For Immediate Release
Office of the Press Secretary
September 4, 2001
Second Press Background Briefing
On State Visit of Mexican President Fox
Senior Administration Official
Dwight D. Eisenhower Executive Office Building
2:07 P.M. EDT
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: Good afternoon. President Vicente Fox arrives on the evening of September 4th at Andrews at 10:30 p.m. He will be met by the Chief of Protocol, Ambassador Ensenat, and proceed to Blair House in a motorcade.
His official events begin tomorrow at 10:00 a.m., on September 5th, when he arrives at the White House for the welcoming ceremony on the South Lawn. The President and Mrs. Bush will greet President and Mrs. Fox. They will be escorted into the White House, there will be a receiving line.
And then the President will escort President Fox to the Oval Office and there will be a meeting at the Oval Office at 11:00 a.m. The President will be accompanied by several of his senior advisors. He will be accompanied by the Vice President, he will be accompanied by the Secretary of State, the Attorney General, the National Security Advisor, our Ambassador to Mexico and the Senior Director for Western Hemisphere Affairs. President Fox will be accompanied by an equivalent group of his advisors.
Following the Oval Office meeting there will be a joint Cabinet meeting at the White House, in the Cabinet Room. This will be restricted to the Cabinet chairs of the binational groups. There are 17 Mexican-U.S. binational working groups. That number has been reduced to seven, on a functional basis. They will cover the areas of migration, law enforcement, counternarcotics, border affairs, trade and economics, energy, global and social issues and foreign policy.
Q Who would preside?
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: The two Presidents will preside over that joint Cabinet meeting.
Q Thank you.
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: You're welcome. Following the joint Cabinet meeting -- and I will talk a little bit more about the joint Cabinet meeting after I finish this run through of the schedule -- the President and -- the two Presidents will -- well, they'll say goodbye to each other and President Fox will attend a lunch hosted by the Secretary of State, at the State Department.
And two members of the Cabinet on each side will be available to brief the press, to brief the media on the substance of the Cabinet meeting.
Q The time for that?
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: The time will be 12:35 p.m, 12:40 p.m. or so.
After the State Department lunch, President Fox will have things that he will be doing at Blair House. There will be an awards ceremony for him, offered by the National Endowment for Democracy, at the Capitol, at 4:00 p.m. After that, he will be doing Blair House, his schedule, private time.
And then President and Mrs. Fox arrive at the White House for the State Dinner at 7:30 p.m. There will be toasts at the beginning of dinner. There will be entertainment after dinner.
Q Who is the entertainment?
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: I will get you her name. She's an opera singer from New York and she's very good, and I will provide you her name -- but all of a sudden, I have a lapse of memory, and I didn't write it down. (Laughter.)
The following day, after President Fox will have a series of events at Blair House and beyond, at 11:00 a.m. he will address a joint session of the Congress of the United States.
Q This is Thursday night?
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: Thursday, September 6th. Following the address to the joint session, he will meet with the Vice President in his Capitol Hill office, that will be 11:30 a.m.
President Fox will come back to the White House and on the South Lawn, prior to the departure for Toledo. He and President Bush will have departure statements -- and I understand that Ari announced that there will be an opportunity for questions.
At 12:35 p.m., they will depart the South Lawn via helicopter for Andrews, and at 12:55 p.m. they will depart Andrews en route to Toledo, Ohio.
In Toledo, they will be welcomed at the airport by the Governor of Ohio and other Ohio legislative and state leaders. They will proceed to the local university, where there will be an opportunity for the two Presidents to speak to Hispanic groups who will be there -- some 5,000 or so people.
Following the remarks at the University, the two Presidents will return to the Aurora Gonzalez Community Center in Toledo, for a tour of that center. It's called the Aurora Gonzalez Community and Family Resource Center. That takes place at 4:15 p.m. They depart the Center at 4:45 p.m.; they depart Toledo at 5:25 p.m., arriving back at Andrews at 6:35 p.m. And at 8:00 p.m. there is a private dinner, hosted by President and Mrs. Fox, at Blair House, in honor of President and Mrs. Bush.
