|The White House
President George W. Bush
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For Immediate Release
Office of the Press Secretary
October 20, 2003
Press Gaggle by a Senior Administration Official About the APEC Meetings
Grand Hyatt Erawan Bangkok
8:13 A.M. (Local)
MR. McCLELLAN: All right, good morning, everybody. We wanted to go ahead and do a background briefing with a senior administration official before you all hit your deadlines. Now, this will be embargoed until 11:00 a.m. local time. But our senior administration official is here to talk to you all a little bit about the expectations of the day here at the APEC meetings and some of the outcomes that we expect, moving forward.
And with that, I'll just turn it right over to him.
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: Let me tell you what's going to happen today. Yesterday we talked about -- principally about trade in the region and the Doha global trade negotiations. We expect a continuation of the discussion on economics at the second leaders' retreat, which is roughly from 10:00 a.m. today until noon. We expect that discussion also to cover counterterrorism issues. And then there's a leaders' luncheon, which is meant to be more a free-form discussion in which any sort of issues can be discussed.
We're very happy with the Thai chairmanship. They've done a great job in trying to make these discussions more interactive and more informal. We had a very good discussion on trade yesterday and we're very pleased that leaders have agreed to reenergize -- which is the word that will be used in the declaration -- the Doha negotiations, by working off of the Chairman's text that was developed at the recent Cancun meeting. That's an important development. They also call for an ambitious outcome of the Doha negotiations. That ought to lend some increased impetus to those talks that are so important for spurring global growth, both in our economy and throughout the world.
In addition, on the economy, leaders are expected to have a discussion of the need for structural reforms. President Bush has taken decisive action at home with his jobs and growth plan to spur growth. Leaders are expected to call for accelerated structural reforms in the region to spur sustained growth and development.
In addition, leaders will call for increased efforts to bridge the digital divide. And the United States announced that two new countries will be added to the Digital Freedom Initiative -- two APEC countries -- Peru and Indonesia.
Finally, leaders endorsed an energy initiative that's important for spurring growth within the region that seeks to facilitate trade and natural gas -- 62 percent of the natural gas in the world is produced in the APEC region -- but also seeks to enhance emergency response mechanisms and to facilitate and promote investment in clean energy technologies and sources.
On the security side, leaders are expected to recognize that security and prosperity are inseparable. President Bush came to APEC to urge action to promote both prosperity and security. And leaders are expected to recognize that terrorism and the threat of the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction pose profound challenges -- direct and profound challenges to APEC's vision of free, open and prosperous economies. And they're expected to endorse -- we expect them to endorse some commitments on security calling for taking all essential action to dismantle transnational terrorist groups, to eliminate the threat posed by the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, and to confront other direct security threats within the region.
In addition, leaders are expected to endorse new action to address the threat posed by Manned Portable Air Defense Systems -- so-called MANPAD shoulder-launched missiles -- new action to promote the capacity within the region to combat terror, including coordinating with a group that was created at the G8 summit called the Counterterrorism Action Group, that would help prioritize and coordinate donor assistance. And we expect that group to focus initially on Southeast Asia.
And in addition, we created a small facility -- or a new facility at the Asian Development Bank to help support counterterrorism capacity-building, do things like airport and port security assessments, and help with choking off terrorist financing.
In addition, the leaders are expected to endorse a health security initiative designed to better prepare the region to respond to emerging diseases, both natural, like SARS, and manmade.
So those are the initiatives we expect them to endorse. We think that these are significant developments and reinforce the APEC vision of both free and secure and prosperous economies.
Q There's no separate Korean Peninsula statement, right?
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: Not that I'm aware of.
Q But wasn't there an effort to get one?
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: We had one last year. We had one last year, as you recall.
Q Condi said she thought there would be something --
Q I thought there was some effort -- yes.
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: There's been a lot of discussion, as you know, of Korea, of the Peninsula and developments there already.
Q Was that a disappointment that there's nothing on Korea in the statement?
Q On the terrorist statement, are all the nations of APEC basically on record individually saying the same thing anyway?
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: Yes, it was interesting, in yesterday's discussion on trade, which was principally about the Doha negotiations, many of the leaders cited the need to fight terror. What is recognized is that terrorism, itself, can be an obstacle to achievement of the economic goals of APEC, of free trade within the region.
A good example of the way in which security and prosperity are inseparable and go hand in hand is the MANPADS threat, where not only does it pose the potential for significant costs in terms of lives, but also significant costs in terms of damage to key industries -- transportation and tourism within the region. So it's a good example of the way in which security and prosperity go hand in hand. we need to address them together. And I think that there's a clear recognition that that's a significant challenge and an important task for the APEC countries, working together.
