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 Home > News & Policies > August 2002

For Immediate Release
Office of the Press Secretary
August 13, 2002

Press Briefing by Secretary of Agriculture Ann Veneman and USTR Ambassador Robert Zoellick
Student Life Center
Baylor University
Waco, Texas

3:35 P.M. CDT

MS. BUCHAN: Good afternoon. We're about ready to begin our third briefing. Again, it is on the record, off camera. We'll be joined by Secretary of Agriculture Ann Veneman and U.S. Trade Representative Ambassador Bob Zoellick.

AMBASSADOR ZOELLICK: Good afternoon. As those of you who heard the President's remarks in the plenary session, he made clear that Ann and I have some work to do on trade.

What I thought I would do just real briefly, and then turn it over to Ann, is that since some of you don't cover trade regularly is to give you a little sense about where we were on trade, where we are and where we're going.

Where we were at the start of 2001 was, frankly, trade really wasn't on the agenda. A President had not had trade negotiating authority since 1994. There had been three failed efforts with the Congress and, frankly, a lot of people were advising us not even to try because they didn't think it was possible.

In 1999, there had been a failed effort by the countries around the world to launch the new World Trade Organization, Global Negotiations, in Seattle. And in the aftermath of that, the anti-globalization movement really felt they had the upper hand. Our predecessors had done a very good job of moving ahead the accession of China and Taiwan into the WTO, with a vote on the permanent normal trade relations. But, frankly, that was stuck as well.

So where are we? Over the past year and a half we were able to reverse the failure in Seattle and launch the Doha negotiations, the global trade negotiations now involving 144 economies. We brought China and Taiwan into the WTO, which will be of historic importance, given their role in Asia and the global economy.

Third, after almost a decade, we were able to achieve the President's trade promotion authority to get that negotiation. And what a lot of people haven't focused on is that trade bill also included a lot of liberalization from day one. It included liberalization for the Andean countries, African countries, Caribbean countries, Central American countries, all over, about $10 billion worth of trade liberalization.

We got Jordan, a free trade agreement with Jordan through the Congress. We had a basic trade agreement with Vietnam. We have a historic package for trade adjustment assistance to help countries get -- or help individuals go through the process of change, moving from about $400 million to $1.2 billion of support with some innovative programs. And we've given a big push to the free trade area of the Americas, involving 34 democracies.

So where are we going? I hope by the end of this year we'll meet the President's urging and complete our free trade agreements with Chile and Singapore. We hope to launch new free trade agreements with the five Central American democracies; Morocco, which would be our second with an Arab-Muslim country; the Southern African Customs Union, the five countries of South Africa -- Botswana, Namibia, Lesotho and Swaziland; and also possibly one with Australia, a major industrialized trading partner in the Pacific.

We also hope to be able to complete the Doha global negotiations by 2005, that's the deadline that all the countries have set. And, similarly, the free trade area of the Americas negotiations, all 34 democracies set a goal of 2005.

So we have a strategy of trying to move liberalization ahead globally, regionally, bilaterally and to create a competition on liberalization.

And, finally, we've been trying through this process to create a broader base of support for trade at home. That's part of what this event was today. The people we brought together in the forum from all walks of life -- small business, big business, union workers, service workers -- and recognize the importance of trade in the economy.

And on the other hand, we also are trying to move ahead, a recognition of the importance of trade with development, which was a topic that came up from a number of people in our forum dealing with Africa and Central America, in particular. But the point about how trade not only supports growth and opportunity and is the best poverty reduction program around, but it's part of building democracy and rule of law.


SECRETARY VENEMAN: Well, thank you. It's been a great pleasure for me to be a part of this forum today and to, along with Ambassador Zoellick, to chair the forum breakout session on international trade.

You might wonder why the Agriculture Secretary is also working with the trade negotiator on the trade session, but international trade is extremely important to agriculture. Agriculture is one of the most export dependent industries that we have in this country. And it is one of those areas in which we run a positive balance of trade.

This year, we expect agricultural exports to reach around $53 billion. We export about half of the wheat that we grow. And, in fact, we heard from one of the wheat producers from Washington state today, and he said that in his area their wheat industry is 80 percent dependent on exports. That's very, very important. We export approximately percent of the cotton, a third of the soy beans, a fifth of the corn. We export a tremendous amount of fruits and vegetable, high processed products. We had a number of small businesses today who are in the related businesses of food, who talked about the importance of the global market to their industries.

