President George W. Bush and Argentine President Fernando de la Rua gave the following remarks at the White House on April 19, 2001. Both presidents emphasized ongoing trade talks as well as the economic crisis in Argentina.
PRESIDENT BUSH: I want to thank the President from Argentina for coming here. It is my honor to welcome a friend of America. This is a country that has been our friend for a long period of time, and I intend to keep our friendship strong, Mr. President. I appreciate so very much your working hard to work through the economic difficulties that you’ve had. You’re making a very strong effort to recover. I know it’s been difficult, but you’ve been a very strong leader.
I appreciate, also, your willingness at times to commit troops as peacekeepers. Your country has been a very strong supporter of keeping the peace around the world.
I look forward to telling the President that one of the main strategies of our foreign policy is to have strong relations in our hemisphere. It begins with remembering our friends. The President represents a country that is a close friend of the United States.
So, welcome, Mr. President. Bienvenidos a los Estados Unidos.
PRESIDENT DE LA RUA: Muchas gracias, Senor Presidente. Thank you very much, Mr. President. (Speaks in Spanish.)
PRESIDENT BUSH: Thank you, Mr. President.
Well, I have a couple of questions from — the United States will alternate to the Argentinean press, and back and forth for two rounds.
Q Thank you, sir. Mr. President, as part of your — this is a little off topic — as part of your broader review of troop deployments, are you considering pulling out of the Sinai? And if so, why?
PRESIDENT BUSH: We are looking at all troop deployments around the world. Where we can reduce troops without creating instability, we will do so. One of the things I said during the course of the campaign and right after my inauguration is that we would be reviewing and looking at, and analyzing our troop deployments.
I’ve always felt that we’re overextended, which creates morale problems within our military. On the other hand, I understand we’ve made commitments, and we just won’t simply walk away from our commitments. We’ll consult with our allies. We’ll lay the groundwork for reductions if, in fact, we think it is in our nation’s best interest and the world’s interest to keep reductions.
So to answer your question, we’re reviewing all opportunities to reduce the amount of troops around the world.
Q And that includes the Sinai as part of that review?
PRESIDENT BUSH: We’re reviewing everyplace we have troops deployed.
Q President Bush, are you ready to support Argentina to solve economic and social problems they’re facing now?
PRESIDENT BUSH: We are. Our Treasury Department is working closely with their counterparts in the Argentinean government. We want our friend to do well economically. It is in our interest that a trading partner of ours be strong economically. We’re working closely with the new Minister of Finance. We’re listening to what he’s doing. We believe the country is making progress. I’m aware of what the country and the leadership wants to do with the IMF, and we believe we’re making good progress toward a stabilization plan.
That’s the short-term solution, of course, is IMF help that now exists, and whether or not the IMF is going to provide some kind of latitude toward the government as it makes strides toward reforms. But longer-term is what the President talked about, and that is to promote free trade, free trade all throughout our hemisphere. In one day’s time, we’ll both be in Quebec City talking about trade. And I’m going to be very aggressive about pushing a free trade agenda for the hemisphere, and I’m so pleased to hear the President say the same words.
Q Mr. President, should you look at some —
PRESIDENT BUSH: Let me say one thing. I think it may make sense, Mr. President, if you speak a little bit, and then let the translator translate. Unfortunately, not many people here speak Spanish, like I do — (laughter.)
PRESIDENT DE LA RUA: Thank you very much for your words of support and trust in our country. But, please, I wouldn’t like anyone to think I have come here to ask Mr. Bush money. (Laughter.) We do have relations with the international lending institutions, and our financing is already insured.
What we would want is more freedom in trade. And I very much value the support expressed by Mr. Bush for Argentina, where there are so many U.S. investments, and definitely, we would like this to increase.
PRESIDENT BUSH: Grandfather. (Laughter.)
Q Mr. President, should the U.S. look at easing some of the economic sanctions on Iran, Iraq and Libya in the interest of getting more oil into this country?
PRESIDENT BUSH: You know, we’re looking at — in our energy review, we’re looking at all opportunities to create more energy supply, to take the pressure off of price. At the same time, I think it’s important for the country to review all sanction policies to make sure they are effective. And — but I have no intention as of this moment for taking sanctions off of countries like Iran or Libya.
We’ve made it clear to the Libyans that the sanctions will remain until such time as they not only compensate for the bombing of the aircraft, but also admit their guilt and express remorse.
And as far as Iran goes, it’s too early at this time in our relationships to really — it’s one thing to consider; it’s another thing to act on sanctions. I don’t intend to do that anytime soon.
Q Mr. President de la Rua, President Bush wanted the free trade agreement by the year 2003, but I think Brazil is not too keen on that idea. So now, we’re talking about 2005, which was the original date at the Summit of the Americas in 1994. Is that a real possibility, or will that date also pass by?
PRESIDENT DE LA RUA: The important thing is that agreement has been reached on that date in Buenos Aires. I celebrate the generosity and flexibility of Mr. Zoellick, who represented the President. An agreement was reached by all countries. In addition to the date, it is important for us to make progress in terms of the contents. In terms of the way to build a common market to benefit and integrate all countries.
PRESIDENT BUSH: Let me say something about that. First of all, I don’t want to dispute, of course, the supposition of your question. But I was asked — I think you asked me at a press conference, would I be pleased to see the date moved up, and the answer is, of course; the sooner we get a free trade agreement for the Americas in place, the better off the continent will be.
However, I recognize reality, and it looks like we’re going to be aiming for the date 2005. But big progress has been made. And Ambassador Zoellick went down and met with other leaders in our hemisphere, and we’ve got the framework for an agreement. And not only that; after the Summit of the Americas, we’ll be putting out the agreement, itself, or the framework of the agreement for people to review, so that citizens from all countries — this is the first time this has ever happened — where the citizens will be able to review the contents of the trade agreement.
But I appreciate so very much the President’s commitment to free trade. He understands the power of trade, and he understands the promise of free trade. And I believe you’re going to hear a strong statement at Quebec City that nations of our hemisphere are bound together by the concept of a free trade agreement. And it will be good for our people.
Thank you all for coming.