Weekly Compilation of Presidential Documents, 1994

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Author: William J. Clinton  | Date: December 9, 1994

Remarks on Goals of the Summit of the Americas in Miami, Florida,
December 9, 1994

Thank you very much, Mr. Vice President. Thank you, ladies and gentlemen, for that warm welcome. Hillary and I and Vice President and Mrs. Gore are delighted to be here.

We thank Governor Chiles and Mrs. Chiles, the Lieutenant Governor and Mrs. MacKay, the members of the Florida congressional delegation, Senator Graham, Senator Mack, the distinguished Members of Congress who have come from all over the United States to be here. I want to say a special word of thanks to Dante Fascell, the honorary cochair of this summit and a great man. I thank the mayors of Miami Beach and Miami, all the people who are involved in the metro Dade government, all the people who have worked so hard on this summit.

You know, when we first announced the plans to hold the Summit of the Americas here in Miami, it seemed that it was a natural choice. This city, after all, has been variously described as the hub, the melting pot, the gateway, the crossroads of the Americas. But in the end we chose Miami because of the commitment of the people who live and work here to make this summit a success, led as the Vice President said by the Governor and the Lieutenant Governor.

I won’t dwell on all the subtle and not-so-subtle details of our many conversations about this. But let me say that they persuaded me that this was the reverse of that wonderful line in the movie "Field of Dreams," where they said to us, "If you come, we will build it." And you have, and I thank you.

Your efforts have been extraordinary, and we are grateful for them. I have just been amazed at the energy that has come out of this community and this State over the last several months, the kind of energy that’s supposed to be generated only by the Florida Sun. You promised that the citizens of Miami would do it right, and it’s clear that you have delivered. I think I can say for all of those who have come from around America to be here, we knew we would need to be warm in December, and now we are, in more ways than one. And we thank you very, very much.

History has given the people of the Americas a dazzling opportunity to build a community of nations committed to the values of liberty and the promise of prosperity. Now, over the next 3 days, the 34 democratically elected leaders of our hemisphere will gather to begin to seize this opportunity.

I convened this Summit of the Americas with three clear goals in mind: First, to open new markets and create a free trade area throughout our hemisphere; second, to strengthen this remarkable movement to democracy; and third, to bring together our nations to improve the quality of life for all of our people. If we’re successful, the summit will lead to more jobs, opportunity, and prosperity for our children and for generations to come. We will have launched a new partnership for prosperity.

Today we gather in Miami to mark a quiet revolution and to launch a new era, for here in the Americas, as all of us know, nation after nation has freed itself from dictatorship and debt and embraced democracy and development. When historians look back on our times, they will marvel at the speed with which democracy has swept across the entire Americas. Consider this: At the time of the last hemispheric summit in 1967, 10 countries suffered under authoritarian rule, and there were fewer here. But today, 34 of the hemisphere’s leaders have won their posts through ballots, not bullets.

This weekend we will welcome leaders like President Aristide of Haiti. We have all seen his commitment to reconciliation and the rule of law and how it is now moving his people from fear to freedom. And I hope I can take a moment of pride to salute the brave American men and women in uniform and their partners from around the world who helped to restore that democracy and freedom to Haiti. We are very proud of them. [Applause]

Here at the Summit of the Americas, the people of the United States will meet a whole new generation of leaders, a generation no longer subject to the dictates of military juntas who stifle liberties and loot their nation, a generation that has proved in Central America that bloody regional conflicts can be peacefully concluded through negotiation and reform and reconciliation, a generation which has pledged to support democracy collectively wherever it is imperiled in this hemisphere. That’s a commitment no other region in the world has made.

These leaders are here in Miami because they have tapped what Simón Bolivar, the Liberator of Latin America, called "the most sacred spring," "the will of the people." Today, just a day before the anniversary of the adoption of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, we honor them, all of them. And we must also honor the brave men and women who dedicated themselves to the cause of freedom and liberty and who today lie all across this hemisphere in unmarked graves. This summit is also a tribute to their astonishing sacrifice. And it is their triumph as well.

Only one nation in our hemisphere is not represented here. It’s the only one where democracy is still denied. We support the Cuban people’s desire for peaceful, democratic change, and we hope that the next time we have one of these summits and the people of all the Western Hemisphere send their leaders here, a leader of a democratic Cuba will take its place at the table of nations. [Applause] Thank you.

