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Home > News & Policies > Press Secretary Briefings

For Immediate Release
Office of the Press Secretary
July 6, 2005

Press Gaggle with Scott McClellan and Faryar Shirzad
Aboard Air Force One
En Route Prestwick, Scotland

2:20 P.M. (Local)

MR. McCLELLAN: All right, good afternoon, everybody. I've got Faryar Shirzad, our Sherpa for the G8 here with me. He will do a quick summary of what to expect ahead of us, and then we'll be here for whatever questions you have.

MR. SHIRZAD: Hi, how are you? We're obviously heading over to the G8 summit that's occurring under the UK's presidency. Prime Minister Blair is hosting. We're going to start tonight with a social dinner that the President will have.

There will be a series of meetings tomorrow, beginning with a focus on the global economy and climate change, in a meeting that will be among the G8 leaders, and then expanded to include participation by the leaders of five emerging economies -- China, Brazil, India, South Africa and Mexico. They will continue on that topic through lunch. After lunch they'll talk about a series of regional issues, including the Middle East, and hear a report from Jim Wolfensohn on the disengagement from Gaza. There will also be an evening session, a dinner, at which they'll talk about additional regional issues, as well as North Korea, Iran, counter-terrorism, non-proliferation and other issues.

On the last day of the summit, on Friday, the morning will be devoted to the issue of Africa. The G8 leaders will meet among themselves initially, and then their meeting will be expanded to include I think about eight African leaders who have been invited to participate. The expanded meeting will then go into a lunch.

Right now we're in the final stages of preparing the leaders' documents that will be issued as a result of the summit. As in previous summits, they're going to address a whole series of issues. The two priorities that the Prime Minister has identified, Africa and climate change, are the basis of two of the summit texts that will be issued -- will likely be issued at the end of the summit. We've been working very hard on them.

The broad objectives that we've had for the summit are to make it a success with the Prime Minister, to engage on his priority issues on Africa and climate change in a way that reflects the common ground that we have among the G8 leaders on these issues, and also to advance two other important goals that the President has had. One is to continue the work we did in Sea Island, and using the G8 as a catalyst for democratic reform in the Middle East, building on the Broader Middle East Initiative that the President launched last year during our presidency of the G8, and then finally to continue the work of the G8 in focusing on cooperation in security matters, including non-proliferation, counter-terror and other areas on the security agenda.

Q Are you expecting any progress in terms of China and making moves towards a more flexible currency? Is that going to be a big topic of conversation with China?

MR. SHIRZAD: I imagine the leaders will have a broad, kind of unscripted discussion during the economics piece. In terms of how the discussions go on that particular issue, it's obviously premature to tell. We'll see how it comes out. But the broad topic of global economy is part of what they'll talk about, and I imagine this issue will come up, as well.

Q Will the climate change text that comes out be just one reflecting all eight views, or will it be like a minority report, or something reflecting the specific U.S. differences?

MR. SHIRZAD: No, the G8 has always operated by consensus, and the texts that they've issued have always been consensus documents. And we expect that we'll have the same result here. I think what we've tried to do on the climate issue is to take what has been an issue where there have been differences, and to use the G8 as a way to find -- and define the common ground, including a common set of actions in terms of how we want to move forward on this issue. And so, obviously, there are countries that are parties to Kyoto who have a certain perspective on the issue; we have our own approach on it. But I'm hopeful that what you'll see by the end of the summit is a consensus view reflected in a plan of action that will reflect the robust set of initiatives that the countries of the G8 will undertake, dealing with the interrelated challenges of climate change, energy security, economic development and then dealing with the problems of pollution.

Q So is that document finished yet, on climate change, or is that still a work in progress?

MR. SHIRZAD: Well, the Sherpas had their negotiating session last weekend, at which we made substantial progress. We will meet again tonight to hopefully get final agreement on all the documents, including the climate change documents. But I don't want to get into the details beyond that, in terms of where the document actually stands.

