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For Immediate Release
Office of the Press Secretary
April 18, 2006
President Bush Nominates Rob Portman as OMB Director and Susan Schwab for USTR
9:27 A.M. EDT
THE PRESIDENT: Good morning. Today I'm announcing my nomination of two outstanding individuals to serve in my Cabinet and on my economic team.
First, I will nominate Rob Portman to be the Director of the Office of Management and Budget. Rob will replace Josh Bolten, who this week started in his new role as my Chief of Staff. The Office of Management and Budget is one of the most essential agencies of our government. The OMB has a central responsibility of implementing the full range of my administration's agenda, from defense programs that will keep our people secure, to energy initiatives that will break our dependence on oil, to tax policies that keep our economy growing and creating jobs.
In these and other areas, the job of the OMB Director is to ensure that the government spends the taxpayers' money wisely, or not at all. He is the person in charge of meeting our goal of cutting the budget deficit in half by 2009. And he is responsible for managing federal programs efficiently. The American people deserve results for every hard-earned dollar they send to Washington.
The job of OMB Director is really an important post, and Rob Portman is the right man to take it on. Rob's talent, expertise and record of success are well-known within my administration and on Capitol Hill. For the past 11 months, Rob has served as United States Trade Representative. When he took the job I told him to focus on opening new markets for American exports, to ensure that our producers and farmers are treated fairly, and to get Congress to pass essential American-Dominican Republic Free Trade Agreement. He's accomplished those goals.
I signed CAFTA into law last summer, and Rob Portman and his staff completed trade agreements with Bahrain, Oman, Peru and Colombia. He also re-energized the Doha trade talks at the World Trade Organization. Before joining my Cabinet, Rob represented the 2nd district of Ohio in the United States Congress for more than a decade. He was a key part of the House leadership. He was an influential member of the Ways and Means Committee. And he served as Vice Chairman of the Budget Committee.
His legislative achievements range from reforming the Internal Revenue Service, providing tax relief for working families, to encouraging retirement savings. Rob's leadership in Congress was also marked by an ability to work across the aisle and bring people together to get things done. He's going to bring that same skill to his new post.
As Director of OMB, Rob will have a leading role on my economic team. He will be part of daily senior staff meetings led by Josh Bolten. He will consult often and work closely with legislators on Capitol Hill. He will be a powerful voice for pro-growth policies and spending restraint.
Rob is a man of deep integrity. He knows the priorities of my administration, he can get things done -- and the Senate should confirm him promptly as Director of the Office of Management and Budget.
I'm also pleased to announce that I'm going to nominate Deputy U.S. Trade Representative Susan Schwab to succeed Rob Portman as the new U.S. Trade Representative.
Trade is one of the most powerful engines of growth and job creation. America accounts for about 5 percent of the world's population, and that means that 95 percent of our potential customers live overseas. So my administration has taken an aggressive agenda to break down barriers to American exports across the world.
When I took office, we had three free trade agreements. Now, we have free trade agreements with 11 countries, and 18 more are pending. Susan will work hard to conclude these agreements and ensure that American goods, services and crops are treated fairly in overseas markets.
Last year, the countries with which we have free trade agreements represented about 7 percent of the economy abroad, but about 42 percent of our exports. Lowering trade barriers to the sale of our goods and services helps provide a level playing field for American workers and farmers and ranchers. And that means more jobs and opportunities, because our workers and ranchers and farmers can compete with anybody, anytime, anywhere, so long as the rules are fair, and Susan Schwab understands that.
The Deputy U.S. Trade Representative for the past five months, Ambassador Schwab worked tirelessly to open up new markets, and at the same time, making sure our people were treated fairly. Her trade portfolio covered several continents, and she led USTR efforts in a number of vital policy areas, including intellectual property enforcement.
Susan also worked closely with Ambassador Portman to advance the Doha negotiations. Now she will use her experience to help complete the Doha round and create other new opportunities for American exporters.
