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

Press Gaggle by Scott McClellan
Aboard Air Force One
En route Panama City, Panama

      Trip to Latin America

6:06 P.M. (Local)

MR. McCLELLAN: My apologies to the larger press corps. The meetings lasted longer than anticipated today and I really didn’t have an opportunity to get over to talk to the larger press corps, so my apologies for that. But we’ll do this gaggle and get the transcript out quickly, hopefully, so everybody will have that.

I want to update you on a few things on the President's day. First of all, early this morning, before the business leaders meeting, the President called President Talabani and then he called Prime Minister Jafaari. Both were brief. The calls were really an opportunity for the President to call and commend the two leaders for the turnout for the constitutional referendum and the passage of the constitution. They talked a little bit about the political progress in Iraq, as well, and that was really the focus of both of those calls.

Then the President had the discussion with the business leaders. I gave you all a little bit of a readout earlier on that, and you have the statements that the two leaders made in Brazil. He had a good discussion with the young leaders, as well – you all were there to cover a portion of that. Some of the other issues that came up during the discussion included criminal justice issues, trafficking in persons, immigration issues, relations with Brazil and other countries in the hemisphere; education issues – there was a lot of discussion about education issues because that group included, as I think you all saw from the list, a number of young academic leaders, professors and so forth.

Anyway, then after that, the President had a very good discussion with President Lula. They were planning on having a restricted meeting, just a very small group, and then they were going to have an expanded meeting – but the restricted meeting ended up lasting for I think about two hours, so they never actually got to the expanded meeting.

These are two leaders that have established a good relationship going back to when President Lula came to the White House to visit a couple years ago.

Let me give you a little bit of a readout on the discussion they had. I think you really got a flavor of this from their statements they made, but let me give you a little bit more.

They talked about regional issues and developments in the region. They spent a good bit of time talking about trade issues, including the importance of moving forward on the Doha Round and how it was critical to – critical to moving forward on Doha was the ending of the agricultural subsidies. And you heard the President expand on that in his remarks. And then they talked about the importance of the United States and Brazil working together on the Doha Round and opening market access and how ending those agricultural subsidies was really key to making progress on other areas.

They talked about China and economic and trade issues related to China. They talked about the free trade area of the Americas and how progress on Doha really presents an opportunity to move forward on the FTAA, as well. And I would point out to you in the joint statement that we put out from the two leaders, in paragraph eight I would just call your attention to that paragraph, because it talked about how the Presidents noted – and I’m quoting from this statement now – "the importance of continuing efforts to promote trade liberalization and reaffirmed their commitment to the FTAA process, based on the Miami framework, and look forward to a hemispheric meeting for the timely resumption of the negotiations."

One thing that I want to do, too, is I also have the – it says "proposed paragraph" that the leaders put out from the Summit of the Americas, but is actually, my understanding is this is what was adopted in the declaration yesterday, so I’ll get Josh to make some copies and make that available to you, as well, so you can see. It’s essentially what Steve was talking to you all yesterday about on the plane.

Anyway, getting back to the meeting, they also spent some time talking about reform at the United Nations. They talked about the importance of working together on the overall reform and how we can do that, which then would enable us to look at Security Council reform, but that first we need to move forward on overall reform at the United Nations. And both leaders agreed that fundamental reform is needed and that they should work together during that process.

They talked about relations with Iran a little bit, a little bit about the nuclear issue. As you all are probably aware, Brazil has trade and political relations with Iran and it was an opportunity to talk about that issue.

Then at the lunch – and the lunch went over, as well; the lunch went, as you all I think know, lasted for a good while – they had a good discussion at lunch. They talked about the economic role that Brazil is playing in the region and the economic potential of Brazil in the hemisphere. One thing that they discussed was Brazil’s use of ethanol. I think it’s 25 percent of the fuel in Brazil is ethanol, and the President talked about how that's something that we need to be encouraging more of in the United States to reduce our dependence on imported oil.

Altogether, they had a very positive meeting and lunch and got along very well, as they have previously. I think one reason for that is that – and I think you heard this in some of the remarks that President Lula made in the statement – one reason that I think they have such a good relationship is that both these leaders are committed to addressing the big challenges facing their countries and facing the world. And they think very strategically, they think longer-term when they approach issues, and I think that's one reason they hit it off so well. You heard the President reference President Lula’s commitment to ending hunger initiative, his zero hunger initiative. And they’ve talked in the past about – the President has talked about our faith-based and community initiative to help those who are in need in our country, as well.

They also had a lengthy discussion about education over lunch, and the importance of education. Brazil has a rather young population, and so they – the President talked about the importance of education and how that will help unlock the potential of the people of Brazil, and President Lula very much agreed with that, as well.

I think that’s all for the meeting. You’ve got their statements. You heard the President’s remarks. Let’s see, what else – tomorrow? Do you want me to touch on tomorrow?


