PRESIDENT Bush said Tuesday he was torn about attending June's "Earth Summit" in Rio de Janeiro because of the economic price that meeting could exact from the United States. Speaking to business executives at the White House, Bush said while he supported international cooperation to protect the environment, he would not sign any agreement that could curb long-term US economic growth.
"I'm not going to go to the Rio conference and make a bad deal or be a party to a bad deal. I'm not going to sign an agreement that does not protect the environment and the economy of this country," he said.
Bush said he recognized that his attendance at the Rio summit would add "a major political impetus" to its decisions. But he said that consideration could be outweighed by the danger that the conference might limit the United States "to a course of action that could dramatically impede long-term economic growth in this country."
Bush is wary of putting any limits on industry that could jeopardize the fledging economic recovery and put his own re-election at risk.
In an apparent blast at environmentalists who say it would be an outrage if he decided not to go, the president said that playing politics with the Rio conference "severely undercuts" the US bargaining position in pre-summit negotiations.
Earlier Tuesday, White House spokesman Marlin Fitzwater said negotiations were at a delicate stage. He said the US was now being asked to make a commitment "that could have enormous economic consequences in the future."