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Remarks to Business Leaders on the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade

October 03, 1994

Thank you very much. Senator Mitchell, I I would miss you. Now, after that introduction, was thinking even before you spoke how much I feel it even more keenly. Ambassador Hills, thank you for your steadfast support and your leadership on GATT. Ambassador Kantor, thank you for what you have done on this, and congratulations on the agreement with Japan, too, by the way. You did a fine job, and we're proud of you. To all the distinguished Members of Congress who are here and those who would like to be here who cannot be, and all the members of the business community and others supporting the GATT today, I thank you for coming here. To the distinguished leaders of previous administrations who are here, including Larry Eagleburger, Brent Scowcroft, Herb Stein, and others, I thank you for being here.

Much that needs to be said about the GATT has already been said. Mickey Kantor reminded me this morning of something I confess I had not thought of on this day. It was 3 years ago today that I announced my candidacy for this job. And he did it because there is a line here on the first page of the talk which said, "I refuse to be part of a generation that fails to compete in the global economy and so condemns hard-working Americans to a life of struggle without reward or security."

The great challenge of our age economically is to figure out how we can create jobs and increase incomes for people who work hard, without having too much inflation. It is obvious to me that in order to do that we have to do three things: We have to bring the deficit down; at the same time, increase investment in education, training, and technology; and expand trade and investment. If we can do those things and if our neighbors do those things— in short, if we do them together, then we will be able to create more jobs and find productive lives for our people without unacceptable inflation. We will also be able to end what is now nearly two decades of people working harder and longer without ever getting much of a pay raise.

I'm encouraged that in just this year we see incomes rising at about 6 percent in the United States with nowhere near that sort of inflation. Why? Because of productivity, investment, and trade. That is what we have to do. In the end, that needs to be our bipartisan commitment to our children and to our grandchildren and to our future. Our commitment to make America great in the 21st century involves a commitment to make America a good leader but a good partner as well.

We have cut the deficit with $255 billion in spending cuts and revenue increases, and 3 years now in a row the deficit will go down for the first time since Mr. Truman was here.

We have shrunk the Federal bureaucracy. It's already more than 70,000 people smaller than it was when I came. But the Congress has adopted a bill to reduce it by 270,000 over 6 years. That will make the Federal Government the smallest it was since President Kennedy served here.

We have increased our investment in education and training, and we are opening the doors of trade, removing barriers to the sales of $35 billion in high-tech export items and of course working hard with trade initiatives like NAFTA and GATT.

Carla already alluded to this, but I think it's worth pointing out to those who said that NAFTA would be a disaster that our trade with Mexico is growing at 3 times the rate of our overall trade in the world, that exports of automobiles and trucks to Mexico have increased by 600 percent. At a lot of those auto factories, people are working overtime for the first time in a very long while.

So I feel very good about the direction in which we are going. In the last year and a half, 93 percent of all the new jobs in this country have come in the private sector. That means that the strategy will work, but we have to keep it going.

A lot of tribute has been paid to the people in the three previous administrations who have worked hard on this. I just want to add my words to those who have spoken before and to say a special word of thanks not only to Ambassador Kantor but to all those in the administration who worked so closely with him, to Secretary Espy, who is here and whose agriculture reform bill just passed the Congress, to Secretary Bentsen, to Secretary Brown, and to Laura Tyson, the Chair of our Council of Economic Advisers, and others.

We know, we know this is in our national interest. You might wonder, since we all know it, what are we doing here today? We all know this. I'll tell you what we're doing here today. We're trying to do this with the least possible delay. We're trying to do this in the shortest possible time.

We know that when the GATT is finally implemented, it will add $1 billion to $2 billion to our economy every year. We know the GATT plays to our strengths for the reasons Ambassador Hills has already mentioned. We know that our pharmaceutical and computer software firms can harness America's brainpower and now put it to work all over the world. We know our tractors can plow the soil of every nation. We know that from cars to computers, from furniture to frozen foods, we can still make the things the world wants to buy, and when GATT is fully implemented, we'll be selling those things everywhere in the world.

The GATT passed the House Ways and Means Committee by 35 to 3, the Senate Finance Committee by 19 to 0; has a phenomenal amount of support from business, consumer, labor groups, over 400 economists. But the point I want to make is, we need to do it now. Secretary Bentsen has estimated that even a 6month delay will cost our economy up to $70 billion in extra economic growth over the decade, a 6-month delay.

So we are here today to say: The work has been done. The path to the future is clear. Our obligations are plain. We thank all of you for your support, and let's do it now and do it this year.

Thank you very much.

NOTE: The President spoke at 12:14 p.m. at the West Wing Portico of the White House.

William J. Clinton, Remarks to Business Leaders on the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project

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