Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Clinton Sells Trade Pact to Friendly Audience Accord Will Create Jobs, He Proclaims to Dockworkers

Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Clinton Sells Trade Pact to Friendly Audience Accord Will Create Jobs, He Proclaims to Dockworkers

Article excerpt

With crates of potential exports towering over him, President Bill Clinton promoted a free-trade pact before friendly dockworkers Wednesday.

Visiting the bustling New Orleans port less than a year after President George Bush made the same trip to promote the same trade pact, Clinton told a crowd in a warehouse: "This is a good deal. It's a winner. We ought to take it."

He was talking of the North American Free Trade Agreement, which would create the world's largest free trade zone by eliminating over the next 15 years virtually all barriers to trade and investment among the United States, Mexico and Canada.

In his talk, he hammered home the theme free-trade supporters have settled on: that NAFTA will create, not cost, jobs.

Without mentioning Texas billionaire Ross Perot by name, Clinton also told his audience: "The people who are afraid of this agreement are quite well-organized. Some of them have a dollar or two, as you may know, and they need to hear from you."

Asked by reporters if he was losing the public relations battle to Perot, Clinton snapped, "No. Why do you guys keep asking that question? . . . It's not about me and him. It's about the American people and their future."

On two television talk shows Wednesday, Perot warned that the agreement would throw up to 5 million Americans out of work, destroy the American middle class and wreck the federal government's tax base.

And the difficulty of Clinton's mission was evident even among his friends. Clinton was preceded at the warehouse by Sen. John Breaux, D-La., who told the crowd that NAFTA "is about creating jobs." However, Breaux earlier told reporters that he would have to oppose the agreement unless steps were taken to protect sugar cane farmers.

Clinton, in his appearance, took on a role akin to a TV talk-show host, interviewing workers and executives whose businesses are tied to trade with Mexico. Seated on shipping crates, the pro-NAFTA guests passed around a microphone and told why they supported the pact. …

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