PRESIDENT BUSH DISCUSSES FREE TRADE AGREEMENTS
THE PRESIDENT: Thank you for the warm welcome. It’s great
to be in Miami. I’ve been looking for my little brother. (Laughter.)
He must have finally found work. (Laughter.) Just kidding,
I thank the Center for Hemispheric Policy and the Greater
Miami Chamber of Commerce for sponsoring this event. And I
appreciate you all coming. I appreciate the support that you
give for enterprise here in South Florida.
I know you know that — as business leaders and foreign policy
thinkers, that one of the pivotal issues facing our country
is expanding trade and investment. And that’s what I want to
talk to you about today. It’s a timely message because Congress
has some important decisions coming up. I made my mind about
the importance of trade and investment, and now Congress is
going to have to make up its mind about trade and investment
— especially when it comes to free trade agreements with Peru,
Panama and Colombia. These agreements will level the playing
fields for businesses, workers, and farmers here in the United
States. These agreements will help our friends in neighborhoods
and help them lift them out of poverty. These agreements will
counter the false populism promoted by some nations in the
hemisphere. These agreements will strengthen the forces of
freedom and democracy throughout the Americas. I urge the congressional
leaders to pass these three Latin American agreements as soon
as possible. (Applause.)
And I appreciate you giving me a chance to come here and explain
why they’re important.
I want to thank my friend, Senator Mel Martinez, for introducing
me. I appreciate his willingness to serve in the United States
Senate. I know this is a non-partisan meeting, but let me just
tell you he’s doing a fine job. (Applause.)
I want to thank three members from the congressional delegation
who are here — the Diaz-Balart boys — (laughter) — Lincoln
and Mario, as well as Ileana Ros-Lehtinen. I’m honored you
all are here. Thanks for coming. (Applause.)
I appreciate so very much Manny Diaz for joining us today.
Mr. Mayor, I’m honored you are here. I thank you for your time.
(Applause.) I want to thank the state and local officials who
have joined us. I really appreciate former Secretary Donna
Shalala, who happens to be the President of the University
of Miami, for sponsoring this event. (Applause.) I thank Hank
Klein, the Chairman of the Greater Miami Chamber of Commerce,
as well. (Applause.) And I thank my friend, Chuck Cobb, who’s
the Chairman of the Florida Free Trade Area of the Americas,
Inc., which is a group of citizens concerned about free trade.
We meet at an historic time for this country’s economy. Last
week, we learned that September was America’s 49th consecutive
month of job creation — that’s the longest uninterrupted period
of job growth on record. And just yesterday, we learned that
the American economy set new records for exports in a single
month. More exports support better and higher-paying jobs —
and that’s important for our citizens to understand. People
who work for companies which export have a higher-paying job
than someone who doesn’t. And so I believe strongly, to make
sure that the historic records we set in the last couple of
days continue that we’ve got to expand trade.
In Miami you know what I’m talking about.
You see, you see the value of trade every day. This city
is known as the "Gateway
to the Americas." Your openness to Latin America has helped
make this city a vibrant center of culture and commerce and
enterprise. People who know something about Miami understand
the importance of trade to this city’s future. Last year, $72
billion in trade passed through the Miami area — and nearly
half of it went to our neighbors in the south. That trade helped
the Greater Miami economy grow at 6.7 percent in 2005 — that’s
more than twice the national average. And the unemployment
rate here has dropped to 4.1 percent — that is below the national
I think the case for trade is unmistakable in Miami, and we
need to make that case all over the country. I’ve come to a
place that has benefited from trade so others around the country
can understand it can happen in their areas, as well. Expanding
trade and investment has been a commitment — longstanding
commitment of the United States. I’m not the first President
to ever stand up and say we need to expand trade. As a matter
of fact, Presidents from Eisenhower to Kennedy, to Reagan and
Clinton have worked to seize the opportunities of free and
fair trade. Opening up foreign markets for America’s goods
and services has been a high priority for my administration.
In January 2001, America had free trade agreements in force
with just three countries. Now we have agreements in force
with 14 countries — including seven in Latin America.
