THE WHITE HOUSE
Office of the Press Secretary
REMARKS BY PRESIDENT CLINTON, MEXICAN PRESIDENT ZEDILLO AT OAS LUNCH Hall of Americas Organization of American States Washington, DC
12:13 P.M. EDT
PRESIDENT CLINTON: Thank you. Thank you so much, Mr. Vice President, for the introduction and your leadership in these important endeavors. President Zedillo, Secretary General Gaviria, World Bank President Wolfensohn, IMF Director Camdessus, President Iglesias, members of the United States and American Cabinets, Ambassador Babbitt and the other OAS ambassadors; to the very important members of our business communities in the United States and throughout Latin America; to all of our distinguished guests:
Just nine months ago I had the honor of hosting all the democratically-elected leaders in our hemisphere at the Summit of the Americas in Miami. Together we laid out a bold and broad vision for the future of the region we all share. We imagined a community of nations committed to freedom and prosperity. And we set out a plan of action to realize that vision -- to create a free trade area throughout our hemisphere, to strengthen the remarkable trend toward democracy, to improve the quality of life for all our people.
What all of us in Miami recognized is that increasingly our values and our interests coincide. Our futures are joined. As each of us prospers, all of us benefit.
For 45 years, the Organization for American States has worked tirelessly to strengthen the ties that bind us together. Now, its members have challenged us to implement many of the summit's initiatives, especially in the area of democracy and human rights. And in turn, we have asked the OAS to help turn our goal of a free trade area of the Americas into a concrete reality.
Under Secretary Gaviria's dynamic guidance, I am confident the OAS will meet the responsibilities of its mandate and help to build a new era of democratic progress throughout the Americas.
Nowhere is the potential for progress clearer than in our relationship with Mexico. The stronger our trade, the greater the well-being of all of our people. The deeper our cooperation, the better we will be able to fight together our common problems like drugs and crime and pollution. The more effective our partnership, the stronger an example we will be able to set for all the nations of our hemisphere.
That's why when the peso collapsed, the United States stepped forward. The international support package we assembled, with the IMF, the World Bank, the Inter-American Development Bank, helped Mexico to get back on the path of stability and growth. It also protected hundreds of thousands of American jobs, and it prevented the crisis from spreading throughout our region and, indeed, to other emerging markets throughout the world. To put it mildly, the action the United States took was not popular here at home at the time it was taken. But it was the right thing to do. (Applause.)
In the months since the crisis, Mexico has demonstrated more strongly than ever that it is not only our neighbor, it is a very good neighbor. The Mexican people, led by President Zedillo, have courageously stayed on the road to reform.
Mr. President, the tough steps you took required courage and the ability to convince the Mexican people of the need for short-term pain in return for long-term gain. But now your resolve is paying off. Mexico has turned the corner toward recovery. And all of your partners in your region applaud your leadership and your success and the basic character and vision of the people of Mexico who have supported your direction. (Applause.)
During his visit to Washington, President Zedillo and I discussed how we can move our partnership forward, not only to benefit our two nations, but the entire hemisphere. By spreading the success of the NAFTA, leading the fight against crime and corruption and drugs, clearing our air and cleaning our water, modernizing our educational systems for the 21st century, we hope to inspire the efforts of our neighbors throughout the Americas.
All of us in the Americas have an extraordinary opportunity. If we work together, we can build a future where our borders serve as bridges; where open societies and open markets flourish; where ordinary citizens, their families and their communities see the benefits of a free-market economy without being swept away by its excesses; where our horizons know no limits and we prove the promise of our common commitment to democracy and human dignity.
If we achieve that vision, it will be thanks in no small measure to the steady hand and the clear-sightedness of my friend and partner, who is here, the distinguished President of Mexico, President Zedillo.
Thank you, Mr. President. Thank you, ladies and gentlemen. (Applause.)
PRESIDENT ZEDILLO: Your excellency, President William Clinton, President of the United States of America; excellency, Vice President Al Gore, Vice President of the United States of America; Mr. Gaviria, Secretary General of the Organization of American States; distinguished members of the Cabinet of President Clinton; distinguished members of the Congress; distinguished Michel Camdessus, Director General of the International Monetary Fund; distinguished James Wolfensohn, President of the World Bank; distinguished Enrique Iglesias, President of the Inter-American Development Bank; ladies and gentlemen:
I would like to thank President William Clinton for hosting this lunch at the seat of the Organization of the American States.
