Bill Clinton photo

The President's News Conference With Prime Minister Ciampi of Italy

September 17, 1993

The President. Good afternoon. It is a great pleasure for me to welcome Prime Minister Ciampi to the White House and to see him again after our very successful meeting in Tokyo this summer. I deeply value the opportunity to exchange thoughts on all the challenges that we face today with one of Europe's most respected figures.

The domestic reforms which have been undertaken during the Prime Minister's tenure are truly impressive, and I salute him for that. And I congratulate the people of Italy on achieving greater financial stability and laying the foundations for future growth. Our two nations share a wealth of cultural, historical, and personal ties. From the voyage of Columbus to the contributions that millions of Italian-Americans make today to our Nation, those ties form a foundation for a common understanding of common objectives.

I salute, too, the Prime Minister for the contributions Italy is making around the world. No country has stood more solidly for NATO or is doing more now to ensure the health and the vitality of our transatlantic alliance.

Italy is in the forefront of efforts to build an integrated Europe also, a goal the United States strongly supports, and to draw Europe's many nations, East and West, closer together. In places as far-flung as Somalia, Mozambique, Albania, Nagorno-Karabakh, and the Middle East, Italy shoulders major responsibilities. Over the coming year Italy will have an even more important role to play as the chairman of the G-7. Italy will host the 1994 G-7 summit in July and will soon assume the chairmanship also of the Conference on Security and Cooperation in Europe. I welcome the opportunity to work with Italy to promote our common values and interests while Italy upholds these important leadership positions.

Of the issues we discussed today, I'd like to underscore one in particular, the need to stimulate global economic growth and create jobs in all of our countries by concluding by year's end the Uruguay round of trade negotiations. I emphasized to the Prime Minister and asked him to convey the message to his partners in Europe that the European Community must uphold the Blair House accord on agricultural trade. When the EC meets in a few days' time, it must resist reopening this hard-struck bargain and avoid standing in the way of efforts to bring the round to a rapid and successful conclusion.

The Prime Minister and I pledged that our nations will continue to work closely together to enhance trade, as well as to enhance peace, stability, and democracy. In particular, we agreed on the critical need for a peace settlement in Bosnia and discussed plans for the implementation of such a settlement should it be achieved.

I expressed our appreciation for the important role Italy has played in our efforts to secure a just peace in Bosnia, especially the role of its air bases. We also discussed the prospects for peace in the Middle East following the historic events of last Monday. We agreed on the need to help all parties in the Middle East make steady progress toward a comprehensive peace settlement, and I discussed with the Prime Minister the possibility of having a donors conference among the major nations who will be asked to contribute to implementing the details of the peace accord. Italy and the United States will work together to raise the resources to assist Palestinian self-government, while in Somalia and Mozambique we cooperate with the United Nations to assist peacekeeping and to promote civil society. We also discussed Iran and Libya, and I stressed the need to continue to press these nations to abide by international law.

I want to say a few words, if I might, on the subject with which I began, the profound political changes now underway in Italy. America has historically been in the forefront of such change and has supported it. As a people, we have always believed our Nation had only one direction, forward. Change, a vigorous and healthy process, is now at work to an astonishing degree in Italy. I want to again commend the Prime Minister for successfully guiding Italy's impressive electoral and financial reforms, and I stressed that between democracies such as ours, change can never be a source of concern but instead always should be a source of reassurance that democratic renewal is at work.

I wish Prime Minister Ciampi, his government, and the Italian people success in their own endeavors at self-renewal. My nominee as Ambassador to Italy, Reginald Bartholomew, one of our finest professional diplomats, will help to maintain strong ties between our countries during this critical period. I want to assure the Italian people that as both our countries undergo domestic transformations, a key bond endures, the abiding friendship between our nations and our peoples.

Mr. Prime Minister.

