THE WHITE HOUSE
Office of the Press Secretary
For Immediate Release September 14, 1993
REMARKS BY PRESIDENT CLINTON,
PRESIDENT BUSH, PRESIDENT CARTER, PRESIDENT FORD,
AND VICE PRESIDENT GORE
IN SIGNING OF NAFTA SIDE AGREEMENTS
The East Room
10:39 A.M. EDT
VICE PRESIDENT GORE: Ladies and gentlemen, please be
seated. We'd like to welcome all of you. President and Mrs. Ford,
President and Mrs. Carter, President Bush, Mr. President, to the First
Lady, to the Ambassador of Mexico, Mr. Montano, Ambassador Keegan of
Canada, Ambassador Kantor. To the distinguished leaders of Congress
here -- the Speaker of the House Tom Foley -- I got you all a little
out of order, I apologize -- and to the Majority Leader, Senator
Mitchell; to the Republican Leader, Senator Dole; the Minority Leader
of the House Bob Michel; to all of the distinguished members of the
House and Senate who are here. To the other members of our Cabinet --
of President Clinton's Cabinet who are here --Secretary Christopher,
Secretary Bentsen, Secretary Espy, Secretary Reich, Secretary Riley,
Secretary Browner, Secretary Babbitt, Attorney General Reno, OMB
Director Panetta. And to all of the distinguished guests who are
present. We deeply appreciate the demonstration of support for a
treaty of such importance to the United States of America.
If you're anything like me and my family, you're still
kind of rubbing your eyes a little bit after yesterday's event, where
the Prime Minister of Israel and the Chairman of the PLO were on the
White House lawn. But that event has something in common with the
event here this morning; something that was thought to be impossible,
but good for our country and good for the world was made possible by a
long series of commitments by presidents in both parties.
There are some issues that transcend ideology. That is,
the view is so uniform that it unites people in both parties. This
means our country can pursue a bipartisan policy with continuity over
the decades. That's how we won the Cold War. That's how we have
promoted peace and reconciliation in the Middle East. And that's how
the United States of America has promoted freer trade and bigger
markets for our products and those of other nations throughout the
world. NAFTA is such an issue.
The presence of three former presidents, two Republicans
and one Democrat, to join President Clinton here today on this stage,
is evidence of our country's ability to support what is in our
nation's best interest over the long term without respect to
Arthur Vandenberg, the Senator most identified with
bipartisanship during and after World War II once wrote:
"Bipartisanship does not involve the remotest surrender of free debate
in determining our position. On the contrary, frank cooperation and
free debate are indispensable to ultimate unity."
We will, indeed, have much room for free debate during
this controversy. That it is in our nation's best interest to ratify
and pass this treaty cannot be left to doubt. The person who is
leading the fight and who has marshaled support in both parties is the
person it is my pleasure to introduce now. The President of the
United States, Bill Clinton. (Applause.)
THE PRESIDENT: Thank you very much. Mr. Vice President,
President Bush, President Carter, President Ford, ladies and
gentlemen. I would like to acknowledge just a couple of other people
who are in the audience because I think they deserve to be seen by
America since you'll be seeing a lot more of them: my good friend,
Bill Daley, from Chicago; and former Congressman Bill Frenzel from
Minnesota, who have agreed to lead this fight for our administration
on a bipartisan basis. Would you please stand and be recognized.
It's an honor for me today to be joined by my
predecessor, President Bush, who took the major steps in negotiating
this North American Free Trade Agreement; President Jimmy Carter,
whose vision of hemispherical development gives great energy to our
efforts and has been a consistent theme of his for many, many years
now; and President Ford who has argued as fiercely for expanded trade
and for this agreement as any American citizen and whose counsel I
continue to value.
These men, differing in party and outlook, join us today
because we all recognize the important stakes for our nation in this
issue. Yesterday we saw the sight of an old world dying, a new one
being born in hope and a spirit of peace. Peoples who for a decade
were caught in the cycle of war and frustration chose hope over fear
and took a great risk to make the future better.
Today we turn to face the challenge of our own
hemisphere, our own country, our own economic fortunes. In a few
moments, I will sign three agreements that will complete our
negotiations with Mexico and Canada to create a North American Free
Trade Agreement. In the coming months I will submit this pack to
Congress for approval. It will be a hard fight, and I expect to be
there with all of you every step of the way. (Applause.)
