Interview With Margaret Brennan of Bloomberg
Secretary of State
QUESTION: I am live here on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange with a very important guest, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, on hand as we commemorate the 10th anniversary of the tragedy of the September 11th attacks, commemorate that here on the floor of the exchange today – and an ominous turn in many ways. We have this credible terror threat.
SECRETARY CLINTON: Right.
QUESTION: What can you tell us about what’s happening right now?
SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, Margaret, it is a specific, credible, but unconfirmed threat. And we are taking every precaution. Obviously, once it was determined that we needed to, information was shared with state and local officials. You saw Mayor Bloomberg and Commissioner Kelly out.
And part of the reason for sharing the information is to enlist millions of eyes and ears. We want people to go about your daily lives, but be vigilant and remember that the Times Square bomber, so-called, was stopped because a food vendor saw something suspicious.
QUESTION: In so many ways, the financial community and economic security is a big part of that broader security picture.
SECRETARY CLINTON: Yes.
QUESTION: And we had the President give a jobs address last night – around the world, increased joblessness, high food prices. They’ve led to political instability. How are you trying to utilize economic diplomacy?
SECRETARY CLINTON: That’s a great question, and I am very focused on economic diplomacy. Now, there are some things that the State Department can do. Obviously, we promote American exports, we promote American jobs. I spend a lot of my time talking to leaders around the world about why American products are the best in the world and they should be purchased.
But we also are facing some very tough decisions here, Europe, and elsewhere. And we’re all going to have to recognize that there is no quick or easy way out of this. But we’re on a path. We have to stay on that path. And I think what the President said last night about a lot of what could be done right now will certainly contribute to moving us forward and getting us back to growth.
QUESTION: Now, how has – I mean, we’re talking in a week where we see U.S. bond yields go this record low, money going in to U.S. debt at the very same moment we have S&P downgrading the credit quality of this country, at least nominally. How has that hurt or inhibited or impacted the work you’re doing in terms of U.S. perception?
SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, I think first of all, the market has given a strong endorsement to the strength of the American economy and the stability of the American government, because – you’re right – I thought that the downgrade was basically irrelevant. It didn’t reflect at all the fundamentals or the strength of our economic and political system. So with money flooding in, people are voting in a very clear way for American economic leadership.
At the same time, our political system is under scrutiny. We have to pull together. We can’t be ideologically divided so that people are only staring at each other across this political chasm. We have to pull together, we have to make some decisions. It was only 10 years ago we had a balanced budget. We had a surplus. We had four years of a surplus. We can do this again, but everybody’s going to have to give a little. That’s the way political systems in a democracy are supposed to work. And I worry that some people think that we have no basis for compromise; it’s either my way or the highway. That is not how you solve problems, and I want to see people moving, getting together, as the President called for last night.
QUESTION: And the President called for and really upped the ante for the super committee to come up with new ways to find methods of austerity to cut back here. How has that atmosphere of cutbacks in discretionary funding inhibited what you can do through economic diplomacy?
SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, obviously, there are some big opportunities that we have now in the Middle East and North Africa with the so-called Arab Awakening that we may not be able to deliver on the way I would like to see. But we, like every part of our government, are going to have to make some tough decisions. And so every day, I try to balance what’s in our real interests and how can we make sure we’re moving in the right direction. Because a lot of what I do is not about today or tomorrow. It’s about five years, 10 years, 15 years down the road. So it’s going to be tough. I’m not going to stand here and tell you any different. But I think if we could come to some political resolution, we’ll be able to work all this through.
QUESTION: You mentioned the Arab Awakening. Specifically with Libya, the global oil markets want to know when Libya’s oil production, 1.5 million barrels a day, is going to get back on to the market. How is the U.S. trying to help that get done?
SECRETARY CLINTON: We are working very hard with the Transitional National Council. I met with them last week in Paris. We are prepared, along with a lot of our other partners, both in Europe and in the Gulf, to assist them in getting back up online. Obviously, there is still some fighting going on in some parts of Libya, but other parts are secure enough that we can begin this process of trying to get oil back onto the market. We are working to make sure we lift the sanctions that were imposed on the Qadhafi regime so that the new leadership of Libya will not be held back from trying to get the oil moving. So we’re making progress on that.
QUESTION: Do you expect oil to be back on the market within the next few weeks or a month?
SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, I don’t – I’m not an oil expert, so I don't want to be hazarding an opinion. I don’t know what the damage was. I don't know what other kinds of steps will have to be taken. But I can assure you and I can assure all your viewers we are 100 percent committed to doing everything we can to help the TNC get up and going in the oil markets again.
QUESTION: Finally, I want to ask you about, as you just mentioned, freeing up assets for the Libyan regime. One and a half billion given the okay by the United Nations, but a lot of those assets are tied up, hard to get to. What kind of progress are we making there, and what do you want to hold onto as leverage with this new government?
SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, we’re making progress. Ironically, the Qadhafi regime used to print their money in England, so the British have just been able to release hundreds of millions of dollars of banknotes that are either already or on their way to Libya. Every country that had frozen assets is working through (inaudible) legal system, working through the UN sanctions regime, to free up as much as possible as quickly as possible. It does belong to the Libyan people.
At the same time, I am certainly expressing very clearly what our expectations are. We want transparency. We want accountability for the money that goes back in. We want financial systems established that can be audited and understood not only by us but by the Libyan people themselves. So there’s some work to be done, but I have found the Transitional National Council to be very receptive. And the finance minister, Mr. Tarhouni, had been, for quite a number of years since he was in exile, a business professor at the University of Washington.
QUESTION: That’s right. We talked to him. Forty years in the U.S., I believe.
SECRETARY CLINTON: Yeah. Forty years. And so he is just working extremely hard. I don't know that the man has slept in months. So there are some very good people. But like, I mean, it’s understandable; they don’t have yet the critical mass, so we’re trying to offer expertise. The UN, others are, as well. I think given the fact they started from a standstill, there were no institutions, no political system to hang onto because of what Qadhafi had done to Libya, they’ve made a lot of progress. But they are the first to tell you they have a long way to go.
QUESTION: Madam Secretary, it’s wonderful to speak with you.
SECRETARY CLINTON: Good to see you, too.
QUESTION: Thank you so much for making time for us today.
SECRETARY CLINTON: Thank you so much. My pleasure.