The President's News Conference With Prime Minister Paul Martin of Canada in Ottawa, Canada
Prime Minister Martin. Good afternoon. The President and I had a very good discussion during the past few hours, both one-on-one and with Cabinet members and officials at the table. The President and I have had a productive meeting.
In fact, we agreed to put forward an agenda in which our two nations will cooperate in a practical way towards common goals. From this work plan, a set of concrete milestones will be established in the new year. Furthermore, while this is a bilateral effort between our two countries, it is trilateral in ambition, and we'll be inviting our Mexican partners to join us, obviously, in this project.
This work plan is aimed at achieving practical results for the people of our countries, enhanced security, greater prosperity, and improved quality of life. And it's about working together to advance democratic values and fundamental freedoms around the world.
To do this, we've identified specific priorities and will task individuals within our respective governments with the responsibility of making these files move. We will bring new energy and tangible goals to this old and deep friendship. The objective is lasting progress and benefits for people in both countries.
Here at home, we will collaborate further to ensure our shared border is closed to terror but open to the safe movement of people and goods, which is so integral to our economic success. We'll focus on ensuring that our businesses have the capacity to compete with entrenched and emerging global competitors. We'll work together to make sure that we apply smart regulation that raise standards in both countries, and reinforce our mutual efforts to protect the environment, to fight crime, to stop traffic in humans and illegal drugs, and enhance our ability to combat infectious disease.
Abroad, we will cooperate in our efforts to foster democracy and help find a path to peace in the Middle East, protect civilian populations from grave threats, and build and protect the democratic institutions that are so important to the ability of troubled states to recover and to thrive—to multilateral cooperation in the world, and we will be forceful advocates of free trade, whether that be in North America or in the early completion of the Doha round.
At all times, we'll be vigilant in countering and combating terrorism and halting the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction.
Now, given the wide variety of areas that have been encompassed in corresponding the need to ensure direction and focus, I've asked the Deputy Prime Minister and the Minister of Foreign Affairs to work with the relevant ministers to oversee the efforts that we have now laid out before us and to report to me directly on progress in all areas of this work plan no later than next June.
President Bush and I are well aware that the prosperity of our nations, our status as open societies, and the well-being of our democratic institutions are linked now to the integrity of our collective security. And the work plan will be an important step forward toward the mutual protection of our citizens, our values, and our way of life.
President Bush. Thank you very much, Mr. Prime Minister. Laura and I are so pleased to be here in Canada. We thank you for your warm hospitality. Thank you for the meetings we've had. And I'm proud to be standing with the Prime Minister. He's a strong leader. He's a statesman who's helping to build a better world. I want to thank you for your leadership and friendship.
Canada and the United States share a history, a continent, and a border. We also share a commitment to freedom and a willingness to defend it in times of peril. The United States and Canada fought side by side in two World Wars, in Korea and the Persian Gulf, and throughout the cold war. Today, we're standing together against the forces of terror. Long-term success in this war requires more than military might. It requires the advance of liberty and hope as the great alternatives to hatred and violence.
All free nations appreciate Canada's leadership: leadership of the security and stabilization mission in Afghanistan; leadership which helped make possible the first free nationwide election in that country's history. Afghanistan is a world away from the nightmare of its recent past, Mr. Prime Minister. It is building a decent and democratic future, and I want to thank you for your help.
Once again, people in that part of the world have demonstrated the power of liberty to overcome great challenges. Your vision is clear on that, Mr. Prime Minister, and I can't thank you enough for that.
We're also standing with the brave people of Iraq, who are preparing for elections on January the 30th. Both of our nations have a vital interest in helping the Iraqi people secure their country and build a free and democratic society. I want to thank the Prime Minister's resolve and his support for this great cause. The Canadian Government has pledged more than 200 million U.S. in humanitarian aid and reconstruction assistance and have agreed to relieve more than 450 million U.S. dollars in Iraqi debt. A free and democratic Iraq is rising in the heart of the Middle East. The success of liberty there will be a decisive blow to the ideology of terror and a model to reformers and democrats throughout the region.
As we seek freedom for the Afghan and Iraqi people, America and Canada are working to further the spread of democracy in our own hemisphere. In Haiti, Canada was a leader along with the United States, France, Chile, and other nations in helping to restore order. Canadian police are standing watch in Haiti at this hour, and the Prime Minister just visited the country to further the cause of political reconciliation. I appreciate your briefing on your visit.
Prime Minister Martin and I share a vision of a free and democratic Western Hemisphere in which every nation upholds human dignity, and we will work together to realize that vision.
