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For Immediate Release
Office of the Press Secretary
October 12, 2007
Press Gaggle by Tony Fratto
Aboard Air Force One
En route Miami, Florida
9:07 A.M. EDT
MR. FRATTO: How are you doing? Good morning. We're flying from Washington to Miami, where the President will, this afternoon, give a speech on trade. This morning he had his regular briefings. Just to let you know, the radio address, which the President taped, is also on the trade message, the importance of expanding trade to help keep -- our economy grow. As he will in his speech this afternoon, he'll call on Congress to pass free trade agreements in Latin America with Peru, Colombia and Panama, and also work toward passing an agreement with South Korea.
The President has, late this morning, the first event at 10:55 a.m., attending a Republican National Committee luncheon; it's at a private residence. And then at 2:00 p.m., the President makes remarks on trade policy in Miami.
I'll give you the week ahead later on. Actually, I have one thing to read out for you, it's relating to Burma: Given the continuing abuses of the junta on Burma, we urge U.N. Special Advisor Gambari to return to Burma as soon as possible to meet with government officials, as well as Aung San Suu Kyi, so that Burma can move toward a peaceful transition to democracy. We would like to see Advisor Gambari visit Burma before he visits other regional capitals.
Q Tony, does the President have any reaction to Al Gore's winning the Nobel Prize?
MR. FRATTO: Yes, the President learned about it this morning. Of course, he's happy for Vice President Gore, happy for the International Panel on Climate Change scientists, who also shared the Peace Prize. Obviously it's an important recognition and we're sure the Vice President is thrilled.
Q Is he going to call him?
MR. FRATTO: I don't know of any plans to make calls to any of the winners at this point.
MR. FRATTO: Well, obviously Vice President Gore has helped to bring attention to climate change. The IPCC scientists have done remarkable work to bring scientific rigor to the questions surrounding climate change. And obviously the next step for -- and really the most difficult step is implementing climate change strategies that are effective and practical, and that allow for continued economic development and for countries to do the work that they need to do to lift people out of poverty.
And that's a challenging task. That's why the President brought together the major economies -- the announcement he had prior to the G8 and then the summit meeting last week -- I guess it was two weeks ago now -- to discuss a strategy for climate change. And that's the next step and that's an important step.
Q Given that his approach on climate is so different from Al Gore's, does he feel that this award is in any way sending a message about his own policies?
MR. FRATTO: I'm not sure what -- no, I don't see it that way at all. No.
Q Does he think, though, that the award will place pressure on him and on the Bush administration to do more quickly, and to maybe fall into line with what other countries want, which are mandatory caps on emissions?
MR. FRATTO: No.
Q What about Putin?
MR. FRATTO: I'm sorry?
Q Putin and the --
MR. FRATTO: Putin, yes -- Secretary Rice I think had comments last night. I know she gave a briefing on the airplane heading to Moscow. She's there now and I understand she'll be doing a news briefing very shortly, within minutes so --
Q Does the President have any reaction, though, to Putin's comments?
MR. FRATTO: No.
Q Is the President going to be talking to Putin, himself, about this very sensitive issue?
MR. FRATTO: Are you talking about Iran?
Q No, the missile defense.
MR. FRATTO: Our missile defense. Well, as you know, they talk on a fairly regular basis. Missile defense is one of the issues that come up. It's just one of the issues that Secretary Rice will be dealing with. They'll be talking about conventional arms treaties, some discussions relating to START and other regional issues -- Secretary Rice and Secretary Gates, I should note; it's a two-plus-two meeting. But I don't know of anything -- of any immediate communication between the President and President Putin.
Q Tony, how much money will the President raise in Florida today for Republicans?
MR. FRATTO: I'll check with the RNC and see if they can get you a number.
Q And also if you have any information on the Monday fundraiser, and will we be seeing a more active fundraising schedule? Is this a harbinger of something to come?
MR. FRATTO: Yes, well, the President has been out fundraising. I think you can expect to see him doing a lot more. People want to see him speak, and he's the leader of the party, and I think you'll see him out there helping to raise money for our candidates and for the parties so that they can be competitive in elections next year. So that's an important part of this trip.
Of course, the focus of the trip is really this opportunity to talk about one of the President's critical initiatives, and that's continuing trade liberalization. If you look at the economic data and think about why our economy is strong right now, why it has been -- why it has continued to be strong even in the face of things like the housing slowdown. Exports have been a very strong contributor to economic growth in the United States economy recently.
And with these free trade agreements on the table in Congress, they have a historic opportunity to continue the path of trade liberalization. When the President came into office, he had -- there were -- we were parties to three free trade agreements. We are now parties to free trade agreements involving 14 countries, very soon a 15th, that will include Costa Rica, and then these -- the four trade agreements that have been negotiated but not yet taken up by the Congress.
The export growth is just crucially important to our country. It's crucial to continuing increases in standard of living in our country and throughout the hemisphere. And I think what you'll see with the speech today is it really is about our leadership role in the hemisphere through trade: the ability to spread prosperity, freedom and democracy, and security. And so I think the President will speak very forcefully to those issues.
Q What's the administration's game plan to get these final three deals through Congress beyond using the bully pulpit? What's going on behind the scenes to help?
