THE WHITE HOUSE
Office of the Press Secretary
REMARKS BY THE PRESIDENT, SENATE MAJORITY LEADER GEORGE MITCHELL, SENATE MINORITY LEADER ROBERT DOLE , SPEAKER OF THE HOUSE TOM FOLEY ON THE GENERAL AGREEMENT ON TARIFFS AND TRADE VOTE The South Portico
7:54 P.M. EST
THE PRESIDENT: Thank you very much. Let me begin by expressing my thanks to all those who are here and to some who are not, beginning with Senator Mitchell and Senator Dole. I thank them for their strong leadership in the remarkable vote in the Senate tonight. I also want to thank Senator Packwood, who is here, and Senator Moynihan, who is not, for their fine work.
I thank Speaker Foley and Congressman Gibbons, Congressman Matsui. I'd also like to say a special word of thanks to Leader Michel and to Congressman Gingrich, who worked so hard on this. I thank Ambassador Kantor and Secretary Bentsen and Mr. Panetta, Mr. Rubin, and all of the others in the administration who worked so terribly hard to see this victory for America tonight -- a bipartisan victory that really, really gives our country the boost we need to keep moving forward toward the 21st century to create more high-wage jobs for the American people.
Many things have been said about the GATT in the last few days, and some of them not altogether favorable in some quarters. (Laughter.) But I was especially struck by what Senator Barbara Mikulski said during this debate. She said, and I quote: "I'm associated with the protectionist wing of the Democratic Party, but I'm going to go for GATT, because I'm absolutely convinced that the old ways are not working, that the world is changing, that a new economy is about to be born."
She is absolutely right, and the American people know it. According to a new survey, for the first time ever, a majority of our fellow countrymen and women see trade as an opportunity, not a threat. For middle class Americans who work hard and play by the rules, more trade and fair trade means more and better high-wage jobs for themselves and for their children. It will help us to build good lives and to restore not only jobs, but rising wages in America.
Just like the historic vote on NAFTA a year ago, this vote for GATT shows once again that our country is moving in the right direction, reaching out to the rest of the world and looking at the best interest of our own people. We're also going to be doing that again next week at the Summit of the Americas, pushing for open markets here and around the world, but especially in our hemisphere.
Let me close by saying that this vote was really a vote about the two greatest challenges we face: Our role in the world and what we're doing for our own people. We said loud and clear that America will continue to lead the world to a more prosperous and secure place after the Cold War. We also said loud and clear we're going to do what it takes to get our incomes growing and our jobs going in the right direction.
I urge everyone here to continue to work, to keep our country optimistic and hopeful and outward-looking, and brave as we march into the future. Let's make the GATT vote the first vote of a new era of cooperation. America's best days are still ahead of us.
I'd like now to ask Senator Mitchell to come up and make some remarks and thank him again, and Senator Dole, for their great cooperation and the stunning parity and depth of support among both Republicans and Democrats in the Senate tonight.
Senator Mitchell. (Applause.)
SENATOR MITCHELL: Forty-seven years ago, the United States led the nations of the world in creating the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade; an effort to bring order and fairness to trade among nations. It was a significant step, but limited. It did not cover agricultural or many other products and services. Since then, on six different occasions, the world has taken steps to expand and improve those rules.
When GATT was created, the United States was led into the future by a fighting President named Truman. Now, a half century later, the United States is led by another fighting President, Bill Clinton, who culminated seven years of effort, begun and continued by Republican presidents, with a successful negotiation of an agreement that is good for America and the world.
Many people contributed to it. They can't all be mentioned; but certainly, Ambassador Kantor deserves special recognition. (Applause.)
Tonight, 76 percent of Democrats in the Senate, and 76 percent of Republicans in the Senate combined in a remarkable, even mathematically precise action of bipartisanship to send a signal to the world. And in my view, this is what the vote tonight said: America is still the leader in the world and the American worker is the most productive worker in the world. We do not fear competition; we welcome it. We do not shrink from the future; we welcome that.
In the 21st century, the third century of American history, the United States will still be the world leader, and American workers will still be the most productive workers in the world.
To my colleague, Senator Dole, and all of our other friends and colleagues here: thank you for your effort. It was a pleasure to work with you and a pleasure to savor this success -- for us, but more importantly, for future generations of Americans. Thank you very much. (Applause.)
