The President's News Conference With Summit of the Americas Leaders in Quebec City
[Prime Minister Jean Chretien of Canada opened the news conference with brief remarks in French, and a translation was not provided. He then continued in English.]
Prime Minister Chretien. We will start with the President of the United States.
President Bush. Mr. Prime Minister, thank you very much, and congratulations on a very successful summit. I want to thank you and your staff and the people of Quebec City for their hospitality.
I've been most impressed by the discussions we've had. It's clear to me that ours is a hemisphere united by freedom. It's a partnership that will help us tackle the big challenges that we all face: the education of our children, HIV/AIDS, protecting our environment. It's a strong partnership. It's a partnership that will help us all achieve what we want—is that everybody in our respective countries are able to succeed and realize their dreams.
I want to thank my fellow leaders who were here. This is my first summit, as you know. I've been most impressed by the quality of leadership. I am most thankful for the generous hospitality each leader showed me. I listened a lot; I learned a lot. There's no question in my mind we have challenges ahead of us, but there's also no question that we can meet those challenges.
So, Mr. Prime Minister, thank you very much, sir.
Prime Minister Chretien. Thank you, Mr. President. And now we'll ask the President of Chile, Mr. Lagos, to say a few words.
[At this point, President Ricardo Lagos of Chile, President Fernando de la Rua of Argentina, and President Vicente Fox of Mexico each made brief remarks in Spanish. Translations were not provided.]
Prime Minister Chretien. I thank you very much, President Fox. And I now call on President Andres Pastrana.
President Andres Pastrana of Colombia. Thank you, Honorable Right Prime Minister. First, I'd like to thank you, Mr. Prime Minister, Mr. Chretien, and all of your people for your hospitality in these last few days, hospitality that we have enjoyed in Quebec. I think that those who preceded me have expressed the basic tenets of what has occurred here today. But now I would like to share what President Lagos said— back what he said with regard to the democratic clause and the importance of it for the Americas.
We have put all of our efforts as leaders of our democracies to strengthen our democracies. And as we have said throughout this summit, we must move from a political democracy to an economic democracy. Through that, we can seek improvement of living conditions of the most poor and the neediest amongst us.
If there is something that has brought us together or which unites us or what calls us here today at this summit—what calls 34 heads of state of the Americas together—what calls us together is our concern for human beings and particularly to improve the conditions of life, as I said, for the poorest and the most needy.
And as President Fox said, this is the opportunity to thank all 34 heads of state for their support to state politics, the process of peace in Colombia. Thank you for your support to a political and negotiated solution to the conflict which has torn asunder our country for the last 30 years.
And once again, as says the declaration, we support the peace process. Thank you for your support. And I would also like to call your attention to the uprising, to those behind it, to those who are marginalized and not following the law, and that this is enshrined in our declaration. We can and we will quickly reach humanitarian agreements with regard to the respect of human rights, respecting humanitarian international law, and especially to not exclude the civilian population.
Prime Minister Chretien. And now, I would like to give the floor to President Francisco Flores from El Salvador.
President Francisco Flores Perez of El Salvador. When the whole world is facing a creative, technological, and scientific revolution and countries become more and more integrated, it's key that leaders of the world understand that the possibilities of our countries are based on going from a view of the state as a closed and autonomous organ to a collection of open, integrated societies that support democracy and freedom.
And the definition of a new state is a basis to struggle against poverty, to respect the tremendous diversities that exist in the Americas, and the possibility of moving ahead in the world the way we want to move ahead, especially those of us who believe in principles.
If anything has been learned from the greatest and most recent tragedies in El Salvador, especially the last two earthquakes, is that the foundations of countries are not physical things; they are moral things. They are based on their strength and their belief in principles and in the belief of men, women, and their dignity.
I would like to thank the Government of Canada for hosting this meeting that has confirmed these values, which, I believe, are the basis for hope for the future in the Americas.
Prime Minister Chretien. Thank you. I thank President Flores. I give the floor to Prime Minister Owen Archer of the Barbados.
Prime Minister Owen Archer of Barbados. Mr. Prime Minister, thank you for allowing me the opportunity to share a perspective on behalf of the Caribbean. It is not only the smallest and most vulnerable region in our hemisphere but the smallest and most vulnerable region in the world.
