THE WHITE HOUSE
Office of the Press Secretary
For Immediate Release September 14, 2009
PRESS SECRETARY ROBERT GIBBS
Aboard Air Force One
En route Andrews Air Force Base
3:17 P.M. EDT
MR. GIBBS: How is everyone? What's going on? Fire away.
Q Who paid for lunch?
MR. GIBBS: I assume we split the bill.
Q Can you give us a readout of their discussion? And specifically, did they get into any kind of recap on North Korea?
MR. GIBBS: I asked the President what they talked about. He said most of the conversation was about the economy, particularly the global economy, and ways to transition where we are into something that works better for the American people in the 21st century. I think that's what they spent most of their time talking about today.
Q What about specifically the issue of health care -- where we are in the process, did they get into that? And any lessons --
MR. GIBBS: They did talk about health care, but the President wasn't sharing any details.
Q Is President Clinton supportive of what President Obama is proposing on financial regulations?
MR. GIBBS: I don't know if they got that specific into it. But, look, I think everybody who watched what happened a year ago understands that we have to have rules in place to prevent it from happening again. As you heard the President say today, we had inadequate protection for consumers. We had things like derivatives that were out of the scope of regulation; hedge funds; we had regulator shopping that was going on. We had a lot of things in place that we know contributed to what happened a year ago.
The American people have invested their hard-earned money in ensuring the financial system is stable and works. We're happy that we're getting some of that money back. But we have to put something in place that ensures that that type of investment is never needed again.
Q How concerned is the administration about the Chinese response to the tire tariffs decision? Are you afraid you started -- are you starting a trade war?
MR. GIBBS: Look, again, I think it's important to back up and understand that if we're going to have a framework for global trade that works for everyone, then agreements are going to have to be enforced and rules are going to have to be followed. Without following those rules and following those agreements it's going to be hard to make trade work for everyone.
I think this administration obviously has invested a lot of time and resources in ensuring that trade happens throughout the world, that developing nations have the access to capital that they need to buy the goods and services that others are producing. But within that framework, again, we have to follow the rules.
Q What is the status of the relationship between former President Clinton and President Obama? It's mid-September, it's the first time they're sitting down at a social event -- other than a funeral, I guess -- all year. What's the status or evolution of their relationship?
MR. GIBBS: Well, look, obviously, Jeff, there are -- to point out the obvious, obviously there are very few people that have done what the current President is doing. So I think any President, any former President offers invaluable advice to the current officeholder. I think there's obviously a special relationship with all of them.
I think President Obama values the type of advice that President Clinton has. I think you saw the economy in a lot of ways transform during his administration, not unlike what the economy has to do to meet the demands of the 21st century, to create good paying jobs. So I think they have a very strong relationship and I know the President is -- President Obama is always happy to talk with President Clinton and hear his thoughts.
Q Another topic, what was the U.S. involvement in the attack on the suspected terrorists in Somalia?
MR. GIBBS: I'm not going to get into that.
Q Was there any U.S. involvement?
MR. GIBBS: I'm not going to get into that. I would point you to the Department of Defense if you have any questions.
Q To get back on trade, is the Chinese response to investigate U.S. products an appropriate response -- I mean, does the President think, does the administration think?
MR. GIBBS: Well, again, I think that what is undeniable were findings that the amount of Chinese tires that were coming into our country had increased exponentially over the course of the past two years. We had written into our agreements specific measures that we're enforcing. I think that is a finding that's based on an independent review of the situation.
I think what would be unnecessary is to take punitive or retaliatory actions for something -- to create a trade problem that doesn't or didn't exist. Again, I think if we're going to have a framework for trade that works throughout the world, we're going to have to follow a certain set of rules and enforce agreements that have been entered into by two countries.
Q With the U.N. meeting coming up next week and the Pittsburgh summit of the G20, is there a concern that the trade frictions with China are going to hurt the cooperation on other issues like North Korea?
MR. GIBBS: I'd point out that we have strong relationships throughout the world where you time to time have disagreements about trade actions. It's nothing new with Europe. It's nothing new with other countries. I don't see that -- I don't see a dispute like this will cause something that causes countries like the United States and China to get off track in things that are very important in terms of global matters.