Prime Minister Ciampi. Thank you, Mr. President. First of all I wanted to thank President Clinton for giving me the possibility to be here today. And the discussion with President Clinton will fully confirm the atmosphere of a deep and intense trust that emerged during our meeting in Tokyo last July. They were given new momentum by the event taking place just a few days after the historic event that on these very grounds opened a new chapter of dialog and hope in the relations between the people of Israel and Palestine, which Italy as a Mediterranean country has always advocated. Europe, too, stands ready to make its contribution to consolidating this position through political support and through an economic effort toward a reconstruction of the territories and development of the region.

During the course of our discussions, I briefed President Clinton on the deep process of transformation underway in Italy. I stressed that this process is taking place in an atmosphere of democratic order and a wide public consensus. The priority of the Italian Government is economic recovery and job creation. Our action will range from reducing the public debt and the public deficit and keeping inflation under control to reshaping the industrial system also by means of privatization.

Results have already been achieved. They are confirmed by the renewed confidence of domestic and international financial markets. While we are aware that this renewed confidence doesn't mean that our problems have been solved, it does indicate that we are on the right road. We must persevere. It is a long journey; this we know.

The Italian Government's strong commitment to its domestic affairs is sped forward also by its awareness that the changes in the international arena following the end of the cold war require it to play an operative role in the new set of common responsibilities of the largest industrialized economies of the Western World. Italy intends to proceed on the road toward European integration for the creation of the community that is a strong partner in an open system of international trade and a new system of international security, the excitement of the prospect for revolution of transatlantic relations in the area of security and of economic collaboration.

We brought one another up today and organized our perspective on the situation in the former Yugoslavia and in Somalia. On this last topic, my government, the Italian people harbor a legitimate and special concern heightened by the most recent tragic developments.

President Clinton and I recognize the problems of operating in a completely devastated institutional, social, and economic context, as is the case in Somalia. This very reality, unacceptable as it is, was the source of our common participation in Restore Hope. But the experience of these past months leads us today to recommend a concrete program to be proposed jointly to the United Nations for the revival of a political initiative in Somalia. It is a matter, in particular, of supporting the humanitarian and the security mission on the ground, with a more decisive management of the process of a national reconciliation among so many factions. This is the precondition for an effort to reconstruct the country, institutionally and materially.

I confirmed to President Clinton Italy's determination that the Uruguay round be brought to a global and equitable solution by December 15th. The GATT agreement is indispensable, not only because of its merits but also as a message of the confidence to economic operators. We both attach the utmost importance to the Atlantic summit of next January, and we hope that this alliance, which has proved so effective against the threats of the cold war will be capable of expressing a renewed vitality in this phase of a transition of a post-Communist system to democracy and to a worldwide market economy.

At the doorway to Italy and that of Europe, the dramatic events in the former Yugoslavia stand as an insult to our civil conscience and as a challenge to the leadership ability of the international community. In this framework, President Clinton and I both agreed that Atlantic solidarity must play a central role under the aegis of the United Nations. On my part, I confirmed to President Clinton that Italy's strongly committed to ensuring that the summit of the seven of the most industrialized nations, which will be hosted by Italy in July of next year in Naples, regain its driving force toward partnership on the broad themes of economic growth and international collaboration.

In closing, I would like to express the hope that, even before this event takes place, President Clinton will be able to visit Italy. And to this end, I was happy to convey a letter of invitation addressed to him from the President of the Italian Republic.


Q. Mr. President, there is a growing feeling in Congress that you should declare a victory and pull out of Somalia. And also, are you any closer to a way to have a negotiated peace in Somalia as a result of your conversations today?

The President. Prime Minister Ciampi and I started this conversation in July in Tokyo, and we resumed it today. Both of us believe that some renewed political initiative in Somalia is important because in the end there has to be a political settlement that leaves the Somalis in control of their own destiny. The trick is how to do it without in any way rewarding the kind of behavior that we have seen that could spread among all of the other warlords, who have been essentially playing by the rules and trying to work out a peaceful life for the people who they represented when everybody was fighting over there. So we're looking at what our options are, and we hope that we'll be able to see some sort of political initiative. There plainly was never intended to be nor could there be some ultimate military solution to Somalia.

Is there an Italian journalist here?

Q. He had to leave.

The President. He had to leave so we will go on.

Go ahead, Terry [Terence Hunt, Associated Press].