From the outset in 1994, we were very clear that the exercise in which we are involved through these summits is greater than the mere creation of an integrated economic area, but must entail our creation of a program of development cooperation to support the emergence and the evolution of a truly hemispheric community for the Americas. And from the onset, we were clear that the effort had to stand the test of equity, had to stand the test of inclusiveness, and had to stand the test of relevance. It has to be relevant for today's purposes and tomorrow's needs. The Caribbean is pleased to be able to say that this summit has taken us a far distance to being satisfied in all of those tests.
We are not only living in the 21st century; we are now living in a new information age in which there is a great danger of a new dangerous inequality caused by a digital divide. And I believe that in the context of a 21st century society, this summit will stand as that summit where the leaders of the Americas determined that there should be no digital divide in our Americas, that the benefits of the new information technology have been brought within the reach of all of our citizens. Our connectivity agenda is, in my judgment, the most exciting new development from this summit, which I commend to the people of the Caribbean.
We are also very pleased that the arrangements for economic integration have now been so deliberately designed to truly accommodate the special concerns of the smallest and the most vulnerable entities in our hemisphere. And this summit has stood the test of equity.
May I also say, Mr. Prime Minister, that the Caribbean has used this summit, as well, and the meetings in the margin of this summit to lay a foundation for stronger bilateral relationships with our neighbors, particularly the United States of America, Canada, Central America, and the Mercosur countries and the Andean countries, and that we can leave this summit looking to the prospect of being part of a successful partnership in a successful neighborhood of the Americas.
I thank you.
Prime Minister Chretien. Thank you very much, Mr. Prime Minister.
And now the journalists have the floor.
Protesters and the Free Trade Agenda
Q. Mr. President, President Bush, I will direct my question to the Prime Minister of Canada, but we would very much like you to answer the question afterwards, if you don't mind.
[A question was asked and answered in French, and a translation was not provided. Following his response in French, Prime Minister Chretien spoke in English.]
Prime Minister Chretien. So I don't think that it is a question of our legitimacy. We are very legitimate. We were elected, all of us. And when you look at what was the Americas some 30 years ago and what it is today, look at the progress that democracy has made. Look at the clause that we have developed together at this time to make sure that democracy will remain in the Americas.
And a lot of people were invited to comment. We organized a parallel summit, at the expense of the Government. And they met; they discussed; they debated; they met with ministers; there were ministers from my government and ministers from many other Governments that listened to them. And I'm very proud of the unions, for example, who decided to organize a parade of protest. It was done in a very orderly fashion. They made sure that those who wanted to break everything were not part of it.
There were some hundreds of them who had come with the goal of trying to disrupt us, and I want to say a great thank you again to the police of the city of Quebec, of the Province of Quebec and the Federal police for the way that they have handled the situation. We could see it on TV, and the restraint, the discipline they've shown is an example.
I guess in other summits there will still be some protesters, communicating among themselves on the Internet and so on, and they have the right to protest. But we will not tolerate breaking the peace of the people. In a democracy, you have a right to speak, but you have to respect the law.
And I don't know if the President would like to comment on that.
President Bush. Well, let me just say that I campaigned vigorously on a free trade agenda. There should be no question in anybody's mind in my country that I would come to Quebec City to promote trade.
For those who question trade and its benefits, I would urge them to look at the experience that we've had as a result of NAFTA. Canada has benefited; Mexico has benefited; the United States has benefited. Sure, there are going to be some who complain, and that's what happens in a democracy. But the overall benefits have been great for our three countries. And it served as an example to attract the positive opinions of other leaders who came to this summit. It's a positive example for the doubters to look at, for the skeptics to see that wealth can be spread throughout our hemisphere.
And we have a choice to make. We can combine in a common market so we can compete in the long term with the Far East and Europe, or we can go on our own. I submit—and I suspect the other leaders will echo with me; I hope they do, at least—that going on our own is not the right way to do so. Combining in a market in our own hemisphere makes sense. It's a logical extension of what's taken place through NAFTA.
There are some people in my country that want to shut down free trade. And they're welcome to express their opinions. I heard it throughout the campaign. But it's not going to change my opinion about the benefits of free trade, not only for my country and the people who work in my country and the people who wonder whether there's a future in my country, but the benefits of free trade for all the countries of this hemisphere are strong. And I intend to vigorously pursue a free trade agenda.
Prime Minister Chretien. Thank you.
