The President's News Conference in Jakarta
The President. Good evening—or good morning, to the people who are watching this back in America. At our meeting in Bogor today, the Asian-Pacific leaders pledged to achieve free and fair trade and investment between our nations by the year 2020, with the industrialized countries reaching this goal by 2010. This agreement is good news for the countries of this region and especially good news for the United States and our workers. I want to thank President Soeharto for hosting this meeting and for his leadership in crafting the agreement.
When the United States brought the APEC leaders together in Seattle for the very first time last year, we agreed on a common vision of a united, open trading system. At this year's meeting, we have committed to make that vision real through free and fair trade and to do it by a date certain. We'll meet again next year in Osaka. Meanwhile, we'll develop a detailed action agenda, a blueprint, for achieving our goal of free and fair trade, which I hope and believe will be approved when we meet in Osaka.
APEC is primarily an economic organization, and today's talks focused on those issues. While I believe stronger trade ties also will lead to more open societies, I remain committed to pursuing our human rights agenda, as I did in my individual meetings with the leaders this week. This is an agenda we must be willing to pursue with both patience and determination, and we will.
From the beginning of this administration, we have worked to create high-wage jobs and a high-growth economy for the 21st century by expanding our ability to trade with and do business with other nations. The Asia-Pacific region is key to the success of this strategy because it's the fastest growing region in the world, with rapidly expanding middle classes who are potential American customers. Already a third of our exports go to these nations, with 2 million American jobs tied to them. And we know that export-related jobs on average pay much higher than regular jobs in America.
These free and fair trade agreements will benefit Americans for a simple reason: Our Nation already has the most open markets on Earth. By opening other markets, our products and services become more competitive, and more sales abroad create more high-wage jobs at home.
Under this agreement, individual APEC nations will have to tear down trade barriers to reap trade benefits. And no country will get more in benefits than it gives; no free riders. Today's agreement will lower barriers even further than the historic GATT world trade agreement.
Let me just give you one example. Even after the GATT world trade agreement takes effect, tariffs on American automobiles in Malaysia, Thailand, Indonesia, and the Philippines will still be between 30 and 60 percent, lower than they are today but very high. By contrast, our tariffs on automobiles are 2.5 percent.
The market in just these four countries alone in 6 years will be as great as the total market in Canada and Mexico combined. This APEC agreement will knock down Asian tariffs even further, and American autos will, therefore, be more affordable. That means for an autoworker in Detroit or Toledo more secure jobs and factories with more workers, factories that are growing, not shrinking.
I'm proud of the leadership of the United States in creating a post-cold-war world that is both safer and more prosperous, a better place for Americans to live and work in. Trade agreements like NAFTA, the GATT agreement, and now the Bogor Declaration, along with the Summit of the Americas next month, are important in their own way just as are the agreements we've made with the Russians and Ukraine on nuclear missiles, the North Korean nuclear agreement, and the agreement on missile deployments with China. I'm convinced this declaration will prove to be of historic importance.
Americans may hear about this declaration and think, well, 2010 is a long time to wait for any benefits. That is—let me emphasize— the completion date for the process. The benefits will begin for America as soon as we begin to implement the blueprint, which we will develop in this coming year.
But first things first. Our first meeting in Seattle last year created the conditions that helped make it possible to get agreement among the nations of the world on the GATT world trade agreement. Without the meeting in Seattle, we might well not have had a GATT agreement.
Now, when we return to Washington, our first order of business must be for Congress to pass the GATT. Every leader I spoke with here, every leader I spoke with here asked me about United States leadership on GATT and on world trade issues generally. America's opportunities and our responsibilities demand a spirit of bipartisanship, especially when it comes to keeping our country strong abroad.
That cooperation was demonstrated in the historic NAFTA victory and in the encouragement I received from the Republican leaders before I left for this trip. Now, I call upon the Congress, members of both parties, to use this momentum from this trip to pass the GATT. The economic recovery going on in our country and taking hold in the world depends upon the passage of GATT and our continued leadership.