As Ambassador Zoellick has said, we've made a tremendous amount of progress on the trade agenda. It's not just finally succeeding in getting trade promotion authority after all these years, which now allows us to move ahead with trade agreements, but it is also launching the new round in Doha, we were there together. Ambassador Zoellick played a key role in launching that round in Doha. And I think that because of that, we will be able to move the global trading system into much more liberalization and thereby help the developing world become not only better integrated into the global trading system, but better customers for our producers and for producers all around the world.

Last month, we unveiled a very ambitious trade proposal for agriculture in the WTO. It would move us forward in a very positive way. It shows strong leadership on the part of the United States in trying to move agriculture trade barriers in a very positive way to be eliminated -- ultimately eliminated but initially balanced in a new WTO agreement.

It is estimated that a completely free global market for food and agriculture products would result in approximately $13 billion a year in economic growth for America's farmers and consumers, so it's very important. So it's good for our farmers, it's good for our economy and it helps to create jobs.

Today, we heard a lot about the importance of trade creating jobs. The gentleman who reported at the President's session was from UPS and he said, for every 40 international packages that they deliver, that means another job. It was real world, this is what trade means to jobs that we heard today.

And so, I think that for all of us, we heard a very strong message on the economy. So many of these issues that we heard about today, be it taxes, be it health care, be it education, be it trade, all impact our food and agriculture sector, so we're very pleased to be a part of this today. Thank you.

We told them everything. They don't -- or they're worn out.

AMBASSADOR ZOELLICK: Any questions? Oh, you've got one?

Q I have a question. China is very important trade partner of United States. And last month, the House passed Resolution 188, orders China to stop persecution of Falun Gong group and to improve China's human rights record. And how will this influence the U.S. government position in doing trade with China, the economy, our relationship with China?

AMBASSADOR ZOELLICK: I think I heard the question, but just to make sure that everyone else heard it, it was about China and human rights and the passage of the resolution about human rights and the relationship to trade, roughly.

Well, one of the reasons why the United States strongly supported China's accession, joining to the WTO, along with a democratic Taiwan, is that if anybody's been to China over the past 20 years, and I lived in Hong Kong in 1980, you've seen a tremendous transformation in that society, and it's not only affected the economy, but it's also affected the openness.

Now, from an American point of view, as a democratic country, there's still a long way to go. But our belief is that trade is part of the wind of change of bringing openness and freedom. And part of what it also does is bring the rule of law. Part of what my belief is, that China needs as a developing society is rule of law economically, that will also inevitably affect life politically. And so the human rights are always going to be at the core of what the United States stands for.

It's our belief that China, given the progress that has been made, we can help China improve its standard of living, the nature of society, the rule of law by having a more open economy, and that's why we were pleased to bring China into the WTO. And, I might say, it was also an important complement to bring a democratic Taiwan in at the same time.

Q We've heard that some U.S. companies are helping Chinese government to block -- over 500,000 overseas Internet websites, including some giant media, like CNN. And also helping China's government to privately blocking off information flow inside China. Chinese people are right now kind of deprived of their rights, freedom to access information. With the help of U.S. technology what do you think of our corporate responsibilities and our moral values when doing trade with China? Thank you.

AMBASSADOR ZOELLICK: I don't know the specific case that you mentioned. But I think the latter part of your question emphasizes the key point. When I was in China a couple of months ago, I met a number of Internet entrepreneurs and software developers in China. A number of these were people that had actually come to the United States before Tiananmen Square. They stayed in the United States, but they eventually decided to go back, because they thought they could be part of China's transformation. And they felt that the Internet would be part of that. And I believe it will. I don't believe that people can hide the information that is now available in the Internet. There are many ways, as your question suggested, that people can get around blockages.

Now, from our point of view, is it better if there's more information for everybody in China to see and hear? Yes, I think that day will come, and one can already see the effect on Chinese society, compared with the China that I first visited some 22 years ago.

SECRETARY VENEMAN: Can I just comment as well? I just returned from China two weeks ago today, and it was a very interesting trip. Not only did we talk about the importance of food and agriculture trade post-accession of China into the WTO -- and I can tell you that from everything I heard, China is taking their obligations as new members of the WTO very seriously -- but we want to continue to work with them to make sure that the agreements that we negotiated are truly giving the access to the market that we had anticipated, and that we sold our Congress and our farmers and ranchers and our entrepreneurs on when we passed the agreement to go forward with the Chinese accession.

