Remarks by President Trump, President Vučić of Serbia, and Prime Minister Hoti of Kosovo in a Trilateral Meeting
Oval Office Washington D.C. September 4, 2020 11:35 A.M. EDT
PRESIDENT TRUMP: Okay, well, thank you very much. This is a truly historic day - a very, very important day, especially in a beautiful part of the world. I'm pleased to announce a truly historic commitment: Serbia and Kosovo have each committed to economic normalization. Very expect - very important term. They've been working on this for many, many years - decades, actually.
After a violent and tragic history, and years of failed negotiations, my administration proposed a new way of bridging the divide. By focusing on job creation and economic growth, the two countries were able to reach a major breakthrough - something that nobody thought was going to be possible. And I think it's going to work out very well. And we're going to be working with them on economic cooperation across a broad range of issue - issues.
And I can say that Serbia and Kosovo have tremendous numbers of people in the United States. They're - they love your country. They love your country so much. They love your country so much. And it's really good that we were able to get this done. I've had a lot of people here that - that would like to see and would be very proud to see this happening. There's been tremendous death over a long period of time, and that all stops.
We've also made additional progress on reaching peace in the Middle East. I will say that Kosovo and Israel have agreed to normalization of ties and the establishment of diplomatic relations. The agreement we made with UAE has been
incredible, the - what it's represented, what's it's meant. And we have other countries in the Middle East coming very much to us and saying, like, "When do we go? When can we sign?" I think we're going to have great peace in the Middle East. And nobody has been able to say that for a long time.
Serbia has committed to opening a commercial office in Jerusalem this month and to move its embassy to Jerusalem in July. That's fantastic. That's a big thing. That's a very big statement. And we appreciate that very much.
It's taken tremendous bravery by the President of Serbia and the President [Prime Minister] of Kosovo - who are with me today; two highly respected people - to embark on these talks and to come to Washington to finalize these commitments. By doing so, they've made their countries, the Balkans, really, an incredible area of some of the most beautiful land in the world.
But they've made the world safer.
I look forward to seeing Serbia and Kosovo prosper as we work together on economic cooperation in the region. Going forward - I look forward to going to both countries someday in the not-too-distant future. We have a thing called a "campaign" going on right now. So I figure - I think we better devote a little time to that. But we look forward to it.
But we're very proud of these two great leaders and for getting this done. And their people are very proud of them, maybe more importantly. And, truly, it is historic. So I want to thank you both. And if you'd like to sign, you could start. And we'll start the process.
I'm going to give you this one. This is for you, and this is for you. And that's for you.
(The agreements are signed.)
Thank you very much. (Applause.)
Would anybody have any questions for these two great leaders? They are great leaders, too.
Q May I ask when, gentlemen, it would be possible to expect normalizing ties, politically, between your two countries?
PRESIDENT TRUMP: Would you like to respond? Or I could have somebody else. Robert, would you like to talk about that?
AMBASSADOR O'BRIEN: So I think that the focus here - and I don't want to step on President Vučić or Prime Minister Hoti - but I think today is about normalization of economic ties. And it's really a fantastic step the two peoples have taken, both Kosovo and Serbia. And it's taken a lot of effort. I think that's a first step, and I think down the road, as those economic ties grow, I think there are going to - there will be political solutions to outstanding issues.
But today we want to focus on the normalization of economic relations between the companies; the opening up of border crossings; investment by the United States in both Kosovo and Serbia; deals between Kosovo and Serbia on recognizing each other's diplomas and licenses so that a dentist who is trained in Kosovo can perform his practice, or her practice, in Serbia and vice versa.
So I think there are just a lot of amazing steps that were - that were taken here. And so I think the focus today is going to be on economic normalization. And our feeling is, is that that's going to lead to breakthroughs on the political front in the future.
PRESIDENT TRUMP: It's going to really bring them together.
Ric Grenell, please?
AMBASSADOR GRENELL: I think everybody knows that we've been stuck politically in this issue for decades, and many times fighting about symbolic things. And what President Trump did from the very beginning is say: Let's flip it. Let's figure out how to do economics first. You can't pay your rent and you can't buy food with symbolism, but you can when you have a job.
And from the very beginning, what President Trump said is: Let's give them a little taste of the Trump economy. Let's show them how to develop economics, how to take industries and grow them. And let's see if the concentration on economics and job creation can unstick the political stuff. That remains to be seen.
But I think one of the great parts of this agreement is, over the next year, we have a freeze on the recognition and de-recognition campaigns. That means, over this next year, we can see job growth and job creation really take hold in the region, and then, a year from now, judge us on where the political process goes.