At the end of the Second World War, the United States had a bipartisan effort to create an enduring partnership with our allies that helped keep the peace and helped spawn an era of global prosperity, that created enormous opportunities for the American people.
Now, at the end of the cold war, we are building a new framework for peace and prosperity that will take us into the future. It is imperative that the United States lead as we move toward this new century. That is our great opportunity, and that is the best way we can help all Americans toward a more prosperous future.
Q. Mr. President, as you know, nearly two decades ago, the Portuguese withdrew from East Timor, and the Indonesian military moved in. Sir, do you feel East Timor deserves self-rule, and tomorrow when you meet with President Soeharto, will you ask him to withdraw his troops and allow East Timor to pursue democratic elections?
The President. The position of the United States and the position that I have held since 1991, since long before I held this office, is that the people of East Timor should have more say over their own local affairs. I have already spoken with President Soeharto about this in the past in our personal meetings, and it will come up again in our discussion tomorrow.
Q. Mr. President, back on economics, the Federal Reserve raised interest rates five times this year, and they're expected to do so again today. Many critics think that the Fed has gone too far and that another boost will push the country into a recession. I know that you always say that the Fed is an independent agency, but I wonder if, now that it's gone this far, if you have something to say?
The President. Well, of course, the pressure that it's under is because of world trading and currencies. I would just like to point out that the United States has produced over 5 million jobs in 22 months. We have the lowest inflation in 29 years. We have more high-wage jobs this year than in the previous 5 years.
So yes, it is important to keep the proper balance, to keep our currency stable, and to keep going and growing. But we are having investment-led growth based on highly productive workers with no inflation. So I just would say the important thing is to make every judgment based on what it takes to keep economic growth going in the United States. And I am very proud of what we have done, and I think we have to continue to pursue this course. I'm going to do what I can control.
I have noticed, however, that almost anything I say about this may be misinterpreted, not just here but primarily around the world. So I'm not going to comment on it, except to say the United States has an economic growth pattern that is the envy of advanced nations in the world. We're growing at a healthy rate. We have literally the lowest inflation in 29 years. And finally, we're creating some high-wage jobs after years and years and years of stagnant wages for American working people.
So I'm going to do everything I can to keep that recovery going. And I believe that the members of the Fed will do their best to keep the recovery going. That's what I would urge them to do and to make the best judgment they can.
Cooperation With Republican Leaders
Q. Mr. President, while you've been here, the Republicans are preparing for the transition over in the House and the Senate. As you've been monitoring their comments, what is your sense: Is there going to be a big fight, or is there going to be an opportunity for some consensus, some cooperation? And when will you invite the new Republican leadership to the White House for a sort of mini-summit that's been talked about?
The President. I believe that Mr. Panetta is meeting with them today, as we all agreed before I left. And I look forward to meeting with them as soon as I can, as convenient with all of our schedules, when I get back.
And as I said, I am willing to cooperate. There are areas in which I believe we can cooperate. I have mentioned several: the line-item veto, the welfare reform, continued reductions in the Federal Government, and continuation of our whole reinventing Government initiative so that we can do more with less. On the middle class tax cut, I believe the first thing we had to do was to get control of the deficit and to do as much as we could on that. We got as far as 15 million families in 1993. We got up to $27,000 in income. I would like very much to go further, but we mustn't explode the deficit. We've got to pay for it.
So there are all these areas where I think we can work together and where I am certainly willing to. And that's the spirit in which I will go home.
Q. You mentioned a few moments ago that this was a historic agreement—[inaudible]—here today. I'm wondering, in light of this meeting and the other meetings you've had overseas previously to this, if it's not perhaps beginning to seem to you that perhaps foreign affairs and foreign trade is really the essence of the modern Presidency, more so than domestic and especially in light of what you're looking ahead to in the next few years.
The President. Well, first of all, I think that the Presidency is certainly more than making laws. And the Congress has to pass laws. And I've always thought that.
