[Public Papers of the Presidents of the United States: William J. Clinton (1993, Book I)]
[June 29, 1993]
[Pages 954-958]
[From the U.S. Government Publishing Office www.gpo.gov]

[[Page 954]]

The President's News Conference With President Carlos Saul Menem of 
June 29, 1993

    President Clinton. Good afternoon, ladies and gentlemen. Today I 
have the great honor of welcoming President Carlos Menem of Argentina to 
the White House, the first leader of a Latin American state to visit 
here since I took office.
    Under President Menem's administration, Argentina has become an 
international leader on the great issues of the post-cold-war era, a 
leader in this hemisphere in defense of democracy and human rights, a 
trusted and valued partner and friend of the United States. Together we 
are constructing a Western Hemisphere community of democracies, 
interpreted by common political values and growing economic ties. We 
deeply appreciate President Menem's visit today. He represents a new 
generation of Latin American Presidents committed to expanding freedom, 
strengthening democracy, and creating prosperity. His leadership has 
been bold and his accomplishments truly impressive.
    We talked today about Argentina's democratic reforms and the role 
Argentina has assumed as an international leader. Today, Argentine 
troops serve with the United Nations peacekeepers in Croatia, in Kuwait, 
in Mozambique, and in other troubled lands. In the Organization of 
American States, Argentina consistently takes a strong stand in favor of 
collective defenses of democracy. With Argentina's support, the OAS has 
worked to defend democratic institutions in Peru, reverse the coup in 
Guatemala. And I am confident, together we can restore democracy in 
Haiti, a subject we discussed at great length today.
    Argentina has also confronted crises of recession and hyperinflation 
and has overcome both. Argentina slashed its tariffs and opened its 
economy to world markets. It ended its fiscal deficit and created a 
stable currency. It sold state enterprises and attracted new investment. 
And as a result, last year Argentina's economy grew 9 percent. I asked 
him for a few of those points for America today. That was one of the 
unresolved parts of our discussion. [Laughter]
    Once Congress successfully ratifies the North American Free Trade 
Agreement with Mexico and with Canada, we will want to reduce trade 
barriers with other countries in this hemisphere. Freer trade promotes 
the kind of economic and democratic reforms we see in Argentina. It 
clearly benefits our economy as well as that of our neighbors. As I said 
earlier today, in the last 4 years our trade with Argentina has tripled, 
accounting for 40,000 jobs in the United States.
    Our meeting covered some other areas as well. Argentina's Government 
has been an important voice in calling for a successful conclusion of 
the Uruguay round to open the world trading system. Argentina stands 
among the nations leading the effort to confront the overriding 
challenge of stopping the spread of weapons of mass destruction. 
President Menem himself ended a dangerous ballistic missile program, 
signed important nuclear nonproliferation agreements, placed strong 
controls on the export of sensitive weapons-related materials and 
technology, and helped to lead the successful international effort to 
negotiate the Chemical Weapons Convention.
    Argentina has been in the forefront of initiatives to increase the 
dialog on security issues in its region. Its progress and support for 
democracy are two reasons why this hemisphere today is more secure and 
more prosperous today than it was in the past and why it will show the 
way to a better world tomorrow.
    Again, let me say it is an honor for me to welcome the President, 
whom I admire, whose accomplishments we respect, and whose country will 
be a great partner for the United States in the years ahead.
    Mr. President.
    President Menem. Thank you very much, Mr. President. I would like to 
tell you of my gratitude that is sincere and loyal in the name of my 
country and of my government for your words. They are the result of a 
complete knowledge of what is happening in Argentina, in this continent, 
and in the world.
    You may be absolutely sure that Argentina will continue along this 
road. There is absolutely no possibility of any change in Argentine 
policies in the field of economics and in the social fields. I always 
say this is a road that we cannot walk backwards on, and these are the 
results we are

