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Office of the Press Secretary

For Immediate Release November 19, 1994
                             TO THE NATION

                           The Roosevelt Room

10:06 A.M. EST

THE VICE PRESIDENT: Good morning. President Clinton is on his way back to the White House after his successful trade and jobs mission to Asia, and he asked me to fill in this morning.

In 10 days Congress will cast a critical vote for U.S. economic growth and global leadership. The vote is on the GATT, the largest, most comprehensive trade agreement in history. It marks the culmination of eight years of work by the Reagan, Bush and Clinton administrations.

With GATT, 123 nations will reduce trade barriers and follow smarter and fairer rules of trade. GATT contains the biggest tax cut in history, a record $744 billion reduction in tariffs, which will lower prices for consumers and spark economic growth around the globe and, most importantly, here at home.

With GATT, American farmers will sell rice for the first time to Japan and Korea on a regular basis. U.S. farmers can compete with Europe and not be blocked by unfair subsidies. With GATT, American manufacturers of computers will be better able to sell their products around the globe. New rules will protect American developers of software from illegal piracy. With GATT, American architectural firms, engineering and construction firms will be able to sell their services around the globe.

We need GATT. Today, over 10 million Americans owe their jobs to exports. By expanding exports we can create more of those jobs which, on average, pay 13 percent more than nonexport related jobs. GATT will pump $100 to $200 billion into the U.S. economy each and every year after the agreement is fully implemented. GATT will mean higher standards of living and less regulation for business.

That's why GATT has drawn bipartisan support from farmers, businesses and consumer groups. Former presidents support it, as do the former secretaries of state, the former trade representatives and 40 percent of the nation's governors, already.

Democrats in Congress, like Pat Moynihan and Dick Gephardt; and Republicans, like Bob Packwood and Newt Gingrich, agree that we need GATT this year.

Yet, some would now like to delay the vote on GATT. It's hard to imagine, after eight years they want to delay an agreement that creates hundreds of thousands of new jobs here in the United States, and expands economic opportunity. What they're really saying, these opponents, is that GATT ought to be defeated. I believe they're very wrong. Some of the concerns of critics focus on the charge that GATT would somehow limit U.S. sovereignty.

Let me briefly address those concerns. GATT simply does not infringe on the sovereignty of the United States in any way. GATT does not force us to change any laws that we don't want to change. GATT will not require the United States to adopt lower international food safety standards or force us to accept any food imports that we consider to be unsafe. Those are myths. States can maintain whatever food safety standards they want, even if they're stricter than the federal government's standards.

Foreign countries cannot outvote the United States in the World Trade Organization, either, which will administer the agreement. This WTO will operate by consensus. That means that no change in the rules will apply to us unless we agree to the change. And you can bet that the world's largest economy is going to have a lot of say, as we always have.

There is one change, a change for the better. No longer will countries that engage in unfair trade practices be able to ignore rulings against them. In the past, they could block exports of American apples, for example, by always changing their mind over which pesticides are allowed. They could block American exports of fish by expanding import regulations in their countries, which result in the fish rotting before it can enter the market.

At Congress' request, we negotiated a system for forcing other countries to live up to their international trade obligations. Make no mistake, this is an historic vote. By approving GATT, Congress will send a message that the United States is not going to retreat from our responsibilities in the world. For nearly half a century, the United States has led the world in tearing down barriers to trade. We did not want to see the world repeat the mistakes of the 1930s, when countries around the globe hid behind walls of protection, worsening the global depression and leading to the second world war.

The idea we offered the world has been proven by history. Allowing a free flow of goods, services, and, ultimately, ideas fosters prosperity, raises standards of living and bolsters democracy.

This week we took another step on this path with the agreement to create free trade in Asia by the year 2020. Later this year President Clinton will bring the same message of growth and trade to the nations of this hemisphere at the Summit of the Americas. GATT is the foundation for these other efforts, however. GATT should be approved solely for its economic benefits, but it's also critical to U.S. leadership.

By approving the GATT agreement, Congress will ensure that the United States continues on the right path of engagement in the world, and that our workers and businesses can reap the benefits in the global economy.

Thanks for listening.

END 10:11 A.M. EST