THE WHITE HOUSE
Office of the Press Secretary
REMARKS BY THE PRESIDENT AND PRIME MINISTER JEAN CHRETIEN IN EXCHANGE OF TOASTS
The State Floor
8:27 P.M. EDT
THE PRESIDENT: Prime Minister and Mrs. Chretien, Ambassador and Mrs. Chretien, distinguished Canadian guests and my fellow Americans. It has been a real honor for me to welcome the Prime Minister and Mrs. Chretien to Washington, and to do our best to return the warm hospitality that Hillary and I received in Ottawa two years ago.
The whole state visit has gone exactly has planned, except we didn't get to play golf. (Laughter.) Now, the last time the Prime Minister and I played, we played exactly to a tie. The press corps had a field day trying to figure out how long it took the ambassadors to negotiate that result. (Laughter.) But we wanted to give some truly symbolic, ego-overriding manifestation of the equal partnership between the United States and Canada.
From the start of his career in public life, and for those of you who were not here earlier today, Jean Chretien was elected to Parliament at the age of 29, exactly 34 years ago today. (Applause.) Throughout those years, he has brought passion and compassion to every endeavor. He has held almost every post in the Canadian government at one time or another.
As I said in Ottawa when I first read his resume, I wondered why he couldn't hold a job. (Laughter.) Now as Prime Minister, he seems to be doing impressively well at that, leading his nation's remarkable economic success, his deficit down to balance this year; the lowest interest rates in four decades, growth rates near the top of those of the industrialized nations.
Under his leadership, relations between our two nations are stronger and better than ever. Of course, close neighbors sometimes disagree. Family members sometimes disagree. But, united by democratic values and our long border and rich friendship, we've always found a way to work through those disagreements with patience and mutual respect.
Even back in the War of 1812 when, as Ambassador Chretien admitted tonight when I showed him the burn marks that are still on the White House from that war, our people were officially on opposite sides. Nonetheless, the residents of St. Stephen, New Brunswick, actually lent gunpowder to their neighbors across the river in Calais, Maine, so they could celebrate the 4th of July.
Our relationship works. We measure its merit in the difference it makes in the daily lives of Americans and Canadians. Today we've worked to strengthen our law enforcement cooperation to protect our most vulnerable citizens. We've taken new action to protect our environment, and the environment, especially, of the Great Lakes our two nations are blessed to share.
We've made it even simpler to cross the borders so neighbors can visit each other with greater ease, and traffic jams become a thing of the past. We've set our sights on new horizons in space. I thank the people of Canada for providing the special purpose dexterous manipulator, otherwise known as the Canada Hand -- (laughter) -- for the International Space Station. This 11-foot machine is so precise, it can pick up an egg without breaking it. And now, Mr. Prime Minister, if you could supply us sometime in the very near future a "Canada knee," I for one would be very grateful. (Laughter.)
The Canada Hand is practical, sophisticated, smart and strong. Therefore, it is a fitting symbol of the helping hand the people of Canada have always extended to the world. From the days you helped runaway slaves to freedom, to the battles we've fought together in Europe, Korea and the Persian Gulf in this century, to the hope your sons and daughters represent to the people of Bosnia and Haiti, Canada stands for the best of humanity, and every day Canada leads by example.
Prime Minister and Mrs. Chretien, we are proud to honor the great and good partnership between our nations. And let me also say on a personal note, I thank you for your friendship to Hillary and me and we applaud your own remarkable partnership as you celebrate your 40th wedding anniversary this year.
To you both, to your nation, to the people of Canada, long live our mutual friendship. Vive la Canada. (Applause.) I ask you to join me in a toast to the Prime Minister and Mrs. Chretien.
(A toast is offered.) (Applause.)
Mr. Prime Minister.
PRIME MINISTER CHRETIEN: Mr. President, Madame Clinton, distinguished guests. Aline and I were very pleased -- we are very pleased to be in Washington. We have been deeply touched by the warm reception we have received. In the world today, there is no relationship which is as strong and amicable as that between Canada and the United States.
Like any close friendship, it's not always an easy relationship, but it is based on solid, lasting bonds and shared experience. Our relationship is about common values of democracy, respect for human rights, free markets and peaceful development. Trade and commerce are at the center of our partnership. Every day, about $1 billion in trade crosses our border, making ours the largest trading relationship in the world.
You are our most important trading partner, and we are yours. You export more to Canada than you do to Japan and to all the European Union countries. We must continue our efforts to bring down trade barriers between ourselves and with other countries. Liberalized trade means jobs and growth. Trade brings prosperity, and with prosperity, people are more secure and their societies can grow and develop.
I want to salute you, Mr. President, for the role you are playing in promoting this vision, particularly in this hemisphere. Your upcoming trip to Latin America will give you an excellent opportunity to carry on this important work.
Of course, our shared goals go beyond our bilateral relationship and beyond trade. We had the opportunity this morning to review a broad range of international issues, from the enlargement of NATO and peacekeeping in Bosnia to global, environmental issues and the enhancement of world economic growth.
Mr. President, you call the United States the indispensable nation, and you are absolutely right. More than ever, we need a strong United States to provide leadership in the world. We need the USA to promote the international rule of law and to stiffen the backbone of our international institutions.
If the USA is the indispensable nation, I'd like to think of Canada as the value-added nation. (Laughter.) I am proud that Canada's influence in the world is often greater than the size our economy or military might suggests.
We also have a contribution to make to the international community -- a contribution that is different from yours, but important nonetheless. Canada's diversity, our tolerance, our experience in building consensus have shaped our approach to international affairs. That is why we have often been called to negotiating tables around the world where we can contribute actively to the search for peaceful solutions.
I believe that, with our value-added, there is a lot of room for Canada to work alongside the indispensable nation in the pursuit of our many shared goals. In fact, that is exactly what we are doing in our common efforts to bring peace and democracy to places such as Bosnia and Haiti, to expand free trade in the American, and to enlarge NATO to Eastern Europe.
(Speaking in French.)
Our friendship has deep historical roots. Tomorrow, I will lay a wreath at the Canadian Cross of Sacrifice in Arlington Cemetery in memory of American citizens and residents who enlisted in the Canadian forces and lost their lives in the First World War. More than 5,000 Americans fought bravely beside Canadian soldiers at the long and deadly battle of Vimy Ridge in France 80 years ago. On April 9th, 1917, where others had failed, the Canadian-led forces were able to take this critical ridge. This victory represented a coming of age for our relatively young nation.
As well as our shared history, our friendship is based on our commitment to explore new opportunities for the future. Our agreement to work together on the international space station, to which we will contribute the Canadian Hand, is just an example. And we are, Mr. President, working on the knee, too. (Laughter.) And I hope we'll be as successful. (Laughter.)
Mr. President, when I introduced you to the Parliament of Canada during your visit to Ottawa in 1995, I noted that among your predecessors who have addressed Parliament during your lifetime, all had one thing in common: they were all reelected for a second term. (Laughter.) Those that did not were not reelected. (Laughter and applause.)
So, I bet you are glad now that I've invited you -- (laughter) -- and you came, and you came to Canada -- to Ottawa. And in fact, Mr. President, I believe in reciprocity. (Laughter and applause.) You have continued the tradition, and now you will lead your country into the new millennium, strong and prosperous, facing the future with confidence.
Ladies and gentlemen, would you please join me in a toast to the remarkable friendship of Canada and the United States of America. May it continue to flourish into the 21st century.
Vive les Etats Unis d'Amerique. Vive la Canada. (A toast is offered.) (Applause.)
END 8:41 P.M.