For Immediate Release
Office of the Press Secretary
October 17, 2008
Press Briefing by Press Secretary Dana Perino
James S. Brady Press Briefing Room
10:33 A.M. EDT
MS. PERINO: Hello, happy Friday. A couple of things. Some of you may remember that during a visit to Estonia in November of 2006, the President announced a legislative initiative to extend the privilege of visa-free travel to the United States to the citizens of many of our closest friends and allies. Many of the changes the administration sought were enacted as part of the law that was passed, called The Implementing Recommendations of the 9/11 Commission Act Law of 2007. The President signed that about a year ago, in August 2007.
And today in the Rose Garden, the President will announce that U.S. negotiators have completed significant new travel security agreements with seven Visa Waiver Program candidate countries: the Czech Republic, Estonia, Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania, Slovakia and South Korea. The President will also underscore his support for continued expansion of the Visa Waiver Program -- also known as the VWP -- to include the other so-called road map countries, or candidates, and this includes: Bulgaria, Cyprus, Greece, Malta, Poland and Romania.
Ambassadors from these 13 countries will attend this morning's event. We believe that they are all on track to qualify.
Also a scheduling update for you. On Monday, the President will travel to Alexandria, Louisiana, and will participate in a roundtable on the economy at the Central Louisiana Chamber of Commerce. You can expect to hear -- that he'll hear from local businesses and community bankers on how they are dealing with the current economic situation.
With that, I'll go to questions.
Q Is it the White House expectation that the meeting tomorrow at Camp David will produce a date and place for the G8 summit?
MS. PERINO: It's not my expectation; I don't believe that tomorrow night's meeting will have any new policy announcements or any decision on a date or a location for that meeting -- although everybody is working towards that. I think it will be an ongoing discussion about the recent coordination efforts that have been going back for a while, including as far back as April of this year, through the Financial Stability Forum that we've been talking a little bit about.
With President Sarkozy and the EC President Barroso here in the region, the President was happy to invite them down to Camp David, where they will arrive. They'll have a meeting. Then they will go into a dinner and have just a short amount of time right after the dinner to be able to continue talking. And then they will head back to Europe.
Q You seem to be trying to keep the expectations for this meeting pretty low, whereas on the other side of the Atlantic they're suggesting that there's going to be a lot more to come out of this, that they are going to pin down a date that they're going to press the President on.
MS. PERINO: I think a date for a meeting is a little bit less important than figuring out what recommendations people want to come to the table with. We have issues to deal with regarding disclosure for banks, accounting rules at credit rating agencies, capital standards, asset valuation, supervision -- all of these issues is what are included in what the financial services [sic] forum has been trying to work through for the past several months.
There have been some ideas that have been brought forward by individual countries. There are other countries that are going to have ideas, as well. Certainly we have said, through the G8 statement, that whenever we do have this meeting, it would be a broader group of countries -- not just the G8 leaders. So there's a lot of things to work through and we'll find a date; that won't be -- that's the least of our worries, is finding a date.
Q So do you expect any of these specific issues to be discussed at Camp David tomorrow?
MS. PERINO: Probably. I think that they will come up. The financial services -- I'm sorry -- Financial Stability Forum has been working through how to deal with all those main topics that I just mentioned -- there might be a couple of others -- but it takes a while to figure out how it's going to work both from a individual country standpoint and also what could work and apply worldwide.
So I would certainly expect that details might be discussed, but I don't expect anything to be announced tomorrow or worked out, especially when you only have two leaders of what will eventually be a larger group of people getting together to talk about how do we move forward to address the challenges so that we can prevent a crisis like this from happening again, but also preserve our free market system.
Q Will there be a readout after the meeting?
MS. PERINO: Probably a short one. I wouldn't -- one, we're not anticipating any new policy announcements. We're not anticipating any sort of readout. I don't expect the leaders to take questions tomorrow night. I think this is a chance for them to continue to have a conversation. This is a meeting and a working dinner and then the two Presidents will head back to Europe.
Q It's only remarks going in?
MS. PERINO: Yes, on arrival.
