Public Papers

Remarks at the Annual National Convention of the United States Hispanic Chamber of Commerce in Chicago, Illinois


@Thank you very much. And I really want to thank you for that warm reception here. First, may I salute two Secretaries of my Cabinet, Secretary Lujan, who many of you have known over the years, is with us today; and also Secretary Sam Skinner, who just came in with us from California, a son of Chicago in a sense, and doing a great job as Secretary of Transportation.

May I also thank the Governor of the State, Jim Edgar; and the mayor of this great city, Mayor Daley, for greeting me at the airport here and welcoming us to Illinois and to Chicago. And this is, as I view it, certainly not a partisan gathering, and I think their both showing up together, side-by-side, was a manifestation of that. [Laughter]

But may I thank Jose, Jose Nino, who just introduced me, your very able president; Gabe Aguirre, the outgoing chairman. And thank you all, ladies and gentleman, for, once again, that very warm welcome. Let me congratulate my fellow Texan, Delia Reyes, your newly elected chair. And warmest greetings to the many dignitaries that are here.

I'm here a little later than originally scheduled. Would you believe we experienced a slight flight delay? [Laughter] I know it happens all the time. We had to circle the city while Michael Jordan practiced takeoffs and landings out here. [Laughter] And there's a second reason, too, if I may be candid. I know you've just heard Jack Kemp speak, and I thought you'd want to catch your breath for a little bit. [Laughter]

If you're still feeling winded, it's my fault. It goes back to our first Cabinet meeting, and I asked Jack, ``Can't you generate, can't you work up a little more enthusiasm?'' And you saw it today. But he's doing a great job for us as Secretary of Housing and Urban Development. His concept, our concept, of tenant management and home ownership offers really hope to millions. But then, Jack and all our administration believe in the greatest and most visionary of American ideals, the ideal of real equality, ensuring that people can go as far as their abilities and their hard work will take them.

Five centuries ago, men crossed the great ocean and brought Hispanic America into being. Ever since then, we have called the combination of European and American peoples on these vast lands not a new territory, not a new colony, not a new settlement. We've called it a new world.

Hispanic America arose out of risk and romance. Several forces fed its growth: transoceanic trade, the movement and mingling of peoples, the grand enterprise of discovery and development. On September 20, this very date, but in 1519, Magellan and his party set sail from Spain to sail around the globe. Next month we begin a year of commemoration leading to the 500th anniversary of Columbus' daring journey.

We must not think of these achievements as somehow antique and irrelevant. Frontiers don't close when men settle the wilderness, when they build cities and factories and schools. Subtle but braver adventures confront advanced civilizations: the adventures of creating families, educating children, knowing that no matter how hard or how comfortable our circumstances, we must make our world better. In the life of the Americas, in our mission of discovery and development, 1492 was only yesterday.

How true this is in the case of commerce. Voyagers charted the trade routes of the Americas centuries ago, but we've only now begun to explore their full potential.

Your convention theme sings with this spirit: ``Launching New Partnerships.'' America's more than 400,000 Hispanic-owned firms provide new jobs and generate new wealth. In 1987, the latest date for these statistics, our Hispanic-owned businesses pumped nearly billion into our economy and created half a million jobs.

You believe in yourselves, in your abilities, your determination, your excellence. Because you believe in yourselves, you helped our administration get congressional approval to extend our Fast Track procedures for trade negotiations. Armed with that powerful tool -- and as you heard this morning from an able team from three countries -- we are negotiating a North American free trade agreement.

I might say that Mexico, under President Salinas, has been a powerful leader and ally. And I would also say that relationships between Mexico and the United States have never in history been better. And that is in the best interests of the United States of America. When we complete that accord, and I'm confident we will, we'll build a free trade zone that ranges from the Yukon to the Yucatan, ``a market of 360, get the figure, 360 million consumers and a present annual output of trillion.

When we seal the free trade agreement, Hispanic-owned firms in the United States will enjoy strong natural advantages. Bonds of family, language, understanding the culture, already cherished in the families represented here today, all of these will gain value as business assets.

Because you believe in yourselves, you also have supported our Enterprise for the Americas Initiative, aiming to establish a network of expanded trade, investment, and cooperation from Hudson Bay to the Straits of Magellan.

The North American free trade agreement and the Enterprise for the Americas Initiative incorporate the great lesson of our age: trade and enterprise can build wealth and preserve freedom. Protectionism and Government control only create poverty and backwardness, and yes, a denial of freedom.

Consider the case of Mexico. Since 1986, when Mexico joined the GATT and dropped tariff rates from 100 percent, 100 percent, to little more than 10 percent, U.S. exports to Mexico have more than doubled. Exports of automobiles and auto parts have quadrupled. Exports of iron and steel, which were running a -million deficit just 4 years ago, now are achieving a 0-million surplus. And this rise in exports created almost 300,000 jobs in the United States. Each additional billion in exports will translate into nearly 20,000 American jobs.

But these reforms, it's not a one-way street, these reforms have helped Mexico, a classic win-win situation, if you will. Fidel Velazquez Sanchez, the head of the Mexican Labor Confederation, recognizes that increased trade will create new jobs, indeed, new industries in Mexico, and he strongly supports the trade agreement.

What's good for Hispanic America will be good for the United States. And with open trade, by the year 2000, United States firms will be doing a robust business with dynamic economy of 100 million Mexican consumers.

The prospects seem equally exciting south of Mexico, too. We've heard a lot about the Mexican free trade agreement. We've heard about the negotiations. They are our friendly neighbors on the border, and we ought to -- parenthetically I might say, we should never just take those friends for granted, whether it be to our north or to our south. We are blessed by peaceful borders. But we're already advancing creative plans now to reduce debt, boost investment, and increase trade. We've now signed framework trade liberalization agreements involving 28 countries in the hemisphere. So, it's not just Mexico. But we need your help.

