Compilation of Weekly Presidential Documents - Monday, December 7, 1998 Volume 34, Issue 49; ISSN: 0511-4187 Remarks on electronic commerce

Monday, December 7, 1998


Volume 34, Issue 49; ISSN: 0511-4187


Remarks on electronic commerce

William J Clinton



� November 30, 1998



� Thank you very much. I feel like the fifth wheel here. [Laughter]

Most of what needs to be said has certainly been said.



� I want to thank the Vice President for his outstanding leadership.

I thank Secretary Rubin and Ambassador Barshefsky and, in his

absence, Secretary Daley; Administrator Alvarez, Mr. Podesta, and

other members of the administration. I thank all the members of the

high-tech community in various forms and permutations who are here

in this audience today.



� And I, too, want to thank the Members of Congress for their

invaluable help. In spite of the ups and downs of partisan debate in

Washington, this is one area where we've managed to really pull

together a broad bipartisan coalition of Members of Congress to do a

whole series of good things for America, through the Internet, over

the long run.



� I want to specifically thank Congressman Cox and Senator Wyden for

sponsoring the Internet Tax Freedom Act. I want to thank Senator

Hatch, who led the efforts on the copyright protection legislation.

I thank Senator Burns, the cochair of the Internet caucus and who,

along with Senators Rockefeller and Dorgan, who are here, have

played crucial roles on the Senate Commerce Committee in passing

electronic commerce legislation; and Congressman Pickering, who has

assisted us in the privatization of the domain name system and on

many other issues. So I'd like to ask you to give these Members of

Congress a round of applause. I thank them for what they are doing.




� I'm very grateful to John Chambers and Meg Whitman for being here

today and for what they do with their own companies and what they

represent for our country's future. I've been wondering what I was

going to do in a couple years. I think I could be a successful

trader on eBay, you know? [Laughter] At least I know where I can go

and get my political memorabilia now. [Laughter]



� I always liked John Chambers until I found out he had 70 vice

presidents. [Laughter] I don't know what to make of that. He's more

important than I am? He's less efficient than I am? [Laughter] Or

one great Vice President is enough. How's that? [Laughter]



� I also want to thank my friend of 30 years now, Ira Magaziner, who

has been acknowledged, and who's here with his wonderful family, for

years of work, including many months when this work did not get

anything like this level of attention which it has today.



� As all of you know, Thanksgiving weekend marked the beginning of

the holiday shopping center and a new holiday tradition. Last year

only 10 percent of those with home computers shopped for holiday

gifts on-line; this year the figure is predicted to be over 40

percent. On-line shoppers are buying everything from the latest

electronics to oldtime Babe Ruth and Lou Gehrig baseball cards,

thanks to eBay. This new era, therefore, will not only transform

commerce, it will lift America's economy in the 21st century.



� This Thanksgiving I had a chance again to give thanks for these

good times in our country. Less than a decade ago, people were

worrying that America could not keep up with global competition.

Today, we have the strongest economy in a generation, about 17

million new jobs, the largest real wage growth in 20 years, the

lowest unemployment in 28 years, the smallest percentage of people

on welfare in 29 years. And we're leading the world in the

technologies of the future, from telecommunications to




� The qualities rewarded in this new economy, flexibility,

innovation, creativity, enterprise, are qualities that have long

been associated with Americans and our economy. We have to keep this

momentum going. That's really what we're here to celebrate, ratify,

and commit ourselves to today.



� I think the first thing we have to do is to stay with the economic

policies that have worked for the last 6 years: fiscal discipline,

expanding trade, investing in education and research and

development. I think we have to do more work here at home to expand

the benefits of the economic recovery to areas and people who have

not yet felt it, and I believe the Internet has an enormous

potential role to play there.



� I believe, to keep this going, we're going to have to do more to

contain the economic crisis in the world, to reverse it in Asia, and

to deal with the long-term challenges to global financial markets,

which Secretary Rubin and I and others are working very hard on.



� But finally, I think we have to clearly commit ourselves to making

the most of what is clearly the engine of tomorrow's economy:

technology. We have to make ourselves absolutely committed to the

proposition that we will first do no harm. We will do nothing that

undermines the capacity of emerging technologies to lift the lives

of ordinary Americans and, secondly, that, insofar as we can, we

will help to create an environment which will enhance the likelihood

of success. That is what we are fundamentally celebrating today and

committing ourselves to for tomorrow.



