|Secretary of State Madeleine K. Albright
Remarks at Joint Appearance with Treasury Secretary Rubin
at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce
Washington, D.C., October 23. 1997
As released by the Office of the Spokesman
U.S. Department of State
SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: Thank you, Mr. Donohue, and good afternoon to all of you. I am very pleased to be here along with Secretary Rubin to discuss what I consider to be the single most important foreign policy decision Congress will make this year. That decision is whether to approve the Administration's request for renewal of traditional fast track trade negotiating authority for the President.
This vote will signal to a watchful world whether America is approaching the end of the century with well-deserved confidence and pride; or whether our deeper wish is to shrink from the center stage of world affairs.
This afternoon I would like to explain why I feel so strongly about this issue. I also want to mention at the outset that those of us who favor Fast track must realize that we face a determined opposition, inspired by high-minded goals, going all out to make its case. If we're to prevail - as we must for the good of our country - we must respond seriously to the serious concerns of our critics, and we, too, must go all out to win.
Since taking office, I have stressed my belief that the United States has an historic opportunity to help bring the world closer together around basic principles of democracy, open markets, law and a commitment to peace.
If we seize this opportunity, we can ensure that our economy will continue to grow, our workers will have access to better jobs, and our leadership will be felt wherever US interests are engaged. We will also fuel an expanding global economy and give more countries a stake in the international system; thereby denying nourishment to the forces of extremist violence that feed on depravation across our planet.
As Secretary Rubin will explain in greater detail, the Administration's efforts to promote the cause of open trade and open economies has done much to fuel the remarkable period of sustained economic growth we have enjoyed these past five years. But if we're to continue up this ladder, Congress must say yes to fast track.
There are many opposed to this step. They argue that free trade creates a bidding war in which foreign countries compete by lowering labor and environmental standards, thereby luring US factories and jobs off-shore. But the truth is that we already have free trade. Unfortunately, that freedom tends to run one way. On the average, US tariffs are far lower than those of other countries. This means that when we reach a free trade agreement, the other country has to cut tariffs by more than we do. That's not only free trade; that's fair trade - and that's good for America.
Another flaw in the rationale of Fast Tack opponents is that voting down Fast track won't accomplish anything for American workers. It won't result in higher labor standards overseas; it won't result in higher environmental standards. These are issues that can only be dealt with through international cooperation and negotiation.
The best course for our nation is not to curse globalization, but to shape it. Because we have the world's most competitive economy and its most productive work force, we're better positioned than any other nation to do so.
Both the proponents and opponents of Fast track want a strong American economy that creates good jobs and rising standards of living for our people. But we, who support fast track, do not believe that continued economic growth will just happen. We believe it must be helped along by trade agreements that lower tariffs and create access to new markets.
Opponents of fast track appear to suggest that we will be better off if we leave the business of negotiating trade agreements to others. But it's hard to see how. As others forge agreements and expand trade, we will face barriers, including higher tariffs, that our competitors do not. That's like trying to run the bases in the World Series with the field tilted uphill against us. I will switch to football analyses next week. (Laughter.)
I was disturbed, as I believe all Americans should be, to learn of a senior European official boasting recently about Europe's expanded trade with South America, and saying that, "We are stomping all over" America's "backyard." That is unacceptable, but it is what happens when the United States engages in unilateral disarmament on trade.
The authority for a President to negotiate tariff reductions goes back as far as Franklin Roosevelt's first term when his administration sought to reduce the damage caused by the Smoot-Hawley Act. Fast track, itself, has been available and used to America's economic benefit by every president for the past two decades.
But the current debate is about more than dollars and cents. Fast track is a foreign policy imperative. It is indispensable to US economic leadership, and that leadership is indispensable to US influence around the globe. American prestige and power are not divisible. If we want our views and interests respected, we cannot sit on the sideline with a towel over our heads while others make the trade and investment plays that will determine the economic standings of the 21st Century.
In many capitals, if we have nothing to say on trade, we will find it harder to have productive discussions on other issues of direct importance to American interests. This was brought home to me yet again during my trips with the President to South and Central America and the Caribbean. Here our initiatives on trade are a vital part of a larger process of cooperation that includes the fight against narcotics trafficking, crime, pollution, illegal immigration and other threats to the well-being of our citizens.
We should not forget that for decades during the Cold War, we Americans spread the gospel of competition, free enterprise and open markets. Today, people and governments almost everywhere are converting to that faith. This trend is paying off in the emergence of large, educated middle-classes in many developing nations, leading in turn to new pressure for decent wages, environmental protection and greater democracy. But make no mistake, people around the world will be watching the Fast track debate closely to see whether Americans will continue to practice what we have so long preached.
As we plan for the future, we cannot simply assume that the current democratic trends will continue. If we fail to approve fast track, we will embolden opponents of economic reform throughout the world. We will send the message that market freedom is to be feared and avoided. Rejection of fast track could set in motion a chain reaction of protectionism that would endanger our economic future and halt the spread of political freedom.
If Congress approves fast track, our competitive economy and skilled work force should ensure that the prosperity we have enjoyed in recent years will be sustained. But if Congress votes fast track down, we will suffer a major setback to our economic future and a damaging and self-inflicted blow to American influence. That is why I have joined every living former Secretary of State in asking Congress to be true to America's own philosophy - to approve fast track and to pave the way for continued prosperity at home and leadership abroad.