The following day, President Fox has a morning and through luncheon program here in Washington, which is his own. It includes a speech to the Organization of American States and a luncheon speech at the International Institute of Economics. And he departs Andrews after lunch for Miami, where he will participate in the Miami Herald Conference, the annual Miami Herald Conference.
I'd like to say something about the events of Wednesday, particularly the joint Cabinet meeting. Following the meeting of the Presidents in Guanajuato, Mexico, in February, the two countries agreed to streamline and to upgrade the binational center commission, which is a grouping of 17 high-level agencies of the two governments that work on a common agenda of issues.
At that time, they decided -- the two Presidents decided to reorganize the approach in order to reflect kind of an executive approach of both Presidents, and their desire to effect -- to strengthen accountability, to strengthen effectiveness and to enhance the problem solving orientation of the BNC.
As a result, the seven binational groups will cover the following themes: migration, law enforcement and counternarcotics, border affairs, trade and economics, energy, global and social issues, and foreign policy. And the structure of the Cabinet meeting, for the bi-national Cabinet meeting, is for each group to make a presentation to the Presidents. And only one member of the group will make the presentation.
For example, on migration, the report issued to the two Presidents will be given by Secretary of State Powell. On foreign relations -- no, excuse me, on border affairs, the report given to the two Presidents will be made by the Mexican Foreign Secretary, Castaneda. The law enforcement/counternarcotics working group will be reported on by the Mexican Attorney General.
The trade and economics working group will -- the report of the trade and economics working group will be handled by USTR and Agriculture, that is Ambassador Zoellick and Secretary Veneman. The energy working group report will be provided by Secretary of Energy Abraham. The bilateral cooperation working group report will be provided by the Mexican Commissioner for Social Development and Mexico's Environmental Minister.
And, finally, the last report is the foreign policy report, jointly chaired by the Foreign Secretary of Mexico and the Secretary of State, and Secretary of State Powell will provide that report.
So, seven reports. The U.S. side will provide four, the Mexican side will provide three.
Q The migration one is Powell?
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: Powell. As you know, it's the Secretary of State and the Attorney General on the U.S. side; and on the Mexican side the Foreign Secretary and the Secretary of Government, who form the working group.
At the end of the meeting, two members -- the heads of two separate working groups on both sides will be available to the press to report.
Q Do you know which ones?
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: We're working that out. I have a good idea, but I am not able to announce it right now. We have to nail that down with the Mexicans.
Q Early on, President Fox and President Bush both raised expectations that there would be a fairly near-term modification to the immigration laws, to accommodate to some degree the Mexicans who work in this country now, undocumented. In recent days, President Fox has indicated that that's now a four to a six-year proposition.
Number one, do you agree with that? Does the administration believe it will take four to six years to put that into place? And, number two, what happened between last spring and now that changed the expectations on that?
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: What we have seen, as the working groups, following the February meeting in Guanajuato, Mexico, undertook their task, is a lot of work and a lot of energy dedicated to a very complex and far-reaching issue. And both countries understand this, and they recognize it, and are talking about it.
The President stated the other day that there are three discussions going on at the same time on these migration matters: one within the United States government; another with Mexico; and another with the Congress of the United States, simultaneously. The guiding principles in the discussions have been a humane approach, to ensure that migration to the United States is safe and legal and orderly and dignified; humane, family-friendly, and at the same time respect the enormously valuable role immigrants continue to play in building our own nation.
There is the issue of fairness: any new system -- excuse me, any system -- must be fair. Our most important obligation is to those who follow the rules and those who abide by the law. The only path is the legal path.
There is the issue of the protection of American workers. An immigration system must not disadvantage American workers. And we're talking about supply and demand of labor in the United States, willing employees matched with willing employers.
We're talking about a joint commitment: the two countries must work together in an authentic partnership -- and they are working together in an authentic partnership -- to keep our borders orderly and safe, and to ensure the integrity and the success of any new policy. And I would like to say something about new efforts on the border that are a real accomplishment over the past several months.
