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Remarks Prior to Discussions With President Rene Preval of Haiti and an Exchange With Reporters

March 21, 1996

The President. Let me begin by just saying how very pleased I am to welcome President Preval to the White House. This is our first chance to have a face-to-face meeting, but we've been in regular contact, and I am anxious to have this chance to discuss the future of Haiti.

I'm very pleased by the events of the last year and a half. Haiti has had the first peaceful transfer of power in 200 years, from one democratically elected President to another. They've had parliamentary elections. The institutions and people who caused so much of the problems of the past have been changed, and there is, I think, a new atmosphere of hope in the country.

We know that they have significant challenges, economically and otherwise, and we are committed to continuing our efforts to work with our friends around the world, Canada and other places, to try to support Haiti and to make sure that the great democratic effort they're making succeeds.

Economic Reforms in Haiti

Q. What kinds of economic reforms, Mr. President, would you like to see them pursue at this point?

The President. Well, I think that we want to see them work out an achievable plan of reform to gain the support of the international financial institutions so we can get the investment necessary into Haiti to generate private sector jobs and grow the economy. We want to see investors going back in there again and giving jobs to the people. We have to do what we can to see that the benefits of freedom flow to ordinary citizens through an advance in their economic standing.

Q. Does that effort have to be picked up, in your opinion? Are they moving fast enough?

The President. Well, I want them to do whatever is necessary to secure the support of the international financial institutions as soon as possible, because I think that is what is necessary to grow the economy. And I want the President and the country to succeed, and I think bringing some economic benefits down there is going to be critical to that. But we want to support them in other ways as well.

Product Liability Legislation

Q. Mr. President, do you think that the product liability bill is beyond redemption or is there some chance after a veto that it could be salvaged?

The President. I've said all along that there is legislation in this area that I would sign. I think that some change is appropriate, and I think Senator Rockefeller made a very strong effort there. There were some things put in the conference, as you know, which I feel very strongly made it worse. But there are some changes that I think are relatively modest that could be made that would permit me to sign it. So I still have some hope that we'll get a good products liability bill out of this Congress.

[At this point, one group of reporters left the room, and another group entered.]


The President. Welcome. It is a great pleasure for me to welcome President Preval here to the White House. We are all excited about his visit to the United States and anxious to have a good conversation. I'm very proud of the progress that Haiti has made in preserving its freedom and liberty and very pleased that when he was inaugurated it marked the first peaceful transfer of power from one democratically elected President to another in 200 years.

Now I want to do what I can to be as supportive in Haiti's efforts to preserve freedom and democracy and also to advance economically. I want to see the people of Haiti reap the benefits of freedom and democracy in terms of new jobs and new opportunities. So we will be discussing what we can do to advance that.

NOTE: The President spoke at 11:13 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 Prior to Discussions With President Rene Preval of Haiti and an Exchange With Reporters Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project

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