Radio Address to the Nation on Free and Fair Trade

 

April 30, 1988

 

My fellow Americans:

 

This week in Washington, trade was the talk of the town, and important talk it was. I've often mentioned trade issues in these broadcasts. And with your help during these last few years, we've been able to resist attempts to block free and fair trade. It hasn't been easy, because not a few politicians still think the way to reelection is to portray themselves as the great friend of the American worker by pushing protectionism. It's been up to us to point out that over the long run this approach halts growth and costs jobs, but as I say, with your help this message has gotten through.

 

Believe me, this ability to resist protectionism -- along with our commitment to lower taxes, less spending, and fewer regulations -- has made a huge difference in all of our lives. I don't think any of us can easily forget that sense of desperation Americans felt a few years ago as they saw inflation driving the weekly grocery bill up and up, the value of their savings shrinking, jobs growing increasingly scarce, and economic growth going down to virtually nothing. Well, all that's been changed around.

 

Just this week, Beryl Sprinkel, the head of my Council of Economic Advisers, went down to the White House briefing room to deliver this quarterly report on the state of the economy. Some experts, who had noted we're in the 65th month of our economic expansion, were saying a slowdown was inevitable, and others, noting last October's stock market plunge, made dire predictions about what the economy was going to do in the first quarter of this year. But the results were exactly what we had hoped for and, in fact, what we had predicted: The economy is moving along at a moderate rate of growth, and inflation is well under control.

 

My fellow Americans, I remember only too well working in 1981 on my first televised speech describing ``the worst economic mess since the Great Depression'' and wondering even then how long it would take us to repair the damage. Well, thanks to the dynamics of less government and more free markets, the damage has been repaired -- and repaired much faster than anyone could have originally hoped. And that's why I'm certain you don't want me or Congress taking any risks with this progress. And that's also why I've made it clear that I'm going to be very severe with any trade legislation coming out of Congress that threatens America's prosperity.

 

For the last year, we've all been working on a trade bill here, one that initially contained many objectionable provisions. Working with Members of Congress, we managed to remove almost all of these bad provisions. Unfortunately, however, when it comes to safeguarding prosperity, almost can never be good enough. The current legislation, despite all the hard work, still has provisions that threaten economic growth. These provisions are comprised mainly of demands for unnecessary, burdensome, and costly regulation of private industry. Provisions range from rules on plant closing notifications to restrictions on exports. Unfortunately, these provisions serve the special interests and not the Nation's interests. They would reduce the flexibility of our economy and render us less able to respond to the realities of the international marketplace. In short, they would make us less competitive, not more.

 

This bill did pass the Congress this week, but the good news is the vote showed we have the strength to sustain a Presidential veto. And you can be sure that this bill is going to get a veto, but fast. And then all Congress has to do is drop the ruffles, frills, and flourishes put there for the special interests, and we can have a trade bill, and have it soon. As I have stated repeatedly, I want a trade bill and will work vigorously to secure one. I urge the congressional leadership to schedule prompt action on a bill immediately after my veto is sustained. It is time to set aside the special interests and advance America's interests by passing trade legislation that will assist, not impede, our dynamic economy.

 

In the meantime, I'm delighted to tell you that there was some good news on trade this week. Prime Minister Mulroney of Canada was in town, and we discussed our two nations' pending agreement on an historic free trade zone between the United States and Canada. This is the kind of trade legislation we need -- legislation that promotes growth and prosperity and keeps America away from the protectionism that once cost the world and our country so much.

 

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.