Office of the Press Secretary
(Coventry, Warwickshire, England)
|For Immediate Release||December 14, 2000|
University of Warwick
Coventry, Warwickshire, England
3:08 P.M. (L)
THE PRESIDENT: Thank you very much. Vice Chancellor Follett and Lady Follett; Chancellor Ramphal. Lord Skidelsky, thank you for your biography of Keynes. I wonder what Mr. Keynes would think of us paying down the national debt in America today. (Laughter.)
I would like to thank the President of the Student Union, Caitlin McKenzie, for welcoming me. And I am delighted to be here with all of you. But I'd like to specifically, if I might, acknowledge one more person in the audience, a good friend to Hillary and me, the renowned physicist, Stephen Hawking. Thank you, Stephen, for being here. We're delighted to -- (applause.)
Tony and Cherie Blair, and Hillary and Chelsea and I are pleased to be here. I thank the Prime Minister for his kind remarks. It is true that we have all enjoyed an unusual friendship between the two of us and our families. But it is also true that we have honored the deeper and more important friendship between the United States and Great Britain; one that I believe will endure through the ages and be strengthened through changes of party and from election to election.
I wanted to have a moment before I left this country for the last time as President just to say a few words about a subject which, as the Prime Minister said, we have discussed a lot, that I believe will shape the lives of the young people in this audience perhaps more than any other, and that is the phenomenon of globalization.
We have worked hard in our respective nations and in our multinational memberships to try to develop a response to globalization that we all call by the shorthand term, the Third Way. Sometimes I think that term tends to be viewed as more of a political term than one that has actual policy substance, but for us it's a very serious attempt to put a human face on the global economy and to direct the process of globalization in a way that benefits all people.
The intensifying process of economic integration and political interdependence that we know as globalization is clearly tearing down barriers and building new networks among nations, peoples, and cultures, at an astonishing and historically unprecedented rate. It has been fueled by an explosion of technology that enables information, ideas and money, people, products and services to move within and across the national borders at increasingly greater speeds and volumes.
A particularly significant element of this process is the emergence of a global media village in which what happens anywhere is felt in a flash everywhere -- from Coventry to Kansas to Cambodia. This process, I believe, is irreversible. In a single hour today, more people and goods move from continent to continent than moved in the entire 19th century.
For most people in countries like ours, the United States and Britain, this is helping to create an almost unprecedented prosperity, and along with it, the change to meet some of the long-term challenges we face within our nations.
I am profoundly grateful that when I leave office we will still be in the longest economic expansion in our history, that all income levels have benefitted, and that we are able to deal with some of our long-term challenges. And I have enjoyed immensely the progress of the United Kingdom, the economic progress -- the low unemployment rate, the high growth rate, the increasing numbers of people moving off public assistance, and young people moving into universities.
But I think it's important to point out that globalization need not benefit only the advanced nations. Indeed, in developing countries, too, it brings the promise, but not the guarantee of a better future. More people have been lifted out of poverty the last few decades than at any time I history. Life expectancy in developing countries is up. Infant mortality is down. And according to the United Nations Human Development Index, which measures a decent standard of living, a good education, and a long and healthy life, the gap between rich and poor countries actually has declined since 1970. And yet, that is, by far, not the whole story. For, if you took another starting point or just one region of the world, or a set of governments that have had particular vulnerability to developments like the Asian financial crisis, for example, you could make a compelling case that from time to time, people in developing countries and whole countries themselves, if they get caught on the wrong side of a development like the Asian financial crisis, are actually worse off for quite a good while.
And we begin the new century and a new millennium with half the world's people struggling to survive on less than $2 a day, nearly 1 billion living in chronic hunger. Almost a billion of the world's adults cannot read. Half the children in the poorest countries still are not in school. So, while some of us walk on the cutting edge of the new global economy, still, amazing numbers of people live on the bare razor's edge of survival.
And these trends and other troubling ones are likely to be exacerbated by a rapidly-growing population, expected to increase by 50 percent by the middle of this century, with the increase concentrated almost entirely in nations that today, at least, are the least capable of coping with it. So the great question before us is not whether globalization will proceed, but how. And what is our responsibility in the developed world to try to shape this process so that it lifts people in all nations.
First, let me say I think we have both the ability and the responsibility to make a great deal of difference, by promoting development and economic empowerment among the world's poor; by bringing solid public health systems, the latest medical advances and good educational opportunities to them; by achieving sustainable development and breaking the iron link between economic growth, resource destruction and greater pollution which is driving global warming today, and by closing the digital divide.