Missionary Aircraft Incident in Peru
Q. Thank you, sir. President Bush, you talked at the summit with Peru's leader about the downing of a U.S. missionary plane in a joint U.S.-Peru mission. Your administration has not clarified the U.S. role in this incident thus far, so I'd like to follow up briefly. How much responsibility do we bear, since it was our spotter plane that identified the missionaries' aircraft for Peru's Air Force to pursue?
President Bush. First, the incident that took place in Peru is a terrible tragedy. And our hearts go out to the families who have been affected. Secondly, I did speak to the Prime Minister of Peru, who expressed his government's sincere condolences.
Our Government is involved with helping and a variety of agencies are involved with helping our friends in South America identify airplanes that might be carrying illegal drugs. These operations have been going on for quite a while. We've suspended such flights until we get to the bottom of the situation, to fully understand all the facts, to understand what went wrong in this terrible tragedy.
Q. What was our role, sir, in the downing?
President Bush. Our role was to—like in other missions, Ron [Ron Fournier, Associated Press]—was to provide information as to tail numbers. Our role is to help countries identify planes that fail to file flight plans. Our role was to simply pass on information. But we'll get to the bottom of the situation. But I want everybody in my country to understand that we weep for the families whose lives have been affected.
Prime Minister Chretien. Next.
Trade Promotion Authority
Q. Good afternoon. I have a question for the President of the United States. Mr. Bush, you're personally committed to the liberalization of this hemisphere, but you don't have a broad-based mandate from the U.S. Congress to negotiate. What can the Governments of Latin America do to help you overcome the opposition of economic groups and of legislators in your country? Thank you.
President Bush. Write your Congressman. [Laughter]
I appreciate that so very much. That's the very same statement that the President of Uruguay asked. I am confident I will have trade promotion authority by the end of the year, because I think most people in the United States Congress understand that trade is beneficial in our hemisphere. We're going to proceed concurrently with that, parallel to that, with the trade agreement with Chile, and we hope to have that concluded by the end of the year.
But I've assured my colleagues that my administration will work to get trade promotion authority. Most Presidents have had what they call fast-track; we now call it trade promotion authority. And I intend to get it myself. It's in our Nation's best interests to have the President have that authority.
In the meantime, as I mentioned to you, my friend the President of Chile and I will instruct our respective and appropriate members of our administration to hammer out, negotiate, and effect a trade agreement between our two countries.
Argentine Financial Crisis
Q. President de la Rua, the question is for President Bush, but I would also like your answer, if you will, Your Excellency. President Bush, the United States Secretary of the Treasury gave direct financial aid to Mexico to overcome the tequila crisis and to stop propagation to the rest of the region. Given the economic financial crisis in Argentina is already spreading to neighboring countries such as Brazil, I'd like to know if the United States plans to give direct financial aid to Argentina, as it did with Mexico in the past?
President Bush. It's too early to make that determination. Having said that, Secretary of the Treasury O'Neill, as well as others in my administration, are watching closely the situation in Argentina. It is in our Nation's interest that the Argentine economy recover. That's obviously in the interest of neighbors that it do so, as well. But we're watching very carefully. We're in touch with your Government on a regular basis, and we'll make the determinations as to either bilateral aid or additional aid through the international financial institutions as the case merits.
Q. President de la Rua.
President Fernando de la Rua of Argentina. The support given by the President of the United States and the Secretary of the Treasury is of great value. And assistance to our country has come through multilateral financial institutions and other countries who have given us international guarantees. So this has insured a fiscal solvency in my country.
There is no risk, in my opinion, of problems in our country—this transitional problem in Argentina extending to neighboring countries. Argentina, with international financial institutions' help, will be meeting the IMF's criteria and is endeavoring in a very determined fashion to reduce the fiscal deficit and to ensure fiscal solvency in every aspect. So there is no risk of any— that we need to be concerned about.
International Energy Resources
Q. I am from a newspaper in Mexico City, and I have a question addressed to President Bush and to Prime Minister Jean Chretien. Mexico, there is an issue that is of great interest, and I'm referring now to the power issue. I'd like to ask both of you, what is your view for what would be a hemispheric-wide energy plan? What commitments have you already reached, and what would be needed for such a plan to be equitable as between producers and the great consumers of power?
President Bush. Well, first, if Canadian suppliers and Mexican suppliers of energy and electricity are looking for a market, they've found one in the United States. We're short of energy. We need more energy in our country. Much of what will be explored, from the exploration perspective, will depend upon price. The farther away you get from market, the deeper the waters, the higher the price must be. But the price of energy is high enough to spur exploration activities on both sides of our border.
