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Bush, auto execs' meeting deals with health care, strength of the yen

President Bush, Vice President Dick Cheney and other administration officials met with auto executives for just over an hour yesterday. Discussion topics included health care, energy and trade issues, according to a report from the Associated Press. Repeating their message from before the meeting, the auto execs said again they don't want a bailout from the government, just, well, what can we call it? Help? Advice? A push in the right direction? What defines a bailout, anyway? Would the government setting up a national health care plan, relieving the Big 2.5 (and so many others) of their direct health care burdens count as a bailout? How about serious incentives for hydrogen cars? Is that bailing them out?

On the trade front, GM's Rick Wagoner said the automakers told the president that Japanese automakers are benefiting from a weak yen, which gives them a three to nine thousand dollar per vehicle subsidy.

"I can't honestly say it appears the president 100 percent saw it that way, but we had a good dialogue," Wagoner told the AP. You can read the President's remarks after the jump.

[Source: Associated Press / Ken Thomas]
President Bush Meets with CEOs of U.S. Automobile Manufacturers

The Oval Office

THE PRESIDENT: The Vice President and members of my Cabinet, Secretary of Treasury, Secretary of Transportation, members of my staff and I have just had a constructive and meaningful dialogue with CEOs of the U.S. automobile manufacturers.

First, these leaders have -- are making difficult decisions, tough choices to make sure that their companies are competitive in a global economy. And I'm confident that they're making the right decisions, and that's good news for the American people because the automobile manufacturers play such a significant part of our economy and a vital part of our employment base.

We've had a fascinating discussion about a lot of major issues that we share in common. One, of course, is rising health care costs. And I assured these leaders that the government is addressing rising health care costs through a variety of initiatives that I think over time are going to make a significant difference in not only their cost, but the cost to the U.S. taxpayer, as well.

We talked about our mutual desire to reduce our dependence on foreign oil. Obviously, as these automobile manufacturers begin to incorporate new technologies that will enable us to power our cars in different ways, it will make it easier for me to be able to tell the American people we're using less foreign oil. And that's in our economic interests, as well as in our national security interests.

And finally, they've -- these gentlemen are well aware that I'm on my way overseas this evening. And one of the issues I'll be talking about with our partners in APEC is free trade, but fair trade. And my message to our trading partners is just treat us the way we treat you. Our markets are open for your products, and we expect your markets to be open for ours, including our automobiles.

And so we've found a lot in common. We'll have a continuing dialogue. It's in our interest that in government we find out ways that we'll be able to work to make sure that this industry is as vibrant and solid as possible. And so this is the beginning of a series of discussions we'll have -- not only with me, but also with people in our government. I really do want to thank you all for coming. I appreciate you coming.

Thank you very much.

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