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Home > News & Policies > Press Secretary Briefings

For Immediate Release
Office of the Press Secretary
November 19, 2008

Press Briefing by Assistant to the President for International Economic Affairs Daniel Price and Deputy Press Secretary Gordon Johndroe on the President's Trip to APEC Summit
James S. Brady Press Briefing Room

2:32 P.M. EST

MR. JOHNDROE: Good afternoon. We'll do a briefing on the President's trip to APEC and the meetings he has on the margins there. I'll start, and then Dan Price, Assistant to the President for International Economic Affairs, and sherpa for the APEC summit, as well as the summit last weekend here in Washington, will then run through the agenda for the summit itself.

So let me start with the President's schedule. Early Friday morning, the President will leave Washington and travel to Lima, Peru, for the APEC summit. He arrives mid-afternoon. Later on Friday, he will meet with the President of the People's Republic of China. The President's meeting with President Hu Jintao offers an opportunity to review U.S.-China relations on the eve of the 30th anniversary of diplomatic relations, which will be in January.

President Bush has built a relationship with the Chinese leader that is cooperative, candid, and constructive, as evidenced by the positive role China played at the G20 meeting last weekend here in Washington. They will discuss, of course, the international financial situation, as well as our desire to have a successful conclusion of the Doha Round this year.

The President appreciates China's leadership on the North Korea denuclearization issue, and they will discuss the importance of an early six-party talks heads of delegation meeting to reach final agreement on North Korean verification. They will also likely discuss a number of global issues, including Iran, Burma, Zimbabwe, Sudan.

And as the President has always done in all of his meetings with Chinese leaders, the President will discuss issues of human rights and religious freedom, including the ongoing dialogue between Beijing and the Dalai Lama.

On Saturday morning, the President will go to the Ministry of Defense Convention Center, where he will deliver remarks to the APEC CEO Summit. Following those remarks, the President will return to his hotel. He will have bilateral meetings with both the President of the Republic of Korea, as well as with the Prime Minister of Japan.

These meetings are an opportunity to underscore the strength of our alliances in Northeast Asia that are fundamental to our Asian security posture, and to peace and stability in the region. The President will express appreciation for the highly constructive roles both nations continue to play in the six-party talks, and will discuss with them ways to move that process forward.

The President will also use both of these meetings as an opportunity to thank these two leaders for the positive role that both Japan and South Korea have played in Iraq and Afghanistan, and to discuss the way ahead on global counterterrorism efforts, as well. He'll have a chance to review the progress made at the recent G20 meeting here in Washington, and those discussions will also include the importance of trade. And they will discuss regional security and talk about regional architecture for Northeast Asia and for the Asia Pacific region as a whole.

Then in between the two bilaterals, all three leaders will meet together in a trilateral. I expect the focus of that meeting will be North Korea.

Moving on to Saturday afternoon, the President will then attend the APEC Leaders Retreat I at the Convention Center. After that, he will attend the Leaders Dialogue with the APEC Business Advisory Council -- ABAC -- something he's done I believe at all of the APECs he's attended. Later that evening, the President and Mrs. Bush will attend the gala dinner, also at the Convention Center.

On Sunday morning, the President will meet with the President of Peru. It will be an opportunity for the two Presidents to reaffirm the U.S.-Peru relationship, which is the strongest it has been in years. Both leaders share a vision of governing based on the importance of democracy, economic openness, the fight against extremism and intolerance, and they are both committed to extending the benefits of democracy to all segments of society.

The two can be expected to discuss efforts to meet the goal of bringing the U.S.-Peru FTA into force by the end of the year. The President will likely share with President Garcia his views on the recent summit that took place here in Washington. And I expect the two leaders to discuss Latin American regional issues, including ways to extend the commitment of democratic government and open markets throughout the hemisphere.

Following that -- we're now into mid-Sunday morning -- the President will attend APEC Leaders Retreat II, and then participate in the much anticipated APEC official photograph at the Ministry of Defense Convention Center, then participate in the APEC Final Declaration Ceremony, also at the Convention Center.

Let me just say that although there's not a firm time yet, it's very likely that President Bush will meet with the President of the Russian Federation, Dmitry Medvedev. I expect they will discuss the ongoing situation in Georgia, the global financial situation, as a follow-up to the Washington summit that President Medvedev attended, as well as missile defense and other strategic issues.

