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Public Papers - 1991 - May

Remarks to the Hispanic Alliance for Free Trade


Thank you very much. And some of that has to do, I think, with my fibrillating heart -- [laughter] -- but it's all right. I just came back from Bethesda and really got a wonderful report. I won't go into the clinical assessment, but it's great. I just take something to do with the thyroid, and the heart is perfect. So, I'm very lucky, very, very lucky.

I came over to talk to you today about an issue that is really of vital concern to me and, I think, of our country. And I have some talking points here, but let me just put them away and speak from the heart. I see my friend the Ambassador here, and I have great respect for him. And I might say I have enormous respect for President Salinas of Mexico.

And he is taking that country that we all love and moving it in a direction that we can all admire. And it would be a terrible tragedy if we took this Fast Track authority from Mexico and pulled it away and turned it down. I think it would send an outrageously bad symbol, not only to Mexico but to the countries to the south. We've got a real opportunity while I'm President to build stronger relations with South America.

I've been down there; I've talked endlessly to the Presidents of the various countries. Just the other day, Gus, Carlos Andres Perez of Venezuela was in. He doesn't benefit from a free trade agreement with Mexico, but he said: You cannot let this fail. The signal that this would send through our part of the world would just be unconscionable.

And so, I am committed to this. And I'm committed to it not just because it's good for Mexico. I'm the President of the United States, and all of us are citizens of the United States -- Gus, that leaves you out -- [laughter] -- but we've got to do what's in the best interest of the United States. And this is in the best interest of the United States.

And I can understand the concerns about the environment, but as Ambassador Hills tells you, we have good answers for that. Mexico is moving on their own. Carlos closed down PEMEX refinery, an enormously difficult political move for him. And yet, he did it. And many other businesses that were polluting have closed down. And the way to help with pollution on the border is to raise the standard of living down there so people can have more money to put into these things that we hold near and dear to our hearts.

And so, I approach this on a foreign policy basis as thinking that it's essential. And I approach it in terms of our own economy as thinking it's essential. We think it will create jobs. I am offended, frankly, by some of the advertising I've seen that I honestly find discriminatory. And I don't like it, and I'm troubled by it. I can understand a labor union person wondering whether it's going to cause drops, but I think we have good answers for it. And I think the answer is it will add to American jobs. And I'm going to keep working with Carla Hills to get that message out to the United States Congress.

But I really wanted to come over to exhort you all to sally forth to the Hill up there -- you've got many friends up there -- and use your best influence in the best tradition of persuasion of the Congress to make them understand that the Fast Track authority will create jobs, it will open up more trade between countries, it will raise the standards of living along the border on both sides, in my view, and it's going to be a wonderful thing. And I want our administration, indeed, to be firmly committed in terms of free trade, because history shows it results in prosperity.

And so, this is where we stand. And I thank you all very, very much for your interest in it. And do exactly what Carla Hills tells you to do. Thank you all very much.

Note: The President spoke at 10:19 a.m. in the Old Indian Treaty Room of the Old Executive Office Building. In his remarks, he referred to Gustavo Petricioli Iturbide, Mexican Ambassador to the United States; President Carlos Salinas de Gortari of Mexico; President Carlos Andres Perez of Venezuela; and U.S. Trade Representative Carla A. Hills.

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