For Immediate Release
Office of the Press Secretary
November 22, 2008
Briefing to the Travel Pool by Press Secretary Dana Perino on the President's Meetings at APEC Summit
JW Marriott Hotel
In Focus: APEC 2008
11:53 A.M. (Local)
MS. PERINO: Good morning. Since we just have a little bit of time before you go to your next event, and then we're going to have several hours where the President is in the middle of the plenary session. And then we'll come back here and he'll have his meeting with Medvedev tonight. As you know, we upgraded that to pool coverage at the top of that meeting, so you'll have that. And then we'll see what we can do. I probably will just do an email readout of the plenary session, unless there's some other reason to bring Price over.
Just a couple of words about the Harper meeting this morning that the President had. All of these meetings have been very warm. This one in particular was a chance for them to talk about -- even though they've only worked together for a short period of time, they've enjoyed it, they've become friends, and they both trust one another, especially the -- especially because they know the other is a strong, principled person. And so they've been able to have discussions where they agree on most things, but on the things they disagree on, they can have a frank exchange of views if needed.
They spent a lot of time talking about the economy, especially the auto industry and the debate that happened in Congress that did not result in any final action. They talked a little bit about Colombia free trade. As you know, last night Canada signed a free trade agreement with Colombia. And, as you know, our Congress is dragging its feet on signing such an agreement. And Canada said that they are happy to take all of the business we want to pass up.
The President remains committed to the Colombia free trade agreement, and you heard him make a passioned -- impassioned plea for Congress to get this done soon. That was in his speech. They talked a little bit about the farm bill and -- the next farm bill, especially on the issue of origin of -- country of origin labeling. The other thing that they talked about was the importance of the relationship between Canada, Mexico, and the United States. They talked a little bit about the help that President Calderón continues to need on narcotrafficking and the war that he's fighting down there against those violent drug traffickers. And they both pledged to continue to help them. And we, of course, are talking to President-Elect Obama's team about a range of issues, including that one.
They also had a chance to talk a little bit about Afghanistan -- as you know, we're in the fight together there; Pakistan; the President updated him on Iraq; and of course they talked about Iran, as well.
That meeting -- in that meeting and in the meeting that he just had with Japan and South Korea, a strong theme of concern about the possibility of protectionism and protectionist barriers being thrown up in the middle of this financial crisis. And the President pledged his support of free trade. And then, of course, you heard that in his speech, as well.
In the meeting that the President had with Prime Minister Aso, this is -- he had the Prime Minister Aso meeting, then the trilateral meeting, and then he met bilaterally with President Lee -- they talked a lot about North Korea. And Dennis will be here to answer questions on that if you want. We don't have a date to announce yet, but there is an agreement to have a meeting. And so we're just working to make sure everyone's schedules work out before the Chinese would announce anything as to the timing of that.
The President talked a little bit about the abduction issue, and said that he knew how very sensitive it is and that he believed that we had handled it delicately and that we want to hold the North Koreans to account on that issue.
I mentioned the concern about protectionism. Not only were they talking about the free trade agreements, but Doha has come up in every meeting. And there is a path to get Doha done, and the President wants to walk it and make everyone walk it with him so that we can actually get this done in the next couple of months.
With Japan, the President said that our relationships -- our relations are good, and that he is confident the next President will see the importance of continuing these good relations.
They also talked a little bit about piracy. This is something that has come up in a couple of the meetings with the concern about what's happening in the Gulf of Aden. And I would -- you might want to check with the State Department. They're going to be continuing to work with the U.N. Security Council on possible joint action there -- like on a resolution.
Then on the trilateral meeting, they talked about the North Korea six-party talks, and the President talked about the verification document that would codify what Kim Jong-il said he would do. He thinks that it's important and that's what will be discussed at that meeting in the beginning of December.
He thanked the leaders for being at the G20 meeting and praised them for the declaration. There was universal praise for the G20 summit, and then a commitment to following through on the working groups that they had established there.