Ambassador Schwab started her career as an agricultural trade negotiator in the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative, and she served our nation overseas as a trade policy officer in our embassy in Tokyo. In the 1980s, she worked as a trade specialist, and then legislative director for Senator Jack Danforth, who chaired a key Senate subcommittee on trade. In the administration of former President Bush, she led a staff of more than a thousand as Director General of the U.S. and Foreign Commercial Service. Susan has also served as an executive in the private sector at Motorola, and as a professional administrator at the University of Maryland.
Throughout her distinguished career, Susan has earned the respect of her colleagues, and she has my confidence, as well. The Senate should promptly confirm her nomination to be United States Trade Representative.
I appreciate the service that Rob and Susan have given the American people, and I'm really grateful they've agreed to take on new responsibilities. I also thank Rob and Susan's families today. I'm really glad that Rob's wife, Jane, is with us; and it's my pleasure to welcome Susan's parents, Gerald and Joan, to the Oval Office and to the Rose Garden. Glad you all are here.
I look forward to the Senate confirming Rob and Susan, and welcoming them to be new members of my Cabinet.
Congratulations, and thank you for your willingness to serve.
AMBASSADOR PORTMAN: Mr. President, thank you very much for those kind words and for the confidence. I have been honored to serve you and our country as U.S. Trade Representative, and I now look forward to working even more closely with you. And I'm excited about this new opportunity to help shape the future of our government and our economy.
As the President just said, it's a big job. The Office of Management and Budget touches every spending and policy decision in the federal government. I have the great advantage of having watched Josh Bolten in action -- no one has done the job better. His extraordinary grasp of policy, his honesty and his sense of humor under fire will now serve him well as Chief of Staff.
I'm particularly happy that in this new position I'll continue to work closely with my former colleagues in Congress, whose feedback, collaboration and friendship I highly value. Among the main reasons I ran for Congress, back in 1993, was to cut the federal deficit and make government work better and be more responsive to the taxpayers. The common sense, fiscally conservative values of Southwest Ohio guided me then, and they guide me now. If confirmed, I'll be able to advance these same issues, now from the other end of Pennsylvania Avenue.
Over the past five years, our nation's budget has endured tough challenges -- with the steep stock market decline and economic recession and the 9/11 terrorist attacks. President Bush acted responsibly to immediately safeguard our homeland while promoting pro-growth policies to ensure our economy got back on its feet. We chose the smart path of reducing the tax burden on families, on workers and small businesses.
And it worked. Our economy is now experiencing solid economic growth, 3.5 percent. Almost 5 million new jobs have been created since full implementation of the tax cuts in 2003. And unemployment is historically low, 4.7 percent. More Americans are working, and they're taking home more in their paychecks. And because the economy is growing, tax revenues are up, which helps our budget. Now is not the time to risk losing ground by raising taxes. Instead, we must continue pro-growth policies and tighten our fiscal belts in order to cut the deficit in half by 2009. I will work closely with the Congress on a bipartisan basis to prioritize essential spending that meets our national priorities while reducing spending elsewhere.
To accomplish our shared goal of deficit reduction, Congress and the administration must also work together on earmark reform, on greater transparency in budgeting, a workable line-item veto, and addressing the unsustainable growth in entitlement spending.
If confirmed, I will also continue the good work already underway at OMB to make government work better for taxpayers. I want to recognize the leadership of Deputy Director for Management, Clay Johnson, in improving government performance.
While I'm excited about this new opportunity, it's also very hard for me to leave my current job. I've been very proud to represent the United States, and I value the special relationships I've developed with fellow trade ministers from every continent. And I'm really going to miss working with the talented and hard-working people at USTR.
We've achieved a lot in the past year. The President talked about it, and I'm more convinced than ever that the economic future of America is tied to our active engagement in world trade and investment. In the rapidly changing and increasingly integrated global economy, the United States must have a proactive and ambitious trade agenda for 2006 and beyond. That's why I'm delighted the President has chosen to nominate Deputy USTR Ambassador Susan Schwab to the next United States Trade Representative. Having worked side-by-side with Susan these past months, I have every confidence in her leadership. With her at the helm, USTR won't miss a beat.