Q How many of these documents are expected?

MR. SHIRZAD: You know, I don't have an exact count for you, but it's something on the order of 10, or 10, I think.

Q So Africa, climate change, trade imbalances --

MR. SHIRZAD: No, there will be a global economic paper; Africa; climate change; intellectual property; trade, dealing with the Doha agenda; counter-terror; non-proliferation; Sudan; Iraq; broader Middle East.

Q What's the Iraq one going to say?

MR. SHIRZAD: Well, what we expect the Iraq one will say is to express support for the transitional government and for their efforts to move forward on the constitution-drafting process, and the referendum and elections. It also urges people -- countries to move forward on the debt package and to support the economic development and reconstruction of Iraq.

Q Is there going to be much on the way of -- in the way of liberalization of trade with African nations, as a topic of discussion?

MR. SHIRZAD: What you'll see is the Africa document reflects a broad set of initiatives that the G8 are identifying as priority areas, that we're going to work on and try to work cooperatively on, and where possible, coordinate our actions. That includes economic -- issues promoting economic development and economic growth. You'll see there will likely be a trade-capacity building element where we try to build the capacity of the Africans to participate in the global economy. Some of that picks up on the trade initiative that the President announced during his speech at the Hudson Institute. But in terms of actual market liberalization, that will happen under the WTO framework. I think all of us in the G8 recognize that that's the appropriate forum for negotiations.

Q Is there going to be any language relating to a timetable for phasing out export subsidies for agriculture?

MR. SHIRZAD: Well, again, the texts are all being finalized, so I don't want to get into what the particulars are. But what you'll find, I think -- what I'm expecting you'll see is a very strong push on the part of the eight in an effort to give momentum to the WTO negotiations, particularly as you're going into the ministerial meeting in December in Hong Kong, which will be, I think by all accounts seen as a crucial step to hopefully closing out the negotiations by the end of 2006.

Q So a week ago the climate change issue was generating all these reports that this was going to be a huge, divisive issue. And what you're saying now is you think that there is a consensus that's been formed? I wonder if you could sort of elaborate a little on where you are with --

MR. SHIRZAD: I'll answer that two ways. One thing that's clear is that there's a significant common ground. I think what's been useful over the last six months is we've worked through my process, as well as through our experts talking, is that there is a substantial agreement that you have an interrelated set of challenges dealing with economic development, meeting the energy needs both of developed countries, but also of developing countries; dealing with the problems of pollution, but also dealing with the long-term challenge of climate change. And I think on that fundamental level we've actually -- it's been a very constructive six-month period, where the issues are being framed out and being seen in terms that I think reflect a common view.

Then you separately have the process of actually putting texts together that will be the basis of what the leaders issue. And that's a negotiating process that has a dynamic of its own. I'm hopeful that we'll get there, I'm optimistic. But on the more fundamental issue, maybe even the more important issue of whether we've been able to identify an important common ground on the issue of climate change, I think we've made a lot of progress. We actually feel good about that.

Q And that is this action plan that you were talking about?

MR. SHIRZAD: Well, the action plan reflects the realization among all of us that there are an interrelated set of challenges -- energy, security, development and the rest -- and so -- and that perspective will be reflected in what you'll see in the action plan.

Q Just one -- is the bilat with Blair, is that the only one that the President has?

MR. SHIRZAD: It's the only scheduled bilat, yes.

Q Might there be some others?

MR. SHIRZAD: We don't expect at this point, no. None are scheduled.

Q Will there be a pull-aside with, say, China?

MR. SHIRZAD: None are scheduled at this point. There is nothing --

MR. McCLELLAN: We'll keep you updated if there's any changes. But, I mean, part of this was just the time available. And, obviously, Prime Minister Blair is the host country, and so that's why he's having a bilateral with him.

Thanks, Faryar.

Anything else for me?

Q Scott, anything on the Olympics? Sorry to bother you on that.

