Remarks by Donald L. Evans
U.S. Secretary of Commerce
Council of the Americas
May 8, 2001
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,
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
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
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
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
New American Trade
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
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
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
Thank you for allowing me to spend time with you this