Monday, May 26, 1997
Vol. 33, No. 21, ISSN: 0511-4187
Remarks to Young Presidents and World Presidents Organizations. (Pres. Bill
� May 19, 1997
� Thank you very much. Please be seated. First of all, welcome back to
Washington. I'm delighted to see you. I always enjoy meeting with this
group. I think a lot of you know that at least - I've identified at
least three errant members of my administration who have been
associated with YPO, Erskine Bowles, Mack McLarty, and Phil Lader.
with you instead of over here with me. [Laughter]
� I will try to be succinct about what I want to say. I know that the
Treasury Secretary and others are coming on in a few moments to talk
about the details of our budget agreement and some of the other issues
that are cooking around here in Washington today. But I'd like to use
this opportunity to make an official announcement about China. And let
me just sort of set the stage by saying I think that our country has
three huge questions that we are in the process of answering as we move
into a new century and a very different time.
� One is, how are we going to preserve a structure of opportunity for
the next generation to keep the country going and growing? The second
is, what kind of society are we going to be? Is this country going to
work as a whole? Can we deal with problems of crime and welfare and the
intergenerational responsibilities as the baby boom generation retires?
And can we learn to live in what is rapidly becoming the world's most
rapidly multiracial, multireligious, multiethnic democracy? There are
four school districts in America now where the children come from more
than 100 different ethnic groups in one school district. And the third
United States continue to be the world's leading force for peace and
freedom and prosperity? Because ironically, at the end of the cold war,
because we are not in two armed camps in the world, all of our economic
and military strength can only be brought to bear if we're willing to
become more interdependent with the rest of the world and recognize our
� In some ways, the decision that we have to make every year about
China reflects elements of all three of those great questions, our
prosperity, the kind of society we are, and how we're going to deal
with the rest of the world. The United States has a huge stake in the
continued emergence of China in a way that is open economically and
stable politically. Of course, we hope it will come to respect human
rights more and the rule of law more and that China will work with us
to secure an international order that is lawful and decent.
� I have decided, as all my predecessors have since 1980, to extend
most-favored-nation status to China for the coming year. Every
Republican and Democratic President since 1980 has made the same
decision. This simply means that we extend to China the same normal
from the United States. We believe it's the best way to integrate China
further into the family of nations and to secure our interests and our
� But as we have had controversies and differences with China over the
years, this decision itself has become more controversial, because
there are those in both parties in the Congress who believe that if we
hold our trade relationship hostage to China because of our differences
on human rights, our weapons technology, or the future of Hong Kong, we
will have more influence since we buy about 30 percent of China's
exports every year - sometimes we buy even more.
� But I believe if we were to revoke normal trade status, it would cut
off our contact with the Chinese people and undermine our influence
with the Chinese Government. This is a big issue this year because, as
many of you know, under the agreement signed more than a decade ago
between Great Britain and China, Hong Kong is reverting to China
� I think it's interesting that Hong Kong, which has the world's most
we should extend most-favored-nation status. Even those people in Hong
Kong that have been most passionately identified with the cause of
freedom and human rights and have been most in conflict with the
Chinese have argued that we have to maintain an open trading
relationship with them so that we can continue to work with them. I
might also say that if we were to revoke their normal trading status it
would close one of the world's most rapidly growing, emerging markets,
one that already supports 170,000 American jobs and doubtless will
support more in the years ahead.
� So our broad policy is engagement. That doesn't mean that we win
every point, but it means we work together when we can and we're honest
in our disagreements when they exist. For example - and I think it's
important to point this out - we actually work together with China
quite a lot. We worked with them to extend the nonproliferation treaty
indefinitely. That means that we've got over 170 countries in the world
that say they will never develop any kind of capacity to proliferate
nuclear weapons around the world in other countries, and they agreed to
be tested for it.
ban of nuclear testing. We worked with them to freeze North Korea's
nuclear weapons program, which, when I became President 4 years and 4
months ago, I was told was the most immediate major security concern of
the Nation at the time. We work with them now to advance the
possibilities that there will actually be a lasting peace on the Korean
Peninsula, which is the last frontier of the cold war.
