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National Archives

Public Papers - 1990 - May

Remarks at the Houston Economic Summit Headquarters and an Exchange With Reporters

1990-05-19

The President. First, what I really wanted to do is to come by and not just see where all this is taking place but to thank all of you, the volunteers. I think the day when we got Ken and George to cochair this significant international event we were very fortunate. And I guess it goes under the heading of busy people can do the biggest and, in my sense, one of the most important jobs we've got: to be sure this runs right. Then I looked at the array of cochairmen in there, and it's impressive -- the leadership of Houston, from all different parts of our great city. And Ken has told me and then George, who was up in Washington the other day and had gotten briefed on the extent of the volunteer effort here. It is unbelievable, and it is so very important.

And I might say -- I don't know how many of you recognize this guy, but that's General Brent Scowcroft over here. And if we had the luxury of the time I would let him handle any of the tough questions on the -- [laughter] -- international affairs because he is, as you know, the national security adviser to the President and intimately involved in the substantive work that's going to determine whether this summit is a success or not. I am absolutely convinced from what I know already in terms of logistics and appearance and entertainment and presentation of our city to the leaders of the world and to I don't know how many thousand press will be here -- but that's going to go just perfectly. And I'm very grateful to all of you. So, thank you for what you're doing.

The summit, incidentally, will be taking place at a fascinating time, as we see the evolution of democracy in Eastern Europe. We will have had the Gorbachev summit, which happens within a couple of weeks. Then just before I come down here for this -- Brent and I and others, the Secretary -- we will have come -- in fact, I think we'll probably come directly from a NATO meeting, a meeting that we'll discuss this common subject of how will the United States stay involved in a post-German-unification Europe. And then, of course, not only that subject will be discussed amongst our closest allies here but we'll be talking about the broad economic relations between our country. And that affects, obviously, the Government. But those discussions will have an effect on how much trade we do. Here we are in Houston with a very active port, and we're trying to guarantee the success of the Uruguay trade rounds. So, we'll have a lot at stake in terms of substance -- at stake in the sense of how it affects all the business interests and people interests of the people of the United States, not just here in Houston.

So, it is an important meeting, and I am very grateful to all of you for your significant role. And one last point: I lean -- I know I'm a politic -- this is nonpolitical -- but we depend on volunteers. And Barbara and I have both been emphasizing, and I think with some effect around the country, this concept of a Thousand Points of Light, people willing to help others. Well, in a sense, what you all are doing is that concept, because you're helping the city. When Ken told me about this concept of Houston's Clean and the committee that's all involved in this -- it is a wonderfully significant event. And if it all works out the way we think it will, then we can highlight just that facet of this for the rest of our cities around the country and say, look what Houston did. Admittedly, they had a focus point, which was the summit. But other cities can do exactly the same thing. And in these times of tough financial times for some of the cities, I think we might set an example, Ken and George, for the rest of the country.

So, thank you all very, very -- sorry to drop in on you -- [laughter] -- thanks a lot.

Arms Reduction Negotiations

Q. Mr. President, do you have an update from Baker?

The President. Well, Brent and I were just talking about that. And it's interesting developments, but we're not sure we know all of it yet. I think the General will be in touch and might have a little more later on. But it's -- how would you describe it? Some encouraging things -- --

General Scowcroft. Some progress.

The President. -- -- and some problems that still remain to be solved. So, it's a mixed review right now, but we'll keep going forward. We want the Gorbachev summit to be successful, but it's going to take some give on the Soviet side, in my view. But we're going to keep pushing.

Q. What are they not giving on, Mr. President?

The President. Well, we still have some unfulfilled arms control problems that we're all familiar with.

Note: The President spoke at approximately 9:23 a.m. in the lobby of the Kirby Mansion. In his remarks, he referred to Ken Lay and George Starke, Cochairmen of the Houston Economic Summit Committee, and Secretary of State James A. Baker III.

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