May 23, 1988
The President. Secretary Verity, Secretary McLaughlin, Secretary Lyng, and ladies and gentlemen: I'd like to welcome all of you to the White House. We have quite an array of experts here today, including Members of Congress; representatives from the President's Export Council, the Export Now Advisory Committee, the Departments of Commerce, Labor, and Agriculture; and of course, members of trade and professional groups.
And now, for these garden events, I've always followed Lyndon Johnson's guidelines. He said there are two basic kinds of speeches. The first is the Mother Hubbard speech, which covers everything but touches nothing. The second is the bikini speech, which covers only the essentials. And today I'll try to stick to the second and cover only the essential points. That's obviously the 12 winners here today, who are the recipients of the 1988 "E'' and "E Star'' Awards for their sustained contributions to our nation's export expansion efforts. Your work is the vital machine that produces prosperity for America. Exports mean jobs for our people and you -- the growth and -- well, that's why it's always a pleasure, I was going to say -- the profits for our businesses and the jobs for our people that you mean and the growth of our economy. And I think that's why it's a pleasure to present the well-deserved "E'' and "E Star'' Awards.
And this year's ceremony couldn't have come at a better time. Last week the Commerce Department announced a remarkable reduction in the Nation's trade deficit. The trade deficit declined to $9\3/4\ billion for March from the February figure of $13.83 billion. This was overwhelmingly due to the 23-percent jump in exports that the award winners here today helped fuel. Yet even with all this profoundly optimistic news, the pessimists just won't give up. You've got to hand it to them, they see the dark cloud behind every silver lining. Sometimes economic reporting resembles nothing so much as a hall of mirrors where good news becomes bad. Dropping unemployment means "rising fears of inflation.'' The fact that we're in the longest peacetime expansion in history can only mean calamity is just around the corner. And just the other night, one network managed to turn the American export boom into economic gloom. "An export boom,'' they said, and I'm quoting, "may also mean a bust in the same region.''
Well, it reminds me of the story about Harry Truman and his use of colorful language. It seems that Eleanor Roosevelt called Bess one day and in the course of the conversation asked where Harry was and what he was doing, and Bess said, "He's out putting manure on the flower garden.'' And Eleanor said, "Oh, Bess, can't you get him to use some other term like fertilizer instead of manure?'' And Bess said, "It's taken me 20 years to get him to call it manure.'' [Laughter]
Well, I won't keep you here all day, but before handing out the awards, there's one other point I want to bring up. As many of you know, I launched the Export Now campaign on February 24, and I'm glad to say it's in full swing. Our aim is to make sure that all American businesses -- small, medium, and large -- are aware of the great opportunities that exist in exporting. Of course, the recent trade figures, with a genuine boom in exports, show that plenty of businesses have already received the message. But there are thousands more that are still hesitant and uncertain, and it is these we want to reach. More than 40 States are on board the Export Now campaign, and they've appointed their trade experts to work with Commerce Department offices around the country. The Export Now staff has handled over 1,000 requests for information and arranged for speakers and other participation in over 300 events nationwide. And soon we'll have solid figures on new companies that have entered exporting or present exporters and have found new markets. That will be the test of how well we're doing, but it's still too early to rack up the results.
For myself, I have no doubts that the Yankee trading spirit is alive and well. Our products are of world-class quality. Our costs are now among the lowest in the world. And we're shipping overseas everything from doughnut makers to locomotives. It's people like you who will catapult America into the Roaring Nineties. So, keep up the good work. And thank you, and God bless you. And now, with Secretary Verity's help, we'll present the awards.
Reporter. Are you going to make a deal with Noriega, Mr. President? How about Noriega? Are you going to make a deal before Wednesday?
The President. We're not going by time; we're going by quality.
Q. Have you agreed to drop the drug charges, Mr. President?
The President. Nothing has been settled; it's still in the works.
Note: The President spoke at 11:34 a.m. in the Rose Garden at the White House. In his opening remarks, the President referred to Secretary of Commerce C. William Verity, Jr., Secretary of Labor Ann D. McLaughlin, and Secretary of Agriculture Richard Lyng. Recipients of the "E'' Award were Rod Canion, of Compaq Computer Corp., Houston, TX; G. Gregory Smith, of Electrical South, Inc., Greensboro, NC; Karsten Solheim, of Karsten Manufacturing Co., Phoenix, AZ; Walter LeCroy, of LeCroy Corp., Chestnut Ridge, NY; Gary Parker, of Lindsay International Sales Corp., Lindsay, NE; J. Walter Kisling, of Multiplex Co., Ballwin, MO; Raymond Gawronski, of Dresser Industries, Salisbury, MD; and Ralph Nolte, of Port Longview, Longview, WA. Recipients of the "E Star'' Awards were G. William Hunter, of the Port of Oakland, Oakland, CA; Pauline Chambers Yost, of Technical Rubber Co., Johnstown, OH; R.E. Cartledge, of Union Camp Corp., Savannah, GA; and Dorothy Weaver, of the Greater Miami Chamber of Commerce, Miami, FL.