Written Responses to Questions Submitted by EFE of Spain

April 29, 1985

Spanish Membership in NATO

Q. The most recent polls show that a majority of Spaniards are against the continued membership of Spain in NATO. If Spain withdrew from NATO or refused to join the military structure of the alliance, what could be, in your opinion, the implications and consequences for the United States, the European allies, Spain itself, and the future of U.S.-Spanish military cooperation? What incentives, if any, would you be willing to give Spain so as to facilitate its full membership in the alliance?

The President. Well, let's not start by getting into hypothetical questions of what might or might not happen. The main point I want to make is that NATO is the real peace movement. A strong Western alliance is the single surest guarantee of peace in Europe.

We believe that Spain's membership and eventual full participation in NATO strengthens NATO and strengthens Spain. But NATO is a free alliance of free peoples. We respect the right of the Spanish people to decide what they want to do.

United States-Spain Relations

Q. In the light of the moderate and pro-Western policies of the Spanish Socialist Government, have there been any changes in your initial attitude with regard to Socialist regimes in Western Europe? How would you characterize the state of U.S.-Spanish relations now, and what do you expect from your official visit to Madrid and talks with Spanish leaders?

The President. For me, the most important factor about a government is whether it believes in individual freedom and acts on that belief. The people of any democratic country render the final judgment on their government.

I think relations between the U.S. and Spain are very positive. Our two governments have an excellent working relationship in a range of areas, including security. In addition, we have developed close ties in trade, culture, and education.

During the visit, Secretary of State Shultz and Foreign Minister Moran will preside over a meeting of the U.S.-Spain Joint Council, the principal mechanism for implementing our 1982 agreement on friendship, defense, and cooperation. I will have important meetings with Spain's leaders. I expect that all aspects of this visit will further strengthen the ties between our peoples.

Q. The trade balance between the United States and Spain is still favorable to the United States. Which steps is your government prepared to take to reduce the imbalance. And in which way will bilateral trade relations be affected by Spain's membership in the European Economic Community?

The President. Trade is, of course, of major interest to both our countries. First, let's look at a few of the facts. Spanish exports to the United States have tripled over the last decade. They did so well in 1984 -- they went up by 60 percent -- that the U.S. trade surplus with Spain was 10 times smaller that year than the year before. So, even though trade is not in perfect balance, it is heading in that direction.

In part, this shows how the sustained U.S. economic recovery is benefiting all our trading partners. I expect this trend to continue. What we all have to do now is act to ensure noninflationary growth and to keep our markets open to each other. I am committed to both goals.

I think it's a bit too early to predict all the economic pluses and minuses that will arise from Spain and Portugal joining the European Community. Let me just say that the United States has consistently supported their joining the Community and is pleased that negotiations on entry terms have been successfully concluded.


Q. The Sandinistas have rejected your proposal for talks with the Nicaraguan rebels. Which options are you considering to keep the pressure on Nicaragua? Do they include the breakup of diplomatic relations, economic sanctions or a blockade, a collective military action through the Organization of American States or even a direct military action by the United States?

The President. Well, we are reviewing our relationship with the Communist Sandinista government, and we are not taking the Sandinistas' response to their democratic resistance forces as a legitimate one. We urge them to consider very carefully the proposal from their own people who are in opposition to them. It represents an opportunity to achieve the national reconciliation which is indispensable for peace in Nicaragua and in Central America. I know that many other governments, especially in Latin America and Europe, are urging the Sandinistas to reconsider their initial response. But the evidence of the last 5 years is that the Sandinistas only show flexibility when incentives are maintained.

The freedom fighters represent a critical element in this situation, because they truly represent the aspirations of the people of Nicaragua.

For our part, the United States will continue to work for peace, freedom, and democracy in Nicaragua and throughout Central America. We've seen great progress in El Salvador and other Central American countries in the past few years. There is no reason for the countries of the region to have their progress toward democracy subverted by the Sandinistas.

We believe a peaceful solution through the Contadora process and through reconciliation between the Sandinistas and their opposition within Nicaragua is still possible. That is what we are working toward. The problem in Nicaragua is the Communist Sandinistas; they are the ones who are depriving their own people of the freedom they seek.

Latin America

Q. Given the renewed American emphasis on promoting democracy and stability in Latin America, what concrete steps are you prepared to take to foster the return of democracy to Chile and Paraguay and to help the debt-ridden countries of the region to solve their economic plight? Would you favor a moratorium on debt payments and/or an international conference as the Latin American leaders have been calling for?

The President. Our interests in Chile and Paraguay are the same as elsewhere in Latin America -- to promote personal liberty, democracy, peace, and economic development. In Chile we are working to promote national reconciliation and dialog; through these efforts we hope to see an early return to democracy there.

United States economic growth has already contributed greatly to the recovery of Latin American economies by providing an expanding market for their exports. Latin American and Caribbean exports to the U.S. rose 15 percent in 1984.

Beyond that, the U.S. Government is taking a variety of steps to help Latin American economies. We provide trade credits and guarantees. We participate in the so-called Paris Club restructurings to provide relief on official debt.

I should stress, though, that sound economic policies by the debtor nations themselves are also essential. Together, all these efforts should lead to improved conditions for growth and private investment, so that the Latin American nations can achieve sustainable economic growth. We favor continued dialog on debt-related issues and problems, both bilaterally and in appropriate multilateral fora. However, like the major debtor countries themselves, we do not think that a debt moratorium would advance the long-term interests of the countries involved.

The countries of Central and South America and our neighbor to the north, Canada, are vitally important to the United States. We seek a Western Hemisphere that lives in peace, democracy, freedom, and prosperity. And I have to say I believe we are making great strides in those directions.

Note: The questions and answers were released by the Office of the Press Secretary on May 5.