� We also work with them on drug-trafficking, terrorism, alien
smuggling, and environmental decay. And when we don't agree with them,
we have found ways to say so without cutting off all of our contacts.
We pressed them to stop assistance to unsafeguarded nuclear facilities
in other countries. We insisted that they protect the intellectual
property rights of American videotape and compact disc makers. That's a
huge economic issue for America. And so far China has done what they
said they would do in closing down its facilities that were essentially
stealing money and jobs from America's businesses. That's still an
ongoing problem; it will continue to be one, as it has been in every
emerging country a long way from the United States that can copy things
that we do here. But we have certainly fought to reduce the problem. We
also took action to show our displeasure with provocative military
rights at the Human Rights Commission meeting of the United Nations.
� So we have ways to deal with our differences. There are those who
believe that our differences are so profound they would we would get
our way more, if you will, or our position would be more likely to
prevail, if we cut off all trade contact. I believe that is wrong. And
we're going to have a big debate about it in the Congress. But today,
in front of you, I thought I would make this formal announcement that I
do intend to extend most-favored-nation status. The way it works under
the law is, now Congress has a chance to try to undo this, and we will
have a big debate in the Congress. While you're here, if you have an
opinion on it, I hope you'll express it to your Senator or Member of
� But how we deal with this goes back to the larger question: What is
our role in the world? Do you believe we should continue to be the
world's leading force for peace and freedom and prosperity? If so, how?
What kind of society are we going to create? Are we going to be one
nation, or are we going to become more divided by race, by generation,
by income? And how are we going to preserve a structure of opportunity?
have to change the economic policy, the social policy of the country,
the way the Government worked - the Federal Government worked - and we
would have to have a much more aggressive and comprehensive approach to
the world. On the economic policy, when I came here we had a $290
billion annual deficit with no end in sight. I was told it would be way
over $300 billion by this year. It's going to be $67 billion this year,
77 percent less than it was the day I took office.
� And we also have been very aggressive about trade. Again, there are
people in both parties who seem to believe that America is
disadvantaged by open trading systems because we pay higher wages than
other countries and because many other countries, especially developing
countries, have more closed economies than ours. Well, now we have some
evidence to judge which theory is right.
� I've always believed that open trading was good for us because it
kept us on our toes. It also helps to keep inflation down and
productivity up. We've got some evidence now, because in the last 4
years, we've had 200 new trade agreements as well as the big NAFTA
agreement in principle with the Asian-Pacific countries to go to a
free-trade area there by early in the next century and an agreement
with the Latin American countries to go to a free-trade area of the
Americas early in the next century.
� In the midst of the welter of all that activity, we can see what the
consequences were. We also downsized the Government and increased our
investment in education, technology and science, and medical research.
Now, after 4 1/2 years, the deficit's come down by 77 percent, we have
the lowest unemployment rate in 24 years, the lowest inflation rate in
30 years, the highest business investment in 35 years, the smallest
Federal Government in 35 years, and as a percentage of the civilian
work force, it is the same size it was in 1933 when President Roosevelt
took office before the New Deal.
� So I think it's hard to argue that we're not moving in the right
direction. We've also, parenthetically, had the biggest decline in
inequality among classes of working people in over 30 years. So America
does not have to be afraid of competition. America can balance the
budget and increase investment where we need to increase investment,
and we can do this in a disciplined way.
� In the area of social policy, we've passed a new crime bill, took a
different approach to welfare, basically tried to put the family back
at the center of social policy and reconcile a lot of the emerging
conflicts between family and work, which is bedeviling most working
families throughout the country, including people in rather high-income
brackets. It is a general problem of our society. And we have had the
biggest drop in welfare rolls in 50 years in America in the last 4
years, before the impact of the new welfare reform law. And I'll say
more about that in a minute.
� The crime rate has gone down 5 years in a row in America for the
first time in 22 years. And we now know exactly what to do about it.
