Good morning. This week at a time when many Americans are hurting from the strains of the tough global economy, our country chose courageously to compete and not to retreat. With its vote Wednesday night for the North American Free Trade Agreement, the House of Representatives sent a message to the world: Yes, the cold war is over, but America's leadership for prosperity, security, and freedom continues.
The morning after the NAFTA vote I came to Seattle to convene an historic meeting of the leaders of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation forum. Passage of NAFTA strengthened my hand with the leaders of the Asian-Pacific economies as I worked to make their markets as open to our products and services as our market is to theirs.
The only way to achieve lasting prosperity and real economic security for our people is for America to expand our exports by reaching out to the world, not retreating from it. In plain language, we've got to have more customers for our products and services. But after two decades when good paying jobs have been lost and incomes of working people have stagnated and Government has done too little to prepare our people for the global economy, it's understandable that many middle class Americans are anxious about change.
Three decades after the Presidency of John F. Kennedy, we must again embrace his vision of an America that seeks to open markets abroad while investing in the skills of our workers and the strength of our communities here at home. Our Nation has a solemn obligation to our working men and women to make sure that they share in the opportunities that expanded trade will produce. That's why we're investing in education and training and technology, the competitive edge for our working men and women, and why we must do more.
That's why I propose changing our unemployment system into a reemployment system so that our working people will have the security of knowing they'll always get the training they need as economic conditions change. You know, it used to be that when people lost their job, they stayed unemployed for a few weeks, and then they were called back to the same old job. Now people are unemployed for longer periods of time and usually don't get the same job back. That's why we've got to change this unemployment system, and we must give people a lifetime right to education and training.
It's also why we're fighting to provide every American with the security of comprehensive health care benefits that can never be taken away, so that they can face the fact that even with changing jobs, they'll be able to survive and their family's health care will be taken care of.
Our efforts to invest in the strength and skills of our people and to expand world trade are part of a coordinated strategy to increase American exports, create American jobs, and raise American incomes. American workers are the most productive, the best in the world.
Given a fair chance and a level playing field, we can outinnovate, outproduce, and outcompete any people. That's why I support NAFTA. It reduces Mexican tariffs on our products, which are currently 2 1/2 times higher than our tariffs on theirs. It eases Mexico's requirements that many of the products sold there, particularly cars and trucks, must be made there. These are some of the reasons why in just 2 years NAFTA will create an estimated 200,000 high-wage jobs for workers here at home.
NAFTA is more than a trading block. It's a building block in our efforts to assert America's global leadership on behalf of American jobs and opportunity. This week in meetings with the leaders from the Asian-Pacific area, I'm striving to expand America's access to some of the largest and the fastest growing markets in the world. The stakes are very high. Asian economies have been growing at 3 times the rate of the established industrialized nations. Much of what Asia needs to continue its growth are goods and services in which our country has a strong competitive position: aircraft, financial services, telecommunications, and construction. Already Asia is our largest trading partner, and our exports to Asia account for 2.5 million American jobs.
Increasing our share of this market by just 1 percent would translate into some 300,000 new American jobs. And it's my job to help create more of those jobs for our working men and women. That's why I'm working to put our economic relationship with Japan on a more equitable basis and why I'm determined to see China eliminate many of its trade barriers to our products and services, as well as expressing our concern over human rights and weapons sales.
Our progress this week is part of our efforts for an even more important breakthrough: a worldwide trade agreement by year's end that would open more markets for American products and services in over 100 nations throughout the world. If we achieve an agreement that meets our standards, the benefits for the American people will be immense. Over 10 years the agreement will create hundreds of thousands of American jobs and substantially increase the average family's income.
As we enter this season of hope, let us remember that we live at a historic moment. Now that the cold war is over, we must do what America did at the end of World War II, invest in ourselves and lead the world toward peace and prosperity. Just as we did a half century ago, Americans can find common ground in supporting the common good.
When it comes to preparing our work force for global competition and building an American economy that exports our products and not our jobs, we must all work together, business and labor, Democrats and Republicans, those who have supported NAFTA and those who have opposed it.
Soon our families will be gathering together for Thanksgiving to offer our gratitude to God for life's blessings. For all our difficulties, we live in a moment of peace and promise that would have gladdened the hearts of generations that came before us and justified their faith in the future. The challenges we face today, providing our people with the skills and security they need to prevail in peaceful competition with citizens all over the world, is one our predecessors would have longed to embrace. After this week, I'm even more confident that we will embrace that challenge, not evade it.
Thanks for listening, and a happy Thanksgiving to you and your families.