Q On another subject, the Iraq -- something seems to be bubbling with Iraq status of forces agreement. How much closer are you? And what did you think of Secretary Gates apparently supporting the draft agreement that's on the table that calls for troops to leave by 2011, and also would allow the Iraqis, under certain circumstances, to try U.S. soldiers in courts?
MS. PERINO: A few things. We've been telling you for a while that we would be working on -- two things: a strategic framework agreement and a status of forces agreement. Those two things we continue to work on and they're moving forward through the process simultaneously.
So one is quite -- is a little bit broader, the strategic framework agreement, which talks about bilateral relations going forward on a range of issues: economic cooperation, diplomatic efforts, political reconciliation efforts, things like that.
The status of forces agreement is something we've been talking about in a little bit more detail that we provided you in July, where we talked about a couple of things. One, that we would work on an aspirational date for when our troops could -- when we would feel comfortable for our troops to be able to come home. And we are able do that for a couple of reasons: one, because of the bravery and skill of our soldiers that have achieved tremendous gains in Iraq over the past year; and also because the Iraqis, their security forces has increased in confidence and competence over the past year, and they're increasingly able to take over.
So we are getting closer to having this agreement worked out. Consultations are continuing with members of Congress. And so I don't -- I can't provide you the details on those two issues you mentioned, in terms of dates or the jurisdictional issue. But we are getting closer. These agreements are not unlike ones that we have with other countries around the world, such as Japan and South Korea. So we anticipate being able to hopefully have something soon. But I will stress to you, it's not finalized yet. There are steps that the Iraqis have to go through, several different political steps, different organizations within their political structure that have to take a look at this agreement.
We've been briefing our members of Congress, and that continues. Both candidates have been informed. And so until I have more details to provide you, I think I'll leave it there. But we'll keep you updated as we move forward.
Q But this -- I guess one of the questions is, you know, if Secretary Gates apparently supports the draft that's out there, that contains these two provisions in it -- I mean, does the President also --
MS. PERINO: I would not at all be surprised that Secretary Gates would support the draft since we're getting closer to a final agreement.
Q Dana, you mentioned the candidates being informed. I guess, in this process, like so many things that are unfolding in these late days of the administration, how intimately are they and will they be involved as this progresses?
MS. PERINO: Well, I wouldn't call it involvement. I would say that we are keeping them informed about activities. And remember, certainly they have committee assignments and things like that, as senators, as well. But what we have tried to do on this issue, as well as on the economy, on North Korea, is to keep them equitably informed throughout the process so that they can be aware of all of the issues. One of them is going to win the election, and they will be taking over and having to deal with these issues as they take over office. So it's only prudent for us to make sure that we get them the information that we think they need.
Q Two questions. On Iraq, are you having members of Congress down here for briefings this morning, or today, or is it congressional aides?
MS. PERINO: I think a lot of things have been done -- I think a lot of things have been done by phone call since most of the members aren't in town.
Q Okay. Are there no aides being briefed here by --
MS. PERINO: Staff is being briefed, as well.
Q Congressional staff, okay.
MS. PERINO: Congressional staff is being briefed, as well.
Q Do you know by whom?
MS. PERINO: National Security Council staff. There's a range of people. I'm not going to get into the details of the briefings, but I would say that they're at a high enough level that they will be sufficiently informed and have everything that they need and have the right people to ask questions of.
Q The other question is, for Camp David tomorrow, the Europeans are talking about such things -- such far-reaching things as re-writing the Bretton Woods. What does the President think --
MS. PERINO: I can sure assure you that I don't think the re-writing of Bretton Woods is going to take place at Camp David tomorrow. (Laughter.)
Q I'm not suggesting it tomorrow. I'm saying that that should be a topic for whatever G8 summit there is.
MS. PERINO: It could be. I think that people will come forward with their ideas and their recommendations. And look, we will have that meeting and it will be one with a full agenda. They will address a lot of issues going forward.
But what we have been immediately concerned about is the situation at hand right now, and that's why the President met last week with the G7. We have the G7 action plan that went into implementation over the weekend, with Europe being able to announce the capitalization of their banks. We did the same after we were able to talk to our nine institutions. So all of that work is being done right now, while at the same time we're trying to think long term. But I think the most important thing we can do is make sure that we stop the bleeding here before we move onto the next project.