Unfortunately, if we talk about trade around
America — I don’t know what it’s like here in Miami, but
when you’re discussing
trade around America, you hear troubling signs — there is
a protectionist sentiment that is beginning to gain strength
in America and in Congress. Recent trade agreements have passed
by slim margins. Deals that were really good for the American
economy barely passed the Congress. Advocates of economic isolationism
in Congress have claimed the agreements I’ve just talked about
would be "bad for American workers." One congressman
offered this prediction: If the agreements passed, "U.S.
college grads will increasingly see a future in flipping hamburgers." That’s
the kind of rhetoric we’re dealing with when it comes to whether
or not this nation ought to be confident and open up markets
for goods and services around the world.
The results of the agreements are beginning to come in, and
they’re proving the critics wrong. In the four years since
we implemented a free trade agreement with Chile, American
exports to that country have more than doubled. In the four
years since we implemented a free trade agreement with Singapore,
American exports to that country have increased by about 50
percent. And in just one year since we began implementing a
free trade agreement with Central America and the Dominican
Republic, American exports to that region have grown by 13
And meanwhile, U.S. economy has continued to
grow, and job expansion has been strong, and hourly wages
are on the rise,
and the job market for college graduates is bright. When trade
expands, American workers gain, because our workers are making
products for people around the world who want to buy products
that say "Made in the USA."
Congress now has an opportunity to build on the success by
passing new free trade agreements with Peru, Colombia, and
Panama. Today, all three of these countries enjoy duty-free
access to U.S. markets for virtually all their products. They’re
shipping their goods our way, and most of those products enter
America duty free. Yet when we ship our products their way,
most of our products face significant tariffs. Our free trade
agreements would knock down many of these barriers — and level
the playing field for our businesses and farmers and workers.
Together, these agreements would expand access to 75 million
new customers with a combined GDP of $245 billion. This May,
my administration and Democratic leaders in Congress came together
to forge a bipartisan consensus to consider these trade deals.
And now it is the time to move forward with these pro-growth,
And the stakes are high. As Congress debates,
people across the hemisphere are watching to see if America
will uphold its
commitment to free and fair trade. In a recent letter to congressional
Democrats, former Secretary Shalala — and I thank you for
your leadership on this issue — and dozens of her Democratic
colleagues wrote this: "Latin America is up for grabs.
We fully recognize that asking the United States Congress to
vote on these trade agreements is politically charged. Nonetheless,
rejecting these agreements would set back regional U.S. interests
for a generation. We must not walk away now."
Others who signed the letter include former Senators Bob Graham,
Sam Nunn, and Bennett Johnson [sic], as well as many others
from the Clinton administration. Those who signed the letter
are absolutely correct. Members of both parties in Congress
should view these trade agreements for what they are — an
historic opportunity to strengthen our economy at home, and
advance democracy and prosperity throughout our hemisphere.
And Congress should approve these agreements soon, so that
people across the Americas can see the benefits.
The first new Latin American trade agreement that my administration
completed is with Peru. This agreement has great promise, because
Peru has one of the fastest growing economies in South America.
Last year alone, Peru’s economy expanded by 8 percent. And
with greater prosperity in both our countries, trade between
the United States and Peru has doubled over the past three
The free trade agreement with Peru would ignite even greater
opportunities for both our nations. It would be especially
beneficial to businesses and workers and farmers here at home.
The free trade agreement would immediately eliminate most of
Peru’s industrial tariffs, as well as many of the barriers
to U.S. agriculture exports. It would also provide new market
access and fair treatment to U.S. companies that provide services
and invest in Peru. Here’s what that would mean. If you’re
a Miami company exporting electronics to Peru, you would go
from paying thousands of dollars in tariffs on the products
you shipped to no tariff at all. In other words, your product
would become more competitive. It would make it more likely
you’d be able to sell into a new market. It would instantly
make the products affordable. It would give a business person
more money to invest here at home. The workers would be more
likely able to keep their jobs.
