THE WHITE HOUSE
Office of the Press Secretary
(Bandar Seri Begawan, Brunei Darussalam)
For Immediate Release November 15, 2000
REMARKS BY PRESIDENT CLINTON
TO ABAC CEO SUMMIT
Bandar Seri Begawan, Brunei Darussalam
11:25 A.M. (L)
PRESIDENT CLINTON: Good morning, and thank you, Dr. Hamdillah. Your
Royal Highness, fellow leaders, Madam Ambassador, members of the Business
Advisory Committee. I thank you all for your support of this process. And
if I might, I'd like to say a special word of appreciation to the three
members of ABAC from the United States -- Cy Sternberg, Paul Song, and
Ernie Mysec (all spelled phonetically.)
I appreciate what the private sector involvement has done for APEC --
for example, last year's auto dialogue, which brought regulators and firms
together to lower trade barriers. I hope we can do the same this year with
the chemical industry dialogue. I thank you for your ideas and for your
impatience, reminding us always that none of these commitments made at APEC
mean anything if we don't follow them with actions.
As you know, this has been a rather interesting week in the United
States. (Laughter.) And as a result, I did not arrive here until late
last night. One of the things I think we have learned is that we should
all be very careful about making predictions about the future. (Laughter.)
But I know I can safely predict that this will be my last APEC summit.
(Laughter.) I just don't know who will be here next year. (Laughter.)
Let me say a few words about the organization, if I might. I remember
our first summit in 1993, the first leaders' meeting in Washington state at
Blake Island. Some of you were there. Before that, APEC had been doing
good work, but in a low-key way, I think largely unnoticed by many of the
politic leaders among all the countries here represented. I wanted to
establish a mechanism to bring together the leaders of the most
economically dynamic region in the world. I thought that, together we
could work to be better prepared for a world that was becoming more and
more integrated, more and more interdependent; a world in which the Asia
Pacific region was destined to play a larger and larger role.
In 1993, we didn't use the word "globalization" very much, but that is
what we were preparing for. And I think we knew the process inevitably
would be about more than economics. By bringing our economies and our
societies closer together, I believe then, and we hope all believe now,
that we could advance not only prosperity, but the cause of human freedom
and our common ability to avert conflict in this vital part of the world.
By inviting the APEC leaders to Blake Island I wanted to send a clear
message also that Asia was even more important to the United States after
the Cold War. I believe that our partnership with Asia is stronger today
than a decade ago, and that Asia's future is brighter.
There is no longer any doubt that our link to this region is
permanent, not passing. Our troops remain here as a force for stability.
We have renewed our alliance with Japan. We have worked to preserve the
peace in the two likeliest flashpoints of conflict, the Taiwan Strait and
the Korean Peninsula.
In 1994, with our ally, South Korea, we negotiated an agreement that
froze North Korea's production of plutonium for nuclear weapons. And now
President Kim Dae Jung has made his courageous journey of reconciliation,
for which he, justifiably, won the Nobel Peace Prize.
We have encouraged China's historic choice to open its economy to the
world, and applauded the similar choice made by Vietnam. I think it is a
fitting symbol of where the world is going that Vietnam now chairs ASEAN,
an organization originally created in part to contain Vietnam.
In Indonesia, 200 million people are struggling to overcome recent
severe economic and political problems, but at least they now have the
chance to shape their own destiny. They have great resources and great
talent and a great future.
I believe in these years, APEC has made a difference. I believe these
annual leaders' summits and the business meetings associated with them have
made a difference. I hope very much that they will continue indefinitely.
I think it is very important for the leaders to meet, to work together in
an informal atmosphere. It creates a much greater sense of community, and
I think it's very important for all of you to come here to help us work
through practical problems and keep the pressure on the political systems
to move forward.
Particularly after the hard economic times of 1997 and 1998, I
certainly hope we all know now we have a stake in each other's success. We
have no interest in pitting one part of the region or one trading bloc
against another. We are managing our crises better, and not just economic
ones. Last year in New Zealand, for example, we used the annual APEC
Leaders' Summit to forge the coalition that ended the violence in East
During the last eight years, we have worked also to ensure that the
open world economy works as a means to raise living standards and lower
poverty for all nations. We've learned that meeting that challenge
requires more than the continued expansion of rules-based open trade. It
also requires strong social safety nets, more quality education,
anti-poverty efforts, and labor and environment standards so that people
believe that globalization is leading not to a race to the bottom, but to
higher living standards for all who work hard and are a part of it.
