Denver, Colorado, 20 June 1997 (RFE/RL) -- A breakthrough agreement between the United States and Japan to deregulate the Japanese economy and open key sectors to foreign producers has helped U.S. President Bill Clinton set a tone as host for the Summit of the Eight opening today in Denver, Colorado.
The agreement -- reached as Clinton prepared to begin welcoming the heads of state of Japan, Russia, Germany, France, Great Britain, Italy and Canada -- will deregulate such sectors of the Japanese economy as telecommunications, medical devices, pharmaceutical products, construction and financial services, and allow foreign producers for the first time to actively compete there.
Clinton has made clear that he wants this annual summit to focus on the global economy and the ways it can better the lives of everyone in the world.
In a speech to the American people on the eve of the summit, Clinton said the U.S. is setting a good example to the other countries, with an economy that is the "healthiest in a generation and the strongest in the world."
He said his administration has reduced the federal government's deficit, drastically cut inflation, pushed unemployment down to record low levels and encouraged investment that has given the U.S. economy its longest single period of unbroken growth in history.
Cutting government programs has been a major part of the American effort, he said, with "hundreds" of programs and "thousands" of regulations eliminated. Clinton said the U.S. government employs 300,000 fewer people than on the day he first took office.
The key, he said, is that the U.S. has "focused not on new guarantees, but on giving people new tools to help families make the most of their god-given potential."
He warned, however, that there is no time to sit back and relax. Americans must continue to fight to reject what Clinton calls "the false choice" between protectionism and unlimited free trade. He said: "Protectionism is simply not an option because globalization is irreversible."
The U.S. has chosen to "reach outward, not to be afraid of competition, (but) to embrace the possibilities of the global economy and to work to make sure it works for ordinary American citizens."
That point is to be a central part of the discussions of the summit -- how nations can deal with the globalized economy and assure that individual citizens are not lost in the stampede.
Clinton is proud of the American economic record in recent years, but is also aware that each of his partners at this summit has severe difficulties of his own. Russia's transformation is still exceedingly difficult and economic growth is but a hope; Germany, France, and Italy have been in a prolonged slump that has left unemployment figures uncomfortably high; and Japan has been trying for several years to find a formula to get its stale economy going again.
Two partners won't be quite so critical. Canada has been benefiting from its close proximity to the American economy and is starting to have some of the same successes. And Great Britain, while suffering most of the same ills as the rest of the European Union (EU), has a new young prime minister who patterned himself and his program of economic reform after Clinton.
Britain's Tony Blair and French President Jacques Chirac will be the last of the eight to arrive in Denver today, with most of the day devoted to bilateral meetings between the leaders. Russian President Boris Yeltsin is due to hold one-on-one meetings with Clinton and Canada's Jean Cretien before this evening's opening working dinner for the eight leaders.