THE WHITE HOUSE
Office of the Press Secretary
RADIO ADDRESS BY THE PRESIDENT TO THE NATION The Oval Office
10:06 A.M. EST
THE PRESIDENT: Good morning. This week I spoke with American workers and farmers who are succeeding in our competitive global economy. On Thursday, I went to Lexington, Kentucky, and visited the Lexmark factory, where they make computers, printers and keyboards for sale all over the world. Anybody who thinks our American workers can't compete and win should have gone there with me.
Yesterday, I spoke with farmers from Illinois, Missouri, Montana and North Carolina. They produce corn, soybeans, timber and wheat, and they raise cattle. Just like the workers in Lexington, these farmers are eager to export more products all across the world, including to our neighbors in Mexico.
The folks I spoke with on Thursday and Friday understand what's at stake in the debate about the North American Free Trade Agreement, or NAFTA for short. For them the debate is simple -- it's about paychecks, not politics.
In Lexington, I also met with workers from Monarch Tool and Manufacturing. Their sales in Mexico have grown dramatically over the last three years. Teddie Rae True, who works at Monarch, told me she supports NAFTA because she said without it, I might not have a job. A lot of what we do depends on foreign trade. Roberta Canady has worked at Lexmark for 16 years. She said she still wants more facts about NAFTA, but she knows that, and I quote her: "The bottom line is whether it will promote more jobs for the people of the United States. Let me assure Roberta Canady and all of you, NAFTA means more exports, and more exports means more jobs for Americans.
There's been so much fog surrounding this issue that it's time to shed some light. NAFTA is good for us because it will cut the tariffs on trade between the United States and Mexico. Tariffs are taxes that countries put on products from other countries. NAFTA will eventually cut these taxes down to zero. It will also reduce Mexican laws which now require some products made -- sold in Mexico to actually be made there.
Now, that makes a much bigger difference for the United States than for Mexican products that would be sold here. Let me tell you why. Right now, Mexico's tariffs on our products are twoand -a-half times higher than our tariffs on theirs. NAFTA will remove those barriers, opening up a growing market for our goods and services and creating hundreds of thousands of new jobs for our people.
The fact is that today Mexican consumers are already buying over $40 billion worth of American products. And if NAFTA passes, they'll buy even more. Seventy cents of every dollar that Mexico spends on foreign products are spent right here in the United States. And when Mexico takes down its tariff barriers, that means more sales and more jobs for our industries, from cars to computers.
Right now, Mexico puts a 20 percent tariff on cars and virtually requires that cars sold in Mexico be made there. With NAFTA those barriers will be lowered. That's why the big three auto companies predict that in just the first year after NAFTA, they could go from selling only 1,000 cars in Mexico to selling 60,000.
It's the same with computers, which also face a 20 percent tariff. Three years ago, by one estimate, Mexico bought 120,000 computers from us. Last year they bought 390,000. This year it's estimated they'll buy 600,000. And that's with a 20 percent tariff. When NAFTA lowers the tariff barrier, the United States will gain a 20 percent advantage over our competitors from Europe and Japan. And Mexico, with a population of nearly 90 million, could buy millions more of our computers, creating tens of thousands of new jobs here in our country.
For our country, for every wealthy country, the only way to create new jobs and to raise incomes is to export more products. For the past five years about half the growth in our economy has come from exports. And jobs related to exports pay 17 percent more than other jobs in the American economy.
That's why NAFTA is part of my overall strategy to sell our products all over the world at a time when our leading rivals are also expanding their own markets in their own backyard. Western Europe is becoming a giant trading bloc. Japan is expanding its investment in trade in much of Asia. And now with NAFTA we can create the biggest trading bloc in the world, starting with Canada and Mexico, and then expanding to the rest of Latin America. Many of the Latin American countries really want to buy more American products, to be a part of our trading bloc. They're just waiting to be asked and they're waiting to answer, depending what happens to NAFTA.
Given a fair chance, I know American workers can compete and win in our own hemisphere and throughout the world. Those who believe otherwise underestimate the American people. We still have the most productive workers in the world, and they've gotten more productive in the last 15 or 20 years.
On Tuesday night, Vice President Gore will debate a leading critic of NAFTA. The debate will be facts against fear -- the fear that low wages and lower cost of production in Mexico will lead to a massive flight of jobs down there. Well, if we don't pass NAFTA, that could still be true. The lower wages and the lower cost of production will still be there. But if we do pass it, it means dramatically increased sales of American products made right here in America. It reduces the incentive to move to Mexico to sell in the Mexican market. And remember the tariffs that we put on their products are already low.
So we have to face the choice of facts versus fear. When Americans have faced that choice in the past, they've always chosen honesty and hope. Ultimately this debate is a test of not only our purpose in the world but our own confidence in ourselves. I know the last several years have been tough on hard-working middle class Americans. I ran for President to change that, to give people health care security and security in their education and training, and security as family members and workers. But I also promise to challenge you to embrace the world economy, because we can't run away from these changes.
Will we hunker down and say, my goodness, we're going to be overcome by a trade agreement with Mexico, a country with an economy only five percent as big as ours; or are we going to reach out to the rest of the world and say we can compete and win again. My visit to Lexington, Kentucky and my talk with those farmers on the phone yesterday reminded me that Americans are hopeful and hard working. When the moment of decision comes, I believe ordinary working Americans will agree with every living President, every living Secretary of State, every living Secretary of the Treasury, every living Nobel Prize-winning economist, and over 40 of the 50 governors, that NAFTA means expanding markets. And we have to have expanding markets, not shrinking horizons. Our jobs and our children's jobs depend on it.
Thanks for listening.
END 10:12 A.M. EST