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U.S. Department of State
93/11/05 Testimony before HFAC on NAFTA
Office of the Spokesman




                        U.S. DEPARTMENT OF STATE
                         Office of the Spokesman
_________________________________________________________
As Prepared for Delivery


                        STATEMENT OF
              SECRETARY OF STATE WARREN CHRISTOPHER
                        BEFORE THE
                  HOUSE FOREIGN AFFAIRS COMMITTEE
                        NOVEMBER 5, 1993


Mr. Chairman, Members of the Committee:

Thank you for giving me the opportunity to talk to you today about the 
North American Free Trade Agreement.

I believe this agreement deserves approval on its economic merits alone.  
And I am convinced that the foreign policy implications of NAFTA make a 
compelling economic case even stronger.

Secretary Bentsen will describe in his testimony the economic benefits 
of NAFTA.  I will focus on the foreign policy dimension.

For the United States and Mexico, NAFTA is about more than tariffs and 
trade, growth and jobs.  It is the symbol of a new relationship and a 
new structure of cooperation.  Approval of NAFTA and the important side 
agreements accompanying it will increase Mexico's capacity to cooperate 
with us on a wide range of vital issues that affect our security in 
direct and tangible ways.

Let me mention one example of that kind of cooperation -- illegal 
immigration.  Legal immigrants from Mexico and other nations will 
continue to make an important contribution to American diversity, 
vitality, and democracy.  At the same time, the Clinton Administration 
is committed to reducing illegal immigration.  A growing Mexican economy 
will reduce that pressure.  As Attorney General Janet Reno has said, if 
NAFTA is defeated, "stopping the flow of illegal immigrants will be 
much, much more difficult, if not impossible."

For many years, the United States and Mexico were, as one observer put 
it, "distant neighbors."  Until recent times, Mexicans saw the United 
States as a source of pressure and even danger, while Americans saw 
Mexican poverty as a source of instability.

But Mexico has been growing and changing, modernizing and developing a 
middle class.  In the last few years, Mexico has made unprecedented 
efforts to open its economy and reform its political institutions, 
including the judiciary and its electoral system.  Mexico's attitudes 
about the United States and the world have also changed dramatically.

Today we are working with Mexico not only to resolve issues along the 
border, but to defuse hemispheric conflicts and crises.  Our work 
together on Guatemala is a good example.

NAFTA will solidify the productive new relationship that the United 
States has been seeking with Mexico and our other Latin American 
neighbors.  It will help us move beyond old suspicions and outdated 
assumptions.

For more than half a century, every American President -- Democrat and 
Republican -- has stood for closer cooperation with Mexico.  NAFTA 
reflects a bipartisan commitment to widening and improving America's 
ties to our Latin American neighbors, beginning with Mexico.  NAFTA has 
the support of all five living former Presidents of the United States -- 
an unusual display of bipartisan unity.

NAFTA will mark a turning point in the history of our relations 
throughout Latin America.  President Gaviria of Colombia recently wrote 
to President Clinton, that "NAFTA ... is a vehicle for political change 
and for strengthening democracy and the respect for human rights 
throughout the region."

In many respects, Latin America is pointing the way toward a more 
hopeful future in the post-Cold War era.  Democracy is ascendant.  
Markets are opening.  Conflicts are being resolved peacefully.  By 
approving NAFTA, the United States will send a powerful signal that we 
support these developments.

I believe the vote on NAFTA will be one of the most vital decisions that 
the Members of Congress will make in this decade.  To recognize fully 
what is at stake, we have to consider not only the economic and 
diplomatic gains we will realize if NAFTA goes into effect, but what 
America -- and Americans -- stand to lose if it is defeated.

The downside of rejecting NAFTA could be enormous.  First, defeat of 
NAFTA would seriously damage our relations with Mexico.  Our carefully 
nurtured efforts to improve relations would be scuttled as a sense of 
rejection sets in across the border.  For the United States, that would 
be a self-inflicted setback of historic proportions.