We will make our case as hard and as well as we can.
And, though the fight will be difficult, I deeply believe we will win.
And I'd like to tell you why. First of all, because NAFTA means jobs.
American jobs, and good-paying American jobs. If I didn't believe
that, I wouldn't support this agreement.
As President, it is my duty to speak frankly to the
American people about the world in which we now live. Fifty years at
the end of World War II, an unchallenged America was protected by the
oceans and by our technological superiority; and, very frankly, by the
economic devastation of the people who could otherwise have been our
competitors. We chose, then, to try to help rebuild our former
enemies and to create a world of free trade supported by institutions
which would facilitate it.
As a result of that effort, global trade grew from $200
billion in 1950 to $800 billion in 1980. As a result, jobs were
created and opportunity thrived all across the world. But make no
mistake about it: Our decision at the end of World War II to create a
system of global, expanded, freer trade and the supporting
institutions played a major role in creating the prosperity of the
American middle class.
Ours is now an era in which commerce is global and in
which money, management, technology are highly mobile. For the last
20 years in all the wealthy countries of the world, because of changes
in the global environment, because of the growth of technology,
because of increasing competition, the middle class that was created
and enlarged by the wise policies of expanding trade at the end of
World War II has been under severe stress. Most Americans
are working harder for less. They are vulnerable to the fear tactics
and the adverseness to change that is behind much of the opposition to
But I want to say to my fellow Americans, when you live
in a time of change the only way to recover your security and to
broaden your horizons is to adapt to the change, to embrace, to move
forward. Nothing we do -- nothing we do in this great capital can
change the fact that factories or information can flash across the
world; that people can move money around in the blink of an eye.
Nothing can change the fact that technology can be adopted once
created by people all across the world, and then rapidly adapted in
new and different ways by people who have a little different take on
the way the technology works.
For two decades, the winds of global competition have
made these things clear to any American with eyes to see. The only
way we can recover the fortunes of the middle class in this country so
that people who work harder and smarter can at least prosper more, the
only way we can pass on the American Dream of the last 40 years to our
children and their children for the next 40 is to adapt to the changes
which are occurring.
In a fundamental sense, this debate about NAFTA is a
debate about whether we will embrace these changes and create the jobs
of tomorrow, or try to resist these changes, hoping we can preserve
the economic structures of yesterday.
I tell you, my fellow Americans, that if we learn
anything from the collapse of the Berlin Wall and the fall of the
governments in Eastern Europe, even a totally controlled society
cannot resist the winds of change that economics and technology and
information flow have imposed in this world of ours. That is not an
option. Our only realistic option is to embrace these changes and
create the jobs of tomorrow. (Applause.)
I believe that NAFTA will create 200,000 American jobs in
the first two years of its effect. I believe if you look at the
trends -- and President Bush and I were talking about it this morning
-- starting about the time he was elected president, over one-third of
our economic growth, and in some years over one-half of our net new
jobs came directly from exports. And on average, those export-related
jobs paid much higher than jobs that had no connection to exports.
I believe that NAFTA will create a million jobs in the
first five years of its impact. And I believe that that is many more
jobs than will be lost, as inevitably some will be as always happens
when you open up the mix to a new range of competition.
NAFTA will generate these jobs by fostering an export
boom to Mexico; by tearing down tariff walls which have been lowered
quite a bit by the present administration of President Salinas, but
are still higher than Americans.
Already Mexican consumers buy more per capita from the
United States than other consumers in other nations. Most Americans
don't know this, but the average Mexican citizen -- even though wages
are much lower in Mexico, the average Mexican citizen is now spending
$450 per year per person to buy American goods. That is more than the
average Japanese, the average German, or the average Canadian buys;
more than the average German, Swiss and Italian citizens put together.
So when people say that this trade agreement is just
about how to move jobs to Mexico so nobody can make a living, how do
they explain the fact that Mexicans keep buying more products made in
America every year? Go out and tell the American people that.
Mexican citizens with lower incomes spend more money -- real dollars,
not percentage of their income -- more money on American products than
Germans, Japanese, Canadians. That is a fact. And there will be
more if they have more money to spend. That is what expanding trade
is all about.
