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Welcome to "Ask the White House" -- an online interactive forum where you can submit questions to Administration Officials and friends of the White House. Visit the "Ask the White House" archives to read other discussions with White House officials.

Today's guest: Secretary of Commerce Don Evans

Don Evans
June 26, 2003

Don Evans
Hello I'm Secretary Evans, I sure look forward to answering your questions. I hope it isn't as hot where you are, as it is here. Ok , let's go

David, from El Paso, TX writes:
Secretary Evans, Thanks for taking the time to answer some questions. As head of the Commerce Department, how closely do you work with Alan Greenspan and the Federal Reserve Board in terms of monitoring economic indicators and developing combative strategies?

Don Evans
I have the opportunity to have lunch with Chairman Greenspan on a regular basis. We continue to monitor the domestic and global economy. His wisdom and knowledge of the economy has been of great benefit to the President's economic team as we continue to develop and build on our economic growth agenda.

David, from York writes:
What is your fav baseball team.

Don Evans

I have been a lifelong fan of the Cardinals. As a young boy I listened to Harry Caray on KMOX radio in my bedroom late at night. I have watched and continue to watch the Cardinals throughout my life.

Having spent many years of my life in Houston, I also closely follow the Houston Astros.

paul, from Wheaton, IL writes:
Dear Mr. Secretary, What would you say is the current state of the NAFTA agreement, and is it something that is in need of being re-visited by the Bush administration? I have not heard any reports of late either touting it's effectiveness nor criticizing it's damage to our job market. Thanks in advance for your response, and thank you for the high level of ethics evident in the Commerce Department. Keep on keeping on!

Don Evans
The NAFTA has been in effect for over 10 years. During this period, millions of jobs have been created in Mexico, US and Canada. The agreement has led to free trade in neighboring countries and has been instrumental in the dynamic economic growth that all three countries have experienced over the last 10 year period. I believe that the NAFTA agreement will continue to serve as a model for the world as we continue to move the world toward more free and open trade. Free trade gives us the opportunity to share our democratic values with other countries around the world as well as being a road to freedom for all mankind.

Dave, from Brisbane, Australia writes:
Don, I have read Pres. Bush's A charge to keep and it seems to me that you have had a long and happy friendship with the President for a LONG time. I noticed that you like me also have an MBA, as does the Pres, so their is something of an affinity, if you will. Whilst the pressure of being the world's most powerful political leader must take its emotional toll, do you see that strain sometimes showing through on the President?. Kind regards Dave BURDEN Brisbane Australia

Don Evans
Hi Dave,

I have known the President for over 30 years when we both moved to Midland after graduate school in 75. He is indeed a great friend. I can tell that since becoming President, George W. Bush's core beliefs haven't changed one bit.

Since I have known him, he has always been someone who has believed in serving a purpose greater than himself. He is an extraordinary leader, a man with a great mind, a big heart and someone that you can trust 100 percent of the time.

Since I have known him, he has always made the right decisions for the right reasons and as President of the U.S., he makes decisions based on what is in the long term best interests for the general well being of the American people and for those who love and cherish peace, prosperity and freedom around the world.

Tiffany, from Indiana writes:
How often are you with the president?

Don Evans
Hello Tiffany,

As a good friend in Midland, we had the opportunity to see each other or talk everyday. That is just not possible now. But I do have the opportunity to visit with the President at cabinet meetings, at economic briefings, and during briefings on international issues which are important to the President and the Commerce Department.

And we even have an occasional opportunity to get together socially.

Henry, from Marietta writes:
Have you thought about what you would like to do next? Do you have any other political ambitions?

Don Evans
Hello Henry,

Thanks for the question. I have learned a lot in my two plus years in DC. And one of them being not to try to predict the future. I can tell you that I'm honored and humbled to serve you, serve the President and to serve all of the American people

I can tell you that I love public service and I love Texas and I hope to return home to Texas one day after my time in Washington, DC. For those of you who have never been to Texas, let me tell you that the barbecue enough is worth the visit there. It is a warm and friendly state and you would be welcome with open arms.

William, from Titusville, Florida writes:
Does the President believe that energy prices are a drag on the economy? If so, why is there not a greater effort to at least jawbone the benefits of drilling our own resources? In my opinion, there are many complexities in the performance of the economy, but energy costs and security represent significant factors in any economic equation. High energy costs help suppress consumer confidence, weighing heavily on the psychology necessary for a healthy economy.

Don Evans
Hello William,

The President and I have both spent a significant amount of our career in the energy industry. The President has, as do I, a keen appreciation for the strong connection between energy and our economy. In order for our economy to grow at its full potential, the President clearly understands that we must have affordable and available energy. That is why, soon after he took office, he organized a national energy team to develop a comprehensive national energy policy. He presented that to the American people in the spring of 2001. He continues to be very focused on this issue of great importance and I can assure you that the members of his economic team think about it on a daily basis. We will continue to work very hard to implement policies that will create the conditions for there to be affordable secure available energy for all the American people and the American economy.

