Remarks at the Presentation Ceremony for the "E'' and "E Star'' Awards

May 18, 1987

Secretary Baldrige, Ambassador Yeutter, and Secretary Lyng, good morning to all of you. It's a great pleasure to have all of you here, not only to celebrate World Trade Week but to celebrate you, the men and women at the cutting edge of American competitiveness. One of America's greatest assets is the skill and professionalism of its businessmen and women, and entrepreneurs. The can-do spirit of our business community is in stark contrast to the inefficiency and poor performance often associated with other economic systems.

Of course, mistakes do happen. You know the story of the fellow who ordered a bouquet of flowers to be sent to the opening of his friend's new branch office. And when he got there, he was shocked to see flowers with the inscription, "Rest in peace.'' [Laughter] He was so outraged that on the way home he stopped at the florist to complain. And the florist said, "Just think of it this way, today someone in this city was buried beneath a flower arrangement with the inscription, `Good luck in your new location.''' [Laughter]

But it is truly wonderful to have you here. Export leaders like you are living proof that we can compete in world markets. The latest trade statistics, which were released last Thursday, clearly show that things are improving and we're on the right path. Our overall trade deficit declined in March, closing out the third consecutive quarter with a substantial decline. The data on the actual trade volume, the physical amount of goods we import and export, suggests that we will continue to see these kinds of improvements in the months ahead. More important, exports rose by $3.6 billion to the highest level since March of 1981.

I've said all along that the solution to our trade deficit is to export more, not import less by closing our borders. I recognize that the substantial improvement in exports is due to people like you. You demonstrate that the American entrepreneurial spirit is still the guiding spirit of the world economy, just as the American economic recovery of the 1980's has been the energizing force of world growth. That recovery wasn't brought on by raising taxes. It wasn't brought on by protectionism -- trade barriers, tariffs, and quotas -- which is simply another form of taxes. Our economic renaissance was brought on because we cut tax rates and keep cutting them. We slashed unnecessary and counterproductive regulations and held back the destructionist threat to world trade while aggressively working to open markets abroad.

If you want to see how strong our expansion is you just have to look at the numbers -- and the numbers that really count. Unemployment just took another dive to 6.2 percent, the lowest level since the start of the decade. Three hundred and fifty thousand jobs were created last month alone, even more than the already impressive average of 257,000 jobs a month that we've been creating since this expansion began. Altogether, that's 13.6 million new jobs, and a full 60 percent of those jobs are in high-paying occupations, such as managerial, professional, and technical. So much for the so-called declining middle class. Since 1982 manufacturing productivity is shooting ahead at the fastest pace in 20 years, and output has soared almost 30 percent. In the last 4 years we've added more manufacturing jobs than either Europe or Japan. So much for deindustrialization. Venture capital is back on the upswing, presaging another boom on top of a boom of American inventiveness and entrepreneurial growth. In other words, what Europe has called the American miracle just gets more miraculous as our expansion continues.

There's a major danger on the horizon, one specter looming over all those millions of new jobs, threatening to wipe them out as fast as we created them. I'm talking about the destructionist threat. Some call it protectionism, but we saw in the 1930's with the Smoot-Hawley bill what that kind of thinking produces: industrial collapse, ballooning unemployment, and economic misery. At the same time we're working aggressively to close -- open, I should say, closed markets abroad, and we've been more aggressive than any administration in history insisting on free and fair trade practices with our foreign trading partners. Right now in our competitive legislation we're proposing calls for renewed authority to negotiate with our trading partners reduced trade barriers and tougher sanctions against unfair trade practices, antitrust reform, strengthening the export trading company program, amending the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act, product liability reform, intellectual property protection, strengthening U.S. trade laws to reduce trade barriers to create fair opportunities abroad, and export control reform.

But we'll continue to oppose any legislation that threatens to plunge us back into the despair of the 1930's. I'm not going to let political grandstanding destroy millions of American jobs. I renew my promise today: Any protectionist legislation that comes across my desk is going to get a big, fat V-E-T-O written right across it. When our tax reform package is fully in place and all Americans have received the tax rate cuts they've been promised, then America will have the newest, sleekest, most competitive tax system in the world. Together with dynamos like you leading American industry to conquer markets abroad, I have no doubt that the American miracle has just begun.

It's time to hand out those "E'' awards.

Note: The President spoke at 11:30 a.m. in the Rose Garden at the White House. In his opening remarks, the President referred to Secretary of Commerce Malcolm Baldrige, U.S. Trade Representative Clayton Yeutter, and Secretary of Agriculture Richard Lyng. The "E'' and "E Star'' awards for excellence in exporting were first presented in 1982. Recipients of the "E'' Award included American Hardware Manufacturers, Schaumburg, IL; Applied Communications, Omaha, NE; Atlanta Saw Co., Atlanta, GA; Bruce Foods, New Iberia, LA; FR Manufacturing Co., Stockton, CA; Galtek Corp., Chaska, MN; ITC Enterprises Ltd., Baltimore, MD; and Port of Olympia, Olympia, WA. Recipients of the ``E Star'' Award included Black Box Corp., Pittsburgh, PA; Graham Magnetics, Inc., North Richland Hills, TX; and Lamb Electric Division, AMETEK, Kent, OH.