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Excerpt from May 15, 2002 Press Briefing with
White House Press Secretary Ari Fleischer

Click here for the full transcript

QUESTION: I understand it's been approved and will be voted upon. How do you expect, in the Congress, between the House and the Senate bills, that you can be able to eliminate this or dilute it?

FLEISCHER: That was an issue that came up at the meeting this morning with the president and the congressional leaders. And I think the congressional leaders have a very good understanding that that's a provision that needs to be removed at conference in order to get this agreed to.

The president views that provision as a real show-stopper, anti- trade provision that can harm the cause of free trade, not help the cause of free trade. The president urges all members of Congress to resist the siren call of protectionism. And that is always the risk on trade legislation. That's why trade legislation has been, typically, hard to get passed and is often controversial.

But the United States now does stand on the verge of getting, for the first time since 1994, a trade promotion authority enacted that will allow the United States to enter into more trade agreements around the world, creating jobs for the American people, as well as helping bolster the economy of a lot of developing countries.

So it's a hard job, and that's why nobody has come as close as President Bush has this year, since '94. And the president will continue at it, and that's his message to the conferees.

QUESTION: Well, what were the -- what kind of access did they get to information at these meetings or briefings, however you care to...

FLEISCHER: Well, I heard very much the same things you're hearing right here. The president thinks it's important to pass trade promotion authority. The president thinks it's important to pass welfare reform. They conveyed the message of the president.

And just to be clear, the reason that people in the White House meet with people who support the president's agenda is because the White House and people broadly in our American democratic political system believe that it's appropriate and right to work with the parties so the parties can elect people who support the agendas of the leaders of the parties, in this case President Bush for the Republicans. And I don't think that's a surprise to anybody. It's part of our democratic process, which relies on individual, private participation. And that's done to help elect people who believe in the same agenda that the president does.

QUESTION: Last week, Chairman Thomas scolded a group of corporate executives for not working hard enough on fast track, on trade promotion authority. Does the president share the chairman's disappointment with the corporate effort behind that bill?

FLEISCHER: You know, I have not heard the president talk about that. I do know that this is an issue that has been brought to the Congress before and was unsuccessful. And as I indicated, it now has its best prospects for passage since 1994, in large part thanks to Chairman Thomas' hard work in the House of Representatives. It passed by a one-vote margin, if you recall, in the House of Representatives. Previously, despite President Clinton's very valiant efforts on this issue, it failed by scores of votes.

And so progress has been made, but it's not done yet, and the president hopes that all people, whether they are from the business community or from other sectors of our society that care about creating jobs for American workers will help to get an agreement so that the Senate can pass it and so that it can be agreed to in a conference committee.

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