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ISSUE NUMBER ONE
Aired April 22, 2008 - 12:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
ALI VELSHI, CO-HOST: It's zero hour in Pennsylvania. The much- anticipated primary is going on right now.
How is it going to affect the issues that matter most to you? The best political team in television is all over it.
Plus, the primary isn't the only fight in Philly. Why some folks here want to take a gamble on casinos and the fight for equal pay between men and women.
You'll hear live from Senator Ted Kennedy.
ISSUE #1 is in Philadelphia with the CNN Election Express. ISSUE #1 starts right now.
Welcome to a special edition of ISSUE #1, live from the CNN Election Express in Philadelphia. Gerri Willis is manning ISSUE #1 headquarters in New York. She'll be with us in just a bit.
But first, Pennsylvania voters finally get to weigh in today on the Democratic presidential race, and both candidates got in their final push before voters headed to the polls.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. HILLARY RODHAM CLINTON (D-NY), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Now it is time for you to decide. You've listened, you've watched, you've read, you've checked out the resume, you've asked what the plans are. And now you have to decide, who would you hire to turn this economy around and start jobs growing again?
(END VIDEO CLIP)
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. BARACK OBAMA (D-IL), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Senator Clinton has -- she is a formidable adversary and she has many good ideas. In fact, we share a lot of ideas. We share a lot of policy positions, but the reason I'm running is because I believe that I am more committed to bringing about the changes that are necessary than Senator Clinton is.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
VELSHI: Well, CNN Capitol Hill correspondent Jessica Yellin, part of the best political team in television, is with me here in Philadelphia. She joins me now -- Jessica. JESSICA YELLIN, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Ali, I've got to tell you that what we are hearing from the two candidates right now is a lot like what we heard from them at the very beginning of the campaign. Senator Clinton, her closing argument, she is ready from day one. Barack Obama, he is going to change Washington. But with a much more contentious and barbed tone in all of it.
Senator Clinton yesterday releasing this ad that has images of Osama bin Laden and Katrina, asking, essentially, who do you want at the helm in times of crisis? Suggesting that Barack Obama is not up to the job, whereas she is. And even this morning her husband, Bill Clinton, on the radio has accused the Obama campaign of playing the race card against him, against Bill Clinton.
On the other side, Barack Obama suggesting not only will he change Washington, but that basically Senator Clinton, she's going to deliver more of the same. That she is better than the Republicans, but only so much because she plays that same old Washington game with special interests, and he is the only one of the two who can really be a fresh voice.
So a much more personal, even hostile tone this campaign has taken in these final days -- Ali.
VELSHI: Jessica, the price of oil is approaching $120 this afternoon. We know we have a new record price of gasoline, $3.51 a gallon, national average. And Hillary Clinton is really hammering this one home. What are both these candidates doing about gas prices to appeal to their voters?
YELLIN: Well, we hear them on the stump talking about this all the time. In one sense, to slam the Bush administration for being out of touch with Americans and the price -- the pinch they're feeling. But we also see it between the two as a way to highlight their differences, especially with these record-breaking ad spending they are doing in this state.
We've seen enormous ads. Eleven thousand ads by these two candidates, in the last two weeks have aired. And Barack Obama has aired an ad saying that he's not taking any money from oil and gas interests, and accusing Senator Clinton, essentially, of being the one who's in their pocket. Senator Clinton launched a rebuttal, saying actually Barack Obama has taken money from oil and gas employees.
So not only are they talking about gas prices as they pertain to voters, but even which one of the two of them is going to be the tougher fighter against these corporations if they should get into the Oval Office. This is an issue that is very, very powerful in this campaign -- Ali.
VELSHI: All right, Jessica. You'll be on top of this, along with everybody else from CNN's best political team in television.
Jessica, we'll talk to you again later.
Let me give you a little bit more of a picture about Pennsylvania voters and the sort of things that they face.
First of all, we know that across the nation we've seen home prices dropping in the last year. But look at this. In Pennsylvania, the average price of a home much, much lower than the national median -- $168,540 versus $207,000. But prices in Pennsylvania in 2007 actually increased a little bit.
Now, the national average -- the age of the average Pennsylvanian is higher than the national average. In fact, it's second oldest often to Florida, which might explain why a number of people in Pennsylvania have paid for their homes, and as a result the foreclosure rate in Pennsylvania is much lower than the national average -- one in 2,245 households versus one in 557 households.
Also, here in Philadelphia, what you can see behind me -- what you see behind me, there's a beautiful skyline here, a lot of big buildings. Pennsylvania is home to many major companies in the United States.
In fact, one of the biggest companies headquartered here in Pennsylvania is Comcast, a major cable company. But there are others.
In fact, PNC Financial a major company here in Pennsylvania. U.S. Steel, Heinz. We all know about that. And Cigna, the major insurer.
The per capita income though of the average Pennsylvanian is lower than that of the United States -- $38,788 versus $46,000 for the average American.
