|Secretary of State Madeleine K. Albright and
White House Counselor Thomas P. (Mack) McLarty
Costa Rican-American Chamber of Commerce, Question and Answer Session
San Jose, Costa Rica, May 9, 1997
As released by the Office of the Spokesman in San Jose, Costa Rica
U.S. Department of State
QUESTION: One of the questions that has been on my mind is just exactly what is the dynamic for soliciting "Fast Track" authority for President Clinton. Perhaps, Madam Albright, you could clarify that for us, please?
SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: Let me begin, and then Mack McLarty might wish to add.
First of all, the President has made it quite clear that he would like to have Fast Track authority, that it is very important in terms of his plans, and of our plans generally for moving towards a Free Trade Area in the year 2005 and generally deepening our trade relationships. We are going to be going to the Hill in the very near future to seek that authority and we are looking now at the proper timing of it. The President had wanted to wait to see if we had a budget deal. That is a process that is ongoing and we are going to be assessing, obviously, the best time to go to the Hill, but I can just assure you that it is the highest priority and the President has made that quite clear to all of us.
COUNSELOR MCLARTY: Madam Secretary, I would just reinforce a couple of points. First of all, trade issues are never easy in terms of being successfully passed, but I think that the Clinton Administration has had a very strong record on trade issues, beginning with the passage of the North American Free Trade Agreement, then moving to the convening of the APEC Summit, reaching out to the Asia-Pacific region, then moving to the passage of the GATT and then of course convening the Summit of the Americas. That is a very strong trade record to build upon.
I think secondly, it is very clear that exports, in many ways, have powered what I believe is the strongest investment-led recovery certainly that I have seen in my thirty years in the private sector in our country. Our exports now account for almost a third of our total GDP, and the fact that we are well-positioned to compete internationally in the markets should be a very strong point in our favor. Having said all of that, I would say that in the past certain trade legislation has taken four or six years to get passed, in some cases eight. I believe that we will be successful in Fast Track. The last thing I think we want to do from a legislative standpoint is to introduce a bill that does not have at least some critical mass, some building of consensus, and that is what the Secretary is speaking of, in terms of the next step. I believe that will be accomplished with Ambassador Barshefsky and others, in very intensive consultations with the Congress.
QUESTION: Madam Secretary, what do you think Costa Rica's role could be to help form the hemisphere's policy towards the Free Trade Area of the Americas in 2005?
SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: My own sense, from listening to people here and seeing where our goal is, is that Costa Rica, because of the position it has had throughout the years in Central America, having evolved and developed freely, is in a position to have a leading role as we move into the discussions as far as the Free Trade Area is concerned. I have been very impressed in my discussions here in the last couple of days, with Costa Rica's approach, in terms of taking the lead in integration of the Central American region.
Also, in fact I was just commenting to General McMerty, that I find that the respect that the other countries seem to have for Costa Rica's role, I have also found very encouraging, and I was asking about how that was evolving. My sense is that Costa Rica can, in fact, play a catalytic role in moving us forward to 2005, in showing, one, how a free market system and democracy work together, and two, in working to create an integrated Central American approach.
COUNSELOR MCLARTY: As usual, you have very insightfully identified the key points. Central America, it is clear, has not only entered a new era in terms of peace and stability which is, I think, going to attract very substantial and meaningful foreign investment. I sensed that when I was in Guatemala in the last two months, on two occasions. I certainly sense it here in Costa Rica. I think that the region working together, in a very cooperative and cohesive manner, to identify a potential market of nearly fifty million people I think is precisely the way to go. Costa Rica, of course, is very much at the center of that, and is being a very effective and positive catalyst.
QUESTION: Madam Secretary, you mentioned the U.S. commitment to education programs in the region. What policies do you foresee that the U.S. might have towards this region?
SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: First of all, when we came in late the other night and the two presidents got together and started talking about the possibilities of educational cooperation, it was definitely two wonks getting together -- two policy experts who knew a great deal about the role of education in our societies and the importance of education as we move into the twenty-first century. There will be, I think, a lot of intellectual exchange in terms of how to apply new technologies to education, how to link our countries up through Internet, and a variety of new technological aspects. We were fascinated by President Figueres's explanations of new "eco-education," the importance of having the next generation understand the importance of environmental issues. This is obviously something that is very much on President Clinton's mind. So we are going to be looking at ways to follow up on that.