[[Page 955]]

obtaining. If I would have to explain here the achievements obtained, I 
would have to repeat the same words that you have used, Mr. President, 
and this would not perhaps be very much in order. But we have talked in 
an environment of cordiality and affection. We have discussed our 
relations that are now at their best level ever. We are prepared to 
improve on them, and I have told the President of the United States that 
in Argentina he will find a firm and determined ally. And we consider 
the United States a great ally for Argentina.
    Within this framework we have discussed subjects that are related to 
the consolidation of democracy and freedom, not only within this 
continent, the issues related to Guatemala, Haiti, Cuba and Peru, but we 
have also discussed the absolute need for democracy, freedom, the 
respect of human rights, and all issues related to the environment 
should become reality in all of this world. We would like to see 
disappear wherever possible that terrible scourge of war, of any kind of 
discrimination, international terrorism, drug trafficking. We have not 
restricted our conversations to a preestablished agenda. We have 
extended our talks even further.
    It is always good to come to the United States of America. I believe 
it is also good to go to Argentina, and that is why I have invited the 
President to visit us, because valuable experiences are awaiting in 
Argentina and this will allow us to make our links even stronger, the 
links that are joining Argentina to the United States.
    Mr. President, once again, thank you very much. Thank you for your 
gift. He gave me as a gift a basketball signed by all the members of the 
Chicago Bulls. So, thank you.


    Q. Mr. President, I'd like to ask you about the bombing. Could the 
assassination plot against former President Bush have moved forward 
without the approval of Saddam Hussein? And why did the United States 
not try to hit closer to home for Saddam Hussein, perhaps his 
    President Clinton. We believe the evidence clearly indicates that 
the bombing operation was authorized by the Iraqi Government. And it is 
highly unusual, in the experience of our people--let me recast that--our 
analysts have no experience of such an operation of that magnitude being 
authorized other than at the highest levels. However, it was thought 
that under international law and based on the facts of this particular 
case, that the best possible target was the target of the intelligence 
headquarters where in all probability the operation itself was planned 
and that to damage that headquarters significantly would send the 
appropriate message, given the facts of this case.
    Q. But in your mind--[inaudible]--did you think Saddam Hussein 
signed off on this?
    President Clinton. I have given you the only answer I think it's 
appropriate for me to give you.
    Q. Mr. President, what do you think you accomplished with the 
bombing of Iraq and the loss of innocent lives, the destruction?
    President Clinton. First of all, we damaged their major intelligence 
facility quite severely. Secondly, we made it absolutely clear that we 
will not tolerate acts of terrorism or other illegal and dangerous acts. 
I think it sent a very important message.
    Q. We understand there's been an incident over the no-fly zone in 
southern Iraq today. A U.S. F-4G Wild Weasel launched a HARM missile 
against an Iraqi radar installation. What can you tell us about that 
incident, and secondly, what does it suggest to you that it comes at a 
time when the Iraqis are still threatening retaliation for the weekend 
    President Clinton. The standard rules of engagement for flights in 
that region are that if radar locks onto our airplanes, our airplanes 
are authorized to take action against those installations. So this has 
happened a number of times, and based on the facts that I now have, I 
wouldn't read too much into it. It's part of the standard rules of 
    Q. You said during the transition that you could conceive of a 
situation where we could have normal relations with Iraq with Saddam 
Hussein still in power. Given what's occurred, how would you now frame 
your position on this issue?
    President Clinton. What I said or at least tried to say in the 
transition was that I thought we ought to judge every country based on 
its conduct. And based on its conduct, I think that the possibility of 
normal relations is very difficult to conceive, not just in this 
instance but also in the stubborn refusal of Iraq to comply with the 
United Nations resolutions.
    Q. Mr. President, just now you said that the strike had damaged the 
intelligence facility. Yes-

