|Secretary of State Madeleine K. Albright
Remarks to The Conference Board
New York, New York, October 14, 1999
As released by the Office of the Spokesman
U.S. Department of State
As Prepared for Delivery
SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: Thank you, Dick [Shoemate]. I'm pleased to join the long line of prominent Americans to address the Conference Board. Like many of them, I come bearing good news.
My good news is two-fold. First, America's economy remains remarkably robust -- sustaining growth, controlling inflation, creating jobs. Second, I am not Bill Clinton or Alan Greenspan, so nothing I say to you tonight can do very much to foul that up.
I wanted to welcome you this evening and highlight just a few of the complementary goals and efforts of American foreign policy and American business. Because I value our partnership with you very much. And its importance is growing.
We share a clear interest, for example, in building a strong and resilient global economy. So we have worked to reduce the risk of renewed international financial crises by helping foreign governments make critical reforms; by urging key economies in Asia and Europe to adopt more pro-growth policies; and by working to adapt and strengthen the international financial architecture.
With trade accounting for a third of our growth during this record-setting expansion, we also share an interest in creating an open and broad-based world trading system. And in ensuring that U.S. businesses and workers have a level playing field on which to compete.
So we have worked through APEC and other regional organizations to strengthen markets and deepen legal, regulatory and financial-sector reforms.
We have strived to ensure that NAFTA remains both an engine of growth and a spur to rising standards of living throughout the continent.
And looking to the upcoming WTO Ministerial, we have been preparing the ground in Washington and a host of foreign capitals for success in Seattle. I personally have pushed hard for other countries to join us in supporting a new broad-based round to open markets in agriculture, services, and industrial goods -- and to enhance transparency in government procurement and in the WTO as an institution.
Chinese officials have just recently begun to re-engage with us on the matter of WTO accession. If we can conclude a sound agreement on commercially viable terms, the support of the American business community will be crucial to winning congressional approval for Normal Trade Relations. Drawing China into a rule-based world trading system would be a major stride forward not only economically, but for our larger enterprise of bringing the world closer together around basic principles of democracy, open markets, the rule of law and a commitment to peace.
It is certainly true that the momentum towards a more open world trading system has slowed over the past two years. I would like to see that momentum restored, as I suspect most of you would. Unfortunately, there is no magic wand for doing that. We must proceed step by step.
And one step we can take immediately on Capitol Hill is to approve the African Growth and Opportunity Act and the Caribbean Basin Initiative. Both measures emphasize trade over aid. And both deserve your support.
Another area where foreign policy and business interests overlap is economic sanctions. Sanctions have a legitimate place in our diplomatic toolkit. But we have to ensure that we use them not simply to feel good, but to do good. That means exhausting alternatives, weighing costs as well as benefits, and doing all we can to gain multilateral support. We have done a lot of consulting with you in this area, and I continue to benefit from your perspective.
But that is only one small part of the role played by the business community in helping achieve our nation's goals in the world. Everywhere I travel, I see the best U.S. companies bringing to foreign economies not just American capital but American values -- high standards of integrity, technology and training, and enlightened environmental and labor practices.
That is why I am pleased to announce tonight the Department of State Award for Corporate Excellence. I will present the first such Award later this year. It will go to a U.S. company whose sustained exemplary practices abroad have earned it recognition as one of America's finest ambassadors for the democratic and free-market principles that we seek to foster around the world.
Earlier this month, I had a chance to visit with some of the Silicon Valley entrepreneurs whose genius is reshaping the way the world does business. And I was reminded yet again that in today's global economy, American business and the State Department are natural partners and allies.
So I cannot leave you this evening without saying just a few words about the need to back up our international leadership with resources.
Over the past five years, the already scarce funds we invest annually in international affairs have declined by roughly 20 percent from the prior five year period. Unfortunately, the world is not 20 percent smaller or less dangerous or less in need of American leadership for democracy, peace and prosperity.
And what has been a very bad situation is now at risk of becoming much worse.
Last week, Congress voted to slash President Clinton's Fiscal Year 2000 budget request for foreign affairs by $2 billion. This does not include another $2.6 billion in emergency needs that we have identified since the President's budget was prepared. The result is a clear and present danger to American interests -- and a potential shortfall so large that it would be nearly impossible for me to do my job.
The message we are sending back to Congress is that this is simply not acceptable. The President has vowed to veto the inadequate appropriations bill. And we will insist that our international affairs programs -- including the many that support American business -- be treated fairly in the final budget negotiations this fall.
Many Americans are surprised when I tell them that the amount we allocate for foreign affairs is equal not to a dime or even a nickel, but only to about one penny of every dollar the Federal government spends. But diplomacy is most often our first line of defense in preventing war, defusing crises, and building prosperity. So I hope we will have your support in assuring that America has the resources required to lead.
Because your voices truly matter. And because no partnership can fully succeed when one of the partners is being starved of the nourishment it needs.
Speaking of being starved, I think the time has come for me to leave and for you to eat.
I appreciated very much the opportunity to visit even briefly -- and I look forward very much to strengthening our partnership, to the benefit of our country, during the remaining weeks of this century and into the next.
Thank you very much.
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