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Gore says Perot will gain financially with defeat of NAFTA

By
KENNETH R. BAZINET

WASHINGTON -- Vice President Al Gore suggested Tuesday that Ross Perot will gain financially from opposing the North American Free Trade Agreement, but the Texas billionaire called him a liar and dismissed the accusation as being 'Silly Putty.'

Gore explained that Perot will use his family's Fort Worth, Texas, airport to his benefit if NAFTA is defeated by having his own way to do business with Mexico with or without the trade pact.

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'I think he has set it up so that he will benefit financially either way,' Gore said.

Suggesting Gore was using propoganda to attack him, Perot dismissed the accusation as 'all of this other Silly Putty that they throw up.'

'Would you even know the truth if you saw it?' Perot asked the vice president.

Forcing Perot to explain his financial interests in the airport, Gore said what he was saying was the truth.

Gore also asked Perot why he will not release figures on how much money his anti-NAFTA forces are spending on their effort. The Clinton administration and pro-NAFTA forces have been releasing their figures on the cost of their campaign to get the trade pact enacted.

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Perot later gave a partial account, saying he alone has spent at least $800,000 on anti-NAFTA advertising, not including his latest television time. Perot now may be forced to release his NAFTA-related expenditures.

Gore and Perot mixed it up early and often in their debate, which comes just a little more than a week before the Nov. 17 vote in the House of Representatives.

Perot appeared angry at times, outright calling Gore 'a liar,' but the vice president maintained his composure and avoided a name-calling exchange.

Gore, after telling a story about a friend who is a unionized worker in Tennessee who manufactures automobile tires and will gain from NAFTA, asked Perot how he would improve the trade pact.

Perot, who regularly accused the vice president of interrupting him, said he 'would renegotiate' the deal.

Perot brought his trademark charts and photographs, and Gore brought along his own picture.

Gore handed Perot a photo of Rep. Willis C. Hawley and Sen. Reed Smoot -- two of the more well-known trade protectionists in U.S. history. The Smoot-Hawley Tariff Act approved in 1930 by the Congress brought U. S. tariffs to their highest levels in history, and repercussions from that law led to a sharp decline in U.S.-foreign trade.

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Taking a page from President Ronald Reagan, Gore said Smoot-Hawley helped ignite The Great Depression. Reagan would regularly refer to Smoot-Hawley when fending off attempts to impose protectionist trade measures.

Gore said NAFTA should not be opposed based on the 'low wage' argument in Mexico, and said the secret is productivity.NEWLN: (more)

'Give us the opportunity to sell our products, unimpeded...and we'll knock the socks off the workers anywhere in the world,' Gore said.

Gore said NAFTA will mean 200,000 more U.S. jobs in the next few years, but Perot countered the debate by asking: 'If this is all true why is corporate America downsizing?'

Gore pointed out that 400,000 new jobs have been created since 1985 in the United States because of trade with Mexico, and said there is a $6.5 billion U.S. trade surplus with Mexico.

Gore said the Japanese and Europeans are waiting to formulate their own trade deal with Mexico if the U.S. Congress defeats NAFTA next week.

In response to a question from a caller from Mexico City during the debate on the 'Larry King Live' show, Gore said: 'If we don't take this deal, you can bet that Japan will try to take this deal. Europe will try to get this deal.'

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But Perot discounted Gore's response.

'Anytime they get cornered they get into what I call the 'sky-is- falling' routine,' Perot said. 'The sky is not falling. The Japanese are our friends. They are not a threat.'

Gore also said 'distinguished Americans' like retired Gen. Colin Powell, former House Speaker Thomas 'Tip' O'Neill and right-wing television and radio talk show host Rush Limbaugh are all behind NAFTA.

But Perot said those people cannot sell NAFTA to the Congress and the United States. 'This dog just doesn't hunt,' Perot said.

