For Immediate Release
Office of the Press Secretary
June 18, 2001
Remarks by the President
To Agriculture Leaders
the East Room
2:28 P.M. EDT
THE PRESIDENT: Well, thank you very
much. It's nice to be home. (Laughter.) And
welcome to the people's home. As I'm sure you can imagine,
it is an unimaginable honor to live here, and it was an unimaginable
honor to represent our nation overseas.
We had a really good trip. And I'm
sure Ambassador Zoellick will brief you on the trip after I say a few
words. But let me just say to you that -- well, first, let
me thank Ann Veneman for the job she's doing. I knew when I
picked her I picked a really smart, capable leader. And she
has fulfilled all expectations. She's going to do a great
job as representing an incredibly important part of our nation's
economy and our nation's culture.
So, Madam Secretary, thank you very much for
your leadership. Zoellick, thank you, sir, for your leadership, as
I told people when I -- that should I become
the President, we would never use agriculture as a throw-away, as just
a bargaining tool. And when I interviewed my friend, Bob
Zoellick, who I've known for a while, I said, I want you to understand
the cornerstone of good trade policy is good ag policy. And
we're not going to leave our farmers and ranchers behind when it comes
to international agreements.
And I think you're going to find when he talks
to you and when you question him, he's going to hold true to that
philosophy. And I'm proud of his work. He's tough
and he's steady, and I've got a pretty good look at who he's
negotiating against -- (laughter) -- but he's going to do a fine job
for all of America, including the agricultural sector.
I'm honored that members of the United States
Senate are here, and members of the House of Representatives are
here. Mr. Chairman -- well, Mr.
ex-Chairman. (Laughter.) Thank you all for
We're going to discuss here an incredibly
important issue, and that is how do we make sure American agriculture
thrives and survives and grows stronger over time. It starts
with understanding a couple of things -- one, that we needed tax relief
so that those farmers and ranchers who are actually in the black can
keep more of what they make. And thanks to members here, we
got good tax relief.
And by the way, we also eliminated the death
tax, which is incredibly important to American
agriculture. (Applause.) And I want to thank you
all on the stage here for -- as well as your members, for working hard
to make the case that getting rid of the death tax is only
fair. And that for those who worry about urban sprawl and
issues such as that, that getting rid of the death tax is going to
allow the family farm or the family ranch to pass from one generation
to the next. And so it's a good piece of legislation, and
many of you all helped make the case. And for that, all of
us are grateful.
I also said in the campaign I'd work for
value-added processing, that I wanted to make sure that the products we
grew at home here had received enhanced value because of U.S.
processing. And part of our energy plan, as you learned
recently, includes ethanol. And that's an important part of
an agriculture and an energy and an environmental mix that I think is
best for the United States of America.
And, finally, trade. And it's
incredibly important for our Americans to understand how important
trade is. The agricultural sector understands
that. Twenty-five percent of farm receipts are generated by
exports. One quarter of all the revenues coming into the
farm economy are generated as a result of a farmer in America, or a
rancher in America, selling that product overseas. And
that's as it should be. Our farmers and ranchers are the
most efficient producers in the world. This is an area where
our country has a competitive advantage. We're really good
at it. And the job of this administration must be to open up
more markets for ag products.
I used to tell people in the course of the
campaign, I want America to feed the world. I want our great
nation that's a land of great, efficient producers to make sure people
don't go hungry. And it starts with having an administration
committed to knocking down barriers to trade, and we are.
And you're about to hear from the Trade
Representative, Ambassador Zoellick, who will describe to you a couple
of things: one, that we want a new round of WTO discussions
started with ag at its core, and it will be. I know there are some
concerns about NAFTA in the country, but if people look at the
statistics, farm exports to Mexico have doubled, nearly doubled, since
NAFTA. That's important.
I do believe we ought to expand the free trade
of the Americas. I want this whole hemisphere trading in
freedom. And I think it makes sense for our farmers and
ranchers to do so.