But let me emphasize to you that I do not believe that I could be here doing what I am doing today if we hadn't taken vigorous action to bring the deficit down and if we hadn't passed the NAFTA agreement in Congress and if we hadn't also already taken strong steps to try to protect and promote the interests of ordinary Americans, including the family leave law, the crime bill, and things that address our problems at home.
I see these things as two sides of the same coin. I don't believe we can be strong in the world, I don't believe we can secure the future for our working people unless we have good policies at home and good policies abroad. I think that strong families and good education systems and better paying jobs and safe streets and expanding trade and being free from the threat of nuclear war, I think these are two sides of the same coin. So, to me, I have to do them both.
I will say this, there have been more opportunities and more responsibilities in this particular year than even I could have foreseen when I ran for President even last year. A lot of the work that we have been doing came to fruition this year, particularly in the Middle East peace talks, in the Partnership For Peace and what we are doing in Europe, and of course in Asia in expanding economic activities.
I think that more and more the job of the modern President will involve relating with the rest of the world because we are in an interdependent world. Whether we like it or not, money and management and technology are mobile, and the world is interdependent. And we have to make sure Americans do well in that kind of world. And we have the—the President has a special responsibility there.
Q. President Clinton, one of the other things the Republicans talked about yesterday in your press conference was the idea that they would propose a constitutional amendment to restore prayer to public schools. Is that something that you would support? Do you think the country needs that?
The President. Well, what I think the country needs and what I think the schools need is a sense that there are certain basic values of citizenship, including valuing the right of people to have and express their faith, which can be advocated without crossing the line of the separation of church and state and without in any way undermining the fabric of our society. Indeed, the schools, perhaps today more than ever before, need to be the instrument by which we transfer important values of citizenship.
One of the things that was in the elementary and secondary education act that I signed, that passed with strong bipartisan support but was little noticed, was the advocacy of basically the teaching of civic values in the schools.
Now, on the school prayer thing, I can only tell you what my personal opinion is about that. I have always supported voluntary prayer in the schools. I have always thought that the question was, when does voluntary prayer really become coercive to people who have different religious views from those that are in the majority in any particular classroom? So that, for example, I personally did not believe that it was coercive to have a prayer at an outdoor sporting event or at a graduation event because I don't believe that is coercive to people who don't participate in it. So I think there is room for that.
Obviously, I want to reserve judgment. I want to see the specifics. But I think this whole values debate will go forward and will intensify in the next year. And again, I would say, this ought to be something that unites the American people, not something that divides us. This ought not to be a partisan debate. The American people do not want us to be partisan, but they do want us to proceed in a way that is consistent with their values and that communicates those values to our children.
So let's just—I'll be glad to discuss it with them. I want to see what the details are. I certainly wouldn't rule it out. It depends on what it says.
Cooperation With Republican Leaders
Q. Mr. President, have you had time to reflect on the elections results, specifically, what happened? And while we've been here, Congressman Gingrich, among his quotes, "This is time to be open to dramatic, bold changes." That's what you ran on, and I'm wondering if you'll take any new attitude with you to Washington after some time off.
The President. Well, first of all, we gave the American people a lot of changes. And the changes we gave them required tough decisions. And if we now are going to have a partnership for further bold changes, nothing could make me happier. But we reduced the deficit more than any time in history. We did it for 3 years in a row for the first time since President Truman. We have reduced the Federal Government by 70,000. We're taking it down to its smallest size since President Kennedy. We have deregulated major parts of the American economy. We have given States the ability to get out from under Federal rules to promote welfare reform, health care reform, education reform. We are making dramatic changes.
I would like to have a bipartisan partnership to go further. There are some things we didn't get done last time that I would like to see done. We ought to be able to have a bipartisan welfare reform bill. I ask only that the same spirit exists there that I exhibited when I was a Democratic Governor in 1988, I reached out my hand in partnership to the Reagan administration and to the Republicans and Democrats in Congress.