The wave of political freedom that has swept across the Americas has also been matched by unprecedented economic reform. In these times of very great stress, farsighted leaders in nation after nation have adopted sound policies to tame inflation, to restore economic growth. They’ve cut tariffs, stabilized currencies, opened their economies to foreign investment. They have worked together to shrink mountains of debt. They’ve privatized; they’ve decentralized.

Argentina has cut its central government by 60 percent in 4 years. Bolivia has given back to local communities more responsibility for health, for education, for agriculture. Brazil has slashed its inflation rate. The so-called lost decade in Latin America is a fading memory. These reforms are working wonders. Investment is growing. The middle class is again on the rise. The Western Hemisphere now boasts the second fastest growing economies in the world. And if current trends continue, within just a decade our hemisphere will be the biggest market in the world, more than 850 million consumers buying $3 trillion worth of goods and services. These are remarkable, hopeful times.

Here in the United States, we, too, have developed a comprehensive economic strategy to reap the rewards of this moment. We had a lot of work to do just to put our economic house in order. We’ve made deep cuts in our deficit, in Federal spending, in the size of the Federal Government. For the first time since Harry Truman was President, this year we will have 3 years of reduction in our deficit in a row. We are already taking our Federal Government down to its smallest size since John Kennedy was President. We have made major steps toward deregulation in banking and trucking and deregulating the States in the areas of welfare, health, and education. And we have just begun to move in this direction.

Our country has produced over 5 million new jobs in the last 22 months. We’ve got the lowest unemployment rate in 4 years and have been voted by the annual panel of international economists as the world’s most productive economy for the first time in 9 years. But the thing that gives me the most hope, after all the years—nearly two decades—in America of American families working longer workweeks for stagnant wages and more fragile benefits, is that this year more high-wage jobs have come into our economy than in the previous 5 years combined. We hope that we are seeing the beginning of the end of a 20-year trend in stagnant wages, and the beginning of the restoration of the American dream by reaching out to the world and into our hearts.

Still, we know that millions of Americans have not felt this economic recovery. Millions of Americans are still working harder for less and feeling very uncertain, even as they read all the good statistics in the newspaper. We have a lot of work to do. But the truth is that the United States has never been in a stronger economic position to compete and win in the world.

We’re also taking bold steps to open new markets and to make the global economy work for our people. For 40 years, our markets have been more open than those of any other nations. We led the restoration of economic hope and opportunity after the Second World War. But now that competition is everywhere and productivity is growing and the lessons of management, technology, and investment are readily apparent to hardworking people all across the world, we cannot allow that to continue. We simply must be able to export more of our goods and our services if we are going to create more high-wage jobs.

Just a year ago yesterday, I signed into law NAFTA, the North American Free Trade Agreement. You can clap for that. [Applause] When Congress voted for NAFTA, that event committed the United States to continuing leadership and engagement in the post-cold-war world. It marked a new era in world trade relations for America, and it gave birth to this summit, which could not have occurred if that hadn’t happened.

In the first 9 months of this year, our exports to Mexico jumped 22 percent. Increased exports to Mexico and Canada have helped us to create more than 100,000 new jobs in America in this year alone. Auto exports to Mexico are up 500 percent. And I might say, Mexican exports to the United States are also up. It’s been a good deal for us, a good deal for them. There has been no "giant sucking sound," except for American goods going across the border.

Last month in Indonesia, we agreed with 17 other Asian-Pacific nations, including Mexico and Chile, two countries represented here, to achieve free trade in the Asian-Pacific region by the year 2020. The tariffs will begin to fall and give us new access to new markets in the fastest growing economies of the world far before then.

And just yesterday I signed into law the bill implementing the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade, the largest agreement ever for free and fair trade. And GATT, like NAFTA before it, passed because we had strong bipartisan support in Congress. That is a pattern that must prevail as we continue to pursue open markets and prosperity in this hemisphere and around the world. And I strongly urge all the nations in our hemisphere who have not yet done so to follow what America has done and implement this agreement now. It is an important thing for our future growth.

Finally, let me emphasize that our economic strategy seeks to prepare our own people to fill the high-wage jobs of the future. For too many people, as I said earlier, these times are ones of great uncertainty. Pressures of the global economy have held down wages and increased job turnover for people who are not in a position to take advantage of the developments now occurring.

