President Bush:...[I]nstead of building barriers to trade, we must break down those barriers so that good products, American products, are welcomed and sold on every continent. (Applause.) Look at it this way: America has got 5 percent of the world's population. That means 95 percent of potential customers are in other countries. (Applause.) We cannot expect to sell our goods and services, and create jobs, if America and our partners, trading partners, start raising barriers and closing off markets.
Millions of American jobs are supported by exports. That's a fact. One in five factory jobs in this country directly depends on trade. The surest way to threaten those jobs is a policy of economic isolation. The surest way to add more jobs is a confident policy, a confident economic policy that trades with the world.
The economic isolationists have a pessimistic outlook; they don't show much faith in the American worker or the American entrepreneur. They don't think we can compete. But here in Ohio, you're proving them wrong. People all over the world are buying products from Ohio -- cars and tires, and batteries and jet engines, and ball bearings and electronics, and crops from your farms. Since 1996, under NAFTA, Ohio's exports to Mexico have tripled, and last year came to more than $2 billion -- $2 billion of exports means it's more likely somebody will have a job in the state of Ohio. Since the end of 2000, Ohio's exports have increased more than any state in the country. (Applause.) And why is that? Because this state has got great entrepreneurs who are making high-quality products that the world wants to buy. And another reason why is because you've got great workers, who, if given a level playing field, can out-produce any worker, anywhere on the Earth. (Applause.)
Foreign companies recognize the quality of American workers, and that is one of the reasons why so many have chosen to locate plants in our country. More than 900 foreign facilities employ people here in the state of Ohio -- including major companies like Honda. Ten percent of Honda's international work force lives in this state. About 16,000 Ohioans work for Honda, with good, high-paying jobs. That's a lot of your fellow citizens employed by a company that has chosen to do business in America. And that's not counting the people who work at 165 different Ohio companies that supply Honda with parts and material.
When politicians in Washington attack trade for political reasons, they don't mention these workers, or the 6.4 million other Americans who draw their paychecks from foreign companies. Economic isolationism would lead to retaliation from abroad, and put many of those jobs at risk. (Applause.) Those who play on fear and criticize trade are not serving the interests of our workers. Across America -- from Marysville, Ohio, to Seattle, Washington -- workers are better off -- better off -- because this country is an optimistic, successful trading nation.
My administration is committed to creating the jobs that trade brings. It's a commitment of my administration. Remember this: Presidents of both parties since World War II have made the decision to open up our markets, for the good of American workers and for the good of American consumers. If we're opening up our markets, it makes sense to get others to open up theirs. And so we're dedicated to making sure that other nations treat us fairly. That's why I pressed for free trade agreements with Singapore and Chile. We want them to open up their markets to America's goods and services. We've recently completed negotiations with Morocco and Central America.
I just completed a negotiation with Australia. I want you to understand this important aspect of the trade agreement. Almost all manufacturing exports to that country will be duty-free immediately. (Applause.) That means this could help America's manufacturers sell another $2 billion worth of goods to Australia every year. If we're going to let people sell here, we ought to be encouraging them to let -- open up their markets, as well. It's good for jobs, and it's good for America. (Applause.)
I want the world to "buy America." The best products are those -- (applause.) Listen: The best product on any shelf anywhere in the world says, "Made in the USA." (Applause.)
To create more jobs, government must meet a second basic responsibility. If we want to continue to out-perform the world, if we want to be able to compete, America must remain the best place in the world to do business. If we want to be competitive with other places, we've got to be a good place for people to invest capital. We've got to make sure that people who invest capital are not penalized by lousy government policy. Tax cuts were vital to creating the environment for growth and innovation, and there are more steps that need to be done.
There needs to be fewer regulations on business owners in America. (Applause.) I bet you spend a lot of time filling out paperwork. (Laughter.) I bet not much of your paperwork is ever read. (Laughter.) The government needs to let you focus on your business, on developing goods and services. It needs to let you focus on hiring people, rather than spending hours filling out paperwork. In order for us to keep jobs here at home and expand the job base, we need better regulatory policy at the federal, state, and local level. (Applause.)