I might say, parenthetically, I believe there are national security and common security aspects to the whole globalization challenge that I really don't have time to go into today, so I'll just steer off the text and say what I think briefly, which is that as we open borders and we increase the freedom of movement of people, information and ideas, this open society becomes more vulnerable to cross-national, multinational, organized forces of destruction: terrorists; weapons of mass destruction; the marriage of technology in these weapons, small-scale chemical and biological and maybe even nuclear weapons; narco traffickers and organized criminals, and increasingly, all these people sort of working together in lines that are quite blurred.
And so that's a whole separate set of questions. But today I prefer to focus on what we have to do to see that this process benefits people in all countries, and at all levels of society.
At the core of the national character of the British and the American people is the belief in the inherent dignity and equality of all humans. We know perfectly well today how children live and die in the poorest countries, and how little it would take to make a difference in their lives. In a global information age we can no longer have the excuse of ignorance. We can choose not to act, of course, but we can no longer choose not to know.
With the Cold War over, no overriding struggle for survival diverts us from aiding the survival of the hundreds of millions of people in the developing world struggling just to get by from day to day. Moreover, it is not only the right thing to do, it is plainly in our interest to do so.
We have seen how abject poverty accelerates turmoil and conflict; how it creates recruits for terrorists and those who incite ethnic and religious hatred; how it fuels a violent rejection of the open economic and social order upon which our future depends. Global poverty is a powder keg, ignitable by our indifference.
Prime Minister Blair made the same point in introducing his government's white paper on international development. Thankfully, he remains among the world's leaders in pressing the common-sense notion that the more we help the rest of the world, the better it will be for us. Every penny we spend on reducing worldwide poverty, improving literacy, wiping out disease will come back to us and our children a hundredfold.
With the global Third Way approach that he and I and others have worked on, of more open markets, public investments by wealthy nations in education, health care and the environment in developing countries, and improved governance in those countries themselves, we can develop a future in which prosperity is shared more widely and potential realized more fully in every corner of the globe.
Today I want to briefly discuss our shared responsibility to meet these challenges, and the role of all of us, from the richest to the poorest nations, to the multilateral institutions, to the business and NGO and religious and civil society communities within and across our borders.
First, let me say, I think it's quite important that we unapologetically reaffirm a conviction that open markets and rule-based trade are necessary proven engines of economic growth. I have just come from Ireland, where the openness of the economy has made that small country the fastest-growing economy in Europe; indeed, for the last few years, in the entire industrialized world. From the early 1970s to the early 1990s, developing countries that chose growth through trade grew at least twice as fast as those who kept their doors closed and their tariffs high.
Now what? If the wealthiest countries ended our agricultural subsidies, leveling the playing field for the world's farmers, that alone could increase the income of developing countries by $20 billion a year. (Applause.)
Not as simple as it sounds. I come from a farming state, and I live in a country that basically has very low tariffs and protections on agriculture. But I see these beautiful fields in Great Britain; I have driven down the highways of France; I know there is a cultural social value to the fabric that has developed here over the centuries. But we cannot avoid the fact that if we say we want these people to have a decent life, and we know this is something they could do for the global economy more cheaply than we, we have to ask ourselves what our relative responsibilities are and if there is some other way we can preserve the fabric of rural life here, the beauty of the fields and the sustainability of the balanced society that is important for Great Britain, the United States, France and every other country.
The point I wanted to make is a larger one. This is just one thing we could do that would put $20 billion a year in income into developing countries. That's why I disagree with the anti-globalization protestors who suggest that poor countries should somehow be saved from development by keeping their doors closed to trade. I think that is a recipe for continuing their poverty, not erasing it. More open markets would give the world's poorest nations more chances to grow and prosper.
Now, I know that many people don't believe that. And I know that inequality, as I said, in the last few years has increased in many nations. But the answer is not to abandon the path of expanded trade, but, instead, to do whatever is necessary to build a new consensus on trade. That's easy for me to say -- you can see how successful I was in Seattle in doing that. (Laughter.)
But let me say to all of you, in the last two years we not only had this WTO ministerial in Seattle -- I went to Switzerland three times to speak to the WTO, the International Labor Organization and the World Economic Forum at Davos, all in an attempt to hammer out what the basic elements of a new consensus on trade, and in a larger sense, on putting a human face on the global economy would be.
We do have to answer those who fear that the burden of open markets will fall mainly on them. Whether they're farmers in Europe or textile workers in America, these concerns fuel powerful political resistance to the idea of open trade in the developed countries.
