The President. Good morning. I want to speak with you for just a few moments before I leave on this trip to the Philippines and Indonesia. From the beginning of our administration, we have worked to build greater security for America, to spread prosperity and democracy around the globe, and to usher in a new age of open markets. We are tearing down the old walls which have existed for so long between domestic and foreign policy in our country, forging a strong recovery here at home by expanding opportunities for Americans around the world.
We are pursuing this strategy because it is clearly in the best interest of our people, and it offers the best opportunity for them to acquire the kind of security for their families that so many millions of Americans are still struggling to achieve. The ultimate goal is to produce a strong America, a strong America in terms of national security and national defense but also in terms of stronger families, better education, more high-wage jobs, and safer streets. Strong at home and strong abroad: two sides of the same coin.
The United States is in a better economic position than any other nation in the world today to compete and win in the global economy. Our work force is the most productive in the world. Our economy has produced 5 million jobs and more in the last 22 months. And finally, this year, high-wage jobs are coming back into this economy, more new high-wage jobs this year than in the previous 5 years combined.
But it is not enough. Too many Americans, millions and millions of them, still find the present and the future uncertain and unsettling: stagnant wages, benefits at risk, an uncertainty in the future about their jobs. We simply must turn insecurity about our future into confidence. The American people do best when they are confident, outward looking, and working together.
This strategy must include breaking down trade barriers, opening markets, and increasing our exports because export-related jobs pay significantly more on the average than those which are not related to exports.
In the coming weeks, we will have the opportunity to put into place three crucial building blocks of this strategy by working with Congress to pass the GATT agreement, by strengthening our ties to the dynamic economies of the Asian-Pacific region, and by continuing to forge a partnership for peace and prosperity here in our own hemisphere. For decades, we have concentrated our international economic efforts on the mature and strong economies of Europe and Japan. They will remain our close allies, our key competitors, our critical markets.
But the new century demands a new strategy, and that is where this trip fits into the picture. Last year in Seattle, I brought together 14 leaders of the economies of the Asian-Pacific cooperation council. They met for the first time, and there we arrived at a common vision of a new and more open Asian-Pacific community. Next week in Jakarta, I hope the leaders will embrace a common direction toward that vision, setting a goal for free and open trade among all our countries and agreeing on a process to get there.
In my visit to the Philippines and my meetings in Jakarta, I will also stress our continuing commitment to promote security and democracy throughout Asia and the Pacific region. We'll discuss how to strengthen important bilateral relationships, create stronger regional security structures, how to rapidly and effectively implement the agreement for a nonnuclear Korean Peninsula. No problem is more important to the United States and its allies than stopping the proliferation of nuclear materials and weapons in general and specifically ending North Korea's nuclear program. I will also use these meetings to talk about the advance of human rights, worker rights, and democratic values. We must continue to pursue this path with patience, persistence, and determination.
Two other crucial events will follow this trip to Asia: the Summit of the Americas in Miami, with 33 other democratically elected leaders in the Caribbean and Latin America, and the congressional vote on GATT. GATT is the largest and most advantageous trade agreement in our history. The congressional vote will be a defining decision for our economy and our working people well into the next century. I believe both parties will come together to vote for open markets, free and fair trade, and most importantly, more high- wage jobs for the American people.
This week the American people told us, all of us here in Washington, to work together, to put politics aside to create a stronger, a more secure America. This trip to Asia and the other events of the next 6 weeks give us a unique opportunity to join hands and do just that. By reaching across oceans and borders, we can help to build peace and prosperity around the world and more security and prosperity for our own people here at home.
Thank you very much.
Q. Mr. President, how would you describe the prospects for GATT to the Asian leaders?
The President. Good.