[Public Papers of the Presidents of the United States: William J. Clinton (1995, Book I)]
[January 13, 1995]
[Pages 41-46]
[From the U.S. Government Publishing Office www.gpo.gov]

Remarks in Cleveland, Ohio, at the White House Conference on Trade and 
Investment in Central and Eastern Europe
January 13, 1995

    Thank you very much. Mayor White, Congressmen Stokes and Sawyer and 
Brown, distinguished officials here from Cleveland and Cuyahoga County. 
Secretary Brown, thank you for your kind introduction. That was an 
illustration of Bill Clinton's second law of politics, that 
introduction: Whenever possible, be introduced by someone you've 
appointed to high office. You always get a good one. [Laughter]
    I do want to say here that I believe, in the history of the 
Department of Commerce, there has never been a better Secretary than Ron 
Brown. I am grateful to him for his dedication to the American business 
community and to the growth of the American economy and for his 
commitment to international outreach.
    I thank the Commerce Department and the Business Council for 
International Understanding for organizing this conference. You've 
assembled an impressive and diverse group: delegations from Central and 
Eastern Europe, business leaders from the United States and Europe, 
American ethnic leaders from all around our country, and so many 
outstanding State and local officials. I thank you all for being here.
    I have to say, I'm especially pleased that we're meeting in 
Cleveland. Many of the men and women who made this great city a 
foundation of America's industrial heartland came to our shores from 
Central Europe. With just a little money but lots of determination and 
discipline and vision, they helped to build our great Nation. And now 
their children and their grandchildren are leaders in Cleveland and in 
dozens of other American communities all across our country. Strong 
bonds of memory, heritage, and pride link them today to Europe's 
emerging democracies. So it's fitting that we should be meeting here.
    I also chose Cleveland because people here know what it takes to 
adapt to the new global economy. Whether you're in this great State or 
in Central Europe's coal and steel belt, meeting the challenges of 
change are hard. But Cleveland, Cleveland is transforming itself into a 
center for international trade. And it is a real model for economic 
growth throughout our country. Already, Cleveland exports $5.5 billion 
worth of goods every year. And that trade supports 100,000 jobs. 
Cleveland was one of the cities to recently win a highly competitive 
effort to secure one of our empowerment zones. And Cleveland was 
selected because of the remarkable partnership that has been put 
together here between the public and private sectors. So I'm very glad 
to be here.
    I came to this office with a mission for my country that involves 
all the countries represented here today. I came because I believed we 
had to make some changes to keep the American dream alive in the United 
States, to restore a sense of opportunity and possibility to our people 
in a time of great and sweeping change, and to give us a clear sense of 
purpose at the end of the cold war, as we move toward the 21st century. 
But I also wanted us to move into that new century still the world's 
leader for peace and democracy, for freedom, and for prosperity. This 
conference symbolizes both those objectives.
    We have worked hard in the United States to get our economy going 
again, to get our Government deficit down, to invest in our people and 
the technologies of the future, to expand trade for our own benefit. We 
have been fortunate in this country in the last 2 years in generating 
over 5\1/2\ million new jobs and having a new sense that we could bring 
back every important sector of our economy. But we know that over the 
long run, our success economically in America depends upon our being 
true to our values here at home and around the world.
    And so I say to you that I came here today because I know that 
America must remain engaged in the world. If we do so, clearly we have 
an historic opportunity to enhance the security and increase the 
prosperity of our own people in a society that we hope will be 
characterized forever more by trade and culture and learning across 
national lines than by hatred and fighting and war.
    Many of you in this room are proving that proposition every day. The 
new partnerships that you are forging between America and Central Europe 
bring tangible benefits to all the people involved. Increased trade and 
investment pro-

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motes our exports. It gives our people new skills and creates good 
jobs--but not only for us, for our trading partners as well. And it 
plays another very important role: It gives us a dividend by helping the 
nations with which we trade, and especially the nations in Central 
Europe, to consolidate their hard-won democracy on a foundation of free 
enterprise and political freedom.