But on the issue of the importance of the Internet, one of the areas that I had the opportunity to visit was an enterprise called the Bejing Genomics Institute. This institute would not exist without linkage by computers and the Internet. These are a group of highly skilled scientists who are engaged in genomic research that's being integrated in with genomic research around the world -- and including they had a part to play in the mapping of the human genome. They also were the first institute to map the rice genome.

Now that would not have been possible without interlink through computers and the Internet system because all of that conversation globally among all of these institutes and universities is taking place to create truly incredible scientific discovery that is global in nature, and that China is a big part of.

Q Now that you've got fast track, what's the number one piece of legislation you're -- what's the priority?

AMBASSADOR ZOELLICK: Well, as I briefly mentioned, I believe we should be able to bring back the Chile and Free Trade -- the Chile and Singapore free trade agreements. We ought to be able to complete those by the end of this year. That's our goal. And because we have to give a 90 day notice after the completion, it would probably come to the Congress next year.

But I also mentioned some of the other free trade agreements that we want to try to start. But I also don't want to lose sight of the importance that trade promotion authority is for the global negotiations, because in the aftermath of the vote and the President's signature, I received messages from all over the world -- from Africa, Latin America, Europe, Asia -- where people said they felt this gives a new shot in the arm for those Doha negotiations.

So we want to work globally, regionally and bilaterally, and together do the following -- send the following message: we're ready and open for business to negotiate. If somebody isn't ready, fine, we'll go on with others. And I think that will help us work on every front.

Q Obviously, there's a lot of interest in more free trade agreements. If you go to the border communities -- especially those along the United States and Mexico -- you're going to see and hear a lot about the suffocating delays and congestion on the bridges. It was bad; after September 11th it's worse. Does the administration have any plans or any ideas of how to address that problem?

AMBASSADOR ZOELLICK: For any of you couldn't hear, this is a question about with more free trade, frankly, it raises the question about moving goods and products across the border -- and you emphasized the border with Mexico.

There are a couple of different elements. One is, in the aftermath of September 11th, our Customs service put together some programs, first with Canada and Mexico, to try to make sure that we expedited the delivery of products, but also, frankly, be able to scrutinize what's coming in. And this is where, frankly, the combination of some software programs and algorithms and working with customs services on both sides of the border help us do that. And, frankly, the work we've done with Canada and Mexico, the Customs service is now spreading to ports all around the world, starting with the 10 biggest ports.

A second element that you mentioned is very important and, you know, it's been part of the U.S. response after NAFTA, is to create the infrastructure. You've got the NAFTA highway here in Texas. And part of this is the President actually came down and I think inaugurated some of the new and expanded bridges. But it's also a question of the overall communities and some of the environmental issues. There's some work that's been done -- I know it's been -- we've had some false starts with it with the NAD Bank, the North American Development Bank, for some of these issues. But, frankly, the numbers I saw show they're doing some more loans to try to get this going forward. There's an International Boundary and Water Commission that tries to work on these issues.

And so the key thing about this is that one of the things that NAFTA created is not just trade, it's creating a unified North American market. And that has implications, as these people ask, about everything from the development of democracy in Mexico to the improvement of a free press in Mexico to a whole series of aspects about creating what is now a common society. And that's part of what trade is about, too. And particularly in the Southwest, it's a very meaningful aspect about -- for Hispanic Americans -- about the United States being part of Latin America, but also Latin America being part of the United States.

Q Thank you for the opportunity. I know that especially recently the Chinese human rights situation has worsened tremendously during the past several years. Do you think the United States government or companies could do something to improve this situation through doing trade with China?

AMBASSADOR ZOELLICK: This was the question of China human rights, and trade with China?

Q The human rights situation has worsened tremendously during the past several years. Do you think the United States government could do something to improve this situation in China through doing trade with China?

AMBASSADOR ZOELLICK: You know, I'm not sure that I would agree that the situation of rights in China has deteriorated. As I said, I first visited China in 1980, and the lack of degree of freedom and opportunity for people to pick a job, to live where they wanted to live, to have the type of work they wanted, to marry who they wanted. That has changed tremendously in 22 years.

Now, having said that, obviously there's a long way to go. And when the President was in China, one of the ways that he emphasized this in terms of something like religious freedom was talking about religious freedom, going to churches, trying to emphasize the importance of the spiritual dimension which, as you probably know, is a big topic of debate in China, is that whether it's all economic development and the role of also sort of the inner aspect of people.

So I personally believe -- and you've seen this around the world -- that openness creates the possibility for change. If you close societies off, then those who try to control have a stronger hand. But if you open up to ideas to people from around the world to ideas, that's the process of transformation.

END 3:55 P.M. CDT