The White House, President George W. Bush Click to print this document

For Immediate Release
Office of the Press Secretary
October 21, 2003

Background Briefing by Telephone by a Senior Administration Official on APEC Meetings

7:05 P.M. (Local)

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: This is on background, as a senior administration official. I thought I'd give you a brief overview of what we accomplished. We had a very successful summit. President Bush came to Bangkok to urge decisive action to promote prosperity and security. There were two major issues on the agenda, trade and counterterrorism. We obtained excellent results on both.

On trade, leaders agreed, with U.S. encouragement, to "reenergize" -- which is the word used in the declaration -- the Doha global trade negotiations by working off of the negotiating text developed at the recent WTO meeting in Cancun. This gets a little technical, but you'll recall that that meeting broke down without members endorsing the text that had been developed by the chairman of the meeting. So it's significant that the 21 APEC economies, some of who were members of the so-called Group of 21, have agreed to work from that text and build on it.

There was also discussion of increased cooperation among APEC members on trade issues. This is as positive and constructive a result as we could have had. We hope all parties are seriously ready to move forward with the negotiations on substance.

At the same time, of course, the United States is moving forward with regional and bilateral free trade agreements. And President Bush, as you know, announced our intent to launch free trade negotiations with Thailand.

On terrorism, leaders endorsed a remarkably strong set of security commitments that will complement APEC's economic goals. The declaration that was issued recognizes that terrorism and the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction are "direct and profound" challenges to APEC's vision of free and open trade. And they agreed to dedicated APEC and their efforts not only to advancing prosperity, but to the complementary mission of ensuring the security of their people.

And in so doing, they committed to take all essential action to dismantle fully and without delay transnational terrorist groups, to eliminate the severe and growing danger posed by proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, and to confront other direct threats to the security of the region. And they pledged to discuss at each leaders' meeting their progress toward these commitments and to take specific actions in pursuit of them.

This creates -- we hope this will create a process, a positive dynamic. And, in fact, reflecting that, President Lagos of Chile, who will host next year's APEC meeting, announced that that meeting will focus, among other things, on terrorism and proliferation, as well as trade.

In addition to addressing those two major issues, trade and counterterrorism, leaders endorsed a number of initiatives and actions. Those included action to strengthen the control of shoulder-launched missiles, so-called MANPADS, which threaten civil aviation. They agreed to increase efforts to build to capacity to combat terror within the region, and to establish a facility of the Asian Development Bank to help fund capacity-building efforts -- things like enhancing port security and airport security and choking off terrorist financing.

They also endorsed an initiative on health security, coming off of their experience with SARS, designed to improve disease monitoring, surveillance and response, both respect to emerging diseases, natural and manmade. And they endorsed an energy initiative, as well as tough action on corruption.

So, all in all, we thought it was a very constructive meeting, and a very successful one. I'm happy to take any questions.

Q Can you clarify a statement made this morning that said there would be no we didn't know about any statement on Korea? And then it's my understanding that some sort of verbal statement was made at the session. Was there a statement on Korea? Did we just not know it was coming? And how does that jibe with what we were told this morning?

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: What we discussed this morning is that -- we had not been pushing for a statement. As you know, we had a very strong statement from this organization last year on this issue, really the first time APEC addressed it. And so we had a formal statement last year. In many, many ways, we have moved beyond statements. We have the six-party talks underway and that's where we're focusing our efforts.

What I believe occurred, and I think I alluded to this earlier today, was that at the lunch, which was designed to be a free-form discussion and any one of a number of issues could have arisen, and apparently one of the issues that did arise was the Korean situation. And Prime Minister Thaksin, as Chairman of the meeting, issued, in addition to the formal negotiated declaration, which covered the various issues that I just discussed, issued a Chairman's Summary, in which he simply summarized the gist of the discussions that occurred over the past couple of days. And in so doing, he noted a discussion over lunch on the situation on the Korean Peninsula. And he summarized that.

We obviously were supportive of what he said. But we were not pushing for a formal statement. And as I say, we have the six-party talks ongoing and underway and that's where we're focusing our efforts.

Q If possible, could you tell us what kind of remarks the President made on terrorism?

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: What kind of remarks President Bush made on terrorism, is that the question?

Q Yes, please.

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: President Bush noted that he thought it was wise for APEC to discuss not only economic issues, but terrorism, as well, since the goal of terrorism in so many ways is to shut down our economies. He expressed a lot of appreciation for the good work that so many of the leaders around that table have been doing to fight terror. Of course, it's a point that he made on other stops on this Asia trip, as well, noting the action that many of the leaders have taken, including Prime Minister Thaksin's action to take the terrorist Hambali.

He thought that it was very important for this meeting to send a strong message and make a strong statement that we won't yield to terrorism and we won't be intimidated. And the statement -- the declaration that was produced I think clearly does that. And he emphasized that this is a war between all of those who want free and open societies and some who are willing to take innocent lives and kill innocent people; not a war against any religion, but a war against killers.

Q Can you just tell us a little about what the White House's view was on Hu Jintao's performance was at APEC? And more broadly, how does the administration see a rising China and the influence of a rising China, in terms of U.S. diplomacy in the region? Is the balance of influence changing, and is that a good or a bad thing for the U.S.?