With President Lee, similar themes. On the Korea -- South Korean FTA, the President did say that he doesn't think that the Congress is delaying because they have a negative feeling about South Koreans, but that there is a backlash against free trade, and that he thinks we need to overcome it if we're going to overcome our economic challenges. And then they just shared more conversations about North Korea, and then some personal notes as they probably had their last meeting as heads of state.
Dennis, is there anything else you want me to add about those? We'll just take a few questions since you guys got to run.
Q I just want to make sure I'm clear. When you said there's an agreement to have a meeting, but the date isn't set, is that part new -- that there's an agreement to have a meeting? Is that new as a result of this summit, or was that already the case?
MS. PERINO: I thought that I kind of established that last night but --
Q So the only open question was when it was going to happen, and that's still being worked out?
MS. PERINO: Well, I think that we have -- I think that -- we'll let the Chinese announce their date. I think that they have it worked out; it's just there's six parties and they have to make sure that it works for everybody, and so -- before they're ready to announce it.
Q So if we're going to hear a date -- when a date is coming and ready, we're going to hear from China, not from --
MS. PERINO: I just -- the Chinese are the host of the meeting. But of course we'll let you know as soon as we are able to, as well.
Q But there's a sense among the parties that this meeting is going to happen?
MR. WILDER: Absolutely, yes.
MS. PERINO: Anyone else?
Q Just on Canada and the auto discussions, was there any discussion of coming up with some sort of common approach that the U.S. and Canada would take to help the auto industries?
MS. PERINO: There was not. Prime Minister Harper noted that they had met with the auto industry. Of course, we have through our administration and our Congress, who actually have them testifying. And there was no discussion of joint action, though.
Q Is there a view on when Medvedev -- when he'll be meeting with the Russian President, what time exactly?
MS. PERINO: What time is the meeting? It's at 5:45 p.m. -- 5:15 p.m.
Q And can you talk at all about the timing of the statement today on the Rose Revolution, and that meeting later today with the Russian President?
MS. PERINO: From where I stand, it was purely coincidence.
Q In the Korean discussion, I just wondered, did the Korean President give any indication of when they would be moving forward to approve their -- the free trade agreement?
MS. PERINO: With us?
Q Yes, with us.
MS. PERINO: No. That was not -- I think that they're -- I think that they're committed to it. It's our Congress that we have to get to move forward.
Q They haven't passed it yet either. I just wondered if he gave any --
MR. WILDER: He did not make any particular commitment or statement on when the national assembly in Korea will take up the free trade agreement.
Q Do you think you'll be able to talk to us later after the Russian bilat?
MS. PERINO: Somebody will. I don't know if it will be me, but we'll try to get you somebody.
Q Okay. And, Dennis, real quickly, can you comment at all about, from the meeting so far today, whether you think there's any additional momentum towards a verification protocol? Is there any tangible progress?
MR. WILDER: I think what is striking is how unified all of the people that the President has spoken to, from President Hu to the South Koreans to the Japanese, are about this verification protocol. Everybody understands why this is important, why we need to get the North to commit in writing, and why this particular moment is a very important moment to make sure that again, the six-party progress continues, and to make sure that we finish the second phase and begin to look at the third phase.
And I think they're very conscious of the fact that it's important to do this, in part because there's an American transition going on. And so these nations are committed to the six-party process. They believe it's the best way forward. They all said that. Everybody is in full agreement on what needs to be done. And now, we need to have that meeting and get that done.
Q Transition is important because -- what's the concern there? That if there's a new government you sort of have to start over or --
MR. WILDER: I think the very understandable concern of these foreign governments is will the new administration do some sort of policy review. Will it try to work with some new ideas? And the one idea that all of these countries are definitely committed to is that the six-party process is the right format, the right venue for this process. And so I think they want to, if you will, put this in the most attractive place possible so that the next American administration will see its value.
Q Thank you.
MS. PERINO: All right. Have fun over there. And then we'll see you tonight.
END 12:03 P.M. (Local)