We have to do better in making the case not just on how exports create jobs, but on how imports are good, because of the competition they provide; because they increase innovation and they provide savings for hard-pressed working families throughout the world. And we must do more to improve education and job-training so that more people have the skills to compete in a world that is changing very rapidly.
We must also ask developing countries to be less resistant to concerns for human rights, labor and the environment, so that spirited economic competition does not become a race to the bottom. At the same time, we must make sure that when we say we're concerned about labor and the environment and human rights in the context of trade, it is not a pretext for protectionism.
Both the United States and Europe must do more to build a consensus for trade. In America, for example, we devote far, far too little of our wealth to development assistance. But on a per capita basis, we also spend nearly 40 percent more than Europeans on imports from developing countries. Recently we passed landmark trade agreements with Africa and the Caribbean Basin that will make a real difference to those regions. If America matched Europe's generosity in development assistance, and Europe matched our openness in buying products from the developing nations, think how much growth and opportunity we could spur.
At the same time, I think it's important that we acknowledge that trade alone cannot lift nations from poverty. Many of the poorest developing countries are crippled by the burden of crushing debt, draining resources that could be used to meet the most basic human needs, from clean water, to schools, to shelter. For too long, the developed world was divided between those who felt any debt forgiveness would hurt the credit-worthiness of developing nations, and those who demanded outright cancellation of the debt with no conditions.
Last year at the G-7 Summit in Cologne, we -- Prime Minister Blair and I and our colleagues -- began to build a new consensus responding to a remarkable coalition, asking for debt relief for the poorest nations in this millennial year.
We have embraced the global social contract: debt relief for reform. We pledged enhanced debt relief to poor countries that put forward plans to spend their savings where they ought to be spent, on reducing poverty, developing health systems, improving educational access and quality. This can make a dramatic difference.
For example, Uganda has used its savings, already, to double primary school enrollment, a direct consequence of debt relief. Bolivia will now use $77 million on health and education. Honduras will offer its children nine years of schooling, instead of six, a 50-percent increase.
The developed world must build on these efforts, as we did in the United States, when we asked for 100-percent bilateral debt relief for the least developed nations. And we must include more and more nations in this initiative. But we should not do it by lowering our standards. Instead, we should help more nations to qualify for the list -- that is, to come forward with plans to spend the savings on their people and their future. This starts with good governance -- something that I think has been overlooked.
No matter how much we wish to do for the developing world, they need to have the capacity to absorb aid, to absorb assistance and to do more for themselves. Democracy is not just about elections, even when they seem to go on forever. (Laughter.) Democracy is also about what happens after the election. It's about the capacity to run clean government and root out corruption, to open the budget process, to show people an honest accounting of where their resources are being spent, and to give potential investors an honest accounting of what the risks and rewards might be. We have a moral obligation both to provide debt relief and to make sure these resources reach people who need them most.
The poorer these people are, of course, the less healthy they're likely to be. That brings me to the next point. The obstacles to good health in the developing world are many and of great magnitude. There is the obvious fact of malnutrition, the fact that so many women still lack access to family planning and basic health services. Around the world today, one woman dies every minute from complications due to childbirth.
There is the fact that 1.5 billion people lack access to safe, clean drinking water, and the growing danger of a changing climate, about which I will say more in a moment. But let me just mention the health aspects.
If temperatures keep rising, developing countries in tropical regions will be hurt the most, as disease spreads and crops are devastated. Already, we see in some African countries malaria occurring at higher altitudes than ever before because of climate change.
Today, infectious diseases are responsible for one in four deaths around the world -- diseases like malaria, TB and AIDS, diarrheal diseases. Just malaria, tuberculosis and diarrhea kill 8 million people a year under the age of 15. Already in South Africa, Botswana and Zimbabwe, half of all the 15-year-olds are expected to die of AIDS. In just a few years, there will be three to six African countries where there will be more people in their 60s than in their 30s. This is a staggering human cost. Parenthetically, the economic toll is also breathtaking.
AIDS is predicted to cut the GDP of some African countries by 20 percent within 10 years. It is an epidemic with no natural boundary. Indeed, the fastest-growing rate of infection today is in Russia and the nations of the former Soviet Union. Why? Makes the point of what we should do. In no small measure because those nations, in the aftermath of the end of communism, and actually beginning a few years before, have seen a steady erosion in the capacity of their public health systems to do the basic work that must be done.
We must attack AIDS, of course, within our countries -- in the United States and Britain. But we must also do all we can to stop the disease from spreading in places like Russia and India, where the rates of growth are large, but the overall numbers of infected people are still relatively small. But we must not also forget that the number one health crisis in the world today remains AIDS in Africa. We must do more in prevention, care, medications, and the earliest possible development of an affordable vaccine.