A free trade agreement with Peru would strengthen our partnership
with an important democracy in South America. Last year, Peru
held two rounds of free and fair elections. And through their
representatives, the Peruvian people have made it clear they
want to increase their ties to the United States. The Peruvian
legislature passed the free trade agreement by an overwhelming
margin. And now the United States Congress should show America’s
commitment in return — by passing the Peru agreement quickly,
and with a strong bipartisan majority. (Applause.)
The second of the new Latin American trade agreements that
my administration completed is with Colombia. Colombia is home
to 44 million potential customers — more than the population
of Florida, Georgia, Alabama, Mississippi, and North Carolina
put together. After years of hardship, Colombia’s economy is
strong and growing — with 6.8 percent expansion last year
alone. Colombia is now our fifth largest trading partner in
Latin America. And Colombia is the largest market for U.S.
agricultural exports in South America.
The free trade agreement would open up Colombia’s growing
economy to our producers. It would immediately eliminate tariffs
on more than 80 percent of American industrial and consumer
goods exports. It would provide significant new duty-free access
for American crops. The effects would be far-reaching. In Colombia,
families would enjoy higher standards of living — thanks to
more affordable American products and more reliable access
to our markets. Here at home, about 8,000 U.S. companies that
export to Colombia would find new buyers for their goods and
services. And for the first time in history, they would be
able to compete in Colombia on a level playing field.
The strategic implications of this agreement are as important
as the economic benefits. Colombia is one of America’s strongest
allies in the Western Hemisphere. It has been under assault
by a formidable network of terrorists and drug traffickers,
which has put its democracy at risk. In recent years, Colombia’s
democratically elected President has taken courageous steps
to stop drug traffickers, and rein in paramilitary groups,
and enforce the law. (Applause.)
The United States has supported President Uribe’s efforts
through an initiative called Plan Colombia, which was launched
by President Bill Clinton and strongly supported by my administration.
The results are striking. Since 2000, kidnappings and terrorist
attacks and murders have all dropped substantially. Convictions
have increased. Colombia has extradited hundreds of drug traffickers
and terrorists to the United States. And the Colombian people
are taking back their country from the narco-terrorists.
Some in Congress have expressed concern over violence in Colombia,
particularly attacks on trade unionists. President Uribe takes
these concerns seriously, and he has responded decisively.
He’s established an independent prosecutors unit to investigate
and punish homicides against labor unionists. He’s allowed
the International Labor Organization to station a permanent
representative in Bogota. He’s worked to offer young Colombians
better alternatives to a life of violence and drugs — including
the new jobs and economic opportunities that would come from
a trade agreement with the United States.
Colombia’s record is not perfect, but the country
is clearly headed in the right direction — and is asking
for our help.
Both houses of the Colombian legislature have expressed overwhelming
support for the trade agreement with the United States. And
now they’re waiting to see if we will uphold our end of the
deal. If Congress were to reject this committed ally, we would
damage America’s credibility in the region, and make other
countries less willing to cooperate in the future. As Prime
Minister Stephen Harper of Canada put it, "If the United
States turns its back on its friends in Colombia, this will
set back our cause far more than any Latin American dictator
could hope to achieve." By its bold actions, Colombia
has proved itself worthy of America’s support — and I urge
Congress to pass this vital agreement as soon as possible.
The third of the new Latin American trade agreements that
my administration completed is with Panama. Panama has the
fastest-growing economy in Central America, with a growth rate
of more than 8 percent last year. Our nations have strong ties,
dating back to the construction of the Panama Canal. Trade
has always been a key part of our relationship. Last year alone,
our nations exchanged nearly $3 billion worth of goods.
The free trade agreement with Panama will build on this vibrant
trade relationship. It will immediately eliminate tariffs on
88 percent of our industrial and consumer goods exports to
Panama. It will open a new market for American farmers and
ranchers, including fruit growers here in Florida. It will
increase access to Panama’s service sector, including its key
financial services market. It will open opportunities for American
businesses to participate in the Panama Canal expansion project.
This is a good agreement, and we will continue to work closely
with Congress and the government of Panama to address the issues
necessary to get it approved.