Talk radio host Michael Smerconish and Ken Vogel from Politico.com join me now to talk a little bit about this final day, this very exciting day.
Ken, one of the points you make is no matter what the outcome or what's going on, this has really got Pennsylvanians excited. It's got everybody moving. We've seen a lot of people sign up to vote, and they seem to be coming out to vote today.
KEN VOGEL, SR. REPORTER, POLITICO: That's right. We've seen close to 400,000 people either register for the first time as Democrats or switch their registration from Republican or Independent to Democratic.
We think that that's probably going to bode well for Senator Obama. He's done a great job in previous states of bringing out new voters and really bringing some energy to the electorate. People here are definitely exciting. We're expecting record turnout. Another thing though I'm seeing which is kind of odd, considering how excited Pennsylvania was to finally have a say in this process than in past presidential elections -- they really haven't had a say -- is that there is a little bit of fatigue creeping in.
VELSHI: They want us gone.
VOGEL: Exactly. VELSHI: Michael Smerconish is not one of these guys who has signed up to vote in the Democratic primary. You are not a Democrat, but you both sort of think that Barack Obama might have the answer for the Democrats.
MICHAEL SMERCONISH, RADIO TALK SHOW HOST: Well, this is too much fun for me to stay out of it. I am a Republican, and I'm not part of operation -- whatever they call it to try and reek havoc on the Democratic primary.
I have said on my program that if I had a say -- and by the way, Ali, I just voted an hour ago. I would have voted for Barack Obama. I find the guy to be impressive.
I think they are ideological twins. And what impressed me in my multiple interviews with him was his ability to differentiate himself on an issue that nobody talks about and I wish they would.
We're six and a half years removed from September 11th. Bin Laden and Ayman al-Zawahiri have never been brought to justice. There's a new report out today from the GAO that says al Qaeda has reconstituted itself in those tribal regions of Pakistan. And none of the three, to any large extent, and not in the debates, has this really been a focal point. I wish that it had been.
VELSHI: Ken, part of that is because the focal point has really shifted over to the economy. As I was just talking to Jessica about, we've got oil almost $120 a barrel, $3.50 for gasoline. I know you guys in Philly can go across to New Jersey to fill your gas.
SMERCONISH: For that and our booze.
VELSHI: For that and your booze. But the economy is really dominating right now.
You think they are handling it properly? Do you think they are connecting with voters on this?
VOGEL: Well, I think they both really tried to connect on a personal level on this, because again, look being at their policy positions, there's not a whole lot of space between them. So what they're trying to do is show that they identify with voters, particularly voters who have been hard hit by the economic downturn. And these are voters who have tended to favor Hillary Clinton in past states. And we've seen them -- at least polls show them seeming to lean towards her in Pennsylvania.
Of course, Barack Obama didn't help his cause any by suggesting that voters in small towns that have been hard hit by the economy are bitter and cling to guns and are isolationists.
VELSHI: What do you think about that, Michael? You hear from people all the time. Did you think he was way off base with this whole idea of people being bitter? Because to some people it sees -- never mind the connection to guns and things like that, but to some people I might expect they might be bitter from these years of neglect that many Pennsylvania towns have seen.
SMERCONISH: Well, I don't buy it. I think -- look, I love my gun and I love my religion. It's got nothing to do with the state of economy.
I think that he was wrong on the surface relative to what he said. But keep in mind this state is teed up for Hillary Clinton.
We are old, we are Catholic, we are blue collar. And yes, we like our firearms. And if she can't win it by a significant margin with those demographics, I think it bodes poorly for her.
I don't think that the issue, the "bitter" controversy, switched minds. I think that the folks who were offended by that were already Hillary Clinton supporters who probably felt energized in a decision they had already made. I happen to think this is going to be a closer election than most of the pundits do. I think this is going down to the wire.
VELSHI: And do you think -- what do you think is going to be the end result in Pennsylvania, Ken?
VOGEL: I also think it will be closer. And that's because a lot of the polls aren't capturing these new registrants, both because they filed and registered to vote so close to the deadline, and because many of them do not have landlines. So they are unreachable by pollsters and their databases.
So, I wouldn't be surprised to see Barack Obama hold it to a five-point margin. That can clearly be spun as a victory for him. I think Hillary Clinton needs to win by double digits in order to make a case for her continued candidacy.
VELSHI: Ken Vogel from Politico.com, Michael Smerconish, a local fantastic radio host.
Thank you for being with us.
SMERCONISH: Thank you.
VELSHI: A real pleasure to talk to both of you.
And it's your turn to weigh in on today's "Quick Vote." Gerri has that.
GERRI WILLIS, CO-HOST: Hey there, Ali. Fascinating stuff.
You know, it's that time of the show when we ask you what you think. That means it's time to check in with Poppy Harlow from the money.com desk.