The developing countries themselves hold a critical part of the answer. However limited their resources, they must make treatment and prevention a priority. Whatever their cultural beliefs, they must be honest about the ways AIDS spreads, and how it can be prevented. Talking about AIDS may be difficult in some cultures, but its far easier to tell children the facts of life in any culture than to watch them learn the fact of death.
In China, a country with enough resources to teach all its children to read, only 4 percent of the adults know how AIDS is transmitted. Uganda, on the other hand, has cut the rate of infection by half. So there are a lot of things that the developing world will have to do for itself. This, too, is in no small measure an issue of governance and leadership. But the bulk of the new investment will have to come from the developed world.
In the last few years, our two nations have gotten off to a very good start. And yet the difference between what the world provides and what the world needs for treatment and prevention of AIDS, malaria and TB, is $6 billion a year. Now that may seem like a great deal of money, but think about this: take America's fair share of closing that gap, $1.5 billion. That is about the same as our government spends every year on office supplies, or about what the people of Britain spend every year on blue jeans.
So I hope that some way will be found for the United States and its allies to close that $6-billion gap. It will be a very good investment, indeed. And the economic and social consequences to our friends in Africa and to other places where the rates of growth is even greater, will be quite profound unless we do.
The government alone cannot meet the health needs, but thus far, neither has the market. What is the problem? There is a huge demand for an AIDS vaccine, but the problem is, as all the economists here will readily understand, the demand is among people who have no money to pay for it. Therefore, the companies that could be developing the vaccines have virtually no incentive to put in the massive amounts of research money necessary to do the job. Only 10 percent -- listen to this -- 10 percent of all biomedical research is devoted to diseases that overwhelmingly affect the poorest countries.
Now, we have sharply increased our investment in vaccine research; boosted funding for buying vaccines so that companies know there will be a guaranteed market not just for AIDS, but for other infectious diseases; proposed a tax credit to help provide for future vaccines to encourage more companies to invest in trying to find vaccines where there are none presently.
I think we should expand that approach to the development of drugs and keep pressing pharmaceutical companies to make lifesaving treatments affordable to all. But we can't ask them to go broke; we're going to have to pay them to do it -- directly, or indirectly through tax credits.
One of the best health programs, the best economic development programs and the best anti-poverty strategies, as the Vice Chancellor said very early on today, is a good education. Each additional year spent in school increases wages by 10 to 20 percent in the developing world. A primary education boosts the farmers' output by about 8 percent.
And the education of girls is especially critical. Studies show that literate girls have significantly smaller and healthier families. I want to say just parenthetically here, I'm very grateful for the work that my wife has done over the last eight years around the world to try to help protect young women and girls, get them in school, keep them in school. And I hope that we will do more on that. That can make a huge difference. And there are still cultures where there is dramatically disparate treatment between girls and boys and whether they go to school and whether they can stay. If all children on every continent had the tools to fulfill their God-given potential, the prospect for peace, prosperity and freedom in the developing world would be far greater.
We are making progress. In the past decade, primary enrollments have increased at twice the rate -- twice the rate -- of the 1980s. Still, more than 100 million kids get no schooling at all; 60 percent of them are girls. Almost half of all African children and a quarter of those in South and West Asia are being denied this fundamental right.
Just this year, 181 nations joined to set a goal of providing basic education to every child, girls and boys alike, in every country by 2015. Few of our other efforts will be successful if we fail to reach this goal. What it will take is now known to us all. It's going to take a commitment by the developing countries to propose specific strategies and realistic budgets, to get their kids out of the fields and factories, to remove the fees and other obstacles that keep them out of the classroom. And it's going to take an effort by the wealthier countries to invest in things that are working.
I hope a promising example is something that we in the United States started in the last year: a $300-million global school lunch initiative, using a nutritious meal as an incentive for parents to send their children to school. I am very hopeful that this will increase enrollment, and I believe it will. And I want to thank the U.K. and other countries that are willing to contribute to and support this.
But the main point I want to make is, we can't expect to get all these children in the developing world into schools unless we're willing to help pay. I've been to schools in Africa that have maps that don't have 70 countries that exist today on them. And yet, we know that if they just had one good computer with one good printer, and someone paid for the proper connections, they could get all the information they need in the poorest places in the world to provide good primary education. Should we pay for it? I think it would be a good investment.