The President and Mrs. Bush will return to Washington on Sunday evening somewhat late.

Let me note something on Mrs. Bush's travel. Tomorrow, Thursday, Mrs. Bush will travel to Panama City, Panama. The primary purpose of her visit is to announce the U.S.-Panama Partnership for Breast Cancer Awareness and Research. She will note -- let me see -- I note that Mrs. Bush has previously traveled to the Middle East and Mexico to announce similar partnerships.

On Friday, she travels to Pisco, Peru. Pisco is one of the towns hardest hit in the August 2007 earthquake that struck Peru's central coast. There she will tour the San Clemente Health Center and participate in a tour of a adobe housing reconstruction project. She will meet up with the President in Lima on Friday afternoon.

With that, let me turn it over to Dan and then we will both be available to answer questions.

MR. PRICE: Thank you, Gordon. Good afternoon, everyone. I wanted to go over the principal priorities of the United States heading into APEC, and how we see the discussions likely to evolve.

Essentially we have six priorities, which I will enumerate and then go back and explain each one. The first is advancing the work begun here in Washington at the G20 leaders meeting on financial markets reform and the global economy. The second is deepening regional economic integration. The third is enhancing competitiveness of the APEC region. The fourth is addressing a range of human security needs that cover the ground from food and commodity issues to counterterrorism, to disaster response. And the last is energy security and climate change.

Q That's five.

MR. PRICE: You're right, that is five. (Laughter.) I miscounted in my head. Thank you. Let's start at the top with financial markets reform and the global economy.

As you may know, nine of the 21 APEC members were at the G20 leaders meeting here in Washington. We will, together with our colleagues, be working to expand support among APEC members for the declaration adopted here in Washington. So we will be seeking to broaden out the support among the APEC membership for continued efforts to stabilize the financial system and restore economic growth; for the common principles for reform identified in the Washington declaration; for the commitment to free market principles, including the rule of law, open trade, and investment, and competitive economies that will be vital to ensuring the successful implementation of the reforms being pursued; and finally, a rejection of protectionism and a commitment to refrain for a 12-month period from raising new barriers to trade and investment.

Finally in this area we will be seeking to broaden support among APEC's membership for concluding this year an agreement on modalities -- that is the fundamental framework relating to industrial and agricultural goods -- so that we can lay the groundwork for the eventual completion of a Doha Round that actually increases trade flows in agriculture, industrial goods, and services.

On the second priority, that is deepening regional economic integration, it is important that we bear in mind that the APEC economies together account for 55 percent of world GDP, nearly half of all world trade, and 41 percent of the world's population. The Asia Pacific is a vital and growing economic partner for the United States. U.S. goods trade with APEC economies grew from $1.2 trillion in 2001 to nearly $2 trillion in 2007. So trade with APEC economies today constitutes nearly two-thirds of all U.S. goods trade.

The United States would like to build on this growing relationship by taking concrete steps that help move us to the long-term goal of a free trade area of the Asia Pacific. APEC has completed 14 sets of so-called model measures corresponding to chapters in a free trade agreement, and these model measures would, if implemented in regional FTAs, promote high-quality agreements. And we have made significant progress on some of the remaining chapters.

This year also, APEC concluded a study of the commonalities and differences among the 30 FTAs, the 30 free trade agreements between and among APEC economies that will hopefully provide a road map going forward, and APEC agreed to launch an investment facilitation action plan to improve investment climates in APEC member countries, and increase investment flows within the region.

For our part, the United States will be explaining to our APEC partners the U.S. decision to join the negotiations of what is called the Trans-Pacific Strategic Economic Partnership -- or TPP. This is with Singapore, Chile, New Zealand, and Brunei. The TPP is a very high standard free trade agreement and it could provide a foundation for achieving this long-term goal of a free trade area of the Pacific.*

From the U.S. perspective, TPP will help ensure that U.S. exporters are able to benefit from a broader regional agreement that allows them to compete against exporters that are presently able to take advantage of this array of preferential trade agreements in the region that do not include the United States.

It's important to note that in 1980, there were 22 agreements involving Asia Pacific countries or economies. In 2008, there are 152 agreements in force; 21 are completed and awaiting implementation, and 72 are being negotiated. I realize that's a lot of numbers. The important takeaway is that it is critical for the United States to help lead the development of an inclusive regional economic architecture in the Asia Pacific because some of those efforts, indeed many of the efforts that I've just described within those vast numbers, are focused on Asia-first, or Asia-only agreements.