Health Care Reform

Q. You're just a few days away from announcing your health care legislation. Can you tell us at this point how you plan to finance this plan, how much you plan to increase cigarette taxes and other sin taxes, and whether or not you plan to raise taxes on beer and wine?

The President. No. [Laughter] I'll tell you why, though. Let me tell you why. The reason why is that I still have another round of meetings to attend that will go through one last time what our best estimates of costs are, what our options for phasing in those costs are, what our best estimates for the Medicare and Medicaid savings are. And we're working through that.

I will say this about the dollars, because I read in the press reports that others have questioned it: For the first time ever, at least, we got all the Agencies of the Government together to hammer out agreed upon costs. That had never been done before. Then we went to, I think, 10 outside actuaries, including big firms who represent major players in health care in America.

So we have done our best and certainly it is literally an unprecedented effort to try to come to grips with what the real costs are and what the real dollars are in potential savings. And when I make those final decisions, they'll be announced. You have to give me something to announce next week. I mean, everything else I've already read in the newspapers, the news magazines. I see it on the evening news. There has to be something.

Go ahead, Gwen [Gwen Ifill, New York Times].


Q. Back on Somalia for a minute. As you talk with allies like the Prime Minister here about the renewed political initiative you're talking about, do you have any way of drawing lines or reassuring the people who Helen [Helen Thomas, United Press International] referred to on the Hill and elsewhere that this won't be a situation that America just can't get out of?

The President. Well, it's not going to be a situation we just can't get out of. But on the other hand, we don't want to leave under conditions that will cause things to immediately revert to where they were before the United Nations entered. And so there has to be some sort of political initiative. And the Congress worked with me on their resolution on Somalia, gave me a reasonable amount of time to come up with a renewed initiative in cooperation with our allies. And I think by the time, you know, the time comes to go back to Congress, I will be able to answer those questions.

Q. Can I follow?

The President. Sure.

Q. [Inaudible]—a commitment of troops?

The President. No. No, no. We have the troops there, and it certainly doesn't mean more troops there. It means what we can do to stop the fighting and enable the U.N. to continue or at least the U.S. to continue to reduce its troop presence without seeing the whole country consumed in the kind of violence we've seen in one small part of Somalia recently.

Andrea [Andrea Mitchell, NBC News].

Q. On the subject of——

The President. And then we'll take some Italian journalists afterward. Let's give the Italians a couple of questions after Andrea asks hers.

Health Care Reform

Q. On the subject of health care, do you think it will be necessary to phase out the small business subsidies after a decade or so, in order to prevent large corporations from gaming the system by spinning off their low-wage workers? And is it now your expectation that there would be a one percent payroll assessment on large corporations who opt to not be part of the health alliances?

The President. Well, the answer to your second question is I haven't decided yet, but there's a very good case for that, and there's a very good case for the fact that they will be still much better off financially having all this happen, because they have been having exploding costs dumped on to them. And we're also, under our plan, going to relieve them of a lot of the burden of carrying their own retirees. So they would still come out well ahead, even if we did that.

The answer to your first question is, I don't think it's possible to foresee what will happen 10 years from now, which is why I wouldn't think we should make a commitment. Mr. Magaziner was quoted in the press; he's often said we could do that if, in fact, people decided to game the system.

What I think will happen is that we will finally have some genuine control over cost. This is basically the only area of our national life where it's been taken as a given that it was okay for costs to go up to 3 or 4 times the rate of inflation. I think when that happens, that the system we have will become more widely accepted; it won't be gamed, and people will continue to think it's acceptable to give a break to the very small businesses and the ones with very low payroll costs. That's what I think will happen. I can certainly say that no decision has been made to do that. He just was saying in response to people who say, "Well, what are you going to do if someone starts to game the system," one option that we might pursue.

Italian journalists. Let's take a couple of questions.


Q. Let me ask you to elaborate a little bit farther on this political initiative on Somalia. Is that an initiative you agreed with Mr. Ciampi right now? Does it have something to do with the letter by Aideed? Is that initiative a U.S. initiative, a U.S.-Italian initiative, a U.N. initiative?