In 1987, Mexico exported $5.7 billion more of products to
the United States than they purchased from us. We had a trade
deficit. Because of the free market, tariff-lowering policies of the
Salinas government in Mexico, and because our people are becoming more
export-oriented, that $5.7-billion trade deficit has been turned into
a $5.4-billion trade surplus for the United States. It has created
hundreds of thousands of jobs.
Even when you subtract the jobs that have moved into the
Maquilladora areas, America is a net job winner in what has happened
in trade in the last six years. When Mexico boosts its consumption of
petroleum products in Louisiana, where we're going tomorrow to talk
about NAFTA, as it did by about 200 percent in that period, Louisiana
refinery workers gained job security. When Mexico purchased
industrial machinery and computer equipment made in Illinois, that
means more jobs. And guess what? In this same period, Mexico
increased those purchases out of Illinois by 300 percent.
Forty-eight out of the 50 states have boosted exports to
Mexico since 1987. That's one reason why 41 of our nation's 50
governors, some of them who are here today -- and I thank them for
their presence -- support this trade pack. I can tell you, if you're
a governor, people won't leave you in office unless they think you get
up every day trying to create more jobs. They think that's what your
jobs is if you're a governor. And the people who have the job of
creating jobs for their state and working with their business
community, working with their labor community, 41 out of the 50 have
already embraced the NAFTA pact.
Many Americans are still worried that this agreement will
move jobs south of the border because they've seen jobs move south of
the border and because they know that there are still great
differences in the wage rates. There have been 19 serious economic
studies of NAFTA by liberals and conservatives alike; 18 of them have
concluded that there will be no job loss.
Businesses do not choose to locate based solely on wages.
If they did, Haiti and Bangladesh would have the largest number of
manufacturing jobs in the world. Businesses do choose to locate based
on the skills and productivity of the work force, the attitude of the
government, the roads and railroads to deliver products, the
availability of a market close enough to make the transportation costs
meaningful, the communications networks necessary to support the
enterprise. That is our strength, and it will continue to be our
strength. As it becomes Mexico's strength and they generate more
jobs, they will have higher incomes and they will buy more American
We can win this. This is not a time for defeatism. It
is a time to look at an opportunity that is enormous.
Moreover, there are specific provisions in this agreement
that remove some of the current incentives for people to move their
jobs just across our border. For example, today Mexican law requires
United States automakers who want to sell cars to Mexicans to build
them in Mexico. This year we will export only 1,000 cars to Mexico.
Under NAFTA, the Big Three automakers expect to ship
60,000 cars to Mexico in the first year alone, and that is one reason
why one of the automakers recently announced moving 1,000 jobs from
Mexico back to Michigan.
In a few moments, I will sign side agreements to NAFTA
that will make it harder than it is today for businesses to relocate
solely because of very low wages or lax environmental rules. These
side agreements will make a difference. The environmental agreement
will, for the first time ever, apply trade sanctions against any of
the countries that fails to enforce its own environmental laws. I
might say to those who say that's giving up of our sovereignty, for
people who have been asking us to ask that of Mexico, how do we have
the right to ask that of Mexico if we don't demand it of ourselves?
It's nothing but fair.
This is the first time that there have ever been trade
sanctions in the environmental law area. This ground-breaking
agreement is one of the reasons why major environmental groups,
ranging from the Audubon Society to the Natural Resources Defense
Council, are supporting NAFTA.
The second agreement ensures the Mexico enforces its laws
in areas that include worker health and safety, child labor and the
minimum wage. And I might say, this is the first time in the history
of world trade agreements when any nation has ever been willing to tie
its minimum wage to the growth in its own economy.
What does that mean? It means that there will be an even
more rapid closing of the gap between our two wage rates. And as the
benefits of economic growth are spread in Mexico to working people,
what will happen? They'll have more disposable income to buy more
American products and there will be less illegal immigration because
more Mexicans will be able to support their children by staying home.
This is a very important thing. (Applause.)
The third agreement answers one of the primary attacks on
NAFTA that I heard for a year, which is, well, you can say all this,
but something might happen that you can't foresee. Well, that's a
good thing; otherwise we never would have had yesterday. (Laughter
and applause.) I mean, I plead guilty to that. Something might
happen that Carla Hills didn't foresee, or George Bush didn't foresee,
or Mickey Kantor, or Bill Clinton didn't foresee. That's true.