POPPY HARLOW, CNNMONEY.COM: Hi, Gerri. Well, the long-awaited day is here. Voters in Pennsylvania are taking their issues to the polls today. But we want to know what you think. Here is our "Quick Vote" question today.
What issue will most likely influence your vote? Health care, jobs or taxes?
Log on to cnnmoney.com to vote. We'll bring you those answers later in the show -- Gerri.
WILLIS: Can't wait to see the answer to that.
Still ahead on this special edition of ISSUE #1, which group of voters could make the biggest difference in the Pennsylvania primary?
And the fight for equal pay. We'll talk with Senator Ted Kennedy next.
You're watching ISSUE #1.
WILLIS: Another day, another record for oil and gas prices. Oil topped $119 a barrel for the first time. Rose to just shy of $120 -- $ $119.74, to be exact. AAA says today's new record for a gallon of regular is $3.51. That's about a penny higher than the old record which lasted exactly one day.
A year ago you were paying $2.85 a gallon. That's a big increase.
Today is Equal Pay Day. It was established by the National Committee on Pay Equity to ensure equal pay between men and women.
Senator Ted Kennedy wants to ensure workers are entitled to fair and equal pay and they get it. Senator Kennedy joins us live now from Capitol Hill. And he is joined by Lilly Ledbetter, who sued Goodyear for paying her less than her counterparts.
Senator Kennedy, let's start with some interesting numbers that you have made public. You k now, it's surprising to me these numbers on women and equality. This economy is not treating women very well. They are very worried about this economy.
What is going on?
SEN. EDWARD KENNEDY (D), MASSACHUSETTS: Well, you are absolutely right. I think all working families understand the pinch of this economy, and they are filled with anxiety. But one of the, I think, harsh results of this downturn in the economy is the fact that women are bearing the burden much more intensely than anyone else.
And one of the really outrageous decisions by the United States Supreme Court was to turn the Supreme Court and the law of the land back on what has been the law for the last 40 years. And that is equal pay for equal work. It's really an issue of fairness. It's really an issue of decency.
KENNEDY: If people are going to perform work equally, men and women, they ought to be paid equally. And that is what's at the risk here.
And this extraordinary woman, Lilly Ledbetter, has the story to tell you. But we want you to know that this issue of fairness is something that we are going to fight on the floor of the United States Senate, and we are going to have a vote on this tomorrow.
WILLIS: Senator, I want to ask you...
KENNEDY: And we are hoping that everyone that believes that women ought to be treated equally will support it.
WILLIS: ... about that law if I could. I want to ask you about that law. And we have plenty of time to discuss this.
You have something you call the Fair Pay Act which would mandate equality, I assume. Can you just talk to me about what is in that bill?
KENNEDY: Well, basically, what we understand is that we can pass laws which we have to create equality in terms of pay for the work. But unless you have a remedy, then the law is not very effective.
And what this legislation is that we are going to vote on tomorrow is a remedy. And what the remedy is, is just to restore the law to what it was for more than 30-odd years.
It worked and worked very effectively. And it just said that if you are going to discriminate against an individual, a woman, Lilly Ledbetter, on this part, and you are going to continue to do so, your right is not going to be lost. And it's simple and it's fundamental and it's fair as that.
WILLIS: Well, let's get to Lilly for a second here.
Now, I want to hear your story about working at Goodyear. You say you encountered pay discrimination. How did you find out about it? When did you find out about it?
LILLY LEDBETTER, FMR. GOODYEAR EMPLOYEE: I did not learn of the pay discrimination until late in my career. Someone left me an anonymous note in my mailbox at work showing my pay versus the three males. And we four were doing the exact same job.
Then when I got into the lawsuit, after I filed my charge with the EOC, I learned I had a shock, because I learned that all of the males in the factory was making much more than I was doing the same type of job, which was a first line supervisor in the factory. WILLIS: And this wasn't a penny or two. You have said that the difference in pay was literally thousands of dollars. And just to be crystal clear here, would you say that these fellows were doing a much better job than you were?
LEDBETTER: Absolutely not. In 1996, Goodyear gave me the top performance award in the tire room. And there were 15 other area managers, all male.
WILLIS: Now, I want to make it perfectly clear to our viewers here that we actually called Goodyear for comment. They didn't want to comment, but they sent us to the Chamber of Commerce, which has put out this, an alert for senators, asking them to vote down, vote down Ted Kennedy's bill.
Now, they say that this bill would actually make life very tough for employers. It would, in fact, result in a wave -- a wave of lawsuits. Very difficult to enforce.
How do you respond to that, Senator? Is this law too difficult to enact? Would it create too much of a burden on the nation's employers?
KENNEDY: Well, first of all, when you listen to Lilly Ledbetter, you understand that this situation demands a remedy. And that is what this legislation does, number one.
Secondly, all we do is to restore the law to what it was prior to the Supreme Court decision of this last year. And the Congressional Budget Office has said that it will not mean an additional kind of litigation or additional kinds of cost on business.
