Public Papers - 1990
The President's News Conference Following the Houston Economic Summit
The President. Thank you all very much. And I have a brief opening statement, and then I'll be glad to respond to your questions.
My colleagues from France and the United Kingdom, Germany, Canada, Italy, Japan, and the European Communities and I have just completed this 16th meeting of the leaders of the largest industrialized democracies. This, the first economic summit of the postwar period, celebrates the resurgence of democracy and free markets around the world. Over the past 3 days, we've had full discussions on the key issues of our times: advancing political and economic freedom; promoting sustained economic growth, both in developed and in developing countries; assisting the transition to market economies in central and eastern Europe and, indeed, in the Soviet Union; and protecting the environment. We are united in a common goal to extend to those who seek political and economic freedom a helping hand with our resources, talents, and experience. As our declaration states, when people are free to choose, they choose freedom.
We identified the successful completion of the Uruguay round of global trade talks as one of the highest economic priorities. We recognize that agreement on fundamental reform of agriculture is critical to achieving this goal. We commended the report by the chairman of the GATT agricultural group, the De Zeuuw report, to our negotiators as a vehicle to move these talks forward; and we also committed to maintain our personal involvement and to exercise political leadership at every step along the way as we move toward the final ministerial meeting in December.
On the Soviet Union, we discussed our common efforts to assist the Soviet reform effort, the success of which is in our common interest. In addition to offering the Soviets technical assistance, we've asked the IMF to coordinate a major study of the Soviet economy and make recommendations for its reform. In keeping with the agreements reached here, I will be conveying to President Gorbachev the results of our deliberations.
We achieved major progress on the environment, particularly on climate change and forests. We committed to finish the negotiations on a framework climate change convention by 1992. In a first, we agreed that implementing protocols should consider all sources and sinks of greenhouse gases, consistent with the comprehensive approach that we recommend. We agreed to launch a special effort to address the deforestation in the rain forests, a concern that was very forcefully raised by Chancellor Kohl [of the Federal Republic of Germany]. I found a very receptive audience for my proposal that a freestanding global forest convention be negotiated without delay, and we agreed to move ahead on this rapidly.
In short, this was a summit that addressed itself to a rapidly changing world. We agreed to welcome, respond to, and manage the changes on behalf of free markets, free political systems, and a better life for people everywhere. It is no small achievement that we came to a positive and unanimous conclusion on so many important and difficult issues, and I would stress those two words: positive and unanimous.
And I want to congratulate my colleagues on the results of the collective effort. I think they left feeling good. We had a very generous letter to our Secretary of State just now from Prime Minister Mulroney [of Canada], and he's a veteran of these summits. And I must say to the Canadians here: I once again benefited from not only his commitment -- learned from his commitment on certain issues like the environment but benefited from his advice.
I also want to thank the two Secretaries that were at my side, Secretary Baker and Secretary Brady; Ambassador Carla Hills, Secretary Yeutter, Secretary Mosbacher, who worked with their colleagues and others at this summit. I want to thank the sherpas -- I understand they all stayed up until 4 o'clock this morning in ironing out this Final Communique.
So, it was a team effort, and I think most of our -- well, I think all of our summit participants left feeling good about this particular summit.
And now I think Terry Hunt [Associated Press] has the first question.
Economic Assistance for the Soviet Union
Q. Mr. President, I'd like to ask you about Soviet aid. Is this 6-month study of Soviet needs a way of delaying the political decision on aid, or at the end of that, will the United States make a commitment to send some cash to Moscow?
The President. It's not an effort to delay anything. It is, as we said in the report, a step towards assisting the reforms. And I'll make clear to President Gorbachev that he ought to view this outcome of this summit very positively. You may remember that in London only a few days ago I gave my views on the U.S. lending money at this time. So, it's not an effort to forestall anything; it's an effort to move forward, encourage forward motion, and be helpful to the Soviet Union in terms of reform. They need much, much more reform, and they're the ones that say this. And in Gorbachev's letter, he asked for assistance in many areas -- personnel management and how they change their systems. And we've already started bilaterally, as have other countries, in trying to assist. So, it's really a coordinated effort to help the Soviet Union.
