[Public Papers of the Presidents of the United States: William J. Clinton (1993, Book II)]
[December 15, 1993]
[Pages 2173-2176]
[From the U.S. Government Publishing Office www.gpo.gov]

The President's News Conference
December 15, 1993

Multilateral Trade Negotiations

    The President. With that introduction, ladies and gentlemen, I am 
pleased to announce that the United States today, as you know, concluded 
negotiations with over 110 other nations on the most comprehensive trade 
agreement in history. This agreement eliminates barriers to United 
States goods and services around the world. It means new opportunities, 
more jobs, and higher incomes. And it cements our position of leadership 
in the new global economy.
    This GATT agreement advances the vision of economic renewal that I 
set out when I took the oath of office. The first task in pursuing that 
vision was to get our economic house in

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order. The economic plan which passed earlier this year has resulted in 
lower interest rates, lower inflation, booming home construction, and 
the creation of more private sector jobs in this year than in the 
previous 4 years, and the highest level of consumer confidence now in 17 
    But our renewal also depends on engaging actively with other nations 
to boost worldwide economic growth and to open markets to our goods and 
services. No wealthy country in the world today can hope to increase 
jobs and raise incomes unless there are more customers for its goods and 
services. Just since the Fourth of July, our administration has taken 
several major steps toward that goal. First, at the Tokyo G-7 summit we 
secured a market opening agreement among the major economies that 
breathed new life into these world trade talks. In November the Congress 
passed the North American Free Trade Agreement, which creates the 
world's largest free trade area. In the first-ever meeting of the Asia 
Pacific economic leaders in Seattle, we strengthened our ties to the 
world's fastest growing region. Now, after negotiations that have 
spanned 7 years and three U.S. administrations, we have secured a new 
GATT agreement. I have said repeatedly that I would not accept a bad 
agreement simply for the sake of getting one. I made clear that the 
final product had to serve our Nation's interests.
    This agreement did not accomplish everything we wanted. That has 
been well documented. And we must continue to fight for more open 
markets for entertainment, for insurance, for banking, and for other 
industries. But today's GATT accord does meet the test of a good 
agreement for three reasons.
    First, this new agreement will foster more jobs and more incomes in 
America by fostering an export boom. At its core, it simply cuts 
tariffs, the taxes charged by foreign nations on American products in 
8,000 different areas, on average by one-third. By sparking global 
growth, it is estimated that this agreement can add as much as $100 to 
$200 billion per year to our economy once it is fully phased in. It will 
create hundreds of thousands of good-paying American jobs.
    Second, this agreement sharpens our competitive edge in areas of 
United States strength. Under this agreement, free and fair rules of 
trade will apply for the first time not only to goods but to trade in 
services and intellectual property. This will help us to stop other 
nations from discriminating against world-class American businesses in 
such industries as computer services, construction, engineering, and 
architecture. And it will crack down on piracy against the fruits of 
American innovation, which today is costing United States firms $60 
billion a year, about one percent of our total gross domestic products.
    Finally, it does these things while preserving our ability to 
retaliate against unfair trade practices and our right to set strong 
environmental and consumer protection standards for economic activity 
here in the United States. That's why I believe this new GATT is good 
for America.
    Over the coming years, we have a solemn obligation to ensure that 
its benefits are broadly shared among all the American people. We must 
ensure that working men and women have the skills, the training, the 
education to compete and win under these new rules. Our Nation's gains 
must be their gains. Next year we will be working harder on that.
    Because this agreement will benefit our people and because it meets 
our standards of success, I've decided to notify the Congress today of 
my intention to sign this agreement. I look forward to consulting 
closely with Congress and the American people about how best to put its 
provisions into effect.
    I want to congratulate all our trade negotiators, many of whom have 
hardly slept in the last several days, and especially Ambassador Mickey 
Kantor for this historic breakthrough. The American people should know 
that they were well represented by people I personally observed to be 
tough and tireless and genuine advocates for our interests and our 
    All of us can be proud that at this critical moment when many 
nations are facing economic troubles that have caused them to turn 
inward, the United States has once again reached outward and has made 
global economic growth our cause. This year we've worked hard to put the 
economic interest of America's broad middle class back at the center of 
our foreign policy as well as our domestic policy. Not since the end of 
World War II has the United States pushed to completion trade agreements 
of such significance as NAFTA and GATT. We've shown leadership by 
example. We've set forth a vision for a thriving global economy. And our 
trading partners to their credit have also rallied to that cause.