There are a lot of things we can do together, and I've already mentioned several of them. So I'm very hopeful. And we do need a lot more changes, and we can do them together if we are determined to put America first and not put partisanship first.
Q. Mr. President, as you look to the next 2 years of your term and the changed political realities of Washington, is there some previous President that you look to as a sort of model on how you're going to proceed?
The President. I don't think so. I don't think that there's an exact historical analogy. I think there are some obvious similarities, but they all break down.
I have read, since I've been President, even though I had read widely about our Presidents before I took office, I've read a number of biographies, histories of the administrations of many Presidents. I have seen times when the usual pattern between a President and Congress was, in fact, more contentious than the one we had the last 2 years. Even though the American people seem to perceive it as very contentious, the truth is that it was, as you know, only the third Congress since World War II when a Congress adopted more than 80 percent of the measures a President recommended. So I think we'll just have to see.
What I need to be guided by is not the past but a devotion to America's future, to making America stronger, to making the future of working people stronger, to the kinds of things that I have worked for. And I will do my best to do that with the facts as they develop. And I'm looking forward to it.
Q. Mr. President, in mentioning the special responsibility of a President in foreign affairs, do you see any limits on your own personal ability to continue being a personal diplomat, and do you intend to continue the growing pace of travel?
The President. Well, as I said, I think that we have had a series of unusual opportunities and responsibilities this year: getting the Partnership For Peace off; getting the nuclear agreement between Russia and Ukraine, which led to no Russian missiles being pointed at the United States for the first time since the dawn of the nuclear age; pursuing the Middle East peace in my meeting with President Asad in Geneva and then the 3 days I spent in the Middle East. And then, of course, we had the 50th anniversary of World War II. So these things—there were some unusual things which required a great deal of time this year.
I think every President from now on, for the foreseeable future, will be required to participate in the building of an architecture which promotes peace and prosperity and security for the American people and is increasingly involved in the rest of the world. But I expect that the lion's share of my work will continue to be done at home, and I will continue to do it. I don't think anyone could say I had a less than ambitious domestic agenda this year and didn't pursue it with great vigor. So I think you will just have to—we'll have to do both from now on.
Asian-Pacific Trade Agreement
Q. Mr. President, the report reaching us is that China and South Korea do not have to meet the free trade objective until 2020. Does this give these countries an unfair advantage in your opinion, and what will you do to address it?
The President. First of all, whether China and South Korea have to meet this objective by 2020 or 2010 depends upon their own rate of growth. That is, there was no definition today of industrialized countries that excluded them in 2010. Indeed, I think most of the people who were in that room today thought that, given South Korea's growth, they might well meet that and, in fact, might be expected to meet it before 2010 and that the Chinese could meet it, depending on whether they're able to sustain a certain level of growth.
Secondly, let me emphasize that while the agreement provides for two different times for the parties to be willing and able to get rid of all their trade barriers, we assume an equivalence of treatment among all the countries so that even if, let's say, China or some other country, Thailand—any country, you name it— doesn't have to go down all the way until 2020, their relationship with the other countries involved, including the advanced countries, will be dictated still by an equivalency. There will be no unilateral give-ups; there will be a negotiated downward movement in the barriers among all parties.
So I think this is very good. This simply recognizes that under the best of circumstances, some nations may be so far away in economic disparities, they may not be able to get there by 2020. There is nothing in those two times that disadvantages, let's say, Japan or Canada, not to mention the United States.
Q. Mr. President, given the tough fight that you had over NAFTA and the nervousness over GATT, how can you convince Americans they will benefit from free trade with Asia, especially when there is such a big gap with some countries on workers' wages and rights?
The President. I would say—I would make two arguments. First of all, look at the fight we had over NAFTA, and look at the results. We had a 500 percent increase in automobile exports to Mexico in one year. Our exports to Mexico increased by 19 percent, about almost 3 times what our overall exports went up since NAFTA passed. NAFTA has been a job winner for the United States, and basically the jobs we're gaining in are upper income jobs. So if NAFTA is the test, it should make us want more of these things.