Q. Well, in 6 months, then, can Mr. Gorbachev expect that the United States would be sending some financial assistance to meet these needs?
The President. Not particularly. Not necessarily. But what he can expect is that we will have been helpful to him in the reforms that he knows that he has to undertake, and maybe this could lead to support. But there are things that have to happen, and I've been very up front with him personally and then in public statements as to what has to happen for the United States to send money. And incidentally, I don't -- I'm trying to think on the Gorbachev letter -- I don't think there was a request for sending money. And then I also told our Soviet partners that we had some problems -- legal problems -- the settlement of this Kerensky debt, for example -- before we would be free to give more like financial support.
So, I wouldn't set a timeframe on when and if the United States decides to go forward. But I must say that I hope the Soviets will view this as positive. And, indeed, I've contacted Mr. Gorbachev already by cable telling him I want to talk to him about the summit and telling him why I felt that it is positive -- and also congratulating him on his landslide win. Certain readings I was doing before then -- I wasn't sure that it was going to work out quite that way. But he's in the political arena, and he did pretty darn well, and I congratulated him.
Q. Mr. President, for 40 years we've spent untold billions to fight the Soviet Union. Is it conceivable, as you and Secretary Baker have portrayed, that the American taxpayer would not be willing to spend a dime to help them now?
The President. We are trying to help them now; and I think we're going to send the kind of help that, in the long run, will be most beneficial to them. And they need reform, and they know it. And we're going to try in every way to facilitate that reform because we are in a very different age. But we have some problems. I'm not particularly enthusiastic about the intercontinental ballistic missiles aimed at U.S. cities. I find it a little contradictory to think that they will continue to spend billion a year for Cuba, a totalitarian system whose leader is swimming against this tide of democracy and freedom that is lifting up most hopes in the Soviet Union. So, certain things have to happen before I, as President, will make recommendations for direct financial aid. So, what we're trying to do is carry our part of the load in helping the reforms.
Q. In your discussions, why did Germany and other countries think it's necessary now?
The President. Well, Germany has some very special interest that we understand. As I said over in London, Helen [Helen Thomas, United Press International], we're not urging everybody to march in lockstep. Just as in our programs for Central America -- I want to see more help from the G - 7 and the G - 24 and anybody else who will listen to help the democracies in Central and South America. And they've got certain priorities, and I hope they will be able to help in this way. But if we go forward as we have in assisting Nicaragua and Panama, I don't feel that everybody has to move in lockstep on that support for democracy.
Q. Mr. President, the Final Communique here, reflecting your views in no small part on agriculture subsidies, calls upon each nation to ``make substantial progressive reductions in support and protection of agriculture.'' Does this mean, sir, that you're prepared to ask Congress to abolish some of the more notorious forms of support and subsidy that are part of our farm program?
The President. Absolutely! And we have to do it, and it's a two-way street. And I expect there would be some political opposition because, like many of these countries, we protect. But I am convinced -- and I believe Congress would support the concept -- that if we all do this and we all reduce barriers and we all make a freer trading system, that the United States can compete. But I'm sure I would have some obstacles from the supporters of certain programs that have been in existence for a long time.
But that's a little down the road now, and I think as far as the EC goes, it's a little down the road. So, what we're trying to do is move the whole thing forward without saying that we have to have tomorrow totally unprotected trade. I'd like to shoot for that some day. I've said that before.
Q. Well, how soon, sir, will you be going to Congress with a legislative package to begin to undo -- --
The President. As soon as we see what progress is made in the GATT. That's where the next action is, is in these talks that are coming up -- I think it's just on the 23d of this month or sometime. That's why I think this language that we worked out and that all of you have, I think, now is encouraging, because we all know that agriculture has been a major stumbling block.
And my special Trade Representative, Carla Hills, impressed on me the need to move that particular category forward, and we did get agreement. But the next step before we talk about needing a legislative package is to get agreement out of the GATT.
Economic Assistance for the Soviet Union
Q. Mr. President, if the study delays a decision on aid to the Soviet Union beyond German reunification, would it not be expected that there would be a lessening of interest in the summit countries in helping the Soviets if the German unification question is resolved by that time?