Now, the third agreement protects our industries against
unforseen surges in exports from either one of our trading partners.
And the flip side is also true. Economic change, as I said before,
has often been cruel to the middle class, but we have to make change
their friend. NAFTA will help to do that.
This imposes also a new obligation on our government --
and I'm glad to see so many members of Congress from both parties here
today. We do have some obligations here. We have to make sure that
our workers are the best prepared, the best trained in the world.
Without regard to NAFTA, we know now that the average 18-
year-old American will change jobs eight times in a lifetime. The
Secretary of Labor has told us, without regard to NAFTA, that over the
last 10 years, for the first time, when people lose their jobs most of
them do not go back to their old job, they go back to a different job;
so that we no longer need an unemployment system, we need a
reemployment system. And we have to create that.
And that's our job. We have to tell American workers who
will be dislocated because of this agreement or because of things that
will happen regardless of this agreement, that we are going to have a
reemployment program for training in America, and we intend to do
Together, the efforts of two administrations now have
created a trade agreement that moves beyond the traditional notions of
free trade, seeking to ensure trade that pulls everybody up instead of
dragging some down while others go up. We have put the environment at
the center of this in future agreements. We have sought to avoid a
debilitating contest for business where countries seek to lure them
only by slashing wages or despoiling the environment.
This agreement will create jobs, thanks to trade with our
neighbors. That's reason enough to support it. But I must close with
a couple of other points. NAFTA is essential to our long-term ability
to compete with Asia and Europe. Across the globe our competitors are
consolidating, creating huge trading blocks. This pact will create a
free trade zone stretching from the Arctic to the tropics, the largest
in the world -- a $6.5 billion market, with 370 million people. It
will help our businesses to be both more efficient and to better
compete with our rivals in other parts of the world.
This is also essential to our leadership in this
hemisphere and the world. Having won the Cold War, we face the more
subtle challenge of consolidating the victory of democracy and
opportunity and freedom.
For decades, we have preached and preached and preached
greater democracy, greater respect for human rights, and more open
markets to Latin America. NAFTA finally offers them the opportunity
to reap the benefits of this. Secretary Shalala represented me
recently at the installation of the President of Paraguay. And she
talked to presidents from Colombia, from Chile, from Venezuela, from
Uruguay, from Argentina, from Brazil. They all wanted to know, tell
me if NAFTA is going to pass so we can become part of this great new
market. more, hundreds of millions more of American consumers for our
It's no secret that there is division within both the
Democratic and Republican parties on this issue. That often happens
in a time of great change. I just want to say something about this
because it's very important. Are you guys resting? (Laughter and
applause.) I'm going to sit down when you talk, so I'm glad you got
to do it. (Laughter.) I am very grateful to the presidents for
coming here because there is division in the Democratic Party and
there is division in the Republican Party. That's because this fight
is not a traditional fight between Democrats and Republicans, and
liberals and conservatives. It is right at the center of the effort
that we're making in America to define what the future is going to be
And so there are differences. But if you strip away the
differences, it is clear that most of the people that oppose this pact
are rooted in the fears and insecurities that are legitimately
gripping the great American middle class. It is no use to deny that
these fears and insecurities exist. It is no use denying that many of
our people have lost in the battle for change. But it is a great
mistake to think that NAFTA will make it worse. Every single solitary
thing you hear people talk about that they're worried about can happen
whether this trade agreement passes or not, and most of them will be
made worse if it fails. And I can tell you it will be better if it
So I say this to you: Are we going to compete and win,
or are we going to withdraw? Are we going to face the future with
confidence that we can create tomorrow's jobs, or are we going to try
against all the evidence of the last 20 years to hold on to
yesterday's? Are we going to take the plain evidence of the good
faith of Mexico in opening their own markets and buying more of our
products and creating more of our jobs, or are we going to give in to
the fears of the worst-case scenario? Are we going to pretend that we
don't have the first trade agreement in history dealing seriously with
labor standards, environmental standards and cleverly and clearly
taking account of unforeseen consequences, or are we going to say this
is the best you can do and then some?
