Public Papers - 1989 - February
Remarks and a Question-and-Answer Session With Reporters Following a Luncheon With Prime Minister Brian Mulroney in Ottawa, Canada
The President. Let me just say on behalf of Mrs. Bush, our Secretary of State, and others, this has been a good visit. It is an important visit because it symbolizes the importance that we place on the relationship with Canada. We're each other's largest trading partners. We are friends. We share a long, peaceful border, and we have many common interests. And today we had an opportunity to discuss not just the bilateral relationship that is very, very strong and very good but we had a chance to talk about the East-West relationship. I had a chance to talk about the problems on trade; indeed, our trade ministers are talking right now, you might say. And so, I felt the visit was outstanding.
The Prime Minister and I reviewed the concerns that he has about acid rain; and I referred him to what I said last night to the American people: my determination to move on forward with setting limits, with legislation, and then moving to discussions with Canada, leading to an accord that I think will be beneficial to both countries. And so, that problem -- and it has been a problem -- is one that we are both determined to move forward towards solution. In terms of the trade agreement, we, of course, have saluted the courageous position taken by the Prime Minister of Canada. We have great respect for that in the United States; and we want to now do our part, part of the United States, to follow through with whatever implementation is required.
So, the mood was upbeat, the spirit good, and I am very glad that this was my first visit outside of the continental United States as President. And we will keep in touch, and each of us has pledged to see that this strong relationship becomes even stronger.
I think we both agreed we'd take a question or two at what we affectionately call a scrum. [Laughter] I've been looking for words to describe what we do at press occasions like this down across the border, and that's an appropriate word.
Q. Mr. President, to what degree did you assure the Prime Minister of your feeling of confidence that the Congress will go along with you on your acid rain request last night?
The President. I think the Prime Minister is aware of the political divisions and political waves there in our country on this issue. But I assured him that the time for just pure study was over and that we've now approached the time for legislative action. And I pledged that in the campaign. And so, to the degree there is disparity, a lack of uniformity in the Congress, I think the Prime Minister sees it as my responsibility to try to move forward to do that which I said I wanted to do.
Agricultural and Environmental Issues
Q. -- -- concern that the Arctic blast that just swept across the continent following on last summer's drought has created some permanent damage in the agricultural regions on both sides of the border? I wonder if you discussed that at all and whether there could be a cooperative way of dealing with this and maybe at some point making a proposal to get some of the surplus Canadian water down into the drought-stricken regions of the U.S.?
The President. We did not discuss water diversion. We did not discuss the effects of the Arctic cold air. We did talk about the need for a global approach to environmental concerns.
Do you want to add something to that, Mr. Prime Minister?
The Prime Minister. No.
Q. Mr. President, were you -- --
The President. The gentleman right here, and then I'll be right over.
Q. Do you have an estimate of how long it will take, assuming the Congress goes along with your legislative program, before you are ready to talk about a bilateral accord?
The President. No, but we're going to press forward with this right away. We have a brand new Administrator of EPA. We've got a legislative team to propose the legislation I talked about last night. And we've gotten some reasonable levels of funding. So, we're on the move. But we did not discuss an exact timeframe. I would be misrepresenting or understating things if I didn't say that the Prime Minister once again impressed on me the urgency of moving as fast as we can, but we didn't set a time.
Who had one back in here?
Q. Yes, sir, you were saying, Mr. President, that you weren't in a position yet to discuss a specific timetable and targets for reduction of acid rain.
The President. We will be discussing targets, and we will get agreement on that, I'm sure. But I have an obligation now to recommend to our Congress the setting of certain limits, so we will move forward with that much specific.
Q. Mr. President, what kind of reductions and what kind of timetable do you have in mind?
The President. I have in mind as fast as possible.
Q. Mr. Prime Minister, I wondered, sir, if you are satisfied with the steps that the President has outlined to deal with the acid rain question or whether you have asked for more here?
The Prime Minister. Well, I think that this represents quite substantial progress. You know, it wasn't so long ago that Canada was sort of going it alone in many ways in this area. The President's position puts a great impetus for action domestically in the United States, which is a condition precedent, and the President is signaling, as well, subsequent discussions that will lead to an acid rain accord to benefit both the United States and Canada. This, I think, is real progress. And while I suppose I'm like a lot of people who would like it done tomorrow in this area, I know it's not going to happen, but this represents a very measurable progress. And I view it as evidence of the commitments that the President gave during the campaign and has referred to since, including his speech to the Congress last night, which is, for a neighbor and friend troubled by this problem for some time, very encouraging.
