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Remarks by Donald L. Evans

U.S. Secretary of Commerce

Before the

Council of the Americas

May 8, 2001

Washington, D.C.

Thank you, Fred (Henderson, VP of GM Latin America). It's a pleasure to be here.

I see a number of familiar faces. Some of you joined me for breakfast in Buenos Aires about a month ago. It's good to see you again and to meet new friends.

I know that over the past two days you've heard a great deal about the trade agenda being developed by the Bush Administration and the value of our policies and of trade to economies in this hemisphere. This morning I'd like to breathe some life into what you've been hearing…that is, discuss the vision and spirit of our trade policy as these relate to the quality of life for all Americans and for our friends and neighbors around the world.

Freedom, Democracy and Political Stability

The prospects for developments in trade in the Americas are truly remarkable. I'm sure that's the message you're getting and the message you'll take home with you. You've also heard how challenging the job will be to put the many pieces together and arrive at agreements that satisfy all parties. But it will get done for a number of very important reasons…and these relate to the underpinning of this administration's trade policy.

Economic growth is, of course, a driving force. Tearing down barriers to trade and commerce for goods, services and capital promises a higher standard of living for all of us here at home and our neighbors abroad. But there must be more to it and there is. It's about more than wealth and physical comfort; it's about a higher quality of life. Free and open trade is an important foundation for democracy, social freedom and political stability in our hemisphere and around the world.

In liberalizing trade agreements, we are recognizing that the genius of the free enterprise system relies on and encourages human freedom. Free men and women conducting their business in free markets can pursue their economic destinies and go as far as their dreams, talents and initiative take them. Here in our country we call it the American Dream but it has significance whether you're living in Midland, Texas; Santiago, Chile; or Gaborone, Botswana.

In the United States we have come to respect and trust the relationship between economic development and human freedom. Government programs can't create that trust. It comes from personal experience and opportunity in a free enterprise system.

What government can do is create the environment for people to succeed. To give them the freedom to use their God-given talents to develop a sense of pride and hope. This encourages them to build better futures for their families, their communities and themselves.

I've got a story for you. Thomas Friedman wrote about it in the New York Times. A few years ago in Ghana, after years of government control of the airwaves, entrepreneurs were allowed to set up FM stations. For the first time people could tune in and hear music, the news and hours of live talk radio. They had the freedom to call the station and be interviewed by a reporter and say what was on their minds. Here we see that the opening of a free market introduced a free market in ideas. People accepted the responsibility to share their ideas, which, in turn, became the basis for the first ever peaceful transition from one elected civilian government to another.

As improvements in the quality of life evolve in nations like Ghana, we see people raised out of poverty…and enjoying the richness of life. This includes better health care, better education and a better environment.

The spirit of hope is raised with this progress and we'll see the evolution of even better and more responsible government. This momentum for improvement will then build on itself as people come to understand the responsibilities that arrive with freedom. They will understand that these responsibilities call for them to promote the conditions of freedom for themselves and their fellow man.

Human freedom is ultimately indivisible whether we're talking about economics or politics. That's why President Bush talks about trade in the same terms as President Reagan did, as a "forward strategy for freedom." And that's why President Bush speaks of trade in terms of instilling the habits of freedom that are essential to both political liberty and economic well being.

And when free men are working in free and open markets, political stability begins to weave itself through the social fabric. Democracy becomes legitimate and solid. That's what free trade and communication bring to nations…to hemispheres. That's what they are bringing and will continue to bring to the Americas.

Our Responsibilities

So what's our role…your role in all of this? Why should we get on the free trade bandwagon?

I've pointed out a couple of reasons. We know that the free enterprise system is the strongest engine for economic growth and that the genius of this system is its reliance on human freedom. To my mind, that means that our responsibility in government - your responsibilities as free men and women - should be to create an environment, both at home and abroad, which fosters human freedom. That is our surest guarantee of both a brighter economic future and a more peaceful, stable world.

We should, then, be advocates abroad for the same freedoms we are blessed with at home and we should be advocates for the same economic policies that we pursue at home. It's smart business and it's the right thing to do for the right reasons.

The smart business end of this has been discussed thoroughly at this conference. You've had a lot of numbers thrown at you…numbers generated by such respected and trusted sources as the World Bank, which found that the trade share of GDP doubled for those less developed nations that globalized their societies during the last two decades of the 20th century. And you've heard that absolute poverty dropped sharply in these nations. That's life-changing stuff.

My guess is that somewhere along the line you've also heard that investment, technology transfer and training by foreign firms in less developed nations brings direct benefits in the way of jobs, tax revenues and growth. And there are significant indirect benefits…like improving the quality of local labor, management and technical know how as well as improving the quality of the environment. That means you can go into global trade to do well and end up doing good. A two for one deal.

All of this confirms a very basic truth: trade and commerce raise all boats…improving the quality of life for our children; for our families; and for all citizens in participating nations.

