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U.S. Department of State

Great Seal Secretary of State Madeleine K. Albright
Comments on International Transportation for the
U.S. Department of Transportation
Washington, D.C., October 12, 2000
U.S. Department of State
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Secretary Slater, thank you for that introduction and for the opportunity to be here. Distinguished ministers, excellencies, colleagues, and guests, I am delighted to participate in this International Transportation Symposium.

During the past four years, I have begun to lay claim to a certain expertise in international transportation. There have been times when I have felt that my home was in the air. I have traveled almost a million miles, visiting the vast majority of the countries represented here, and incurring debts for hospitality received that I will never be able fully to repay.

So I am a firm believer in the value of travel, which is fortunate, because we live at a time when hardly anyone or anything stands still for very long.

New technologies are creating new opportunities for people on every continent. And we all have a stake in extending and expanding these opportunities both within and among nations.

That is why, under President Clinton and Vice-President Gore, America has strongly supported measures to create a more open and equitable system of world trade.

We have encouraged reforms designed to help countries attract and retain private investment, while encouraging public investments in people, including education and basic health care, job training and safe water.

We have implemented air services deregulation at home and pursued liberalized bilateral aviation and intermodal agreements abroad to improve access to markets in every corner of the globe.

We have worked to eliminate unnecessary regulations and other barriers to e-commerce and the free flow of goods, services and ideas.

We have promoted private sector competition, because we have found that free enterprise is a parent to prosperity.

And with Secretary Slater in the lead, we have been working hard to create an international transportation framework that truly ties the world together.

There was a time not that long ago when the creation of a transportation system would be considered primarily an engineering challenge, a matter of asphalt and steel. And when the development of an international framework of agreements was solely a matter for diplomats.

But globalization has blurred these lines. It has made diplomats out of Transportation Ministers. And it has forced diplomats to acquire at least a smattering of knowledge about everything from biogenetic food and the migratory habits of salmon, to airline route structures and aircraft noise and emission standards.

That's why this Symposium is such a great and necessary idea. Secretary Slater has brought us together from around the world to share our experiences, learn from one another and talk about best practices.

He has included not only representatives of government, but also of business, labor, and diverse public interest groups. He recognizes that meeting the transportation needs of the future will require contributions from us all.

Certainly, we know that the demand for transportation services is increasing with each passing day. Not only ministers and diplomats, but also businesspeople, students, tourists and just plain travelers are on the go more and more often.

Trade is expanding rapidly and serving as a vital engine of growth. A rising percentage of an enlarging economic pie is being generated by the movement of merchandise and services across borders. Transportation is a vital building block of the new economy. And there is no limit to where this will lead, provided we make the right investments, plan ahead, and work together well.

To succeed, we must pool our diplomatic and transportation talents to develop rules of the road, sea and sky that are broadly agreed and fairly enforced.

We must demonstrate continuing strong support for our key institutions such as the ICAO and the IMO.

And we must uphold the international standards we have worked so hard to construct. These standards improve our quality of life. They also generate the commercial certainty upon which global investment decisions and job creation depend.

The strains produced by growth are substantial. Every year, our roads, skies and waterways become more crowded. This places great demands upon us all.

Because if we want to build a transportation system for the 21st Century that is truly seamless and integrated, we will have to cooperate at every level.

We must strive for a system that serves every customer well, from the budget-conscious individual to the largest multi-national firm.

We must seek to extend the system's reach so that no country or community is left behind.

We must have the vision to think ahead, so that growth is accomplished in the right way, and travel is not only faster, but also safer and less harmful to the environment.

And we must take full advantage of the new information technologies by integrating our telecommunications, transportation, customs and delivery services in support of electronic commerce.

This last point is essential, because although the advance of technology may be a source of wonder to us all, no one has yet figured out how to undo the basic laws of physics.

A person can sit at a keyboard all day long and order products, but those products can't be conjured up by magic. They must be transported the old-fashioned way, by truck, rail, ship or plane. Without effective transportation, the Information Age would be like a ferris wheel, constantly moving in circles, but never really going anywhere.

As it is, transportation and telecommunications must and are growing together. Mastery of both is essential for large companies trying to manage the extended supply lines which can be key to competitive success.

In today's economy, profit margins are razor thin. Often, they will depend on real-time inventory and next day delivery of product. Unfettered access to global cargo services can be essential. But that access is about more than airports and planes. It also requires rail and road systems that can bring people and goods to and from air cargo hubs anywhere in the world.

Global prosperity also depends on unfettered access for ALL our citizens to the benefits of the digital age. Governments everywhere should work together with private sectors everywhere to make this possible.

This Symposium has covered a very broad and impressive range of subjects. The focus is international transportation, but that is a trunk line with branches reaching into many disciplines, including finance, science, law, sociology, and environmental studies.

And this phenomenon works both ways. If you focus on transportation, you will quickly find yourself involved in something else. Focus on something else, and chances are you will find yourself dealing with transportation.

I know from experience that transportation plays an integral role in world affairs. This is true in the Middle East Peace Process; the negotiation of oil pipeline routes in Central Asia; and enhanced cooperation in our own hemisphere through the Summit of the Americas process.

And one of the key issues in any post-conflict society is to restore the connections provided by air, road and rail. This was true in Bosnia and Kosovo, and may well be part of recovery efforts in the new and democratic Serbia.

Our great task in the new century is going to be to cooperate in putting all of these pieces together. So that over time, through the melding of talents and the sharing of ideas, we will build a world that is more peaceful, prosperous, democratic and connected--in every sense of that word--around the equator and from pole to pole.

Today, I would like to congratulate Secretary Slater and all of you for your contributions to that lofty goal through your deliberations at this Symposium this week.

Thank you all very much.

[End of Document]
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