The President. No. I think events are changing so fast that different countries are going to look at this with slightly different senses of priority. But in the meantime, this study will go forward. We have sent, in a bilateral sense, many missions to the Soviet Union. Alan Greenspan [Chairman of the Federal Reserve Board] was over there on his own. We've had Dick Thornburgh over there talking about helping reorder the justice system. We have people from the stock markets over there. We've had a wide array of individuals and groups of business people go. And so, that process of trying to assist in change and in reform is underway bilaterally.
But this look that the IMF will coordinate and be done by these other agencies will kind of give an official -- at least for the G - 7, we will look at it in rather an official way and then see if we can decide on more collective action at the next summit or whether we proceed individually on a case-by-case basis.
Q. Mr. President, on the question of the environment, you, in the past, and your Chief of Staff [John H. Sununu], to say at least two, have always said that there has not been enough information -- you needed to study more. Now you're prepared to move, particularly on the global warming question. Who twisted your arm? What changed your mind, sir?
The President. I think we're moving forward because we recognize there is a problem. I thought we called for more data in here. Clearly, we need more. When you take the NASA study -- and then some people point to that as challenging the concepts of global climate change -- why, I think everybody -- well, put it this way, everybody at this summit agreed that we needed more scientific information.
But the steps that we've recommended here in this communique we can enthusiastically endorse. So, I think we came out with a reasoned position, not a radical position that's going to throw a lot of American men and women out of jobs. And yet we've done an awful lot -- and I think others at the summit recognized it -- in terms of cleaning up the air. We've got a proposal -- and I told them proudly of it -- to redo our Clean Air Act, and they were very much impressed with that. You might have heard Prime Minister Mulroney's supportive comments about that. So, there's a lot of things working bilaterally in terms of emissions, and I think we have a very reasonable position at this point.
Q. If I could follow, there seems to be a little wiggle room on CO2. Are you making a clear commitment to do something about it?
The President. I wouldn't read anything into these texts beyond what is actually printed there.
Economic Assistance for the Soviet Union
Q. I understand that it would take some time for the Soviet economy to reform. But are you suggesting, when you link Soviet aid to arms control, that you could never imagine any direct aid so long as there are any Soviet weapons aimed at the West?
The President. No, I didn't say that. But I would really prefer to stand on what I've simply said. The world is changing very fast. But they know that we've got some big difficulties on the regional questions and on the fact that a lot of missiles are aimed at the United States. A good way to start in doing something about that is to have a successful conclusion on the START treaty. So, I don't want to go beyond where we are right now. If you'd have asked me last year at this time if I could have predicted the rapidity of change, the changes that have taken place, I couldn't have predicted them. So, I don't know exactly where we will be, but I do know that this proposal we've made is sound.
Q. Do you think if the IMF does say that some direct aid is necessary that perhaps that would spur greater arms control movement?
The President. Excuse me, the IMF says what?
Q. If the IMF study suggests that direct aid is appropriate, do you think that in turn could stimulate or speed up the arms control on behalf of the Soviets?
The President. I would hope so. I think Gorbachev is committed to a fast track on strategic arms.
Q. On aid to the Soviets, you keep saying that the American people simply aren't ready to give cash to Gorbachev. Now, if the IMF comes back with a report, Gorbachev accepts some of those recommendations, they cut way back on aid to Cuba -- largely which consists of oil shipments, after all, not money -- he does these things you want, are you ready before the 1992 Presidential campaign to go out there and tell the American people you would send American cash or supply credits to Gorbachev?
The President. Your question is too hypothetical. I can't go into a hypothesis like that. And we will wait and see. We've taken a path. It's based on the facts right now. And I would just say that I think Mr. Gorbachev understands that at this juncture sending money from the United States is not in the cards. And he knows what needs to be done to change the formula, and I'd like to think he's going to try. And maybe he'll come out of this Congress where many predicted his demise and feel encouraged to go forward. But I'm not going to answer a hypothetical question of that nature.
