Compilation of Weekly Presidential Documents - Monday, December 6, 1999 Volume 35, Issue 48; ISSN: 0511-4187 Remarks at a World Trade Organization luncheon in Seattle

Monday, December 6, 1999


Volume 35, Issue 48; ISSN: 0511-4187


Remarks at a World Trade Organization luncheon in Seattle

William J Clinton



� December 1, 1999



� Thank you very much. Ambassador Barshefsky, thank you for your

remarks and your work. Ladies and gentlemen, we have a very large

delegation from our administration here today, and I hope it's

evidence to you of our seriousness of purpose. I thank the Commerce

Secretary, Bill Daley; the Agriculture Secretary, Dan Glickman; our

SBA Administrator, Aida Alvarez, my National Economic Councilor,

Gene Sperling; Ambassador Esserman; and my Chief of Staff, John

Podesta, all of whom are here, and I thank them.



� I want to say that I agree that Mike Moore is the ideal person to

head the WTO, because he has a sense of humor, and boy, do we need

it right now. [Laughter] Did you see the gentleman holding up the

big white napkin here before we started? He was doing that to get

the light for the television cameras. But he was standing here

holding the napkin and Mike whispered to me, he said, "Well, after

yesterday, that could be the flag of the WTO." [Laughter] We'll have

rolling laughter as the translation gets through here.



� Let me begin by saying welcome to the United States and to one of

our most wonderful cities. We are honored to have you here on a very

important mission. Today I want to talk a little bit about the work

that we're all here to do: launching a new WTO round for a new

century, a new type of round that I hope will be about jobs,

development, and broadly shared prosperity and about improving the

quality of life, as well as the quality of work around the world, an

expanded system of rule-based trade that keeps pace with the

changing global economy and the changing global society.



� Let me begin by saying that 7 years ago when I had the honor to

become President of the United States, I sat down alone and sort of

made a list of the things that I hoped could be done to create the

kind of world that I wanted our children to live in, in the new

century, a world where the interests of the United States I thought

were quite clear: in peace and stability; in democracy and




� To achieve that kind of world, I thought it was very important that

the United States support the increasing unity of Europe and the

expansion of the European Union; that we support the expansion of

NATO and its partnership with what are now more than two dozen

countries, including Russia and Ukraine; that we support the

integration of China, Russia, and the Indian subcontinent, in

particular, into the large political and economic flows of our time;

that we stand against the ethnic and religious conflicts that were

still consuming the Middle East and Northern Ireland, then Bosnia

and later Kosovo; that we do what we could to help people all over

the world to deal with such things, including the tribal wars in




� And I thought it was important that we give people mechanisms by

which they could work toward a shared prosperity, which is why we

wanted to finish the last WTO round; why we are working hard with

our friends in Europe on a Stability Pact for the Balkans; why we

know economics must be a big part of the Middle East peace process;

why we have an Asian-Pacific Economic Forum, where the leaders meet;

why we've had two Summits of the Americas with our friends in Latin

America; why we're trying to pass the Africa and Caribbean Basin

trade initiatives; and why I believe it is imperative that we here

succeed in launching a new trade round that can command broad

support among ordinary citizens in all our countries and take us

where we want to go.



� There are negative forces I have tried to combat, in addition to

the forces of hatred based on ethnic or religious difference: the

terrorists, the problems of disease and poverty, which I hope that

the large debt relief initiative that we are pushing will help to




� But in the end, all of these changes in my view will only give us

the world we want-- where the poorest countries have children that

can at least live through childhood, and where the boys as well as

the girls can go to school and then have a chance to make a decent

living; where countries with governance problems can work through

them; where wealthy countries can continue to prosper but do so in a

way that is more responsible to helping those who still have a long

way to go economically; and where, together, we can meet our common

responsibilities to human needs, to the environment, to the cause of

world peace-we will not get that done unless we can prove, for all

of our domestic political difficulties and all of our honest

differences, we still believe that we can have an interdependent

global economy that runs alongside our interdependent international

information society.



� And we are called upon here to meet against a background of a lot

of people coming here to protest. Some of them, I think, have a

short memory, or maybe no memory, of what life was like in most of

your countries not so very long ago. So let me say again, I condemn

the small number who were violent and who tried to prevent you from




� But I'm glad the others showed up, because they represent millions

of people who are now asking questions about whether this enterprise

in fact will take us all where we want to go. And we ought to

welcome their questions and be prepared to give an answer, because

if we cannot create an interconnected global economy that is

increasing prosperity and genuine opportunity for people everywhere,

then all of our political initiatives are going to be less

successful. So I ask you to think about that.