This is an issue of simple justice, it's an issue of simple fairness. It is to say that if women are going to do the same work and perform the same kind of functions, that they ought to be dealt with fairly.
KENNEDY: And you know, this also applies to the disabled and also applies to the elderly.
WILLIS: Senator, we're going to have to leave it there. We are out of time.
I want to thank...
KENNEDY: Thanks very much.
WILLIS: ... Senator Kennedy for joining us.
KENNEDY: Good. Thanks very much. Nice to see you.
WILLIS: Lilly Ledbetter, thank you for telling your story.
Up next on this special edition of ISSUE #1, why single women could end up being the deciding factor in the Pennsylvania primary, and why the primary isn't the only big fight in Philadelphia today.
You're watching ISSUE #1.
WILLIS: There seems to be a new force in politics, unmarried women. Fifty-three million of them nationwide, but it's those under 30 who are mobilizing. For years they've been practically a no-show at the ballot box, less likely to register to vote than married women. That's all changed. And the candidates are taking notice.
CNN's Randi Kaye has the story.
RANDI KAYE, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Maria Wing is a Philadelphia lawyer, 28 years old, single and in debt.
MARIA WING, UNMARRIED PENNSYLVANIA VOTER: We are, you know, "on our own." I mean, it's not like I have a husband to augment my income should something happen with my job.
KAYE: Maria is a fleck of gold in the gold mine known as unmarried women voters. They vote overwhelmingly Democratic and, in Pennsylvania, make up one quarter of all eligible voters.
(on camera): Here in Pennsylvania, the economy is issue #1. And research shows unmarried women are the ultimate economy voter, with an average income of $30,000 or less.
What's important to them? Real-life economic needs, like childcare, health care, raising the minimum wage, and equal pay.
(voice-over): Married women care about similar issues, but single women nationwide earn less and are three times more likely to lack health coverage. Also, 20 percent of unmarried women are single moms.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The economy and the election, 2008.
KAYE: Julie Sego (ph) and Annie Friedman (ph) aren't married. They're juniors in college.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: College costs are crazy.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I know in two years I'm going to have to somehow get health care for myself, and the costs are just astronomical.
KAYE: Twenty-eight-year-old Carmina Ayo-Davies (ph) is single. She's worried about the housing Market.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I'm recently getting my home appraised, and it went down $15,000.
KAYE: Until recently, single women had been largely ignored by candidates and disengaged.
In 2004, nearly one million unmarried women in Pennsylvania stayed home on election day. This year, their presence in the primaries has reached historic levels. Why this sudden burst of interests? Campaigns have aggressively targeted single women.
CLINTON: Health care premiums have doubled. College tuition is up.
OBAMA: The young woman who I met who works full time in the night shift, goes to college during the day.
KAYE: Political expects say if they continue to mobilize, these women could determine who becomes the next president. Where do they stand? A recent study by Women's Voices, Women Vote, showed 58 percent of single women identify themselves as Democrats, compared to just 18 percent as Republicans. They are split evenly between senators Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton.
Julie's (ph) hoping for more affordable education. Annie warrants guaranteed health care for her and her kids one day. Carmina (ph) just needs to know it's going to get better. And Maria, a tax code for the middle class.
WING: After Uncle Sam gets paid and Fannie Mae gets paid and, you know, housing expenses gets paid, Mama only has, like, a couple hundred to go out.
KAYE: Senators, are you listening? Prove it and you may just clean up another the polls.
Randi Kaye, CNN, Philadelphia.
WILLIS: And you can catch Randi Kaye weeknights at 10:00 p.m. Eastern on "ANDERSON COOPER 360," right here on CNN.
VELSHI: And single women are going to make a difference this election. First-time voters will make a difference in this election. But what will help push one candidate over the top of the Democratic race?
Gloria Borger is a CNN political analyst. Roland Martin is a CNN contributor.
Welcome to both of you.
I just want to let you know, we are standing by to go to New Orleans for a press conference with President Bush and Mexican President Felipe Calderon and Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper. So I may have to interrupt you. But until then, this is the question.
Gloria, let's start with you. What's going to do it for these two candidates? They really are running largely neck and neck. One gets an advantage in one place, and then the other gains an advantage -- Gloria.
GLORIA BORGER, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, you know, this is really an expectations game right now for tonight. Hillary Clinton started out in Pennsylvania with as much as a 20-point lead. That's been whittled down by most polls we look at to the single digits.
But don't forget Barack Obama has spent twice as much money in the state trying to narrow Hillary Clinton's lead. So I think tonight we are going to be getting a lot of spin from the campaigns. We are already getting it, about how you define victory.
Is victory for Barack Obama losing by single digits? Is victory for Hillary Clinton winning it all, just winning?
VELSHI: And Roland, is winning at all for Barack Obama, if he were able to pull that off, would that be a real clincher for him?