The second point I'd like to make is that when we started APEC—keep in mind the atmosphere that was existing in Seattle last year. When we started APEC, what was the worry? The worry was that the world would be developing into three huge trade blocs: the European Union; the United States, Canada, Mexico, Central, South America, and the Caribbean; and Asia, and that Asia was the fastest growing region in the world, that trade among the Asian nations was going up but people were afraid we would be shut out of that market.
So if everything we do has some equivalency to it, that is, if there is no unilateral give-up by the United States, what we are doing in this agreement is opening the fastest growing market in the world. Look at—just take this country we're in, Indonesia. They are growing at a phenomenal rate and have been for quite some time now. Their capacity to purchase, to engage, to trade, and for themselves to compete and win in the global economy is increasing every day.
So what I would say is, we could never walk away from the Asian market; we should be walking toward it on terms that are fair. And that's what I think we're doing.
Q. Mr. President, how can you prevent the Republicans from blocking foreign policy initiatives you might want to pass, such as the operations—the administration seems increasingly comfortable in multilateral operations such as Haiti, potential U.S. involvement in a future Bosnia peace enforcement operation, potential U.S. commitment to peacekeeping in the Golan. How are you going to prevent the Republicans from blocking you in that area?
The President. Well, historically, the Republicans have favored a strong American foreign policy and a robust one. And most of what I have been able to do as President has enjoyed bipartisan support. And when the—some of the things that have not enjoyed Republican support have also generated significant Democratic support. I had bipartisan opposition to some of the things I have sought to do in foreign policy.
I believe that with careful and honest and open consultations, that in critical matters to our national security, we will be able to put the interest of the United States first. That is certainly the challenge that we must all face.
The Congress and the President have had tensions between them on foreign policy for a very long time now when both parties were in different positions. I don't expect that to go away. And we are creating a new world in which there are new questions to be asked and answered. There's been controversy over foreign policy directions in the last 2 years. I don't expect that to go away. But I do think on the really pivotal matters we'll be able to achieve the kind of bipartisan or perhaps even a nonpartisan consensus to do what's right for the country. That will be my goal.
Asian-Pacific Trade Agreement
Q. Mr. President, this may be historic, but a lot of this is often nonbinding—the APEC accord. And a year ago, this forum was boycotted by one member. What gives you any confidence that this kind of deal will not fall apart at some point in the future? And what should the U.S. do to try to avoid that?
The President. I would say there are two things that give me confidence that it will not fall apart. One is that it is in the interest of the Asian countries because they have decided that they want expanded trade in an open world trading system, not in closed trading blocs. The second is the constant reaffirmation of commitment to this by the Asian leaders themselves.
Finally, I would say we have some historic evidence that should give us some encouragement. On a smaller scale, look at the ASEAN agreement, the regional trade agreement where they promised that they would break down trade barriers among themselves. And it was all voluntary, but they met and they worked on it and they laid out a platform. And they just recently shortened by 5 years the time deadline they imposed on themselves for taking all the barriers away.
So if you look at the experience of their conduct, if you look at the conviction by which they express this commitment, and if you look at it, in very cold terms, their own self-interest in wanting to do more in the rest of the world, I think all those things should be very encouraging in terms of having you think that it's more likely than not that it will occur.
Q. Mr. President, your administration is in the process of changing its policy or developing its policy on expanding NATO and strengthening CSCE. Will you be going to the CSCE summit in Budapest? And when you look at your foreign travel, your past foreign travel, in recent weeks you've gone to the Middle East; you've spent several days here; you're going to be hosting the Summit of the Americas; you have an ambitious foreign agenda next year. Are you becoming, in essence, a foreign policy President?
The President. Well, let me answer both questions. First of all, I plan to make a very—a brief but I think quite critical trip to the CSCE. I decided to do it after having communications with both Chancellor Kohl and President Yeltsin and looking at what is at stake there in terms of the future of European security. After all, the United States played a strong leadership role in the Partnership For Peace and encouraging the growth of the European Union and European security arrangements.
