So how do you bring up a sensitive fight between two countries over salmon at a meeting with the president?
That’s easy. Serve salmon for dinner.
Gov. Gary Locke said he took advantage of a surprise invitation to dine Sunday night with President Clinton and high-level trade officials to discuss issues important to the Pacific Northwest - salmon and trade.
“We talked at length about salmon and the importance of trying to reach an agreement with Canada on the salmon treaty and how it is a source of friction - needless friction - between the United States and Canada,” Locke said Monday.
The governor and his wife, Mona Lee Locke, had planned to leave on a vacation to California on Sunday, but they changed their plans after a last-minute invitation to dine with the president in Vancouver, British Columbia, site of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation conference.
“We got a call from the White House to have dinner with the president. That’s an opportunity you don’t pass up,” Locke told reporters Monday before rushing out to start his delayed vacation. “It was an opportunity to let him know of some of the issues we’re working on in the Pacific Northwest and find out what the administration is doing on issues of concern to us.”
Locke said he was seated next to U.S. Trade Representative Charlene Barshefsky and across from Clinton and Tom Foley, the ex-speaker of the House from Spokane who recently was appointed ambassador to Japan.
Locke said he talked with Clinton about the salmon dispute, which came up as salmon was served for dinner at the Raintree Restaurant overlooking Vancouver harbor. The Pacific Salmon Treaty has been in limbo for four years as both countries are fighting over how much fish each is entitled to take.
Locke, who enjoyed a highly publicized visit to China last month, said the president also told him about a heated discussion Clinton had had in private with President Jiang Zemin about human rights concerns in China. Clinton said he believes that discussion led to the release of dissident Wei Jingsheng from a Chinese prison earlier this month, Locke said.
The governor said he also talked with Barshefsky and Foley about the importance of lowering Asian tariffs to reduce the trade imbalance with Japan and help sell Washington products overseas, including wheat.
And Locke said Foley expressed optimism that Japan can resolve its recent financial troubles and stabilize its economy.
“It was a really nice, intimate dinner. We touched on a whole host of issues,” the governor said.
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