Gore asked Perot what he thought about Powell's support for NAFTA, and Perot responded: 'He's a great soldier, but he doesn't know business.'

Powell is the former chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.

It may have been the first time anyone in the Clinton administration ever called Limbaugh a 'distinguished American.' Limbaugh is a thorn in the side of most Clinton administration policies and policymakers.

Perot said NAFTA will not help to improve Mexico's environment, but Gore said if the pact is defeated the United States will lose all leverage to get the Mexican government to comply with environmental regulations.

Referring to a NAFTA side agreement on the environment, Perot admitted 'they have this little side agreement,' but added that the Mexicans 'are not about to let us go down there' to make sure the environmental regulations are adhered to.

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Perot said the trade pact would allow U.S. companies to take advantage of cheap labor and lax environmental laws, which he said have -- in some cases -- resulted in serious birth defects along the Texas- Mexico border.

Gore dismissed Perot's theory that the Mexicans won't abide by the NAFTA side agreement on the environment. 'If we defeat NAFTA, we will lose all leverage' over the environmental issues, Gore said.

As promised by their respective camps, Vice President Al Gore and Texas billionaire Ross Perot took off the gloves and traded verbal jabs and rhetoric in what the pundits promoted as 'the great NAFTA debate.'

When the dust had settled on the set of the 'Larry King Live' show, where Gore and Perot squared off for 90 minutes Tuesday in front of millions of Cable News Network viewers, both men were left standing -- and the fate of the North American Free Trade Agreement still was in the hands of the House of Representatives. The vote is expected to be taken on Nov. 17.

President Clinton watched the debate in the White House and should have recognized a lot of what he heard, since he can claim already having said nearly everything about NAFTA that came out of the vice president's mouth.

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Both men tried to make their points, pro and con, about NAFTA, but their comments about the specifics of the accord were overshadowed by Gore's finger-pointing and Perot's name-calling.

Gore suggested Perot could gain financially from opposing NAFTA, but the Texas billionaire called him a liar and dismissed the accusation as being 'Silly Putty.'

Gore explained that Perot will use his family's Fort Worth, Texas, airport to his benefit if NAFTA is defeated by having his own way to do business with Mexico with or without the trade pact.

'I think he has set it up so that he will benefit financially either way,' Gore said.

Perot was miffed by the question.

'Do you guys ever do anything but propoganda. Would you even know the truth if you saw it?,' Perot asked the vice president.

Gore answered: 'Oh, yes I would.'

Gore also asked Perot why he would not release figures on how much money his anti-NAFTA forces are spending on their effort.

The Clinton administration and pro-NAFTA forces have been releasing their figures on the cost of their campaign to get the trade pact enacted. Perot now may be forced to release his NAFTA-related expenditures.

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Perot appeared angry at times, outright calling Gore 'a liar,' but the vice president maintained his composure and avoided a name-calling exchange.

A CNN USA Today Gallop Poll taken immediatedly after the debate scored Gore the winner with 59 percent of the viewers saying he won while 32 percent said Perot came out on top.

Gore,after telling a story about a friend who is a unionized worker in Tennessee who will gain from NAFTA, asked Perot how he would improve the trade pact.

Perot, who regularly accused the vice president of interrupting him, said he would renegotiate the deal.

As expected, Perot brought his trademark charts and photographs, and Gore brought along his own picture.

Gore handed Perot a photo of Rep. Willis C. Hawley and Sen. Reed Smoot -- two of the more well-known trade protectionists in U.S. history. The Smoot-Hawley Tariff Act approved in 1930 by the Congress brought U. S. tariffs to their highest levels in history, and repercussions from that law led to a sharp decline in U.S.-foreign trade.

Taking a page from President Ronald Reagan, Gore said Smoot-Hawley helped ignite The Great Depression. Reagan would regularly refer to Smoot-Hawley when fending off attempts to impose protectionist trade measures.

Advertisement

Gore said NAFTA should not be opposed based on the 'low wage' argument in Mexico, and said the secret is productivity.