Let me say just a few words about the digital divide. Today, South Asia is 700 times less likely to have access to the Internet than America. It's estimated that in 2010, in the Asian Pacific region, the top eight economies will have 72 percent of their people on line; but the bottom 11 will have less than 4 percent. If that happens, the global economy really will resemble a world-wide web, a bunch of interlocking strands with huge holes in between.
It's fair to ask, I suppose, are computers really an answer for people who are starving or can't yet read? Is e-commerce an answer for villages that don't even have electricity? Of course, I wouldn't say that. We have to begin with the basics. But there should not be a choice between Pentium and penicillin. That's another one of those false choices Prime Minister Blair and I have been trying to throw into the waste bin of history.
We should not patronize poor people by saying they don't need 21st century tools and skills. Micro-credit loans in Bangladesh by the Grameen Bank to poor village women to buy cell phones has proved out to be one of the most important economic initiatives in one of the poorest countries in the world.
I went to a village co-op in Nayla, Rajastan, India, last year, last March, and I was astonished to see the women's milk co-op doing all of its billing on computers and marketing on computers. And I saw another computer there that had all the information from the federal and state government with wonderful printers, so that all the village women, no matter how poor, could come in. And one woman came in with a two-week-old baby and printed out all the information about what she ought to do with the baby for the next six months.
So I think it's a cop-out to say that technology cannot be of immense help to very poor people in remote places. If it's done right, it may be of more help to them than to people who are nearer centers of more traditional, economic and educational and health opportunity.
So from my point of view, we have to begin to have more places like those poor villages in India, like the cell phone businesses in Bangladesh, like the city of Hyderabad in India, now being called "Cyberabad." Developing countries have to do their part here, too. They have to have laws and regulations that permit the greatest possible access at the lowest possible cost. And in the developed world, governments have to work with corporations and NGOs to provide equipment and expertise. That's the goal of the digital opportunity task force, which the G-8 has embraced, and I hope we will continue to do that.
Let me just say one word about climate change. If you follow this issue, you know we had a fairly contentious meeting recently about climate change, with no resolution about how to implement the Kyoto agreement, which calls for the advanced nations to set targets and for some mechanisms to be devised for the developing nations to participate. There are lots of controversies about to what extent countries should be able to get credit for sinks. Trees, do the trees have to be planted, can they already be up? To what extent the developing countries should agree to follow a path of development that is different from the one that we followed in the United States and the United Kingdom. I don't want to get into all that now, except to say there will be domestic and regional politics everywhere. But let's look at the facts.
The facts are that the last decade was the hottest decade in a thousand years. If the temperature of the Earth continues to warm at this rate, it is unsustainable. Within something like 50 years, in the United States, the Florida Everglades and the sugar cane fields in Louisiana will be under water. Agricultural production will have to be moved north in many places. And the world will be a very different place. There will be more extreme weather events. There will be more people displaced. It will become virtually impossible in some places to have a sustainable economy. This is a big deal.
And the only thing I would like to say is I do not believe that we will ever succeed unless we convince people -- the interest groups in places like the United States which have been resistant, and the driving political forces in countries like India and China who don't want to think that we're using targets in climate change to keep them poor -- we have to convince them that you can break the link between growing wealth and putting more greenhouse gasses into the atmosphere.
There is ample evidence that this is true, and new discoveries just on the horizon which will make it more true. But it is shocking to me how few people in responsible positions in the public and private sector even know what the present realities are in terms of the relationship in energy use and economic growth. So I think one of the most important things that the developed world ought to be doing is not only making sure we're doing a better job on our own business, which is something the United States has to do -- not only doing more in the missions' trading so that we can get more technology out of the developed world, but making sure people know that this actually works.
An enormous majority of the decision-makers in the developed and the developing world still don't believe that a country can grow rich and stay rich unless it puts more greenhouse gas into the atmosphere every year -- it is not true. And so this is one area where we can make a big contribution to sustainable development and to creating economic opportunities in developing countries, if we can just get people in positions of influence to get rid of a big idea that is no longer true.
As Victor Hugo said, "There's nothing more powerful than an idea whose time has come." The reverse is also true: There's no bigger curse than a big idea that hangs on after its time has gone. And so, I hope all of you will think about that.
Finally, let me just say that no generation has ever had the opportunity that all of us now have to build a global economy that leaves no one behind and, in the process, to create a new century of peace and prosperity in a world that is more constructively and truly interdependent. It is a wonderful opportunity. It is also a profound responsibility. For eight years, I have done what I could to lead my country down that path. I think for the rest of our lives, we had all better stay on it. Thank you very much.
END 3:48 P.M. (L)
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