Office of the Press Secretary

For Immediate Release July 1, 2000

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Remarks by the President in Internet Webcast
Independence National Historical Park

Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

10:35 A.M. EDT

THE PRESIDENT: Good afternoon. Two hundred and thirteen years ago, about a hundred feet from where I'm sitting now, in the summer as sweltering as this one, the Founding Fathers drafted the Constitution of the United States. In the very first article of that doctrine they wrote that government shall make no law "impairing the obligation of contracts."

James Madison called this contract clause "a constitutional bulwark in favor of personal security and private rights. He and his fellow framers understood that the right of individuals to enter into commercial contracts was fundamental, not just for economic growth, but for the preservation of liberty, itself.

Yesterday, I had the privilege of signing into law legislation that carries the spirit of the Founders' wisdom into the Information Age. The Electronic Signatures in Global and National Commerce Act, which passed with overwhelming support from both parties in both Houses, will open up new frontiers of economic opportunity while protecting the rights of America's consumers.

This new law will give fresh momentum to what is already the longest economic expansion in our history -- an expansion driven largely by the phenomenal growth in information technologies, particularly the Internet, with its almost unlimited potential to expand their opportunities and broaden their horizons.

Yet that potential is now being held back, ironically, by old laws written to protect the sanctity of contracts -- laws that require pen-and-ink signatures on paper documents for contracts to be enforceable.

Under this landmark new legislation, on-line contracts will now have the same legal force as equivalent paper ones. Companies will have the legal certainty they need to invest and expand in electronic commerce. They will be able not only to purchase products and services on-line, but to contract to do so. And they could potentially save billions of dollars by sending and retaining monthly statements and other records in electronic form. Eventually, vast warehouses of paper will be replaced by servers the size of VCRs.

Customers will soon enjoy a whole new universe of on-line services. With the swipe of a smart card and the click of a mouse, they will be able to finalize mortgages, sign insurance contracts, or open brokerage accounts.

Just as importantly, the law affords consumers who contract on-line the same kinds of protections and records, such as financial disclosures, they currently receive when they sign paper contracts. Consumers will be able to choose whether to do business and receive records on paper or on-line. They will have the power to decide if they want to receive notice and disclosures electronically. It will not be their responsibility, but the company's, to ensure that the data sent to a consumer can be read on the consumer's computer. No more e-mail attachments with gibberish inside.

Finally, government agencies will have the authority to enforce the laws, protect the public interest, and carry out their missions in the electronic world.

For eight years now, I have set forth a new vision of government and politics, one that marries our most enduring values to the demands of the new Information Age. In many ways, the Electronic Signatures Act exemplifies that vision. It shows what we in Washington can accomplish when we put progress above partisanship, cross party lines, think of the future, and work together for the American people.

Thank you, and happy Independence Day.

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