� When I hear the voices outside the meeting rooms, I disagree with a

lot of what they say, but I'm still glad they're here. Why? Because

their voices now count in this debate. For 50 years--one of the

reasons I said we needed a leader like Mr. Moore, with a sense of

humor, because for 50 years global trade, even though there were

always conflicts-- you know, the United States and Japan, they're

our great friends and allies; we're always arguing about something.

But to be fair, it was a conflict that operated within a fairly

narrow band. For 50 years, trade decisions were largely the province

of trade ministers, heads of government, and business interests. But

now, what all those people in the street tell us is that they would

also like to be heard. And they're not so sure that this deal is

working for them.



� Some of them say, well-and by the way, they're kind of like we are;

a lot of them are in conflict with each other, right? Because a lot

of them say, 'Well, this is not a good thing for the developing

countries. They haven't benefited as much as they should have, while

the wealthy countries have grown wealthier in this information

society." Others say, "Well, even if you're growing the economy,

you're hurting the environment." And still others say, "Well,

companies may be getting rich in some of these poorer countries, but

actual working, laboring people are not doing so well." And others

have other various and sundry criticisms of what we have done.



� I would like to say, first of all, I think we need to do a better

job of making the basic case. No one in this room can seriously

argue that the world would have been a better place today if our

forebears over the last 50 years had not done their work to bring us

closer together. Whatever the problems that exist in whatever

countries represented here, whatever the legitimacy of any of the

criticism against us, this is a stronger, more prosperous world

because we have worked to expand the frontiers of cooperation and

reduce the barriers to trade among people. And we need to reiterate

our conviction that that is true. If we were all out here going on

our own, we would not be as well off in the world as we are.



� Secondly, at the end of the cold war, I am sure everyone in this

room has been struck by the cruel irony that in this most modern of

ages, when the Internet tells us everything, as Mr. Moore said, when

we are solving all the problems of the human gene and we will soon

know what's in the black holes in the universe, it is truly ironic

that the biggest problems of human society are the oldest ones,

those rooted in our fear of those who are different from

us--different races, different ethnic groups, different tribes,

different religions. All over the world, people consumed by




� When people are working together for common prosperity in a

rule-based system, they have big incentives to lay the differences

down and join hands to work together. So if we just make those two

points to our critics, I think it's very important: Number one, the

world is a better place than it would have been, had we not had the

last 50 years of increasing economic cooperation for trade and

investment; and number two, the world of the future will be a safer

place if we continue to work together in a rule-based system that

offers enormous incentives for people to find ways to cooperate and

to give up their old hatreds and their impulses to violence and war.



� Now having said that, we now have to say: What next? I think we

have to acknowledge a responsibility, particularly those of us in

the wealthier countries, to make sure that we are working harder to

see that the benefits of the global economy are more widely shared

among and within countries, that it truly works for ordinary people

who are doing the work for the rest of us. I think we also have to

make sure that the rules make sense and that we're continuing to

make progress, notwithstanding the domestic political difficulties

that every country will face. We all benefit when the rules are

clear and fair. I think that means we have to cut tariffs further on

manufactured goods and set equally ambitious goals for services. I

think we should extend our moratorium on E-commerce. I think we

should treat agriculture as we treat other sectors of the economy.



� But we all have domestic political constraints. Everybody knows

that. I think we have to leave this luncheon saying, in spite of

that, we're going to find some way to keep moving forward because

the world will be a better place, and the world will be a safer




� Now, let me offer a few observations of what I hope will be done.

First, I think we have to do more to ensure that the least developed

countries have greater access to global markets and the technical

assistance to make the most of it.



� Director-General Moore has dedicated himself and this organization

to extending the benefits of trade to the least developed countries

and I thank you for that, sir. Here in Seattle, 32 developing

nations are moving toward admission to the WTO. EU President Prodi

and I have discussed this whole issue, and I have assured him, and I

assure you, that the United States is committed to a comprehensive

program to help the poorest nations become full partners in the

world trading system. This initiative, which we are working on with

the EU, Japan, and Canada, would enhance market access for products

from the least developed countries consistent with our GSP

preference access program and our Africa and Caribbean Basin

initiatives, which, I am glad to report, are making good progress

through the United States Congress.



� Building on our recent collaboration with Senegal, Lesotho, Zambia,

Bangladesh, and Nigeria, we would also intensify our efforts to help

developing countries build the domestic institutions they need to

make the most of trade opportunities and to implement WTO

obligations. This afternoon I will meet with heads of international

organizations that provide trade-related technical assistance and

ask them to help in this effort.



� And I will say this. I do believe, after the Uruguay Round, when we

set up this system, that we did not pay enough attention to the

internal capacity-building in the developing nations that is

necessary to really play a part in the global economy. And I am

prepared to do my part to rectify that omission.