The bottom line is that governments and you in business have a responsibility to create an environment that encourages people to take risks; to invest for the long term; to reap the benefits of their own efforts in order to encourage economic development and economic growth. You also have a responsibility to pass along the strengths that discipline and accountability bring to the process and that allow people to enjoy the rich purpose of life.

Indeed, the same rules and governance that secure our political rights secure our economic freedoms and prosperity as well.

New American Trade Agenda

The President and the folks around him knew going into the design of this administration's trade policy that the idea was to raise all boats. The idea was not to adhere to the tried and failed policies of "winner take all." This administration has rejected the "zero sum game" mentality. That's the mentality that says for me to win, you have to lose. It's wrong and counterproductive. Under the President's leadership we've adopted the attitude that no one wins unless we all win.

So, what does our trade policy look like? It focuses on establishing a rules-based system governing both trade and finance that promotes human freedom…and that allows individuals to pursue their own dreams and their own economic destinies. We encourage the free flow of goods, services, capital and ideas because it serves both our economic interests and the broader interests of political freedom and a more stable and prosperous world.

We will pursue a trade agenda that provides the economic growth and freedom that are the ultimate safeguard of political rights in a free society. We want to be proponents of a trade agenda that respects the choices that democratically elected governments make in determining how best to address the policy choices they have in front of them.

Bush Administration Trade Policy/FTAA

To that end, it's my job and mission to bring this vision and the energy and a strong commitment to expand trade opportunities in this dynamic environment. The best way I know to do that is to get rid of barriers to trade, investment and, most importantly, to the free flow of ideas. I say that because this is the environment in which the entrepreneur's risks and a worker's labor are rewarded and one in which we learn the habits of freedom that shape our democracy.

There's no question about the prospects for a free trade zone in the Americas being extremely appealing. Thirty-four nations in this hemisphere enjoy democratically-elected governments…much of this is due to the recent liberalization of societies. Only Cuba lies outside this bastion of democracy. Such progress would have seemed impossible only 20, even 10 years ago. The FTAA will strengthen the foundation already in place.

And that's why the President and I, along with Ambassador Zoellick and others you have heard from during this conference, are strong proponents of the FTAA. And we're pushing prospects for other trade agreements we're working on in Latin America. Among these are the Andean Trade Preference Act (ATPA) and the bilateral free trade agreement with Chile that will give us a state-of-the-art product.

We will be moving ahead with these important negotiations and working with Congress on the legislative front to secure trade promotion authority. I'm confident we can work together to bring this about because the progress promised by free and open trade policies is too good not to drive home to a conclusion.

Leadership and Vision

It's clear that President Bush has designed a comprehensive trade program that has the best interests of not only our countrymen in mind but a policy that also promotes prospects for our friends and neighbors in the Americas and around the world. Some would call it "enlightened self interest." Clearly, when the standards of living and quality of life are boosted for our trading partners, that progress will come back to us in greater trade opportunities and a more secure and stable future.

Whether one cares to see it as "enlightened self interest" or characterizes this approach in loftier terms, the bottom line is that it demonstrates a long term vision for the future general well being of our people, our neighbors in the Americas and our friends around the world.

I think you'll find this approach typical of the Bush Administration. The President is investing in the future of the American people. You see it in the budget offered by the President…a budget that protects and advances the priorities of all Americans. You see it in the education reforms proposed by the President that seek to develop the skills our children and grandchildren will need in the new and more demanding world they'll face in the years ahead. You see this vision in the administration's approach to Social Security reforms geared to reward those who have made our country a better and more secure place to live and raise our families.

And we also see this type of vision and long term planning in our emerging energy program. As we heard from Vice President Cheney the other day, we have a big problem when it comes to the costs and supplies of energy. Costs are high and getting higher and energy supplies aren't at the levels we need. We have to develop solutions to the energy crunch…that includes finding alternative sources, creating more effective conservation programs and devising other approaches. We can't let this situation fester any longer. We have to see what's been in front of us for a long time and work together to find solutions.


I hope I have - as I indicated I would at the outset - breathed some life into what you've been hearing these past two days. Because it's life we're dealing with…and the richness of freedom and the accompanying responsibilities that allow us to pursue and experience all that life has to offer.

If you take away only one message from my remarks, I would hope that it is: "Free minds and free markets are essential to achieving a better and brighter tomorrow." Our economic, social and political freedoms are woven together into a single fabric that allow every human being to pursue the visions and dreams they have in their hearts. That understanding is the cornerstone for our trade policy.

Let me say in closing that the Bush Administration is determined - in the President's words - to "lead toward a world that trades in freedom." And I'm determined to use the responsibilities I exercise as Secretary of Commerce to help make that possible.

I look forward to working with you to make sure that the opportunities are fully developed and extended to as many people as possible.

Thank you for allowing me to spend time with you this morning.



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