Public Papers - 1989 - May
Remarks and a Question-and-Answer Session With Reporters Following a Luncheon With Prime Minister Brian Mulroney of Canada
The President. May I just, at the outset of this scrum, in which we each answer questions, say what a joy it's been to have Prime Minister Mulroney back here with his very special Mila. Barbara and I froze them to death on the balcony. It's warm now, but 20 minutes ago, it was cold -- temperature; warm in terms of the feeling that existed at that little lunch and, indeed, over in the Oval Office.
And I cite that because the relationship between the United States and Canada remains strong. Our respect for the Prime Minister and his objectives remains strong. The fact that he fought hard for this breakthrough free trade agreement has the respect for him at an altogether high level. And so, I can report that the conversations that we had that touched on a wide array of subjects -- on the environment, and on the importance of the NATO meeting, and on the bilateral relations -- was good. And we found that we can look each other in the eye and talk out any differences with no rancor. And we salute him and welcome him as a good friend.
And now, Mr. Prime Minister, the stand-up mike is all yours.
The Prime Minister. Thank you, Mr. President. We had a very delightful and effective meeting, I thought, with President Bush and his colleagues. And Mila and I had an especially delightful lunch with Barbara and the President.
Our discussions today on the agenda dealt with the environment, which is very important, and I applaud the leadership the President is giving to the environment, particularly on the question of acid rain.
We discussed, as well, something that Margaret Thatcher has described as a model for the rest of the world, and that's the Canada-United States free trade agreement, which is in its infancy, is growing and growing strongly, and I think to the benefit of both of our nations.
And we discussed the role of NATO and the importance of the Western alliance in the world -- the role of the United States in that alliance. The position of Canada is unequivocal in that regard.
Thank you, sir.
Q. Mr. President, are you willing to compromise your position now on short-range missiles in terms of starting negotiations with the Soviet Union on that area?
The President. I want the NATO summit to be a success. And we will be working with the Germans and with others to see that there is a common NATO position. This is no time for one to compromise or somebody not to compromise. We've made proposals to the Germans; I expect we'll be hearing from them soon. And I'd prefer to do whatever negotiation amongst allies that is required in private, recognizing that we all want the NATO summit to be successful. And there's a lot of public discussion of this issue, and that's fine. I don't plan in detail to join in on that public discussion. The U.S. position is well-known. NATO's last stated public position is well-known. And we're prepared to go from there.
Q. It sounds like you're ready to negotiate.
The President. Well, I'm always willing to negotiate. But we're not going to go for any third zero or getting SNF [Strategic Nuclear Forces] out of whack in terms of negotiations. So, let's be clear on that. But certainly, I'll be willing to discuss these issues, as we did in a very constructive way with the Prime Minister.
Q. Prime Minister Mulroney, what did you say to the President about the SNF issue?
The Prime Minister. What I said to the President was that NATO was founded on, in my judgment, two concepts: first, solidarity; and secondly, the American leadership of the Western alliance. And it's the solidarity that has brought about the success that the West has engendered thus far. And we have to stick together on all of these fundamental questions, and we will.
NATO is a grouping of sovereign independent nations. There is going to be vigorous debate, unlike the Warsaw Pact. In NATO, there are independent nations who get together, and who come together willingly under a common shield to achieve common objectives. And so, while there has to be this kind of debate, in the end, there must be solidarity, total solidarity. And there must be a common view of leadership, which has served the world so well for 40 years. Now, we're going to Brussels to celebrate the achievements of NATO. And that's exactly what we are going to be doing, and that is why we look forward to President Bush's presence there -- to celebrate that particular achievement in which the United States has played such a pivotal role.
Q. -- -- how public opinion in Europe to have NATO -- --
Q. Did you urge the President to begin negotiations on SNF reductions, sir? Did you urge the President to begin negotiations on SNF reductions?
The Prime Minister. I'm sorry?
Q. Did you urge the President to begin negotiations -- to at least back negotiations on SNF reductions?
The Prime Minister. I've just said what the position of Canada is in regard to -- there's one NATO position. This is not an association where everybody freelances.
Q. -- -- different views on this, though.
The Prime Minister. We have a common NATO position, and while there are divergence of views that emerge from time to time, the object of our getting together is to harmonize those views into one position. And that's what we're going to be able to do.