Q. Let me ask you this. You got some sort of a delay on aid to the Soviets because of this study, which will not be completed until December. A lot of people are painting this summit as they did the NATO summit: as a victory for George Bush across the board, whether it's cutting agricultural subsidies for Europeans or whether it's the environment. What didn't you get at this summit that you wanted? What did you lose here?
The President. In the first place, I don't -- I'm glad to hear that -- but really, honestly, we don't look at it as a victory for one side and a defeat for another. That's the good thing about this G - 7 group. And so, there weren't any winners or losers in it, but there was compromise along the way. But again, I'm not going to reopen the hard work that went into this agreement by saying what we would like to have had that was different. But it did work out in a way that I can strongly support. But again, excuse me for not projecting winners or losers or helping you with what we got and what we didn't get.
West German Chancellor Kohl
Q. Mr. President, at the NATO summit and then again here, it seems as though you have developed a special working relationship with Chancellor Kohl. I wondered -- one of the German delegation also said that after you had supported him on Soviet aid he couldn't come back and not support you on the environment. Can you describe that relationship, and would you say that's a fair assessment?
The President. It's not a fair assessment because he's a bulldog when it comes to the environment. He's a fighter for what he believes in. And I think he felt satisfied with what he got. And maybe he would like to have had more. But when we focused in on this forestry agreement and on the question of the rain forests, I think Chancellor Kohl felt that he had achieved something that he came here to achieve.
But the relationship is -- it's hard to explain. I do think that the Germans appreciate the fact that we have stood at their side on this question of German reunification. I think that's an element. But there isn't any quid pro quo. There was no ``I owe you one'' or ``I want to pay you'' for taking what we feel is a principled position in terms of German reunification. And he fought hard. And there were some compromises in terms of wording. But I think the declaration in terms of reforestation and the forestry agreement and the Amazon all speak to his keen interests. And so, I hope that he will be able to tell his constituencies and all the German people that there is a new awareness and a heightened awareness because of the eloquence that he brought to bear on the question.
Q. Would you say, however, that you find more common ground or common interest with Chancellor Kohl now than you would perhaps with Margaret Thatcher [Prime Minister of the United Kingdom]?
The President. No, I wouldn't say that at all. But I find plenty of common ground with both. Nice try. [Laughter] You're going to get me in trouble; they haven't even left town here.
Economic Assistance for the Soviet Union
Q. I have two questions about the summits' kind of do-your-own-thing on Soviet aid. One, is it really good for the alliance? And number two, doesn't it bode poorly for America's leadership in the alliance?
The President. No, I think, without reopening the hypothesis of the earlier question about how the Americans fared, I think we're doing all right in the alliance. And it doesn't work, Cragg [Cragg Hines, Houston Chronicle], that you have to march in lockstep on all these questions. I don't feel that I have to defer on a lot of questions that we initiate on loans to the G - 7. And I don't think they should have -- these individual countries who have very special agendas and special relationships -- I don't think that they should defer to us on these questions.
Now, when you get into some arms control initiatives or matters of that nature, why, obviously, you want to stay together as much as you can. And as the world -- I don't worry about that; I don't worry about it all.
Q. Isn't it drawing it a little fine, though, to say arms control, yes, but aid to the Soviets -- which, really, there were no conditions placed on, that could be used for anything, German aid that could be used for anything. Isn't that -- --
The President. Well you may be a little ahead of me on what the Soviets plan to use the German aid for, aid that has not yet been forthcoming. I understand that Chancellor Kohl is going to Moscow, I think -- is that correct? -- within the next couple of weeks. But we don't know that as to what conditions will be on the funding and how it will be used in the Soviet Union. But I gave him our position. He gave me his. But that's not enough to break up a strong alliance and a very comfortable and strong bilateral relationship between the Federal Republic and the United States.
Q. Mr. President, on the forestry issue, there are a number of sentences in the declaration talking about the importance of preserving forests globally. What impact would that have on the American domestic field? Would it, for example, change the balance that your administration has been trying to strike on the issue of the Pacific Northwest forests and the spotted owl there?
The President. No, we are committed to prudent forest management, but we're also committed to planting a billion trees a year and putting real emphasis on reforestation. So, I don't think there's any contradiction. Some would argue -- some of the purists in the environmental movement -- that you've got to stop where we are, not harvest any lumber at all. And some of it would be done in the protection of the owl, and some because they're opposed to harvesting the old growth forests. I don't share that view. And I do think we can find a balance where the net is an increase in the numbers of trees.