In order to make sure that we're able to create jobs here at home, and to prevent jobs from going overseas, this country must have tort reform. (Applause.) Frivolous lawsuits, or the threat of a frivolous lawsuit, create an environment that is not conducive to job creation and job expansion. There's a role at the federal level for tort reform. The trial lawyers are tough up there, though. (Laughter.) Members of the Senate need to hear from you. The House has passed good tort legislation, but the Senate has got to hear from you. Tort reform will help make it easier to keep jobs here at home.
We need to do something about the high cost of health care, as well. (Applause.) I'm a strong proponent of association health plans to allow small business to pool risk so you can better afford health care plans for your employees. (Applause.) We've introduced a new concept called health savings accounts, which will make a big difference for small business owners and employees, as well. And the market has taken hold. We ought to -- listen, frivolous lawsuits are running up the cost of health care in America. Frivolous lawsuits against docs and hospitals are making it harder for you to be able to afford health care. We need medical liability reform at the federal level now. (Applause.)
We're interested in making sure our jobs don't go overseas, and that there's jobs available for citizens all across our country. We need affordable and reliable supplies of energy. Here in Ohio, you know what I'm talking about. (Laughter.) You've experienced the disruption and high cost when factories and cities lose power. It's time for our nation to modernize the electricity systems. (Applause.) We need to promote clean coal technology so we've got abundant supplies of energy. We need to explore for more natural gas. We need to promote conservation. There's a lot of things we need to do. One thing is for certain: In order to expand our job base, we need to become less dependent on foreign sources of energy. (Applause.)
Finally, to make sure this economy grows, to make sure the entrepreneurial spirit is strong, we must have certainty in the tax code. It's important for elected officials to understand that if you're a business leader, if you're the CEO of a corporation, and you're uncertain about your taxes from year to year, because of -- because the tax policy is haphazard, it's hard for you to plan. It's hard for you to think ahead. It's hard for you to be confident in your investment strategy.
Part of the issues we face here in the future of this country is the fact that the tax relief we passed is going to expire. The marriage penalty will go back up. By the way, that doesn't make any sense to have a marriage penalty in the tax code when you're trying to encourage marriage in the country. (Applause.) The child credit will go back down if Congress doesn't act. The death tax will eventually come back to life. Imagine what it's going to be like in 2011, when it's supposed to come back to life. There's going to be a lot of people maybe trying to die a little earlier to avoid the -- (laughter.) It's unbelievable when you think about it. Think about public policy that says: Your taxes are going to be down this year, but not. We may have increased expensing allowances, or not. Uncertainty in the tax code makes it hard for the job base to continue to expand. For the sake of job creation, Congress needs to make tax relief permanent. (Applause.)
The third basic responsibility is to make sure American workers are prepared for successful careers in the new economy. Some sectors are producing fewer jobs, but in other areas, jobs are growing. They're multiplying. There's a lot of opportunity in a changing economy. Here in Ohio, there's a shortage of nurses and pharmacists and other skilled professionals. And so any viable economic strategy, pro-growth strategy, must be to help people find new skills, to gain new skills, to be able to fill the new jobs of the 21st century. If you're in a period of transition, you must help people make that transition.
All skills start with education. I'm a strong proponent of the legislation we passed in Washington called the No Child Left Behind Act. This is a good piece of legislation which is challenging the soft bigotry of low expectations. (Applause.) We've raised the bar. See, we believe every child can learn to read and write and add and subtract. That's what we believe. And therefore, we expect every child to achieve those skills. And therefore, we're expecting, in return for federal money, the school districts to measure, because if you don't measure, how do you know. We've just got to stop this practice of shuffling kids through the school as if they don't matter. What matters is every child gets a basic education. (Applause.) And if you can't read, you're not going to be able to take advantage of the new jobs of the 21st century. And that's why -- that's why we're focused on secondary schools, and that's why we've got plans to help high school students who've fallen behind in reading and math to gain the skills necessary to be able to work in this new economy.