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    Today's agreement caps a year of economic renewal for our Nation. It 
should give us added reason for confidence as we enter the new year. But 
it should also reinforce our determination to do better in the new year.
    Helen [Helen Thomas, United Press International].


    Q. Mr. President, are you concerned, as many seem to be, over the 
rise of ultranationalism in Russia? And do you have any bulwark against 
a replay of the thirties if this happens to Russia, if there is this 
kind of closing out and rise of what's being considered fascist----
    The President. Well, let me say, of course I am concerned about some 
of the comments that have been made by the leader of the so-called 
Liberal Democratic Party in Russia. I think no American, indeed, no 
citizen of the world who read such comments could fail to be concerned.
    On the other hand, I think it's important to recognize that we don't 
have any evidence at this time that the people who voted for that party 
were embracing all those comments, or indeed, may have even known about 
them. And we don't yet know what direction the new Parliament will try 
to take. Am I concerned about that? Yes, I am. Do I think that this 
means there will be a big new dangerous direction in Russian policy? I 
don't think there's any evidence to support that.
    Q. How about your policy?
    The President. Well, because I don't know that there will be any 
change in Russian policy, I don't see any basis for a change in our 
policy at this time. On the other hand, it's something that we'll have 
to watch and work with. I think it calls on all of us to redouble our 
efforts to support the process of reform in Russia in a way that the 
ordinary citizens can understand will redound to their benefit.
    I believe this was clearly a protest vote, fueled by people who have 
been in, many of them, in virtual economic free fall and who have also 
suffered the kind of psychological damage that comes to people when they 
work harder for less money or when they lose their jobs or when they 
don't see any better day at the end of all the change. It is a more 
extreme example of what you have seen in our Nation and in other nations 
throughout the world. Thankfully, in the West where you've seen protest 
votes or votes against the established order of things, they've been 
within much more normal channels of debate. But I think plainly we have 
to assume that this is primarily a protest vote. We have to watch it. We 
have to stand up for what we believe in. But I think we should continue 
to support reform in Russia.
    Rita [Rita Braver, CBS News].
    Q. Sir, even if it is a protest vote, what can the U.S. do, if 
anything, to reverse this tide? And what's to say that it isn't going to 
keep going in the direction of fascism?
    The President. Well, first of all, some of it's being done already. 
I mean, I think the wide publicity being given to all the comments and 
statements will give you some indication before too long about whether 
people in the street in Russia embrace the stated print positions on all 
the things that have been said or whether it was a protest vote.
    But again let me say, keep in mind, this is the first popularly 
elected Parliament under a legitimate system of elections, to the best 
of my knowledge, that Russia has ever had. There are now two centers of 
democratic legitimacy in Russia, the President and the Parliament. And 
they will interface with one another in ways that are some predictable 
and some that are unpredictable. You can tell that from our experience 
    I think it's important at this moment not to overreact. I don't mean 
to say we shouldn't be sensitive, but I just think let's wait and see 
who the people are who take their seats in the Parliament and what they 
do and what they say.
    Q. Mr. President, is Yeltsin under increasing pressure to hold the 
elections now before 1996? And if so, do you think he should?
    The President. I don't know about that. I don't have an opinion 
about that. I think that's a decision for them to make.
    Jim [Jim Miklaszewski, NBC News].

