The President. Mr. Minister, welcome. I have a brief statement, and then I will turn the conference here -- press conference -- over to Minister Shevardnadze and Secretary of State Baker to respond to questions. But I have just had an opportunity to discuss with Foreign Minister Shevardnadze a number of issues of U.S.-Soviet relations, including our cooperation in the Gulf. And I'm pleased with the great progress that we made on START and hopeful that we will be ready to sign a treaty at a summit in Moscow on February 11 through 13th.
We also talked at length about the situation in the Soviet Union and the response of the United States to the economic problems there. I asked Minister Shevardnadze to convey to President Gorbachev my desire to respond both to the short-term needs of the Soviet Union and to contribute to fundamental economic reform -- long supported perestroika, and continue to.
We discussed frankly the relationship of economic change in the Soviet Union to the critical task of democratization. And I reiterated our strong desire to see both political and economic reform continue because they are inextricably linked. I outlined specific and important steps that we're willing to take in support of reform. And after consulting closely with Secretary Yeutter as well as Secretaries Brady and Baker, I told Minister Shevardnadze that I am prepared to respond to a Soviet request for credit guarantees for purchase of agricultural commodities through a waiver of the Jackson-Vanik amendment.
While I've taken this step I still look forward to a passage of the Soviet emigration law codifying the generally excellent practices of the past year. And this then will permit us to make further progress toward the normalization of the U.S.-Soviet economic relationship.
In addition, we have proposed to the Soviets a special technical assistance project to help in assessing their food distribution problem and to support market reforms. I will also authorize a joint public-private medical assistance effort to help the Soviet Union cope with immediate shortages of pharmaceuticals and basic medical supplies.
In the longer term, only steps that the Soviet Union itself takes can assure the economic health there. Thus, to promote fundamental economic reform I will propose that the World Bank and the IMF work out with the Soviet Union a special association to give the U.S.S.R. access to the considerable financial and economic expertise of those institutions. I have asked Secretary of the Treasury Nick Brady, as U.S. Governor of both institutions, to pursue this proposal with them and also with our other allies, who I'm sure will be in accord.
As I have said before, I want perestroika to succeed. The Soviet Union is facing tough times, difficult times. But I believe that this is a good reason to act now in order to help the Soviet Union stay the course of democratization and to undertake market reforms. The United States has an interest in the Soviet Union -- able to play a role as a full and prosperous member of the international community of states. And I am hopeful that these initiatives will further that goal.
Mr. Minister, we're delighted you're here, and now I'll turn this over to you and Jim Baker.
Note: The President spoke at 4:06 p.m. in the Rose Garden at the White House. A tape was not available for verification of the content of these remarks.