We owe it to those Americans to provide the kind of lifetime education and training that will give them a chance to win in this economy as well. And we must ensure that basic labor standards are preserved and promoted so that freer trade means better working conditions for all. After all, in America, our people, our workers, are the most important asset we have. And that is true in every other nation as well. That’s why democracy and free trade go hand-in-hand. More free trade is worthwhile only if its benefits actually change the lives of real people for the better.

But as I have said over the last 2 years, that does not mean that we can repeal the laws of change, repeal the sweeping changes taking place in the global economy. If we do nothing to reach out to other countries than to expand trade, if we had walked away from NAFTA, if we had walked away from GATT, if we don’t reach out here and throughout the world, the United States will still continue to suffer the burdens of trade, for we can’t walk away. But if we reach out, as we are with NAFTA, with GATT, with the Summit of the Americas, if we act wisely, then we can make this new world work for us. Trade can be a benefit to our people. When we have the opportunity to sell American products and services around the world, we know we can compete, and we know that means new jobs and a rising standard of living, the core of the American dream.

I will say again, we must in the United States not only create jobs but raise incomes. And we can only do that if we train people for higher wage jobs and if we create those jobs. One of the only ways we can create those jobs is to expand trade, especially in this hemisphere. So that’s why every American worker in every part of the United States should be glad we are all here today at the Summit of the Americas.

Now, I hope I’ve established why that is my primary goal for this summit. We have a real opportunity here to build on the momentum of NAFTA and GATT. That’s what this new partnership of prosperity is all about, creating a free trade area that stretches from Alaska to Argentina. Let no one underestimate the significance of this—[applause]—someday I’ll learn to coordinate my speech lines and the applause. [Laughter]

Let me tell you, though—think about it—from Alaska to Argentina. People have talked about free trade in this hemisphere for years. It’s been talked about and talked about. The difference is, here in Miami we have the chance to act, and we’re going to take it.

Let me try to describe in graphic terms what this means. Latin America is already the fastest growing region in the world for American exports. Of every dollar Latin Americans spend on exports, 44 cents buy goods made in the U.S.A. Despite trade barriers that are, on average, 4 times higher than ours, Florida alone sold almost $9 billion worth of goods in the Americas in last year alone. And by the year 2005, if current trends continue, our country will sell more to Latin America than to Western Europe or Japan. That’s why we’re here. That’s an investment worth making. Creating a free trade area would be good news throughout the Americas. Here in the United States, our exports to Latin America could literally double by the year 2005. That would create over one million new jobs.

Exports also create good-paying jobs. On average, export-related jobs pay 17 percent more than average wages in America. They’re the kind of jobs that guarantee the families that we are concerned about a fair shot at the American dream. And that is why we must succeed here.

But trade is not the only goal of this meeting; there are two others. The second goal of our summit must be to preserve and strengthen our community of democracies. Continued economic prosperity clearly depends upon keeping the democracies alive and stronger. And we can only do that if we address the dangers to democracy that face all nations.

Many of the dangers we face—consider them: international crime, narcotics trafficking, terrorism, environmental degradation—these things can only be overcome if we act in harmony. So in the days ahead we will discuss ways to seize the assets of money launderers, to explore new ways like those developed in Chile to prevent corruption from corroding our democracies, to move forward on all of these fronts.

We must also keep our democracies healthy and open. Our hemisphere has come too far and the cost has been too great to return to the days of repression and dictatorship. So at the summit we will discuss how the Organization of American States can help to reconcile political disputes and ensure that democratic constitutions actually live and breathe.

Here in the United States we know that democracy is hard work. We’ve been at it over 200 years, and we know we still have to defend it every day. We have to continually review how well our governments perform and even whether they should be doing some things at all. Our own efforts to cut the size and cost and improve the performance of Government, led by the Vice President and his reinventing Government team, demonstrates the immense importance and the great rewards of this undertaking. And we, too, have only just begun.

The third goal of the summit is to bring our nations together to pursue sustainable development. That is far more than a buzzword. Our democracies and our prosperity will be short-lived if we do not figure out how to deal with the things that enable us to grow and come together and maintain our quality of life over the long run. Improving the basic health and education of our peoples is a key part of that sustainable development strategy.

Consider our common efforts to eradicate polio, banished from our hemisphere since 1991. That shows you what cooperation can bring. So at this summit we will discuss ways that we can combat poverty, combat disease, increase health care, increase education, remove threats from millions and millions of our fellow citizens.