Since the United States announced its decision to participate in TPP in September of this year, a number of additional countries have expressed interest in potentially participating. These include Australia, Peru, and Vietnam. We will be consulting with stakeholders and with Congress as these countries move along their decision-making path as to whether they wish to participate.

The third element was enhancing competitiveness of the APEC region. There are a number of initiatives underway there. I just want to highlight two here. Those of you who will be going on the trip, you'll hear about more at the briefings at the end of each day. The two that I wish to highlight now are the actions taken by APEC members to reduce trade-related transaction costs -- that is the cost of moving goods across borders and clearing them through customs. Between 2001 and 2006, APEC reduced those transaction costs in the region by 5 percent. We collectively have pledged to reduce those costs by an additional 5 percent by 2010.

The second issue under competitiveness, the U.S. and APEC are working very closely together to bridge the digital divide. This year, APEC telecom ministers pledged to achieve universal broadband access in the region by 2015. In addition, APEC will focus on the development of regulatory frameworks to promote telecom market competition and liberalization.

The next priority -- this is addressing human security needs. And here we will expand participation in APEC's food defense pilot program, which helps to prevent and prepare for and respond to threats to the food supply. And Peru has announced that it will be the first participant. We will also be, and have endorsed the launch -- that is, "we," APEC, have endorsed the launch of something called the Partnership Training Institute Network, to strengthen food safety training. It will include experts from industry, government, and academia. Our FDA and the University of Maryland will serve on the steering group to develop a pilot program for 2009.

Finally, in the area of energy security and climate change, we hope that APEC will continue its important work in supporting the negotiations under the U.N. Framework Convention and continue supporting the work of the major economies process. We expect a discussion by the APEC members on the need to meet energy needs through enhancing the functioning of energy markets that promote trade in energy goods and services, as well as foster an improved investment climate for the development of energy resources. And, as last year, we can expect continued discussion and work on the area of efficiency.

Finally, I would note that the U.S. will be hosting APEC in 2011. Singapore is hosting APEC next year, 2009; Japan in 2010; and the United States in 2011.

Why don't I stop there and open it up for questions.

Q One for each of you, actually. Dan, would you -- you see a reason why APEC wouldn't sign on en masse to the G20 declaration, or the G20 statement of principles at this meeting?

(Telephone rings.)

MR. JOHNDROE: They're calling to sign on now. (Laughter.)

Q Is that what you expect, that at this meeting the APEC countries, the 21 will sign on to the G20?

MR. PRICE: I don't want to prejudge what it is they will do. I will say that certainly one of our priorities, and I believe this would be a priority of the other eight countries who are here who are part of APEC, we would seek to broaden the support for that declaration by having it endorsed by the other members of APEC.

Q And, Gordon, can you shed a little bit more light on the Russia meeting? You said that -- did you mean to attach it to Sunday afternoon, or is it just at some point between arrival and departure?

MR. JOHNDROE: At some point between arrival and departure I expect the two leaders will meet.

Q And what -- how would you -- could you take the temperature of U.S.-Russia relations right now? Medvedev came out and said he wants to build a strategic partnership under an Obama administration. Some might say a strategic partnership with some friction is what you have now. What's the -- what's your take on the status of U.S.-Russia relations?

MR. JOHNDROE: Well, you know, I think we had a good declaration coming out of Sochi earlier this year, and -- but we clearly disagree with Russian behavior when it comes to what took place in Georgia. And we also have, obviously, a different position when it comes to missile defense. And I think any discussions that President Bush has, or that any American officials have with Russian officials, makes it clear that missile defense is designed to protect all of us -- Russia, the United States, Europe -- from missile launches from rogue states.

And so there's a few areas where we have some disagreements. Overall, I think everyone agrees that a strong and good U.S.-Russia relationship is in everyone's interest. But we have some issues that we're going to need to work through.

Q The uncertainty about the meeting is both sides want to meet, you guys are just trying to nail down a time and place, or was there some hemming and hawing about an actual sit-down?

MR. JOHNDROE: No, scheduling issue at this point.

