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Public Papers - 1992 - January

Remarks at the American and Korean Chambers of Commerce Luncheon in Seoul


Well, thank you all very much, and good afternoon. And let me first say thank you to our master of ceremonies, my old friend and our very able Ambassador here, Don Gregg. Thank you for that introduction.

And I'd like to also acknowledge Minister Han Pong Su, the Minister of Trade, and of course our able Secretary of Commerce, Bob Mosbacher. He is heading up, as I think everyone here knows, our delegation of top American business leaders as they come here to explore new opportunities for American goods and services, not just here but all around the world.

I also want to single out and thank our hosts, Don Myers of the AmCham and Kim Sang Ha of the Korean Chamber of Commerce, for bringing together some of the top business leaders from both countries this afternoon. This American Chamber of Commerce in Seoul is leading the way toward free and open trade throughout Asia. And it's playing what I am told is a vital role in expanding business ties between the United States and Korea, ties which are growing into a true economic partnership.

Let me begin by telling you why I'm here. As you might expect, with tough times at home in the United States, my highest priority is stimulating economic growth and jobs for Americans. And one way to get our economy growing is to increase trade between our two nations. Opening more markets here in Korea for quality American goods and services clearly means more exports and more good jobs in America. And as you all know, that also holds true for Korea as well.

And so, I've come to the capital of one of the world's leading economic success stories, success based on hard work, market orientation, and access to international capital and markets. Your 9-percent growth rate may seem mediocre to you compared to some previous years, but back home, I'd settle for that, like that. [Laughter]

With a generation, Korea has transformed itself from one of the world's poorest states into the world's 13th largest economy, on the cutting edge of high-tech growth. The generation that created that success knows that enduring security comes not through aggression but through hard work and effort by free people working through free markets. And if we are to secure the opportunities of the post-cold-war era, we must rise to the call of three daunting demands: The new requirements of peace and security, the challenge of fostering democracy, and the summons to generating greater economic growth and prosperity for the peoples of the world.

First, the challenge of ensuring peace and security. The world has learned that weakness tempts the warlike. We saw, with Saddam Hussein's naked aggression, that the misery of war results when tyrants doubt the commitment of the powerful to defend the security of the powerless. And that's why, as long as I'm President, the United States will remain absolutely opposed to isolationism. As a nation straddling two great oceans, the U.S. remains committed to engagement in both the Atlantic community and the emerging community of the Asia-Pacific region.

The emerging post-cold-war era that we face presents the United States with an opportunity to restructure its defenses. Now, I know there's been some concern about how we'll proceed with that complex and difficult task. But let me assure you and your Asia-Pacific neighbors that our restructuring, such as the closing of bases in Subic there in the Philippines, does not mean the end of American engagement in the Pacific area. We will remain a visible, credible security presence in the Asia-Pacific area with our forward-deployed forces and through bilateral defense arrangements with our friends.

And let me be clear, maintaining our security presence is not some kind of a charitable exercise. Your security and your economic growth are in our interests because together we will thrive in a stable, developing world. An unstable Asia does not serve our interests, and nor does a poverty-stricken or repression-ridden Asia. We need an Asia-Pacific region that is free and productive. And our security presence provides a foundation for mutual prosperity and for shared defense.

Strong, stable security arrangements enable us to meet the second challenge, and that is the call to democracy. The tyranny of totalitarianism is dead, and freedom is being born and reborn in nations from Latin America to Eastern Europe to Cambodia and to Mongolia. The Soviet Union as we've known it has vanished, and with it the delusions of communism.

The Republic of Korea has stood strong for democracy, particularly since the momentous events of 1987. This year, Korea will put this renewed faith in democratic institutions to the test in several elections. And I am confident that again this year the Korean people will demonstrate that freedom's way is the way of the future in Asia. Nations which build their prosperity on the freedom of their people know that there is no alternative.

This worldwide movement toward democracy leads us to the third challenge that's awaiting us, that of promoting economic growth and building a world of free and open markets.

Korea and the United States have a tremendous amount at stake in their economic relations. The U.S. is Korea's largest export market, and Korea is our sixth largest export market. The business executives with this wonderful team that we brought out with us today believe in building stronger economic ties with you. They stand ready to work side by side with Korean businessmen. And like you, they seek to build even more growth, opportunity, and stability for our two nations.

In building this world of free enterprise and economic growth, we know we have much to do. The United States is taking steps to boost our own competitiveness in foreign markets: Improving education, working to bring down our budget deficit, and enhancing productivity. We're working overtime to produce quality products at affordable prices, products that win in the marketplace.

And while Korea has made great progress in removing visible trade barriers to foreign business over the last 5 years, doing business in Korea is still more difficult than it should be for such a proud and successful country. Korea must address fundamental problems that stifle the ability of foreign firms to compete in your great country, problems like certain unjustified standards and regulations, or cumbersome customs procedures, delays in scheduled reductions of duties, and these financing restrictions.

Attitude towards imports must change. And while the notion of frugality isn't inherently bad, import restrictions hurt your own consumers and weaken the competitiveness of your firms. And while numerous restrictions in foreign trade have been lifted, such as certain performance requirements and sectoral restrictions, we look to Korea to remove all nontariff barriers to free trade.

Free trade has propelled Korea into a position of economic prominence and leadership. And because of this, Korea has a growing responsibility to lead in strengthening the whole world trade and financial system. The General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade, GATT, can play an especially crucial role in expanding economic frontiers. On each stop of this trip, I've called for urgent action on behalf of the international trading system. And I am urging the world's trading nations to join with us in working towards a successful conclusion of that all-important Uruguay round with GATT Director Dunkel's proposed draft agreement, incidentally, as its basis.

And while every one of us has problems with some portions of that draft, none of us can afford to let the progress that it symbolizes slip through our fingers. The time has come for a strong collective response. A successful conclusion to the Uruguay round will pave the way for even greater trade liberalization in the coming years, with greater prosperity for absolutely everyone.

In order for Korea to build upon its own spectacular growth, it will need a more open financial system. I know that American businesses are particularly concerned with restrictions in the financial system here which prevent them from trading and investing in the Korean economy. But the bottom line is that broader access for foreign financial firms is in your best interest; it is in Korea's best interest because a more open economy will benefit Korean businesses and their customers.

But there's more to it than that. During the last 50 years, engagement and free trade have produced peace and prosperity. Here, in Korea it's been remarkable, throughout the Asia-Pacific region, in Europe, and indeed, in the United States. This prosperity has gone hand-in-hand with the growth of democracy, a fact that illustrates the indivisibility of security and political and economic liberty.

In the emerging post-cold-war era, economic engagement and expanded markets will ensure prosperity and stability for the people of the world. And that's why we've come here today. We want to build hope for a better life for our people. We want to create opportunity for all men and women. And we want to leave as our legacy peace for our children. And so, it is in that spirit of hopeful anticipation that I say thank you to all of you. What a remarkable, what a great job you have done. And yet what tremendous work lies ahead for us all.

May God bless your wonderful country. May God bless the relationship between our countries. And thank you for this opportunity to speak to such a distinguished group of business leaders. Thank you very, very much.

Note: The President spoke at 1:24 p.m. at the Hotel Shilla.

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