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Bill Clinton Speaks To A Meeting Of Newspaper Editors
April 11, 1997
CLINTON: Thank you very much.
And thank you, Bob, for reminding me of my best line from the speech last night.
George Bush got the last laugh.
Twelve thousand feet and not a scratch. I fell six inches; I'm hobbled for six months.
I'm delighted to be here. I want to thank you for having me and congratulate this year's writing award winners. I missed last year and I'm sorry I couldn't come, but the vice president told me all about it, and because he came here, I had to listen one more time and look one more time at all those pictures from his days as a long- haired reporter for the Nashville Tennessean.
This is what it's really like.
I don't mind learning about global warming and high technology and everything, but I had to learn all about the newspaper business all over again.
I hear that speech about once every three months from him.
You know, times have changed remarkably since Will Rogers said -- All I know is what I see in the papers.
Today we live in a world with 500 channels, literally hundreds of thousands of web sites exploding all the time. We're trying to develop the Internet II. But still the role that you play in informing and educating Americans and in helping them to make the right kind of choices is terribly important.
I want to talk today about one of those choices that will have a profound effect on all of our lives and the lives of our children in the next century.
And that is the choices we must make to sustain America's leadership in the world.
Four years ago, I came into office determined to renew our strength and prosperity here at home, but I also believed that in the global society of the 21st century, the dividing line between foreign and domestic policy was increasingly an artificial distinction.
After all, our national security depends on strong families, safe streets and world class education. And our success at home clearly depends on our strength and willingness and our ability to lead abroad.
The conviction that America must be strong and involved in the world has really been the bedrock of our foreign policy for the last 50 years. After World War II, a generation of far-sighted leaders forged NATO, which has given us a half-century of security, and played a strong role in ending the Cold War.
They built the United Nations so that a hard-won peace would not be lost. They launched the Marshall Plan to rebuild a Europe ravaged by war. They created the World Bank and other international financial institutions to pave the way for unprecedented prosperity for American people and others around the world.
They did this throughout a half century Republicans and Democrats together, united in bipartisan support for the American leadership that has been essential to the strength and security of the American people for half a century now.
Now, we stand at the dawn of a new century in a new millennium, another moment to be far-sighted, another moment to guarantee America another 50 years of security and prosperity.
We've largely swept away the blocks and barriers that once divided whole continents. But as borders become more open, and the flow of information, technology, money, trade and people across the borders are larger and more rapid, the line between domestic and foreign policy continues to blur.
And we can only preserve our security and our well being at home by being strongly involved in the world beyond our borders.
From fighting terrorism and drug trafficking to limiting the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, to protecting the global environment, we stand to gain from working with other nations, and we will surely lose if we fail to do so.
Just as American leaders of both political parties did 50 years ago, we have to come together to take new initiatived revitalize and reform old structures so that we can prepare our country to succeed and win and make the world a better place in this new era.
You know, it is commonplace to say that since the end of the Cold War, America stands alone as the world's only super power. That is clearly true, but it can be dangerously misleading.
Because our power can only be used if we are willing to become even more involved with others all around the world in an increasingly inter-dependent world. We must be willing to shape this interdependent work and to embrace its interdependence, including our interdependence on others. There is no illusory Olympus on which the world's only super power can sit and expect to preserve its position, much less enhance it.
In my State of the Union Address, I set out six key strategic objectives for America's prosperity, security, and democratic values in the 21st century.
First, a Europe that is undivided, democratic and at peace for the first time in its history. Second, strong and stable relations between the United States and Asia.
Third, our willing continuation of America's leadership as the world's most important force for peace. Fourth, the creation of more jobs and opportunity for our people through a more open and competitive trading system that also helps others all around the world.
Fifth, increasing cooperation in confront new security threats that defy borders and unilateral solutions. And sixth, the provision of the tools necessary to meet these challenges from maintaining the world's strongest, most modern and most adaptable military to maintaining a strong, fully funded and comprehensive diplomacy.
On that last point, let me just point out that Secretary Albright often says that our whole diplomatic budget is only about one percent of the budget.
We devote less of our resources to that than any other major country in the world and yet, about half of America's legacy will be determined by whether we have the adequate resources to do that. That's a very important thing, because I think most of your readers don't know that.
They think we spend more and get less out of our foreign policy investments, when in fact we spend less and get more than in almost any other area of public endeavor.
Each of these six goals is vital to realizing the promise of our time and to guarding against its perils. Together they provide a blueprint for our future, not just for the next four years, but for the next half century.