[[Page 956]]

terday you said it had crippled the intelligence facility.
    President Clinton. I think it did cripple the intelligence facility. 
At least the reports that I received from the intelligence services was 
that 15 of the missiles had hit within just a few feet of where they 
were exactly programmed, and based on what they knew of the potential 
for destruction of those missiles, that the facility had been crippled. 
Those were the exact words I got from the people who briefed me about 
    Q. Was it possible that you were not briefed correctly, because 
Pentagon officials were saying that Saddam has multiple intelligence 
facilities and that this was one of three or four and that, in fact, he 
would be operational without this facility, and especially because he 
relies so heavily on human intelligence and none of the people were 
    President Clinton. Well, I didn't mean that they wouldn't have any 
more intelligence. But I do think the building and whatever resources 
are in that building, which is plainly the main building, was severely 
damaged, and that's what our intelligence people told me.
    Is there anyone here from Argentina? Yes, a little equal opportunity 


    Q. President Clinton, did President Menem offer you a specific help 
to combat terrorism? And do you think you have to put more guards on 
President Menem because there was going to be a plot or something like 
that from the Arabs?
    President Clinton. Well, we try to always provide appropriate 
security to world leaders who come here. President Menem--perhaps I 
should let him speak to this--but he was very supportive of the action 
we took in Iraq and very determined that we ought to stand together with 
other civilized nations against terrorism everywhere.
    President Menem. With more security I would have felt uncomfortable 
in the United States. I have a very special philosophy in life: Nobody 
will die the day before his preestablished date. And I rely and trust 
fully in God. He brought us to this world, and He is to decide the day 
we leave this world. With a great amount of security around a head of 
state in general, any terrorist activity may be successful. That is why 
terrorism has to be fought back without any kind of compassion. They 
lack absolutely any kind of compassion since, when they place a bomb, 
they are prepared to destroy the lives of old people and children. 
Terrorism is now one of the worst scourges of humanity.

Disarmament and Military Action

    Q. Mr. President, the United States speaks constantly of disarmament 
and world peace, especially after the fall of the Berlin Wall. Your 
Government, through the Embassy in Buenos Aires, has insisted on this 
policy of peace and disarmament. Don't you believe that the United 
States has not given an example to follow this course when bombarding 
Baghdad as a result of this intelligence information?
    President Clinton. No, I disagree. As a matter of fact, the United 
States has been a leader in disarmament. We have signed significant 
agreements with first the Soviet Union and now with Russia trying to 
reduce our nuclear arsenals. We are working very hard to reduce the 
spread of weapons of mass destruction. And I think what we did last 
weekend with regard to Iraq is a clear signal that people ought not to 
use weapons in illegal ways. I would remind you that the action I took 
was in response to an operation that involved a bomb that, had it 
exploded in downtown Kuwait City, had a 400-yard radius of lethal 
destruction. So, I think it was the appropriate thing to do.

Latin America-U.S. Trade Agreements

    Q. I have a question for you, Mr. Clinton, and another for Mr. 
    First, assuming that NAFTA is approved by Congress, when do you 
foresee Argentina, or Chile, for that matter, negotiating an agreement 
with the United States? I'm kind of interested in a timetable. And for 
Mr. Menem, I would like to get more details on that offer you made 
yesterday to negotiate between the United States and Cuba to improve 
relations between the two countries.
    President Clinton. I would be prepared to discuss immediately with 
Argentina, with Chile, with other appropriate nations the possibility of 
expanded trade relations along the NAFTA model. I have long thought that 
NAFTA should be a model for embracing all of Latin America's democracies 
and free market economies. I have no timetable. I think perhaps 
President Menem would have a better view of that, but my attitude is we 
ought to get on with it. We ought

[[Page 957]]

to try to increase the volume and the variety of trade with the 
appropriate countries just as quickly as possible.
    President Menem. On this issue, we had already discussed this with 
the President, and I have told him that as a priority so as to be able 
to start formal talks on the access of Argentina or any other country in 
the region to NAFTA, it would be fundamental to finish the NAFTA 
agreement, that on the basis of due legislation this process should come 
to its end. If NAFTA has been passed and enacted during the first months 
of the next year or the 1st of January, only then can we start 
discussing the incorporation of Argentina in NAFTA.
    And at the same time, we must remember that we are going through 
another process of integration within MerCoSur, and we have a commitment 
with the United States in the four-plus-one agreement as to the 
possibility of having a free trade area between these four countries of 
MerCoSur and the United States. This, in the case of coming to 
understanding, will make it possible not only to Argentina joining NAFTA 
but also MerCoSur. As the result of the NAFTA agreement coming to its 
enactment, then the MerCoSur countries could perhaps also be joining 
NAFTA. This is something that should be discussed between the three 
other countries that are members of NAFTA.


