Remarks Prior to Discussions With President Thabo Mbeki of South Africa and an Exchange With Reporters
President Bush. It is my honor to welcome the President Mbeki to the Oval Office. It's good to see you again, sir. The last time we visited was in the Governor's Mansion in Texas. We had a great discussion about our country's relations. I look forward to furthering that discussion.
We have a lot of interests that—to discuss. We have the interest of trade and prosperity. My administration has made a commitment to work with leaders like President Mbeki on the continent of Africa to provide hope for people. And we look forward to a great relationship with you, sir. You've provided imaginative, real leadership that a lot of people in this Nation admire, and our relationship is only going to grow stronger as a result of your visit here.
So we welcome you to the United States. We welcome the dialog we'll have here in the Oval Office and then over lunch with the respective delegations.
President Mbeki. Thank you very much, Mr. President. Let me say, thank you very much, indeed, Mr. President, for giving us the opportunity to see you. I've been looking forward to this, because for us, Mr. President, our relations with the United States are very important.
You know the challenges we face in South Africa, Mr. President, and the challenges we face on the African Continent. And quite clearly, we need your support and involvement in order to solve those problems.
I'm happy we are able to meet today so we can look, as you said, Mr. President, at the matter of the bilateral relations, as well as what we might do on the wider scale. And I think that, Mr. President, the moment has come for us, as Africans, really to turn the corner, to deal with all of these problems of violence and conflict and poverty, disease, and so on.
And I've been very, very pleased—I must say this, Mr. President—that what we discussed in Austin, Texas, about what might be done, that you have kept to that particular route, those present agreements, with some understandings, has been very inspiring to us. And I'm sure that this visit will help us to get along, as we definitely need to.
Thank you very much, Mr. President.
President Bush. Thank you. I'm so glad you're here. Thanks.
Q. Mr. President, neither of you have mentioned the AIDS scourge directly in your opening statements here. How high on the list of priorities for discussing the scourge is this on your agenda?
President Bush. Well, it's an incredibly important part of our dialog. The AIDS pandemic in Africa is terrible, and our Nation intends to do something about it. As a matter of fact, our Nation is doing something about it. We provide more money than any nation in the world to fund a strategy to defeat AIDS, and we will continue to work with nations that can afford to put money into the trust to do so.
I was so pleased to see—not only to announce that our Government put money into an international trust, but the Gates Foundation, a private foundation here in America, contributed $100 million. And yesterday Tommy Thompson and Colin Powell went to the U.N. to discuss this important issue. And we will discuss it, and we'll discuss it in depth, just like we did in Austin, Texas. The President is concerned, as am I.
I discussed it in Europe. I talked to the Europeans. I said, "We've made a downpayment into the international trust to battle AIDS." They should contribute, I said. And I hope they do. I hope the European Union will follow suit. Part of our discussion that night in Sweden was the United States taking the lead in the AIDS pandemic, not only in the continent of Africa but around the world. And this is a big issue, as far as we're concerned. We've got to do something about it.
President Mbeki. Yes, indeed, as the President says, we actually did discuss this matter, even then, last year in May, when we met in Texas. It clearly is an important matter. That's why I mentioned the matter of diseases on the African Continent. AIDS, indeed, is one of those.
We have to respond in a comprehensive way. One of the matters we'll discuss with the President is this African recovery program that we're working on. And one of the major priority areas in that African recovery program is precisely this area.
So we certainly will discuss this. And we have to do something, because in many instances, these are diseases which are not only caused by poverty, some of them, but also cause poverty. So if you're talking about an African recovery, you cannot but discuss AIDS and really confront it. Malaria, tuberculosis, all sorts of communicable diseases are a particular matter of what has to happen—we have to address them.
South African Government's Response to AIDS
Q. Mr. President, President Mbeki, last week the New York Times published an editorial accusing your government of, in its words, dooming half a generation of young people to an early, protracted, and expensive death because of its failure to distribute anti-retrovirals. How do you explain the amount of criticism that you're coming in for in the United States for what is a perception that you're not doing enough on HIV?
President Mbeki. Well, I'll—we've said— all I would say to that, really, is that people must look at what we're doing in South Africa, not their perception of what they think we're doing but what we're doing actually in the country. And I don't think on the basics of facts an accusation like that can be sustained.
NOTE: The President spoke at 11:27 a.m. in the Oval Office at the White House. A tape was not available for verification of the content of these remarks.
George W. Bush, Remarks Prior to Discussions With President Thabo Mbeki of South Africa and an Exchange With Reporters Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project https://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/node/215326