In the next three months we'll face critical choices that will determine whether we have the vision and will to pursue these objectives. We have to seize the opportunity to complete the mission America set out on 50 years ago and to push forward on the mission of the next 50 years.
We will begin by strengthening the foundation for security and prosperity in our own hemisphere. In the first of my three trips to the Americas over the next year, I will meet with our closest neighbors in Mexico, Central America and the Caribbean, to help our democracies and economies grow together, and to intensify our shared fight against crime, drugs, illegal immigration and pollution.
Just before the 50th anniversary of the Marshall Plan, I will hold a summit with the European Union to affirm our transatlantic ties, even as we expand our global partnership. I will host the world's leading industrial democracies at what we used to call the G-7 but now call the Summit of the Eight in Denver, which will give us an opportunity to deepen our cooperation with Russia for peace and freedom and prosperity.
At the NATO summit in Madrid this July, we will continue to adapt NATO to the demands of a new era and invite the first, but not the last, new members to join history's most successful alliance.
And I will continue America's efforts to bring the parties together at this very difficult moment for peace in the Middle East.
Like the larger agenda they support, each of these initiatives calls for American leadership that is strong and steadfast. The powerful trend toward democracy and free markets is neither inevitable nor irreversible. Sustaining it will take relentless effort. But leadership brings its rewards. The more America leads, the more willing others will be to share the risks and the responsibilities of forging the future we want.
In the last four years, we have seen that over and over again. We've seen it in Bosnia. We've seen it in Haiti. We've seen it in the Summit of the Americas and in the APEC Leaders Forum, where we have agreed with our partners to build a free and open trading system, early in the next century.
Our leadership also faces two other pressing tests, now and in the coming months. First, immediately ratifying the Chemical Weapons Convention, and then giving the United States the means we need to continue our growth by making trade more open and fair in the global economy.
Let me deal with the first issue. For the last 50 years, Americans have lived under the hair-trigger threat of mass destruction. Our leadership has been essential to lifting that global peril, thanks in large measure to the efforts of my predecessors.
And during the last four years also, when we have made remarkable progress.
The collapse of the Soviet Union left 3,400 nuclear warheads in Ukraine, Kazakhstan and Belarus. Today, there are none. North Korea was accumulating material for nuclear weapons when I became president.
Now its nuclear program is frozen under international supervision and eventually will be dismantled. We helped to win the indefinite extension of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, a powerful global barrier to the spread of nuclear weapons and their technology. We led in concluding the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty, which will bring to life a decades-old dream of ending nuclear weapons testing.
President Yeltsin and I agreed in Helsinki to a road map for the START treaties to cut our nuclear arsenals over the next decade by 80 percent from their Cold War peaks, and actually to destroy the warheads so they can never used for destructive ends.
Now America must rise to the challenge of ratifying the Chemical Weapons Convention and doing it before it takes effect on April the 29th, less than three weeks from today. This century opened with the horror of chemical warfare in the trenches of World War I.
Today, at the dawn of a new century, we had the opportunity to forge a widening international commitment to begin banishing poison gas from the earth, even as we know it remains a grave, grave threat in the hands of rogue states or terrorist groups. The Chemical Weapons Convention requires other nations to do what we decided to do more than a decade ago -- get rid of all chemical weapons. In other words, the treaty is about other nations destroying their chemical weapons.
As they do so and renounce the development, production, acquisition or use of chemical arms and pledge not to help others acquire them or produce them, our troops will be less likely to face one of the battlefield's most lethal threats. As stockpiles are eliminated and the transfer of dangerous chemicals is controlled, rogue states and terrorists will have a harder time getting the ingredients for weapons.
And that will protect not only military forces but also innocent civilians.
By giving us new tools for verification, enabling us to tap a global network for intelligence and information, and strengthening our own law enforcement, the treaty will make it easier for us to prevent to punish those who seek to violate its rules.
The Chemical Weapons Convention reflects the best of American bipartisanship, negotiated under President Reagan and President Bush, supported by a broad and growing number of Americans, including every chairman of the joint chiefs of staff since the Carter administration.
Last week at the White House, I was proud to welcome a remarkable cross-section of these supporters, including former Secretary of State James Baker, General Colin Powell, other military leaders, legislators, arms control experts and representatives from small and large businesses, religious groups and scientists. I urge the Senate to do what is right and ratify this convention.
If we fail to do it we won't be there to enforce a treaty that we helped to write, leaving our military and our people more vulnerable to a silent and sudden killer.
