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Clinton Urges 'No' Vote on School Voucher Initiative : Election: He says the plan would seriously hurt public education. Backers of Prop. 174 note that the President's daughter attends a private school.

October 05, 1993|DAVID LAUTER | TIMES STAFF WRITER

"I understand what the American working people don't like about the present system," Clinton said. "The real issue is will the trade agreement make it worse or better. You think it will make it worse. I think it will make it better."

The trade pact, Clinton said, would increase labor and environmental standards in Mexico and increase U.S. exports as a result. If the pact does not go through, he warned, other countries are likely to move in to exploit the Mexican market and that would only make U.S. trade problems worse.

"We've got a trade problem, all right," he said. But the real problem is with Asia, not with Mexico.

"Is it a perfect agreement? No," Clinton said. "But I don't want to make the perfect the enemy of the better." The proposed agreement "is better than the present."

Clinton's audience, which had heard a strong speech critical of the agreement earlier in the day from AFL-CIO President Lane Kirkland, greeted the President's remarks on NAFTA with polite applause. That was a notable contrast with the boisterous ovations that met his remarks on health care and on Administration proposals that labor has supported, from family leave legislation to appointments of former union officials to several top government posts.

The labor movement's opposition to the agreement is symptomatic of "the legitimate grievances of the American working people" over the declining wage levels during the last two decades, Clinton said. "People are reluctant to take any risks for change," he added, but Americans must take risks to meet the competition of the 1990s. Because of that, increasing Americans' sense of security must be the top priority for his Administration, Clinton said.

At 8:30 a.m. today, Clinton will speak to senior citizens at Carlson Memorial Park, Motor Avenue at Braddock Drive in Culver City.

Times education writer Sandy Banks contributed to this story from Los Angeles.

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