Our summit agenda also calls for important talks aimed at making our environmental and trade policies mutually supportive. Threats to our environment respect no border and ultimately can undermine our economies. We must discuss initiatives that will make progress. We’re going to talk about things like banning lead from gasoline in every country, conserving nature’s diversities, spreading innovative environmental technologies. We will be doing the kinds of things that will permit us to sustain the remarkable trends of the last few years.

At the summit, in support of expanding trade and democracy and sustainable development, we will consider more than 20 initiatives, all told, to plot a course for the future. And I am convinced that we will succeed as long as we recognize that the bonds that unite us are stronger than the forces that divide us.

Once the United States and our neighbors were clearly divided by seemingly unbridgeable cultural and economic gulfs. But today, superhighways, satellite dishes, and enlightened self-interest draw us together as never before. Our economies are increasingly interwoven. And Latin American and Caribbean contributions to American culture, in great novels, fine foods, spirited music, free television networks, and many other ways, grow every day. By the year 2020, the United States of America may well boast a Spanish-speaking population second only in size to Mexico’s. The connections between north and south in the Americas are, in short, a source of great energy. We have to strengthen these bonds. We’ve got to make them work for the benefit of all of our people.

On this very day, 170 years ago, the foot soldiers of Bolivar’s army won the Battle of Ayacucho, the last battle for liberation between the people of the New World and colonial Spain. With that triumph, Peru proclaimed its independence, and a new era began in our hemisphere. It was an era that Bolivar hoped would produce greater unity among the pan-American states. Well, his dream was not realized in his lifetime, and generation after generation has struggled without success to make it real.

In our own century, President Roosevelt’s Good Neighbor Policy, as Vice President Gore said, sought to unite the hemisphere by urging mutual respect among all and recognizing even then, long ago, the importance of our interdependence. Three decades later, President Kennedy’s Alliance for Progress inspired the peoples of the Americas with its vision of social justice and economic growth.

Today, we can build on those foundations and do what could not be done in former times. We can create a partnership for prosperity where freedom and trade and economic opportunity become the common property of the people of the Americas. Just imagine it: a hemisphere where disputes among and within nations are peacefully and honorably resolved, where cultures and nations are universally and mutually respected, where no person’s rights are denied and labor is not abused, where ideas and trade flow freely across borders, where work is rewarded and families and communities are strong. Just imagine it.

My fellow Americans, this is a magic moment. Let us seize it.

Thank you very much.

Note: The President spoke at 12:30 p.m. at the Jackie Gleason Theater for the Performing Arts. In his remarks, he referred to Gov. Lawton Chiles of Florida and his wife, Rhea; Lt. Gov. Buddy MacKay and his wife, Anne; Mayor Seymour Gelber of Miami Beach; and Mayor Steve Clark of Miami. This item was not received in time for publication in the appropriate issue.

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Chicago: William J. Clinton, "Remarks on Goals of the Summit of the Americas in Miami, Florida, December 9, 1994," Weekly Compilation of Presidential Documents, 1994 in United States. Executive Office of the President, Weekly Compilation of Presidential Documents, Week Ending Friday, December 16, 1994 (Washington, D.C.: U.S. Government Printing Office, 1995), Vol. 30 Original Sources, accessed July 25, 2024, http://www.originalsources.com/Document.aspx?DocID=KB397HPD2QJWTN8.

MLA: Clinton, William J. "Remarks on Goals of the Summit of the Americas in Miami, Florida, December 9, 1994." Weekly Compilation of Presidential Documents, 1994, in United States. Executive Office of the President, Weekly Compilation of Presidential Documents, Week Ending Friday, December 16, 1994 (Washington, D.C.: U.S. Government Printing Office, 1995), Vol. 30, Original Sources. 25 Jul. 2024. http://www.originalsources.com/Document.aspx?DocID=KB397HPD2QJWTN8.

Harvard: Clinton, WJ, 'Remarks on Goals of the Summit of the Americas in Miami, Florida, December 9, 1994' in Weekly Compilation of Presidential Documents, 1994. cited in , United States. Executive Office of the President, Weekly Compilation of Presidential Documents, Week Ending Friday, December 16, 1994 (Washington, D.C.: U.S. Government Printing Office, 1995), Vol. 30. Original Sources, retrieved 25 July 2024, from http://www.originalsources.com/Document.aspx?DocID=KB397HPD2QJWTN8.