Joseph, from Cleveland, Ohio writes:
Secretary Evans, I am tired of watching the talking heads every night complain about the economy. Our business is very active and the market is making a slow comeback. What can we do to control the message. As we all know consumer confidence is key to a strong economy

Don Evans
Hi Joseph,

I am glad things are well in Cleveland. I am looking forward to coming to your city on July 9 to talk to the Cleveland City Club. And I'm glad things are going well with your business. Like you, I am very confident about the future of our economy. The fundamentals of our economy are very sound and are providing the environment for our economy to continue moving toward its full potential - so that this economy will continue to create more and more jobs.

The President has continued to say that the goal is for every American that wants a job to get a job. The President is confident that we are moving in that direction. I am confident that we are moving in that direction. Low interest rates, low inflation, after tax personal income continuing to rise, the great entrepreneurial competitive spirit, all create the conditions for a growing and thriving economy that will continue to provide for more jobs for hardworking Americans.

Mark, from Dayton, Ohio writes:
If you were the owner of the Cavaliers, would you pick Lebron James or Carmello Anthony?

Don Evans
Hi Mark,

I love the game of basketball. I even had the opportunity this year to attend the Final Four because my favorite team, UT, made it to the Final Four. UT has a great point guard, TJ Ford, who will no doubt go somewhere in the top ten. At the final four, I had the chance to see Syracuse-UT final game and watch Carmello Anthony in action. He is a young man with great poise, confidence and a terrific outside shot. While I don't think you can go wrong selecting James or Anthony, having watched Anthony single-handedly defeat UT, I think I would be inclined to select him.

Big_Al, from Peoria writes:
If were you were stranded on a desert island and could have only one cd, what would it be?

Don Evans
Big Al, Depends on how long I'm stranded. If I was stranded for just a few weeks, I would select one of Jerry Jeff Walker's cds. But if I thought it would be longer, I would choose one of Michael W. Smith's cds.

Chaz, from Knoxville, TN writes:
With the Federal Reserve lowering the interest rates yesterday, do you think that will open up the markets, and possibly turn the economy around?

Don Evans
Hi Chaz. Thanks for the question. The Federal Reserve has been lowering rates for the past several years and without question the lowering of rates has provided an important stimulus to the economy. It has provided more liquidity for our economy. I thas provided for home owners to refinance their homes and use the savings to put back into the economy, lower interest rates have meant record home sales, record auto sales and will continue to allow the consumer to be the driving force in our economy. Consumer consumption accounts for 70 percent of the gross domestic product. But monetary policy and lower interest rates is only half of the answer. The other opportunity to provide stimulus for the economy is through pro-growth fiscal policy. That is why the President has been so committed to lowering your taxes and the taxes on all American workers so that they would keep more of their own money to consume and invest and save thereby providing more stimulus and growth for our economy.

Harold, from Houston, TX writes:
Mr. Secretary, Trial lawyers are suing McDonald's, claiming that McDonald's food causes people to be obese. Additional lawsuits against soft drink and snack food companies are expected. What can be done to stop trial lawyers from wrecking the economy? Thank you, Harold

Don Evans
Hello Harold. And say "hello" to all of my friends in my hometown of Houston, Texas. As you no doubt know, as Governor of Texas, the President led on a very important effort to reform the legal system in the state of Texas. Much progress was made while he was in office in Texas and I understand more progress was made in the most recent legislative session. Tort reform and legal reform is a very important issue for state economies and the American economy. Right now in Washington, DC, there is active debate on medical liability reform and asbestos lawsuit litigation. It is my belief that we need to continue to look for opportunities to reform our legal system and eliminate frivolous lawsuits that put a large burden on our American economy.

Marjo, from Finland writes:
First question: does Ari Fleischer have roots in Finland because his firstname is very used in here?

Don Evans
Hello Marjo,

And it is great to talk to one of our friends and allies in Finland. I haven't visited your beautiful country, but I hope to before leaving office.

In honor of Ari's last month as White House press secretary, I will respond in classic Ari style -- I refer you to Ari Fleischer for personal pronouncements of his heritage.

Ari is one of my favorites and has done a tremendous job of serving our President and the American people. He is leaving his job in good hands though -- in the hands of one of my fellow Texans, Scott McClellan.

Tony, from Edwardsville writes:
Are you worried about deflation?

Don Evans
Hello Tony,

You ask a very good question. Certainly a topical question. I am not worried about deflation because it is clear that the Federal Reserve is very focused on the issue. So with the fed continuing to provide more liquidity to our system, along with a banking system with a low percentage of non-performing loans, and a banking system that is very well capitalized as the fed has indicated, I believe there is a very, very low risk for deflation.

Don Evans
Thanks to our friends at home and all around the world for taking the time to visit with me. I've enjoyed the opportunity to answer your questions and look forward to doing it again. I want all of you to know how I honored I am to be serving you. I want people around the world to know that it is America's mission and dream to lead this world to a place of peace and freedom and prosperity for all mankind. It is my dream that we will leave this world a place that your children and your grandchildren would all want to call home. Thank you very much and God bless you.

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