Q On that point, will the statement go into any detail on kind of where the region is in terms of threat matrix for shoulder-launched missiles, and what needs to be done, the direction that we need to go here?
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: No, it's a -- this leaders declaration is relatively short, as brief as these things go, and I think it's readable, as well. It will talk about stepping up efforts to strengthen export controls, to ban transfers to non-state end users, to exchange information in support of those goals. So there is some detail, but in terms of the kind of --
Q Has there been any push back from -- obviously, in the Philippines, in particular, it's a real problem, or it's a real concern. Has there been -- what can you say about the level of cooperation from member nations here? Has there been any reluctance to --
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: No. I think -- again, I think that there's -- at the leader level, there is recognition that these two things, prosperity and security, now go hand in hand. Ever since we arrived at Shanghai for the summit in -- APEC summit in 2001, just six weeks after September 11, APEC has been dealing with some of these issues. This is just now a recognition with these specific commitments that, in fact, these security challenges are a challenge to the achievement of APEC's economic vision, as well, and that we need to work together to meet them.
And the expectation is just as we have been doing -- leaders will not only take initiatives like the energy initiative or the statement on Doha, to advance APEC's vision in terms of free and open trade and investment, but that leaders at these summits will be taking initiatives, as last year with the Secure Trade in the APEC Region Initiative, this year with the actions on MANPADS and counterterrorism capacity-building, to advance achievement of these security objectives, to make the region both more prosperous and more secure.
Q But am I right in thinking, though, that APEC -- that APEC final declaration is not legally binding in, say, the way that European Union decisions are legally binding?
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: That's always been the case in APEC. But these are significant political commitments, and they do drive action. And we've seen that over the course of APEC's development. And, in fact, a good example of that, by the way, is last year, you'll recall, APEC adopted something called the STAR initiative -- Secure Trade in the APEC Region. And this is something, by the way, that the business community -- the APEC Business Advisory Committee is recommending that we address the intersection between security and commerce, security and prosperity, to ensure that as we increase our security, we also increase efficiency, and don't impose additional costs on business.
So last year we adopted the Secure Trade in the APEC Region Initiative. And since then -- and that initiative, by the way, had a series of deadlines for taking particular actions -- and since then the APEC economies have done a really fine job of implementing that action plan. So we think that these are important commitments that drive action both on the economic side, as well as on the security side, and the two go hand in hand.
Q Have you made any headway on the free-floating currency issue? And would you expect this to be taken up under the sort of Doha rubric?
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: I can't speculate on what's going to come up today. We've got two hours of discussion in the informal leaders' retreat. And as I said, it's going to open with the continuation of the discussion of economic issues, largely the non-trade economic issues, and then go into a discussion of the counterterrorism issues. And then, as I said, at the luncheon today, it's without an agenda and will be more free-flowing. And we'll see what arises.
Q A couple of things. Do you have an example of what's more informal this time than at past APECs? You mentioned that some discussions are less structured.
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: Well, yesterday, for example, they sat around without a formal table in front of them. They were encouraged not to use notes, and most didn't, and it was a spontaneous discussion, not scripted. And again, the luncheon today, without an agenda, per se, is a good development. We've done that in the G8 summit context with good results. And that's the idea. I mean, one of the values of these summits is the opportunity to exchange views informally with leaders and to have a candid discussion of issues. And we encourage that.
Q The shirt, Scott, has he tried it on? How does it look? Have you got any heads-up?
MR. McCLELLAN: I don't know. Do you know?
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: I'm going to find out shortly.
Q It was in Jesse's garment bag.
Q Have you seen it?
MR. McCLELLAN: We'll find out. No, I have not.
Q Any comments?
MR. McCLELLAN: We'll get you some color on that.
* * * * *
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: I just wanted to point out that I was summarizing some of these commitments. It's important when this declaration comes out to look at it. They're more fulsome then I gave credit to, particularly on the proliferation commitment. It's: eliminate the severe and growing danger posed by the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, their means of delivery, by strengthening international non-proliferation regimes, adopting and enforcing effective export controls and taking other legitimate appropriate measures against proliferation.
Likewise on counterterrorism, it's: dismantle fully and without delay transnational terrorist groups that threaten the APEC economies. And it further says: we pledge to discuss at each leaders' meeting our progress toward these, the security commitments, and to take actions in pursuit of them.
MR. McCLELLAN: So the first part of the proliferation goes toward the North Korea question you were asking.
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: Again, this is near final, or should be the final draft. But take a close look at it when it comes out, and I think you'll see that it covers the issues.
END 8:28 A.M. (Local)