In no part of the world has globalization been put to the test as much
as in Asia in these last few years. You have felt both its great benefits
and its temporary, but brutal sting. On balance, the global economy and
more open markets clearly have been a positive force in Asia and, indeed,
around the world. That is not to down-play the impact of the financial
crisis, or the abject despair it brought to millions. It is also true that
countries with more closed economies did not suffer as much during the
crisis, but those same closed economies, isolated from the risks of the
global economy, have also been isolated from its fullest rewards.
APEC has pushed all of us to seize those rewards. And the rewards are
clear. Per capita GDP in East Asia has doubled since 1990. Among
lower-income economies in APEC, incomes have grown by 60 percent in the
last decade, even as they have shrunk for many less developed countries
outside APEC. In 1970, before economic expansion through trade began,
infants in this region were five times more likely than today to die at
birth. Children were six times more likely than today to die before age 5.
I think a fair reading of history is that the greatest Asian financial
crisis was not the brief one now coming to a close, but the one that lasted
almost two centuries before Asia began to open its economies to the world.
Fifty years ago, most of this region was desperately poor. Many economists
predicted that the country with the best chance of success, because of its
human and natural resources, was Burma. In reality, the most successful
countries were not those which started with the biggest advantages, but
those that made the most of the advantages they had by opening their
markets and ultimately their societies.
That is why APEC has been a force for free markets. In our 1994
summit, we agreed to achieve free and open trade in the Asia Pacific by
2010 for industrialized economies, and by 2020 for developing economies.
We've been making steady, sector-by-sector progress. In 1988, more than
half the APEC economies had average tariffs of 10 percent or more. Today,
only four do. APEC exports have more than doubled.
Of course, the region is not out of the woods. It would be a cruel
irony, indeed, if the recovery were to breed a complacency that stalled the
very changes making recovery possible. I believe we need to meet four
related challenges to keep the recovery and our share of prosperity going.
First, we must continue to modernize our economies by promoting
e-commerce and applying information technology to the full range of
economic activity, from agriculture to heavy industry to transportation, to
reduce costs and raise efficiency.
To maximize potential, we must turn the digital divide among and
within our nations into digital opportunities. That will be a big subject
of this summit. Internet use is growing in the region, and Asia is poised
to participate in what will be a $7-trillion global e-commerce market by
the year 2005. At the same time, it has been estimated that if we simply
maintain the current rate of growth, in 11 of the 21 APEC economies the
percentage of the population on-line by 2005 will average just 4 percent,
compared to an average of 72 percent in the top eight economies.
As we discuss Internet access, we must also address the obstacles to
e-commerce. For example, being able to order a package on-line is not
enough if a competitive airline cannot fly it to you at low cost, if it
can't get through red tape at customs, or if there's no delivery service to
take it the final miles to your home. APEC has encouraged all its members
to make a comprehensive assessment of their readiness for the Information
Age. The assessment asked questions about access to the Internet, about
the reliability and price of services, about the number of schools
connected, about local language content, about the business environment for
e-commerce, about the protection of intellectual property, and a host of
Now that the roadblocks are being identified, we propose that
governments in this region and companies like yours launch pilot projects
to start removing them. I hope as many of you as possible will
participate. We cannot close the digital divide without your efforts to
provide distance learning, to donate software and low-cost computers for
villages, and to train people to use them. We need initiatives like APEC's
Knowledge Network, which is compiling on one Internet site information on
all the service companies -- all the services which companies are providing
to help economies close the digital divide.
Now, people are talking about tripling the number of people on-line in
our region by 2005. With your help, I believe we can easily quadruple the
number and perhaps do even better.
APEC has also agreed to adopt one test and one standard for all its
members to use to measure the safety and quality of computers, agreed that
only legitimately licensed software can be used in government offices so
companies can be more certain of their copyrights, and to continue its
moratorium on e-commerce duties. That's a good step towards meeting the
second big challenge we face, to continue to open our markets to more trade
and more investment.
