Public Papers - 1992
Remarks at the Initialing Ceremony for the North American Free Trade Agreement in San Antonio, Texas
May I start off by saluting President Salinas and Prime Minister Mulroney, Secretary Serra, Minister Wilson: Welcome to the city of San Antonio. I thank the other foreign dignitaries, Governors, mayors, and Members of our Congress and my Cabinet, so many from the business community from all three countries that are here.
We've just been talking about this, and this meeting marks a turning point in the history of our three countries. Today the United States, Mexico, and Canada embark together on an extraordinary enterprise. We are creating the largest, richest, and most productive market in the entire world, a trillion market of 360 million people that stretches 5,000 miles from Alaska and the Yukon to the Yucatan Peninsula.
NAFTA, the North American free trade agreement, is an achievement of three strong and proud nations. This accord expresses our confidence in economic freedom and personal freedom, in our peoples' energy and enterprise.
The United States, Mexico, and Canada have already seen the powerful and beneficial impact of freer trade and more open markets. Over the past 5 years, as President Salinas reduced trade barriers under his bold reform program and as Prime Minister Mulroney and I implemented the United States-Canadian Free Trade Agreement, trade between our three countries has soared. In 1992 alone, that trade will reach an estimated 3 billion, up billion just since 1987.
If anyone doubts the importance of trade for creating jobs, they should come to this great State, come to the Lone Star State. In 1991, Texas exports totaled billion, just from this State. And of that amount, over billion went to Mexico, almost 2/2\ times as much as 5 years ago. This export boom goes well beyond one State, well beyond Texas. Virtually every State has increased exports to Mexico in the past 5 years.
NAFTA means more exports, and more exports means more American jobs. Between 1987 and 1991, the increase in our exports to Mexico alone created over 300,000 new American jobs. These are high-wage jobs. In the case of merchandise exports, those jobs pay a worker a full 17 percent more than the average wage.
Free trade is the way of the future. I've set a goal for America to become, by the early years of the next century, the world's first trillion economy, and NAFTA is an important element in reaching that goal. With NAFTA, as more open markets stimulate growth, create new products at competitive prices for consumers, we'll create new jobs at good wages in all three countries.
NAFTA will do these things and remain consistent with our other international obligations, our GATT trade obligations. Let me be clear that I remain committed to the successful conclusion of the Uruguay round of trade negotiations this year.
But NAFTA's importance is not limited to trade. We've taken particular care that our workers will benefit and the environment will be protected. As a result of NAFTA, the U.S. and Mexico are working more closely than we ever have to strengthen cooperation on such important labor issues as occupational health and safety standards, child labor, and labor-management relations.
Then, on the environment, an issue of critical concern for all three leaders here today, we have agreed on practical, effective steps to address urgent issues such as border pollution, as well as longer term problems, such as preventing countries from lowering environmental standards to attract foreign investment. I salute the two gentlemen standing next to me, Prime Minister Mulroney and President Salinas, for their commitment and their leadership to this environment that we all share. As proof of that commitment, the United States and Mexican Governments have already developed a comprehensive, integrated plan to clean up air and water pollution and other hazardous waste along the Rio Grande River.
I know for some NAFTA will be controversial precisely because it opens the way to change. Some of NAFTA's critics will fight the future, throw obstacles in the way of this agreement, to mask a policy of protectionism. But history shows us that any nation that raises walls and turns inward is destined only for decline. We cannot make that choice for ourselves or for our children. We must set our course for the future, for free trade.
Mr. President and Mr. Prime Minister: This accord underscores the principle that democratic, market-oriented nations are natural partners in free trade. We owe it to our fellow citizens to bring this agreement into effect as soon as possible, and I pledge my support to that end.
Thank you very much.
Note: The President spoke at 3:06 p.m. at the Plaza San Antonio Hotel. In his remarks, he referred to Jaime Serra Puche, Mexico's Secretary of Commerce and Industrial Development, and Michael Wilson, Canada's Minister of International Trade.