Q The first priority that you -- among the subjects to be discussed that you mentioned was Georgia. And you mentioned it again that this is a subject of disagreement. But the picture of that conflict, the picture what actually happened has shifted -- dramatically, I would say -- shifted in the U.S. and other Western press in recent weeks, where people have now moved much closer to what originally was the Moscow explanation of what happened, much further away from what Washington said was the cause and the substance of what happened. This is -- has your approach to all of this changed in any way?

MR. JOHNDROE: Andre, I don't necessarily agree with your statement. There are a number of reports out there. It's clearly an issue where both sides had -- took some unnecessary steps on the ground in those days. We need to work through those issues. But right now what we support is getting more EU monitors in there and continue to support the territorial integrity of Georgia.

And so I just disagree. I don't think that people are moving to a different position on it.

Q Two questions. What, besides the G20 -- getting more people to sign on, I want to know what is the effect of that? Why is that so important, or what will happen if that happens? And secondly, besides that, what are the other commitments that you're looking for -- like the other top two commitments that you're looking for at the summit?

MR. PRICE: Let me take the first one first. As you look through that Washington declaration, I think it becomes pretty clear why it's important to have that broadly shared. One, there is a commitment to reform of financial markets -- not just our own, but the reform of financial markets of all those who have subscribed to that declaration. So I think the --

Q Just more nations doing the same thing -- is that what you're saying?

MR. PRICE: Yes. You say that in kind of a way that kind of trivializes it. It's actually -- I don't know if that --

Q I didn't mean to. (Laughter.)

MR. PRICE: It's actually a pretty big deal to have --

Q Why is it a big deal?

MR. PRICE: -- the 20, and then the remaining 12 APEC members subscribe to those principles that, one, recognize that it is only through adherence to core free market principles that we will be able to bring about the needed reform to the financial system, as well as restore global economic growth; to have these additional countries also, themselves, rejecting protectionism, rejecting any impulse to turn inwards, agreeing not to erect trade barriers and, as well, committing themselves to the completion of a modalities agreement; and finally, to participating in the reform of international financial institutions.

I would say that is very significant because the G20 represents a certain global consensus. As that consensus broadens out, as other members of the global community -- significant members represented by the non-G20 members of APEC -- subscribe to those same principles, it gives them more power and I think underscores the likelihood and enhances the likelihood that we will all succeed in accomplishing those shared goals.

And your second question?

Q Is that the top priority, do you think, at the summit?

MR. PRICE: That is one of the top priorities. I would say the other top priority is enhancing regional economic integration.

Q Okay, those two things.


Q Can you talk a little more broadly about the concerns that you expect to hear from particularly leaders from Asia about what the long-term effects of this global financial crisis are going to be on trade? Aren't they worried about sort of an unraveling of their relationship that has developed across the Pacific between the U.S., in particular, and a lot of the Asian economies?

MR. PRICE: I don't know that I would call it concern about "unraveling" the relationship. Rather I think the concerns fall into a couple of different categories.

The first is, as I've said, there is a concern that we've heard expressed about nations turning inward, of focusing solely on themselves and taking steps that are disintegrative, if I can use that -- putting up trade barriers. So I think it's going to be important to these countries to reinforce the message of free trade, of global integration. I think that would be a principal concern that we can expect to hear.

The second is the potential drying up of trade finance. And here, as you'll recall in the declaration signed at the summit over the weekend, there was an acknowledgment of the importance of ensuring adequate resources for trade finance. I think there will also be a more generalized concern about resources for developing countries, which really has two parts: One, ensuring that the IMF, the World Bank, and other multilateral development banks are adequately resourced to assist developing countries get through this crisis, number one. And the second is a concern that nations that have made commitments on bilateral aid will fall down on those commitments, and as you heard our President at both the development summit and the recent summit, underscoring the importance of countries meeting their promises.

And if I could point out one other thing, John. In the declaration that was just adopted this past weekend, there was a very interesting development because that declaration not only called on countries who have made commitments to honor those commitments, it called upon both developed and developing countries to make aid commitments consistent with their capacities and role in the global economy. And I think that was an important acknowledgment that development assistance is no longer the purview of a handful of developed nations alone, but a shared responsibility of the major economies, as well.

Q How much of this is a farewell for President Bush on the world stage? Do we expect any kind of reflective remarks from him at some point about his interaction either with this group or other overseas summits over his years? And do we expect any kind of farewell from the other world leaders to him?

