July 11, 1987 My fellow Americans:
We are now in our 56th month of economic growth, close to the longest peacetime expansion in our entire history. We've enjoyed low inflation and job creation that has captured the imagination of the world. Over 13 million jobs have come into existence. And contrary to what some critics of our administration have been suggesting, most of the jobs -- over 60 percent of them -- are in the higher paying occupations. Our country's in the middle of a great jump forward.
In these last few years, many American companies have restructured, cut overhead, brought down costs, and significantly improved quality. They've computerized their operations and invested in the most up-to-date technology. Last year, this innovation pushed manufacturing productivity in the United States ahead by 3.5 percent, a greater increase than in any other major industrialized nation. Unlike the late 1970's, when our major corporations seemed to be lagging behind, today they are again pulling out in front.
In the last decade, our most productive citizens -- the ones we depend on to carry our flag in a highly competitive world market -- had their investment capital taxed away and were hamstrung by well-meaning, yet often intrusive, regulation. High taxes and overregulation were dragging us down. We've done our best in these 6\1/2\ years to turn that situation around, and it's beginning to pay off. Federal tax rates are no longer increasing, draining even more resources out of the private sector into the bureaucracy. We've also kept under control the bureaucratic impulse to issue more and more regulations, mandates, and edicts telling us how to run our lives and businesses. We've done our best to free our economy and get government out of the way.
In recent months, I've visited several companies, like Harley-Davidson in Pennsylvania and Dictaphone Corporation in Florida. The confidence of the men and women who work for these American corporations was inspiring; it reflects a mood in companies across this land. If you could meet them as I did, you'd be confident that American workers, if provided the tools and permitted to compete on a level playing field, can outproduce any rival and keep the ``Made in the U.S.A.'' label something to be proud of.
Lean, fast-moving, and efficient: American corporations are moving into the world market, and the latest figures suggest they are more than holding their own. In the last few months, we've seen an overall surge of American exports. In fact, from the third quarter of 1986 to the first quarter of 1987, exports were increasing at an annual rate of 14 percent and imports were declining at an annual rate of almost 5 percent. In short, our country turned the corner on our trade deficit last fall, and the situation continues to improve.
The increased competitiveness of American business, the positive adjustment that has occurred in the international exchange rates, the improvement of the economies of our trading partners, and our ongoing efforts to pry open any foreign markets closed to American goods -- all of this has helped us meet the trade deficit challenge.
Ironically, just at a time when we're making great progress, Congress is seriously considering legislation that could set us back. The last thing our economy needs now is congressional action that is behind the curve. In the proposed bill, Congress takes aim at a problem that is correcting itself. It's a little like closing the barn door when the horse is trying to get back in. If the Congress really wants to help solve the trade deficit, the single best thing it could do is cut the Federal budget deficit. Now's the time to be talking about opening markets, not closing them; about expanding trade, not putting up roadblocks. What is called for now is hard work at the negotiating tables with our trading partners and innovative thinking.
Well, that's just what we've been doing, especially concerning the international market in agriculture. This week, following through on an initiative we set in motion at the Tokyo economic summit last year, we proposed dramatic reform of the free world's agricultural trading system. Our idea is to open world markets and, over a 10-year period, to end the costly subsidies and price controls that are a heavy weight tied around the necks of the Western economies. Free from this burden, everyone, including the farmers, will be better off. Trade, commerce, and competition are positive forces carrying mankind to new levels of prosperity. And, as usual, Americans are leading the way.
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.