In order for me to be as effective as I can be
-- and, by the way, we understand this, too, and this is important for
people to understand, that our farmers face incredible barriers to
trade. And let me just give you a few
statistics. The EU's tariffs for over quota beef is between
91 percent and 177 percent. Japan's tariff for over quota
wheat is between 242 percent and 256 percent. Canada's
tariff on over quota butter is between 299 percent and 314 percent.
Not only do America's farmers and ranchers
face overt tariffs, there's hidden barriers, as well, such as
unscientific thought about the products we grow. One of the
things Ambassador Zoellick and I talked about is making decisions based
upon sound science, and not using science as a -- or false science as a
way to block entry for U.S. products.
And Zoellick also came back with some pretty
good news from China. I don't know if you have all been
following his negotiations there, but we're beginning to get our
bilateral agreement with China made. And he can give you the
details. But the agreement with China will end export
subsidies and, we anticipate, boost U.S. agricultural exports to China
by $2 billion a year. He sat down and rolled up his sleeves
and kept in mind what I asked him to do. And he delivered a
But there's more to do, and he told the
Chinese that our bilateral agreements that compliance and early test of
their willing to trade will depend upon bilateral agreements on citrus
and wheat, meat. And so we're just making -- we're beginning
to open up that big market. And I think the Ambassador
deserves a lot of credit. But don't give him any until he
describes exactly what he did to you. (Laughter.)
But what I really want to do is to urge you
all to help us get a trade promotion authority bill out of the
Congress. I realized how important that was when I went
overseas. I realized how important it was when I was at the
Summit of the Americas. We've got countries in our
hemisphere saying, will you trade with us. And I say, you
bet. It's a free-trading administration, so long as
everything is level and fair. And they say, but how can we
know you can trade with us when we negotiate a deal and you don't have
the authority to strike it without having to submit the bills to every
single amendment there could be up on the Hill.
You see, they recognize that other Presidents
used to have trade promotion authority. And now I
don't. And we're missing some great opportunities, not only
in our hemisphere, but around the world. These are
opportunities for people who earn a living the hard
way. These are hard -- these are opportunities for
hardworking ranchers and farmers. These are opportunities
for working people.
I believe the more we trade overseas, the more
prosperity there is at home. And I urge the Congress -- and
I know the members here understand this -- to pass trade promotion
authority, so this administration can open up markets all around the
world. This is an important piece of
legislation. This legislation is one of my top priorities
because it's -- a top priority of mine is the health of the agriculture
sector in America.
You know, my wife just took off for Crawford,
Texas today. When we go there, people are wondering whether
or not they can make a living off the land. And they're more
likely to be able to do so with more markets open.
And I mean a trade promotion authority bill,
too, that's not laden down with all kinds of excuses not to
trade. I want a bill that doesn't have these codicils on it
that frighten people from trading with us. I like to remind
people that if you're a poor nation, it's going to be hard to treat
your people well. And if you're a poor nation, it's going to
be hard to have good environmental policy. And trade is the
best way to eliminate poverty; therefore, our trade agreements ought to
be free from codicils which prevent us from freely trading.
And so I want to thank you for coming to the
White House to give me an opportunity to urge you to work with these
five Senators and three Congressmen, to work hard to get this trade
promotion authority moving.
The power to be, well most of the power that
be, sits right here. And these members can use your help, as
can we. This call to arms for trade promotion authority is
not a hollow call. This is important. It's not
only important for this President, it's important for future
presidents. Because the world is a fantastic opportunity for us, and
it's an opportunity we have got to seize if we expect to have
prosperity in one of the most vital sectors in our
nation. And that's prosperity on our farms and ranches -- a
place not only where people will hopefully be able to make a good
living, but a place where people nurture the great values of
America: faith and family.
It's my honor to be here, to have you
here. Thanks for coming. I appreciate so very
much your giving us a chance to call you into action. I'm honored to
be up here with your leaders, and I do want to thank the members of the
Senate and the House for being here as well.
God bless America. (Applause.)
2:40 P.M. EDT