What I have sought to do is to create a stronger Europe that was more independent but also more closely allied with us and one that at least created the possibility that there would not be another dividing line in Europe just moved a few hundred miles east. We have a big stake in that. So I will go quickly and come back quickly, but I think I should go.
Secondly, on the question of foreign policy versus domestic, let me say, if you look at what happened, in the last 2 years, we had only the third Congress in the history of—since World War II which gave a President more than 80 percent of his domestic initiatives as well as the foreign policy initiatives, including sweeping education reform, the family leave law, the Brady bill, the crime bill, and a number of other very important issues.
So I have no intention of withdrawing from the domestic field. But we had an unusual number of responsibilities this year, an unusual number of opportunities. And Americans are both more prosperous and more secure because of these efforts, and they will be more so in the future. So if I were to give up one in favor of the other, I would be doing a disservice to the American people. I have to try to pursue both courses.
It's been somewhat more busy on the foreign front than I could have anticipated in the last few months because of the unusual developments.
Asian-Pacific Trade Agreement and GATT
Q. Mr. President, it looks like you've made some concessions on letting them come in in 2020 and 2010. China also wants to join GATT and some other world trade organizations. If they want to join and be held to a lesser standard than the major industrial nations—China's the third largest economy in the world. What is your position on letting China into these world trade organizations? Will you give them a break on this, or will you insist that they be held to the same standard as the industrial nations?
The President. Let me answer the first question. First of all, I will say again, whether a country is an industrialized country or a developing country as of 2010 is a question of fact that cannot be answered now. There are some we can be pretty sure will be still industrializing, still developing; some we can be certain will be developed; others we're not sure. There was no concession given because there must be equivalency in the reduction of trade barriers, a fairness on both sides. But as a practical matter, it will take developing countries longer to get down to zero, even if they have great incentives to do so in dealing with other countries.
Now, on the GATT. To be a founding member of GATT, whether you are a developing country or an industrialized country, without regard to your status, you must agree to observe three or four basic commitments in terms of the way you handle your financial exchanges, in terms of the transparency of your trade laws, in terms of your whole approach to the international economy. There are four basic commitments that all 123—I think the number is— people who have agreed to be founding members of GATT have agreed to do.
So the United States position is that China ought to be in GATT, ought to be a founding member of GATT. They're a very big country; they ought to be a part of this. It's in our interest to do it because it will open more Chinese markets to American products. But every country that has agreed to be a founding member, even the poorest countries, even the smallest countries, have agreed to these four basic criteria. And we believe that anyone who goes in as a founding member should do the same.
Q. Mr. President, you mentioned GATT as your top priority when you get back from this trip. How troubling is it to you that Senator Dole is clearly not on board on this, and how are you going to address the problems—the sort of populist conservative criticisms of WTO as somehow eliminating sovereignty?
The President. Well, it's not just the populist conservatives, there are also some populist liberals who aren't sure about it.
Just before I left, when I called on Senator Dole and we had our conversation, he said that he thought that we could work it out, that we could have some language which would make it clear that our sovereignty was intact, that would not violate the GATT agreement. And I believe that, so I think that's what we'll do. I think he's trying in good faith to get that done based on his representation to me, and we certainly are. And that is our objective.
That's an understandable concern when people first hear about this. You know, they want to be reassured that we're not giving up the ability to run our own affairs. So we're working on it, and I think we'll resolve it.
Q. Mr. President, you've mentioned here several times your achievements and your record with Congress and the things you've gotten done. But as you know, one of the big problems you face politically is that the American people don't believe their lives have changed as a result of the things that have been done.
Now, here you have another long-term agreement; it's going to take place over the next generation. And while it may be very beneficial to the country, how are you going to convince Americans that this is going to affect their lives, and how are you going to do it within the next 2 years before you have to face the voters?
The President. Well, I think there were two issues there. One is, as you know, there were a lot of Americans who did not know a lot of the things that had been done. And it is my job to do my best to make sure people know that. Then there is the inevitable fact that there is a time lag between when you pass any law or take any executive action and it can be manifest in the lives of Americans.
