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Home > News & Policies > Press Secretary Briefings

G8 Summit in Kananaskis, Canada

For Immediate Release
Office of the Press Secretary
June 25, 2002

Press Briefing by Gary Edson

Aboard Air Force One
En route Phoenix, Arizona

10:25 A.M. EDT

MR. FLEISCHER: Let me turn you over to Mr. Gary Edson. Are you going to do this on the record?

MR. EDSON: Any way you want.

MR. FLEISCHER: Let's do this on the record, Gary Edson, briefing on the G8.

MR. EDSON: The G8, as Ari said, is going to focus on essentially three issues: terrorism, global economy and development and Africa.

On terrorism, we're going to be issuing -- a series of documents will be issued over the course of the summit. One of the good -- the good news is that we've prevailed, there will not be a communique, per se, as you've seen in past years. We've argued, the U.S. has argued that it's of limited utility. We will issue -- or the plan is to issue some other relevant documents.

One, I believe, will be a background paper talking about accomplishments of the G8 to date in the area of counter-terrorism. We also hope to issue a set of principles on nonproliferation that are very precise -- a set of principles that are very concrete, where the G8 says: we commit to do the following; we call on other countries to join us. And those principles talk about such things as securing facilities, disposing of stocks. The principles speak to the issue of stopping the spread of weapons of mass destruction.

We also hope to issue an action plan on transport security. You know, the G8 together represents 50 percent of world trade. As I said, the summit is going to focus on three themes. Two of those -- terrorism and growing the global economy -- are extremely important. And the transport security initiative is focused on enabling us to grow our economies and enhance our security at the same time.

So it is focused on enhancing the security of people and containers in international traffic, the ships and planes that move them, and the ports and airports from which they embark and disembark. You know, there are 48 million containers that are exported or imported annually. There are 28,000 ships trading daily around the world. It's a huge challenge, and the challenge is principally to facilitate legitimate commerce so that we can continue to grow our economies while enhancing our security.

And this transportation security initiative involves a series of concrete actions that are an extension, frankly, of the smart border initiatives that we have with Canada and Mexico; the vision that -- promote a vision of security that pushes the perimeter beyond the physical border so that we can share advance passenger information, so that we can ensure the documentation is valid and accurate, in terms of what's in cargo, et cetera.

So we think that that's a critically important initiative that the United States has been driving. It's a huge challenge, but it's a great opportunity for the G8 to lead by example, because all of these -- many of these things are being negotiated in much larger settings, through the U.N. and other organizations. but this is an opportunity to accelerate progress by having the G8 lead by example through this action agenda.

Q On nonproliferation, can I just ask, are you going to be 10-plus-10-over 10?

MR. EDSON: Well, we're focused on the principles. The transport security initiative is one way to operationalize those principles. And we're obviously going to be discussing other ways to operationalize those nonproliferation principles. principles.

The principles themselves are very robust. And I think you'll see that they really address on the ground real-world concerns and issues. And we're hoping to focus more G8 attention, as well as global attention, on those issues.

Q The French want to do this with a conference call next year. Why shouldn't that happen?

MR. EDSON: Pardon me?

Q The French want to do this summit with a conference call next year. Why shouldn't that happen?

MR. EDSON: We haven't heard that proposal. But we would -- we have encouraged, in terms of the process, we've encouraged a more flexible, more informal, less bureaucratic G8. We've encouraged meetings where leaders are able to come together, exchange views candidly and focus on a few issues of great global importance.

So in terms of making the agenda more informal, more flexible, we're obviously open to that. We believe that the G8 ought to be forum for focusing leaders' attention and global attention on a few key issues, and mobilizing action, not an ongoing, huge, international bureaucracies.

Q Why do they even get together, given that draws the anti-globalization folks who will this year be in Calgary? Why do they even need to get together?

