Jimmy Carter photo

Special Representative for Trade Negotiations Remarks at the Swearing In of Reubin O'D. Askew.

October 02, 1979

THE PRESIDENT. Well, after 3 years of effort, I have finally gotten Reubin Askew to join my Cabinet. Immediately after the election, almost 3 years ago, Governor Askew was one of the first people I called, to ask if he would join my Cabinet in almost any capacity. He said he had an obligation to the people of Florida, and he would finish out his term of office. But I've called on him many times in the meantime to help me with difficult assignments, and he's always responded enthusiastically and well.

There are great men and women who have served as Governors and who still serve in those capacities, but I think it's generally accepted among those who have known Reubin Askew that he is one of the leaders among those leaders. He was the chairman of the National Governors' Conference, as it was known then, and set a standard of achievement and leadership and inspiration which was an example to us all, a degree of quietness, modesty, personal integrity that provided a basis for others to trust him and to give him a deserved degree of high admiration. He comes to take on a very important responsibility.

When I became President and first met with the leaders of the other Western nations, they immediately told me that the Tokyo Round of the Multilateral Trade Negotiations was dead and it was beyond resurrection. I thought for a while, and then I finally thought of Bob Strauss, because I knew that he could bring something back to life. And he undertook that responsibility and resurrected this tremendous effort successfully and concluded it.

And then the Congress passed this year the Trade Agreements Act, which is the most far-reaching and comprehensive trade act ever passed in this country. I thank both Bob Strauss and Al McDonald and Alan Wolff 1 and others who worked with him to bring that about. I thank the Members of Congress, represented by Al Ullman, chairman of the Ways and Means Committee, who were responsible, in face of great difficulty, in getting this bill passed almost unanimously. It was a tremendous demonstration of harmony and cooperation and a searching for a noble goal, in spite of the most extreme difficulties.

1Alonzo L. McDonald, Jr., Assistant to the President and former Deputy Special Representative for Trade Negotiations, and Alan W. Wolff, Deputy Special Representative for Trade Negotiations.

Now, to administer this act will require somebody with a knowledge of statesmanship and experience and superb leadership qualities, and that's why I've asked Reubin Askew to take on this job. I think he has the background for it.

As a Governor, in addition to the achievements which I've already outlined so briefly, he made trade missions to Europe, to the Far East, and to South America to bring into his own State the benefits to be derived from international trade. He did this successfully.

He's a man who has headed up the selection committee to help me choose every Ambassador whom I've appointed since I've been President. In doing this, he had not only to study the character and the qualifications of all those who sought to be or were willing to be Ambassadors, but he also had to learn the needs of individual countries. He became an avid student of even the most remote part of the world. So, he's learned through that process, long months of unpublicized hard work, about the world and what it is now, an awareness of what it can be in the future.

He's able to span chasms that sometimes exist between people, and his intense devotion to duty and his superb knowledge of our country and his ability to bring disparate groups together in a spirit of common purpose will stand our Nation in good stead. I'm very grateful to Reubin for being willing to do this.

One of his first assignments will be to alleviate the problem of Mexican tomatoes— [laughter] —competing with Florida tomatoes. [Laughter] I see Bob Strauss smiling broadly, and we've almost taken the smile off Reubin Askew's face. But this is one among many very detailed but very important issues which can serve to bind our Nation together very closely with other nations, and I'm deeply grateful for Reubin Askew's willingness to take on this assignment.

And now Judge Joseph Hatchett, newly appointed to the Court of Appeals, Federal Court of Appeals, will administer the oath of office, while my friend, Donna Lou, holds the Bible for Reubin Askew.

Judge Hatchett.

[At this point, Judge Joseph W. Hatchett of the Fifth Circuit administered the oath of office.]

AMBASSADOR ASKEW. Mr. President, Mrs. Carter, distinguished guests, my family, and friends:

This is a happy day for me, to say the least. Public service is a high calling, and I'm truly happy that I've been called once again.

I want to begin my brief remarks by thanking President Carter for giving me this opportunity to serve the people of the United States of America in this challenging assignment and to the United States Senate for its confirmation.

