Remarks Following Discussions With President Joaquin Balaguer Ricardo of the Dominican Republic

 

March 25, 1988

 

President Reagan. It has been my great pleasure to have met with President Balaguer. His remarkable leadership has been an important element in the significant, positive role that the Dominican Republic has played in regional affairs.

 

President Balaguer has been a driving force throughout his country's democratic development. In 1966 he led democracy's return to the Dominican Republic after years of political uncertainty and turmoil. Indeed, he is, in many ways, the father of Dominican democracy. It's a great honor to have him here. The United States and the Dominican Republic traditionally have enjoyed very close and warm relations. Our meeting today reflected the important historical, cultural, political, and economic ties that bind our two countries. We discussed the economic problems that face us and examined possible solutions.

 

President Balaguer described the serious impact that low world sugar prices and declining market access are having on the Dominican Republic. I applaud his government's courageous efforts to meet difficult economic and developmental challenges through diversification and private sector investment. The United States Government wants to participate in these processes. Within our budget limitations, we will continue to support development and growth in the Dominican Republic.

 

Sharing a common hemisphere and democratic beliefs, we examined important political developments elsewhere in the Caribbean and Latin America. We are both concerned by recent events in Central America and Panama. I deeply appreciate President Balaguer's insights into these issues. We both hope for democratic and peaceful solutions to the problems of the region. We want to see an end to the pursuit of military solutions and to the massive Soviet armament that fuels that pursuit. I congratulated the President on his government's role in hosting the first Nicaraguan peace talks mediated by Cardinal Obando y Bravo. We discussed bilateral cooperation in the critical area of narcotics. I want personally to thank President Balaguer for his assistance in combating illegal narcotics in the Caribbean. His government's efforts have been crucial, and we look forward to continued cooperation on this matter of national and hemispheric security.

 

So, thank you again, Mr. President, for coming to visit me today in Washington. You're a close and good friend of the United States; a leader dedicated to freedom, democracy, and peace; a trusted ally. I wish you well and look forward to working with you as our two countries face the challenges of the future. Thank you, and God bless you.

 

President Balaguer. Mr. President, this is a beautiful spring day to pay this visit on President Ronald Reagan, which is a great honor to me, but not really to me, but an honor which is really a distinction on my country. I have told President Reagan today of not only my personal admiration but that of the whole people of the Dominican Republic for himself, personally, for his policies as a leader of the world in the defense of human rights, and for the progress of democratic regimes in Latin America and throughout the world.

 

Together we have reviewed the bilateral problems and issues between our two countries. We have also reviewed the problems affecting other Latin American countries. All these countries have been inspired by President Reagan's policies in the areas of democracy, liberty, and for helping the weak toward economic recovery. The Dominican Republic has received a great deal of help from the Reagan administration, especially in terms of the Caribbean Basin Initiative. This is the most constructive initiative which has ever come to Latin America. It is the most practical initiative and the one from which we have derived the most advantage. And here I include the Good Neighbor Policy of Roosevelt and the Alliance for Progress of President Kennedy, because those were theoretical abstractions, whereas the Caribbean Basin Initiative has been a pragmatic movement which has achieved a great deal of practical good for our countries.

 

The Dominican Republic specifically has improved its economy, has progressed, has established a large number of free trade zones, opening foreign industries, and thus has reduced its unemployment rate a great deal. Also, the Reagan plan has permitted us to export more to the United States because of the lowering, or total elimination, of tariffs. We have exported more clothes, more apparel, manufactured in the Dominican Republic, as well as other products -- which we have now started exporting to the United States, thanks to the lowering of tariff barriers, with once again, the consequence of lowering unemployment.

 

There are problems which subsist in our relations, especially in connection with the lowering of our sugar quota, but this we have discussed with President Reagan and with his senior advisers in this area of expertise. We also discussed the subject this morning on Capitol Hill with a number of Senators who are friends of the Dominican Republic. We found there a very receptive climate and feel confident that the problem will be solved, taking into account the interests of both of our countries. Our talks today regarding our policies vis-a-vis other countries of the region have been ones in which we have agreed on almost every point. We agreed, for example, on the subject of Haiti and on our discussions of other countries which are our neighbors. And we have almost total and virtual agreement between the two countries.

 

It is a great pleasure to me now to thank you, President Reagan, very warmly for your hospitality, for your great cordiality and an honor which this visit has done to my country, the Dominican Republic. If when I get home I am asked if I come with my hands full or my hands empty, I will say that my hands are very full -- full of friendship, full of affection, and full of admiration for the United States and for its President, Ronald Reagan. My admiration for Ronald Reagan is nothing new. It is something which I have always spoken of, saying that he is not only a leader of his country and of the continent but a world leader -- with his revolutionary economic policies, his loyalty to democratic regimes everywhere, and his fight against drug trafficking in the world.

 

And here I would like just to interject a word of admiration for Mrs. Reagan -- for Nancy, the First Lady, whose human struggle against drug trafficking stands as an example to women all over the world, especially in Latin America, which is suffering so much from this scourge, telling us all that we all must make our own efforts to eradicate this plague in order to save the youth of this generation and succeeding generations.

 

Thank you, President Reagan. Believe me, your economic policies leading to the recovery of the American economy are also leading to the recovery of economies throughout the world. You will continue always to be an inspiration and a guide to me. I am always conscious of your struggle to increase the defense of human rights, to reduce unemployment, to solve the social problems of the world -- things that we will do together and we will always remember in the Dominican Republic.

 

Once again, thank you, Mr. President.

 

Reporter. Mr. President, sir, the Senate wants you to take stronger action against Panama. They voted today. Will you consider that?

 

President Reagan. We're considering everything, but I can't take any more questions.

 

Q. What do you want Secretary Shultz to say to the Palestinians, Mr. President?

 

President Reagan. I can't now.

 

Note: President Reagan spoke at 1:31 p.m. in the Rose Garden at the White House. President Balaguer spoke in Spanish, and his remarks were translated by an interpreter. Earlier, the two Presidents attended a luncheon in the Residence.