MR. McCLELLAN: Okay. Let me just touch on tomorrow. The President looks forward to going to Panama. Panama is an important ally and they’re a nation that we look to, to be a leader for promoting democracy in the region and in the hemisphere. We have a strong friendship with Panama. The President was pleased to welcome President Torrijos to the White House not too long ago and they had a good visit there.

I think one area that we’ll focus on is trade. I think they’ll talk broadly about our shared vision of freedom and prosperity and security for the hemisphere. And as I mentioned, Panama has been an example for the region when it comes to democratic progress, ever since they reclaimed their freedom back in 1989. and President Torrijos is someone who has been committed to strengthening democratic institutions. And as Panama moves forward to strengthen democratic institutions, they’ve got a good partner in the United States. And that's one of the messages that we’ll be emphasizing while we’re there.

We’re also very much committed to completing a free trade agreement with Panama. And that's something that we’ve been having good discussions with –

Q (Inaudible.)

MR. McCLELLAN: Yes, that's’ right.

Q I’m sorry, that’s as part of the Central American Free Trade Agreement? Or separately, independently?

MR. McCLELLAN: No, we’re talking about a separate one, a bilateral one with Panama. And that will open up opportunities for people in both countries and we’re both very much committed to moving forward on that. We also, of course, have a shared commitment, as I mentioned, on the security front; a share commitment to fighting terrorism and criminal activity. We’ve finalized a number of important maritime initiatives on counter-terrorism and counter-narcotics.

Essentially, when we’re there we have the meeting and then the President and President Torrijos will have a meeting. They’ll have lunch together. They have a joint press availability, as well. We’ve got a roundtable with some business and civic leaders that the President will participate in. He’ll have a wreath-laying ceremony at the American Cemetery there. And we’ll visit the Panama Canal to see the locks. There will be a cultural event – that's a baseball event, where several Major League – Panamanian Major League baseball players will be there. There will be a large number of Little Leaguers and Junior Leaguers that will be there, I think upwards of 90 or so Little League and Junior Leaguers that will be. So the President very much looks forward to the visit tomorrow.

And that's all I've got.

Q Are you planning tomorrow to have some concrete movement forward on the bilateral trade agreements –

MR. McCLELLAN: Well, no, I think they’ll talk about the importance of continuing to move forward on it.

Q When do the talks start on that, do you know?

MR. McCLELLAN: I’ll check. We’ll find out.

Q When would you expect it to be completed?

MR. McCLELLAN: Well, we’re continuing to move forward on it and they’re going to talk about the importance of finalizing an agreement. I don’t want to talk about a timeframe on it, but we’re moving forward on it.

Q Will the President talk about reconstruction in the Panama Canal, or expansion of the Panama Canal?

MR. McCLELLAN: Well, let’s let the meeting take place. I don’t know that that's necessarily – that it’s something that's necessarily on the agenda, per se; but let’s let the meeting take place.

Q Does he have a position on that –

MR. McCLELLAN: You’ll hear from two leaders tomorrow and you’ll have an opportunity to hear their remarks and ask them questions, as well. But the focus is what I said. I mean, it’s really on trade, as much as anything, and democratic institutions. And that's what the purpose of the trip is.

Q So President Bush hasn’t said before what he thinks about expanding the canal?

MR. McCLELLAN: Let me check on that. I’ve been focused more on today.*

Q The press avail, what do you expect, two and two, or statements and two and two or –

MR. McCLELLAN: Yes, that's what I expect.

Q Why wasn’t Panama involved in the CAFTA agreement? **

MR. McCLELLAN: Let me – again, I’ll be glad to look into that and come back and talk to you more about that. And you’ll hear them tomorrow.

Q So this is the first Bush presidential visit to Panama since his father was run out of there?

MR. McCLELLAN: And, Nedra, I mean, we’re moving forward on an agreement with Panama on trade. I mean, there are a lot of – this is part of moving forward bilaterally, regionally and globally on trade issues and I’ll see if there’s anything more to add to it.

Q Is this the first visit of a Bush president since his father’s abbreviated visit, we shall call it? When was that, in ’90 or ’89?

Q It’s in the book.

Q Oh, it’s in the book? I’m sorry. I was there and I can’t remember.

Q For some of us who don’t know them, who are some of the famous Panamanian baseball players?

MR. McCLELLAN: I’ll have a list for you tomorrow. I’ll get you a list. There are several. There will be, I think, five or six that will be there, at least. There are a number of them.

All right, thanks.

* * * * *

* MR. McCLELLAN: Canal expansion ultimately is a decision for the Panamanian people, who will have to approve it through a national referendum. President Torrijos has discussed plans for expanding the Canal, and looking at it in the context of building a prosperous future for Panama.

**MR. McCLELLAN: The Central American countries were already a common market and so it was as much about making sure that those countries were integrated and trading with each other, as with us, as well. And we’re moving forward on a bilateral agreement with Panama.

END 6:20 P.M. (Local)

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