Second, defeat of NAFTA would hand our major economic competitors in 
Europe and East Asia a gilt-edged invitation to go after what should be 
a natural market for our goods and services.  They will not hesitate to 
gain a foothold where we feared to tread.

Third, rejection of NAFTA would send a chilling signal about our 
willingness to engage in Latin America at a time when so many of our 
neighbors are genuinely receptive to closer cooperation with the United 
States.  It would complicate our efforts to find diplomatic solutions to 
regional crises that threaten peace and stability in the hemisphere.

Fourth, while there is no good time to defeat NAFTA, there could be no 
worse time than now -- when the GATT negotiations are in their final 
crucial days leading up to the December 15 deadline.  At this delicate, 
decisive stage of the Uruguay Round, the United States must maintain 
maximum leverage -- and exercise maximum leadership.  NAFTA's success 
will reaffirm our international economic leadership.  It will signal to 
our trading partners that we are serious about opening markets abroad 
and that we have the political will to follow through.  Failure of NAFTA 
would call into question our credibility as a reliable negotiating 
partner and hamper our efforts to expand market opportunities for 
American producers.  The world is watching.

The next 40 days can shake the economic world and shape America's future 
position in it.  Not only will critical decisions be made on NAFTA and 
GATT, but in addition, we will host in Seattle this month a ministerial 
meeting of the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation forum (APEC).  The APEC 
conference -- and the historic gathering of leaders that President 
Clinton has called at its conclusion -- will enable us to establish a 
framework for regional economic integration and trade liberalization.  
With NAFTA, GATT, and APEC, the United States has an extraordinary 
convergence of opportunities.

Fifth, and finally, NAFTA's rejection would undermine our commitment to 
open markets and a liberal world trading order.  Opposing an agreement 
that eliminates tariff barriers is really an argument for protectionism.  
It is only a short intellectual walk from opposing the lowering of 
tariffs to favoring the erection of higher trade barriers.

That is simply the wrong course.  We have seen the consequences of 
protectionism once in this century, in the late 1920s and the early 
1930s -- and once was enough.  I believe that to oppose NAFTA is to 
reject the principles of free trade that have helped to make the last 
half century the most prosperous in American history.

Beyond all the specific points that can be marshaled for NAFTA, a 
broader, overriding principle is at stake.  America cannot and will not 
thrive if we withdraw from the world.

The defeat of NAFTA would not only forfeit an opportunity to strengthen 
our economy.  It would also constitute a profoundly disturbing move 
toward isolationism -- toward an abdication of the role America must 
assert to protect our interests and promote our values.  It would weaken 
our position not only on international economic issues but on other 
foreign policy concerns important to our security.  The vote on NAFTA 
will determine whether we choose to engage or retreat from the global 
economy; whether we will enable our workers -- the most productive in 
the world -- to compete and win or whether we will try in vain to 
insulate ourselves from rapid worldwide economic change.

I don't believe we can afford to shrink from a natural and growing 
market for our goods and services.  I don't believe we ought to undercut 
the President at a time when negotiations on the Uruguay Round are 
reaching their final stage.  And I don't believe we ought to endorse the 
kind of economic isolationism that squanders the chance to create 
American jobs and surrenders a part of America's global leadership.

I believe a vote to approve NAFTA is a vote for American engagement that 
will echo throughout our hemisphere and across the world.  It is a vote 
to expand political freedom and free markets throughout our hemisphere 
and extend cooperation between the United States and the countries of 
Latin America.  And it is a vote to reinforce the foundation of free 
trade that will be a platform for prosperity in the next century.

NAFTA is a once-in-a-generation opportunity.  Approval of this agreement 
will signal our confidence at home and strengthen our credibility 
abroad.  With NAFTA, we are building an economic future and a foreign 
policy worthy of our great nation.

Mr. Chairman, I hope that the members of this Committee and the full 
House will consider carefully this opportunity -- and agree that it is 
in the overriding interest of our nation.

Thank you very much.

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