At this summit, the United States, Brunei, Chile, New Zealand and
Singapore are announcing the first multilateral Open Skies agreement in the
world, a model we hope others will emulate and join. APEC members are also
agreeing to post on the Internet our individual action plans for reaching
free trade in the region, so you can judge our progress and, frankly, so
you can put a little more pressure on us to get it done. The most
important thing we can do is to launch a new trade round at the WTO. It
ought to happen as early as possible next year.
A third challenge is to continue doing what we all said had to be done
in the wake of the recent financial crisis, to improve transparency, to
speed up financial restructuring, to strengthen the rule of law and to
build more accountable political institutions.
That's easy to say and hard to do. But surely it can't be as hard as
living through another crisis. And the imperative for reform will only
grow as our economies become more and more intertwined. The challenge is
especially profound for two nations in this region, China and Vietnam.
Both have signed trade agreements with the United States as steps toward
joining the WTO. For China and Vietnam, these agreements are about much
more than lowering tariffs; they are declarations of interdependence,
recognition that in a global age no country can succeed without continuing
to open up to the world.
Both agreements require far-reaching change, dismantling command and
control economies, giving people more access to information, and
ultimately, I believe, more freedom to use that information to shape the
decisions that affect their lives.
A final challenge is to recognize that open markets alone cannot
guarantee the kind of growth that lifts everyone, as I said earlier. We
know we need strong safety nets, especially in regions like Asia, with
rapidly aging populations. We know we need to invest more in education and
spread access to education as broadly as possible. As the private sector
knows better than anyone, even if you have 100 percent literacy, every
dollar you invest in education continues to bring ever greater economic
We also need to fight the infectious diseases that kill people and
progress in too many of our nations. There will not be a lasting recovery
in Asia if Asia becomes the next epicenter of a global AIDS crisis. But
that could happen, without concerted leadership. Government cannot provide
that leadership alone. Companies will have to educate their workers. CEOs
will have to add their voices to those trying to destigmatize the disease.
This is not someone else's problem; it is all our problem. As APEC is
recognizing, we must fight it together.
In short, we have a lot to do if we don't want this recovery to be as
fleeting as the latest Elvis fad in Japan. The good new is, we know what
to do. Painful experience has also taught us what not to do. Experience
has also taught us to have faith in this region's capacity to overcome very
great challenges. After all, how many people foresaw a generation ago that
Asia would grow so rapidly we would be talking today about a Pacific
century? How many people said two years ago that Asia's success was a
thing of the past? The truth is, the problems the financial crisis exposed
were very real, and they haven't all been solved yet. But the achievements
and the resilience of Asia's people are very real, too, and a lot has been
done in the last couple of years.
The commitment of Asia's friends and the stake we have in Asia's
success is also real. That is what drives APEC. With your help, it will
keep us on the right path.
These last eight years have been a great honor and opportunity for me
to try to tie the United States firmly and forever in a very positive way
to the Asia Pacific region. I think this work should continue. I think
the leaders' meeting should continue. I think the involvement of the
business community is essential.
So I thank you for what you have done and I hope that you will
continue to move forward on these four challenges. Thank you. (Applause.)
DR. HAMDILLAH: It is, sir, a very rare opportunity for the President
of the largest economy in APEC to grace his presence in this year's summit,
hosted by the smallest economy of APEC. (Laughter.) And I would like to
take this opportunity to invite our CEO summit delegates to raise questions
to the President of the United States of America. Please.
PRESIDENT CLINTON: I just want to say, after I saw this facility, I
did not believe this was a small economy. (Laughter and applause.) I have
here with me today the Secretary of State; our Trade Ambassador, Charlene
Barshefsky; as well as Secretary Albright and many other distinguished
people from the American government, and I know they're going to be pushing
for us to build an outpost on the South China Sea. (Laughter.) Now, this
is an amazing place.
Does anyone have a question? Yes, sir.
Q (Inaudible) -- and we're here with some students from -- and the
United States, covering this event. And so, on behalf of the students, I'd
like to ask a question, and that is, how do you feel APEC and the members
of APEC can do a better job the integrate technology and education --
PRESIDENT CLINTON: Well, one of the things I think that -- we're
going to be talking about that at this meeting. And it's one of the
subjects of the leaders' meeting. So I will answer that question, but I
would also just say to you, sir, if you and the students have any ideas you
want to share with us, this is the time to do it because it will be a major
focus of the discussions we have all day tomorrow.