PRESIDENT TRUMP: Thank you, Ric. And speaking of job growth, I think it's important to say that our unemployment rate dropped all the way down to 8.4 percent. It was just announced an hour ago. And that is many, many months ahead of schedule. They said, "You won't break 10 percent," at least until next year sometime. And we just did 8.4 percent, and we're going down rapidly. Plus, a lot of jobs were produced.
But very important, we just broke the 10 percent mark, and that wasn't going to happen until January, February, March maybe. And so we're at 8.4 percent, and that starts to sound much more normal. We're recovering from the China plague, and they are too, by the way. They got hit very hard. Every country did, almost. A hundred and eighty-eight countries got hit.
But 8.4 percent is an incredible number. Way ahead of schedule. Way ahead of schedule. So, again, any other questions for the two gentlemen?
Q What was your role, Mr. President, in bringing about this economic agreement? And why did it take decades to get to the point that we are at today?
PRESIDENT TRUMP: Well, I can tell you that it took decades because you didn't have anybody trying to get it done. We've been working on this for - almost from the beginning of the administration. And you had some deep-seated feelings and long-term feelings, and there was a lot of fighting, and now there's a lot of love, and that's the way it's going to be. I think they're going to have a tremendous relationship. And the economic is going to bring them together. It's going to unify the two countries.
And it was just something that was so obvious to me, right from the beginning. And Ric Grenell, I think in particular, he just - he would talk about it all the time. He didn't understand why this had to be. And he was right. And he brought them together with Robert and with Jared and Avi. So many people were involved.
But it just seemed to be such a natural fit. And I think you're going to see a tremendous - really, tremendous things are going to happen. In addition, it's going to be great economically for both countries. Plus, it also opens up the United States much more easily to both countries. We don't have to worry about these two, sort of, warring nations, fighting nations. And I think they're going to have a fantastic relationship. Economics can bring people together, and that's what happening right here. But my people did a fantastic job. They really did a fantastic job.
PRESIDENT VUČIĆ: Mr. President -
PRESIDENT TRUMP: Any other questions for the - yes, please. I'd like you to say.
PRESIDENT VUČIĆ: If you'll allow me, I'm really honored and privileged to be here and representing Serbia here in the Oval Office. And thank you, Mr. President, for doing a great job.
When I say "great job," I really mean it, because your people and you wanted to engage yourself into a matter that, as a matter of fact, very few people wanted to do. And also your commitment to stabilize the region and to bring peace and stability to the region is something that we appreciate a lot. It's something of utmost significance for us.
And speaking about economy, of course speaking about politics, we haven't resolved our problems. There are still a lot of differences between us, but this is a huge step forward, and I'm also again profoundly grateful to you and to your people that you successfully got us here.
And we didn't speak about many items that we signed today, but for us it's very important that we are going to have a unified economic zone, an entire Western Balkans, which will bring us to the real economic results for the benefit and for the sake of all our people.
Once again, Mr. President, we appreciate and we respect your role. And if I may use or misuse this opportunity to extend an invitation to you to visit Serbia. The last U.S. President that visited Serbia was Jimmy Carter because of Tito's funeral. Come to Serbia and you'll see the most hospitable reception, and you'll see how people of Serbia will react to that.
Once again, many thanks to you and many thanks to Ric, to Jared, to Mr. Pence, to Robert O'Brien, to all the people that dedicated their time in bringing us here to the Oval Office. Thank you once again.
PRESIDENT TRUMP: Congratulations. Thank you very much.
PRESIDENT VUČIĆ: Thank you so much.
PRESIDENT TRUMP: Please.
PRIME MINISTER HOTI: If I may -
PRESIDENT TRUMP: Yes.
PRIME MINISTER HOTI: - Mr. President. Well, thank you very much for your exceptional role and for your great team that we came to this point. I think, absolutely, this is a great moment for Kosovo and for the region.
I think we made a huge step forward to our full normalization of relations that should lead eventually to mutual recognition between the two countries.
We are fully committed to work together to improve people's lives, to bring new jobs into the region. And we fully believe in your administration. We share the same values of freedom, democracy, an open-market economy. So we are looking forward to starting, (inaudible) this agreement as soon as possible.
PRESIDENT TRUMP: It's going to be very successful. We have no doubt.
PRIME MINISTER HOTI: Absolutely.
PRESIDENT TRUMP: We have no doubt. It's too bad this couldn't have happened many years ago, but you needed somebody to -
PRIME MINISTER HOTI: That's right.
PRESIDENT TRUMP: - work it and bring it together. So, congratulations, okay?
PRIME MINISTER HOTI: Thank you.
PRESIDENT TRUMP: Mike Pence, please?