Q. You told us that NATO was very good -- --
Iran Arms and Contra Aid Controversy
Q. Mr. President, the Oliver North jury is supposed to return a verdict momentarily. I was wondering if now you would discuss with us your trip to Honduras -- as they're about to come in, and you couldn't affect their verdict one way or the other -- and what happened there -- whether or not you made some arrangements to give a quid pro quo for Honduras help.
The President. How do we know the North -- I haven't heard -- it's going to be in at 2 o'clock with a decision? Honduras -- there was no quid pro quo. Everybody that attended the meeting says there was no quid pro quo. And for those who suggest there was, the onus is on them. The word of the President of the United States, George Bush, is there was no quid pro quo. The records of the meeting demonstrate that there was no quid pro quo. Thank you for asking that question.
Q. Mr. President, was there any implication -- --
The President. No implication, no quid pro quo, direct or indirect, from me to the President of Honduras on that visit.
Q. Why did you go down there for then?
Q. In that meeting, did you discuss aid to the contras -- the Hondurans' compliance with our request that they help the contras and -- --
The President. We are going to -- I am going to insist that the congressional committees, now that the jury is in or out, be briefed fully on the confidential cables that bring up every fact of that meeting.
North Atlantic Treaty Organization
Q. Mr. President, can we go back to NATO a second?
The President. Yes. For me or -- --
Q. For you, sir. Mr. President, you were very careful, I thought, to say you didn't want the third zero. That still allows for the possibility of reducing the number of short-range nuclear weapons.
The President. Look, my emphasis will be on conventional force reductions. And we will be talking very soon with the Germans on a proposal we made to them. We've listened very carefully in a very -- to the constructive suggestions that Prime Minister Mulroney has raised, and that's really all I care to say about it. I want the NATO meeting to be a success. And one way you guarantee success is not to go out and fine tune nuance differences that may exist between various staunch allies. And so, the German position was made public last week. And I will continue to work with the leaders of the NATO countries to see that we have a successful summit.
Q. Mr. President -- --
Q. Mr. Prime Minister -- --
Q. Mr. President, did you discuss a bilateral accord -- --
The President. Here's what we're going to do to be fair. We're going to rotate these questions. The next one is for the Prime Minister of Canada -- if you want equal time. [Laughter]
The Prime Minister. I don't insist on equal time, Mr. President. [Laughter]
The President. You're entitled to it. You've got to have it.
Q. -- -- any new commitments on acid rain?
The Prime Minister. I'll take it. [Laughter] All right. We'll rotate.
Q. How about bilateral accords?
The Prime Minister. We'll rotate, but I've got to get a chance to answer.
Acid rain -- we had an excellent discussion on that. The President has made a very strong statement in regard to his intentions in acid rain, which will involve legislation and cooperation with the Congress. We look forward to that and once that is achieved, we look forward to the conclusion of a mutual accord which will allow our countries to bring to an end, hopefully, a problem that has been a major challenge to both of our governments and one that has blighted the environments of the United States and of Canada. So, we're moving along on that. I'm pleased with what the President had to say today. I met with congressional leaders, including Senator Mitchell, earlier this morning. And as the Prime Minister of Canada, I'm pleased with the manner in which this very important matter is going.
Q. Mr. President, do you support a bilateral accord, sir?
Q. President Bush, with regard to all of the reports of the new developments of fusion energy, which is a clean form of energy that could make the whole acid rain issue moot, do you plan to take any role in helping to determine whether this breakthrough or potential breakthrough is real, and the Government would play a role in helping to develop it?
The President. I will be talking to my National Science Adviser about that in the next few days.
Q. Prime Minister Mulroney --
[At this point, a question is asked and answered in French.]
Q. Mr. President -- --
Q. Mr. Prime Minister -- --
The President. My turn, my turn! The gentleman over here.
Q. Translation, Mr. President?
Elections in Panama
Q. Mr. Gingrich this morning suggested if the Panama election is as fraudulent as many think it will be that perhaps you shouldn't give back the Canal. What's your view on that? What's your response to him?