We will put ourselves in the same column as rogue nations like Libya and Iraq that reject this treaty. Instead of in the company of those who set the norms for civilized behavior in this world.
We will subject our chemical companies, among our leading exporters, to severe trade restrictions that could cost them hundreds of millions of collars in sales and cost many Americans good jobs.
And perhaps most important we will send a clear signal of retreat to the rest of the world at the very time when we ought to be sending the opposite signal.
American has lead the effort to establish an international ban against chemical weapons. Now we have to ratify it and remain on the right side of history. If we do there will be new momentum and moral authority to our leadership in reducing even more the dangers of weapons of mass destruction.
Within my lifetime we've made enormous strides. Stepping back from the nuclear precipice, from the bleak time of fall out shelters and air raid drills. But we have so much more to do.
We have to strengthen the world's ability to stop the use of deadly diseases as biological weapons of war. We have to freeze the production of raw materials used for nuclear bombs. We must give greater bite to the global watchdogs responsible for detecting hidden weapon systems and programs. Continuing this progress demands constant work, nonstop vigilance and American leadership.
There is a second matter that demands bipartisan cooperation in the coming months. For 50 years our nation has lead the world not only in building security but in promoting global prosperity. Now we have to chose whether to continue to shape the international economy so that it works for all our people or to shrink from its challenges.
The rapidly growing and ever changing global economy is an inescapable fact of our time. In the last 50 years global trade has increased 90-fold. Over the next decade it is expected to grow at three times the rate of the American economy.
Nations once divided by great gulfs of geography and military rivalry are now linked by surging currents of commerce. Now the world market place does pose stiff challenges. But it offers us great opportunity. Each of the last three years the United States has been ranked the world's most competitive economy.
Our exports have surged to record levels. Our budget deficit is now the smallest as a share of national income of any major economy in the world. Basic industries have revived, our auto industry is number one in the world again for the first time since the 1970s.
From semiconductors to biotech to Hollywood, American firms lead the industries that are remaking the world. Our economy produced eleven and a half million jobs in the last four years for the first time ever.Our unemployment today is 5.2 percent. That's one and a half percent lower than the 25 year average before I took office.
We can make the most of this new economic era. We do not need to be afraid of global trade. But in a world where we have only 4 percent of the population, and where the fastest growing markets for our products and services are Asia and Latin America, where export-related jobs pay 13 to 16 percent more than other American jobs, we don't have a choice. We have to export.
To do that, we have to have higher skills, stronger productivity, deeper investment. That's why we have to balance the budget -- to keep our interest rates down, our investment up, and to keep the economy going.
We have to give our people the best education in the world. That's why we need the new national school standards. We must open the doors of college to all.
We ought to pass the GI bill for America's workers I proposed -- that would give every unemployed and underemployed person a skills grant to use in getting the training that he or she needs.
We must continue to expand research and development in both the public and private sectors. And in every opportunity, we have to press forward for more open international trade.
Our administration has concluded more than 200 separate trade agreements, each of which opens someone else's markets wider to American business. We fought for NAFTA, which created a free market with our neighbors; and today, in spite of its economic crisis, our exports to Mexico are up 37 percent over pre-NAFTA levels.
We broke seven years of global gridlock and successfully negotiated the new round of GATT, which has lowered average tariffs on American goods around the world by one-third.
We have broken down barriers and boosted exports to Japan -- up 41 percent since 1993, and 85 percent in the areas where we have negotiated specific trade agreements.
This is a record to build on, not to rest on. When the momentum for open market falters, the world can easily slide backward. And when America falters, our relative position will certainly slide backward.
It is unacceptable for us to sit on the sidelines while other nations forge bonds of trade. Only American leadership can create the prosperity for our people and for the world in the next 50 years. And America cannot lead if we don't act. And here's where the issue is.
Every American president since 1974 -- Democrat and Republican alike -- has had the authority to negotiate new trade agreements called fast-track negotiating authority, which permits the agreements to be presented in a package to the Congress to be approved -- up or down.
Every time, this has been extended with the support of members of Congress of both parties. That is how we have exercised our most fundamental economic leadership. That authority has expired. And today, I renew my call to Congress to give me the authority to negotiate new trade agreements that will create opportunities for our workers and our businesses in the global economy and will maintain our leadership in creating the kind of world we want the young people who are here in this audience to live in.
We have seen in the past six months what a strong trade agreement can do for our people and our businesses.
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