In an imperfect world, we have something which will
enable us to go forward together and to create a future that is worthy
of our children and grandchildren, worthy of the legacy of America,
and consistent with what we did at the end of World War II. We have
to do that again. We have to create a new world economy. And if we
don't do it, we cannot then point the finger at Europe and Japan or
anybody else and say, why don't you pass the GATT agreement; why don't
you help to create a world economy. If we walk away from this, we
have no right to say to other countries in the world, you're not
fulfilling your world leadership, you're not being fair with us. This
is our opportunity to provide an impetus to freedom and democracy in
Latin America and create new jobs for America as well. It's a good
deal and we ought to take it.
Thank you. (Applause.)
(NAFTA side agreements are signed.) (Applause.)
I'd like to ask now each of the presidents in their turn
to come forward and make a statement, beginning with President Bush
and going to President Carter and President Ford. And I will play
musical chairs with their seats. (Laughter and applause.)
PRESIDENT BUSH: Thank you very much. I thought that was
a very eloquent statement by President Clinton, and now I understand
why he's inside looking out and I'm outside looking in. (Laughter and
But this is an outstanding statement that really covered
all the bases, and I'm just delighted to be here to speak for NAFTA.
I salute, sir, all in your administration, particularly Mr. Kantor and
his team who worked to bring these agreements to fruition; who are
continuing now to try to get NAFTA through -- Bill Daley and Bill
Frenzel -- outstanding co-workers in the best nonpartisan, bipartisan
sense. We're proud of them.
And, of course, I am very proud of those with whom I
worked to sign a NAFTA agreement: Jim Baker, Bob Mosbacher, certainly
Brent Scowcroft, and particularly the toughest of them all, Carla
Hills, whose over here with us today. (Applause.)
And I certainly salute former Presidents Carter and
Ford for their speaking out so strongly. My predecessor, Ronald
Reagan had a beautiful piece, op-ed piece in the paper the other day
spelling out why we must pass this. So it is a bipartisan agreement.
You heard an eloquent statement by the President about jobs, and let
me just say a word on another facet of this, which he also touched on.
Under Carlos Salinas, a truly courageous young leader,
Mexico has changed. And they have moved on environmental matters and
on labor matters. And they're working closely with us in the
narcotics fight. They're good neighbors and they're good friends, and
they're good partners. And on a wide array of fronts, Mexico's
courageous young President has tangled with his own bureaucracy, taken
on his own special interests. Moving to privatization, he's
dramatically improved Mexico. And now the whole world -- and
President Clinton touched on this -- particularly those countries
south of the Rio Grande are watching and they're wondering if we're
going to go through with this excellent agreement.
Other countries in South America want in, as the
President said. And in my view, we should encourage similar deals
with other countries because that just simply means more jobs for
Skeptics abound. Many are taking the cheap and easy way
out on this one, appealing to demagoguery and to interests that are
very, very special. There's been some longstanding feeling down below
our border -- oh, well, the United States will make a free trade
agreement with Canada, but when it comes to Latin America, when it
comes to Hispanics, see if they'll do the same thing for Latin
countries. And if we fail, the losers will be those in South America,
not just in Mexico who want better relations with us, and the biggest
loser, of course, in my view, will be the good old USA.
Democracy is one the rise in this hemisphere, anti-
Americanism is waning, and I honestly believe democracy will be given
a setback in those countries if we fail to pass this outstanding
agreement. We must say to Mexico that we want you as equal trading
partners, and that's good for both of us.
So let's not listen to those who are trying to scare the
American people, those demagogues who appeal to the worst instincts
that our special interest groups possess, let's do what is right and
let's have enough confidence in ourselves, as the President just said,
to pass this good agreement.
Thank you very much. (Applause.)
PRESIDENT CARTER: Well, this is as much excitement and
as important an issue in this room as when Barishnikov danced, or
Leontyne Price sang, or Horowitz and I were trying to arrange the
carpet so his piano would sound the best, or Willy Nelson played a
guitar, whichever you prefer. (Laughter.) But I don't think there's
any more important issue that could have come up than this one in this
Since I left the White House, which is a long time ago,
we've spent a lot of time in Latin America. The Carter Center has
special programs, one of which is to promote democracy. With my good
friend, Gerald Ford, we went to Panama to try to bring both peace and
democracy to that country. It finally came with the help of George
Bush. We went into Nicaragua to try to hold an honest election and to
replace a communist regime. We went to Haiti and to the Dominican
Republic and, later on, to Guyana, and just recently to Paraguay. And
just this month they've inaugurated a democratically-elected civilian
to be the President of Paraguay.
