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Remarks at the Conclusion of a Conference on Export Expansion.

October 11, 1973

Members of the Cabinet and ladies and gentlemen:

When I saw the guest list for this conference, I realized that probably never before have so many presidents been gathered in the East Room of the White House. And we welcome you all, whatever your position in business or in government, to this conference on export expansion.

I realize that you have been exposed for the past 2 or 3 hours to all the experts, and I will not take more of your time to go into some of the decisions on technical matters that we have made to work with you toward expanding exports.

On the other hand, I thought it might be useful at the conclusion of the conference and before I have the chance to meet each of you personally at its end, for me to put the whole problem of trade, export expansion in the larger context of foreign policy of the United States and the desire that all of us share as Americans to build a more peaceful world.

Now, first, I think it is well for us to understand what the limitations of trade are in building of our peaceful world. I noticed in my talking points it was indicated that if we have trade, that automatically will lead to peace. Of course, that isn't true at all. As a matter of fact, if we look at World War I and World War II, we will find that nations that traded with each other fought each other. Japan and the United States in World War II are good examples, and of course, Britain and France and Germany in World War I and World War II are examples of that.

So, trade between nations, no matter how great it is, does not necessarily lead to peace.

But having stated the negative proposition, let's also understand some of the positive points that can be made about trade and how it can help in building a structure of peace.

The first is that trade leads to communication between peoples, not just governments but peoples, and communication between peoples, I very sincerely believe--having taken some role in opening communications with other nations in the world over the past 4 1/2 years, opening communications with nations with which we had not had communications before--I believe that as we increase communication between peoples at all levels, the opportunity of discussing differences rather than fighting about differences is greatly increased.

And so, as American businessmen and businesswomen travel throughout the world, as you meet your counterparts in business and, in the totalitarian countries, in government, you will help to create those channels of communication which are so essential if in times of crisis we are to avoid those explosions that could lead to war.

And then, of course, there is another, broader point that should be made. As the nations of the world have a greater stake in peace, they have a less incentive to wage war. And as we have more expanded world trade, trade with all nations, it means that nations which otherwise might be tempted to wage war because of their concerns about inability to move up their standard of living at home could develop a stake in peace. I firmly believe that.

I know that that is not easy to accomplish, and you know it as well. But I am sure that as we look toward the years ahead, that as the United States, along with other nations, whether they be in the more advanced industrial nations in Europe or in Asia or in the less developed countries, as the United States increases its trade with those nations, it inevitably will mean that their standard of living will rise, as will ours, and as theirs rises, their people and their governments will have a stake in peace. They will have a stake also in good relations with the United States.

So, I have stated both ends of the proposition. On the one hand, that trade by itself does not lead to peace. It does not, and that is a grave illusion ever to think that it would. But the fact that if we have trade combined with an intelligent and pragmatic foreign policy, we can build a structure of peace which it would be much more difficult to build if we did not have the communications which trade brings and also the raising of the standard of living which inevitably will come as we trade with other nations.

So, what I am saying to all of you here today is that this trip to Washington, I hope, will be useful to you in the years ahead in terms of bringing more business to the concerns that you represent. That is good for your various corporations or companies, as the case may be; it is good for the United States, for labor, for business; and it is good for the nations abroad. But also it serves a much larger purpose.

You are part of, you are playing a very important role in what I consider to be the great adventure of the last third of this century, and that is the adventure of building for the first time in this century a structure of peace for the whole world that will last.

I suppose it is rather ironic for me to speak of a structure of peace at a time when we have a very difficult war going on in the Mideast. I say we, even though the United States is not involved, because when war hits that part of the world, it inevitably leads to repercussions through Europe and Asia and, of course, the Americas as well.

And so, we are concerned about that war. We are trying to play a responsible role in helping to bring the fighting to an end and then beyond that to build a structure of peace that will be permanent and not temporary.

That is all that I can say on that subject at this time, but let me first say, in addition to that, that while we have the truce in the Mideast broken at this time, we find that the United States is at peace with every nation in the world, and this is the first time that a President of the United States could say that for 12 years. And that, of course, is a hopeful development, but that also is not something that we can stand by and simply rest on our laurels, because we have ended wars before, and yet in every generation we follow with another war.

World War I was ended and then came World War II, and after it was ended came Korea, and after it was ended came Vietnam. That is why I have always spoken of the need not just to end the war which we were in, the longest in America's history, but to look far beyond and to build a structure of peace in the world that would last.

That is what the initiatives toward the People's Republic of China and the initiatives toward the Soviet Union and the initiatives toward the other Communist countries in Europe were all about. They had nothing to do with our deciding that our system of government now was closer in philosophy to theirs. We are still as far apart as we ever were.

