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Letter to Congressional Leaders on the North American Free Trade Agreement

September 28, 1993

Dear Mr. Leader:

My Administration is now making the final preparations for submitting to the Congress the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA). Over the next several weeks Administration officials will sit down with Congressional Committees and their staffs to hammer out the details of implementing legislation. Let me indicate to you what I regard as a reasonable approach to Congressional consideration of this historic agreement, in hopes that we can arrive at a mutually agreed procedure for such action.

I believe strongly that the NAFTA is a good deal for the United States that warrants approval. It will benefit our country, increasing jobs and economic growth for Americans and enhancing our overall competitiveness. The NAFTA, strengthened by the agreements we have recently reached with Mexico and Canada on the environment, labor and import surges also will help to resolve problems that have existed in our relationship with Mexico. I know you share my support for this historic agreement.

As you know, in order for these agreements to take effect as scheduled on January 1, 1994, the NAFTA must be approved and implemented by Congress in accordance with procedures set out in our trade laws—the so-called "fast-track" procedures. These same procedures have worked successfully to approve and implement the results of multinational trade negotiations in 1979 and our bilateral free trade agreement with Canada in 1988. The practice has been for Congress and the executive branch to work closely together to develop a mutually satisfactory implementing bill before the President formally sends that bill to Congress. Working together in that way before introduction of the bills has resulted in rapid and overwhelming approval of the bills once introduced.

My administration is committed to the same process. We intend for the drafting of the implementing legislation to be a cooperative effort between the Administration and the Congress, in keeping with past practice. I cannot guarantee to be bound by legislation that is not yet drafted, just as you cannot commit the Congress to approve it. I can promise, however, that I will work closely with the Congress to draft legislation that best meets our mutual objectives.

I want to emphasize my strong belief that this bill should be voted on before Congress adjourns in 1993. For that to happen, I believe it is important that we conclude the joint drafting process with all Congressional Committees of jurisdiction by November 1, 1993, so that I may submit the legislation at that time. I would appreciate your efforts to enlist the cooperation of those Committees in achieving this timetable.

In the past, there has been a Congressional commitment to a vote prior to adjournment. I strongly believe that a similar commitment is called for and vital in this instance, so that this important matter can be decided this year. The national and congressional debate over NAFTA has already been long and, regrettably, rancorous.

By working together, I believe we can achieve a truly mutually satisfactory bill that will meet our obligations and enable Americans to take full advantage of the opportunities opened by these historic agreements. I greatly appreciate your efforts to this end.



NOTE: Identical letters were sent to Thomas S. Foley, Speaker of the House of Representatives; Robert H. Michel, House Minority Leader; George J. Mitchell, Senate Majority Leader; and Robert Dole, Senate Minority Leader. This letter was released by the Office of the Press Secretary on September 29.

William J. Clinton, Letter to Congressional Leaders on the North American Free Trade Agreement Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project

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