President George H.W. Bush and Solidarity Leader Lech Walesa in Question-and-Answer Session With Reporters Following a Luncheon in Gdansk, 11 July 1989
The transition to a Solidarity-led government in Poland was closely associated with the introduction of market-oriented economic reforms. Many Poles hoped that this might lead to a dramatic improvement in the country’s economy, not only through the stimulation of domestic growth but also through the attraction of investment and outright financial aid from the West. In this brief exchange with reporters at the end of President Bush’s visit to Poland, Bush and Lech Wałesa provide a somewhat confused discussion of the “billion” that cooperation with the West might bring to Poland. While glitches in recording and translation probably account for some of the resulting ambiguities, they also reflect more general uncertainties over what joining the capitalist world would mean.
[N.B.: There are three errors in the original document. When "billion" is referenced, this should read $10 billion according to press coverage of the press conference.]
Question-and-Answer Session With Reporters Following a
Luncheon With Solidarity Leader Lech Walesa in Gdansk
July 11, 1989
Q. Come this way.
Q. We can't hear you. How about coming over?
The President. He said he can't hear us. I'm not sure we want him to, do we?
Mr. Walesa. Mr. President, I am ready. I'll walk up.
The President. All right.
Q. What did you talk about?
The President. She wants to know what we talked about.
Q. And what did you decide?
Mr. Walesa. If that's what you need, I can briefly tell you. Poland has had major
achievements now -- politically, but the problem centers on matching political reform
with economic reform. Let's take the example of China, where the economic topics were
not lined up properly with political ones. In Poland, there is a danger, too, but it's in
reverse. Here the political problems have gotten ahead of the economic ones.
Meeting with the head of a superpower, a superpower in all areas -- in other words, a
superpower economically and politically -- we hope that in this situation we have a
chance to adjust our situation. We're not after any loans; we're after cooperation --
cooperation in which one partner would be billion. If we succeed in opening branches of
Western banks which would keep billion and could strike a good deal in Poland, that
would fix our economic problems. And this is what I asked Mr. President about, and that
was my primary appeal and request.
Q. What about this billion, Mr. President? What about it?
The President. You heard carefully what he said. He is not asking for billion; he's asking
for investment and the potential to build through the private sector to the tune of
American banks being in Poland carrying billion. That could be American banks, other
banks. And to me it's interesting and quite different than the interpretation that I've seen
placed on this figure by other people.
We had a very good luncheon in the sense that it was -- having met Mr. Walesa before, I
really rejoiced in his hospitality, he and his Danuta, giving us the hospitality of being in
their home. And we talked about a wide array of issues. I clearly salute today, as I have in
the past, his contribution to the enormous political reforms that have taken place, and I
have told him that I want to work with him and with Poland in every way possible on the
So, now I will go to the economic summit. I will take with me the detail -- he gave me a
detailed paper -- the details of his proposals, and we'll see where we come out. But in
terms of his emphasis on the private sector and on job opportunity through private
investment and private and competitive business practice, I must say I can give strong
support to that -- standing right here in his yard.
Note: The President spoke at 1:50 p.m. at the Walesa residence. A tape was not available
for verification of the contents of the remarks.
George H.W. Bush, Question-and-Answer Session with reporters, 11 July 1989, Bush Presidential Library, Public Papers, Bush Library (accessed May 14, 2008).