Collectively, these three trade agreements have the potential
to boost our economy, and strengthen our allies, and spread
prosperity throughout our region. We want people to be prosperous
in our neighborhood. It’s in the interests of the United States
that prosperity spread throughout the — Latin America and
South America. (Applause.) And yet, many of our citizens feel
uneasy about competition, and they worry that trade will cost
jobs. You know, I understand why. I understand that if you’re
forced to change a job halfway through a career it can be painful
for your family. I know that. And that is why I’m a big believer
in trade adjustment assistance that helps Americans make the
transition from one job to the next.
In other words, I believe there is a role for the federal
government, and that is when a person loses a job because of
trade, there’s help for that person and family — help to get
that person a new education — the community college system,
for example, to be able to train that person for jobs which
actually exist. Additional college enhances a worker’s productivity.
And when your productivity is enhanced, so your wages go up.
And so rather than focus on only on the risks of the negative,
I think it’s important for this country to focus on the much
larger benefits of trade. We’ll help those whose — lost a
job because of trade. But it’s important for our country to
understand trade yields prosperity, and prosperity means people
will more likely be able to find work.
In the debate ahead, members of Congress should keep in mind
the American businesses and workers and farmers who will gain,
who will benefit from a level playing field for their goods
and services. They should keep in mind that American consumers
will enjoy more choices, and better prices that come with trade.
They should keep in mind the millions in our hemisphere who
will be lifted out of poverty. And above all, members of Congress
should have confidence in the ability of the United States
to compete in the world. And they should show that confidence
by approving these trade agreements with bipartisan votes.
In addition to these agreements, my administration will continue
working to promote trade in other ways. At the national level,
we will work closely with Congress to pass a landmark free
trade agreement with South Korea. This agreement alone is projected
to add more than $10 billion to our economy — and like our
agreements in Latin America, it would strengthen our relationship
with a democratic ally in a critical part of the world. At
the regional level, we’re seeking broad trade agreements in
the Americas and Asia Pacific. And at the global level, we’re
pushing hard for a successful conclusion to the Doha Round
of trade talks, which has the potential to lower trade barriers
across the world.
All of this will bring us closer to a world that lives in
liberty, a world that grows in prosperity, a world that trades
in freedom. Here in our hemisphere, that means an Americas
where democratic nations work together to advance peace and
justice and security; where the opportunity to succeed is as
real in Lima as in Los Angeles, in Bogota as in Boston; where
the opportunity for people to realize dreams is just as real
in Panama City, Panama, as it is in Panama City, Florida. (Laughter.)
And the vision I have for our hemisphere includes a free and
democratic Cuba. (Applause.) Thank you.
AUDIENCE MEMBER: Viva Bush!
THE PRESIDENT: I’m not through yet. (Laughter.)
In Havana, the long rule of a cruel dictator is nearing an
end. As Cuba enters a period of transition, nations throughout
the hemisphere and the world must insist on free speech, free
assembly; they must insist that the prisoner in Cuba be free.
And ultimately, we must insist on free and competitive elections.
(Applause.) Si ntese. (Laughter.)
I appreciate all you’re doing to help make the vision of a
free and prosperous Americas possible. That’s why I’ve come
to thank you. As business leaders who invest in new products
and trade with your neighbors, you add to the vitality and
dynamism of this region, and that helps our country. As scholars,
people who study how to advance freedom and peace, prosperity,
you’ve helped people to understand the benefits of free trade
and I appreciate what you’re doing.
I ask you to do one thing more, and that is to make sure your
voices are heard to members of the United States Congress —
you don’t need to worry about these three; don’t waste your
time. (Laughter.) But there are people who need to hear from
you. I would ask you to tell them that the free trade agreements
with Peru, Colombia and Panama are essential to our economy.
(Applause.) I would ask you to remind them they are essential
to our security. And I’d ask you to tell them that they’re
important for our moral interests.
Thank you for giving me a chance to come by. I appreciate
you. Que Dios los bendiga. (Applause.)
END 2:29 P.M. EDT