    In all of our countries, we stand at the start of a new era, an era 
of breathtaking change and expanding opportunities. The explosion of 
trade and technology has produced a new global economy in which people 
and ideas and capital come together more quickly, more easily, more 
creatively than ever before. It is literally true that the end of the 
cold war has liberated millions of Europeans and introduced both free 
markets and democracy to countries not only there but on every continent 
of the globe.
    But this promise is also clouded by fear and uncertainty. Economic 
uncertainty, the breakdown of the old rules of the social contract is a 
problem in every advanced Western democracy and in wealthy countries in 
the East, like Japan. And beyond that and even deeper, aggression by 
malicious states, transnational threats like overpopulation and 
environmental degradation, terrible ethnic conflicts, and the 
proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, all these problems beyond 
our own borders make it tempting to many Americans to retrench behind 
our borders, to say, ``Look, we've got a lot of possibilities, and we've 
got more problems than we can handle here at home, so let's just forget 
about the rest of the world for a while. We did our job in the cold war. 
We spent our money to keep the world free from communism. And we are 
tired, and we've got plenty to do here.'' There are many people who 
believe exactly that in this country and in our Congress.
    But the very fact of democracy's triumph in the cold war, while it 
has led some to argue that we ought to confine our focus to challenges 
here at home and to say we cannot afford to lead anymore, in fact 
imposes on us new responsibilities and new opportunities. And I would 
argue that we cannot benefit the American people here at home unless we 
assume those responsibilities and seize those opportunities.
    Those who say we can just walk away have views that are 
shortsighted. We must reach out, not retrench. I will continue to work 
in this new Congress with both the Republicans and the Democrats to 
forge a bipartisan coalition of internationalists who share those same 
convictions. The agreement we reached yesterday with congressional 
leaders from both sides of the aisle to help Mexico restore full 
confidence in its economy demonstrates the potential of a coalition 
committed to America's interests in the world of tomorrow. And I will do 
everything in my power, as I have done for 2 years now, to keep our 
country engaged in the world. I won't let anyone or anything divert the 
United States from this course. The whole future of the world and the 
future of our children here in the United States depend on our continued 
involvement and leadership in the world.
    History teaches us, after all, that security and prosperity here at 
home require that we maintain a focus abroad. Remember that after World 
War I the United States refused the leadership role. We withdrew behind 
our borders, behind our big trade barriers. We left a huge vacuum that 
was filled with the forces of hatred and tyranny. The resulting struggle 
to preserve our freedom in World War II cost millions of lives and 
required all the energy and resources we could muster to forestall an 
awful result.
    After the Second World War, a wise generation of Americans refused 
to let history repeat itself. So in the face of the Communist challenge, 
they helped to shape NATO, the Marshall plan, GATT, and the other 
structures that ensured 50 years of building prosperity and security for 
America, for Western Europe, and Japan.
    Ultimately, the strength of those structures, the force of 
democracy, and the heroic determination of peoples to be free produced 
victory in the cold war. Now, in the aftermath of that victory, it is 
our common responsibility not to squander the peace. We must realize the 
full potential of that victory. Now that freedom has been won, all our 
people deserve to reap the tangible rewards of their sacrifice, people 
in the United States and people in Central Europe. Now that freedom has 
been won, our nations must be determined that it will never be lost 
    The United States is seizing this moment. History has given us a 
gift, and the results are there to prove it. Because of the agreements 
we reached with Russia, with Belarus, with Kazakhstan, with Ukraine, for 
the first time since the dawn of the nuclear age, Americans can go to 
bed at night knowing that nuclear

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weapons from the former Soviet Union are no longer pointed at our 
    Our patient but hardheaded diplomacy has secured an agreement with 
North Korea on nuclear issues that is clearly and profoundly in our 
interest. The critics of that agreement are wrong. The deal stops North 
Korea's nuclear program in its tracks. It will roll it back in years to 
come. International inspectors confirm that the program is frozen, and 
they will continue to monitor it. No critic has come up with an 
alternative that isn't either unfeasible or foolhardy.
    Our troops, who maintain their preparedness and their enormous 
capacity to stand up for freedom as the finest fighting force in the 
world, have stood down Iraq's threat to the security of the Persian 
Gulf. They caused the military regime in Haiti to step down peacefully, 
to give the Haitians a chance at democracy. We're using our influence 
constructively to help people from the Middle East to southern Africa to 
transform their conflicts into cooperation.
