Public Papers

Remarks Prior to a Meeting With Business Leaders


I am very pleased to welcome to the White House this morning 16 senior American business leaders to discuss how the American private sector can help to meet the most important foreign policy challenge that faces us, the transformation of the new States in the former U.S.S.R. from command to market economies and from authoritarian to democratic governments. We are determined to expand the volume of our trade and investment with them. And I would like to announce today a series of measures to meet these important objectives.

First, I have asked that current negotiations with all the new States on trade, bilateral investment, and tax treaties be expedited and completed as soon as possible. These agreements will provide greater access for our companies, and they will lay a new foundation for our future commercial relationships.

Second, I have also asked OPIC, the Overseas Private Investment Corporation, and the Ex-Im Bank, the Export-Import Bank, to negotiate new agreements and expand their operations in the former U.S.S.R., another critical step so that American firms can compete equally and fairly for a share of the new markets there.

And third, I would like to reiterate my call to the Congress in a spirit of bipartisanship to pass, in time for my summit meeting with President Yeltsin in June, the ``FREEDOM Support Act,'' the landmark legislation that I announced on April 1st. We hope the business leaders here today and the larger American business community will support this bill which will lift cold war restrictions on trade and investment.

And finally, I have requested that our Secretary of Commerce, Barbara Franklin, create new business development committees with Russia, Ukraine, and other countries to eliminate the barriers that currently discourage trade with them.

All these issues will be high on my agenda when I meet with Presidents Kravchuk and Yeltsin. And I'm absolutely committed to giving American companies every opportunity to compete in these markets. The American private sector should seize this opportunity to do business with these countries. It's a vast and rich market, and expanding our business ties will benefit the American people.

Increased trade means new markets for American goods, greater opportunities for American investors, and more jobs for American workers. The U.S. increased its exports of manufactured goods to the U.S.S.R. by nearly 40 percent in 1991. We should aim to do even better this year and the next.

This is a defining moment in this century. And indeed, the private sector's role is absolutely critical. The need for capital, advanced technology, and human expertise in these countries during this decade and into the next century will be far too great for governments alone to meet. A great economic transformation to liberate the peoples of the former Soviet Union and benefit our own people will only occur if our private firms invest and trade to show them the way.

I thank those business leaders that are with us here today, many of them already involved in trying to do business in the C.I.S. countries. And I pledge my commitment to this partnership with the American private sector. And now we will go inside and discuss in detail the agenda that I've just outlined. Thank you all very much for being here.

Note: The President spoke at 9:33 a.m. in the Rose Garden at the White House.