What the United States can do is to provide markets by better pipelines, acrossborder permitting, welcoming supplies of natural gas regardless of the country of origin. We can work with our friends the Mexicans in the south about the development of electricity. I have talked with President Fox about that, not only when I was in Mexico but also earlier this week, and will discuss this very issue with the Prime Minister and the President right after this press conference.
Part of our issue is to make sure our electricity grids are open enough to handle additional power, say, in the western part of our State, obviously the western part of Mexico. There is some very good news in our hemisphere, at least as far as Americans are concerned, and that is that because of technologies, the Canadians have developed vast crude oil resources in what appeared heretofore to be crude oil that could not be recovered from the ground in what they call tar pits—tar sands. And therefore, Canada is going to be the largest exporter of crude oil to the United States. That's good for our national security; it's good for our economy.
There's a lot of work we can do together. It is important for our hemisphere to not only trade liberally but to move energy throughout the hemisphere as needed, and it starts with the cooperation between Mexico, Canada, and the United States.
Prime Minister Chretien. I don't have much to add to that. I think that the market in the United States is a great opportunity for Canada. Already, as the President just said, we are the biggest exporter of oil to United States, and it will increase even more in the years to come. We have a lot of natural gas in Canada at this moment.
I remember, at the time when I was Minister of Energy, we had to sell our oil and gas in Canada to our consumers, to give them a market. Now we have a huge market there, but we have to make sure that the development of these resources will be done in a very effective way, that we have assured market. And we do that, having all the time in mind—we have to do that with the mentality that we have to do these things in protecting the environment. But there is a lot of opportunities, and we'll be discussing that later on this afternoon.
Q. This question is for Mr. Bush. If Mr. Pastrana can react to it, too, and Mr. Chretien, if that's possible. Regarding the declaration backing of the peace process in Colombia, Mr. Bush, would your government be willing to take a more active role and participate in this peace process? And how committed are you to the peace process in Colombia?
President Bush. We have funded Plan Colombia, which is over a billion dollars of U.S. taxpayers' money. That's a very strong commitment. At this summit, we laid out an additional Andean initiative of $880 million, monies not only to go to Colombia but the surrounding countries to Colombia, monies that recognize that not only is interdiction important, but also we need to develop infrastructure. We need to have sustainable crop replacement programs. So our country is committed to the region.
I believe firmly that President Pastrana is a strong leader who is doing everything he can to bring the peace. But it's going to be up to President Pastrana to make the peace. Once he does so, we'll stand by his side. And so our support has been strong, and it's been consistent. And we'll continue to support our friend the democratically elected leader of Colombia.
President Pastrana. Thank you very much for your question. Yes, I think that President Bush has—will resume what has been the help, $1.3 billion, the last year. He talked about a near $1 billion for this next year for what he has been calling the Andean initiative.
More than money, we are asking commerce—that's why we are asking the United States; that's why we were asking Europe. And that's why President Bush is committing in the extension of ATPA and the enhancement of ATPA, to try to get to really some preference that will allow us to get more employment for our people.
I think that President Bush is also very committed in drug addiction. I said yesterday to President Bush that a drug addict is a drug terrorist. One smell of cocaine in the United States is a death in Colombia. So that's why he's also very committed in working and fighting inside the United States. As you will know, the U.S. is expending nearly $20 billion in drug prevention programs. And he's really very committed to bring, also, down consumption in his country.
And I think that we had a meeting in Cartagena, the Andean countries, the ATPA countries: Colombia, Ecuador, Peru, Bolivia. We invited Venezuela as an observer to the ATPA. And we hope that with the help of President Bush and with the help of the U.S. Congress, we will get the ATPA out before the end of this year. And that will bring us new opportunities for the poorest people of our country.
Prime Minister Chretien. And of Canada, I've assured the President that if they need us to play a certain role, we'll be available. There are some discussions to have certain participation. And if we can be useful, we'll be happy to help.
Free Trade Agreement for Central America
Q. I'm one of the Salvadoran journalists covering this summit. Bush, could you give us details regarding the negotiation of a free trade agreement with Central America? In particularly, Mr. Bush, if you have in mind a date to start the negotiations, if you have in mind a date to sign this agreement, and also if your administration is going to give special treatment to those Central American economies?