There has been discussion of temporary workers' programs, something that would rest on this partnership approach between the sending and receiving countries, something that recognizes the contributions of undocumented Mexicans, and that brings together willing workers and willing employers.
This is an issue that requires close consultations with the United States Congress, and with the U.S. civil society. All of this is going on. And the issue is complex, and both sides are committed to working very hard toward practical, workable solutions that satisfy the basic interests of both countries.
Q Is it that the further you got in and realized that this was just simply too complicated to be stated as a simple goal by these two leaders so early on?
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: If, in fact, you go back to the Guanajuato statement, it was never conceived by either leader to be a simple goal.
Q But did you get in this process and realize that it was far more complicated than initially thought?
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: I think that everybody realized it was going to be a complicated process.
Q Then what changed between February, when they met and said they would have some decisions by September? The working groups' charge was to bring back a plan of some sort, at least even in concept, by September. And now it's clear that even that is not going to happen.
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: It would be a good idea to go back and read the Guanajuato Declaration of February 16th on that subject.
Q Why? The implications were all that that was what was going to happen.
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: The idea from the very beginning was to identify the issue and to work very hard on it. That is exactly what has happened.
Q They were supposed to report back to the Presidents in September.
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: They are. The Presidents are getting reports back. There are seven binational commissions. Tomorrow, the four will report to the Presidents what the situation is on the migration question.
Q So this agreement is going to take four to six years to get this in place?
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: We are in agreement that a lot of work has to be done, and it is more important to do something that is good than something that is fast.
Q Was the President surprised by some of the opposition on the Hill when news of this plan to -- workers, to give them a legalized status? Was he surprised by some of the opposition by people in his own party?
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: The President always said that work on the subject must involve close cooperation and close consultation with the Congress of the United States. He said that from the very beginning.
Q Is there going to be anything that takes specific notice of the fact that President Fox's grandfather emigrated from Ohio to Mexico? Any meetings with maybe old relatives in Ohio?
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: That's a question that's best posed to the Mexicans, as opposed to us.
Q I understand that the President always understood that there would be cooperation the Congress needed. Was he surprised that there was a lot of opposition from the Republicans on the Hill?
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: The President, I will repeat, always knew that the issue of migration is a complex one. This was discussed fully in Guanajuato, Mexico. Everybody understood it was complex. The important thing is that there was determination expressed and a structure established to work at this issue, and there has been a great deal of work done since that time. It continues even today -- there was a meeting on it -- and it will continue in the future.
Q With what result? What has resulted thus far from this work on this?
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: What has resulted? Much more sharing of information about the subject; much more understanding of the points of view of each other; much more understanding of projections of needs. The Mexican -- well, for example, on the subject of temporary workers, President Fox has a plan that revolves around circularity, of establishing a system whereby workers in the most depressed parts of Mexico, central Mexico and southern Mexico, qualify for temporary working status in the United States; come to the United States, work, send money home, and acquire skills, go back to Mexico and contribute to the economic development of Mexico. That, in turn, requires infrastructure in those areas in Mexico so the Mexican economy takes off.
All of this has been taken into consideration and I would recommend that you pay close attention to the joint communique, which will be issued on Thursday, that will deal with some of these matters.
Q So we're likely to see something that takes care of the temporary worker or guest worker program in the United States, but that does not include anything having to do with legalization, which is what Minister Castaneda at first said it was supposed to be the whole enchilada and not piecemeal.
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: You will see everything on the table, with one exception, which is blanket amnesty.
Q But what's the difference between being on the table and something that there is going to be in agreement to move forward -- will there be an agreement to move forward on one piece of this as opposed to waiting for there to be a whole package?
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: A lot of work is being done. There's a lot of consultation. This is being looked at not as an entire package at this point; it's being looked at in pieces.
Q The February declaration, does -- this says, we are instructing our governments to engage in negotiations aimed at achieving short- and long-term agreements. How soon do you anticipate a short-term agreement on non-migration will be possible?
