Monday, December 7, 1998
Volume 34, Issue 49; ISSN: 0511-4187
Remarks on electronic commerce
William J Clinton
� November 30, 1998
� Thank you very much. I feel like the fifth wheel here. [Laughter]
Most of what needs to be said has certainly been said.
� I want to thank the Vice President for his outstanding leadership.
absence, Secretary Daley; Administrator Alvarez, Mr. Podesta, and
other members of the administration. I thank all the members of the
high-tech community in various forms and permutations who are here
in this audience today.
� And I, too, want to thank the Members of Congress for their
invaluable help. In spite of the ups and downs of partisan debate in
Washington, this is one area where we've managed to really pull
together a broad bipartisan coalition of Members of Congress to do a
whole series of good things for America, through the Internet, over
the long run.
� I want to specifically thank Congressman Cox and Senator Wyden for
sponsoring the Internet Tax Freedom Act. I want to thank Senator
Hatch, who led the efforts on the copyright protection legislation.
I thank Senator Burns, the cochair of the Internet caucus and who,
along with Senators Rockefeller and Dorgan, who are here, have
played crucial roles on the Senate Commerce Committee in passing
electronic commerce legislation; and Congressman Pickering, who has
assisted us in the privatization of the domain name system and on
Congress a round of applause. I thank them for what they are doing.
� I'm very grateful to John Chambers and Meg Whitman for being here
today and for what they do with their own companies and what they
represent for our country's future. I've been wondering what I was
going to do in a couple years. I think I could be a successful
trader on eBay, you know? [Laughter] At least I know where I can go
and get my political memorabilia now. [Laughter]
� I always liked John Chambers until I found out he had 70 vice
presidents. [Laughter] I don't know what to make of that. He's more
important than I am? He's less efficient than I am? [Laughter] Or
one great Vice President is enough. How's that? [Laughter]
� I also want to thank my friend of 30 years now, Ira Magaziner, who
has been acknowledged, and who's here with his wonderful family, for
years of work, including many months when this work did not get
anything like this level of attention which it has today.
the holiday shopping center and a new holiday tradition. Last year
only 10 percent of those with home computers shopped for holiday
gifts on-line; this year the figure is predicted to be over 40
percent. On-line shoppers are buying everything from the latest
electronics to oldtime Babe Ruth and Lou Gehrig baseball cards,
thanks to eBay. This new era, therefore, will not only transform
commerce, it will lift America's economy in the 21st century.
� This Thanksgiving I had a chance again to give thanks for these
good times in our country. Less than a decade ago, people were
worrying that America could not keep up with global competition.
Today, we have the strongest economy in a generation, about 17
million new jobs, the largest real wage growth in 20 years, the
lowest unemployment in 28 years, the smallest percentage of people
on welfare in 29 years. And we're leading the world in the
technologies of the future, from telecommunications to
� The qualities rewarded in this new economy, flexibility,
innovation, creativity, enterprise, are qualities that have long
momentum going. That's really what we're here to celebrate, ratify,
and commit ourselves to today.
� I think the first thing we have to do is to stay with the economic
policies that have worked for the last 6 years: fiscal discipline,
expanding trade, investing in education and research and
development. I think we have to do more work here at home to expand
the benefits of the economic recovery to areas and people who have
not yet felt it, and I believe the Internet has an enormous
potential role to play there.
� I believe, to keep this going, we're going to have to do more to
contain the economic crisis in the world, to reverse it in Asia, and
to deal with the long-term challenges to global financial markets,
which Secretary Rubin and I and others are working very hard on.
� But finally, I think we have to clearly commit ourselves to making
the most of what is clearly the engine of tomorrow's economy:
technology. We have to make ourselves absolutely committed to the
proposition that we will first do no harm. We will do nothing that
of ordinary Americans and, secondly, that, insofar as we can, we
will help to create an environment which will enhance the likelihood
of success. That is what we are fundamentally celebrating today and
committing ourselves to for tomorrow.
� Information technology now accounts for more than a third of our
economic growth. It has boosted our productivity and reduced
inflation by a full percentage point. Obviously, few applications of
this technology have more power than electronic commerce. If all the
sales being conducted over the Internet were taking place at one
shopping mall, that mall would have to be 30 times the size of the
largest mall in the world, Minnesota's Mall of America. Five years
from now we would need a facility 1,000 times the size of the Mall
of America to handle the volume of sales.