President's Approval Ratings

    Q. Mr. President, in recent opinion polls, your personal and job 
approval ratings have been on a steady and some might say significant 
rise, while Ross Perot's have been pretty much plummeting. I mean, 
what's going on here? Can you tell us?
    Q. And he has a followup. [Laughter]
    Q. [Inaudible]
    Q. [Inaudible] Thank you very much.
    The President. Either you guys are going to

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be really mad at him for asking the question or he has some check that I 
have bounced that he has a picture of. [Laughter]
    Q. Can't wait for the kicker.
    The President. What I think is happening is, first of all, the 
American people are beginning to feel--just beginning, there's a long 
way to go--beginning to feel some benefit of the economic changes 
brought on by the lower interest rates and the higher investment. I 
mean, when you have, like we had last month, a 19-year low in the number 
of people who are late paying their home mortgages and when millions of 
people refinance their homes in a year, when you have the job rate 
picking up, those things are bound to have an effect.
    Then I think we had a series of highly publicized struggles for 
change in the Congress that came out in favor of the position that our 
administration had taken. And the most visible ones lately, obviously, 
were NAFTA and the Brady bill. So I think those were the two reasons 
why. I think the American people want results and they also want an 
administration that will take on the tough problems and try to see them 
    Q. And Mr. Perot?
    The President. I can't comment on that. You ought to ask the Vice 
President about that. [Laughter]

Middle East Peace Process

    Q. On the Middle East, Mr. President, on the Middle East, do you 
think there's still hope? The date has passed----
    The President. Absolutely. Absolutely.
    Q. Have you talked to any of the parties?
    The President. No, but I met with the Secretary of State this 
morning, and we talked about it. I asked him to talk to me about it, and 
we are still planning on going forward with our initiatives next year. 
It will be a major part of what we're going to do.
    Thank you very much.

Health Care Reform

    Q. Mr. President, on health care, a quick question on health care?
    The President. One more. All right, one more, one more. [Laughter] 
It's Christmas, guys.
    Q. It seems as if a lot of Republicans seem to be really going after 
the health care reform proposal as you initially advanced it, and 
they're saying now they don't want to compromise. Jack Kemp says that it 
may have started off as an iceberg; it's going to wind up ice cubes. And 
Cheney is now saying he's totally opposed to it. Gingrich is saying 
there's no room for compromising on many of the aspects of the health 
care reform package. How far are you willing to go in making this health 
care package palatable to Republicans so it won't simply be a Democratic 
    The President. Well, I told you what my principles were. My 
principles are two: universal coverage, without which you will never 
slow the rate of cost increase and stop the cost shifting; and a package 
of comprehensive benefits. I don't want to go through the whole 
catastrophic insurance fight that Congress had a few years ago. You all 
remember what happened there.
    Beyond that, I'm willing to talk to them about it. But I would just 
point out that today the questions really should be directed to them: 
What is your position? We now know that there are another 2.3 million 
people without insurance, that number of uninsured going up steadily. 
How do you justify leaving in place a system that costs 40 percent more 
of our income than any other system in the world and does much less? 
What is your justification for the status quo? It is the most 
bureaucratic system that exists anywhere in the world, and it has not 
    So their rhetoric, you know, I realize you can lob rhetoric that 
sounds very good, but I don't think that the rhetoric corresponds to the 
reality of the proposal. The proposal we made leaves in place the choice 
of doctors, gives more consumer choice to the American people than they 
have today, and will simplify lives for America's physicians if it 
    So I would have to say again, I welcome this debate, and it's fine 
to have a debate over principles on this issue. I want to. I told you 
what my two were. So when they say that they want to fight us, my 
question back is, what's your answer to the fact that the number of 
uninsured Americans is going up every single day? It's going in the 
wrong direction. Our plan would take it in the right direction.
    Thank you.

Note: The President's 38th news conference began at 2:10 p.m. in the 
Briefing Room at the White House. In his remarks, he referred to 
Vladimir Zhirinovsky, leader of the Liberal Democratic Party in Russia.