Mr. President, I couldn't do this job without the blessing and support of my family. I can happily report to you that Sally, Will, Jed, and Jane, who is with us this morning, have all given their blessing and approval -- partly because, I think, they're happy my travels will now take me home to Cincinnati more, instead of around the world. (Laughter.)
Thank you, Mr. President, again for this great honor and this opportunity.
AMBASSADOR SCHWAB: Thank you, Mr. President.
Thank you, Mr. President. I am both humbled and honored to be here today. You have set a high bar for your Trade Representative, and you have my commitment to meet and desire to exceed those expectations on behalf of American workers, farmers, manufacturers and service providers.
I also want to thank Ambassador Portman for his confidence and support. I value his friendship, and congratulate him on his new role as Director of the Office of Management and Budget. I am certain he will bring the same energy and determination to OMB that he brought to USTR.
Nearly 29 years ago, I walked into the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative, looking for my first job. I joined the USTR team as an agricultural trade negotiator, seeking to build market access for American farmers and ranchers in the Tokyo round multilateral trade negotiation. Today I've come full circle.
Happily, USTR continues to be staffed by the most remarkable and hardworking team of career professionals and political appointees to be found anywhere in the public, private or non-profit sectors, and I look forward to my continuing association with them.
Since that first job at USTR, international economic policy has remained front and center in my career -- whether I was working for Senator Danforth and the Senate Finance Committee, representing Motorola in Asia, or serving as Dean of the University of Maryland's School of Public Policy.
In his State of the Union address, President Bush spoke of the risks of economic isolation, and the critical importance of American competitiveness. I am utterly convinced that to maintain American global prosperity, we must pursue a sensible, market-oriented trade policy that provides greater market access and enforces our laws and agreements. And for these policies to be credible and sustainable, we must actively work to generate bipartisan support in Congress. This has been a priority for President Bush, for Ambassador Portman, and it is a priority for me. If confirmed, I will continue our aggressive congressional outreach to help restore the bipartisan consensus for trade.
Last September, the President set clear trade priorities for the United States in his speech to the U.N. General Assembly. His vision guides USTR's ongoing efforts to secure an ambitious outcome to the Doha development round negotiations in the WTO. This is a once-in-a-generation opportunity to generate global economic growth and to lift millions out of poverty, and it will continue to be a top priority for this administration.
USTR has an equally ambitious bilateral and regional agenda, including ongoing negotiations with 14 countries to dramatically reduce trade barriers, to set important precedents for future trade negotiations, and to grow a critical mass of countries that recognize the immense benefits that come from more open international commerce. Here, holding our trading partners accountable through enforcement of existing trade laws and agreements will continue to be a critical component of our trade agenda.
Again, Mr. President, I thank you for providing this fantastic opportunity for me to serve you and our nation in advancing U.S. interests to a sensible and energetic trade agenda.
Q Mr. President.
THE PRESIDENT: Hold on for a second, please. I'll take a couple of questions. Nedra, Patsy and Kelly, in that order.
Q Thank you, Mr. President.
THE PRESIDENT: A little louder, I'm getting older.
Q Sir, when you talk about Iran, and you talk about how you have diplomatic efforts, you also say all options are on the table. Does that include the possibility of a nuclear strike? Is that something that your administration will plan for?
THE PRESIDENT: All options are on the table. We want to solve this issue diplomatically and we're working hard to do so. The best way to do so is, therefore, to be a united effort with countries who recognize the danger of Iran having a nuclear weapon. And that's why we're working very closely with countries like France and Germany and Great Britain. I intend, of course, to bring the subject of Iranian ambitions to have a nuclear weapon with Hu Jintao this Thursday. And we'll continue to work diplomatically to get this problem solved.
