The President. Good morning. I have just finished my first personal meeting with Prime Minister Ciampi, and I enjoyed it immensely. The close ties between the United States and Italy will stand us in good stead as we try to meet the common challenges that we face. I told the Prime Minister that I admire very much the economic reforms and the political reforms that he and his government are undertaking and the impressive results they are producing.
I also mentioned that in appointing one of the United States finest professional diplomats, Mr. Reg Bartholomew, Ambassador of Italy, I have tried to send a signal of the enormous importance of that bilateral relationship to the United States. The fact that Mr. Bartholomew grew up in the United States speaking Italian at home reinforces that tie.
In addition, I invited the Prime Minister to come to the United States some time in the next couple of months for a personal visit at the White House so that we might discuss the issues of common concern further.
We talked a good deal today about economic issues and the importance of the G-7 reaffirming our support for a conclusion of the Uruguay round this year. This has gone on entirely too long. With recession in Europe, slow growth in Japan and the United States, it is imperative that we send a signal of economic expansion and hope. And both of us, I think it’s fair to say, support that approach.
We also discussed the foreign affairs issues which concern us both, including Somalia and Bosnia, and I was very impressed with the comments and the points that the Prime Minister made.
I want to close by thanking Italy for its renewed effort in global problem-solving; the humanitarian and peacekeeping assistance in Bosnia, Albania, Somalia, Mozambique; its mediation efforts in the Nagorno-Karabakh. The United States highly values this as well as the critical partnership we have enjoyed with Italy in NATO, and we look forward to the NATO summit coming up in the next few months to reaffirm that partnership.
Again, let me say, I thank the Prime Minister for his time today. It was very enlightening for me. I learned a good deal, and I look forward to a continued warm and constructive relationship between the United States and Italy.
Mr. Prime Minister.
Prime Minister Ciampi. First of all, I would like to thank the President for having invited me to visit Washington. This invitation I accept with great pleasure. I would also like to add that our talks today were very cordial and positive. And despite our age differences, the spirit was the same.
I tried to illustrate to the President the great changes that are underway in Italy right now. But I also made it a point to emphasize that, despite these changes, one thing will not change, and that is our foreign policy. Italy will continue, as Italy has continued to do, to give its full consent to future problems, the most important problems which affect the world scene. It is important that this summit concludes by giving clear signals to the operators in the world. This clear-sent message would be to enhance a recovery or—to enhance the Uruguay round negotiations which have dragged on for too long. This would help to contribute our energies to overcome the recession that we are going through now and to develop the economy in the world and to create new jobs.
We also discussed the issues which directly affect the U.S.. and Europe and the U.S.. and Italy. We have also exchanged our opinions on the two most crucial issues of the day, which are Bosnia and Somalia. As far as Somalia is concerned, the most important thing is that we cannot forget what our priority goal is. And the goal is to normalize the political and social situation in the country, which has undergone domestic strife and which has prevented the distribution of food to the starving population. And in undertaking our military action, we must never forget the political action which, of course, must be supported by the military action. And I have found a full understanding on the President’s part as far as Italy’s request to have a greater presence of the Italians in Somalia.
And in conclusion, I must again thank the President of the United States, Bill Clinton. This is our first meeting, although we have spoken on the phone before in a very cordial and practical conversation. The fact that we have finally met personally reinforces in me the sensation that the President is a very agreeable person and that we can work out our problems together.
Q. Mr. President, in your university speech, you appeared to be going over the head of the Japanese Government when you made this direct appeal to the Japanese consumers for open markets. Now, with Japanese elections only two weeks away, why shouldn’t the Japanese see this as intervention in domestic politics? And given the uncertainty of the political situation right here now, isn’t that somewhat of a political gamble on your part?
The President. No, because I was not trying to interfere in domestic politics. I thought I owed it to the Japanese people and especially to the young people who were largely the audience today to make the case of the United States directly to them. I wanted them to understand clearly that the things that we advocate in terms of changing the trade relations between our two countries are things which I believe are in the interest of the Japanese as well as American workers.
And just to reinforce the point about not wanting to interfere into the domestic politics, keep in mind, a major part of this election is being argued out on questions of domestic political reform. Italy is dealing with issues of domestic political reform. The United States is dealing with campaign finance reform and lobbying reform. This whole issue of political reform is very much alive in most of the advanced democracies today. The point of that is this: It is impossible for the United States to know with any real certainty what outcome of the election might produce a government more responsive to the arguments we’re making.
The present government has reached out to us in good faith to attempt to negotiate the principles behind a basic framework for new trade relations. Those negotiations are going on right now. So I want to make it clear—I’m very glad you asked the question—we are not, in any way, trying to influence the outcome of the election in terms of who wins what seats in the Diet. That is up to the people of Japan. But I owe it to the people of Japan, since there is no more important bilateral relationship than the relationship between the United States and Japan, to make the United States case directly to them, and that’s what I was trying to do today.
Q. Did you discuss the possibility that Italy gets a higher post in the high command militarily, and did you discuss the restarting of the negotiation towards national reconciliation in Somalia?
