[Public Papers of the Presidents of the United States: William J. Clinton (1993, Book II)]
[October 20, 1993]
[Pages 1777-1781]
[From the U.S. Government Publishing Office www.gpo.gov]

Remarks at the NAFTA Jobs and Products Day Trade Fair
October 20, 1993

    Thank you very much. I want to thank Harold and Bob and, of course, 
Lee Iacocca, who has been such an eloquent spokesperson for NAFTA. It's 
nice to see him on television in an ad where he's--I enjoy watching him 
sell Chryslers, but I like seeing him sell NAFTA even more in the 
television ads.
    I want to thank the many Members of the United States Congress who 
are here today. They hold the fate of this trade agreement and in many 
ways the fate of America's trade future in their hands. I want to thank 
the members of the Cabinet who are here today: the Treasury Secretary, 
Lloyd Bentsen; our United States Trade Ambassador, Mickey Kantor, who 
negotiated the agreements on the environment, on labor standards, and 
some other things which make this a truly unique trade agreement in the 
history of world trade; the Labor Secretary, the Education Secretary, 
the Commerce Secretary, Bob Reich, Dick Riley, and Ron Brown. I've seen 
all of them. There may be other members of the Cabinet here today 
showing our unified support for this agreement. I also want to thank all 
the companies and the workers who came here today. They really showed 
what this trade agreement is all about. It's about the jobs of American 
workers and the future of American working families, people who are 
determined to compete and win.
    Today the demonstrations in these two tents should show our country 
and show our Congress why we need NAFTA. In the next month before the 
vote, we've got to vigorously make this case to the American people. I 
was talking with Bob and the other steelworkers over at their exhibit 
over here, and I said, ``You know, we figure that an enormous number of 
America's unions will actually pick up jobs if this agreement passes.''
    The NAFTA fight is an interesting one to me. Lee Iacocca has already 
said it pretty well, but I have to restate it for you in personal terms. 
Before I became President, I was a Governor of my State for a dozen 
years during the 1980's. When I took office in 1983, our unemployment 
rate was 3 percentage points above the national average. I know all 
about losing jobs to trade, to not being able to compete. There are a 
lot of companies here that have plants in my State, and I believe that 
every one I saw here, I have personally been in the plant. I saw 
companies shut down and move to Mexico in the 1980's. And when it 
happened, because I live in a small State, I knew who they were. I'm 
proud to say we brought one of them back, too, before I left office. I 
would not ever do anything knowingly that would cost

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jobs to the American economy and take opportunities from American 
working people. This won't do that; it will do the reverse.
    The people who are fighting this are bringing to this fight the 
resentments that they have over what happened in the 1980's. You heard 
Lee talk about it: How many decent people lost their jobs? How many 
times did we see people shut down and move to other countries solely 
because of lower labor costs or higher other production costs in 
America? That's what happened before. But in the last 12 or 13 years we 
have seen productivity growth in the production sector in the United 
States go up at 4 percent or more a year.
    You heard Lee say that you can now produce an automobile for 
anywhere in this part of the world cheaper in the United States than 
anyplace else. We've had two European companies put plants in North 
America. They could have gone to Mexico. Where did they go? One went to 
South Carolina. One is now going to Alabama. Why? Because it's cheaper. 
Because the labor is highly productive, even though more expensive, and 
that is a relatively small part of a big, complex operation, making an 
automobile and putting it into a showroom.
    And I tell you, friends, if we can get folks in this country to 
focus on what this trade agreement does, it will alleviate the anxieties 
that so many people had in the 1980's. It raises the cost of production 
in Mexico by requiring greater investments in labor and in the 
environment. It lowers the trade barriers. On automobiles alone, the 
domestic content requirement will be lowered, and we'll be able to go 
from selling one to 50,000 American cars in one year alone. It will give 
us access to a Mexican market on preferential terms as compared with our 
Japanese and our European competitors, something that we have seen on 
the reverse side not only in Europe but especially in Asia. And it will 
create good jobs. We'll not only get more jobs out of this, but the jobs 
we get related to exports pay on average about 17 percent more than 
nonexport-related jobs in this country.
    And look at the Mexicans. You know, frankly, I'm getting a little 
weary of hearing people criticize Mexico as not perfect. You think 
everybody else we trade with in the world is perfect? Look at the 
progress they have made. It's hard to show a country that's made a 
stronger commitment to open markets and a free enterprise system, coming 
from a long way back.
    In most of my lifetime, if you wanted to be a popular politician in 
Mexico, the way to be popular was to badmouth the United States, blame 
all of the problems of the people on the United States. The last two 
Presidents of Mexico have started to turn that around. This President 
said, ``We're going to compete in the global economy, and we're going to 
try to have open relationships. And we're going to start with the United 
States.'' And unilaterally, they have lowered a lot of their tariffs, 
even though they're still 2.5 times as high as ours. And now we've got 
the trade surplus that Lee Iacocca talked about.
    We can do so much better if we adopt this agreement and we give 
ourselves a chance to compete in a friendly way with a country that now 
likes the United States, wants to be tied to the United States, full of 
80 million people who spend 70 percent of the money they spend on 
foreign products in the United States of America. It is a pretty good 
deal, and it's time we started to take it.
    We believe that this agreement will create 200,000 new jobs by 1995 
alone. Keep in mind, as has already been said, the Mexican economy today 
is only about one-twentieth the size of the American economy; it's about 
the size of the economy of California from Los Angeles County to the 
Mexican border. And already these folks are accounting for a $6 billion 
trade surplus.
    Imagine what would happen to the American economy as the Mexican 
economy grows, as the people there have their incomes go up, as they 
have more money to spend, and as they have a special trade relationship 
with the United States. Imagine, those of you who are involved in 
manufacturing, all the other things that are going to happen if we have 
this special relationship. One of our American toy manufacturers has 
already announced that they will change their plant location from China 
to Mexico and therefore will buy what is 85 percent of the value of the 
toy, the plastic parts, from an American company instead of a Japanese 
company. There are absolutely unforeseeable consequences of this.
    Let me just tell you about a couple of the companies that we just 
saw. The Harris Corporation is the number one United States supplier of 
radio and TV broadcast equipment. Twenty-nine percent of its $3 billion 
in annual sales come from exports. And in the last couple