ROLAND MARTIN, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: If Obama wins tonight, it's game over, because she needs Pennsylvania, and because this is a part of her big state strategy.
But look, you're in Philadelphia. They love basketball in that city. Hillary Clinton cannot trade baskets with Senator Barack Obama. She simply can't.
It can't be she wins Pennsylvania, he wins North Carolina. Figure out Indiana -- back and forth. She has to be able to close the gap among the popular vote. She likely is not going to overtake him among pledged delegates.
She needs that popular vote to solidify her argument that beyond the fact that I've won big states and swing states, but also that I am more electable. She can't have him go to superdelegates and say he's won more states, more popular votes, more popular -- players (ph) delegates. Also got more money. She has to get over that hurdle in order for her to pick up those superdelegates.
VELSHI: All right.
Gloria, that hurdle may be about appealing both to Democrats and to voters in general about the ability to deal with the economy, which is hurting people here in Pennsylvania and across the country.
Are they hitting home on that issue, Gloria, do you think?
BORGER: I think they both are, particularly in the state of Pennsylvania. Hillary Clinton, in particular, has been talking to those all-important lower-income white men. Very important. You've been talking about working women before, but these blue collar men are very, very important now to her campaign. At first, earlier on, we saw that they didn't like her very much. Now they're warming up to her a little bit. And if she can gain a real advantage with them in the state of Pennsylvania, that is something the campaign is going to use saying, to Democrats, to those super delegates, these are the people we need if we're going to win this election. We need those men who are hurting, those blue collar workers. ROLAND MARTIN, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: Hey, Ali, I'll go to the political money. And this is the issue for her. Can she raise the money after tonight? Her campaign has issues there. And so that's going to be a big problem there.
If she scores a 12, 15, 18-point victory, it's much easier for her to raise money. If she scores a five, seven, nine-point victory, it's even more difficult. And so, you know, look, it's going to boil down to, how much money can you spend in North Carolina.
She may -- you know, if I'm Hillary Clinton, to be honest, if I win tonight, I might very well blow off North Carolina. I might put my money on Indiana because she can -- look, he's up 15 points right now in North Carolina. She has to go, she has to take her money and spend it wisely.
So like the people right now at home right now trying to figure out how they budget, she has to budget her money. That might make some sense. But again, a lack of a big victory makes it harder for her to raise money. And, look, no money, no campaign.
ALI VELSHI, CNN ANCHOR: Yes, well to Roland's point, Gloria, the fact is we're splitting hairs at this point because no one is going to win this nomination off of Pennsylvania necessarily unless someone gets out of the race. The bottom line is, what has to happen to break one of these candidates away? Is there going to be fatigue setting in if we just keep on going for months and months for this?
BORGER: I think the fatigue is already set in.
MARTIN: No kidding (ph).
BORGER: I think that neither one of these folks are going to give up after night one way or another unless Hillary Clinton is blown out in the double digits by Barack Obama. That does not seem particularly likely because then her money really would dry up. I think you're going to see them go through to June 3rd the way that the head of the party, Howard Dean, says they ought to go. And then at the end of that, the party leaders are going to have to make some decisions about telling these super delegates to get off that fence.
VELSHI: All right, Gloria, I'm going to interrupt you here. We're going to go to New Orleans. Thank you, Gloria and Roland.
You're looking at a live picture from New Orleans. President Bush with Mexican President Felipe Calderon and Canadian President Stephen Harper, talking about trade. Let's listen in.
GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Look forward to a bright future. And that's what we're here to do.
One of the things that are -- you know, people ask, well does it make sense for Mexico, Canada and the United States to meet? Absolutely it makes sense. We're neighbors. A prosperous neighborhood is in our interests. A secure neighborhood is in our interests. And we share common values. So I'm not surprised we've had good meetings.
Plus, we like each other. It's easy to work with leaders who are straightforward and honest, tell you what's on their mind, care deeply about the people of their countries and who are problem solvers. That's how I found this meeting and the previous meetings we've held.
We talked about, you know, trade. Mexico, Canada and the United States made a bold decision in the early 1990s. Our countries decided to reduce our trade barriers to the North American Free Trade Agreement. That was a visionary move by previous leaders. A move that has benefited all three of our countries a lot.
Trade has tripled. Our economies have grown by more than 50 percent. Now is not the time to renegotiate NAFTA or walk away from NAFTA. Now is the time to make it work better for all our people. And now is the time to reduce trade barriers worldwide.
And so we spent time talking about the Colombia Free Trade Agreement. Canada is negotiating a Colombia free trade agreement. Mexico has a free trade agreement with Colombia. And a lot of folk are waiting for the United States Congress to bring this issue up and pass it.
It makes no sense to me to say that Colombia goods can come into our country duty-free, yet our goods can't go into Colombia duty-free. And yet that's the case. An agreement with Colombia would level the playing field. And a failure to pass an agreement would send a terrible signal to our neighborhood.