    Q. Reuters Agency said yesterday that you were proposing to act as a 
mediator between the United States and Cuba.
    President Menem. As a reply to a question by a journalist when he 
asked if I would be prepared in participating in any kind of 
negotiations between the United States and Cuba, I answered: President 
Bush asked me when we met in Costa Rica for the 100th anniversary of 
democracy, he asked me to stop over in Nicaragua to ask Daniel Ortega to 
respect the results of the elections that were to be held a short time 
after in that country, since doubts existed as to the decision that the 
people of Daniel Ortega's team would take on this issue. I spent more 
than 2 hours discussing the subject with Commander Ortega, and he was 
convinced he would be winning the elections. And finally after 2 hours 
of discussion he said, ``If Mrs. Violeta Chamorro wins the elections, I 
will give her the government.'' And if the United States requests it, I 
am prepared to discuss the issue with Fidel Castro or with whoever it is 
necessary. I would like to see Cuba living in democracy as soon as 

Patent Protection and Farm Subsidies

    Q. This is a question for both of you. Have you discussed 
pharmaceutical patents and subsidies in agriculture? President Menem 
first and then President Clinton, please.
    President Menem. We have discussed this, and I have told President 
Clinton what I told Mr. Kantor yesterday. This draft law on patents has 
been introduced through the Senate to the Argentine Parliament, and we 
are expecting that it will be passed soon. But the executive power of 
Argentina has sent this draft law to Parliament.
    And on subsidies, this is a subject we discuss constantly not only 
with the President of the United States but also with the Presidents of 
the European Community countries since they have taken the more 
difficult stand on this issue when they are subsidizing agriculture, 
damaging countries such as Argentina. You must not forget that the 
amount of subsidies is now exceeding $300 billion. It becomes difficult 
to compete under these circumstances. And I always tell the people in 
the United States, the U.S. President, and the Europeans they were the 
masters in free trade and economic freedom. It is not understandable 
that they should insist on these attitudes that go against the teachings 
that they sent to the world at large.
    President Clinton. The answer to your question is, just as President 
Menem said, we discussed the patent protection legislation, and I 
expressed the hope of the United States that it would pass soon by the 
legislative body in Argentina.
    I also, with regard to agricultural subsidies, pointed out that the 
United States had reduced agricultural subsidies unilaterally in 1990, 
that our budget reduces them again this year, and that we strongly 
support the Blair House accords which were reached last year to reduce 
agricultural subsidies in the Uruguay round of GATT, and that we are 
with Argentina on that. Also, having grown up in a farming area, I 
expressed enormous admiration for the fact that Argentina has the 
deepest topsoil anywhere in the world. So, if I were in his position, I 
would be taking exactly the same position. With 20 feet of topsoil he 
can grow anything and do well.
    Yes, one last question, and then we've got

[[Page 958]]

to go.


    Q.  Despite what General Powell said, I don't understand why the 
United States went after the facility at night, rather than going after 
the intelligence facility during the daytime when the top people were 
there. And will you take action if the Iraqis go after the Kurds or the 
    President Clinton.  I think we've made it clear to them what our 
position is on the second question you asked. The reason we went at 
night was quite simply that we wanted to make a strong point. We wanted 
to do as much damage to the facility as we could. We wanted to minimize 
the loss of human life because of the nature of what actually happened. 
I think everyone knows what our military is capable of doing. What we 
needed to show them was that we were fully possessed of the will to do 
it under these circumstances. And I think we picked the appropriate 
target, and I think we did it at the appropriate time under these 
    Thank you very much.

Note: The President's 18th news conference began at 1:50 p.m. in the 
East Room at the White House. President Menem spoke in Spanish, and his 
remarks were translated by an interpreter.