The point is that there is a wave of democracy brought
about by the strong U.S. human rights policy that is indeed
inspirational to us and is very beneficial to those of us who live in
the United States.
We haven't made any progress on Cuba. And Mexico has a
long way to go to have a truly honest democratic election. But I
think the single most important factor that will democracy and honest
elections to our next-door neighbor is to have NAFTA approved and
implemented. If this is done, then I believe that we will have rich
dividends for our own country.
I'm not going to go into detail about how this will be
done. I think you can see it clearly. And I'll get to that in just a
few minutes. The two most rapidly growing trade areas in the world
are Asia and Latin America. Asia is rapidly growing because their
exports to us are increasing. Latin America is rapidly growing
because our exports to them are increasing. It's obvious to everyone
who looks at this rationally that it's much better to have democracy,
freedom and eager markets for American products among our next-door
neighbors, who have always looked to the United States with intense
interest, far exceeding what I even realized when I was President --
sometimes with trepidation, sometimes with admiration, and sometimes
We've seen what happens with the Contra war. We've seen
what's happened with the allegations about human rights violations in
Guatemala and El Salvador. But there's a pent-up desire to match
their own commitments to peace, to freedom, to democracy, and to human
rights with ours, if we demonstrate to them that we have proper
respect for them as human beings and as neighbors.
This is not always clear. Foreigners don't understand
the lack of continuity in the administrations in Washington. But in
just my brief time in politics I've seen the importance of that.
Under President Lyndon Johnson, there was a crisis created and
diplomatic relations broken with Panama. The operation of the Panama
Canal was in danger. After President Johnson came a series of
Democratic and Republican presidents, each one committed to having an
honest and decent Panama Canal treaty. It was finally passed under my
administration -- one of the most difficult and courageous acts that
members of the Senate ever took.
I called on President Nixon, I called on President Ford
to help me and we narrowly got the two-thirds majority necessary.
It's only been because of that and other things that Latins see that
we can have bipartisan support of common goals as it affects our
Yesterday I was filled with emotion at the signing
ceremony just a few yards from here, something that I knew would
happen someday perhaps, but maybe not in my own lifetime. And the
handshake that has inspired the world took place because President
Nixon and President Ford, and then I and then President Reagan and
President Bush and Bill Clinton all were committed to a common
purpose. Democrats and Republicans working together to help bring
peace to the Middle East.
We don't know what's going to happen in the future.
There's a lot of uncertainty about it. But nobody can doubt that this
was brought about only because our two major parties in this country
were able to put aside the differences that are narrow and self-
serving and partisan, and say for a common purpose we will cooperate.
President Bush obviously started the NAFTA agreement, a
very superb achievement for him. There were some honest problems with
it. I called Bill Clinton only three times during his administration
-- during his campaign. I was for him from the beginning. It's the
first time I ever said this publicly, but I'm proud of it.
(Laughter.) Because I've tried to stay neutral, you know, within the
Democratic Party, but Rosalynn and I were for Bill. I called him
three times. One of those time was when I feared that he might make a
public statement denouncing the North American Free Trade Agreement.
And he said, okay, I will be for it, but with provisos. We've got to
do something about labor, to protect the working people of our
country, and we've got to do something about the environment. That
has now been done. The side agreements have alleviated the serious
questions that did arise about NAFTA. That's been done.
Finally, let me say that in a time like this with an
earth-shaking change in international relations confronting us, there
are those who doubt the ability, or even the integrity of government.
That exists, I guess, in all countries and in ours as well. And there
are those who are uncertain about the future and doubtful about their
NAFTA, as has been so eloquently described by our
President and by President Bush, will alleviate those legitimate
concerns. But unfortunately, in our country now, we have a demagogue
who has unlimited financial resources and who is extremely careless
with the truth, who is preying on the fears and the uncertainties of
the American public. And this must be met, because this powerful
voice can be pervasive, even within the Congress of the United States,
unless it's met by people of courage who vote and act and persuade in
the best interest of our country. (Applause.)