The speaker of the United States Congress has killed this bill unless she gives us a date certain for a vote. And it's a bad decision on her part. And it's bad for our hemisphere to have the United States of America turn its back on a mutual friend like Colombia.
We're working to make sure we reduce regulations and add to make sure that our small business and farmers and producers are able to move product in a way without a bunch of government regulations in between. It's not easy work because, obviously, we're going to maintain high standards and work for good safety precautions. Yet we're making progress.
And we've, you know, charged others to continue to work, like Carlos Gutierrez and my cabinet will work on issues with his counterparts for more harmonized standards to reduce the cost of producing cars and trucks throughout our entire market. Of course, you've got different regulations in different countries that make it, you know, difficult to compete globally and cause our products to be more expensive than they should be.
We're talking about food and product safety standards to make them compatible in a way that guarantees safety for our consumers. We talked about the need for us to work together to promote clean, efficient, low-carbon energy technologies. Obviously we talked about global warming and the need to make sure that a major economies are all party to an agreement. People say, well, are you really committed to, you know, reducing global warming? Absolutely. As a matter of fact, I gave a speech in the Rose Garden the other day that made it abundantly clear the United States is for an effective climate agreement that includes binding commitments from all major developed and developing economies. And we'll continue to work toward that end.
And then, obviously, we're still working to make sure our borders work well and as complications on these long borders. I understand that. We're making progress addressing problems and, at the same time, making sure that, you know, our people are safe.
For example, we've had an issue with Mexico. The last time -- time before last we met, the president made it abundantly clear that he felt the United States ought to do more to prevent guns from going from the United States into Mexico. I couldn't agree more with him. And we put a process in place to do a variety of things, all aiming to make sure that our neighbors and our neighborhood is discouraged by, you know, these thugs who use guns out of the United States to hold their people hostage, hold the country hostage. And so we've got a lot of tough work to do, but we're doing it.
And finally, in terms of just bilateral relations with Mexico, the maria project is an important project to help implement a duel strategy, to deal with the crime and drugs. The president and I have talked about this initiative in a way that benefits the people of Mexico and the United States. The initiative includes a commitment this year of $550 million by the United States and Congress needs to pass the deal, pass the bill. And they need to pass it in such a way that it conforms to the strategy that the president of Mexico thinks will best help deal with this issue.
All in all, it's been a very good summit and I appreciate you all coming. New Orleans is a fun town. Looking at the press corps to make sure that they didn't take advantage of it. You look well rested. Anyway, it's a great place. I'm glad you're here. Thanks for coming.
PRES. FELIPE CALDERON, MEXICO, (through translator): Thank you, Mr. President.
Thank you, President Bush, my friends from the media, from the press, Prime Minister Harper.
First of all, I'd like to thank you, Mr. President. I'd like to thank President Bush and the people of the United States for your hospitality. I think that the city of New Orleans has been an ideal venue for this leader summit. And I'd like to say that I congratulate the people of Louisiana for their determination, for their strength. I congratulate the people of the United States as well for the recovery they've shown after the effects of Hurricane Katrina. And I repeat that Americans can always count on the solidarity of Mexicans during times of tragedy as a result of, in this case, a natural phenomenon. I'm pleased because the meeting allowed President Bush, Prime Minister Harper and myself to work on an agenda that was devoted to improving the welfare of our peoples. President Bush already mentioned some of the issues we talked about. I would simply underscore the following.
First, we reasserted commitments we adopted in Montebello last year, such as that of strengthening the competitiveness of our region. Cooperation in the area of imports, products from other areas of North America, food security and also improving the situation of all the regulation among our three countries. And our secretary will be spearheading the work on the Mexican side in order to deregulate measuring affecting trade.
Second, we talked a lot about the NAFTA. And, of course, we agreed that this is not the time to even think about amending it or canceling it. This is the time to strengthen and reinvigorate this free trade agreement among our three countries. Thanks to the free trade agreement, trade exchange went beyond $900 trillion, behind which we have jobs, we have investment, we have goods and services that improve the quality of life -- Canadians, Americans and Mexicans. And we want these benefits to reach more and more of all our citizens.
Third, we agreed on the need to strengthen investments and cooperation among all our nations and the business leaders of the three countries gave us a very specific agenda that records the progress we've made and also establishes how much more quickly we need to work within the North American Competitive Council where the three leaders agree we fully need to support the work of this Competitiveness Council.
Forth, we recognize the progress made within the regulatory framework is compatible for all three countries. Fifth, we agreed that the efforts we've made in the area of intellectual property have transferred to major hits against smuggling and the work of pirates. In the case of Mexico for example, last year, we carried out the biggest seizures in the history of our country and, in fact, last night we had some major efforts carried out against organized crime. And the three countries will continue to work on improving the conditions of law enforcement.
