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Presidents Vincente Fox and George W. Bush Give Joint News Conference on White House Lawn

Aired September 6, 2001 - 12:30   ET



GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: The issue on avocados, for example, for those of you who are avocado lovers, you'd be pleased to hear that we've solved that problem and I believe the president is pleased with the progress we're making. When we trade as much as we do, there's going to be issues that inevitably arise and we will deal with those with mutual respect and honest discourse.

Secondly, I'm pleased to repeat that we've made great progress and cooperation in fighting crime. The president told me yesterday about some additional criminals who have been arrested in Mexico. This is a crime-fighting president. He is dedicated to working with our law enforcement officials to interdict drugs and guns and (SPEAKING IN SPANISH) on the border and, Mr. President, I appreciate your effort.

Our Congress ought to change the decertification process that to me sends the wrong signal to our friends to the South, To have an annual certification process really I don't think is fair to Mexico and I think it's counterproductive and I hope they change the law on decertification.

And finally, an area that has gained a lot of interest, because it's an important issue, of course, is the issue of migration. We've had a lot of frank discussions on migration. We share a lot of principles. One that we both recognize how important the contribution to our economy the Mexican workers has made; that we want people treated with respect; that we both have a mutual and shared responsibility to make sure our border is safe and that we enforce the border that, I hope, to come forward with a program that will pass the Congress that deals with guest-workers, with some sense of normalization, and I'd like to do that as soon as possible.

There's, obviously, a sense of urgency in the president's message; I hear that sense of urgency. And my administration is willing to work as hard as we possibly can to get something done in a constructive fashion.

Mr. President, I think this is a continuation on the road for trust, respect and cooperation. And I want to thank you very much for your coming here. I appreciate so very much your bringing your beautiful wife. I look forward to our trip to Toledo and then a dinner tonight at the Blair House with the president.

Mr. President?

VINCENTE FOX, PRESIDENT OF MEXICO: OK. I would not have much more to add on this summary of what great opportunity this has been today to ask Mexicans and to ask in Mexico the trust factor, no doubt, that is key. And this, today, has been a great opportunity to advance in our conversations, in our frank speaking, all of this aimed at increasing that trust.

And for the rest, I'm fully recognized and totally honored on the warm reception we have had on the opportunity, extended opportunity, to discuss in dialogue on different issues and matters with President Bush. And so, to me, if I were to describe this, this is a process, a process that has started back in Mexico in our first formal meeting, a process that had continued on an everyday basis, our working teams.

FOX: And this I would call a station; one first station which has been this state visit to the United States, where we have the opportunity to review the issues, to advance on each of the issues and to keep on the commitment to work hard for the coming months and the coming years. So that's totally satisfactory to us.

I really thank the American people for the warm welcome we have had, and specifically from Mr. Bush and his lovely wife. The attentions we have had are just something that exceeded any expectations that we would have had.


QUESTION: Mr. President, even with this sense of urgency of on immigration, tell me how difficult it will be to get a deal in the next year. And when you do give legal status to undocumented immigrants, how will you justify that action to the millions of Mexicans still waiting in line for legal entry and the millions more people who are living in this country now after plowing through the legal process?

BUSH: You have just identified one of the complexities of the migration issue. I explained this to President Fox that there are many in our country who are undocumented and we want to make sure that their labor is legal.

And so part of the issue is how do we match a willing employer with a willing employee, to recognize the value of the work and to legalize that part of the process. And that's where we need to think creatively on a guest-worker program.

The truth of the matter is, if somebody is willing to a job others in America aren't willing to do, we ought to welcome that person to the country, and we ought to make that a legal part of our economy. We ought not to penalize a employer whose trying get a job done who hires somebody who's willing to do that kind of work. So that's part of the complexity. The second half of your question really does point out another problem that we have to work through. And that is, one of things that I have told the president is that I'm willing to consider ways for a guest-worker to earn a green card status. And yet I fully recognize there are a lot of people who stood in line who said, "I'll abide by the laws of the United States." And we're trying to work through a formula that will not penalize the person who has chosen the legal route, and at the same time recognizes the contribution the undocumented has made.