Q Sir, are you encouraging Israel to show restraint in reaction to yesterday's Palestinian bombing? Or would a measured military response be appropriate?
THE PRESIDENT: I have consistently reminded all parties that they must be mindful of whatever actions they take and mindful of the consequences. Our goal is to have two states living side-by-side in peace. I strongly deplore the loss of innocent life in the attack on the folks in Israel yesterday. It is unjustified and it is unnecessary. And for those who love peace in the Palestinian territories, they must stand up and reject this kind of violence.
Q Morning, Mr. President. Do you expect that there will be some changes that were not voluntary? Today, you've highlighted openings in your administration, but will Mr. Bolten ask some people to leave? And would you accept his counsel for Cabinet changes, as well as White House staffers?
THE PRESIDENT: I understand this is -- you know, this is a matter of high speculation here in Washington. It's the game of musical chairs, I guess you'd say, that people love to follow. My instructions to Josh Bolten was that I expect him to design a White House structure so that it will function so that he can do his job, function in a way so he's more likely to be able to do his job. And of course, he will bring different recommendations to me as to who should be here and who should not be here.
And I'm the person who believes in aligning authority and responsibility. I've given him enormous responsibility and authority, and expect the White House to work well. And it did under Andy Card, by the way. I'm most proud of his tenure as the Chief of Staff. But with a new man will come some changes. And Josh has got all the rights to make those recommendations to me. And of course I listen to advice as to my Cabinet, as well. I must tell you that I'm -- I've got strong confidence in my Cabinet officials, all of them, and I appreciate the service they've rendered.
But I also understand what happens in Washington. You know, a little flicker of gossip starts moving hard, and people jump all over it. The thing the American people have got to know is we'll structure this White House so it continues to function to deal with major problems. And we're dealing with major problems. We're dealing with a war on terror, we're dealing with high gasoline prices.
And let me remind people that these high gasoline prices are caused by primarily three reasons: One, the increase in the price of crude oil. It's one of the reasons I stood up in front of the Congress and said, we've got to have strong and active research and development to get us to diversify away from crude oil. It's tight supply worldwide, and we've got increasing demand from countries like India and China, which means that any disruption of supply or perceived disruption of supply is going to cause the price of crude to go up. And that affects the price of gasoline.
Secondly, there's increasing demand. At this time of year people are beginning to drive more, getting out on the highways, taking a little time off, and they're moving around. And that increasing demand is also part of the reason the price of gasoline is going up.
And, thirdly, we're switching fuel mixes. The summer fuel mix is different from state to state, and is different from what is being used in the winter. And, therefore, the combination of these creates higher gasoline prices. And I'm concerned about higher gasoline prices. I'm concerned what it means to the working families and small businesses, and I'm also mindful that the government has the responsibility to make sure that we watch very carefully, and to investigate possible price gouging. And we'll do just that.
Q Is there going to be rationing, do you think?
THE PRESIDENT: No, I don't -- that's your word.
Q Mr. President, you've made it a practice of not commenting on potential personnel moves --
THE PRESIDENT: Of course I did.
Q -- of calling it speculation --
THE PRESIDENT: You can understand why, because we've got people's reputations at stake. And on Friday I stood up and said, I don't appreciate the speculation about Don Rumsfeld; he's doing a fine job, I strongly support him.
Q But what do you say to critics who believe that you're ignoring the advice of retired generals, military commanders, who say that there needs to be a change?
THE PRESIDENT: I say, I listen to all voices, but mine is the final decision. And Don Rumsfeld is doing a fine job. He's not only transforming the military, he's fighting a war on terror. He's helping us fight a war on terror. I have strong confidence in Don Rumsfeld. I hear the voices, and I read the front page, and I know the speculation. But I'm the decider, and I decide what is best. And what's best is for Don Rumsfeld to remain as the Secretary of Defense.
I want to thank you all very much.
END 9:47 A.M. EDT