The President. We discussed the former, but not the latter, expressly. The Prime Minister did say, and he’s absolutely right, that the ultimate purpose of our presence in Somalia is to restore normal conditions of life and to try to help to build the nation there so that people can engage in self-government. Because of the intervention of the United Nations, people were saved from starving, medicine was provided, schools were reopened, the conditions of normal life have returned for most people. The present tension, occasioned by the action of General Aideed and then our reaction to that, is really the sort of thing people assumed would happen at the beginning of the United Nations intervention. But in the end, as the Prime Minister said, we have to try to have a political resolution of this.
Now, with regard to the fact that the major elements there in terms of military forces are Italian, Pakistani, and American—of course, there is unified United Nations Command under General Bir, something that we supported. How all the forces relate to General Bir is ultimately a matter for the United Nations Command to resolve. But I thought that the Prime Minister raised some serious questions and some legitimate issues, and I pledged to discuss those with our defense people and to get back to him and also to discuss it with the U.N. people. We didn’t resolve it, and I can’t say the United States has a position now, because this is the first opportunity I’ve had to discuss it. But he made a very important case that every nation with a substantial military presence there should at least have its views heard in some organized way. Perhaps he would like to comment, but I think that’s a fair statement of where we were.
Prime Minister Ciampi. I’ve little to add. It’s very clear what I said, and it’s very clear what President Clinton said.
Q. Mr. Clinton, I recognize that you weren’t trying to interfere in Japanese politics. You did talk in the speech at Waseda about change. Do you see a linkage between the kind of change you’re talking about and the kind of proposals being offered by the opposition parties?
The President. Well, let me say again the question of political reform is one that every mature democracy has to face. But what I was talking about today is the necessity of changing the nature of the economic relationships. The opposition parties are in different places on a lot of those issues, and the incumbent government in the form of a personal letter from the Prime Minister has reached out across a gap to us within the last week that has not been bridged in years. So I will say again, I have no way of predicting what kind of election outcome would produce a government most likely to pursue this course that I am advocating, this new partnership with us. My belief is that no matter who wins the election, in the end, history is on our side and will require a change in the relationships.
So I want to say again, I maintain a strictly neutral position about the people who are running and who should win. That is a decision for the Japanese people to make. I am generally supportive of the notion of political reform. I have generally tried to reassure the people of Japan that I do not think they should be too filled with anxiety in the face of these changes. This is the sort of thing that is happening in many, many countries, including the United States. But they will have to decide which party and which individual candidates and which leaders are best for them. That is not for the United States to say.
Electoral Reform and Unity in Italy
Q. Mr. President, you spoke about changes in democracies. But in Italy these changes have been fairly dramatic. There has been fear of separation between north and south. There have been proposals for the introduction of direct election of the government. Do you share those fears that a separation could be possible? And do you think the political change could happen fast? And do you think that works better where democracy is a direct election of the government?
And just for Mr. Ciampi, you spoke about the need from the G-7 of getting dear messages for the markets. Don’t you think that the markets are expecting clear messages from Italy that something more should be done? Will you go back to Italy proposing the more comprehensive plan for restructuring the political and economic systems of the country?
The President. It is inappropriate for me to express a firm opinion about the questions you ask since the Italian people will have to resolve that for themselves, just as the Japanese people will have to resolve their questions of political reform. But I would make two observations.
First is that the differences in economy and culture between the north and the south in your country have some analogy in our country. That is, we have some places in our country that are far wealthier than others. We have places in our country that are far different culturally than others. And that is a continuing challenge. My own view is that we’re much better facing those things together and trying to create a community of interest than we would be if we were to split up. I realize the challenge it presents to Italy; I spent time in southern Italy; I spent time in northern Italy. I’m well aware of the fact that some parts of northern Italy achieve per capita incomes higher than the Federal Republic of Germany before the merger of West and East Germany. But I think that these are the kinds of challenges that would have to be faced, regardless, and the heritage of Italy as a united country is a very old one indeed.
With regard to the electoral system, at various times the people in democracies, when times are tough, tire of the system they have. In our country, for example, we had a third party candidate get the highest percentage of the vote that a third party candidate has gotten since the beginning of this century.
On the other hand, I believe that the two-party system and the fact that we have roughly centrist parties with majority rule, right of center, left of center a little bit, but roughly centrist parties, has stabilized our political system over the years. Sometimes, people have been disappointed that there weren’t clear-cut differences and ideas throughout American history in the parties, and then sometimes there are. But if you have a majority rule system, you tend to have more compromise and more stability. Sometimes people grow tired of it, and they look for other options. It has happened to us three or four times in our history where a new party has come up, and one of our existing parties has disappeared over 217 years. But it has served us well, I believe, on balance. Nearly any student of American history would say that we have been served well by that system. Now, whether it will work in Italy is a decision you’ll have to make.
Prime Minister Ciampi. First of all, I would like to add a few points, Mr. President, and they will be very brief and very clear. First of all, no new party in Italy or no party at all questions the unity of Italy. The second point is that the Italian Parliament is currently studying electoral reform to solve the institutional problems of Italy. Second of all, the Italian Government-and I would hope that you would read the relative documentation—is fully supporting the electoral reform and is making it the number one priority.
The President. Thank you very much.
Q. Progress on trade talks?
The President. You know, I was out at the university, and then I came directly back here to meet with the Prime Minister. So I’ve received no report. I can’t say.