9 September 1998
Jump to remarks on E-commerce and privacy.
08 September 1998
(Cites problems with EU in farm products, high-tech areas) (1420) Dublin -- Secretary of Commerce William M. Daley appealed to the Business Leaders of Ireland to weigh in "on European trade issues like never before." Speaking to the business leaders at a meeting September 4 in Dublin, Daley said that in his private meetings later in the day, he would express the trade concerns of the congressional delegation currently in Ireland representing high-tech business and the farm states in the United States. Citing an example of how a trade barrier was erected to keep U.S. farmers from selling their corn to Spain and Portugal this year, he urged the Irish businessmen to bend their efforts toward preventing such barriers to products that consumers want and to help make the approval process [within the European Union] faster and more transparent for everybody. Daley pointed out that the European Union's "privacy directive goes into effect in October, and it could bar millions of transactions between Europe and America. So, we are actively engaged in discussions to avoid problems. Again, we hope Ireland -- home to Gateway ... home to Dell, Intel, Digital, and many others -- will weigh in on this, too." Following is the text of his remarks: (Begin text) Remarks by U.S. Secretary of Commerce William M. Daley to Business Leaders of Ireland September 4, 1998 Dublin, Ireland In the last few days, when I was with President Clinton in Moscow, one question we focused on was: Why are foreign companies shying away from investing in Russia? And in June, when I brought 16 American companies to Belfast, Derry, and the border counties, the question of investment also was asked -- over and over. Obviously, it was asked because it means jobs. It means growth. It means bringing in technology. And for Americans it means opening new markets and expanding sales that could lead to more jobs back home. In fact, from our trade mission in June, our companies found 30 sales leads that could be worth $40 million. Four companies are opening offices in Northern Ireland -- all of them small American entrepreneurs. But to be frank with you, the Fortune 500 companies are waiting for the peace process to work before they feel they can safely invest in the North. Obviously, it is different here in the Republic. There are about 500 American companies here. They employ almost 70,000 workers -- a remarkable percent of the Irish work force. We obviously have a large stake in each other's economies. Our companies are citizens of both countries. We are affected by what you do. And you are affected by what we do. So the question we need to ask is not about investments. Rather, it is: How can we work together to make the trade rules fairer for all of these many investments? It is amazing to me that almost 90 percent of your economic output is exports. And the fact is, as a founding member of the European single currency, your economy will be entwined with your neighbors, as never before. So, it is very important, I think, that Ireland weighs in on European trade issues like never before. It is equally important for the American business community to work with the Irish leaders to weigh in on these issues. Back in the states, there are a number of avenues for businesses to have their opinions heard: through the Department of Commerce, the Trade Rep's (Office of the U.S. Trade Representative) Office, and, of course, their congressmen. Sometimes our members of Congress spend more time being lobbied than they spend on the floor debating bills. I am sure they would love it if American companies shared the wealth with government officials here in Ireland. In my private meetings today I will express some trade concerns of our businesses here. Also, I will express concerns of our congressional delegation. They represent farm states. They represent high-tech companies. Two issues, in particular, come to mind. First is the issue of farm products. In our country farmers routinely grow corn and other products that have been improved through bio-engineering. Companies like Monsanto, with operations here, have developed many of these products. Farmers like them because they keep the bugs away. We feel they are safe to eat. In fact, they now make up about 10 percent of our market. After several years in the approval process, some of these corn varieties were finally approved by the European Commission this spring. Our farmers had hoped to sell them in Spain and Portugal this year. But every member country also had to approve. And France, claiming national political concerns, delayed approval until August. So, France prevented our farmers from selling in Spain and Portugal this season. That cost us $100 million in lost exports. And you and I know who is benefiting. Currently, there are other varieties waiting to be approved. And there are growing concerns about how to label these bio-engineered products. We obviously want to do what is right for European consumers. But the point I want to make is: Let us not erect barriers to products that consumers want. These crops will be ever more important to farmers around the world. And they will be ever more important to companies with workers in America, in Ireland, and around the world. So, we hope that you weigh in on this issue, and help make the approval process faster and more transparent for everybody. The second issue is electronic commerce. As you know, the President will be at Gateway 2000 later today. Here is an American company that started with two workers in Iowa in 1985. It now does $6 billion in business, almost 20 percent of that outside the United States. When President Clinton took office five and a half years ago, there were 50 web sites on the Internet. Now, 65,000 pages are added -- every hour. In fact, last week on Commerce's web site, right before hurricane Bonnie hit, a million people looked at our weather information -- in one hour. It is a new world out there -- for consumers, for educators, for government, for businesses. Large businesses are using the technology to fundamentally change the way they operate. What is most significant is that a small store can now sell its products around the world -- just as a Fortune 500 company, with a massive distribution system, does today. That is a tremendously different world than when I went into business. Today at Gateway 2000, President Clinton will have an announcement on how we will promote the growth of electronic commerce in our two countries. But I have always felt the one issue that will make or break this is privacy. If consumers feel when they buy a book or trade a stock on-line that someone is keeping a personal profile on them, it will be the last time they purchase something on the Internet. We are working to enhance privacy protection within the United States. Our companies have stepped forward in the last few months. They want to tell the public what happens to the information they collect. They want to give the consumer a chance to say "no" to the collection of information. They want to stop collecting data from children without permission from parents. And our companies are willing to submit to third-party enforcement. But the European Union has a very different approach than us. Their privacy directive goes into effect in October, and it could bar millions of transactions between Europe and America. So, we are actively engaged in discussions to avoid problems. Again, we hope Ireland -- home to Gateway ... home to Dell, Intel, Digital, and many others -- will weigh in on this, too. Let me end by saying, your economy is healthy -- not like the very sick economies facing a quarter of the world's people today. But in this global economy, what we have seen is when there are problems in Russia or in Japan, when there are questions about China's economy, it affects what happens in America. In Latin America. In Europe. And I hope that a healthy Ireland seizes this chance to help other European countries work together. As the President said in Russia, "If you wish to be part of the international economy, there is no way out of playing by the rules of the international economy." Thank you very much. (End text)