Congress still has failed to give us debt reduction authority and funding and to give us the ability to contribute to the Multilateral Investment Fund. This would help stimulate investment and build stable democracies within our hemisphere. So please, speak out in support of the Enterprise for the Americas Initiative. And join me in urging Congress to pass the legislation to put it into full effect. Enterprise for the Americas is not a slogan. It will strengthen democracy and freedom in those friendly countries south of the Rio Grande, and it will be good for American exports, and that means it will be good for American jobs.

Our efforts to expand U.S. exports will get another boost when my friend, Jose Martinez, becomes Director of the United States Trade and Development Program.

And of course, one more event will demonstrate to one and all that we really have entered into a new era of freedom and opportunity. I'm speaking of Cuba's becoming free and democratic.

Today we hear the creaking and crumbling of that Castro dictatorship. And the day is coming, I'm absolutely convinced of this, sooner than Castro dares to believe, when the people of Cuba will reclaim their destiny and rejoin the Western Hemisphere's family of free nations.

And if we want to make our hemisphere a neighborhood of peoples, we must do more than lift economic and political barriers. Our administration also has promoted educational and cultural exchanges between our country and our neighbors in the hemisphere. As in commerce, the natural leaders in this enterprise will be Hispanic Americans.

You see, something more than mere geography unites us. Common cultural roots enable us all to seek a shared destiny for our hemisphere, for ourselves.

And I want to thank the Hispanic Chamber of Commerce for its endorsement of our America 2000 education strategy. I am grateful for your initiatives to teach economics and entrepreneurship to our kids, beginning in the kindergarten. And now, if only someone could do the same for economists, I think we'd be in pretty good shape around here. [Laughter]

America 2000, like our economic proposals, begins with an article of faith: We believe that parents care about their children, care about education, and can help find schools that will help their children reach their potential. So, we want to expand parental choice so that parents will have as much choice in the crucial matter of education as they now have when they wish to purchase peanut butter.

And if we want to make the most of ourselves, we must invite competition and show just how well we can do.

America 2000 will enable Hispanic communities to draw upon their natural strengths and values. And it will enable parents, teachers, and yes, church and business leaders to help reinvent American education.

To further this goal, I have announced the membership of the President's Advisory Commission on Educational Excellence for Hispanic Americans. Chicago's own Andres Bande, CEO of Ameritech International, will chair the panel, and its work will play a major role in unleashing the America 2000 revolution in education.

I understand Andres is here today, and I'd like him to stand up, right there. Thank you for undertaking this. This is important work he's about to be engaged in. And I know, on his behalf, I'd like to solicit your ideas and your full cooperation.

Let me close with a few comments on a concept we talked about earlier, development. It's a term of art, of course, in international economics. We tend to use ``developing country'' as a sort of fuzzy euphemism for ``poverty,'' for a nation short on material or financial wealth.

But when we use the term ``development'' in this way, we forget its deeper meaning. Isn't the United States -- must it not be still ``developing''? For all our present wealth, can we afford to become static or stagnant? And if we're not giving our children a moral and intellectual inheritance as good as our parents gave us, are we a ``developed'' society?

I think again of the explorers on our continent five centuries ago. Some were wise, some were foolish. And we remember the effort wasted in trying to find the imaginary Seven Cities of Gold. And those adventurers were not just looking in the wrong place; they were searching for the wrong treasure. The treasure was, and is, in men and women, in ``human resources,'' in mind and muscle and soul. And these, not unearned bonanzas, build civilizations.

Our work never ends. That's the key to life's excitement. In these hopeful times, as we tear down economic barriers and liberate ourselves from ideological confines, we must continue supplying our own sons and our own daughters with the values, the fundamentals, of a good society. Together, I know that we shall.

You know, the longer I'm in the White House and privileged to serve as President of the United States, and the more Barbara and I discuss these enormous problems that Mayor Daley confronts in his excellent way every day, or Jim Edgar, the Governor of this State, confronts in his very effective way as Governor, the more we contemplate those problems and the more I look at this great country of ours that I'm privileged to lead at this point in history, and I must say it's a very exciting point, the more Barbara and I conclude that family is absolutely essential to our success. We have got to stay involved, we have got to stay fundamentally involved. And when I speak to this group, it's almost like preaching to the choir because I think if you exemplify one of the prime values and principles that this group and, indeed, Hispanic American culture all across our country exemplifies, is love of family and its faith and its conviction about our great country, the freest and fairest on the face of the Earth.

So, thank you very much for letting me come by and visit this highly successful convention. And let me tell you that it's a great joy to be back with you again. And may God bless our great country. Thank you very very much.

Note: The President spoke at 1:45 p.m. at the Hyatt Regency Hotel. In his remarks, he referred to Secretary of the Interior Manuel Lujan, Jr.; Secretary of Transportation Samuel K. Skinner; Governor James Edgar of Illinois; Richard M. Daley, mayor of Chicago; Jose Nino, president and chief executive officer of the United States Hispanic Chamber of Commerce; Gabriel E. Aguirre, former chairman of the board of the Hispanic Chamber of Commerce; Delia Reyes, chairman; Michael Jordan, member of the Chicago Bulls basketball team; Secretary of Housing and Urban Development Jack Kemp; President Salinas de Gortari of Mexico; Fidel Velazquez Sanchez, union leader of the Mexican Labor Confederation; Jose E. Martinez, Director of the Trade and Development Program; President Fidel Castro Ruz of Cuba; and Andres Bande, CEO of Ameritech International. These remarks were not received in time for publication in the appropriate issue.