MR. McCLELLAN: Sure. New York would have been a great site. And while it's disappointing New York wasn't selected, we congratulate London. We wish London great success as they move forward on hosting the Olympics in 2012.

Q What did the Prime Minister say about the issue of Guantanamo to the President this morning?

MR. McCLELLAN: Well, I think I can let the Prime Minister speak for himself, but, I mean, he brought up the issue. It was something that he wanted to express concern about, I think on behalf of his country. And I'll let him speak more to that. But the President welcomed the opportunity to talk about it. I think you essentially heard most of what they discussed in the President's remarks. I mean, the President talked about how these are dangerous individuals; they are at Guantanamo Bay for a reason -- they were picked up on the battlefield. And we've returned a number of those, some 200-plus, we've returned a number of those enemy combatants to their country of origin. Some of -- a few of them have actually been picked up again fighting us on the battlefield in the war on terrorism.

And so the President's most solemn obligation is to protect the American people, and the President recognizes that these are dangerous individuals that have provided us useful information to prevent attacks from happening, and they are individuals that have no regard for innocent human life. The President talked about how we are working on a way forward, and how we deal with these detainees.

The federal courts -- well, we are waiting for the federal courts to issue a ruling. We have set up military commissions to try some of these individuals. They would receive due process and have access to a lawyer through that system. But right now we're waiting to hear back from the federal court on what their ruling is for how we deal with the disposition of some of these detainees. A number of these, I expect, we will continue to look for ways to return them to their country of origin, if we have assurances that those countries will look after them when they are returned.

Q Stupid question. I don't know the name of the Sherpa who briefed us.

MR. McCLELLAN: Faryar Shirzad. He was actually part of -- a brief part of yesterday's briefing on the plane.

Q Can you spell that?

MR. McCLELLAN: We'll get you the spelling. It should be in -- it's in yesterday's transcript, as well.

Q Scott, in general, looking at all of the issues that are in play or on the table at the G8, do you feel like the administration is getting due credit for the efforts that they're making, for instance, on climate change or AIDS in Africa?

MR. McCLELLAN: You should have asked -- probably should have asked Faryar some of those questions. I think there's a lot of common ground, and you're going to see that over the next couple of days at the G8 summit. We all have a shared goal of helping save lives and improve lives in Africa. And the United States is leading the way when it comes to doing that. We are fulfilling our commitments. We have tripled aid under this President, we have -- the President has proposed to double aid by 2010, we have made a strong commitment to Africa, and we will continue to provide significant resources to help the people of Africa.

But it's more than just providing aid. It's also expanding trade and increasing opportunities for the people of Africa. It's making sure that the aid is going to countries that are promoting good governance and investing in their people, as the President talked about. The President and the Prime Minister talked a good bit about the importance of good governance when it comes to how we provide aid, because you want to make sure that money is achieving results. And if it's going to corrupt governments, it's being spent on other things than investing in the people who need it.

And in terms of climate change, I think we all recognize that this is a serious, long-term challenge that we must work together to address. And we've been active. We've been leading the way when it comes to investing in new technologies and putting resources into better understanding the science behind climate change. The President is leading the way when it comes to acting on initiatives to address -- to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. He's put forward the hydrogen car initiative, we're working on carbon sequestration initiatives. We're partnering with other countries on these efforts.

And at home in the United States, we are more than on track to meet our commitment to reduce greenhouse gas intensity by 18 percent come 2012. And we will continue acting. And it's important that we work in partnership to tackle these common challenges that we face, and that's what we're committed to do. We're fulfilling our obligations when it comes to supporting the people of Africa. We hope other countries will step up and fulfill their obligations, as well.

Q But given some of the rhetoric that you hear, don't you feel like some of the, well, European countries in particular, don't really fully either understand or appreciate what the U.S. --

MR. McCLELLAN: Well, I think it's important to look at the record and look at the facts. And it's one of leadership and action, when it comes to addressing these important priorities. Anything else?

Q We're landing.


END 2:36 P.M. (Local)