It's just a question of whether we will. Not only that, on the more
troubling problem of youth and gang violence, the city of Boston, the
city of Houston, and a few other big cities in America have seen big
declines in youth crime. And in Boston, Massachusetts, not a single
child under the age of 18 has been killed with a gun in a year and half
actually make sense out of our common life, that we can actually deal
with these problems. And that's very important. And for the rest of us,
it's great because we don't have to think up something to do. We've got
a roadmap out there; we can just try to replicate it, community by
community, to make it work.
� In the area of our relationships with each other and our diversity, I
would say that we have made some significant progress. We now - I think
as a country we've still debating a lot of these things, like
affirmative action, and I have my own views about that. But I would
hope that the American people at least understand that if you look at
how big the world is getting and the fact that our population is
relatively smaller as a percentage of the whole than it used to be,
less than 5 percent, and our economy is not as big as it once was as a
percentage of the whole, although still over 20 percent, the fact that
we have people in the United States from everywhere else is an enormous
asset to us in a global economy.
� But we have to learn to find a way to respect our differences and be
bound together by our shared values. And it sounds so simple, it may
differences in Bosnia, in Northern Ireland, in the Middle East, and in
countless other places around the world, you sometimes wonder whether
there is not some primitive urge in all of us that unless it's
consistently tended to can cause enormous difficulties. And so I think
that we cannot spend enough time on figuring out a way to make sure
that we're a very different country but we're still one America.
� Finally, let me say I'm quite determined that we have got to fight
through all these successive issues here about America's role in the
world. I've tried to be very careful not to send our troops into harm's
way and in an indiscreet way, not to pretend that we could solve all
the problems of the world. But I know that we have an opportunity here
and a responsibility unlike any ever imposed on a nation in history.
Because of the way the cold war ended with a victory for freedom and
for free markets, because other countries are willing to work with us
and even give higher percentages of their income that we do to the work
of development and expanding the capacity of people in other countries,
we have a significant responsibility here to try to fulfill these
Because historically, our country - historically - has been relatively
isolationist. If you go through the whole history of America - George
Washington told us that we should beware of foreign entanglements, and
all of our - we've always been somewhat reluctant to get involved in
� I think the only reason we did it after World War II is the Soviet
Union was there, there was a cold war, the threat was clear and
apparent. And now - sometimes I think we don't see our own best
interests. We're going to have another big trade issue coming up after
MFN, and that's the question about whether the President should be
given what is called fast-track authority. And for those of you who
aren't familiar with the trade lingo, all that means is that we can
negotiate a trade agreement with another country and present it to
Congress, and they have to vote it up or down instead of, in effect,
being able to amend it 100 times so that, in effect, it would no longer
be the agreement that we made with another country - treats is almost
like a treaty, except it just requires a majority vote.
� I can't see why we wouldn't want to do that when we got 4.9 percent
years, more than half of the new jobs in this country have paid above
average wages. So I think we should feel good about these things. And I
certainly do, and I want you to.
� Now, let me just say in closing, they're going to come on and tell
you a little about the budget agreement. But in the last 4 1/2 months,
in the categories I gave you, if you look, it's creating a structure of
opportunity for America. We've agreed to the first balanced budget in
over three decades. And it is a compromise agreement between the
Republicans and the administration and the Democrats in Congress and
the leadership; it is a principled one. Does it solve all of America's
problems? No. Will it get us to a balanced budget? Yes, it will.
� And I might say, when I got here, a lot of times there were overly
optimistic economic assumptions used in putting these budgets together,
especially by the executive branch, in both parties. Every year I've
been here, the deficit's been lower by several billion dollars than we
estimated it would, every single year. So I want to assure you that we
didn't cook up a bunch of numbers. Now, if we have a horrible
recession, will the deficit be bigger? Yes, it will. But at least we've
make sure we were not misleading the American people about this.
