note: The President spoke at 9:45 a.m. outside Winfield House in London, England.
Ronald Reagan, Remarks and a Question-and-Answer Session With Reporters on the London Economic Summit Conference Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project https://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/node/261704