Sixth, we also talked a lot about border projects. Our three countries want to have safe borders and we want to have efficient borders. Borders that will improve the competitiveness of our various businesses and for the entire region.
We talked about how to make the flow along the borders even better. How to improve trade there. Of course, there are issues of interest between Canada and the United States. They're working on those issues. In the case of Mexico, we are working very hard on how to expand the border crossings between Mexico and the United States with projects that are already in course. One's in the Enosa (ph), others in Quarez (ph) and different points across the border.
We also exchanged viewpoints on the issues that have to do with security in the region. And, in this case, we talked to President Bush about the many (ph) initiatives. An initiative that is focused on facing a joint strategy with regard to a joint -- a common enemy, which is organized crime, which operates on both sides of the border and which does not recognize any borders, any limits. And, unfortunately, it affects Mexican, Canadian and U.S. families. It's very important for our congresses and parliaments in our respective countries to strengthen, support the decisive actions that we are carrying out in order to eradicate this surge that is affecting all of North America.
We also stress the need to continue to promote growth and development. In our entire region, throughout the continent and especially in Mexico, we're concerned about Latin America. That's why it's important for this cooperative and collaborative mechanism among the United States, Canada and Mexico to work. And that's why we also need to redouble the successful cases where trade and cooperation are fruitful and lead to tangible results for our people.
I want to talk about the efforts being made in this country to establish free trade agreements that are much more practical and beneficial for everyone. In particular, the 100th discussion now in the U.S. Congress between the United States and Colombia. It's extremely important, I think, to bear in mind that when you provide more opportunities for trade in the Latin American region, there will be many more opportunities for prosperity. And it needs to be made very clear that the prosperity of Latin Americans, in particular that of Mexico, is a crucial factor for the prosperity of the people of North America.
Finally, ladies and gentlemen, I'm convinced, and after this meeting even more so, that after 14 years of very decisive steps, which was the North American Free Trade Agreement, today the relations between the United States, Canada and Mexico is more dynamic, more fluid, much more successful than ever before. In particular, I want to thank President Bush for his leadership in holding not just this meeting here in the United States, but the fact that these meetings were established in the year 2005 and President Bush's leadership has been very important for these meetings to be held among the three countries, which don't just affect the leaders attending the meetings themselves, but allow all of us to coordinate our policies, our activities and our objectives in order to ensure greater regional prosperity.
This is the last meeting for President Bush. From now on, the veteran for these meetings is going to be Prime Minister Harper. And I'm sure that whoever the next president of the United States will be, he or she will continue with this regional effort. Independently of the fact that, unfortunately, President Bush will not be with us, we have at least informally invited him to our next meeting personally.
And I would like to announce formally on behalf of the Mexican government that we have conveyed to the governments of the United States and Canada a very special invitation to take part at the next leaders summit of 2009 to be held in Mexico. And, of course, from now on, we will be preparing to make sure the summit is memorable and productive. A summit that will offer the taste of the hospitality of the people of Mexico and will also allow us to reach vary specific decisions on a number of issues, which, as we have shown at this meeting, have been very carefully analyzed. And the options for the North American Competitive Council and the three administrations is very clear.
I hope that we will continue to have an even more prosperous North American region to region where the United States, Canada and Mexico will gain in competitiveness vis-a-vis other regions of the world which are now leading in terms of growth and productivity. But I'm sure that we can achieve this, especially if we persevere with the good will that has been demonstrated at this New Orleans meeting.
Thank you so much, Mr. President, and thank you to the American people.
STEPHEN HARPER, CANADIAN PRIME MINISTER, (through translator): Last we talked about common sects (ph) for our three countries, President Bush, myself, we had discussed both commerce and the advantages that NAFTA brings to our three countries and has been doing for 10 years. We talked about progress that we've made and we have talked about, not only what has been done, but also what needs to be done. We concluded that it's essential for the prosperity of our countries to continue this effort and we have emphasized in particular the border crossing, Windsor-Detroit. It is evident that greater North American cooperation will lead to the creation of jobs and will allow us to compete in a very effective way to other emerging commercial blocks from around the world.
I would like -- I also would like to talk about our concern about the picking of the border between our countries. The chamber of commerce of the United States and Canada are concerned about these border issues for several years and the Council for Competitiveness has also talked about their concern about this border issues.
It was a great pleasure to come to New Orleans for this summit and, of course, I want to thank President Bush and the population of New Orleans for their great hospitality. And I'm looking forward to see President Calderon, who will greet us in Mexico and welcome us to Mexico next year.
President Bush, President Calderon and I have discussed the common issues and challenges facing our three countries. We discussed the importance of cooperation on security and trade and the benefit that NAFTA has produced for each of our three countries over the last 14 years. We also talked about the progress we've made and are continuing to make to improve North American security. We agreed that continuing to improve an expand trade is the key to greater prosperity for our peoples and we are putting special emphasis on the Detroit- Windsor crossing.