That is part of the reason I say this is an incredibly complex issue. It is complex to the point where my administration is going to spend a lot of time on resolving that type of question. But to make matters even more complicated, we've got to work with the Congress. And we've got to come up with a solution that Congress can accept.

Now, I fully understand President Fox's desire for us to come up with a solution quickly, to expedite the process. And we're going to do that. I think one of the useful parts of this visit is for me to be able to sit down face-to-face (SPEAKING IN SPANISH) and to talk about why this is a complex issue within the country. That's precisely part of the issue.

QUESTION: Can you get it done in four months though?

BUSH: Well, he's asked that we do it within the year. One thing he'll find is we will put 100 percent effort during the year, and I hope we can come up with a solution.

I want to accommodate my friend. He's got a very important role to play. And that is, as a spokesman for Mexican nationals living in this country, as someone who's deeply concerned about their future, their lives, and I completely understand that.

And I can assure the president and the people of Mexico, we've heard his call. He's a strong forceful leader. And we will do everything we can to come up with a solution to this complex problem.

QUESTION: Mr. President, along those same lines...

BUSH: Which president?


QUESTION: Mr. Bush, I'm sorry.

BUSH: Here we go again, six to nothing.


QUESTION: Could you be more specific as to whether or not, among the set of issues or set of values or principles that you share on immigration, you share specifically the goal of finishing the negotiation by the end of the year.

BUSH: I share the idea of working as hard as we possibly can. Listen, the president came to Washington -- I'm sorry to interrupt you. Actually, I'm not sorry to interrupt you. I did it. It's an old trick here.

QUESTION: I just wanted to ask you what will the United States want to see in return?

BUSH: In return?

QUESTION: In return for this negotiation of for maybe regularizing a number of Mexican illegals, Mexican immigrants in the United States.

BUSH: First of all, I don't think we ought to view this issue necessarily as a quid pro quo issue. This is an issue that we must confront regardless of a Mexican response. This is an employment issue in the United States. We've got employers who can't find workers and, therefore, then employ undocumented workers. And under our law, that's illegal. And it seems like to me, we ought to have a direct and honest assessment of reality.

But we are getting what we wanted from Mexico, regardless of the details of this particular issue, and that is strong cooperation. That's all we can ask. And the president has been very forward- leaning in working with us on a variety of matters, including better border enforcement and making sure we find those coyotes (ph) who are gathering illegals or undocumented folks and trying to run them into our country for profit. I can't think of anything worse.

And yet, this administration and this government and our governments are cooperating very closely on ferreting out those people who are willing to prey on innocent, hard-working people and stop that kind of activity.

That's the kind of cooperation we expect and we're getting.

QUESTION: Mr. President, why are you abandoning the Clinton administration's attempt to break up Microsoft? Will this help consumers? And did you sign off on this decision?

BUSH: He's asking about a legal matter, Mr. President. During the course of the campaign and throughout my administration I have made it abundantly clear that on issues relating to ongoing lawsuits, that I expect the Justice Department to handle that in a way that brings honor and thought to the process. I respect and hold our attorney general in high esteem and I honor the work he's done, and I'm going to leave it at that.

QUESTION: You're satisfied with the decision?

BUSH: I'm satisfied with the fact that John Ashcroft is doing a fine job as the attorney general.


BUSH: For those of you who don't speak Spanish, he said, President Bush's tax cut came right at the right time.


QUESTION: Mr. President, on that same rough subject, when you met with Republican leaders this morning, did you promise them, as they describe it, that every dime of Social Security will be protected? Does that mean you will not sign any bills that even temporarily take them...

BUSH: I told the Republicans...

QUESTION: And President Fox is welcome to take a swing at that, too, if he'd like.

BUSH: He probably doesn't want to.