I want to thank my predecessor, my very dear friend, Ambassador Robert Strauss, for all that he's meant to me over these years and for all he's done and continues to do for our country. I think the Almighty made only one Bob Strauss, and I'm sure that makes some people glad and other people sad. [Laughter]

In addition, I want to thank all the members of the STR staff for their capable assistance during these past several weeks in what promises, I believe, to be a smooth and successful transition; to the Members of the Congress and their staffs for their continued counsel and encouragement and support, for I am not unmindful that I also work for them as well; to the Governors of this Nation—two of my very closest friends, Governor Busbee, who rearranged his schedule from the Southern Governors' Conference to come up here, to Governor Milliken, who has been one of my very closest friends for many years—and for the role that the national Governors are playing and continue to play in this vital area; and also again to the President for the privilege of working with the other members of his Cabinet, almost all of whom I know very well and look forward very much to working with, and their staffs.

I'm grateful, too, for the support I've received and the experiences I've shared with many of you here today, for, Mr. President, I stand here with a great deal of emotion, because I see so many good friends in this audience, for some of you have traveled long distances at some sacrifice just to be with me and my family. I know that you know that I appreciate it. Seeing your faces once again inspires many fond memories. Your friendship and support through the years has made it possible for me to stand here today. More important, your hard work and your loyalty to the dreams we've shared together have led to many accomplishments and have made it possible for me to dream now of still greater accomplishments in the service of this Nation we all love so much.

I'm grateful also to my family—to my mother and mother-in-law, who were not able to be here today, to my brother and sisters, to my children, Angela and Kevin, but most of all to my wife, Donna Lou, who knows only too well the many sacrifices that a life of public service demands, for this is an area that I have in common with you, Mr. President, for we're both indeed fortunate to be given the privilege to share our lives with two people like Rosalynn and Donna Lou.

And above all I'm grateful to my Creator for favoring me with such friends and such a family, and the privilege to live in such a nation, and with this and all the many opportunities I've had to help my fellow man. And I pray for His continued guidance in fulfilling the responsibilities I assume today.

Those responsibilities are not small by any means. More and more we are coming to realize the crucial importance of international trade to the economy and to the future of the United States and, yes, to the world.

With the personal leadership of President Carter and despite imposing obstacles-for when he says that the MTN was all but considered dead when he took over as President, I'm telling you he is exactly right. Bob Strauss knows he's right. Bob Strauss and his group visited seven capitals in 2 days, even to the point of getting Prime Ministers to come to airports, trying to emphasize the importance of doing this, and doing this in a meaningful way, and of the personal commitment of the President of the United States.

And when he talked to me about assuming this responsibility, it was a high priority that he placed in this area, for he stated time and time again that one of his highest legislative priorities was the passage of the trade agreements. And frankly, it was a foresight initiative of the Congress of the United States and preparing it in such a way that it could take place like it did.

So, I feel that I have the privilege to come here in a success story. And I really do, frankly, get a little disturbed that it's not better understood of what exactly this success story can mean and will mean to the United States. And without the tenacity of Jimmy Carter and Robert Strauss it simply would not have happened.

This accomplishment is a tribute to this country, for what you have seen—you have seen a Congress that, over the years, has worked so hard in this area. You saw a legislative branch of government and an executive branch of government come together, joining the private sector in what I believe is really an example of how this country should and can work. For as I told the Trade Advisory Committee a few moments ago, the single biggest thing that sticks out in my mind, over this whole effort, has been the meaningful input of the private sector of this country. And so, I want to commit myself, not only to the Congress but to the private sector of this country, that we're going to continue this relationship. And as the President's Trade Representative, we're going to do our very best to keep faith with those who labored so hard to make it possible.

But for all that we know of these recent accomplishments, however impressive, we know that they're only the beginning, they're only the prelude to the challenges which await—challenges which compel an enlightened policy, dedicated to fair trade in every expanding global marketplace. We have such a policy in this administration.

That policy may be summarized as follows: The United States must be more ambitious, more aggressive, more assertive, more imaginative, and more resourceful in matters related to international trade. We must win for the people of this Nation a larger share of the overall world marketplace for goods and services, even as we retain our commitment to fostering increased trading opportunities for all the nations.

Stop and think of history, my friends. Where at any point in history has a nation done a better job of helping others than what this country did in the Marshall plan for the European Community and what it did for Japan? And yet for all that it's done to them in improving their situation to the point of making it difficult, sometimes, competitively on the marketplace, the fact of the matter is, had we not none it, do you realize where we would be?