� We also must help these countries avert the health and pollution

costs of the industrial age. We have to help them use clean

technologies that improve the economy, the environment, and health

care at the same time. And I will just give one example.



� Today is World AIDS Day. And today the USTR, our Trade

Representative, and the Department of Health and Human Services are

announcing that they are committed to working together to make sure

that our intellectual property policy is flexible enough to respond

to legitimate public health crises.



� Intellectual property protections are very important to a modem

economy, but when HIV and AIDS epidemics are involved and like

serious health care crises, the United States will henceforward

implement its health care and trade policies in a manner that

ensures that people in the poorest countries won't have to go

without medicine they so desperately need. I hope this will help

South Africa and many other countries that we are committed to

support in this regard.



� More generally, this new round should promote sustainable

development in places where hunger and poverty still stoke despair.

We know countries that have opened their economies to the world have

also opened the doors to opportunity and hope for their own people.

Where barriers have fallen, by and large, living standards have

risen, and democratic institutions have become stronger. We have to

spread that more broadly.



� So secondly, I want to say what I said at the WTO in Geneva last

year. I think it is imperative that the WTO become more open and

accessible. While other international organizations have sought and

not shied from public participation-when that has happened, public

support has grown. If the WTO expects to have public support grow

for our endeavors, the public must see and hear and in a very real

sense actually join in the deliberations. That's the only way they

can know the process is fair and know their concerns were at least




� We've made progress since I issued this challenge in Geneva last

year, but I believe there's more work to be done from opening the

hearing room doors to inviting in a more formal fashion public

comment on trade disputes.



� Now look, let me just say, I know there's a lot of controversy

about this. And as all of you know, I'm about to enter the last year

of my Presidency. I will not be around to deal with the aftermath.

But I'm telling you, I've been in this business a long time. And in

the end, we all serve and function at the sufferance of the people,

either with their active support or their silent acquiescence. What

they are telling us in the streets here is, this was an issue we

used to be silent on. We're not going to be silent on it anymore. We

haven't necessarily given up on trade, but we want to be heard.



� The sooner the WTO opens up the process and lets people

representing those who are outside in, the sooner we will see fewer

demonstrations, more constructive debate, and a broader level of

support in every country for the direction that every single person

in this room knows that we ought to be taking into the 21st century.

So we can do it a little bit now and a little bit later. We can drag

our feet, or we can run through an open door. But my preference is

to open the meetings, open the records, and let people file their




� No one-no sensible person-expects to win every argument, and no one

ever does. But in a free society, people want to be heard, and human

dignity and political reality demand it today.



� Third, as I have said repeatedly, I believe the WTO must make sure

that open trade does indeed lift living standards, respects core

labor standards that are essential not only to worker rights but to

human rights. That's why this year the United States has proposed

that the WTO create a working group on trade and labor. To deny the

importance of these issues in a global economy is to deny the

dignity of work, the belief that honest labor fairly compensated

gives meaning and structure to our lives. I hope we can affirm these

values at this meeting.



� I am pleased that tomorrow I will sign the ILO convention to

eliminate the worst forms of child labor. And I thank the United

States Senate on a bipartisan basis for supporting us in this. I

believe the WTO should collaborate more closely with the ILO, which

has worked hard to protect human rights, to ban child labor. I hope

you will do this.



� Let me say in all candor, I am well aware that a lot of the nations

that we most hope to support, the developing nations of the world,

have reservations when the United States says we support bringing

labor concerns into our trade debate. And I freely acknowledge that,

if we had a certain kind of rule, then protectionists in wealthy

countries could use things like wage differentials to keep poorer

countries down, to say, "Okay, you opened your markets to us. Now

we'll sell to you. But you're selling to us, and we want to keep you

down, so we'll say you're not paying your people enough."



� The answer to that is not to avoid this labor issue, not when

there's still child labor all over the world, not when there are

still oppressive labor practices all over the world, not when there

is still evidence in countries that ordinary people are not

benefiting from this. The answer is not to just throw away the

issue. The answer is to write the rules in such a way that people in

our position, the wealthier countries, can't do that, can't use this

as an instrument of protectionism. We can find a way to do this.



� But there is a sense of solidarity all over the world, among

ordinary people who get up every day, will never be able to come to

a luncheon like this, do their work, raise their children, pay their

taxes, form the backbone of every nation represented here. They

deserve basic, fundamental decency, and the progress of global trade

should reflect, also, in their own lives. I do not want the United

States, or any other country, now or later, to be able to use this

as a shield for protectionism. But to pretend that it is not a

legitimate issue in many countries is another form of denial, which

I believe will keep the global trading system from building the

public support it-deserves.