Prime Minister Martin and I also discussed the situation in Ukraine. I informed the Prime Minister that I talked this morning to President Kwasniewski of Poland. President Kwasniewski will again lead a delegation, which will include a representative of the European Union, to the Ukraine to encourage the parties to reject violence and to urge the parties to engage in dialog toward a political and legal solution to the current crisis. Our common goal is to see the will of the Ukranian people prevail. The Prime Minister and I want to thank President Kwasniewski for his efforts, and we wish him all the success.
We also discussed ways to strengthen the security partnership that for more than six decades has helped to keep this continent peaceful and secure. We talked about the future of NORAD and how that organization can best meet emerging threats and safeguard our continent against attack from ballistic missiles.
We talked about our common commitment to securing our border. Canadians and Americans benefit from the free movement of people and commerce across the world's longest unfortified border. Yet, we must work to ensure that our ports of entry are closed to terrorists and criminals and deadly weapons. Under the Smart Border Action Plan, our two nations have developed more secure travel documents, increased our intelligence sharing, improved the collection and dissemination of passenger and customs data, and adopted better rules for processing visas. Under the NEXUS program, we're expediting transit for trusted travelers at 11 border crossings.
We discussed the vital links of commerce and trade that unite the Canadian and American people. Today, total trade between our two nations stands at nearly $400 billion; 23 percent of America's exports come into your nation; more than 80 percent of Canada's exports go into my country. Trade is important. America and Canada seek for the world the same open markets that are essential to our own prosperity. We're committed to the success of the Doha development agenda. We will continue to work to reduce agricultural subsidies that distort trade.
Listen, the relationship between Canada and the United States is indispensable to peace and prosperity on the North American Continent. The United States is fortunate to have a neighbor with whom we share so many ties of values and family and friendship. We look forward to even stronger relationships in the years to come.
Thank you for your hospitality.
Prime Minister Martin. I noticed, Mr. President, you seem to draw a larger crowd than I do. [Laughter]
President Bush. I don't know if that's good or bad. [Laughter] It all depends on who shows up, I guess.
Q. My question is for President Bush, and then, Prime Minister, if you would respond en Francais, s'il vous plait?
In the days after September 11th, thousands of Canadians went to Parliament Hill to demonstrate solidarity with the U.S. and, in fact, in cities across the country. Yet, public opinion polls and other evidence suggest that now, today, our peoples are, in fact, diverging, that, in fact, our peoples are drifting apart. Why do you think that is? And do you have any responsibility for it?
President Bush. You know, I haven't seen the polls you looked at, and we just had a poll in our country where people decided that the foreign policy of the Bush administration ought to be—stay in place for 4 more years. And it's a foreign policy that works with our neighbors. Trade between our countries has never been stronger, but it's a foreign policy that also understands that we've got an obligation to defend our security. I made some decisions, obviously, that some in Canada didn't agree with, like, for example, removing Saddam Hussein and enforcing the demands of the United Nations Security Council.
But the agenda that the Prime Minister and I talked about is one that—where most people should agree: that we'll work to fight disease and poverty on the continent of Africa, for example; that we'll work to make sure our hemisphere is—trades as freely as possible; that we'll work to make sure that the Afghan people continue to enjoy the fruits of a democratic and free society; and that it's important for Iraq to become a democratic society, and I think it will be.
Now, look, I fully understand there are some in my country, probably in your country and around the world, that do not believe that Iraq has the capacity of self-government, that they're willing to sign those people up for tyranny. That's not what I think, and that's not what a lot of Americans think. And they believe that democracy is possible in Iraq. That's a legitimate point to debate. But I'm the kind of fellow who does what I think is right and will continue to do what I think is right. I'll consult with our friends and neighbors, but if I think it's right to remove Saddam Hussein for the security of the United States, that's the course of action I'll take. And some people don't like that. I understand that, but that's the good thing about a democracy, people can express themselves freely.
I, frankly, felt like the reception we received on the way in from the airport was very warm and hospitable, and I want to thank the Canadian people who came out to wave—with all five fingers—for—[laughter]—for their hospitality. [Laughter]
Prime Minister Martin. I know what you mean, Mr. President. I mentioned to the press who was with us in Chile that I found that we—that Spanish and English and French are three different languages, but that sign language is universal. [Laughter]
There is no doubt that, when one examines the values that we share, they are, indeed, the same. When the President was talking about the Ukraine, we have the same ideas about Ukraine; the same goes for Africa.
Obviously, there are disagreements on various questions of foreign policy. There are disagreements in terms of commerce— softwood lumber. We discussed that question. In fact, we discussed BSE. It is quite normal among countries to have this kind of disagreement. But we have common shared values, shared ambitions, and we share optimism also. I think that that is what is fundamental.
