FEBRUARY 5, 2000
U.K. SECRETARY OF STATE FOR DEFENCE GEOFFREY HOON IN MUNICH, GERMANY
QUESTION: Could we ask you just one brief question aside from the obvious aim of less costly and readily available common arms. Will this agreement facilitate, and encourage, cross-Atlantic U.S.-British defense mergers in the industry?
SECRETARY COHEN: Well, it certainly is designed to reduce any existing impediments that crop up administratively. Issues dealing with export restrictions, trying to harmonize our respective laws and regulations so that we can, in fact, encourage greater Transatlantic cooperation. We have active engagement with the United Kingdom now. We hope that this will help facilitate even greater interaction between our respective industries so that we can have a harmonized approach to sharing technology, working cooperative and partnership arrangements and potentially mergers as well.
UK SECRETARY HOON: It is the responsibility of governments to create the right conditions in which business can operative effectively. In a sense, it is the responsibility of government to design the football pitch. We are designing a more effective football pitch here and clearly it is now a matter for the players to decide how they play the game.
SECRETARY COHEN: Football meaning soccer.
UK SECRETARY HOON: I've been to the United States. Football meaning football.
QUESTION: Does this mean that some European NATO partners are better than others if you can single out the U.K.?
SECRETARY COHEN: Not at all. We have ongoing discussions with several other European countries to achieve a similar declaration of principles, so this is not singling out the U.K. We have had a long-standing relationship with the U.K. in terms of defense industries. We hope to consider other countries, Germany among them. We are pursuing this with several countries.
UK SECRETARY HOON: May I add, of course, that we are also negotiating with our European partners similar sorts of agreements. So we hope that this will lead to a very impressive situation where both cross the Atlantic and within Europe we have this similar kind of cooperation.
QUESTION: In terms of harmonizing time-scales for the procurement of equipment, like Tracer where there have been some problems, things like the difficulties over the future of defense research in Britain and concerns in the United States about that. I mean, you say these are commercial matters but actually many of them are highly political and very much the stuff of business of defense ministers to deal with.
UK SECRETARY HOON: Well, that's right. But this is designed to at least allow the commercial interests, the business interests, to operate free of some of the constraints, which in the past governments have placed in their way.
QUESTION: Austria has expressed a wish to be a member of NATO in the last couple of days. How would you respond?
SECRETARY COHEN: Well, what we have always said is that the door to NATO membership remains open. But those nations who seek membership have to comply with some very high standards. That is, the promotion of our democratic ideals, subordination of military rule to that of civilian, promotion of human rights, free and open markets -- all of those issues would have to be taken into account by any candidate for admission to NATO. We don't anticipate that NATO would consider future admissions at least until 2002, I believe, is the earliest date that other countries may be considered.