I think perhaps the most important thing we can do is to identify what
is now taking place in every country and to see whether or not the best
practices in each country can be spread to the others as quickly as
possible. I also think it's worth looking at what's being done in some
non-APEC countries that might have particular relevance to the developing
I spent some time a few months ago in India, and I went out into a
couple of small villages, as well as being in some of the larger cities.
And in the state of Rajasthan, which is not one of the wealthiest states in
India, they will have a community computer available to all the citizens
and all the children of the community within three years in every village
in the state. In another state where I was, they already have 18
government services on the Internet, more than most American states do, I
So I think what we need to do is to take -- look, the technology is
out there. We are going to have to have, as I said in my remarks, more
activity from the business community in donating both the hardware, the
software and the expertise and a lot of things that particularly are needed
in the developing areas. But I think we ought to make a commitment to
quadruple access over the next five years. And I think we can do much
better than that.
But I think it shouldn't just be e-commerce; there ought to be a
serious focus on the schools in having Internet access in the schools and
making sure the proper educational software is available, and that
international communications are available among the schools, which I think
are quite important.
Anything else? Yes, in the back.
PRESIDENT CLINTON: I think that there are inherent constraints on
APEC which -- the EU is becoming a common economic unit and I do think that
there will be more regional economic cooperation within Asia, as well as
more cooperation in the Asia Pacific region in the future. And I tried to
make a very pointed reference in my remarks. I don't see the two things in
conflict. And I know there are some people who apparently believe that
building a stronger Asia Pacific cooperative economic network is
inconsistent with building greater Asian economic integration. I simply
don't agree with that.
And I think that we make a grave mistake when we start to create zero
sum games in the global economy. I think it's a mistake; it ought to be
avoided at all costs.
Now, I do think that we should look at ways in which this organization
could be stronger and more effective in actually pushing for the changes
that we recommend. But you know what the problems are. I mean, many of
you agree that we ought to do certain things, but the things that you think
we ought to do are politically difficult for some nations to do once the
leaders go back home and have to deal with the political reality on the
So I think one of the most important things that perhaps could be done
is an examination of what the business community both within countries and
beyond countries could do to support the political leaders who are willing
to try to make the changes that we all think ought to be made. Because
it's very easy for us to come to this beautiful place and recommend all
these changes, and these changes may well be beneficial to all the business
people represented here from all the countries. But it doesn't mean that
they can be made painlessly by political leaders when they go back home.
So I think one of the things I'd like to see all of you discuss is
what you could do not only to put more pressure on the leaders here once a
year, but what you could do to provide more systematic support to the
leaders who are prepared to make these tough decisions who live in the
countries where the decisions are indeed difficult to make.
THE PRESIDENT: Well, without commenting on what kind of leadership we
will have in the other countries, which I think is inappropriate for me to
comment on and also not possible to predict, one of the things that both
Vice President Gore and Governor Bush agreed on in this election is that
the United States should continue its strong leadership for a more
integrated global economy and for expanded trade. And as nearly as I could
tell, there was virtually no disagreement on that, except that there were
disagreements about the extent to which we also ought to push the
trade-plus agenda, if you will, that I've been talking about for the last
several years. But on the question of leadership for trade, I think the
world can rest easy because both our candidates made strong commitments to
Q (Inaudible) -- NAFTA and trade relations with China -- but I have
a question to ask you -- you're still young, articulate, intelligent, and
the President of the United States, what do you do now? (Laughter.)
PRESIDENT CLINTON: Well, now I have a United States senator to
support. I understand that's an expensive proposition. (Laughter and
applause.) I don't know.
Let me just say that the important thing for a former President, it
seems to me, is to find a way to be a useful citizen of both my country and
the world, and to continue to pursue the things that I think are most
important to making the world a better place, but to do it in a way that
does not get in the way of my successor.
The United States can only have one President at a time, and it's very
important to me that I continue to be active in the things that I care
about -- many of which I was talking about here today -- in a way that is
respectful of the fact that the country has a new President and the people
need to bond with the new President and the new President needs to
establish his relationships and role in the world.
But I think I can find a way to do that. So I'll be around. But I
also have to support a senator and I'm going to do my best to did that, as
Thank you very much. Thank you. (Applause.)
END 11:50 A.M. (L)