    We have used our ability to lead on issues like GATT and NAFTA and 
the Asian-Pacific Economic Cooperation council and the Summit of the 
Americas to help to create a new trading system for the next century. 
Already trade is becoming more free and more fair and producing better 
jobs for our people and for others around the world.
    In Central Europe, as elsewhere, the United States has moved 
aggressively to shape the future. The reasons are simple: Helping 
Central Europe to consolidate democracy, to build strong economies is 
clearly the best way to prevent assaults on freedom that, as this 
century has so painfully demonstrated, can turn quickly into all-
consuming war. A healthy and prosperous Central Europe is good for 
America. It will become a huge new market for our goods and our 
    America is also engaged with Central Europe because it's the right 
thing to do. For four and a half decades, we challenged these nations to 
cast away the shackles of communism. Now that they have done so, surely 
we have an obligation to work with them--all of you who are here--to 
make sure that your people share with our people the rewards of freedom 
that the next century and the new economy can bring.
    Some argue that open government and free markets can't take root in 
some countries, that there are boundaries, that there will necessarily 
be boundaries to democracy in Europe. They would act now in anticipation 
of those boundaries by creating an artificial division of the new 
continent. Others claim that we simply must not extend the West's 
institution of security and prosperity at all, that to do so would upset 
a delicate balance of power. They would confine the newly free peoples 
of Central Europe to a zone of insecurity and, therefore, of 
    I believe that both those visions for Europe are too narrow, too 
skeptical, perhaps even too cynical. One year ago this week, in 
Brussels, in Prague, in Kiev, in Moscow, and in Minsk, I set forth a 
vision of a different Europe, a new Europe that would be an integrated 
community of secure and increasingly prosperous democracies, a Europe 
that for the first time since nation-states came into existence on the 
European Continent would not be subject to a dividing line. With our 
engagement with the countries of Central Europe and the former Soviet 
Union, we can help to make that vision a lasting reality.
    First, Europe must be secure. The breakup of the Soviet Union has 
made the promise of security more real than it has been for decades. But 
reform in Russia and all the states of the former Soviet Union will not 
be completed overnight, in a straight line, or without rocky bumps in 
the road. It will prove rough and unsteady from time to time, as the 
tragic events in Chechnya remind us today. Chechnya is part of the 
Russian Federation, and we support the territorial integrity of Russia, 
just as we support the territorial integrity of all its neighbors. But 
the violence must end. I call again on all the parties to stop spilling 
blood and start making peace.
    Every day the fighting in Chechnya continues is a day of wasted 
lives and wasted resources and wasted opportunity. So we again encourage 
every effort to bring to a lasting end the bloodshed. We encourage the 
proposals put forth by the European Union and the Organization for 
Security and Cooperation in Europe. These proposals deserve to be heard 
and embraced.
    Some have used this conflict in Chechnya to question continued 
American support for reform in Russia. But that conflict, terrible 
though it is, has not changed the nature of our interest. We have a 
tremendous stake in the success of Russia's efforts to become a stable 
democratic nation, and so do all the countries represented here today. 
That is why the United States will

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not waver from our course of patient, responsible support for Russian 
reform. It would be a terrible mistake to react reflexively to the ups 
and downs that Russia is experiencing and was bound to experience all 
along and will continue to experience in the years ahead, indeed, 
perhaps for decades, as it undergoes an historic transformation.
    If the forces of reform are embattled, we must renew, not retreat 
from, our support for them. So we will continue again to lead a 
bipartisan effort here at home and an international coalition abroad to 
work with Russia and also with the other New Independent States of the 
former Soviet Union to support reform, to support progress, to support 
democracy, to support freedom.
