Although President Bush has voiced support for the FSX fighter plane project with Japan, the joint production arrangement is "not a done deal" and Bush hasn't made up his mind on all the aspects, the chief White House spokesman said Thursday.
"The president still has to make the basic decisions," press secretary Marlin Fitzwater said.He said Japanese officials would meet later Thursday at the State Department with Secretary of State James A. Baker III, Commerce Secretary Robert Mosbacher and national security adviser Brent Scowcroft to present their views of revisions being proposed by the administration.
"This is not a negotiating session but a discussion session," Fitzwater said.
The Japanese government has called for U.S. approval of the original plan negotiated by the Reagan administration with as few changes as possible.
"This is to hear their views," Fitzwater said of Thursday's meeting. He said that the session would not necessarily lead to a change of Bush's mind on the subject.
Members of Congress from both parties are criticizing the FSX deal despite Bush's backing.
"The FSX agreement is a bad deal for America and for American workers," Sen. Alfonse M. D'Amato, R-N.Y., who has emerged as a leading critic of the pending U.S.-Japan agreement, said Wednesday.
The deal is expected to be sent to Capitol Hill within the next few days. It could be blocked if both the Senate and the House pass resolutions of disapproval within 30 days of being formally notified of the agreement.
The president, however, could then veto the congressional action, with a two-thirds majority required to override the veto.
Bush said Tuesday that he has decided to endorse the deal but with modifications to help safeguard U.S. technology and to assure that American industry has a share in the plane's production.
Under the agreement signed late last year, St. Louis-based General Dynamics would join with Japan's Mitsubishi Heavy Industries to co-develop and co-produce the FSX as an advanced version of the U.S. F-16 fighter.
Proponents argue the agreement represents the best deal the United States could negotiate in the face of Japanese opposition to buying F-16s directly from this country.