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Office of the Press Secretary

For Immediate Release January 9, 1999
                             TO THE NATION    
                            Solidarity House
                            Detroit, Michigan          

THE PRESIDENT: Good morning. I'm speaking to you today from Solidarity House in Detroit, Michigan, where, for more than half a century, the members of the United Auto Workers have led the fight to improve the lives of America's working families. I've come to America's industrial heartland to talk about what we must do to strengthen our workers and manufacturers for the 21st century.

Over the past six years, we've created the longest peacetime economic expansion in American history, with 17.7 million new jobs; the lowest combined unemployment and inflation rate in more than 30 years; the highest home ownership ever. Wages are going up at all income levels, and finally, the rising tide of our economy is lifting all boats.

But today, and in the years to come, America's prosperity depends upon the world's prosperity. In our new global economy, a financial crisis half a world away can be felt on factory floors here at home. For more than a year, a recession in other countries has forced them to cut imports of our goods -- from cars to computers to jumbo jets -- and to boost exports of their own products to our shores. After years of double-digit growth, U.S. manufacturing exports have slowed, and that's led to thousands of layoffs. These developments cause no small amount of concern.

With millions of American jobs depending on foreign exports, we must help manufacturers find new markets, and attract new customers for our goods overseas. That's why my next balanced budget will include a $108 million initiative to spur nearly $2 billion in additional U.S. exports, which will sustain or create 16,000 high-wage American manufacturing jobs.

We'll begin by boosting our support for our Import-Export Bank, which currently finances 10 percent of all U.S. capital equipment exports. For every dollar it spends, the bank generates some $16 in American exports. By expanding credit, we can foster billions of dollars in exports that might have been deferred or canceled due to this financial crisis. We'll also expand the Department of Commerce's efforts to help small exporters to sell their goods in emerging markets such as China, Latin America and Africa. And we'll help developing countries establish a legal and regulatory infrastructure to make it easier for our firms to export.

Most of all, we must ensure that the new global economy works for working people. Working families around the world must be able to exercise core labor rights; benefit from legal standards for fair pay and reasonable hours and safe working conditions; and improve their lives through unions, just as generations of Americans have done through the UAW. The United States supports the International Labor Organization in its efforts to advance core labor rights -- rights that are crucial to building a strong and stable global economy.

That's why, in my balanced budget, America will provide, for the first time ever, up to $25 million to create a new arm of the International Labor Organization, to work with developing countries to put in place basic labor protections, safe workplaces, and the right to organize, so that workers everywhere can enjoy the advantages of a strong social safety net. We hope all countries will adopt and enforce the ILO's core labor standards and that developing countries will accept the unique assistance of the ILO. And I encourage other nations to join us in helping the International Labor Organization, and insisting that trade and investment agreements reflect these core principles.

Today, in the rooms and hallways of Solidarity House, you still can hear the echoes of the voices of the men and women whose sweat, energy and vision lifted millions into our middle class and transformed America into the world's greatest force for peace, prosperity and freedom. With them as our guide and our inspiration, we can, and we will, harness the power of our new global economy to build a bright future for all our people in the 21st century.

Thanks for listening.