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Remarks on Proposed Fast-Track Trade Authority Legislation and an Exchange With Reporters

September 16, 1997

The President. Good afternoon. Today I am taking the next step in our strategy to extend our prosperity into the next century. I have submitted legislation to the Congress that will renew the traditional authority granted to Presidents of both parties since 1974 to negotiate new trade agreements to open foreign markets to goods and services made by American workers.

We are at a moment of hard-earned optimism and great hope for our future, with 13 million new jobs, unemployment below 5 percent. Our 1993 economic plan, which cut the deficit by 80 percent, created the base conditions for this growth. The bipartisan balanced budget I have just signed, with its unprecedented investment in education, sets the stage for further prosperity into the next century.

But we must also recognize that a critical element of America's success has been our leadership in the global economy. More than a third of our growth in the past 4 years has come from expanded trade. Today, 12 million American jobs are supported by exports. Today, at the pinnacle of that strength, America must choose whether to advance or to retreat. I believe the only way we can continue to grow and create good jobs in the future is to embrace global growth and expand American exports.

The legislation I submitted today extends for 4 years the authority every American President has had for decades, to negotiate new agreements that tear down foreign barriers to our goods and our services, everything from computer equipment to chemicals. It will enable the United States to sell in the world's fastest growing markets, regions where our competitors will step in if we retreat. It will help to create the high-wage jobs that come from exports, and it will do this while allowing us to advance protections for workers' rights and the environment, critical goals for us at home and for America abroad.

The Vice President and I are now going to Capitol Hill to meet with the Democratic Members of Congress to spell out why this legislation is in the national interest. The legislation reflects the values of both parties and reflects the abiding partnership between the President and Congress. It is a bipartisan partnership that has helped to produce strong prosperity and a partnership that must continue in the interest of the American people and our future.


Q. Mr. President, are you changing your policy on landmines?

The President. No, I'm not changing my policy on landmines. I have been working very hard to try to reach agreement with the parties in Oslo.

But I would like to remind everybody here of a few facts. I believe that I was the first world leader to call for an end to the landmines that are killing so many innocent people around the world. The United States does not produce, sell, or deploy these mines, and we are destroying them. With the single exception of Korea— everyone in the world recognizes that Korea is a special problem because of the number of North Korean troops that are very close to Seoul. And we have been working with the people in Oslo to try to get an extended period of time to deal with that.

Now, there is another issue that relates to our antitank mines, which are slightly different from other countries, which also involve destruction devices that automatically go dead within a matter of hours or days. We're trying to work through these things.

But the United States has done more than any other country to bring an end to landmines. We have spent $150 million in the last 4 years in demining work. We are missing an airplane off the coast of Africa that deposited a demining team in Africa to continue this work. So we have not taken a back seat to anyone. But we have to make sure that our fundamental responsibilities through the United Nations for Korea, and to our own troops in terms of antitank mines, which are legal under this treaty, can be maintained.

And we're working on it. I don't want to discuss the state of play because I'm not quite sure what it is. But we have another day or so to try to work through this. The United States would like to be a signatory to this agreement, but I have to be sure that we can fulfill our responsibilities and protect our troops.

Q. Sir, how much of a fast track——

Proposed Tobacco Legislation

Q. Do you support an increase in the price of cigarettes of $1.50? Is that one of the proposals tomorrow on tobacco?

The President. I will announce tomorrow what I think we should do on tobacco. And we're going to come out for some clear principles that will further this debate, which we started a long time ago now it seems, with the action proposed by the FDA. Again, I will say I want to do what is necessary to protect children's health, particularly, and the public health in general. And I will be, I think, quite vigorous and clear tomorrow when I make that announcement.

Q. Sir, is the tobacco agreement dead? How much of a fast track is it going to be on after tomorrow?

The President. No, I don't think it's dead. You know, Members of Congress have made comments about whether it could be done or not this year. We ought do this as—we ought to get this legislation through Congress as quickly as we can. I would hope that we can get all the parties to the lawsuit involved to agree to it. But we have to do it right. So I will do it as quickly as possible, working with the leadership in Congress, but I want to do it right.

Q. Will you offer legislation on your own, sir?

The President. What did you say?

Q. Will you offer your own legislation?

The President. Well, tomorrow—let me just say this—tomorrow we're going to talk about general principles, and then we'll do some consulting to see what the most productive way to get legislation in the hopper is.

NOTE: The President spoke at 3:55 p.m. on the South Lawn at the White House, prior to departing for meeting with the House Democratic Caucus on Capitol Hill.

William J. Clinton, Remarks on Proposed Fast-Track Trade Authority Legislation and an Exchange With Reporters Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project

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