Like never before, today our nations present favorable conditions, conducive to the creation of a hemispheric trade alliance from Alaska to Tierra del Fuego. That is why Mexico fully backs the initiative adopted by the heads of state at the Miami Summit which will provide an impulse for growth in each nation and for development throughout the continent. That is why Mexico fully agrees with the goal expressed by President Clinton of completing this initiative before the end of the year 2005. That is also why as Mexicans we have the firm conviction that the OAS is called upon to contribute fully to this promising task.
Over the past few months, the trade agreements Mexico has entered into, especially NAFTA, have significantly supported our efforts to accomplish economic recovery, grow in a sound and sustained manner with jobs and opportunities. Aerodynamic exchanges have preserved thousands of jobs, sustained production in a considerable number of economic sectors, and some activities show clear signs of recovery.
In our experience and in the experience of many other nations, free trade has proven once again to be a factor of utmost importance in promoting economic growth and the creation of better jobs. Economic growth and well-paid jobs are the best answer to poverty and to the lack of opportunity, and will enable us to make the most of our human resources and prevent people from feeling the need to leave their place of origin. This is my country's target. We are joining efforts to set sound foundations for growth, increased employment and additional exchanges.
We have the backing of a solid program and a determined nation. We have also had the firm and timely support of our trade partners, especially from the United States government and the international financial organizations and the multilateral organizations that we belong to represented here.
Today, I would like reiterate Mexico's acknowledgement of President Clinton's international leadership, courage, commitment and perseverance. This is something that Mexico, the Mexican people, and the Mexican government will always recognize. (Applause.)
I would also like to take this time to acknowledge the great effort and vision displayed by Michel Camdessus in making it possible for the IMF to act quickly under the circumstances. In the past month, this has made it possible for us to establish a new working relationship with the World Bank. And this has been thanks to the efforts of Mr. Wolfensohn, who has made it possible as well to carry out programs for the development of Mexico. I would also like to acknowledge the work of Enrique Iglesias from the IDB.
This financial hardship experienced by Mexico in past months and the growing interdependence between national economies has drawn global attention to multilateral financial organizations. Despite the fact that the multilateral organizations responded efficiently in the face of the Mexican financial crisis, we know that their current capability to deal with emergencies that pose a threat to the stability of the international financial system is limited.
Thus, we must strengthen them and ensure their capacity to respond with flexibility and on a timely basis. We must appropriately capitalize them and improve their systems for detecting potential problems on time. We must propose to analyze this matter that is already beginning to be addressed in forums such as the recent meetings of the G-7 and the annual meetings of multilateral organizations.
The development of the international financial markets and the speed of the transactions, thanks to technological breakthroughs, must be taken into consideration in the design of our policies and in increasing coordination and cooperation. In this regard, in our economic policy it is paramount to promote domestic savings. Domestic savings must be the mail source of financing for development. The more domestic savings, the more investment and jobs. Furthermore, domestic savings make it possible to make more productive use of external resources and, thus, minimize risk.
These are the lessons which will make us stronger for the future. But perhaps the most important lesson of all is that there is no turning back. We must focus our efforts on the future. We cannot be overcome by the fear of living and working in a more open and interdependent world. We cannot fall into the nostalgic trap that other have fallen into by mistaking security for isolationism, mistaking their own prosperity for building barriers to others, and mistaking progress for protectionism.
We must all accept that that walled-up world is a thing of the past. We must accept that today's world, and more importantly, the world our children will live in in the 21st century, is an open world filled with great challenges and great opportunities.
Our greatest challenge is to make the most of the proximity offered by free trade, instant communication and increased flows of capital, goods and services. Our greatest opportunity is to act with an open mind and firm determination, to base our development on the justice of our nations and the prosperity of our hemisphere.
This is the last time I'll be meeting with you, Mr. Clinton, on this state visit. I would like to sincerely thank you, Mr. President, for your hospitality and the cordiality we have received here in Washington, especially in the White House. The respect and kindness we have received is proof of our firm ties and friendship of the new understanding.
I would like to say, Mr. President, that you can rest assured that this visit not only makes our ties of friendship closer, but will also be the basis of prosperity between our two nations. Thank you. (Applause.)
END 1:15 P.M. EDT