You know, one of the problems with the nature of the economy today, from the point of view of the average American working family, is that even if more jobs are coming into the economy, people may not feel more personal job security; even if the economy is growing with low inflation, people may not get a raise. Most Americans, wage earners, particularly hourly earners, have not had an increase in real income, that is, above inflation, in quite some time now.
These are conditions that I am working hard to remedy. There are only two or three ways to remedy them. You have to change the job mix and get more high-wage jobs, you have to increase the skill level of the work force so people can take those jobs, and you have to get enterprise and investment into isolated areas, that is, pockets of the inner cities, pockets of the rural areas which have been left behind. These things may require long-term solutions.
It is my job to do what is best for the American people in the future. I'll do my best to get credit for it, but the most important thing is that I do the right thing. And you know, if I can find a way to get credit for it, I'll be very happy. But the most important thing is that I do the right thing. And I think that as time goes on—most Americans say, if you ask them, "Do you want us to have a longterm vision, do you want us to have a longterm strategy, do you want us to look at that?" they'll say yes. And then they hear things on a daily basis that are so contentious and so conflicting and so kind of clouding of the atmosphere that it's hard to think about that.
My job is to try to keep lifting the sights of the country above that and keep looking at the long run. The credit will have to either come or not, but that's not as important as trying to do the right thing.
I think I ought to take a question or two from the Indonesian press; I'm sorry.
Q. Mr. President——
The President. Go ahead, and then I'll take this lady first and then you, sir. Go ahead.
APEC and Media Coverage
Q. Mr. President—[inaudible]
The President. That the media is?
Q. [Inaudible]—media is so completely dominated by the first world?
The President. First of all, if I might—her question was sort of related to your question. Your question is, how do we know that this is going to happen, implying that maybe these folks aren't serious. Her question, in a way, is the same question from a different point of view. If there is no institutionalized mechanism, how do we know that it will go on when those of us who are here aren't here anymore?
And I have to tell you that I think the critical question is, will the leaders themselves continue to meet personally every year, even when it is inconvenient for them to do so? Like now, you know—[laughter]—will they continue to do that? Will they continue to meet, even when it is inconvenient for them to do so? And secondly, will they make some specific, concrete progress every time they meet?
So, for example, I feel very good about this; this is potentially, I think, a very historic declaration. But next year, if we don't adopt the blueprint, I'd say that's not a good sign. If we do adopt a blueprint, that is a very good sign. So that is my test.
Now, let me say, on the question of the media being, if you will, dominated by the first world, I think you should be encouraged that, for example, in many of our major news outlets, there is enormous attention given now, much more than previously, not just to—to foreign policy concerns that affect the developing world and not just the largest powers that dominated the cold war debate, number one. Number two, there are now more specific outlets, particularly CNN, for example, that has a whole separate channel dealing with global affairs which gives more and more attention to the developing world. I'll get in a lot of trouble with all of the other networks now. [Laughter]
But I think—look at all these people here from all the American outlets. I can't speak for BBC or the French television network or the German network, but every major American media outlet, just about, sent someone to Indonesia, which was, as you know, originally the leader of the nonaligned movement in the United Nations. Every person who is here now has a little different understanding of the problems and the promise of this country, the other countries here represented at APEC.
I think you have to be a little patient with us, too. We are learning more about the rest of the world beyond our borders and beyond our previous habits of encounter. And I think the more we do that, the more you will see a broader coverage of world affairs right across the board.
Educational Exchanges, Politics, and Economics
Q. I watch you every day on CNN, Mr. President, but now you are real. Thank you very much for being here.
Let me introduce myself, chief editor of the Economic and Business Review of Indonesia. I have two questions, Mr. President. First of all, do you agree with me that education, in fact, has been the best investment of the United States in Indonesia, because you have so many economists and people in high position and in key, strategic positions who graduated from the United States? I, myself, am a product of George Washington University; it so happens I'm chairman of the U.S. alumni association.