MR. FRATTO: We've had lots of conversations with members of Congress. The President has had groups of congressmen into the White House to talk about trade -- some small groups, larger groups. Candi Wolff and her team in the Office of Legislative Affairs are in regular communication, especially with members of the Senate and also in the House Ways and Means Committee. Sue Schwab is up on the Hill on a very, very regular basis. In fact, usually when I'm looking for her, she's somewhere up on the Hill meeting with members and making the case for this.
Each of the trade agreements is different. They each bring their different characteristics, different opportunities for the country -- this country -- and different opportunities for the country that we've negotiated with. And so they're each separate cases and discrete agreements.
But broadly, the effort -- and you'll hear the President address this today also -- that we need to be concerned about the perception that trade liberalization is not good for this country, when every economic analysis that you can find shows that trade is good for America; it's good for businesses; it's good for farmers and ranchers; it's good for workers; the job creation that comes out of export trade is high-value job creation. So it improves our standard of living and we -- but we understand that there is a current of feeling out there in the country that trade can be a threat to our well-being.
And I think it's important for this administration to show leadership, but it's also important for members of Congress. And we're seeing leadership actually from people in former -- in the prior administrations, including the Clinton administration, who are stepping up and showing leadership on this issue to help make the case that trade is good for America, even as we understand that dealing with competition from trade might create acute problems in certain sectors or industries or for certain businesses.
So it's an enormous challenge, but we think it's crucial to this country, and in particular for America to show leadership in this hemisphere. It's just -- it's vital that we get these trade deals done.
Q Can you talk about the issue that was brought up in the Wall Street Journal, this idea of offering trade adjustment help, in order to --
MR. FRATTO: Yes. We spend nearly -- in fact, I mean, the President's budget for 2008 requests, I think, about $888 million in trade adjustment assistance. I know Secretary Chao has been working very hard to try to find ways to make the trade adjustment assistance we have work better for workers who do find themselves displaced from foreign competition. It is a crucial part of our trade policy, is to have trade adjustment assistance, because we all recognize, as I said earlier, that competition does in some instances create acute problems.
You're going to have that, but, you know, you want competition, you want people -- you want Americans to be able to buy the best products in the world at the lowest price, and to have American companies be able to compete on a level playing field with the rest of the world, but it creates some acute problems. So you need to have trade adjustment assistance playing its role, and it's an important factor and the President highlighted that in his interview yesterday.
Q Is this something that he thinks might help persuade Democrats to pass, approve some of these agreements?
MR. FRATTO: Well, we hope that they think about the trade deals on their individual merits, and that's first and foremost. And also -- and separately think about how can trade adjustment assistance and other policies, and other -- you know, broad economic policies, work to help to make sure that workers who are displaced from trade have opportunities to get the education they need, get skills training, and become better able to find employment in this economy. This is a very dynamic economy. It's changing because of competition. It's also changing internally. We hear lots of reports about, for example, the loss of manufacturing jobs, which has been a 40-year trend in our economy. The overwhelming majority of manufacturing jobs have been lost not because of trade, but because of productivity growth, because of improvements in technology.
So, while we have declining manufacturing job growth, we have record-high manufacturing output. And so that's one of the disconnects that people fail to recognize, is that we are producing far more than we ever have in our history, but because of the nature of change in manufacturing technology and processes, it requires fewer workers. And that causes pressure in places, especially in states that are traditional industrial manufacturing states, and does tend to erode support for trade because the easy answer to why my factory closed down is to point to foreign competition, and it's more difficult to see it when it's a matter of productivity improvements.
Q I have one clarification on your statement about Gambari.
MR. FRATTO: Yes.
Q Did the President express his desire to see Gambari go there, did he tell Ban that or --
MR. FRATTO: Did the President tell Ban Ki-moon that he --
MR. FRATTO: I think that we expressed it through regular channels, but not -- I don't believe the President has communicated that with the Secretary General.
MR. FRATTO: Okay.
Q When you get the RNC number, can you share that around?
MR. FRATTO: Absolutely.
Q And the radio address is being taped tomorrow at the ranch, or did he do it today?
MR. FRATTO: No. No, it's been taped. It was taped today.
Q Week ahead?
MR. FRATTO: Oh, week ahead. I'm sorry. I always forget the week ahead.
Q Yes. What is going to be doing at the ranch?
MR. FRATTO: This weekend at the ranch --
Q Wedding planning?
MR. FRATTO: Good question; not that I'm aware of.
Q Bike ride?
MR. FRATTO: I hope he gets some in.
Okay, Monday, October 15th, 10:25 a.m. -- well, we'll be flying to Arkansas that day. The President will visit Stribling Packaging Inc., in Rogers, Arkansas; it's pool coverage. At 12:30 p.m., the President makes remarks on the budget. At 4:15 p.m., the President attends a Lamar Alexander for Senate and Tennessee Victory Reception. This is at a private residence in Memphis, Tennessee.
Tuesday, October 16th, no public events.
On Wednesday, October 17th, the President and Mrs. Bush participate in a Congressional Gold Medal ceremony honoring the Dalai Lama. This is at 1 p.m., at the U.S. Capitol.
Q Is the President going to make remarks at that ceremony?
MR. FRATTO: I don't believe so, no.
On Thursday, October 18th, at 10:15 a.m., the President meets with the President of Liberia, President Sirleaf. That's in the Oval Office at 10:15 a.m.
And then no public events on Friday, the 19th.
Okay. Thank you.
END 9:25 A.M. EDT
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