But what it has to do with is that unless we do develop communications with, including trade, with those people who live in approximately one-half the world-or half the people of the world live in the nations that I have referred to---unless we have those channels of communications open, the inevitability of a confrontation somewhere down the line is almost inescapable.

It is our chance, our opportunity to help avoid that inevitable conflict. And you, each in your way, wherever you move in the world, I think, are contributing to the possibility of building that structure of peace that will last not just for a generation but beyond.

I should also add that I don't need to tell a group of American businessmen !hat the competitive situation in the world is a lot different from what it was immediately after World War II. It is hard to realize that there are times we talked about the dollar gap. It is hard to realize that there were times when we could talk about reciprocal trade when it was all,

"What is the United States going to do in terms of opening its markets?" It is hard to realize that there was a time--as a matter of fact, not too long ago when I was Vice President of the United States, in 1958, talking to the President of Colombia in South America, when he told me, he said, "The trouble in the world today is that what we have in terms of world trade can be compared with a great poker game. The United States has all the chips and, consequently, nobody else can play. And so what you must do is to pass out some of the chips so the rest of us can play."

Of course, he was speaking of foreign aid, and he was also speaking of trade, but now we realize that not only must the United States play a responsible role in seeing that trade barriers against goods from abroad, which are unfair, are reduced but we must also play, as a government, a very strong role in seeing that American goods get a fair competitive position all over the world.

We can't have the one-way street situation which presently exists in our relations with some countries. They know that, and we, in our Government, understand it very thoroughly.

You know, you sometimes wonder about these Government people, people like Mr. Eberle,1 and the Secretary of the Treasury and the people in the State Department, and I have often heard businessmen say, "Who do they represent? Do they represent us or do they represent the foreign countries?"

1William D. Eberle was Special Representative for Trade Negotiations and Chairman of the Trade Expansion Act Advisory Committee.

Let me tell you this: These men in this Government represent the United States of America. They are going to speak up for American businessmen. They are going to represent our interests and represent them aggressively, but in representing them aggressively, they also are going to recognize that it can't be a one-way street, either way. We can't sell without buying.

And that is why, when we see some of the shortsighted talk to the effect that we should have legislation which will close American markets or raise barriers to goods abroad in order to save jobs here, that that is terribly shortsighted, because when we see it, we find that if we close our markets in order to save jobs here, we are going to lose jobs for those products that otherwise would be sold abroad.

And so the question is, how can we have a policy in which we buy and sell and have the right kind of a position in which we have more jobs at home, a better standard of living at home, and also a better opportunity for others abroad to participate in that development of prosperity.

So, I would conclude my remarks, ladies and gentlemen, simply with this general proposition. We live in a far more competitive world. We find that the new Europe is going to give us very tough competition. Japan already is giving us very hard competition. Further down the road, even the totalitarian powers, the Soviet Union, the People's Republic of China, not because they are Communist, but because they are Chinese and because they are Russians and have drive--they are going to give us some competition in the world.

So, when we finally come down to the bottom line, it is this: Government has got to see to it that American goods get a fair shake all over the world, and we will meet that responsibility. And we have to do everything that we can to expand our exports, and that is something that you can do, because we are a free enterprise country. Government cannot do it, and you have to do it.

But we also must recognize that if American goods are to be sold abroad, American business and American labor must be competitive, and the name of that game, as everybody in this room knows, is productivity.

That is why in this period of time, to think in terms simply of building a great wall around this Nation so that noncompetitive industries can survive, that is good short-term politics; it is disastrous long-term statesmanship in terms of business, in terms of jobs, and in terms of the peace of America in the world.

And so, to all of you I say, thank you for coming to this conference. I know that many of you come to Washington many times for conferences and wonder if that trip was worthwhile. I can only say I believe yours is, because as we enter this new era of peace for America with all nations in the world, we must build on it, we must build a new structure. There must be new diplomacy, there must be the necessary military strength so that we can be the peacemakers in the world.

But we also need those communications, channels of communications which the businessmen, the businesswomen of America open through the areas of trade, and we also need that kind of communication between nations in the trading area which will raise the standard of living throughout the world so that all peoples and all nations will have a stake in the peace of the world.

That is a great goal. You are all working for it, and speaking for all of the American people, we thank American business and American labor for the role you have played and for the greater role I am sure you will play after this conference is concluded.

Note: The President spoke at 4: 24 p.m. in the East Room at the White House.

On the same day, the White House released an announcement of the establishment of the President's Export Council and the President's Interagency Committee on Export Expansion and of the designation of the Chairman and Vice Chairman of the Council and Chairman of the Committee. The announcement is printed in the Weekly Compilation of Presidential Documents (vol. 9, p. 1243).

Richard Nixon, Remarks at the Conclusion of a Conference on Export Expansion. Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project

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