MR. PRICE: Let me take that in pieces. This is a serious meeting; it is not a farewell. I'm often asked the question -- I was asked this before the G8, I was asked this question before this most recent summit: Is this going to be a real meeting -- lame duck, low approval ratings. I think that completely misses the point.

This President has long advocated a core number of principles and policies that have now attracted broad support in the global community. And these principles and policies have their own gravitational pull. They include the power of free trade and free markets to better the lives of people and create economic opportunity. They include the obligation of those countries who are blessed with the means to do so to help the poor and the vulnerable and the sick, and stressing as well the importance of countries honoring their commitments. And finally, they include helping promote transparent, accountable, stable democracies based on the rule of law and responsive to the needs of their people.

And the President's fidelity to these principles and their power to command international support doesn't depend on poll numbers and doesn't vary with the election cycle. This President has advocated these concerns -- open markets, accountability, addressing poverty and disease -- at G8 meetings, at APEC meetings, and at the recent Washington summit. And in each setting, the President has garnered the support of other leaders.

So I don't think this is a farewell in the sense as I understood the question, but rather an opportunity for the President to continue to carry forward an affirmative agenda.

Do I expect other leaders to take note of the fact that this is his last APEC? Yes. Indeed, a number of leaders at the meeting over the weekend who aren't going to APEC noted that and, indeed, thanked the President for his leadership. And at one point there was, in fact, sustained applause for the President's leadership, following remarks by Prime Minister Brown.

Q My next question of the general financial economic crisis -- not only in the U.S., around the world. I would be interested to learn whether there are intergovernmental talks about help for automakers -- transatlantic, but also in APEC countries, because at least in my country there is a discussion now how the German government can help German automakers -- for example, Opel, which is the daughter of GM -- without running the risk that intervention, subsidies will be used inside GM for the U.S. market.

MR. PRICE: I understand the question. I'm not aware of any such talks, or talks on any other specific sector. Rather the talks have focused on ensuring continued economic growth and restoring global prosperity.

Q Thank you, sir. Two questions, one for you and one for Gordon. Sir, could you tell us your sense about the likelihood of the agreement on the WTO's modalities and how do you see the possibility that members to reach agreement on that by the end of this year?

The second one is for Gordon. Gordon, in regard to the Dalai Lama, what can President Bush tell President Hu Jintao at the time when the Dalai Lama is in a very difficult position to proceed the dialogue with Chinese counterpart? Thank you.

MR. PRICE: You know, I'm not going to assign percentages to your question. I will say this, however -- if the leaders of APEC and the leaders of the non-APEC members of the G20 follow through on their avowed declaration, then we can do it. And this has a couple of parts. It's not just the expression of political will to do it; it is the recognition that the very countries with the most at stake in the trading system are around the APEC table and were around the table at the Washington summit. If those countries together say they want to do it and are willing, as the declaration says, to make the positive contributions necessary, then we can get it done.

Concluding a modalities agreement is not the work or the responsibility of any single nation. It will require those with the greatest stake in the global trading system to make some hard choices and to take it over the finish line.

MR. JOHNDROE: I think the President will repeat what he has often said to the Chinese leadership with regarding the Dalai Lama. One, the Dalai Lama is a man of peace. He is not seeking independence for Tibet. And the President will continue to encourage Beijing to reach out to the Dalai Lama, to the Dalai Lama's team, and to continue the dialogue that they have been engaged in.

I'm sorry, back behind you, Andre.

Q My question is to Gordon. You said about the meeting between Hu Jintao and President Bush, that there were possibility of having all the six-party head of delegation meeting. And the U.S. has been pushing for it and China has been hesitant to have six-party talks. Is there any reason for that? And do you expect that will change after the summit meeting?

MR. JOHNDROE: I'm not sure if I would ascribe any sort of hesitancy to any one particular party. I would just say that this will be an opportunity for the President to discuss the North Korea denuclearization issue with the President of China, the President of South Korea, and Prime Minister Aso of Japan -- an opportunity for all the leaders to talk about this, try and move the issue forward, have a heads of delegation meeting, and formalize the verification protocol so that we can move forward with the North Koreans on that issue.

Okay, thank you, all, very much.

MR. PRICE: Thank you.

END 3:12 P.M. EST

* Asia-Pacific