� Finally, we must work to protect and to improve the environment as

we expand trade. Two weeks ago, I signed an Executive order

requiring careful environmental review of our major trading

agreements early enough to make a difference, including the input of

the public and outside experts and considering genuinely held

concerns. We stand ready to cooperate as you develop similar

systems, and to integrate the environment more fully into trade




� We are committed to finding solutions which are win-win, that

benefit both the economy and the environment, open trade and

cutting-edge clean technologies, which I believe will be the next

industrial revolution. We will continue to support WTO rules that

recognize a nation's right to take science-- based health, safety,

and environmental measures, even when they're higher than

international standards.



� Now I want to say something about this. Again I know, there are

some people who believe my concern and the concern of the United

States about the environment is another way that somehow we can keep

the developing countries down. That is not true. There are basically

two great clusters of environmental issues facing the world today.

First, there are the local issues faced primarily by the developing

nations: healthy water systems and sewer systems, systems to

restrict soil erosion and to otherwise promote the public health.



� It is in everyone's interest to help those things to be installed

as quickly and efficiently as possible. But the real issue that

affects us all, that prompts my insistence that we put this issue on

the agenda, is global warming and the related issue of the loss of

species in the world as a consequence of global warming.



� And the difference in this issue and previous environmental issues

is this: Once the greenhouse gases get in the atmosphere, they take

a long time, 100 years or more, to dispel. Therefore, one nation's

policy, including ours-and we are now the largest emitter of

greenhouse gases, in the United States. We won't be long, but we are

now. But we have to do something about this. And I want to say to

you what I said to the people at our table. There is now clear and

compelling scientific, technological evidence that it is no longer

necessary for a poor country growing rich to do so by emitting more

greenhouse gas emissions. Or in plainer language, a nation can

develop a middle class and develop wealth without burning more oil

and coal in traditional manners. This is a sea change in the reality

that existed just a few years ago.



� And let's be candid, most people don't believe it. A lot of people

in our country don't believe it. But in everything from

transportation to manufacturing to the generation of electricity, to

the construction of buildings, it is now possible to grow an

economy, with much less injury to the atmosphere, with available

technologies. And within 5 years breathtaking changes in the way

automobile engines work and in the way fuel is made, especially from

biomass, will make these trends even more clear.



� I do not believe the United States has the right to ask India or

Pakistan or China or any other country to give up economic growth.

But I do believe that all of us can responsibly say, if you can grow

at the same rate without doing what we did-that is, fouling the

environment and then cleaning it up-Mr. Kono remembers-I remember

the first time I went to Tokyo over 20 years ago, people wore masks

riding their bicycles around. And now the air there is cleaner than

it is in my hometown in Arkansas.



� What is the difference now? It is not just a national issue. If you

foul the atmosphere and then you later clean it up, the greenhouse

gases are still up there, and they'll be there for 100 years,

warming the climate.



� Now, we do not have a right to ask anybody to give up economic

growth. But we do have a right to say, if we're prepared to help you

finance a different path to growth, and we can prove to you-and you

accept, on the evidence-that your growth will be faster, not

smaller, that you'll have more good jobs, more new technology, a

broader base for your economy, then I do believe we ought to have

those kind of environmental standards. And we ought to do it in a

voluntary way with available technologies. But we ought to put

environment at the core of our trade concerns.



� Now I don't know if I've persuaded any of you about any of this.

But I know one thing: this is a better world than it would have been

if our forebears hadn't done this for the last 50 years. If we're

going to go into the next 50 years, we have to recognize that we're

in a very different environment. We're in a total information

society, where information has already been globalized, and citizens

all over the world have been empowered. And they are knocking on the

door here, saying, "Let us in and listen to us. This is not an elite

process anymore. This is a process we want to be heard in."



� So I implore you, let's continue to make progress on all the issues

where clearly we can. Let's open the process, and listen to people

even when we don't agree with them. We might learn something, and

they'll feel that they've been part of a legitimate process. And

let's continue to find ways to prove that the quality of life of

ordinary citizens in every country can be lifted, including basic

labor standards and an advance on the environmental front.



� If we do this, then 50 years from now the people who will be

sitting in all these chairs will be able to have the same feelings

about you that Mr. Moore articulated our feelings for the World War

II generation.



� Thank you very much, and welcome again.



� NOTE: the President spoke at 3:05 p.m. in the Spanish Room at the

Four Seasons Hotel. In his remarks, he referred to Ambassador Susan

G. Esserman, Deputy U.S. Trade Representative; Mike Moore,

Director-General, World Trade Organization; Romano Prodi, President,

European Commission; and Minister of Foreign Affairs Yohei Kono of

Japan. The President also referred to GSP, the Generalized System of

Preferences; and Executive Order 13141 of November 16,1999 (64 FR

63169). A portion of these remarks could not be verified because the

tape was incomplete.



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