Radio Address to the Nation on the Trade Bill and the Persian Gulf Conflict

 

April 23, 1988

 

My fellow Americans:

 

There's a memorable bit of dialog between Claude Rains and Humphrey Bogart in the movie ``Casablanca.'' Rains, playing the Vichy French police inspector, asked Bogart why he came to Casablanca; and Bogart says it was for ``the waters.'' ``But this is the desert,'' replies Rains, ``there are no waters here.'' And Bogart, unflappable as ever, responds, ``I was misinformed.''

 

Well, when it comes to the issue of trade, the American people have been misinformed. We seem to hear every night on the evening news that the trade deficit is looming over our economy, threatening at any moment to plunge us back into a second Great Depression. Well, I'm sorry to disappoint these doomcriers, but the economy is strong and getting stronger. What you don't hear so often on the news is that the trade deficit has turned around. Exports are at record levels, factories are expanding, and more Americans have jobs than ever before in our history. Whether it's cars, steel, or high technology, the label ``Made in the U.S.A.'' is seen more and more around the world. This good news doesn't get reported too much because the rising price of imports makes it seem like we're importing more. The truth is when you account for price changes the trade deficit has decreased and is now 20 percent smaller than it was during the third quarter of 1986.

 

The fearmongers had their heyday last October, when the stock market fell 508 points in 1 day of trading. Many blamed the merchandise trade deficit and predicted a dire future for the U.S. economy. Depression, recession, catastrophe, and calamity was all we heard. Well, I said at the time, the U.S. economy was in great shape. And in fact, in the 6 months since Black Monday, we've seen unemployment drop from 5.9 percent to 5.5, the lowest since 1974. We've had 6 more months of real growth in the longest peacetime expansion in U.S. history. And that growth has been impressive, a 4.8 percent during the last quarter of 1987 -- some catastrophe.

 

Not simply content with predicting disaster, some in Congress have put together legislation that would damage our ability to compete with our trading partners. Everyone talks about wanting a level playing field, but what Congress would be doing is putting American workers and industries on the field with one hand tied behind their backs. They call this a trade bill, but there's a lot in it that has nothing to do with trade.

 

Yes, I want a trade bill, and we've been working with Congress in good faith to produce a bill that would open markets and improve America's competitiveness, but we must guard against enacting legislation that would reverse the gains of the past 5 years. The draft legislation does contain a number of important measures: It enhances our negotiating authority in the ongoing international trade talks, repeals the windfall profits tax, and creates a retraining program for workers who've been laid off. We strongly support these measures. But it also contains provisions that are unacceptable. I've made it very clear to Congress: I will veto this bill, and I am confident that my veto will be sustained. Then I'll work vigorously to secure responsible trade legislation and urge the congressional leadership to schedule prompt action on the new bill. As long as I'm President, we're going to keep traveling the road we're on, one of free and fair trade, record sustained growth, job creation, rising incomes, and technological leadership into the 21st century.

 

Now, I'd like to turn for a moment to events this past week in the Persian Gulf. The actions that our forces took in the Gulf were a measured response to Iran's resumption of minelaying and continued aggression against nonbelligerents. We have completed these self-defense actions and consider this incident closed.

 

I am extremely proud of the courage and resourcefulness of our military personnel in the Persian Gulf. Their performance under very difficult circumstances has been superb. We're also very pleased with the role that the European allies are playing in a cooperative effort to counter the Iranian mining threat and to help protect freedom of navigation. Such cooperative efforts, supported by our Gulf Arab friends, offer the best means of deterring Iran and enhancing Gulf security. Working together, we can also put new life into the U.N. Security Council's efforts to end the increasingly bloody, inhumane Iran-Iraq war and remove the root cause of tensions in the Gulf. Our role in this war is neutral, and we do not seek to confront Iran. However, its leaders must understand that continued military and terrorist attacks against nonbelligerents and refusal to negotiate an end to the war will be very costly to Iran and its people.

 

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

 

Note: The President spoke at 12:06 p.m. from Camp David, MD.