The President. We discussed the letter that Mr. Aideed wrote to President Carter. And we discussed some of the options that we might pursue. And we agree that both of us would go back with our respective folks and see if we could come up with something to take to the United Nations. We did not reach agreement today on what to do. We agreed that we needed a political initiative but that the political initiative should further the original United Nations initiative and not undermine it.

The Prime Minister perhaps would like to respond also. Prime Minister Ciampi. First of all, hearing the questions that have been asked to the President, I was wondering whether in Washington or in Rome, because leaving aside Somalia, which is a common problem to both of us, the questions on health care, which is keenly felt in Rome, too, and so I wasn't sure where I was, whether I was in Rome or in Washington, because our domestic problems obviously are very similar.

Having said this, concerning Somalia, what I meant to say was that, having discussed the issues alluded to by President Clinton, we have a full agreement on this, keeping in mind the original goals of the mission in Somalia. And we agree that we must promote with the U.N. a political and diplomatic initiative which would fully highlight the fundamental goals and reasons for it being in Somalia. The military presence must complement the goals, the political goals, the humanitarian goals. This is what we agreed on. But what we must do must be done with a U.N. decision. What Italy does, or what the U.S. can do is to make proposals within the U.N.

Q. Are you contemplating an international mediation through, for instance, ex-President Carter? Are you going to make a proposal like that to the U.N.?

The President. We made no specific decision today, nor do I think we should speculate about them. I don't want to think out loud about them. We have agreed that there ought to be a political initiative, that it ought to be an initiative which furthers the original U.N. mission of enabling the Somalis to take control of their own affairs in peace, in dignity, and without starvation and murder. That is, we don't want to do something that rewards the very conduct we went to Somalia to put an end to. And that's the only decision that was made.


Q. I have a question for both of you, actually, on the jobs losses, because this is a problem for both countries on the road to economic reform or economic recovery. It seems to me that the two countries give two answers: The Americans lay off people; Italians keep subsidizing them, as in the latest accord in southern Italy on the chemical industry. Have you talked about it? Is there a way that this problem could be tackled differently from these two extremes?

Prime Minister Ciampi. If you are referring to the Crotone case, this has been resolved. Keeping in mind the principles of economics, all factories have their economic worth. This is the agreement that we have reached the other day, the other night in Italy at the Chigi Palace, with the leadership of Senator Maccanico, who is here with us today, who is one of my members of the staff and Under Secretary of the Council of Ministers.

So there was no implementation of measures which were not coherent with the respect of economic principles. So the companies that don't do well will be closed, and what we have to do is to give birth to companies that can make an economic contribution and to implement as appropriately as possible those measures which we call social assistance measures, which will help the unemployed so that we can alleviate the negative effects of unemployment until they are reemployed. But what I would like to emphasize is that we will not implement antieconomic solutions.

The President. If I might just comment briefly, I'm not in a position to comment on the specific Italian case which you mentioned, but I believe that if we want to create more jobs again—and I would point out that the problem of job creation is a problem for Europe, for Japan, for the United States, for all the wealthier countries—it is clear that each country who shares this goal among the wealthier countries must first of all be committed to increasing growth in the global economy. Unless there is global growth we cannot hope to see growth in our own countries because of all the competition from lower wage countries doing things that our people used to do.

Secondly, there must be increased trade in the context of global growth because that's the only way a wealthy country can grow wealthier.

Thirdly, within each country there must be economic policies that promote adequate investment, encourage people to hire new employees, and provide dramatic opportunities for continuous lifetime retraining since most people will change their work a lot of times over a lifetime. That is what we have to do to generate new jobs, and we have to do it together. You can protect this industry or that industry for a while, but in the end if you want to grow jobs, we have to have a lot of changes in the international network and a lot of changes within our countries. They're not easy ones to make, but they have to be made.

Nuclear Testing by China

Q. Mr. President, China reportedly is preparing to conduct a nuclear test, and you have previously said that if the moratorium on nuclear testing is broken, that you would direct the Energy Department to resume testing. Will you do that if the Chinese proceed?

