Radio Address to the Nation on International Trade

June 13, 1987

My fellow Americans:

Tomorrow is Flag Day, the anniversary of the first official American flag. Nancy and I hope that you'll join us and millions of other Americans tomorrow evening at 7 p.m. eastern daylight time as we participate in the annual ``Pause for the Pledge.'' The 31 words of the Pledge of Allegiance to our flag takes only a moment to recite, yet their meaning reaches across the many decades of our history as a free people.

Now, to turn for a moment to the trip abroad that we just completed. Monday evening, in a televised address from the Oval Office, I'll present to the Nation a full report on the Venice economic summit. I'll also speak about a matter of world importance: the just-ended meeting in Reykjavik, Iceland, of Secretary of State George Shultz and his counterparts from the countries that make up the NATO alliance. Secretary Shultz and the NATO foreign ministers reached a crucial consensus on our arms reduction proposals that could move us closer to an historic agreement, bringing about for the first time real and equitable reductions in U.S. and Soviet nuclear arms. And it is NATO's firmness and unity that made this possible.

For now, though, I'd like to talk with you about a matter that played a central role in the Venice summit: world trade. We in the United States hear much these days about balances and imbalances of world trade, about the whole question of how competitive our country is with the rest of the world. Congress in particular is paying a great deal of attention to this issue, and there are those on Capitol Hill who seem to think we can somehow make America more prosperous by putting up barriers and imposing tariffs -- that is, by not even trying to compete with the rest of the world.

Now, I don't doubt for a moment that when it comes to world trade our country could improve in a number of ways, and in just a minute, I'll speak about that. But first, it's terribly important for the American people and those in Congress to understand one fact: Despite the impressions you may have received, our economy is outperforming those of our trading partners. For example, consider these figures: In the 1970's Japan did consistently better than the United States in terms of real economic growth, but since late 1982, America's real economic growth has averaged 4 percent a year, about the same rate as that of Japan and a much better performance than that in Europe.

One measure of how an economy is doing is how well it creates new jobs, and by this standard the United States wins the world contest, hands down. Just since late 1982, our country has created more than 13\1/2\ million new jobs -- more than the number of jobs created during the past decade by Japan and Europe combined. Growth in the United States is more sustainable now than it was in the 1970's, because today our economic growth is much less inflationary. Indeed, the month our administration first took office, inflation was running at 12 percent, but since 1982 our country has averaged a rate of inflation of less than 4 percent.

One final fact -- our economic growth has prompted and sustained economic growth throughout the world. Without America's economic recovery, now into its 54th consecutive month, most of the rest of the world, and especially the export economies of Europe and Asia, would have grown considerably less. This means that we're already doing something right, that because of our policies of low taxes and deregulation the world economy is better off and America is already becoming more and more competitive.

We can do better, and we're working hard to remove foreign barriers to trade. When Japan failed to enforce an agreement on semiconductors, I imposed economic sanctions. The Japanese started showing positive movement in one area, and I was able to lift a proportional share of the sanctions. But it was a clear lesson for all who trade with our country: This administration will insist upon trade that is both free and fair. When we impose sanctions, we do so only so that trade can expand trade.

We want to work with Congress on a competitiveness package that will complement these efforts. For Congress to place severe restrictions on international trade with tariffs and barriers and to limit my ability to utilize our trade laws when necessary, would damage our own prosperity and that of virtually the entire world. I urge Congress to bear this in mind. As major trade legislation comes to the floor, the United States is already becoming more competitive. Now, it's up to Congress to show that it understands economic reality.

Until next week, thanks for listening, and God bless you.

Note: The President spoke at 12:06 p.m. from the Oval Office at the White House.