President Bush. Trade—I'm sorry, the very end of your question? Special trade——
Q. Free trade agreement with Central America.
President Bush. My first meeting here in Quebec City is with my—actually, not my first meeting—I had a meeting early— how quickly we forget—with our friends from Central America. And we talked about free trade, and we talked about the possibilities of a free trade agreement with a group of nations.
I did not dismiss that notion at all. As a matter of fact, it should be clear to people that as we discuss the agreement that we're discussing here at this summit, that our Nation is willing to work with others, such as Chile, to negotiate bilateral agreements.
And so, I'm openminded is the way to describe that to you. And I think the leaders would tell you that we had a very frank discussion, and it's very possible—it's very possible that we'll be able to come to an agreement with a group of nations that would really make a logical extension from NAFTA. So, to answer your question, I don't have a date specific, but in my mind is the idea of that possibility.
Q. Will you support, Mr. Bush, any kind of special treatment for those Central American economies in this agreement?
President Bush. Well, that's what I was saying. I would be very openminded. As you know, we're committed in your country to helping with natural disasters. It's in our Nation's interest that your good country, with its brilliant young leader, be—help recover. It's going to be hard to have a good economic vitality and growth without the aid necessary to help recover from the natural disaster that took place. But I'm openminded.
Let me just say something on behalf of my Government about el Presidente de El Salvador. He is a breath of fresh air. He is a very bright light, and I've been most impressed by his candor, his leadership, his integrity. He's a great leader for your country.
Q. My question is for Prime Minister Arthur—and before I do, Mr. Arthur, you would be happy to know that westerners aren't doing too bad in Jamaica. Now, on the opening on Friday, you spoke of special considerations for the Caribbean in the FTAA process. There have been concerns about the OECD, IDB membership for some of the small states. Going into the conference, what were the Caribbean community and common market's primary concerns, and are you satisfied that these outcomes address these concerns?
Prime Minister Archer. As I said at the opening, we have committed ourselves to being part of the effort to build a truly inclusive hemispheric community. And one of our basic concerns, obviously, have been to ensure that our framework is in place to accommodate the needs of these smaller, more vulnerable entities within the community.
We are pleased that as a result of the trade ministers' negotiations in Argentina, we shall be embraced by heads of this summit, that there is a realistic framework in place for the completion of the Free Trade Area of the Americas, and that even more satisfying, that there are now clear mandates given to the individual negotiating groups that would enable us to be sure that we will translate the principle of special and differential treatment for smaller or more vulnerable societies into the final agreement that will anchor the Free Trade Area of the Americas.
The Caribbean was also concerned, having participated in the two previous summits, about the adequacy of the arrangements for implementation. I think we would be remiss were we not to say how heartened we have been, ourselves, by the statement of commitments given by the heads of the OAS, the Inter-American Development Bank, the World Bank—[inaudible]—to support our plan of action with appropriate resources and new institutional arrangements.
But you must believe me when I tell you that for the Caribbean, we are excited by the prospect of translating our human capital advantage into new industry in a new information age. Nothing matters more to us than to be able to leave a conference where there is a commitment to a plan of action to put the new information and communications technology within the reach of the people of the hemisphere, making it possible for us to contemplate a future of specialization as service societies in our new knowledge-based global society.
And for me, certainly, this connectivity agenda that will share the benefits of that new technology to small societies is an exciting opportunity that the Caribbean surely will not miss out on.
Prime Minister Chretien. Thank you very much, Prime Ministers. So this concludes the press conference. There will be another one in a few minutes by the officials of— representative of the regional banks and the World Bank and the political organization of the Americas.
Thank you very much. See you next time.
NOTE: The President's news conference began at 1:40 p.m. at the Quebec Convention Center. In his remarks, President Bush referred to Prime Minister Javier Perez de Cuellar of Peru and President Jorge Batlle of Uruguay. President Pastrana referred to ATPA, the Andean Trade Preference Act. A reporter referred to FTAA, the Free Trade Area of the Americas; OECD, the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development; and IDB, the Inter-American Development Bank. President Flores Perez's remarks were in Spanish, and they were translated by an interpreter. A portion of President Pastrana's remarks were in Spanish, and a portion of Prime Minister Chretien's remarks were in French, and both were translated by an interpreter. Portions of this news conference could not be verified because the tape was incomplete.
George W. Bush, The President's News Conference With Summit of the Americas Leaders in Quebec City Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project https://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/node/213205