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: There's a process going on.
Q Is that the four to six-year time line that --
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: I would be loathe to get into any time projection on this. There's a process going on. It is a complex process. It involves consultations with Mexico; it involves consultations with the Congress; it involves consultations within the United States. So this is a complex process, and the important thing is that there is a framework for the process. The process moves forward, with a great deal of energy and a great deal of definition.
Q Is it still possible to get a short-term agreement, as the declaration envisions?
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: It is possible to move this subject forward, as has been the case and as will be reported to the two Presidents in the joint Cabinet meeting which will take place tomorrow.
Q On the energy issue, has there been any advances in terms of getting with the Mexicans to allow a greater -- in their energy sector, whether it be petroleum or petrol chemicals?
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: Energy -- that's an internal Mexican decision, to be sure, what they do with regard to their own internal energy resources. But the thing to keep in mind is that there has been -- there will be a report tomorrow by the two Energy Ministers on the energy side, and I would wait until that report comes out to address that response.
I will say this: there has been progress. There has been progress in the energy sector.
Q Is that where the work is headed? Is that what --
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: There is progress in joint efforts in the energy sector. Mexican decisions about energy resources are sovereign for Mexico.
Q Can I just ask you one question -- I mean, I know you don't want to get into time lines, but the four-to-six year prognostication that President Fox laid down obviously gets you to beyond the first term of the Bush administration and it begs the question as to whether the administration has abandoned the goal of achieving such an agreement in its first term.
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: I would refer you to what comes out of the state visit. The meetings tomorrow -- and there are two of them -- the declarations of the two Presidents on Thursday, and the joint communique, all of this will be addressed there.
Q Has President Fox made a mistake by stating those dates, given the nearness of the visit?
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: There is a process going on, and it's a very energetic process. It's a process that has definition; it's a process that has developed principles; it has developed a framework, and we are moving ahead with it.
Q So the Bush administration is comfortable with that four-to-six-year estimation by President Fox? Since you're not willing to dispute it, are you comfortable with it? Is that acceptable to you?
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: I would suggest very strongly that you wait and see what the two Presidents have to say and you see the joint communique that comes out the day after tomorrow.
Q Whose idea was it to cut those agencies from 17 to seven?
Q I'm sorry, I was trying to ask a question. Let me finish one, okay?
Was there one tangible agreement tomorrow of any kind on any immigration subject -- just one agreement do you think will be announced, at any level, following up on his question?
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: What you will see a focus on is framework and principles.
Q But no agreements?
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: You will see agreement on principles and framework.
Q Whose idea, sir, was it, to reduce the 17 agencies to seven? Did that come from your side?
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: They didn't reduce in number. It's to make the management of those committees more meaningful, more modern --
Q It says 17 committees --
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: Oh, 17 still do exist, indeed.
Q But for the purposes of this summit.
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: For the purposes of this state visit and future visits.
Q Sir, does the joint Cabinet meeting set a precedent of any kind?
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: No, it doesn't set a precedent. There have been previous joint Cabinet meetings. But never has there been a joint Cabinet meeting that's based on this new executive approach of pulling in the binational commissions to report to the Presidents. In the past, the binational commissions all reported to their respective Secretaries of State, and very frankly, it got into a bureaucratic rut.
Q A full Cabinet meeting, a full U.S. Cabinet and a full Mexican Cabinet, or just those officials that are part --
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: No, just the seven on each side, yes.
Q Does the dinner that President Fox is having at Blair House, does that set a precedent?
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: No, not really. In the past, there have been reciprocal dinners. What makes this one special is that it is very small and it is private. And that's what President and Mrs. Fox wanted to do for President and Mrs. Bush. It underlines the very strong personal relationship that exists between these two Presidents.
Q How small is the dinner? Is it just the four of them?
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: No, no, it's larger than that, but it's --
Q A dozen?
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: Not many more than a dozen.
END 2:37 P.M. EDT