MR. EDSON: Well, I think there's tremendous value in getting together and candidly exchanging views. I mean, they get together in a variety of settings, not only just as the G8. But we see these leaders at NATO summits, at the U.S.-EU summit that we hold. But as a general principle, what we want to do and what we've been trying to do since we entered office is make the G8 a more flexible institution, using it not simply as -- not viewing it simply as an opportunity to come together once a year, but using it over the course of the year to accomplish things.

For example, in the area of terrorist financing, we've used our G8 meetings and the G8 apparatus to enhance cooperation and collaboration among the G8 in freezing terrorists' assets. And you saw that shortly -- several months ago we had the first joint designation of terrorist finances by the G8. That was a huge step forward. So that's what we're trying to do, is make the process an effective and constructive one on an ongoing basis, and less bureaucratic.

The second big issue at the summit is, of course, the global economy and development. There, we're thrilled that there has been agreement on the President's proposal to increase the amount of grants that are being provided by the World Bank, rather than loans, to the poorest countries -- especially for key social issues such as education, health et cetera.

The President proposed that up to 50 percent of the support that the World Bank gives to the poorest countries in those areas be in the form of grants, not loans. There is now agreement on a formula that will ensure that virtually all of the assistance provided for education, health care, sanitation, nutrition for the very poorest countries, dollar-a-day countries in per capita income will be provided in the form of grants. And 100 percent of the assistance to those countries for HIV/AIDS will now be provided in the form of grants.

We think this is a way, as you know, not merely to drop the debt, not merely to give temporary debt relief, but to ensure that it's not built up again, to stop the debt permanently. So that's an important initiative and we'll be hailing the significance of that agreement and of continuing to make the World Bank and the other multilateral lending institutions more results oriented.

Q -- health and sanitation?

MR. EDSON: Education, health care, sanitation, nutrition. We can check that for you. I believe it's nutrition and several other sectors, as well. But those are representative of the kinds of things.

If you think about them, grants in those areas make sense. We know that investing in education is a tremendous investment. But you don't see the returns on that investment immediately. So it doesn't lend itself to having money provided in the form of a loan that's got to be repaid in a few years. It is better for grant support, and that's the agreement the President has gotten.

In terms of the Africa action plan, of course, what we're going to -- the G8 leaders will be meeting with representatives of the New Economic Partnership for African Development, NEPAD, which is a continent-wide effort whereby the African leaders have stepped forward, taken responsibility for their own development policies. And we're going to be meeting with them and issuing a G8 action plan that's in response to the NEPAD action plan itself.

That action plan, the G8 action plan and the political statement that cover it, will reflect in many ways the principles that the President outlined in his speech before the Monterrey conference on financing development.

The President has been focusing on results, focusing ont outcomes, not just the inputs. So that the debate is turning toward how do we achieve real results, real changes in people's lives today. And what we've proposed is a mutual accountability, whereby we will reward with increased assistance countries that are putting in place the kinds of policies that we know will achieve sustained economic development; policies that include governing justly, investing in the health and education of people and promoting -- in particular, promoting economic freedom and entrepreneurship. So that the enterprises can be development -- develop that can sustain economic growth over the long haul.

And what we're focusing on are targeted initiatives that really will change people's lives, like the President's newest, at $500 million initiative to stop mother-to-child transmission of HIV/AIDS. This initiative is the first large-scale assault on an issue that is truly devastating, but that can be stopped. We know that 2 million HIV infected women become pregnant each year. We know that a large proportion of the children born to those women will be infected by AIDS, either in childbirth or subsequently, through breast feeding. And we know that the great majority of those infants will die before they're five years old.

But we also know that we can stop it. And the President's initiative is focused on eight African nations and the Caribbean, four more African nations to be added next year. Those nations collectively contain half of the women, 1 million of the 2 million women who will become -- HIV infected women who will become pregnant. And in addition to simply providing the treatment that can prevent those infections from being transmitted, the initiative very importantly is focused on building the health care infrastructure that can sustain a robust health care system, not only to address the AIDS, but malaria, tuberculosis and the other infectious diseases.

