Public Papers

Remarks at a Meeting With Mexican and American Business Leaders in Monterrey, Mexico


Thank you, my friends. Thank you, Mr. Minister, Jaime Serra, for that kind introduction, and to all of you for that warm reception. Mr. Sada, I enjoyed your remarks, sir, and thank you for your comments about Texas. I expect Bob Mosbacher would respond also in this way, or our Secretary of State Jim Baker, and quite a few others in our administration.

But I am just delighted to be here. And really, in Monterrey I have felt the warmth of the friendship that has grown between our countries. I like to feel it's always been there. But I can tell you at the outset of these brief remarks, I don't ever remember a time when Mexican and U.S. relations were better. They are superb, and I'm going to keep working my heart out to make them even better still.

I want to salute the business people from Mexico and again express my appreciation to the business leaders from the United States that are with us today. We had a very important breakfast. This meeting, I'm told, has gotten into a lot of technical questions; and if we do have time for questions afterward and you ask me about flower duties or something of that nature, I will pass the question off to our able Ambassador Carla Hills or our able Secretary Bob Mosbacher.

But you know, preparing for this trip, I noted that 47 years ago, 1943, the last American President to visit Monterrey, Franklin D. Roosevelt, told of his hopes that one day every Mexican and American President would feel at ``liberty to visit each other just as neighbors visit each other'' -- and he went on -- ``just as neighbors talk things over and get to know one another.'' Today that ideal of a special relationship between the United States and Mexico is no longer a dream; it is real. It's as real as the spirit and drive, the compassion and the courage of this great President of yours, President Salinas, and of the Mexican people themselves.

Bernal Diaz, a great 16th century writer, once wrote of Mexico that ``never in the world would there be discovered other lands such as these.'' The Mexico of 1990 lives up to that early vision. Yours is a land of beauty, the boundless energy of a creative people. It's a land of optimism and a land of infinite opportunity. You're a nation proud of yesterday and hopeful for the future, and it's a future that the United States wants to participate in. We want to share in that future.

It's easy to see why Mexico is so strong and why the relationship between our two nations has never been better, never been more important. Today more people than ever before are establishing between us stronger social, cultural, and economic ties.

Today our governments are working closely to win this war on drugs, a war that takes a terrible toll on the lifeblood of both Mexico and the United States. Our law enforcement officials have been meeting regularly with their counterparts in Mexico and working very closely together. Their efforts are beginning to pay off, as we see more illegal drugs seized than ever before.

We also see more and more universities on both sides of the border developing exchange programs as we work to encourage intellectual achievement and better understanding between our peoples. And we're working together on a host of common endeavors to protect our environment.

But it is difficult to imagine any theme more vital than the one that I'm told you have been discussing here this morning: how the private sector can create and expand the economic resources that sustain our relationship as a whole. I can tell you that I am convinced that the most important step that we can take together as two nations and as two peoples with drive and determination is the conclusion of this free-trade agreement between the United States and Mexico.

You know that agreement is important because free trade means more jobs and productivity for both Mexicans and Americans. You understand the economic importance of the United States; and America, too, realizes the importance of Mexico. Consider that Mexico is now America's third largest trading partner -- billion in trade in 1989 -- and this year's number I understand will be even higher. Since every billion dollars of exports creates roughly 25,000 jobs, more cooperation means more prosperity for more people.

I know there's no blueprint, no one-size-fits-all approach, to progress and reform. Each nation must decide how best to achieve economic growth. But it was President Salinas who said in his recent State of the Union Address: ``Mexico doesn't want to be a third world nation. It wants to be a first world nation.'' He understands that prosperity in this hemisphere depends on trade, not aid. Already, your automotive, electronic, tourism, and other industries have shown world-class productive capability. And when you grow, we grow. A Mexico that wants to get out and compete has selling power, but it also has buying power. And that's a good Mexico -- good for America.

Negotiating this free-trade agreement is not going to be easy. You're going to hear criticism -- we all will -- just as we did when we negotiated our free-trade agreement with our neighbors to the north, with Canada. But we should remember what trade liberalization can and already has done. In 1988, Mexico entered the GATT, and our bilateral trade with Mexico soared to over billion -- up billion from the year before the GATT entry.

Virtually everyone favors free trade and fair trade, but not everyone has the vision to make it a reality. I believe that we do; I believe that Mexico and the United States do. And I ask you not only to help make it happen but to make it succeed. Both our peoples can then look to a future of peace and prosperity -- a proud future for two nations sharing not just common borders, not just common ideals, but a friendship that will last for generations.

I can't tell you what a joy it was yesterday to be in President Salinas' home with our family and his family. It was more than symbolic because of the hospitality -- was just exceptional. But I think it sent a signal -- I hope it did send a signal -- that we are true friends, North and South, Mexico and the United States of America. We have so much in common.

I want to thank you all for your kindness. I want to thank you for participating in this important forum. I want to thank you on my wife's behalf for this exceptional hospitality on this truly wonderful visit. And I want to express my thanks once again to President Salinas, to Minister Jaime Serra. And God bless the great nation of Mexico. Thank you all very, very much.

[At this point, an audience member asked a question in Spanish, and a translation was not provided.]

The President. In the first place, I don't think that protectionism in our country is very strong. As the gigantic United States economy slows down -- it may slow down even more -- it concerns me that some in our country and some in our Congress might turn inward to what you properly label as a protectionist mode. I don't think it is a major problem. And the reason I don't is because, in part, of our relatively slow, gigantic economy -- some will tell you parts of our country are in recession; others are saying it's just very, very close to very fractional growth. But nevertheless, in spite of these differences, our exports are very, very strong.

And I think most Americans realize that if we are going to export we better not be protectionists. You can't have it both ways. We shouldn't want to have it both ways. So, I don't think, as we go forward on a free-trade agreement, that it's going to get caught up in the evil vise of U.S. protectionism.

I think one thing that would be extraordinarily helpful in that regard is a successful conclusion of the GATT round, the Uruguay round, because I think that would send a very strong signal.

And if we are successful, we're going to have -- Ambassador Hills, Secretary Mosbacher, and myself as President -- we're going to have some problems with certain elements, certain groups, in the United States Congress. But I am convinced that a successful negotiation in conclusion of the Uruguay round will be approved strongly by the Congress, and I think it would be extraordinarily helpful in setting back any enthusiasm for protection that might exist in our country.

Recently, I had to veto a piece of legislation which I'm sure you're familiar with regarding textiles. Now, that was a manifestation of protectionism -- lingering protectionism, you might say. But the veto was sustained. It was just before an election. The popular vote was the other way, opposite my position, and I understood this. But the veto was sustained. And this President will continue to veto protectionist legislation. I may not get majorities in the Congress, but I think I will have enough support in the Congress to see that we don't throw up any legal impediments to the work that's going forward on the Mexican-U.S. free-trade agreement.

So, I'm glad you raised it. It is a concern. It is not an overwhelming concern. I think it's something that can be managed. And I feel, from talking to a lot of Members of Congress and to some of our own people about this, that there is genuine enthusiasm for this project that would override any vestiges of protectionism.

Note: The President spoke at 11:59 a.m. in the ballroom at the Casino Monterrey. In his opening remarks, he referred to Secretary of Commerce Jaime Jose Serra Puche of Mexico; Bernardo Garza Sada, prominent Mexican businessman; Secretary of Commerce Robert A. Mosbacher; and U.S. Trade Representative Carla A. Hills.