    We are well aware, too, of Central Europe's security concerns. We 
will never condone any state in Europe threatening the sovereignty of 
its neighbors again. That is why the United States protected Baltic 
independence by pressing successfully for the withdrawal of Russian 
    In this period of great social and political change, we want to help 
countries throughout Central Europe achieve stability, the stability 
they need to build strong democracies and to foster prosperity. To 
promote that stability, the United States established the Partnership 
For Peace. And we have taken the lead in preparing for the gradual, 
open, and inevitable expansion of NATO. In just a year, the Partnership 
For Peace has become a dynamic forum for practical military and 
political cooperation among its members. For some countries, the 
partnership will be the path to full NATO membership. For others, the 
partnership will be a strong and lasting link to the NATO alliance.
    Last month, clearly and deliberately, NATO began to map out the road 
to enlargement. Neither NATO nor the United States can today give a date 
certain for expansion, nor can we say today which countries will be the 
first new members. But let me repeat what I have said before: The 
questions concerning NATO expansion are not whether NATO will expand, 
not if NATO will expand, but when and how. And when expansion begins, it 
will come as no surprise to anyone. Its conditions, its timing, its 
military implications will be well and widely known and discussed in 
    NATO membership is not a right. We expect those who seek to join the 
alliance to prepare themselves, through the Partnership For Peace, for 
the obligations of membership; they are important. Countries with 
repressive political systems, countries with designs on their neighbors, 
countries with militaries unchecked by civilian control or with closed 
economic systems need not apply.
    And let me say once again: Only the 16 members of NATO will decide 
on expansion. But NATO expansion should not be seen as replacing one 
division of Europe with another one. It should, it can, and I am 
determined that it will increase security for all European states, 
members and nonmembers alike. In parallel with expansion, NATO must 
develop close and strong ties with Russia. The alliance's relationship 
with Russia should become more direct, more open, more ambitious, more 
    European security embraces a democratic Russia. But for Central 
Europe to enjoy true security, its nations must also develop not only 
military ties and security arrangements but also successful market 
economies. If we have learned anything about the new century toward 
which we are moving, it is that national security must be defined in 
terms that go far beyond military ideas and concepts. That's why we're 
all here. From Tallinn to Tirana, people must have good jobs so that 
they can provide for their families and feel the self-confidence 
necessary to support democracy. They must have the tools to adapt to 
this rapidly changing global economy. They must have economic 
confidence, in short, to believe in a democratic future.
    Since the fall of the Berlin Wall, the United States has played an 
important role in promoting these goals. We have strongly supported 
Central Europe's integration into the European Union. We have taken 
significant steps to improve access to our own markets, and we have 
provided Central Europe with financial aid, with technical support, and 
with debt relief. This assistance has been used for a staggering array 
of projects, from helping the Czech Republic draft a modern bankruptcy 
code, to training commercial bankers in Slovakia, to advertising and 
equipping modern and independent media throughout the region.
    But for all our Government has done and will continue to do, the 
fact remains that only the private sector can mobilize the vast amounts 
of capital and the human skills and technology needed to help complete 
the transformation of Central Europe's free markets.

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    President Walesa put it to me this way last July: ``What Poland 
needs,'' he said, ``are more American generals, like General Electric 
and General Motors.'' [Laughter] That's not a commercial; I could have 
advertised the other auto companies, the other electric companies. 
Congressman Stokes reminded me that Lincoln Electric here in Cleveland 
just got the Secretary of Commerce's E Award last night. But the point 
is that President Walesa's comment defines national security for Poland 
in a broader context and demonstrates an understanding of what it will 
take for democracy and freedom to flourish.
    In just 5 years, most of the countries in Central Europe have 
undertaken many of the difficult reforms necessary to build credibility 
with investors and trading partners, to make themselves attractive to 
the General Electrics and the General Motors. Bold economic reform 
works. Countries that have pursued it with the greatest conviction have 
rebounded most quickly from the recession. They are among Europe's 
fastest growing economies. And they are drawing the most foreign trade 
and investment.
    More trade and investment is good for Central Europe. But make no 
mistake about it, it's also very good for the United States. For all of 
us, it means more jobs, higher wages, an opportunity to learn the new 
skills we need to succeed in the new global economy. And I say again, it 
means more real security.
    Consider the benefits of just two recent American ventures in 
Central Europe: The International Paper Company of New York bought a 
major mill in Poland, retrained its work force, modernized the mill, and 
turned it into a thriving exporter. It also acquired a strong presence 
in the competitive European market that will generate $30 million in 
American exports in support of hundreds of jobs back here at home.