Q. If I could follow up: What response do you have to the people in Third World countries who argue that you're asking them to make sacrifices on their economic development, that you're not willing to ask American workers to make parallel sacrifices?
The President. I think we have to find ways to assist those who would take that view. And I think many of our countries will move forward -- and did not have great respect for the environment and now are doing a good job on it -- and I would put the United States in that category, with pride, I might say -- should find ways to assist these countries.
Agricultural Subsidies and Assistance for Latin America
Q. Back on agriculture, Mr. President. You said that you were encouraged about the language on agricultural subsidies. Could you say why, specifically, when the U.S. gave in on the key question of allowing one common measure to be used for all subsidies? And also, on a separate matter, could you tell us whether you got any commitment for help from your allies on the Latin American aid initiative?
The President. Not being a technical expert on these highly technical GATT negotiations, I relied heavily on advice from experts like Carla Hills, who is one -- such an expert. And Clayton Yeutter, Bob Mosbacher, involved also. And these people who have been wrestling with the technicalities of the trade question were very pleased at the formulation we came up with. They felt without such formulation the whole successful conclusion of the GATT round was at stake. But they think that the wording we have that refers peripherally to this De Zeuuw report is enough now to move the agricultural discussion forward when they meet soon again.
What was the second part? I don't know on the others. I know that some of them have expressed an interest in helping, but I didn't ask for a collective decision out of the G - 7 on that question.
Economic Assistance for the Soviet Union and China
Q. Mr. President, the Soviets have already reacted negatively to advance word of the part of the communique that says that reform would help them get further aid. What would you tell Mr. Gorbachev when you speak to him -- why he should not view this as the allied countries saying: The cold war is over; you lost. Here's what you have to do; here are our conditions for integrating you back into Western society?
The President. I think you phrase it well, because we've got to be careful that we don't send the signal that we don't want to send. But I don't worry about this one because I sat up there at Camp David with Mr. Gorbachev in a very frank discussion and told him the problems that I have with going forward with financial aid. I've been quite open about it in the press conference following a highly successful NATO summit.
And incidentally, I think the reaction from the Soviet Union on the NATO summit has been extraordinarily positive, extraordinarily so; and some of that, I think, has been masked by the understandable attention given to the G - 7 meeting here. But it's been extraordinarily positive.
And so far, I think -- put it this way: It just totally diminishes the risk of the kind of misunderstanding that your question implies. Now, you saw the lively debate in the peoples Congress [Soviet Union's Communist Party Congress]. It looks like our own Congress up there -- yelling at each other and debating and calling people names and doing all these frantic things. So, I'm not saying that somebody's not going to jump up, having finished trying to filet Gorbachev, and jump on me for the way we've reacted in this summit. I am saying that I am not going to have misunderstanding creep in because of failure to communicate. And, indeed, I've already sent off a communication to Mr. Gorbachev, and I will be in touch with him personally very soon to discuss this. But I don't think there's too much of a danger of that.
Q. If I could follow up: In his letter to you in your role as host of this summit, did he ask for direct cash aid?
The President. I need help on that, but I think not. My reaction is that he did not ask for that. I know he didn't have a price tag on it, but he listed several categories of places where we could give support, including credits.
Bob [Robert D. Blackwill, Special Assistant to the President and Senior Director for European and Soviet Affairs at the National Security Council], was that a proper answer? I don't want to -- okay. So, I was right.
Q. Some of your colleagues accused you of a double standard, Mr. President, in supporting language yesterday that opened the door to lending to China, particularly if it moves toward economic reforms, and yet taking the much less flexible position regarding the Soviet Union. How do you respond to that?
The President. I respond by saying we already have sanctions on China because China has not moved forward far enough on human rights. Those sanctions remain. We have offered the hope that if they take further steps in the human rights field more can be done. We've said that all of us together would consider World Bank loans -- which˙7E right˙7E now˙7E are˙7E discouraged˙7E by˙7E the G - 7 -- consider World Bank loans that would contribute to the reform of the Chinese economy. And then I think we added a little thing about especially those that would help on this world environmental problem.
