Remarks to Reporters Upon Departure for the International Meeting on Cooperation and Development in Cancun, Mexico

October 21, 1981

Good morning.

This summer, I had the privilege of representing the United States in Ottawa, at an economic summit attended by nations representing more than two-thirds of the world's wealth. Well, this morning I leave for Cancun, Mexico, to attend another economic summit, this one attended by 22 industrial and developing nations that comprise more than two-thirds of the world's population.

Together, these summits reflect a commitment by the peoples in nearly every part of the globe, and the United States is a part of this commitment. We believe a stronger domestic and world economy are vital to peace and stability. This objective is a top priority of American foreign policy, but we go to Cancun with no illusions. The problems of hunger and poverty are severe and deeply rooted. They cannot be solved overnight, nor can massive transfers of wealth somehow miraculously produce new well-being.

Our message at Cancun will be clear. The road to prosperity and human fulfillment is lighted by economic freedom and individual incentive. As always, the United States will be a friend and an active partner in the search for a better life.

We take with us a solid record of support for development and a positive program for the 1980's. Free people build free markets that ignite dynamic development for everyone. We will renew our commitment to strengthen and improve international trading, investment, and financial relations, and we will work for more effective cooperation to help developing countries achieve greater self-sustaining growth.

Cancun is a unique undertaking in world affairs. Never have so many nations gathered from so many parts of the globe for a summit conference on economic growth. With cooperation and good will, this summit can be more than just another shattered dream. It can be the beginning of new hope and a better life for all.

Q. Mr. Reagan, you said that you expected to find a hostile environment. Are you still expecting it, and why?

The President. No, not really, and maybe that was a harsh word for it. I think that there's been -- there's kind of a wave of propaganda about the United States. But when you really analyze the facts, the United States has provided food for the developing world -- more than all the rest of the world has provided put together.

We have more than half the trade. We import the products from the non-OPEC developing countries. More than half is imported by this country. And we have duty laws and so forth that encourage that trade. And I think that we have something to offer and have quite a record.

Q. How much of a partner will the United States be?

The President. Well, we're certainly not going to go backward. We hope that we will be able to suggest going forward with more of what we have done so well. What is needed is development of those countries to the point of being self-sustaining.

Reporter. Thank you, Mr. President.

Note: The President spoke at 8:31 a.m. to reporters assembled at the South Portico of the White House.