    Denver-based US West will soon bring nationwide cellular phone 
service to Hungary. That will give Hungarians, who now wait an average 
of 12 years to get a phone, immediate access to modern communications. 
And it will produce $28 million in United States exports and support 
hundreds of jobs here in the United States. I have to say, sort of off 
the record, that we'll also soon make the Hungarians as frayed around 
the edges and overbusy as Americans are with their cellular phones. But 
if they want it, we should help them have it. [Laughter]
    I am very proud that these and literally dozens of other projects 
went forward with the help of loans and insurance and other guarantees 
from the United States Government. But I know what our trade and 
investment in Central Europe could do if we were all to make the most of 
the opportunities that are there. Our involvement should be much 
greater. American companies and investors are second to none in 
identifying good opportunities. But they will reject a project if 
roadblocks to getting it done efficiently and fairly are too high, 
especially given the fierce competition for trade and investment from 
Latin America and Asia.
    Our companies need to be sure that when they make a deal, it won't 
be arbitrarily reversed. They look for full information and reasonable 
regulation. They want clear commercial tax and legal codes. And of 
course they want private sector counterparts, the driving force of 
Central Europe's economies, with whom they can do business.
    One of the most effective roles the United States can play is to 
promote continued reform and to help businesses do business, which of 
course is what this conference is all about. But our efforts did not 
begin and will not end here in Cleveland. Already we have concluded 
investment and taxation treaties with many of the countries represented 
here. The Trade and Development Agency has identified thousands of 
business opportunities throughout Central Europe. Peace Corps volunteers 
are teaching business, banking, and finance skills to new entrepreneurs. 
Our Export-Import Bank is promoting the use of America's products for 
major infrastructure projects and for bringing environmental technology 
and expertise to Central Europe. And today I am pleased to announce that 
the Overseas Private Investment Corporation has set up two new equity 
funds that, together with funds OPIC already supports, should leverage 
more than $4 billion in private investment.
    Every United States economic agency is working hard to help American 
business, big and small, to take advantage of the opportunities in 
Central Europe and around the world. And I want to say that what I said 
about Secretary Brown and the Commerce Department could also be said 
about the Export-Import Bank and the Overseas Private Investment 
Corporation. It is the strongest economic team the United States has 
ever put in the field of international business, and we intend to see it 
keep working

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until we make a success of the ventures like the one we're engaged in 
here today.
    All of their teamwork has proved that Government can work for the 
American people, a proposition very much in doubt in our country today. 
I know how difficult and unsettling this period of change is for so many 
people all over the countries represented in this room and here at home, 
as well. Sometimes it seems that the more you open your eyes to the 
world around you, the more confusing it becomes. But we must not lose 
sight of the fact that even greater forces of history are working for 
the development of human capacities and the fulfillment of human dreams 
than the forces working to undermine them.
    And if we use these great positive forces, if we guide them, if we 
shape them, if we remain committed to making them work for us, we can 
make our people more secure and more prosperous. Look at what is 
happening in Central Europe. Every day, open societies and open 
economies are gaining strength. Every day, new entrepreneurs and 
businesses are spurring growth and are creating jobs in their own 
countries and for us back here in America as well. It is in our national 
interest to help them succeed. We cannot afford to do otherwise.
    Just 6 years ago, the countries of Central Europe were still captive 
nations. Now, 120 million people have the freedom to speak their own 
minds, to create, to build, to prosper, to dream dreams and try to 
fulfill them. This new freedom is the fruit of Europe's struggle and 
America's support. We owe it to those who brought us this far--more 
importantly, we owe it to ourselves and to our children--not to turn our 
backs on their historic achievement or this historic moment. That is why 
this administration will not retreat. We will continue to reach out, 
working together, trading together, joining together. We will fulfill 
the great promise of this moment.
    Thank you very much.

Note: The President spoke at 10:15 a.m. in the Grand Ballroom at the 
Stouffer Renaissance Hotel. In his remarks, he referred to Mayor Michael 
R. White of Cleveland.