Press Secretary Scott McClellan. Scott Lindlaw with the Associated Press.
Q. Mr. President, President Putin said today that the political crisis in the Ukraine must be solved without foreign pressure. I wonder if you took that as some sort of warning toward the United States and whether you think he's lived up to his own words.
President Bush. I haven't seen his comments so I'm hesitant to talk about something that I haven't seen—his quote. But I would tell you that, like I said in my opening statement, I appreciate the efforts of President Kwasniewski of Poland to lead a delegation into the country to help resolve the differences among the parties in a peaceful way. It's very important that violence not break out there, and it's important that the will of the people be heard.
I'm aware of what the Prime Minister of Canada said yesterday about foreign involvement, and he had a very strong statement to—for countries to make sure that the process is fair and open, and that's what we're dedicated to.
And I want to again thank the President of Poland, Kwasniewski, for taking the lead. I—as best I could, I tried to encourage him to continue to play a constructive and useful role. And hopefully, this issue will be solved quickly, and the will of the people will be known.
Prime Minister Martin. Well, I'll just simply pick up. What I said yesterday was that the essence of democracy is that elections be free and open and transparent and that they be elections in which people can have confidence. And if you can't have confidence in the elections, then obviously, that there's a major flaw in your—in their democracy. I also said that I absolutely agree that elections within Ukraine have got to be free from outside influence, and that includes Russia.
Mad Cow Disease/Trade Issues
Q. I'm going to ask my question in French, but it will be for the both of you, so Mr. President, if you could put the translation on. [Laughter]
President Bush. Maybe I don't want to know the question. [Laughter]
Q. Of course you do. The mad cow crisis has been going on for a year and a half. It has cost millions of dollars to our farmers, and now they are blocking slaughterhouses. Mr. President and you, Mr. Prime Minister, what are you doing to settle the question right now?
Prime Minister Martin. The question— what she said—I'll translate—was, don't you think Canada has a great Government? The—[laughter].
President Bush. Yes. [Laughter]
Prime Minister Martin. Did you understand the question?
President Bush. Well, yes, I did. I heard the question. Want me to start?
Prime Minister Martin. Sure.
President Bush. Look, the Prime Minister has expressed the—a great deal of frustration that the issue hasn't been resolved yet, and I can understand his level of frustration. There are a series of regulations that are required by U.S. law, and the latest step has been that the Agriculture Department sent over some proposed regulations to handle this issue to what's called the Office of Management and Budget. This is a part of my office. I have sent word over that they need to expedite that request as quickly as possible.
I fully understand the cattle business. I understand the pressures placed upon Canadian ranchers. I believe that, as quickly as possible, young cows ought to be allowed go across our border. I understand the integrated nature of the cattle business, and I hope we can get this issue solved as quickly as possible.
There's a bureaucracy involved, and I readily concede we've got one. I don't know if you've got bureaucracy here in Canada or not, but we've got one in America, and there are a series of rules that have to be met in order for us to be able to allow the trafficking of cows back and forth, particularly those 30 months and younger. So we're working as quickly as we can. And I understand the impact it's had on your industry here.
Prime Minister Martin. I'll just continue, obviously. We discussed a number of contentious issues concerning BSE. As the President has just said, I expressed our frustration. Having said this, last week the President announced a very important step, the reference to the American Agency. And we hope that after a reasonable amount of time—we hope it won't be too long— we hope to obtain a favorable decision.
At the same time, we also discussed the question of softwood lumber. And once again, we expressed our frustration, and we said that a better way will have to be found to solve our differences. The system in place at the present time does not correspond to the reality of exchanges between our two countries. We'll have to find a better way.
On BSE, I believe that the President took a significant step last week in making the reference to the OMB. And one very much hopes that the time delays which are set out can be cut short simply—as a result of the fact that this has been studied to death. And of course, what we're really looking for is a scientifically based answer, and I think that the science has clearly demonstrated that a decision should be taken and a favorable decision to Canada should be taken as quickly as possible.
We discussed other issues as well. Softwood lumber was another one in which we not only raised the issue but also said that there is something the matter with the dispute settlement mechanism that simply allows these kinds of things to go on and on. And we believe that, in fact, we've got to find a better way.
Press Secretary McClellan. Steve Holland with Reuters.
Q. Thanks, Mr. President. Are you prepared to take Iran to the Security Council over its nuclear program? And are you disappointed the IAEA did not take a harder line yesterday?