And so, we have seen over this history of tune the leadership of the United States of America. And when you hear people talking about problems—while every person, I'm sure, is proud of their country-what other place in the world would you rather live, and what other person has tried harder to do right by this world and by its own people than has the United States of America? For it's been Jimmy Carter who has understood what these agreements will mean in terms of jobs for our people, in terms of a standard of living, yes, in terms of competition.

This country should not ever fear fair competition, because we also want to be fair to the consumers in order to promote the best possible price for our people. It will lead to broader choices for them. It will lead to an easing of inflation, through a more favorable balance of trade. It could lead as well to a lessening of tensions among nations, as we come to depend more and more on one another in a very interdependent world.

And so here again, we must learn in this area, when people expect us as the United States of America, as one country, to so manipulate our own economy that we have no problems, they do not understand the free enterprise system. The free enterprise system anticipates there would be good times and bad times. If government tries to make every bad time a good time, the system breaks down. And yet, it has been this system of free enterprise, through private ownership of property, that 'has brought the Western World to the standard of living that it now enjoys. And that's what we're recommitting ourselves, under the President of the United States, in this whole area of trade.

This policy requires fair international trading rules, rules which can be assured through timely implementation, a scrupulous enforcement of the new agreements of the Tokyo Round. And I want to tell you, the day is past when we can afford to make sure that we always assume our obligations without asserting our rights. And I want to tell you, one of the first things the President of the United States told me is that whatever we told the people of this country that was in it for them, to the extent that it presented balanced trade throughout the world, that's what my job was. And that's what I'm committed to do.

And one of the unique things about this area that has pleased me so much has been the very nonpartisan approach of this whole issue. I want to tell you, if there's one area that must remain nonpartisan, it's this area. And I want to give tribute to the minority in both Houses of this Congress for the role that they have played in making it possible, because sometimes they themselves have set a standard for us to try to follow. So, it's important not only that the Congress and the Executive work together; it's important also that we continue a nonpartisan effort together with the private sector.

The policy of which I speak requires an institutional response in furthering the trade interests of our country, a goal which can be attained by the approval of the trade reorganization plan submitted to the Congress by the President. This policy requires continued cooperation among the agencies and branches of government and, in addition, continued cooperation between government, business, and agriculture and labor in fashioning a coherent and creative presence for the United States in the world marketplace. And this policy requires, as well, the avoidance of unnecessary impediments to increased exportation of American goods and services to other nations of the world.

In closing, let me say, crucial to this achievement of the important ends of our trade policy is a substantial increase in American exports. We must encourage exports in every appropriate way, and this administration is committed to a continuing review in all of those that some might classify as export disincentives. To the extent possible, we have to free up the American business man and woman to compete in the foreign marketplace. We must marshal every ounce of American ingenuity, every device of American technology, and every reserve of American enterprise in a renewed effort to sell American skills, American products around this world. We must make America the forceful competitor it should be in the world marketplace.

As I assume this responsibility, I'm reassured, particularly by the key leadership in both the majority and the minority in the Congress and key positions, as well as the key Cabinet members, for I've come to know them, in particular to know Cy Vance and Warren Christopher, who's acting in his place now as the acting Secretary of State. There's no finer person in American Government than Cyrus Vance. I've worked closely with him, and worked with him in the dedication of the people in that Department, with the people in Treasury, the people in Commerce, as you move to every facet of American Government.

But I want to tell them, parenthetically, that I come as a trade advocate—and which I intend to assert fully to every extent possible, the trade interest of the United States as contained in that legislation-but will work with them to make sure that all that we do has a constructive result and effect upon this country.

I believe in the policy of this administration. I believe in the better life and the lasting prosperity this Nation can get under it. I look forward to the months ahead.

I thank you again, Mr. President. I value our continued personal relationship, because I think you know that I feel that you've done an outstanding job, Mr. President. And I am proud to become part of your Cabinet and to join you as you continue to make this Nation secure and an even better place for us to live and our children's children.

Thank you.

The President has a pressing commitment that he has to immediately return to his office. But I would like the privilege, since so many of you have come from so far away, for Donna Lou and I to stand down the halls, so I might personally have a chance to say hello to each one of you.

Note: The President spoke at 2:35 p.m. in the East Room at the White House.

Jimmy Carter, Special Representative for Trade Negotiations Remarks at the Swearing In of Reubin O'D. Askew. Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project https://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/node/248641

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