I just want to make one other brief comment, and that is
about the consequences of failure. I cannot think of any other
failure, even including a rejection of the Panama Canal Treaties,
which may have brought a war, that will be more far-reaching than the
rejection of our Mexican neighbors, who have put their faith in a
Republican President and his allies, George Bush, and a Democratic
administration that follows.
If we fail, I think it would be the end of any hope in
the near future that we'll have honest democratic elections in Mexico.
The illegal immigration will increase. American jobs will be lost.
The Japanese and others will move in and take over the markets that
are basically and rightly ours.
So I'm not trying to be a foreseer of doom, but I do
believe that we ought to think not only about the benefits to be
derived from this agreement, but we ought to be deeply concerned about
the well-being of our nation that will be in danger if we fail. We
cannot afford to fail. (Applause.)
PRESIDENT FORD: It's a very, very high honor and a very
great privilege for me to have the opportunity to follow each of the
former Presidents and President Clinton to indicate my very strong
affirmative endorsement of the NAFTA Agreement. I will not repeat
what each one of them have said -- they've done it eloquently and
convincingly -- but I'm old enough and have been around this town long
enough to remember some things that ought to be put on the table.
Right after World War II, there was a tremendous effort
by Democratic presidents, Republican presidents, Democratic congresses
and Republican congresses to pass what we then called reciprocal trade
legislation. And the aim and objective, as Lloyd Bentsen well knows,
was to undo the stupidity of what had been done in 1930 and '31 by the
then-Congress of the United States to pass what they called the Smoot-
Hawley Tariff Act, which raised tariffs all around the United States
to prevent any imports. And the net result was, we, the United
States, could not sell abroad.
And in order to undo that very unwise decision back in
'30 and '31, Republicans and Democrats, the White House and the
Congress strongly supported the kind of legislation that has led to
tremendous expansion of trade on a global basis.
I don't recall the statistical data, but the truth is
that world trade has been the real engine that has given the free
Western industrial nations the capacity to have prosperity and growth.
In my judgment, NAFTA is a follow-on to what was done in
the post-World War II period to undertake a new global effort. And
the consequence of NAFTA, as has been pointed out by my predecessors,
is vitally important not only for the United States, this hemisphere,
and the globe, but it's important primarily for jobs that are going to
be built here in the United States. Our exports will expand
tremendously, as the President has pointed out.
And then let's look at what has happened in our neighbor
to the south. A few of us can remember five, six years ago when we
were deeply concerned with Mexico's $100-billion foreign debt, how
was that going to be resolved. We were worried about runaway
inflation in Mexico, over 100 percent. We were concerned about the
instability of government in our good neighbor to the south.
In my judgment, President Salinas has done a fantastic
job. You no longer hear about their foreign debt. They've privatized
banks, airlines, et cetera. They've reduced inflation from 100
percent to less than 10 percent. Mexico is a growing, thriving
neighbor, and we should be happy.
I fear very strongly that if NAFTA is defeated it could
have serious political and economic ramifications in Mexico. Under
Salinas, jobs are growing, wages are going up. Mexicans want to stay
in Mexico and work in Mexico.
I read the other day a prominent Mexican political leader
said, pass NAFTA and we will have jobs for Mexicans in Mexico. Defeat
NAFTA and there will be a tremendous flow of Mexicans to the United
States wanting jobs in the United States. We don't want that. We want
Mexicans to stay in Mexico so they can work in their home country. We
don't want a huge flow of illegal immigrants into the United States
And I say with all respect to my former members of the
House and the Congress, don't gamble. If you defeat NAFTA, if you
defeat NAFTA, you have to share the responsibility for increased
immigration to the United States, where they want jobs that are
presently being held by Americans. It's that cold-blooded and
practical. And members of the House and Senate ought to understand
I think it's a matter of tremendous importance for NAFTA
to be approved so we can solidify 370 million people in all of Western
society. So we can have growth, prosperity, jobs from the Arctic to
the Antarctic. And I applaud those -- President Bush, Carla Hills and
her associate, President Clinton, Mickey Kantor and his -- for
bringing before this country an opportunity for future prosperity and
good living for people in this entire hemisphere.
We can't afford to make the stupid, serious mistake that
was made in the 1930s and 1931 with the passage of legislation that
tried to put a protective ring around the United States with high
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