'Give us the opportunity to sell our products, unimpeded...and we'll knock the socks off the workers anywhere in the world,' Gore said.

Gore said NAFTA will mean 200,000 more U.S. jobs in the next few years, but Perot countered the debate by asking: 'If this is all true why is corporate America downsizing?'

Gore pointed out that 400,000 new jobs have been created since 1985 in the United States because of trade with Mexico. The U.S. has a $6.5 billion trade surplus with Mexico, he said.

Gore said the Japanese and Europeans are waiting to formulate their own trade deal with Mexico if the U.S. Congress defeats NAFTA next week.

In response to a question from a caller from Mexico City, Gore said: 'If we don't take this deal, you can bet that Japan will try to take this deal ... Europe will try to get this deal.'

But Perot again discounted Gore's response.

'Anytime they get cornered they get into what I call the 'sky-is- falling' routine,' Perot said. 'The sky is not falling. The Japanese are our friends. They are not a threat.'

Advertisement

Gore also said 'distinguished Americans' like retired Gen. Colin Powell, former House Speaker Thomas 'Tip' O'Neill and right-wing television and radio talk show host Rush Limbaugh are all behind NAFTA.

But Perot said those people cannot sell NAFTA. 'This dog just doesn't hunt,' Perot said.

Gore asked Perot what he thought about Powell's support for NAFTA, and Perot responded: 'He's a great soldier, but he doesn't know business.'

Powell is the former chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.

It may have been the first time anyone in the Clinton administration ever called Limbaugh a 'distinguished American.' Limbaugh is a thorn in the side of most Clinton administration policies and policymakers.

Referring to a NAFTA side agreement on the environment, Perot said 'they have this little side agreement,' but added that the Mexicans 'are not about to let us go down there' to make sure the environmental regulations are observed.

Perot said the trade pact would allow U.S. companies to take advantage of cheap labor and lax environmental laws, which he said have, in some cases, resulted in serious birth defects along the Texas-Mexico border.

Gore dismissed Perot's theory that the Mexicans won't abide by the NAFTA side agreement on the environment. 'If we defeat NAFTA, we will lose all leverage' over the environmental issues, Gore said.

Advertisement

e waiting to formulate their own trade deal with Mexico if the U.S. Congress defeats NAFTA next week.

In response to a question from a caller from Mexico City, Gore said: 'If we don't take this deal, you can bet that Japan will try to take this deal ... Europe will try to get this deal.'

But Perot again discounted Gore's response.

'Anytime they get cornered they get into what I call the 'sky-is- falling' routine,' Perot said. 'The sky is not falling. The Japanese are our friends. They are not a threat.'

Gore also said 'distinguished Americans' like retired Gen. Colin Powell, former House Speaker Thomas 'Tip' O'Neill and right-wing television and radio talk show host Rush Limbaugh are all behind NAFTA.

But Perot said those people cannot sell NAFTA. 'This dog just doesn't hunt,' Perot said.

Gore asked Perot what he thought about Powell's support for NAFTA, and Perot responded: 'He's a great soldier, but he doesn't know business.'

Powell is the former chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.

It may have been the first time anyone in the Clinton administration ever called Limbaugh a 'distinguished American.' Limbaugh is a thorn in the side of most Clinton administration policies and policymakers.

Advertisement

Referring to a NAFTA side agreement on the environment, Perot said 'they have this little side agreement,' but added that the Mexicans 'are not about to let us go down there' to make sure the environmental regulations are observed.

Perot said the trade pact would allow U.S. companies to take advantage of cheap labor and lax environmental laws, which he said have, in some cases, resulted in serious birth defects along the Texas-Mexico border.

Gore dismissed Perot's theory that the Mexicans won't abide by the NAFTA side agreement on the environment. 'If we defeat NAFTA, we will lose all leverage' over the environmental issues, Gore said.

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