For more than half a century, the United States has played the leading role within the international system. Not as sole arbiter of right and wrong - for that is a responsibility widely shared - but as pathfinder, as the nation able to show the way when others cannot. Our predecessors had the foresight to forge alliances such as NATO, institutions such as the World Bank, and initiatives such as the Marshall Plan to defend freedom and build prosperity. And they did so on a bipartisan basis.
Today, under President Clinton, we are constructing a new framework to address the challenges of our time, based on principles that will endure for all time. This Saturday, on the far side of midnight, those who yearn for days gone by will celebrate the only real opportunity they have this year to turn back the clock. (Laughter.) The rest of us will use the extra hour of daylight savings time which it provides to prepare - whether through sleep or study - for the future.
The United States is not a slow track society.
We have a responsibility in our time, as our predecessors had in theirs, not to be prisoners of history, but to shape history - to look ahead; to harness, not hide from the winds of change; and to use every means at our disposal to build a better world for our children and for generations to come.
Thank you very much. And it's now my pleasure to introduce the Secretary of Treasury, Robert Rubin.
SECRETARY RUBIN MAKES REMARKS.
MR. DONOHUE: Let me ask the first question of both of you. I thought your comments were on target. But there's a feeling around the Hill, amongst the political operators and so on, well, if we don't pass it this time we can pass it next time. Madame Secretary, you've been traveling with the President, talking to people throughout Latin and South America and around the world. Would you reiterate again what happens if we don't pass it this time?
SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: Thank you for asking that, because I think that there is a sense of urgency here.
From traveling with the President and also on my own, it is very evident that the markets in Latin America, Central America, also in Asia, are basically there for countries to explore. If we are not in there, somebody else will be.
What I found so stunning - especially in Latin America - is the sense of the Europeans that this is open to them, and as we know, many in Latin America do have very strong European backgrounds. I would hope, from a foreign policy perspective, that we can create a solidarity of the Americas. The Western Hemisphere is a very important area for us to have partners in and to develop our foreign policy in. If we begin to lose the markets there, it will damage us.
I also think that we are losing time if we don't pass it this year. We have lost time already. It's very important for us to get on with the negotiating these agreements.
SECRETARY RUBIN'S REMARKS.
QUESTION: Let me ask you both the same question. This is Washington, so people all line up to - who done it, and who's responsible for us not being successful, and we accept all that. The Republicans do it; the Democrats do it; the President - who cares. But the issue at hand, that are on at least half a dozen of these cards is, how active will the President personally become in the days and weeks ahead to go to both parties and to the American people and to get this done?
SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: Well, let me just tell you what's been going on. The President has been and will continue to be personally involved in this. You don't know the number of phone calls that he makes on this, and the number of meetings - one-on-one meetings or meetings in the White House. We had one yesterday; we're going to have another one tonight. This is a constant effort, and he is directing this.
I think people need to know that. This is a Presidential priority, and President Clinton believes that it is absolutely essential for the United States to lead; and he's leading us. So I think there should be no question about his personal involvement in it.
QUESTION: Well, then let me go forward and just say, because you are great carriers of the message from your constituents, there's a feeling that if the President were to address the American people through the means at his disposal about the importance not only of Fast track, but the real importance of economic trade to jobs in the small business community, that that would carry a lot of weight. I have that twice here, so I thought I'd mention that to you.
SECRETARY RUBIN'S REMARKS.
SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: Let me add to that, because I think there is some confusion. We have passed 200 or so agreements without fast track. Those are single kinds of agreements, like apples to Mexico. But what we have now are huge sectoral negotiations that need to take place that are very complicated and have a number of aspects to them that then need implementing legislation.
So single kind of agreements, those we can do and we have been doing. But I think people need to understand the complexity of these kinds of sectoral negotiations.
SECRETARY RUBIN'S REMARKS.
MR. DONOHUE: I have three comments here that are relatively the same. And they pick up, Madame Secretary, on a point that you made about the marriage and the relationship between economic trade policy and national security and statesmanship around the world and our position. And it occurred to me why you've both not appeared before together. Maybe we ought to do some more of that. I wonder if you would just make a point - because we've got this on television - if you would once more stress the importance between what we're doing in trade and what we're trying to do in the area of diplomacy.
SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: Well, first of all the era when economics and foreign policy and defense policy were separated -- if there ever really was such an era -- no longer exists. Foreign policy these days is based a great deal on economic policy and on our economic relations with other countries.
Also, at the same time, a great deal of American influence is the projection of power. Today, American power is economic power. When our business people are abroad and when our products are abroad, that is America. And that is how we really present ourselves.
I could also give a very specific security aspect to this. It used to be in the post-war era that what we had were regional security alliances. NATO still exists, but there were others that were the building blocks of the security system. Today, I would use the analogy that some of the regional economic blocks, such as MERCOSUR, which Secretary Rubin described, or APEC, are basically new regional cooperation blocks which lead towards integration internationally across the board in security issues. We need to be there in those. So if we're out of this game, we are out of it big time now. The American people will be the losers if we are not there to shape these new security systems.
MR. DONAHUE: Very important message. Now, I know that both the Secretaries are on a tight time frame, so I'm going to have one short question for you, Secretary Rubin, then I'm going to invite you to say a word and then you can go on in your schedules.
SECRETARY RUBIN'S REMARKS.
[End of Document]
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