� Now, to fulfill this promise, we have to create the conditions for
electronic entrepreneurs. You've heard that discussed. That's why I
asked the Vice President to coordinate, and Ira Magaziner to work on
building a framework for global economic commerce back in late 1995.
That's why we committed ourselves to the proposition that the
competition, protection for consumers and children, supervised not
by governments but by people who use the Internet every day.
� This year 132 nations followed the U.S. lead by signing a
declaration to refrain from imposing customs duties on electronic
commerce. We reached agreements supporting our market-driven
approach with the European Union, Japan, and other nations. Today
the Australian Prime Minister and I will issue a joint statement
along these same lines. Working with Congress, industry, State and
local officials, we passed a law to put a 3-year moratorium on new
and discriminatory taxes on electronic commerce. And again, I thank
Secretary Rubin and Deputy Secretary Summers for their work on that.
� We ratified an international treaty to protect intellectual
property on-line. We made it possible to conduct official
transactions electronically. We secured the funds to challenge the
Nation's research community to develop the next generation Internet.
We passed a law to protect the privacy of our children on-line.
We're working with companies representing a large share of the
Internet traffic to help them meet our privacy guidelines. We have
systems. We have moved to improve the security and reliability of
cyberspace by focusing attention on protecting critical
infrastructures and solving the Y2K computer problem.
� Now, that's a pretty impressive line of work for all concerned. But
we see there are still challenges to overcome. Many people who surf
the Web still don't shop there. They worry they won't get what they
thought they were paying for. They'll have nowhere to go if they get
cheated. We've already begun to address these fears, not with
burdensome regulations that might stifle growth and innovation but
with incentives for on-line companies to offer customers the
protections they need.
� We must do more. Our country has some of the strongest consumer
protections in the world. Today I ask Secretary Daley to work with
the FTC and other agencies, consumer advocates, industry, and our
trading partners to develop new approaches to extend the proud
tradition of consumer protection into cyberspace, to ensure truthful
advertising and full disclosure of information are the foundations
of global electronic commerce. People should get what they pay for
on-line; it should be easy to get redress if they don't.
� We must give consumers the same protection in our virtual mall they
now get at the shopping mall. And if the virtual mall is to grow, we
must help small businesses and families gain access to the same
services at the same speed that big business enjoys.
� For many people, connections are so slow that shopping at the
virtual mall is filled with frustration. It is as if they had to
drive over dirt roads to get to the mall, only to find an endless
line of customers just waiting to get into the door. So today I'll
also direct Secretary Daley and Ambassador Barshefsky to work with
the FCC and our trading partners to promote greater competition to
bring advanced high-speed connections into our homes and small
businesses, to ensure that the Internet continues to evolve in ways
that will benefit all our people.
� Our Nation was founded at the dawn of a period not so very unlike
this one, a period of enormous economic upheaval when the world was
beginning to move from an agrarian to an industrial economy.
Alexander Hamilton, our first Secretary of the Treasury, understood
other of his writings, Hamilton identified new ways to harness the
changes then going on so that our Nation could advance.
� Listen to this. He proposed what many thought were radical ideas at
the time: a central bank, a common currency, a national system of
roads and canals, a crackdown on fraud so that American products
would be known all over the world for quality. He created the
blueprint that made possible America's industrial age and, many of
us believe, the preservation of the American Union.
� Today, we are drawing up the blueprints for a new economic age, not
for starting big institutions but for freeing small entrepreneurs.
We have the honor of designing the architecture for a global
economic marketplace, with stable laws, strong protections for
consumers, serious incentives for competition, a marketplace to
include all people and all nations.
� Now, I may not know as much about cable modems and T-1 lines as the
Vice President-[laughter]-I think we made a living of jokes out of
that for 6 years. But I do know, thanks to his and others' work,
usher in the greatest age of prosperity not only Americans but
people all over the world have ever known.
� To me, the most moving thing said from this podium today involved
the stories of people in Africa and Latin America lifting themselves
from abject poverty through access to the Internet. That can happen
to more than a billion other people in ways that benefit all of us,
if we do this right.
� We have made a good beginning. I am confident we will finish the
� Thank you very much.