� Information technology now accounts for more than a third of our

economic growth. It has boosted our productivity and reduced

inflation by a full percentage point. Obviously, few applications of

this technology have more power than electronic commerce. If all the

sales being conducted over the Internet were taking place at one

shopping mall, that mall would have to be 30 times the size of the

largest mall in the world, Minnesota's Mall of America. Five years

from now we would need a facility 1,000 times the size of the Mall

of America to handle the volume of sales.



� Now, to fulfill this promise, we have to create the conditions for

electronic entrepreneurs. You've heard that discussed. That's why I

asked the Vice President to coordinate, and Ira Magaziner to work on

building a framework for global economic commerce back in late 1995.

That's why we committed ourselves to the proposition that the

Internet should be a free-trade zone with incentives for

competition, protection for consumers and children, supervised not

by governments but by people who use the Internet every day.



� This year 132 nations followed the U.S. lead by signing a

declaration to refrain from imposing customs duties on electronic

commerce. We reached agreements supporting our market-driven

approach with the European Union, Japan, and other nations. Today

the Australian Prime Minister and I will issue a joint statement

along these same lines. Working with Congress, industry, State and

local officials, we passed a law to put a 3-year moratorium on new

and discriminatory taxes on electronic commerce. And again, I thank

Secretary Rubin and Deputy Secretary Summers for their work on that.



� We ratified an international treaty to protect intellectual

property on-line. We made it possible to conduct official

transactions electronically. We secured the funds to challenge the

Nation's research community to develop the next generation Internet.

We passed a law to protect the privacy of our children on-line.

We're working with companies representing a large share of the

Internet traffic to help them meet our privacy guidelines. We have

effectively privatized the Internet's domain name and routing

systems. We have moved to improve the security and reliability of

cyberspace by focusing attention on protecting critical

infrastructures and solving the Y2K computer problem.



� Now, that's a pretty impressive line of work for all concerned. But

we see there are still challenges to overcome. Many people who surf

the Web still don't shop there. They worry they won't get what they

thought they were paying for. They'll have nowhere to go if they get

cheated. We've already begun to address these fears, not with

burdensome regulations that might stifle growth and innovation but

with incentives for on-line companies to offer customers the

protections they need.



� We must do more. Our country has some of the strongest consumer

protections in the world. Today I ask Secretary Daley to work with

the FTC and other agencies, consumer advocates, industry, and our

trading partners to develop new approaches to extend the proud

tradition of consumer protection into cyberspace, to ensure truthful

advertising and full disclosure of information are the foundations

of global electronic commerce. People should get what they pay for

on-line; it should be easy to get redress if they don't.



� We must give consumers the same protection in our virtual mall they

now get at the shopping mall. And if the virtual mall is to grow, we

must help small businesses and families gain access to the same

services at the same speed that big business enjoys.



� For many people, connections are so slow that shopping at the

virtual mall is filled with frustration. It is as if they had to

drive over dirt roads to get to the mall, only to find an endless

line of customers just waiting to get into the door. So today I'll

also direct Secretary Daley and Ambassador Barshefsky to work with

the FCC and our trading partners to promote greater competition to

bring advanced high-speed connections into our homes and small

businesses, to ensure that the Internet continues to evolve in ways

that will benefit all our people.



� Our Nation was founded at the dawn of a period not so very unlike

this one, a period of enormous economic upheaval when the world was

beginning to move from an agrarian to an industrial economy.

Alexander Hamilton, our first Secretary of the Treasury, understood

these changes well. In his remarkable "Report on Manufacturers" and

other of his writings, Hamilton identified new ways to harness the

changes then going on so that our Nation could advance.



� Listen to this. He proposed what many thought were radical ideas at

the time: a central bank, a common currency, a national system of

roads and canals, a crackdown on fraud so that American products

would be known all over the world for quality. He created the

blueprint that made possible America's industrial age and, many of

us believe, the preservation of the American Union.



� Today, we are drawing up the blueprints for a new economic age, not

for starting big institutions but for freeing small entrepreneurs.

We have the honor of designing the architecture for a global

economic marketplace, with stable laws, strong protections for

consumers, serious incentives for competition, a marketplace to

include all people and all nations.



� Now, I may not know as much about cable modems and T-1 lines as the

Vice President-[laughter]-I think we made a living of jokes out of

that for 6 years. But I do know, thanks to his and others' work,

that electronic commerce gives us an extraordinary opportunity to

usher in the greatest age of prosperity not only Americans but

people all over the world have ever known.



� To me, the most moving thing said from this podium today involved

the stories of people in Africa and Latin America lifting themselves

from abject poverty through access to the Internet. That can happen

to more than a billion other people in ways that benefit all of us,

if we do this right.



� We have made a good beginning. I am confident we will finish the




� Thank you very much.



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