The President. Well, let me say first of all, let's wait and see what they do. I'm still very hopeful that the Chinese will not do that. And I have asked other nations that have relationships with China to also encourage them not to do it.

The Chinese are finding their strength today, their real strength, in the same way that any other country at the end of the cold war finds theirs, in economic growth. There is no reasonable threat to China from any other nuclear power. Every other nuclear power has forsworn the use of testing. The United States is certainly a major trading partner of China. We have our second biggest trade deficit with China. We are doing more than our fair share to contribute to their economic renewal. And I would hope that the Chinese would see their future in terms of their economic strength and step away from this. And until they make a final definite decision and it happens, I don't want to cross any more bridges. I want to keep trying to persuade them not to do it.

Yes, sir.


Q. Mr. President, you said you don't want to discuss your methods until you go to the U.N., but you seem to be describing a goal of establishing a government, a functioning government in Somalia. Would you confirm that you're thinking in those terms and any timetable you might have?

The President. No, I won't, because our position is not well enough formed yet to be characterized fairly in the way that you just characterized it.

I've been very disturbed, frankly, as many Members of Congress, many Americans have, in the last several days by the turn of events in Somalia. Although I'm disturbed not only that our troops under the U.N. banner have been increasingly embroiled in conflict which have led to the deaths of Somalis, but I'm also disturbed that this is plainly part of a strategy by supporters of General Aideed to make the presence of the U.N. more unpopular there in all the member countries. And if that is all that is achieved, then when we leave, the chances that they will revert to exactly the same horrors that got us there are very large.

I have to remind my fellow Americans and all of the people in the world who have an aversion to the events of the last 2 weeks not to forget that over 300,000 people lost their lives there, were starved, were murdered, were subject to incredibly inhumane conditions because of the chaotic and lawless behavior of the people who had authority.

Now, many of those warlords have changed their behavior, have been cooperating with the United Nations, have enabled at least the conditions of orderly life to remain. On the other hand, it is plain to me that it was never an option for us to continue to pursue a military solution or to be obsessed with Aideed or anybody else, to the exclusion of trying to build a peaceful society.

So what the Prime Minister and I have recognized is that we have to do more to try to develop a political initiative that will enable not only the United States to withdraw but for the United Nations to remain as long as is necessary and in a more peaceful and constructive role. That is the only decision we have made to date.

Prime Minister Ciampi. I have nothing to add to what President Clinton said, and I already said before what the Italian position was, which is to give a new political dimension which prevails over a U.N. intervention of Somalia. Therefore, our action is with the U.N., and I am very happy that this coincides with the President's feeling and that is to promote this action. And without this, a purely military action would not make any sense.

The President. Thank you very much.


Q. Mr. President, on Bosnia——

The President. I will take one question on Bosnia.

Q. Mr. President, with the cease-fire agreement now apparent in the former Yugoslavia, will this lead to the sending of 25,000 U.S. troops there as peacekeepers? And what is your opinion of this peace agreement?

The President. Well, first of all, keep in mind what was agreed to. What is was agreed to was a cease-fire and the agreement to begin talking again. We are hopeful about this but also properly wary. I mean, there's been no territorial agreement, and that is the nub of the controversy. So we hope very much that next week there will be real progress to provide a humane and decent life in the future for the Bosnians.

I have said all along that—going back to February—that the United States would be prepared to participate in a multinational peacekeeping effort there if there were a fair settlement, generally and freely entered into by the Bosnian Government, which we have supported. But while the signs of the agreement are hopeful, it is important not to overread them. There has not been an agreement in the major areas of contention yet.

So next week, or soon thereafter, if an agreement is reached that the United States can evaluate and act on, I can answer that question, but I can't answer that question until there is an agreement that we know is a full and fair agreement that we have some sense is enforceable.

Thank you very much.

NOTE: The President's 26th news conference began at 1:43 p.m. in the East Room at the White House. Following his opening remarks, Prime Minister Ciampi spoke in Italian, and his remarks were translated by an interpreter.

William J. Clinton, The President's News Conference With Prime Minister Ciampi of Italy Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project

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