[Public Papers of the Presidents of the United States: William J. Clinton (1994, Book II)]
[November 28, 1994]
[Pages 2126-2128]
[From the U.S. Government Publishing Office www.gpo.gov]

Remarks on the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade
November 28, 1994

    Thank you very much, Mr. Vice President. Jim Miller and Jim Baker, 
thank you for your moving and compelling remarks. Mr. Speaker, Leader 
Michel, Members of the Congress, members of the Cabinet, and to all of 
you who have come here from previous administrations and from different 
walks of life, proving that this GATT agreement not only tears down 
trade barriers, it also bulldozes differences of party, philosophy, and 
ideology: I thank you all for being here.
    We have certainly demonstrated today that there is no partisan pride 
of ownership in the GATT agreement. It is not a Republican agreement or 
a Democratic one. It is an American agreement, designed to benefit all 
the American people in every region of our country from every walk of 
    Jim Baker spoke so eloquently about how this represents yet another 
historic choice for the United States in the 20th century. When we 
walked away from our leadership and engagement responsibilities, as we 
did after the First World War, the world has paid a terrible price. When 
we have attempted to lead, as we did after the Second World War, it has 
not only helped the world, it has helped the people of the United 
States. We saw the greatest expansion of the middle class in our country 
and prosperity for working families in our country in the years after we 
tried to put together a system that would preserve peace and security 
and promote prosperity after World War II.
    We have done as much as we could here at home to try to deal with 
the difficult and daunting economic challenges we face, to bring the 
deficit down, to shrink the size of the Government, to simultaneously 
increase our investment in education and technology and defense 
conversion. But we know that without the capacity to expand trade and to 
generate more economic opportunities we will, first of all, not be able 
to fulfill our global responsibilities and, secondly, not be able to 
fulfill our responsibilities to the American people.
    I'd like to address a third argument, if I might, just from my 
heart. It's been raised against this agreement and raised against

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NAFTA. Jim Miller adequately disposed of the arguments that this is a 
budget buster and that this somehow impinges on our sovereignty. That 
isn't true. And he did a very compelling job of that. But let me say 
there is another big argument against this trade agreement that no one 
has advanced today but that is underlying all of this. And I saw it in 
an article the other day written by a columnist generally sympathetic to 
me. He said, ``There he goes again with one of his crazy, self-defeating 
economic ideas, pushing this GATT agreement, which is one more 
prescription for the demise of the lower wage working people in America, 
which is the reason the Democratic Party's in the trouble it's in today, 
doing things like this that just kill working people.''
    That is a wrong argument. But that is really the undercurrent 
against this GATT. The idea is that since we live in a global economy 
and there are people other places who can work for wages we can't live 
on, if we open our markets to them, they will displace our workers and 
they will aggravate the most troubling trend in modern American life, 
which is that the wages of non-college-educated male workers in the 
United States have declined by 12 percent after you take account of 
inflation in the last 10 years.
    Now, that has great superficial appeal. Why is it wrong? It's wrong 
because, number one, if we don't do anything, we'll have some 
displacement from foreign competition. But if we move and lead, we will 
open other markets to our products. And our Nation has gone through a 
wrenching period over the last several years of improving its 
productivity, its ability to compete. We can now sell and compete 
    When we did NAFTA, they made the same argument. What's happened? A 
hundred thousand new jobs this year. What's happened? A 500 percent 
increase in exports of American automobiles to Mexico. What's the 
biggest complaint in Detroit now? The autoworkers have too much overtime 
they have to do. If you think about where we were 10 years ago, that's 
what, at home, we call a high-class problem. [Laughter]
    Now, that is the problem we face in America. And the resentments of 
people who keep working harder and falling further behind and feel like 
they've played by the rules and they've gotten the shaft, they will play 
themselves out, these resentments, in election after election after 
election in different and unpredictable ways, just like they did in 1992 
and 1994. But our responsibility is to do what is right for those people 
over the long run. That is our responsibility. And the only way to do 
that is to open other markets to American products and services, even as 
we open our markets to them.
    Yes, we have to improve the level of lifetime training and education 
for the American work force. Yes, we have to deal with some of the 
serious, particular problems of the American economy. But in the end, 
the private sector in this country and the working people of this 
country will do their jobs if they have half a shot at the high-growth 
areas of the world. And what are the highest growth areas of the world? 
Not the wealthy advanced economies but Latin America, Asia, and other 
    GATT, along with NAFTA and what we're trying to do with the Asian-
Pacific countries and what we're going to try to do at the Summit of the 
Americas, this keeps America leading the world in ways that permits us 
to do both things we have to do at the end of the cold war, to continue 
to be engaged, to continue to lead, to work toward a more peaceful and 
secure and prosperous world, and at the same time to deal with the 
terrible, nagging difficulties that so many millions of American 
families face today.
    There is no other way to deal with this. There is no easy way out. 
There is no slogan that makes the problem go away. This will help to 
solve the underlying anxiety that millions and millions of Americans 
face and, I might add, millions of Europeans and millions of Japanese 
and others in advanced economies all around the world, and at the same 
time make the world a better place and the future more secure for our 
    And we have to do it now. We can't wait until next year. We don't 
want to litter it up like a Christmas tree and run the risk of losing 
it. Every time I talked to a world leader in the last 6 months, they 
have asked me the same thing: When is the United States going to act on 
GATT? The rest of the world is looking at us.
    So we have a golden opportunity here to add $1,700 in income to the 
average family's income in this country over the next few years, to 
create hundreds of thousands of high-wage jobs, to have the biggest 
global tax cut in history, and to fulfill our two responsibilities, our 
responsibility to lead and remain engaged in the world

[[Page 2128]]

and our responsibility to try to help the people here at home to get 
ahead. We need to get on with it and do it now.
    Thank you very much.

Note: The President spoke at 11:38 a.m. in the East Room at the White 
House. In his remarks, he referred to former Office of Management and 
Budget Director James C. Miller III and former Secretary of State James 
A. Baker III.