Let me make an additional comment about follow-up: We have had a remarkable summit. But often, as all of you know, what happens is that leaders meet and greet and there is a great spirit created. We have pledged ourselves to make absolutely sure that there is detailed follow-up to what happened in San Jose. At the State Department, we are going to be looking at very detailed ways to follow up. We also, and this is an example of "new diplomacy," are going to be working with the Department of Education and the Department of Commerce and the Department of Transportation Rodney Slater. We will be working very closely across the board, because foreign policy is domestic policy and vice-versa. We all must work together on this. Education is a perfect example: You would not have thought of education as a foreign policy issue, but creating an educated new generation is key to what we have to do.
COUNSELOR MCLARTY: I would just like to add one important point, not only in terms of how critical education is to the citizens of Central America and to the United States. It is absolutely the key in a world that is profoundly changing as we approach the twenty-first century. The Secretary is absolutely right in that there was a wonderful exchange between President Figueres and President Clinton upon our arrival. I expect that the summit in Santiago, the convening of the 34 democratically-elected heads of state, to really have education in many ways at the center as we convene the second summit in 1998.
The final point, and I see that Mark Schneider is here from USAID, is that as our hemisphere becomes more and more integrated, and Secretary Slater, you are to be congratulated for the Open Skies Agreement that will truly link us in a much closer way. If we can encourage our exchange efforts to intensify, that is absolutely critical for the young people of our countries to get to know each other if we are going to be successful in the days ahead.
QUESTION: Special Envoy McLarty we have a question for you. If, as has been stated, U.S. policy is to promote democratic reform and free trade, how does the U.S. view a continuance of government monopolies in the area such as telecommunications, etc.?
COUNSELOR MCLARTY: I think the process to open market democracies has to be a very sustained step-by-step opening of the markets. I don't think we should be in a position to insist or demand immediate transformation of economies. I think the President's approach in our own government to getting our fiscal house in order with balancing the budget, but protecting our values and protecting needed investments in education and infrastructure was exactly the right approach. So I think very much this step-by-step, but very committed and sustained involvement in privatization, capitalization is absolutely critical. I think it also goes right to the heart of reducing the debt that has been a yoke around the neck of many Central American countries and I think it can be very, very positive in that regard.
QUESTION: We have one final question. Have any specific commitments been made n the area of intellectual property rights ?
SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: Let me say that part of what we are going to be trying to do through our follow-on is to make sure that there is a series of frameworks established that would make investment better and the conditions for investments better and a variety of legal frameworks to have that happen. Obviously among that is intellectual property rights. It is something that we have been concerned about generally.
As trade relations are established, it is very important to American businesses to make sure that intellectual property rights are protected and they are very much a part of what we are going to be seeking as we develop our mutual relationships. I hope that you all know that as agencies, we work together to make sure that business practices throughout the world as Americans project our export markets are very important to us. It has to do with intellectual property rights.
It also has to do generally with ethics in business, money laundering, a whole set of questions that President Clinton has put right up there, and has also been interested in, not only in terms of our bilateral relations, but making sure that various business practices are inculcated in the international system. He, much to the surprise of many UN delegates, made that very clear in his General Assembly speech. What President Clinton is doing is refocusing our foreign policy so that it is clearly beneficial and understandable to real people, rather than being more theoretical in a way that is very hard for people to understand the stakes that they have in foreign policy.
COUNSELOR MCLARTY: The point I would make is one that you all saw in Secretary Albright's comments, and that is from a State Department standpoint under the leadership of President Clinton, You see a very knowledgeable, strongly engaged effort on the part of our foreign policy team in terms of advocating American interests from a commercial and an economic standpoint, and that is as it should be. What has really happened here, is that international economics has become very much a fundamental pillar of President Clinton's foreign policy. You see a Secretary of State like Madeleine Albright really engaged in these issues because the line has clearly blurred. I think the key word that we have used is "open market democracies" and the two obviously are mutually reinforcing and linked. I think that bodes well for the future of both Costa Rica as well as Central America and bodes well for the future of the United States.
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