Q But the trade relationship is so central to the relationship between these two countries, and is there a concern that issues like North Korea -- on that issue, there may be less cooperation?
MR. GIBBS: No. Again, I think we -- I think everybody understands the importance of getting North Korea right, not the least of which is the Chinese. It's a country in -- obviously in close proximity to the Chinese and I think the Chinese have been extremely constructive partners in reiterating the obligations that the North Koreans have and in fact living up to the obligations that the North Koreans themselves signed up for. I think some of the strongest reactions over the past several years on North Korean actions have come from the Chinese.
Q What can you tell us about tomorrow's AFL-CIO event?
MR. GIBBS: I think the President will use the occasion to talk about -- talk again about the economy, to focus in on the new foundation that he's hoping to build, the steps that we have to take, the steps that we have taken to strengthen the economy and pull it back from the brink. But I think, as the President said on health care, we didn't come here just to respond to crises; we came here to address America's prosperity in the future, and I think that's what he'll outline again tomorrow.
Q Mostly health care?
MR. GIBBS: No, I think mostly -- quite frankly, mostly the economy. I mean, obviously, look, the President wouldn't talk about the economy without mentioning health care, but I think the focus will be on the economy.
Q Is there a second event tomorrow?
MR. GIBBS: Well, there's -- the first stop is at a GM plant outside of Youngstown that I believe is hiring workers back to build more fuel-efficient cars, the AFL-CIO remarks are in Pittsburgh, and then the last event is the Specter fundraiser in Philadelphia.
Q On the meeting between Iran and the six powers, can you talk about what you're expecting out of that? I mean, it seems you can't even agree with the Iranians on what should be discussed. They're saying that the nuclear issue shouldn't even be part of it, or their nuclear issue shouldn't be part of it. And do you think that that's going to make for a difficulty making any progress?
MR. GIBBS: Well, I don't know what's on their agenda, but I know what's on our agenda and I know what's on the agenda for countries around the world that are concerned about Iran's illicit nuclear weapons program. It will be part of that discussion. And if Iran is unwilling to discuss their illicit nuclear weapons program, I think all that does is strengthen the hand of the international community in underscoring the obligations, again, that the Iranians are failing to live up to.
So I think this will be an interesting moment and we'll see if it's something that -- if it's something they don't want to talk about, I think that will speak volumes around the world.
Q And one last question on China. For the G20, do you expect the two leaders will get together in a bilateral meeting of some sort?
MR. GIBBS: I don't know that the final schedule has been locked down yet, but we'll find out -- I will try to get that information.
Q Thank you, sir.
MR. GIBBS: Thanks, guys. What did you guys have for lunch?
MR. GIBBS: How was that?
Q Not as good as yours. (Laughter.)
* * * * *
MR. GIBBS: -- in a square, or rectangle, so to speak. They were in the far corner and we were in the farthest sort of diagonal corner. So it was just the two of them, and the restaurant was closed.
I think I was telling Jeff earlier -- I'll tell you guys -- that the President mentioned first getting together for lunch, President Obama did when they spoke just as President Clinton had come back from North Korea. And the President mentioned his desire to sit down and have lunch with him and talk about a range of things when they both had a chance, understanding their schedules are not the easiest to coordinate.
Obviously President Clinton came to the White House to talk with the President and the national security team about his events in North Korea. The original hope was to try to get together for lunch last week when the President was up here for the Cronkite memorial, but because of the speech to Congress, we figured it would be an event that would be good to do on this trip.
And I think Jen told you all that we are speaking -- I think it's the 22nd -- to the Clinton Global Initiative while we're in New York next week.
Q Do you have a topic yet for that?
MR. GIBBS: Not yet.
Q But it's a formal speech?
MR. GIBBS: Yes, I don't think -- in all honesty, I don't know that the length of the speech is sort of in that 20-25 minute -- I think it's a shorter topic. And obviously the day after, the President will speak to the General Assembly at the U.N. So I anticipate a series of global topics that will be on everybody's mind.
Q But the financial markets and the economy were the thing they talked about the most in this lunch?
MR. GIBBS: Yes, yes.
All right? Thanks, guys.
3:27 P.M. EDT