President Bush. The Iranians agreed to suspend but not terminate their nuclear weapons program. Our position is, is that they ought to terminate their nuclear weapons program. So I viewed yesterday's decision by the Iranians as a positive step, but it's certainly not a—it's certainly not the final step. And it's very important, for whatever they do, to make sure that the world is able to verify the decision they have made. And so we've obviously got more work to do.
President Bush. Well, I'm—he said I sound skeptical. It's taken a long time to get to the stage where Iran is willing to suspend. Think about all the hours of negotiations that our friends the French, the Germans, and the Brits have used to get them to suspend a program. What we're interested in is them terminating a nuclear weapons program in a verifiable fashion, and we'll continue to work with our friends.
The Prime Minister and I have discussed this issue. We discussed it at the G-8 in Sea Island, Georgia, and we continue to discuss it. He's got a very clear vision of this as well, and I appreciate his understanding that the world will be better off if Iran does not have a nuclear weapon.
Prime Minister Martin. Whether it's Iran, whether it's North Korea, I think that the world came to a very important decision many, many years ago, in terms of nuclear proliferation. Canada certainly, given the fact of our natural resources, we could be a nuclear power, and there were wise heads at that time that prevailed. And I would hope that that view would be held universally today by those countries.
Q. My question is to President Bush. After September 11th, there were complaints that the Canada-U.S. border was too porous. Since then there have been many changes. But can you please expand on your vision of the border in the future? Does North America need a common security perimeter? And as an aside, how do you think Canada decriminalizing marijuana would affect the border? [Laughter]
President Bush. It will probably affect those who use marijuana a lot more than it will affect the border. But the—we've got an obligation to defend our respective countries, and I am impressed by the Prime Minister's commitment to work jointly to share intelligence and to share information so that we can prevent those who would do harm to either the United States or Canada from being able to do so. Now— which presents a challenge. And that is, how do we make sure those who are coming from the United States into Canada are known to both sides and/or vice-versa? And at the same time, how do we make sure that we expedite trade and commerce?
And I think we're making very good progress toward that end. We spent some time talking today about issues in Windsor and Detroit. Believe it or not, the Prime Minister had that on his mind. And the amount of equipment that has been added there is substantial. The management of lanes is productive. The Deputy Prime Minister talked about perhaps the need for an additional bridge, which he asked us to consider.
My point is, is that I believe it is possible to be able to deal with terrorist activity and illegal activity and, at the same time, have a robust commercial relationship. And a lot of it has to do with using technologies in an effective way, and we're making good progress. And obviously, there's more progress to be done, and I'm impressed by the Prime Minister's commitment to work in a very close fashion to deal with somebody who may be willing to do harm to either of our countries. And that really is the first step toward making sure we're secured.
Q. [Inaudible]—the issue of marijuana——
President Bush. I don't have a comment on what you're doing internally about that.
Prime Minister Martin. I just like doing press conferences with you. You get all the questions. [Laughter]
Intelligence Reform Legislation
Press Secretary McClellan. John King with CNN.
President Bush. Yes, King. Why don't you ask the Prime Minister a question. You heard him——
Q. I was just about to apologize for disappointing the Prime Minister. [Laughter]
Mr. President, I'd like you to answer critics back home who say that they think you're trying to have it both ways on this intelligence reform bill, that you say you want the legislation, but they don't see a sustained effort, both publicly or privately, to challenge the members of your own party who are blocking the bill, like, say, you have done without hesitation many times when it comes to Democrats blocking your judicial nominees.
President Bush. Yes. Well, I want a bill. Let's see if I can say it as plainly as I can—I am for the intelligence bill. I have spoken with Duncan Hunter, Representative Hunter, about the bill. I spoke with Representative Sensenbrenner about the bill. Vice President Cheney today is meeting with members of the 9/11 Commission about the bill. I am—I believe the bill is necessary and important and hope we can get it done next week and look forward to talking to Speaker Hastert and Leader Frist here before the week is out to express to them why I just told you in public I'm for the bill—again.
Prime Minister Martin. Thank you.
President Bush. Gregory [David Gregory, NBC News], the Prime Minister needs a translator. [Laughter]
NOTE: The President's news conference began at 2:13 p.m. at the Lester B. Pearson Building. In his remarks, he referred to President Aleksander Kwasniewski of Poland; former President Saddam Hussein of Iraq; and President Vladimir Putin of Russia. Prime Minister Martin referred to Deputy Prime Minister Anne McLellan and Minister of Foreign Affairs Pierre Pettigrew of Canada. A portion of the Prime Minister's remarks and some questions from the Canadian press were in French, and a translation was provided.
George W. Bush, The President's News Conference With Prime Minister Paul Martin of Canada in Ottawa, Canada Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project https://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/node/215198