Q. Presuming you and the President reach an agreement, could you begin to discuss an accord before the full U.S. program is in place on acid rain, or will it be necessary to wait until its legislation is through Congress?
The Prime Minister. The Americans will, of course, deal with their own problems domestically, free from any comment by me about what happens internally. But clearly, what the President is saying is that he has a two-pronged approach: one that will summon the legislative authority of the Congress of the United States to put in place those mechanisms that are required there; and secondly, an arrangement which will be negotiated with Canada to conclude an accord which will deal, hopefully, in a definitive manner with this.
Q. How soon can those negotiations -- --
Q. Would you prefer to undertake negotiations immediately with the United States instead of waiting for them first to pass laws?
The Prime Minister. First, it is necessary for the President to talk about this with legislators and that the Americans are prepared to pass their own laws for the purification of their atmosphere in this domain. In the second place, as the President has just indicated, we are on the way to advance, rapidly I hope, towards the conclusion of the negotiations for a bilateral accord about the international environment. Therefore, we are encouraged by the developments and the declarations of President Bush today.
Q. Back at home today, both consumer prices and bank prime rates went up. To the extent that that goes against your assumptions in the budget, how badly do you see that hurting your budget?
The President. You've got to wait to see how long interest rates stay different from that which we've projected. But I would not make assumptions based on one monthly release of figures on either the CPI [Consumer Price Index] or in this instance -- I guess you're talking about the Producer Price Index -- because we've found that they jump around some. And I am not overly concerned about inflation, at this point, in the United States. I don't like the figures; but I'm not concerned, long-run, about inflation in our country. We still have excess plant capacity. The economy is growing, and I think that's good.
I pointed out last night that we expect revenues in 1 year of billion -- I think is the figure -- more just from growth. So, it is important we keep growing. Any President should be concerned if there are persistent signs of inflationary pressures to come. But I don't see the signs now that had me worried at all. So, I would hope that these figures would prove to be just a blip on an otherwise rather calm and hopeful radar screen.
Canadian Steel Exports
Q. Prime Minister, did you discuss the steel issue, and did you make any mention of keeping Canada out of the voluntary export program that the steel lobby in the United States wants?
The Prime Minister. There is a meeting going on now between Ms. Hills [U.S. Trade Representative] and Minister [of International Trade] John Crosbie in regard specifically to that. But as you know, Canada is a fair trader, and we should not in any way be impacted by that kind of proposition. We wouldn't deserve in any way to be included within its purview. And that would be the position that Mr. Crosbie will be explaining to Ms. Hills.
Une derniere question, a final question, Mr. President, and then -- --
The President. Derniere?
The Prime Minister. Une derniere question pour le President?
The President. Mais oui. [Laughter] C'est fine pour moi. [Sure, this is fine for me.] It's colder than hell. Yes, sorry about that. [Laughter]
Q. In 1995 or the year 2000 -- for a 50-percent cut in acid rain?
The President. Qu'est ce que c'est la question? [What is the question?] Je ne comprends pas. [I don't understand.] [Laughter]
Q. Would you like 1995 or the year 2000 for a 50-percent cut in transporter emissions on acid rain?
The President. Too early to answer that.
Q. Will negotiations start this year, Mr. President?
The President. I hope so.
Q. Were you on the same wavelengths on East-West relations in your discussions this morning?
The President. Certainement! [Laughter]
The Prime Minister. May I introduce my Quebec -- [laughter].
The President. No, we were. And I have great respect for the Prime Minister's views. I have great respect for his understanding with his experience of the alliance and its importance. I value his judgment on what's happening inside the Soviet Union. And so, we had a long, I think productive, discussion about that. And I had an opportunity to explain to him that our review of our national security policies, our foreign policy objectives -- it's a serious thing. It is not a foot-dragging operation. It is not trying to send a signal to Secretary Gorbachev that we want to move backwards. It is simply prudent. And I am absolutely convinced that the Soviets understand this; and I'm also convinced that the -- I don't want to put words in his mouth -- but the Prime Minister of Canada, a very important part of all of this, understands it as well.
The Prime Minister. Thank you very much.
Note: The President spoke at 3 p.m. in the Prime Minister's residence. Prior to the luncheon, the President met with the Prime Minister and U.S. and Canadian officials. Following the exchange, the President and Mrs. Bush went to Kennebunkport, ME, for a weekend stay.