That's coupled with the President's doubling of funding for his Africa education initiative; focused on training teachers, providing textbooks, tuition for girls. These are the kinds of targeted initiatives, results-oriented, that we're going to focused on as part of our approach to financing for development.

Q Is there controversy over that? Does anybody disagree with that idea?

MR. EDSON: No. What we're going to -- as I say, we're going to be focusing more on these kinds of targeted, results-oriented initiatives to achieve the goals we've already set for ourselves, not pie-in-the-sky kind of sweeping new initiatives that are more focused on grandiose kinds of goals, rather than making changes in people's lives today. And that's the kind of thing that we're focused on.

Q -- any pie-in-the-sky, grandiose proposals likely to be floated at this --

MR. EDSON: I don't know of any likely to be floated. All I can tell you is that I think if you look at what's been going on, if you draw a line from the President's World Bank speech a year ago in July, all the way through the speeches that preceded Monterrey and at Monterrey, you'll see that we've made combatting global poverty a priority of U.S. foreign policy.

But the way we've gone about doing it isn't simply by mustering more resources. What we've done is we've drawn the right conclusion from the last 40 years of development assistance, which is that if you take development assistance and you pour it into a bad policy environment, it isn't just wasteful, it's downright harmful. It perpetuates bad policies, it prolongs misery.

But if you take that development assistance and you pour it into a good policy environment, we know that the evidence shows that you actually attract private capital, two to one. So the President has said, look, we will step forward with more resources -- $5 billion a year, a 50 percent increase in our development assistance through his Millennium Challenge account initiative. We'll step forward with more resources and those resources will go to the countries that are making the right choices.

So we're linking our responsibility to come forward with more resources with responsibility on the part of the countries themselves to put in place the kinds of policies and takes the kinds of actions that we know we'll be able to leverage those resources and transform them into sustained economic growth and development.

Q On the global economy part, can you talk a little bit about the plans and the final statement to address the corporate responsibility issue, transparency, fairness in accounting standards? I mean, is that an issue that's going to be -- you know what I mean, in a general way, mentioned? I know the President has been talking a lot about that lately.

MR. EDSON: The current agenda doesn't have specifically on it that issue. The plan instead of a communique is that at the end of the summit, Prime Minister Chretien, as the host, will issue a Chairman's Summary that presumably will reflect the issues that were raised on the agenda .

We've argued for, in keeping with the point I made earlier, we've argued for a more flexible kind of agenda so --

Q Is that an issue that -- you know, since the President has talked so much about that lately, is that an issue he feels should be, you know, touched on, even cursory?

MR. EDSON: We're focusing at this summit on those three big issues, namely, counter-terrorism, the global growth and development and, of course, the action plan with the African NEPAD group.

Q Does the Russian nuclear proliferation come up at all? You know, finding a better way to get rid of their --

MR. EDSON: Well, as I said, we're continuing to work on the proliferation issue. And we've got these principles and we're going to be looking for ways to operationalize them. They're going to be a lot of different ways in which we'll operationalize those principles.

Q What about the explicit expectations of the G8 partners to come up with all the $10 billion over 10 years?

MR. EDSON: I think that there are expectations only that we will try and find ways going forward here to operationalize those principles.

MR. FLEISCHER: I forgot to mention, the President this morning declared Arizona a major disaster area. And we will get you copies of the declaration.

Q Can I check one quote with you, Ari, just because the tapes don't always turn out very good here. When you were talking about the Israel part of this, "he believes that his speech represents the best long-term hopes for Israel because he is very worried about the future" -- was it "viability"? Was that the word?

MR. FLEISCHER: You've heard the President say often that one of the reasons he believes a Palestinian state needs to be created is not only is it good for Palestinians, they deserve one, but it's good for Israel. Israel -- his vision of peace long term is Israel and a Palestine living side by side in peace and security.

That's why I was surprised that you sounded as if it was something new.

END 10:42 A.M. EDT