The President. My view on that is to warn Panama that the world will be looking at them, not just the United States. In terms of these elections and deciding what to do if the elections are fraudulent -- calling on them for free and fair elections -- there will be international observers there, and then we will cross whatever hypothetical bridge we may have to cross later on. But it's too hypothetical, Charles [Charles Bierbauer, Cable News Network], at this point to go beyond that. But this does give me an opportunity to say that I have been very disturbed by the reports that the election will be less than free and less than fair and less than open. And I simply want to encourage the people in Panama to do everything they can to guarantee free and fair elections. And what pressures they can bring to bear on the PDF [Panamanian Defense Force] leader, Mr. Noriega, I don't know. But I would hope, with the world watching, they would insist on free and fair elections.
Health Care in Canada
Q. -- -- about the health system in Canada.
The Prime Minister. Pardon me?
Q. I want to ask you, are you worried about this exodus of doctors from Canada to the United States, where they make more money? Are you worried that that will hurt your wonderful health system in Canada?
The Prime Minister. Well, we're always -- we don't like to lose any talented Canadians. But we're very proud of the special health care system that we've developed over the years. It's an integral part of our citizenship. We strengthen it every opportunity we can, and we don't see it under any challenge or attack.
Q. Could you explain that to Mr. Bush so we can get that same health system in the United States?
The Prime Minister. Well, Mr. Bush is very, very well acquainted with the Canadian system, as with others, and I can only speak for ours. I know of your interest in this area. And as far as we're concerned, we've developed our own system, which we prize very highly. Others have their own, of which they're proud, no doubt.
Iran Arms and Contra Aid Controversy
Q. Mr. President, Senator Mitchell and others among the congressional leadership are adamant in pressing for answers on why they did not get certain documents or certain versions of documents related to the Iran-contra matter during their investigation. What will you undertake to do to meet their inquiries? What role will you take?
The President. Well, I've made clear to the Congress that we will cooperate in every way requested and referred them to a man in whom I have great confidence, Mr. Culvahouse [Arthur B. Culvahouse, former Counsel to President Reagan], who handled those documents for the previous administration. And hopefully, they can resolve it between themselves.
Q. -- -- about acid rain once again, sir?
Q. Senator Mitchell mentioned this morning that Canada should be pushing for a bilateral accord on acid rain consecutively, while the administration introduces its legislation on acid rain. Was there any talk about that and will you be pushing for that?
The Prime Minister. Well, I think the President knows my position full well. We know that there have to be legislative changes here in the United States to kind of equate the initiatives taken in Canada. And once that is done, or while -- in the process of that being done, then there has to be an international accord that is an enforceable document, by which we can measure our progress and enforce delinquency in that event. And so, President Bush is known as a strong environmentalist. He's made some very significant statements in regard to not only acid rain but its impact on our bilateral relationship and his resolve to clean it up. So, I'm very encouraged.
Q. President Bush, can we ask you, sir, about acid rain? Did you make any undertakings in your lunch in terms of what's going to be in your clean air legislation that's going to help this acid rain problem?
The President. We didn't go into the specific amounts. As the Prime Minister said, he knows of my commitment. He knows now that we are in the final stages of formulating our recommendations to the Congress -- the Clean Air Act. And indeed, we'll be prepared, after those recommendations go forward, to discuss in more detail the subject that you're asking about. So, we did have a chance to do what you asked about. And look, if there's anything that the Prime Minister of Canada has been clear with me about -- and he's been clear with me on everything -- it is this subject. So, I don't think there's any -- he forcefully brings it up, and I tell him where we stand.
Q. Prime Minister Mulroney, the President said you made concrete suggestions on the issue of short-range missiles. Can you give us an idea, sir, what some of those suggestions entailed?
The Prime Minister. Well, Mr. Clark [Canadian Secretary of State for External Affairs] has been in touch with Secretary [of State] Baker and others in regard to how this matter might be broached. We don't -- we discuss it privately with our allies and that's what we have tried to do. But the position of Canada -- the one I've set out is -- it deals with the effectiveness of NATO being predicated on our solidarity and the leadership, a very particular role of leadership, by the United States in that equation. And we think that within those parameters, we can resolve differences of degree and emphasis that will come up from sovereign states from time to time. And we think that this is what the President and I and Secretary Baker and Minister Clark have been working on and will continue to work on.
