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Informal Exchange With Reporters Prior to a Meeting With Prime Minister Ciriaco De Mita of Italy

June 14, 1988

Resignation of Howard H. Baker, Jr.

Q. Mr. President, do you think that your administration is going to be considered lameduck in view of the departure of Howard Baker?

The President. Well, I don't think it should be. We're going to miss him, of course. He has served very well. But he had his reasons for what he's had to do.

Q. Mr. President, Senator Baker said he'd be the one to turn out the lights here at the White House. Does that mean the lights are out on your administration?

The President. No, that means, I think, a little change has occurred.

Trade Deficit

Q. Did you see the trade figures this morning, Mr. President? It's one of the best trade reports in some time -- something like under $10 billion for the monthly reported. Do you have a comment on that?

The President. Yes. It would be a happy comment because it shows that we have continued to bring down the trade deficit. It has been on a pretty continual decline, and it's been brought about this time by not only an increase in exports but a decrease in imports.

Plant Closings

Q. Could you clarify your position, Mr. President, on the business of plant closing? Would you support a move in Congress toward a voluntary provision of plant closing that would not be mandatory?

The President. We already have that, and we have a number of plants that have relations with their unions, that in their union labor contract have provisions for that. It is just that I believe that excessive controls and regulations by government -- well, we've seen a comparison with some of our trading partners that have too much of that, and they've not been able to match our economic expansion.

Aid to the Contras

Q. Will you seek more military aid for the contras, Mr. President, or is that a lost cause?

The President. Well, this is something that's under discussion right now.

Resignation of Howard H. Baker, Jr.

Q. Are you going to miss Howard Baker?

The President. What?

Q. Are you going to miss Howard Baker?

The President. I said that, Helen [Helen Thomas, United Press International]. Yes, I will miss him.

Q. What kind of job has he done, Mr. President?

The President. He's done a fine job, both as leader of the Senate and now, as he came over here, in this position.

Q. Are you going to miss his picture-taking?

The President. What?

Q. Will you miss his picture-taking?

The President. [Laughter] He's quite a photographer.

Note: The exchange began at 11:34 a.m. in the Oval Office at the White House. Following their meeting, the President and the Prime Minister had lunch in the Residence.