So, my answer to those is that they're wrong and that the pressure is still on. And let's hope it will not be counterproductive. Again, my position is -- and I think every summit leader there agrees with me, everyone, I believe -- that we should not further isolate China. There have been some things that we can take some encouragement from. But the sanctions are on China. We took the lead on this question a year ago at the G - 7 summit, and some who criticize me fail to realize that. But I want to see them move forward, and I want to see restored good relations with China. But we're not there yet.
Q. Do you believe that financial aid could play a role in stimulating reforms in the Soviet Union?
The President. Well, some think that. I don't particularly agree with that. I think when you see the Japanese move forward, as they plan to do, to keep a commitment -- they feel a solemn commitment -- to China for this third yen loan, that they feel that way -- I have great respect for Prime Minister Kaifu, and I had a long talk with him about that. As you know, they plan to move forward. Just as I can't get all exercised over what Chancellor Kohl does, I feel the same way about what Prime Minister Kaifu is doing. But he feels that the step he is about to take would encourage reformers. I'm not sure that he's right in this regard, and I think that the people in power there can build on the steps that they've taken in a way to satisfy the rest of the people in the G - 7 that we should go back to more normal relations.
Changes in the Western Alliance
Q. Mr. President, a followup on Craig's question. In the past, the United States did call the tune on allied relations with the Soviet Union. Now that we're seeing key allies going their own way on aid to the Soviet Union, aren't we seeing at least a subtle change in the way the United States has to lead the alliance? Aren't you having to give a little more leeway to the allies now that the cold war is over?
The President. We're dealing in entirely different times. Earlier on, in terms of the alliance, we had a much more formidable military opposition. Now we see the Warsaw Pact in almost a state of disarray: we see troops coming out; we see democracies replacing totalitarian systems. So, you have an entirely different era. For the United States side, I think we have very good understanding inside the G - 7 about the Soviet Union. But if your question is, is it bad or does it alter the U.S. role if Chancellor Kohl, for very special reasons, goes forward, I would argue that it does not.
Soviet President Gorbachev
Q. Mr. President, there's a lot of concern over President Gorbachev's ability to hold on to power. Does his victory yesterday suggest he will be around for a good while despite his serious economic problems?
The President. I don't know yet, but certainly he's surprised a lot of us in this room, hasn't he -- including me. Who would have thought he'd have a 3 to 1 victory or whatever it was? I had the figures at the tip of my tongue a while back, because it was an impressive landslide inside a body where, if I had gone by just some impressions, I wouldn't have thought he had gotten quite that big a landslide. So, I don't know. And I think there's some discontent inside the Soviet Union. I think he's got enormous problems. I hope that what we're doing to help here will help with those problems. But certainly, I'd have to leave it there because I couldn't go beyond that. And I think if you go to experts you'll find divisions on that question.
Q. You don't think the election proves that he has a grip on power now?
The President. Well, I think it does at this juncture, certainly in terms of the party. And certainly, I think, the way he's handling his foreign affairs is probably getting great credit at home. I do understand there's consumer concern and that everybody, including Mr. Gorbachev and Mr. Shevardnadze, recognize that they have enormous economic problems inside the Soviet Union.
Q. Mr. President, on an issue outside the purview of this summit, your son Neil has suggested that the savings and loan regulators are conducting something of a vendetta against him, largely because his last name is the same as yours. Do you agree with that charge?
The President. I agree that the President ought to stay out of it and that the system ought to work. And I have great confidence in the integrity and honor of my son, and beyond that, I say no more. And if he's done something wrong, the system will digest that.
This is not easy for me as a father. It's easy for me as a President because the system's going to work. I will not intervene. I have not discussed this with any officials and suggested any outcome. But what father wouldn't express a certain confidence in the honor of his son? And that's exactly the way I feel about it, and I feel very strongly about it. And for those who want to challenge it, whether they are in the Congress or elsewhere: Let the system work; and then we can all make a conclusion as to his honor and his integrity.