We will move onto it. We will have a meeting. It will be one that has a robust and full agenda. But finding a date for that meeting and a location for that meeting really is not the top priority at the moment.
Q Dana, will Paulson or any other economic officials be at Camp David tomorrow?
MS. PERINO: Good question. Let me see if I can get you a list. I know Stephen Hadley will be there, Ed Gillespie, I think Dan Price from the National Security Council. But I don't know, outside of this building, who will be there. So I'll try to get it for you.
Q Ms. Perino, why Greece -- (inaudible) -- Cyprus excluded from the Visa Waiver Program at this time?
MS. PERINO: Well, Greece has a little bit of more work to do on the implementation of the program. But we think that they're on track to be able to be admitted into it later in the year.
Q (Inaudible) are you talking about?
MS. PERINO: On the Visa Waiver Program.
Q And also how do you think -- (inaudible) -- possible, approximately?
MS. PERINO: I think that we're looking towards by the end of the year we hope to have that all wrapped up.
Q Dana, thank you. Two questions. At the World Policy Forum in France, the Reverend Jesse Jackson declared, "Although Zionists, who have controlled American policy for decades, remain strong, the decades of putting Israel's interests first would end once Obama becomes President." And my question: What does the President --
MS. PERINO: I'm not going to comment.
Q -- who does control foreign policy, have to say about Mr. Jackson's anti-Israel statement?
MS. PERINO: I don't do a couple things: I don't comment on the 2008 election, nor do I comment on things that Jesse Jackson says. So I'm not going to comment.
Q Do you have no comment --
MS. PERINO: I don't. Let's move on, please.
Q Has the White House issued any statement yet on the July 2nd proposal to form, "a civilian national security force as large and as well-funded as the army," which was made by Senator Obama in Colorado Springs?
MS. PERINO: I'm not aware of it. We'll get back to you.
Go ahead, Paula.
Q On the Colombia free trade agreement, the President has repeatedly called for Congress to pass this, and there is some talk on the Hill about possibly supporting that -- if the White House agrees to support an economic package. So I just wondered if that's a possibility?
MS. PERINO: You heard from the President this morning, said that we think that one of the best ways to continue to stimulate the economy is to continue to open up markets. And there are three free trade agreements in front of Congress right now: the Panama agreement, South Korea and Colombia. We don't necessarily think that they need to be linked to anything. They should be given an up or down vote on their merits.
Go ahead, Goyal.
Q Two questions. One, talking about Visa Waiver Program, day before yesterday there was a conference at the Chamber of Commerce, the United States -- the U.S.-India Business Council and also yesterday (inaudible) of India was here at the Sackler Gallery. There were all talking about this U.S.-India civil nuclear agreement and also as far as cultural programs going on now between the two countries. Is India going to be included in this program? Because -- (inaudible) -- about yesterday praising U.S. for opening the doors?
MS. PERINO: I'll have to check. They're not on my -- on the list that I brought with me, but we'll check.
Q And second, as far as -- terrorism is going on in the Afghanistan. You think -- what President Bush thinks about that when people talk about it comparing of Senator Obama with Osama, because Osama -- Obama is --
MS. PERINO: Goyal, please -- Goyal, I'm just going to move on. Victoria.
Q In his op-ed today, Gordon Brown says the old postwar international financial institutions are out of date. Does the President agree with that?
MS. PERINO: Did you happen to see the President's speech this morning?
Q I did, I was there.
MS. PERINO: Okay, so he said that you can't have a 21st century system with 20th century laws. And so one of the things that we'll be doing as we move forward is thinking about what changes need to be made so that we can prevent a crisis like this from happening again, but also preserve our free market system.
Q Would he support the foundation of a completely new global organization?
MS. PERINO: I don't know. I think that what we'll do is accept for consideration all recommendations and all good ideas that come to us; and then it won't just be the United States and it won't just be Europe that thinks about all of these ideas, it will be a broader group of countries.
Q Thank you.
Q Subject of the radio address?
MS. PERINO: The economy.
Q Will he mention the Bretton Woods agreement? (Laughter.)
MS. PERINO: I don't think so. (Laughter.)
END 10:47 A.M. EDT