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of years, sales to Mexico have gone from $12 million to $40 million a 
year, despite 20 percent tariffs. Imagine what will happen when the 
tariffs drop: More people will be hired.
    There's a small business from Covington, Kentucky, represented back 
here, the Monarch Tool and Manufacturing Company, which began to export 
coin slots to Mexico over the last 3 years. The company was foundering 
in the mid-eighties. Now almost 70 percent of its sales come from 
    There's a company here from California, of which I am a satisfied 
customer, Golden Bear Sportswear. During the 1980's, this company, which 
makes among other things leather bomber jackets, moved its factory from 
San Francisco to Korea. And after 4 years they moved back. The lady that 
runs the company wrote me one of the most moving letters I've ever 
received, saying that she was absolutely determined to keep jobs in 
America and in California, to work with the people who helped to build 
the company and buy its products. Now the business is flourishing, and 
the owners are proud to put ``Made in the U.S.A.'' on the jackets. The 
family-owned business with 100 employees makes 100,000 jackets a year, 
most marketed through retailers like Brooks Brothers, the Gap, L.L. 
Bean, and Lands' End. They have annual sales of $16 million. Instead of 
moving a plant to Korea, they'd like to move some of those jackets to 
Mexico. I think we ought to give them a chance to do it. That's what 
America is all about.
    The beacon of our country's technological genius, Hewlett-Packard of 
Palo Alto, California, has computers which now face a 20 percent tariff 
in Mexico, which will drop to zero. Three years ago, Mexicans bought 
120,000 personal computers. Last year they bought 390,000 personal 
computers. Imagine how many personal computers 80 million people could 
buy if there were not a 20 percent duty on those products.
    Let me just say two other things about this. One person that I 
talked to on the line, and I wish I could remember where he was, said, 
``You know, Mr. President, as important as NAFTA is for Mexico and 
American trade, it may be actually more important for other things. It 
will say to the world whether we're a good trading partner. It will say 
to the world whether the United States Government has a constant policy 
of supporting expanded trade and whether the President and the trade 
apparatus of the country can be trusted to make deals that America 
adheres to.'' Yes, you said that. [Laughter] And I thank you for that. 
And I can tell you this, it will also say to the world and especially to 
the rest of Latin America whether the United States wants to be a good 
neighbor again, whether we want to reestablish the kind of feeling that 
existed 30 years ago and 60 years ago.
    I tell you, my friends, democracy and the fever for a market economy 
is sweeping across Latin America. I dream of the day when we'll have 
over 700 million people in this trading bloc united in believing that we 
can help one another grow and flourish. But all the other countries of 
the world are looking at us, and all the other countries of Latin 
America want to know: Are we going to do this or not?
    Colombia, not a very big country, has a President struggling to 
liberate its country from the scourge of the dominance of drugs, 
struggling to develop a diversified free market economy. In the last 2 
years, that little country's increased their purchases of American 
products by 69 and 64 percent on their own. The President of Colombia 
says, ``I want to be a part of NAFTA.''
    Chile, for so long a military dictatorship, is now a democratic free 
market economy endorsing NAFTA. They don't benefit from it. They just 
want it to be a symbol of something they can be a part of. Look at 
Argentina, once the eighth wealthiest country in the entire world, 
finally on the way back again. We have opportunities we cannot dream of. 
I don't know how long it will take us to put all that back together if 
we turn away from this.
    The last thing I want to say is this: I have really tried to avoid 
talking about all the bad things that will happen if it doesn't pass 
because I want us to be optimistic and upbeat. And I don't want us to 
adopt this out of fear. There's been too much fearmongering on the other 
side, and all kinds of ridiculous statements made. But it is simply a 
fact that Mexico needs access to sophisticated goods and products, that 
Mexico needs access to investors who can make secure investments.
    What would we do in America if we turn away from this and they make 
this sort of arrangement with Japan or with Europe, and they make the 
investments there, and then we have to deal with their products coming 
through the back door from Mexico? What will happen to our job base? I'm 
telling you, everything people worried about in the 1980's will get 
worse if this thing is voted down and will get better