THE PRESIDENT: Before I introduce Senator Dole, I want to make two other brief acknowledgements. First of all, I apologize for my failure to introduce Congressman David Dreier who did so much on the Republican side to help us pass this. Thank you very much. (Applause.) He and Congressman Kolbe were pivotal to our success in NAFTA last year, and I thank him for his leadership on GATT.
The second thing I'd like to do is to say how much I think we all should express our appreciation to the teams who started work on GATT under Presidents Reagan and Bush, and I would like to thank them for their support of this agreement, as well as President Carter and President, Ford who was making phone calls right up until the vote today; I thank him especially for his efforts.
And now I'd like to ask Senator Dole to come up here and explain to us how it really was democracy in action and everybody's free will that produced exactly 76 percent of the votes from both parties for this. (Laughter.)
SENATOR DOLE: Mr. President, thank you very much. And I want to underscore what you have said and what Senator Mitchell has said.
I think, first of all, without the proper preparation, we wouldn't have gotten this far. So I think thanks first should go to Lloyd Bentsen and to Mickey Kantor and to Bob Rubin and Leon Panetta and others who have worked with this. I spent a lot of time with Mickey Kantor -- probably more than he ever wanted to spend -- but it may have worked. And so I appreciate very much his efforts; and also want to thank Pat Moynihan, the Chairman of our Finance Committee, did an outstanding job in the committee; and my good friend, Bob Packwood. I told Bob today I received a fax from a pretty well-know American that said that his statement about GATT was brilliant; he explained this so it could be understood.
And I listened to much of the debate today and talked to many of my colleagues; and, Mr. President, I think it goes without saying that this is bipartisanship. This was not about sovereignty. This was not about some new world order. This was about jobs and opportunities for Americans -- American workers, American families, those making $20,000, $25,000, $30,000 a year. It was all about trade, all about the future, all about America, and all about our place in the world. And as Senator Mitchell said, we waited about eight years, three administrations, for this moment. And I can't think of a better way to end the day, Mr. President, than to give you a copy of the final passage vote which shows, as has already been stated, 76 percent of the Democrats and 76 percent of the Republicans voted yea on final passage, and the vote was 76 to 24. Thank you, Mr. President. (Applause.)
THE PRESIDENT: That's great. Thank you. Thank you.
I'd like to give last word to Speaker Foley. Certainly, his last vote as the Speaker was one of the most momentous of his illustrious career. We are very grateful for his leadership on so many things, but especially for his leadership on so many things, but especially for his leadership on GATT.
Mr. Speaker. (Applause.)
SPEAKER FOLEY: Thank you very much, Mr. President. I am in what I would say is "the Amen Corner" here tonight. I want to say, as Senator Mitchell and Senator Dole have said before me, that this is a credit to you and to your administration, your leadership, the leadership of President Bush and President Reagan before you, and the particular leadership of Mickey Kantor and Secretary Bentsen, Bob Rubin and Leon Panetta, in your administration. And I take a great satisfaction that this last vote of the 103rd Congress was a bipartisan vote in both chambers. Tonight's splendid vote in the Senate deserves the warmest congratulations to Senator Mitchell, Senator Dole, Senator Packwood and Senator Moynihan, and all the other Senators.
But I would like to recall that two days ago, the House of Representatives, by a vote of 288 to 146, almost a 2 to 1 vote, passed GATT with strong majorities in both parties. And I think, to express our appreciation tonight to Chairman Gibbons and to Bob Matsui, to David Dreier, and all the others on both sides of the aisle to work so hard to make that a reality as well.
Finally, this is a moment of reassertion of American leadership in the world. Not only is this a wonderful conclusion to this Congress, but I must think for a moment, the tragedy that would have occurred if either the House or the Senate had rejected this treaty. It would have been a rejection of American leadership. It would have been a rejection of our confidence in the future. And as we did, with your leadership, Mr. President, in the Congress by this bipartisan vote, pass the GATT agreement so overwhelmingly. We have reasserted American leadership, and we have expressed our confidence in our workers, in the management of our industries, in our farmers, and all sectors of the American economy, and the American confidence in the future. And GATT represents that, I think, as much as it represents anything. It marks this Congress, by the way, somewhat much criticized in recent days and weeks, as I think the most important Congress and trade liberalization in decades.
So I leave my responsibility with great satisfaction that the last vote in the House and the Senate was the vote on GATT, a vote for the future, a vote of confidence in America and a vote of hope for the expanded wealth and opportunity, not only in this country, but throughout the world.
Thank you very much. (Applause.)
END8:07 P.M. EST