And it's tough on people in public life to some degree. I've got three other sons, and they all want to go to the barricades. Every one of them, when they see some cartoon they don't like, particularly those that are factually incorrect and demeaning of the honor of their brother, they want to do what any other kids would do. And I say: You calm down now. We're in a different role now. You can't react like you would if your brother was picked on in a street fight. That's not the way the system works.
But we have great emotions that I share with Barbara, I share with my sons and my daughter, that I won't share with you except to say: One, as President, I'm determined to stay out of this and let it work and let it work fairly. And secondly, I have confidence in the honor and integrity of my son. And if the system finds he's done something wrong, he will be the first to step up and do what's right.
Chairman of the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation
Q. Does the same confidence, sir, extend to William Seidman, who has Democrats as well as Republicans -- --
The President. He wouldn't be there if I -- well, I don't know about -- I was about to say he wouldn't be there if I didn't have confidence in him. I have confidence in his integrity and his honor.
Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Reilly and Environmental Policy
Q. Mr. President, the environmental groups that were very much in evidence here don't seem too happy with the results of the summit.
The President. They haven't seemed happy with me for a long time, and I'm not too happy with them. I think their grading system is absolutely, essentially absurd. But what's the question? [Laughter]
Q. Sir, the question is: They're calling your forestation initiative a figleaf to cover up your inaction on the environment. A second portion of this question is why did you leave Bill Reilly home, when last year you brought him to Paris when you weren't even planning to put him in the Cabinet?
The President. Last year many of the environmental ministers were there, and including some of the people -- you remember that was the Paris centennial. And many from other countries were there as well. So, he was not here for that reason, nor were other Secretaries whose counterparts were not here. So, that was the reason. This is predominantly an economic summit. But lest anybody have any doubt about it, Bill Reilly retains my full confidence and my full support. I have great respect for him.
What was the rest of your question?
Q. They call the forestation initiative a figleaf to cover up your inaction on global warming.
The President. Look, come on, I'm not going to respond to those groups that have been attacking us every time we turn around. And you cannot appeal -- I have to be careful because there were some reasonable people involved -- but on the environmental extreme, they don't want this country to grow. They don't want to look down the road at the human consequence of men and women thrown out of work and families put into a whole new state of anxiety. And I, as President, have to be concerned about that as well as being a good custodian, a good steward, for the environment. And so -- but we cannot govern by listening to the loudest voice on the extreme of an environmental movement.
And I did not rely heavily on them for support in getting elected President of the United States, and I'm not going to be persuaded that I can get some brownie point by appealing to one of these groups or other. And the attacks that they made on some of my summit partners -- I resent them, too, because it's not just the United States, in attacking the President or the policies of the Government, it's the attack on some of these other leaders. So, they're entitled to their opinion. Their signs can be held just as high as others. And their rating systems can attract as much or as little attention as you care to give them. But I am not going to shape the policies -- when I know we have sound environmental policies -- by the loudest voice or the biggest sign.
So, they're welcome to Houston. I hope they've enjoyed it. I hope they feel they've had an opportunity to get their message out. But I had a little cloakroom conversation with some of the participants, and I think most of them are disinclined to change policies in their countries that they think are sound because of some of the statements that I saw and perhaps some that you were referring to here. So, I'd say, welcome, and we'll listen and keep trying to do better. But I'm determined that we can find a sound environmental path -- and I think we've found it -- continue to be good stewards for the environment and still have some concern for the workingman and the workingwoman in this country. And that really is what it boils down to when you talk about no growth. And I'm not going to talk about no growth for the United States because I feel a deep concern about the human equation as well as the environment.
I was very pleased with the mood amongst the summit leaders as a result of the common ground that we hammered out on the environment here.
Thank you all very much.
Note: The President's 54th news conference began at 12:59 p.m. in Assembly Hall at George R. Brown Convention Center in Houston, TX. In his remarks, he referred to the Kerensky debt, which was incurred by Russia's Kerensky government after the fall of the czar. The President also referred to the Group of 7 (G - 7), the industrialized nations that participated in the economic summits, and the Group of 24 (G - 24), the industrialized democracies that pledged support for economic and political reform in Poland and Hungary.