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if it's voted up.
    My friends in California worried about the large influx of illegal 
immigrants--California, a State built by immigrants but burdened by 
illegal immigration in volume too great for a State with a very high 
unemployment rate today to handle. And people are afraid there. What's 
going to happen if it passes, or if it doesn't pass? If NAFTA passes, 
you won't have what you have now, which is everybody runs up to the 
maquiladora line, gets a job in a factory, and then runs across the line 
to get a better job. Instead there will be more uniform growth in 
investment across the country, and people will be able to work at home 
with their families. And over the period of the next few years, we will 
dramatically reduce pressures on illegal immigration from Mexico to the 
United States.
    But if you beat this, will it reduce the pressure for people looking 
for illegal immigration? No. It will increase the pressure on people 
coming here. So if you want to have the immigration problem eased, you 
must vote for NAFTA, not against it. We can go through issue after issue 
after issue, and it's the same.
    So I say to you again what we started this with. I know this has 
been a tough time for most Americans. There's all this bewildering 
change in the world, and it's making people's jobs less secure. And at 
the same time, we've got a lot of problems here at home with violence, 
with the availability and cost of health care, with all the other things 
that are bothering our people. But we are trying to address those in 
this administration. We're trying to give Americans greater security in 
their family lives, in their education lives, with their health care, 
and on their streets. But we cannot create security out of an 
unwillingness to change.
    This vote really is going to say a lot about what kind of people we 
expect to be. Are we going to hunker down and turn away and say, ``My 
goodness, we're going to be overcome by a trade agreement with Mexico''? 
Or are we going to take this as the first step toward reaching out to 
the rest of the world, saying Americans can compete and win again?
    We've got all the evidence we need. We know that it's not just the 
United States. No wealthy country in the world today can create new jobs 
without expanding trade. It cannot be done. Nobody is doing it. Nobody 
is doing it. And if you look at Europe, the most protectionist countries 
have higher unemployment rates. The most open market in Europe, Germany, 
is the only country with an unemployment rate as low as ours. I'm 
telling you, this is going to define what kind of people we're going to 
be and whether we want to really compete and win in the global economy. 
I think Americans are winners. And I think when it comes down to it, the 
Congress will vote for us to win.
    I want to say this one thing on behalf of the Members of the 
Congress. They have to make this vote. I'm working with them to make 
sure that we can get the training we need for people who will be 
dislocated. We need to do that for people anyway, all across America. 
And we will have a strategy to help those areas of the country that are 
already in trouble that have nothing to do with this. But the Congress 
tells me over and over again, they hear from the people who are against 
NAFTA because they're afraid and they're whipped up. They don't hear 
from the people who are for it, who are going to win.
    So we brought you here today not only to send a message to them but 
so that I could ask you and companies like you and employees like your 
employees all across America to call or write the Members of the 
Congress in every State, without regard to party, to talk about this. 
They need to hear from people who will get jobs, who will have increased 
incomes, who will have increased opportunities.
    I agree with Mr. Iacocca. We have no one to blame but ourselves if 
this thing goes down. We've got the facts on our side; they've got the 
fear on their side. We need to get the facts to the Congress in the 
faces of the people who will win from this agreement. And we have to do 
    Every time you have to face a big change in your life, you can make 
one of two decisions: You can hunker down and hope it'll go away, or you 
can sort of face it and make it turn out all right. You can make change 
your friend. If you hunker down and hope it goes away, that works about 
one time in 100. The other 99 percent of the time, you better figure out 
a way to make change your friend, because it's coming at you anyway. The 
world economy is coming at us anyway. We have already paid the price for 
our inadequacies. We are now competitive, and we can win. And it is time 
we use NAFTA to prove it to ourselves, as well as to the rest of the 
    Thank you, and God bless you all.

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Note: The President spoke at 10:31 a.m. on the South Lawn at the White 
House. In his remarks, he referred to Harold Sumpter, senior vice 
president, H&H Industries, and steelworker Bob Scheydt.