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: Well, we had a very good meeting with President Hu, and it covered a wide array of topics. We are cooperating on the war on terror. President Hu, himself, in the leader's meeting, called on all APEC economies to rally to support peace and stability in the region and promote prosperity, and noted that he was pleased that so many common points of agreement have been found.

So it was a good -- he spoke out on that issue; he spoke out on a number of other issues. And as I said, the bilateral meeting we had was a productive one, as well. And I think you've already been backgrounded on the substance of that.

Q Can I ask you two questions about the terrorism agenda? One question is, in the meetings, did any of the leaders object to the concept of enshrining a security counterterrorism initiative within APEC? And the second part of the question was to ask you whether any of these 21 countries are now going to do anything more on counterterrorism after this two days at APEC than they would have otherwise?

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: First, no, no one objected. In fact, President Megawati noted you cannot promote trade and investment if there is no security. Gloria Arroyo called for an increased emphasis on counterterrorism capacity-building, and welcomed U.S. action to help countries build that capacity.

No one objected at all. I think that there was, at the leader level, a very deep appreciation and recognition that, in fact, as that the declaration, itself, says, terrorism, itself, is a threat to the achievement of the economic goals of the APEC countries, namely free trade and investment in the ASIA Pacific region. There was certainly no objection to this expressed at the leader level.

In terms of whether countries are going to do more -- I mean, I think all you've got to do is look at the record so far. You know, it's interesting that last year we launched several initiatives designed to address the ways in which the terrorist threat is impacting trade and commerce, the principal ones being the so-called STAR initiative, or Secure Trade in the APEC Region, which was very similar to the Transport Security Initiative which was launched in the G8. It's designed to address port and airport security, container security, the movement of ships, planes and people.

And since -- and it laid out a bunch of dates and benchmarks for action to take place. And it's interesting that the record so far is extraordinarily positive in terms of what the APEC economies have done, pursuant to that initiative. All APEC economies with air service to the United States have installed reinforced flight deck doors. All APEC economies will implement 100 percent baggage screening by the end of 2004, one year ahead of the international goal. Eight APEC economies have joined the U.S. Container Security Initiative.

So if the past is any predictor of the future, I think we can expect the agreements reached and the commitments endorsed in the two days of meetings that we've had to, yes, meet increased action on the part of these countries.

And I might add, on that score, APEC is unique in some ways in terms of many of these summit processes since it has such extensive private-sector involvement. As you know, the President and the other leaders met with APEC Business Advisory Committee. And these are business leaders operating in the region from all of the APEC countries, and they recognize the need to address squarely the threat that terrorism presents to the growth of trade and commerce in the region, and have encouraged leaders to address these issues.

Q I'm having a little bit of trouble hearing you clearly in the back of the room, so if I misunderstood you, I'm sorry. But I thought you just said that there were no real objections to expanding the agenda to include security. And it was my understanding that both Fox of Mexico and Mahatir of Malaysia did object to altering the agenda to anything beyond economic or trade issues.

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: If they did, they did not object to it in the meeting that I listened in on. There are differing views, I think, of the relative emphasis that ought to be made, but as you can tell by some of the statements that I've shared with you that I heard leaders express, that as a general matter, they all recognized that this was not only legitimate and important for APEC to address both economic issues and security issues, but essential, that they go hand in hand. I think it's simply a recognition of the reality.

You know, ever since Shanghai, the summit in Shanghai, which occurred, what, roughly six weeks after September 11th, and the APEC countries came together and issued a very powerful communique, and then continuing at Los Cabos with the Transport Security Initiative, and now continuing with the Bangkok summit with a very powerful statement about the commitment to fight terror, as well as new initiatives to address things like the -- MANPADS, and to build the capacity within the region to combat terror, I think you're seeing a process whereby leaders are all converging on the view that both of these things, security and prosperity, have to go hand in hand. They do go hand in hand. And as the APEC agenda advances, I think you're going to see the APEC economies continue to advance both their prosperity goals and their security goals.

Q One question -- one other thing. Did they discuss Iraq? And coming out of the APEC meeting, what does the President hope Asia Pacific countries are going to be contributing when it comes to Madrid?

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: It's hard to hear, but I think the answer is they discussed Iran.

Q No, Iraq.


Q Yes. We'd also like Iran, if you'd like to.

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: Not in the -- Iraq did not arise in the meeting that I was able to observe. But keep in mind -- and I'm sorry I didn't point this out at the beginning -- the leaders' luncheon was leaders only. There was no ability to observe or listen in on the discussion, so I cannot tell you what was or was not discussed there, or what views were or were not expressed. I have not gotten a readout of that meeting, and I was unable to listen in on it.

Q Taking your point that on North Korea you're beyond statements, was there no value to having APEC leaders come behind anything the President has said about North Korea? And did you raise the possibility of having some statement about it, or in fact did the United States say that they didn't want any statement about North Korea?

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: I'm having a hard time hearing. Can you say that again?

Q Why didn't you want any statement about North Korea -- or did you?

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: I think I've answered that. I said we were not pushing for a statement. We felt that -- as I said, we, in many ways, have moved beyond that. We have the six-party talks ongoing, which we didn't have when we met last year, and that that's where we're focusing the bulk of our efforts.

MR. McCORMACK: Anyone else? All right, that's it. Thanks.

END 7:20 P.M. (Local)

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