I told the Republican leaders, like I told Mr. Daschle and I'll tell Mr. Gephardt tomorrow, we can work together to avoid dipping into Social Security. I have repeatedly said the only time to use Social Security money is in times of war, times of recession or times of severe emergency. And I mean that. I mean that.

I think it is best for me to start working in a cooperative fashion with the members of the Congress, start by saying, let's work together to make sure that our budgets don't cause us to dip into Social Security.

And, of course, I've always got the ultimate way to make sure we bring fiscal sanity into Washington -- that's what we call a veto, Mr. President. But rather than come from the negative perspective, my attitude as we begin the fall session is to say, we can work together. Let's do so.

I repeat to the American people: There is ample money coming into our government to fund our priorities. And what we need is fiscal discipline in Washington, D.C. The tax cut that we passed was a very important move to make sure our economy begins to gather momentum and grow. The president knows what I know. When our economy is ill or slow or not meeting expectations, it affects our neighborhood. He's getting blamed for something that's taking place in America, and that's not fair.

And so our tax relief plan is a part of an economic growth package. I urge the Congress to pass an energy package. That's a job-creation package. That's part of economic growth. I urge the Congress to pass trade promotion authority. If people are interested in growing our economy so that there are more jobs available, then they ought to not only herald the tax relief plan, they ought to be thinking about how to pass an energy package and a trade promotion authority package as well. That's important for growth.

We ought to be thinking in Washington, D.C. how to grow the economy.

I realize, Mr. President, sometimes there are second-guessers in the political process and there are some in Washington who appear to be second-guessing the tax relief plan. My guess is is that the probably want to raise taxes. If they're against relief, the fundamental question is what they are for. And I suspect if they're against one thing, they must be for raising taxes. And my argument to them is that would hurt the economy.

The best way for us to continue economic growth is to have a pro- growth plan in place and have fiscal discipline in Washington, D.C.

I look forward to working with the members of both parties to insist upon and implement a package that is fiscally disciplined, and we can do that, and I'm confident we can do that.



STAFF: Thank you everybody.

LEON HARRIS, CNN ANCHOR: Let's bring in now our Kelly Wallace who is out there in the crowd of reporters -- Kelly.

KELLY WALLACE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, Leon, you can see the president, President Bush, trying to pull over, Vincente Fox so they can board Marine One, and then head off to Toledo, Ohio, a place with a high number of Mexican-Americans there. The two leaders likely to talk about the importance of the relationship went the two countries, talk about issues such as trade, expanding the North American Free Trade Agreement, and also the issue of migration.

You know, you heard President Bush there, Leon. He was asked really sort of the question of the day. Vincente Fox would like to see an agreement dealing with migration, dealing with the three to four million undocumented Mexican immigrants living illegally in the United States. Some agreement to allow them to get some legal residents status, to allow them to expand temporarily a guest worker program. The president saying he understands President Fox wants to get this done as quickly as possible. He said his road ministration would commit 100 percent to effort getting that done, but noted, it's a complicated issue. The stakes are enormous.

Again, trying to deal with conservatives who say by rewarding those who came to this country illegally, that that would not send a message to those who try to come to the United States using legal means.

Kelly, back to you.

Leon, back to you.

HARRIS: Kelly, right after he made those comments, I did not one other thing, he did make a reference to the issue the ban of certain Mexican trucks coming into U.S., and he said that Congress should take that provision out of the appropriation bill, or he would veto it.

WALLACE: Absolutely. Getting a little noisy here. I'm not sure you can still see hear me from the helicopter. The president saying that yes, in fact, if the House and the Senate try to impose higher safety standards for Mexican trucks coming into the United States, attached a to spending bill, he will veto it. That is something that the Mexican president echoed as well, so expect to hear about the two men talk about that in Ohio later today.

Back to you.

HARRIS: All right, they're firing up the chopper, so you vamoose.

Kelly Wallace there on the lawn of the White House, thank you very much.



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