Iran Arms and Contra Aid Controversy
Q. Mr. President, when you say that there was no quid pro quo at the meeting that you had with the Honduran President, are you willing to give us the same assurances that there was no quid pro quo between this Government and the Honduran Government in that time period?
The President. As far as I know of, as far as I know -- to my knowledge. But the allegation that's been made on me was that I went to Honduras and talked to President Suazo about some quid pro quo. I can now state declaratively, without any fear of contradiction, that there wasn't. And that's all I'm going to tell you.
[At this point, a question is asked and answered in French.]
Q. Mr. President, you've made it pretty clear there was no quid pro quo. Can we go beyond that to the whole question of Iran-contra? You have declined in the past to discuss that, sir, because of confidentiality vis-a-vis President Reagan. Now, you're the President, the Oliver North jury is now delivering its verdict on all the counts -- is this the time to set this at rest? Just to go through and say -- --
The President. I think it was set to rest in the last election. I think I have been singled out for a specific question here that I've answered. Do you have a specific question? I'll be glad to try to respond to it at your next turn, which does not come now, however. [Laughter] But I would be glad to try to do that. And that's the way it's going to be. And we'll have plenty of opportunities to answer questions, and I may or may not, depending on what they are, answer them. I've answered this one, where there has been much needless, mindless speculation about my word of honor, and I've answered it, now, definitively.
Q. Mr. President, your good friend Michael Dukakis said the other day to the Prime Minister that he expected -- he thought that it was possible for an acid rain treaty between Canada and the United States to be signed within a year. I don't know what your feelings are on this, but could you give us kind of a timeframe? Do you think it's possible that there might be a treaty signed at least before you leave or the next election?
The President. Well, there will be great progress made. Whether the treaty proves to be the vehicle for demonstrating that progress, I don't know, and I can't say.
Q. Mr. Prime Minister, was there any discussion of a global warming convention, and if so, what direction did it take?
The Prime Minister. Yes, the President and I had an excellent discussion of the entire environmental formula. I expressed the view as well that there can be little progress in terms of the environment unless there's a very strong leadership role played by the United States. And I've already indicated to you President Bush's very strong commitment to the environment in all of its related and ancillary and principal dimensions, and this is a very, very important one. But you know, you can hold all the conferences you want, but if the principal players are not there, then progress can be fairly modest. So, President Bush indicated to me, as he did in Ottawa, his intention to play a very significant leadership role in all aspects of the environment, and I think we're all very encouraged by that.
Thank you very much.
The President. Last question for the President -- the Prime Minister having handled his last one beautifully.
Q. Different subject, on China. Your administration has been very outspoken in promoting democratic efforts in places like Poland and Nicaragua and around the world. But you haven't really said anything about China. Do you have some words of encouragement for the students who are defying a government ban in order to protest in favor of freedom and democracy?
The President. I have words of encouragement for freedom and democracy wherever, and I would like to see progress in China, in the Soviet Union, and in other systems that have heretofore not been in the forefront, to put it mildly, of human rights or of democratic rights. And I wouldn't suggest to any leadership of any country that they accept every demand by every group. But I will say that as I reviewed what the demands are today, we can certainly, as the United States, identify with them. When they talk about more free press, we would encourage that, wherever it might be. When they talk about -- I forget what the list was of every demand, but a lot of them had my enthusiastic backing, in a broad, generic sense. And I would like to encourage China or the Soviet Union or other totalitarian countries -- countries that have not enjoyed democratic practices -- to move as quick as they can down democracy's path.
And I've been pleased with some of the changes in China. It's changed dramatically since I was living there. But they've got a ways to go, and other countries in this hemisphere have a long ways to go, and countries over in Europe have a long way to go. And so, I would encourage them all: Democracy is on the move. And this is one thing that the Prime Minister and I talked about. When we go to that NATO meeting, we're going to be on the side that is winning and the side that is right, fundamentally right. Freedom, democracy, human rights, these are the things we stand for. So, I would encourage every government to move as quickly as they can to achieve human rights.
Note: The President spoke at 1:55 p.m. on the South Portico at the White House. Earlier, the President and the Prime Minister met in the Oval Office.