Somehow, the U.S. effort in this, United States effort in encouraging and developing education, in terms of providing scholarships for Indonesians to the United States, has been less today than some years back. In fact, education for the armed forces has been curtailed. What is your view on this, Mr. President?
The second question is, while liberalization and globalization seems to have been the trademark of APEC, you know yourself that economies do not determine history. Often politics determine history. How do you harmonize this globalization trend with international politics, Mr. President? Thank you very much.
The President. Well, first let me say, I definitely agree that the investment the United States has made in times past in international educational exchanges and bringing people to our country to attend our universities and our colleges and sending our young people abroad to attend school in other countries has been a very, very important thing.
It is true that there has been some reduction in Federal support for such programs, which I very much regret, but it is a function of the fact that we quadrupled the national debt of America from 1981 to 1993, that in a 12-year period we exploded our debt, our Government deficit was high, and we started having to cut back on a lot of investments, including things that we wanted to do.
I will say that most of our major universities now, particularly a lot of our State universities, are investing much more of their money and their effort in trying to recruit students from around the world and to promote these sort of educational exchanges. And what I would need to do before I could make a final judgment is to see what the total effort is in our country. But we should be doing more of it. So I feel very strongly about that.
Now, what was the second question you asked? Yes, yes, the economy and politics. Let me just say about that, I believe that the business of politics is, not completely but in large measure, to give the maximum opportunity for the positive economic forces in the world to succeed within each country or within each— in my case, within each of our States within our country. That is not the whole business, but that is a major part of the business. So a lot of what we try to do in the United States is to think about the good things that are happening in our country and in the world and what we can do to accelerate them and then to think about the problems, the roadblocks, the obstacles, and what we can do to eliminate them so that we try to harmonize those things.
Very often when politics can mess up economics, it's because it becomes obsessed with some other goal which is destructive of the human spirit. Politics should be more than economics—I talked about human rights here today—but it should be very heedful of making those good things happen through the economic system.
I'll take this lady's question, the last one.
WTO and President's Visit to Istiqlal
Q. Thank you, Mr. President. Who will the United States support for the job of Secretary General of the WTO, Salinas, Ruggiero, or Kim?
And my other question, while Indonesians are very proud that a Christian—my Christian uncle built the Istiqlal Mosque, I find it difficult to explain to my readers why the President of the United States took his time to visit that mosque. Thank you, Mr. President.
The President. Let me answer the second question first. I went to the mosque because, first of all, I wanted to see it—it's a massive and impressive and important structure; secondly, because Indonesia is a predominantly Muslim country that has a very vibrant Catholic, Protestant, Hindu, and Buddhist heritage and active religions today in all those areas. And the Minister of Religious Affairs here made available some time for me to go to the mosque, to talk with him about what was going on there, and to explain to me personally how these various religions had come into this country and how they operated today within the country together, without undermining or conflicting one with the other.
Finally, I have tried to do a lot as I have traveled the world—and I did this when I was in Jordan, speaking to the Jordanian Parliament—to say to the American people and to the West generally that even though we have had problems with terrorism coming out of the Middle East, it is not inherently related to Islam, not to the religion, not to the culture. And the tradition of Islam in Indonesia, I think, makes that point very graphically. It's something our people in America need to know; it's something people in the West, throughout the West, need to know.
With regard to the World Trade Organization, I will have an announcement about that in the next couple of days. You won't have to wait long.
Thank you very much.
NOTE: The President's 81st news conference began at 7:10 p.m. at the Jakarta Hilton. In his remarks, he referred to Tarmizi Taher, Minister of Religious Affairs of Indonesia. A reporter referred to Mexican President Carlos Salinas, former Italian Trade Minister Renato Ruggiero, and South Korean Minister of Trade, Industry and Energy Kim Chol-su as candidates for Secretary General, World Trade Organization.
William J. Clinton, The President's News Conference in Jakarta Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project https://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/node/218517