� So we got a budget agreement, which is important. We had a new
telecommunications agreement, which will open 90 percent of the world's
markets to American producers of telecommunications services and create
hundreds of thousands of good jobs in this country over the next
several years. We have had we got the Chemical Weapons Convention
ratified, which is a huge problem because we've got to stop the
proliferation of chemical weapons and it could affect you and your life
and your community. The guy that blew up the Federal building in
Oklahoma City, in that truck was fertilizer, a chemical weapon. But in
Japan, a lot of people died in the subway because they had a laboratory
that made sarin gas. So this is a major issue. Can we guarantee that
there will never be anybody in a laboratory making chemical weapons?
No. But we can dramatically reduce the chances that terrorists can get
them in ways that make Americans safer all across the country.
� We have reached this historic agreement between NATO and Russia to
expand NATO and have a partnership with Russia which will enable us to
have a unified Europe and, hopefully, avoid what destroyed millions and
all these fights in Europe.
� So the country is in good shape. We're moving in the right direction.
We're dealing with all these issues. Are there things that still have
to be done? Yes. Have we made adequate provision for the retirement of
the baby boomers and not imposing undue burdens on our children? Not
yet. Will we do so? I'm absolutely convinced we will. But you have to
understand this system will only accommodate so much change at one
time. I've thought about that a lot in the last 4 years. And the fact
that we have a budget that will balance the budget, meet our national
security needs, have the biggest increase in investment in education in
a generation, continue our progress in the environment and medical
research and technology, I think is a very significant thing and,
parenthetically, provide health care coverage to 5 million kids that
don't have it is very encouraging.
� The last point I want to make is this. The biggest near-term problem
we have in the country is that 20 percent of the kids who are born in
this country are born below the poverty line, and many of them are
still living in completely dysfunctional environments. When the
sponsored that summit of service in Philadelphia, it was about more
than trying to get everybody to do more community service. It was about
trying to focus attention on having every community in the country
develop a strategy to make sure every child has a healthy start, a
decent education, a safe place to live, a mentor, and a place to serve
the community and feel worthwhile. That is the biggest near-term
problem of the country.
� You live in a nation where drug use is dropping dramatically among
young adults and still going up among juveniles, where crime is going
down dramatically around the country but still going up among
juveniles, except in the instances that I cited and others like that.
� So as you look ahead to your own responsibilities, I would just
mention two things. Number one, every community needs to develop a
system of dealing with the children of the community. Number two, the
welfare reform bill in the budget that we just agreed to will include
tax incentives that are very tightly targeted to move people from
welfare to work. And States have the power actually to give employers
what used to be the welfare check as an employment and training
� I would hope that the members of the YPO would consider whether or
not there is a role for you to play in your States and your
communities, because under the welfare reform law, we have to move
almost a million people from welfare to work in the next 4 years. We
moved a million people from welfare to work in the last 4 years, but
over 40 percent of that was the growth of the economy, and we produced
12.5 million new jobs. Maybe we can do it again. It's never happened in
the history of the country before that we've had 8 years that good,
back to back. Maybe we can do it again.
� But under the law, we have to move that many people from welfare to
work, whether the private economy produces 40 percent of those jobs or
not, in the ordinary course of growth. There will be incentives there,
but we had to do this - I would argue we had to do something like this
to break the cycle of dependency that so many people were trapped in.
But having now told people, most of whom are single mothers with very
small children, that there is a limit to how much public assistance you
can have, and you have to go to work at the end of a certain amount of
time, period, we have to make sure that there are jobs there for them.
will go into the high unemployment areas to do community service work
when there's no way the private sector could do it. But for the rest,
it will have to be done by the private sector. So I hope that while
you're here and after you go home, you will be willing to consider
whether there's something you could do to help us deal with this
problem. Because if we can break the cycle of dependency and all people
who are out of work who are adult, able-bodied, and otherwise have the
capacity to work, begin to be treated the same instead of having some
people disaggregated over here as being on welfare as if they couldn't
work, we will have gone a long way toward changing the future of
children in America and, therefore, changing the future of the country.
� Thank you very much.
� NOTE: The President spoke at 2:48 p.m. in Room 450 of the Old
Executive Office Building.