We've got programs to help workers who've been displaced by the effects of trade, by giving them assistance in job training and health care and relocation. I proposed what's called personal reemployment accounts for people who need extra help so they can pay for child care and transportation and other costs of finding work. In other words, we're trying to help people.
But we've got a plan, as well -- it's an important plan that's going to make a big difference, and that is to help the community colleges train workers for jobs which actually exist. (Applause.) Community colleges need to listen to the business community and the community in which they live. They need to ask the question, what do we need to do to train workers? What are you looking for? What kind of skill set is necessary for you to hire this person? They need to be flexible. The curriculums must be willing to change. The community college system has got a fantastic opportunity to make sure workers gain the skills necessary to become employable in this changing economy.
I was in Toledo recently and talked with a guy named Mike Potter. He lost a manufacturing job. He went back to the community college to get retrained. He got help. The government paid. And he got retrained and he found a new job because he was willing to go back to school, and the community college listened to the employers in the community in which he lived.
I was in Northern Virginia, and went to a community college system. I met Connie Mitchell. She heard there was jobs available in the health industry. And by the way, there's a lot of jobs being created in the health industry. And so she went to the community college, and they gave her the skills necessary to become a nurse. And now she's employed.
In Mesa, Arizona, I met a Stacey Leedom, who's a single mom -- which, by the way, is the hardest job in America, being a single mom. (Applause.) She was a graphic artist. She had worked for a company, I think, for 12 or 13 years. She got help to go back to Mesa Community College. She learned a new skill in the computer industry. And in her first year of a new job, she made more than she did after 12 years as a graphic artist.
You see, if you become a more productive citizen, you'll make more money. Better productivity, better skills means higher pay. And our country must focus our education system on helping workers learn the new skills of the 21st century so we can increase the job base of this country. (Applause.)
You know, it wasn't all that long ago that some people said that America was not up to global competition. I don't know if you remember back in the '70s and '80s -- that's what we heard, though, wasn't it -- that we couldn't compete with the Japanese, that they were too good at being automobile makers, that foreign companies would soon overtake our own, that we just weren't up to it. That's what a lot of people said in that period. We were told that American companies weren't flexible enough; American workers were not disciplined enough; and American products weren't good enough.
Well, the pessimists were wrong. American companies remade themselves to beat the competition. Great ideas for improvement came from our work force, workers who are on the line. And the leaders of those companies listened. The entrepreneurial spirit was strong in America, and it was the American entrepreneur that invented new technologies, technologies that have made this country the most productive in the world. Our economy performed like never before, and today, no one doubts what nation's economy leads this world.
Our nation in 2004 is vibrant. As opposed to retreating like the pessimists thought, we're selling computer chips to Japan. We're producing BMWs in Greer, South Carolina, for export to Germany. (Applause.) We're even exporting California wine to France. (Applause.)
There are people who doubt our ability to compete. There are economic isolationists who surrender and wall us off. It's bad for the country, bad for consumers. It's bad for workers. We'll prove the pessimists wrong again. We'll continue to open up untapped markets for American workers and businesses. We'll keep this government on the side of growth and job creation, so American businesses can compete and prosper. We'll focus on job training and education, so Americans can improve their skills and improve their lives. We'll get the policies right, and the American people will do the rest. You will show, once again, that this nation has the energy and the confidence and the creativity to meet every challenge.
I want to thank you for your leadership. I want to thank you for your spirit. I want to thank you for working hard to realize the American Dream and own your own business. I want to thank you for employing people. I want to thank you for the faith of your country.
May God bless you, and may God continue to bless America. (Applause.)
[End White House text]
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