It's clear that greater North American cooperation is our best option to create jobs and to compete effectively with emerging trading blocks elsewhere in the world. To that end, I specifically raise concerns about the so-called thickening of the Canada-U.S. border. The Canadian and American chambers of commerce have been worried about this for several years and the North American Competitiveness Council raised their concerns at our meeting this morning. It has been a pleasure to come to New Orleans for this summit. My only regret, Mr. President, is that I didn't bring my wife and decide to spend a lot more time here. But it's been wonderful to visit here to see the rebuilding.
I won't say my farewells, because you and I have a few more meetings, including the G-8 this summer that we're looking forward to. I also look forward to seeing you, President Calderon, in the future and for our offer to host this next year. And I can tell you, Canadians are always delighted to visit Mexico in the wintertime. So keep that in mind.
BUSH: OK. A couple of questions?
QUESTION: Thank you, Mr. President.
I want to follow up on your comments about NAFTA. The Democratic presidential candidates, in fact, are talking about renegotiating that trade agreement if elected. I'm wondering if you're worried that their comments on the campaign trail are perhaps overshadowing your pro-trade agenda? In essence, do you worry that you're losing the free trade debate in the course of public opinion?
And to President Calderon and Prime Minister Harper, I'd like to get your thoughts about expanding your trade relationship with the United States. Is there a point at which you shift attention to the people running for the White House and their views and try to reach out to them?
BUSH: Actually, my biggest concern on trade right now is with Colombia. NAFTA exists. And NAFTA, when you analyze it in an objective way, it's beneficial to America. Also happens to be beneficial to Mexico and Canada, which makes it a, you know, a very good conference of agreement.
It's beneficial to us because when you're able to export to your neighborhood, it helps create jobs. Jobs are created when people find outlets for their goods and services. We have found a lot of outlets for our goods and services in our neighborhood. It also helps consumers when you import. Those are more choices consumers have, the more options they have, the less likely it is there will be price increases and it's better for your consumers.
This agreement has been beneficial in creating wealth in our neighborhood. Our economies have all grown. I also happen to think it's very important for our citizens -- I wish people could remember what the border looked like between Texas and Mexico before NAFTA. I mean it was poor, really poor. On both sides of the border. If you go down there today, there's prosperity on both sides of the border. And that's in our nation's interests.
I mean one way to increase pressure on the border is if you do away with NAFTA there's going to be a lot of Mexicans, more Mexicans out of work. And it will make it harder on the border. It will make it harder to deal. So people who say, let's get rid of NAFTA as a throw-away political line must understand this has been good for America. And it's also been, you know, good for Mexico and Canada. And that's what you want in your neighborhood.
Secondly, my biggest concern is to turn our back on our friends in Colombia. Speaker of the House made a decision using an extraordinary procedure to prevent a vote on a trade bill that had been negotiated in good faith between our respective countries. You heard the President Calderon say, it's in the region's interest to trade freely and fairly. Well, this agreement we have with Colombia right now is not fair for America. It's not fair for our businesses. It's not fair for our farmers. And all I'm asking to Congress is to make it fair.
If the speaker doesn't give us a date certain on the bill, she's effectively killed it. It's her responsibility. And she's going to have to explain why the voices of populism have been strengthened. Why anti-Americanism, you know, could flourish when America turns its back on a strong leader like President Uribe, and a friend for democracy like President Uribe.
And I'm concerned about protectionism in America. It's not in our interest to become a protectionist nation. And so I'll continue to speak out on it and assure our friends that, you know, we will work hard to explain to the people the benefits of why free and fair trade is in our nation's interests.
CALDERON: First of all, what we have to do, all of us who have responsibilities, vis-a-vis our citizens, is to objectively study the facts. What's happened with NAFTA and our three countries? Before NAFTA, there were many businesses, Mexican businesses, that were afraid and they alleged that it was impossible to compete with a sophisticated and modern U.S. companies and they weren't going to survive. There were also many U.S. companies who thought it was impossible to compete in more open markets.
Now what was the results? The result has been that trade has grown and that has led for gains for everyone involved. Contrary to what they believe, that one was going to win, the other would lose. It was a win-win situation and NAFTA has benefited the three countries, trade has grown in all three, jobs have grown in all three and even wage levels have gone up in all three.
Today the economies in Canada, Mexico and the United States are bigger and stronger than they were 14 years ago. Income per capita for all three has also grown compared to 14 years ago.
The benefits are visible. And all you need to do is to talk based on demonstrated results. To talk about taking a step backwards in terms of free trade, in the case of Mexico, would effectively provoke considerable damage on the economy. And another factor I was discussing yesterday with President Bush that he reiterated today, and I will reiterate as well, would be a sudden loss of economic opportunities that would even lead to even greater migratory pressure with the United States.
We are doing everything we can in order to create job opportunities in Mexico for people so that Mexicans will not need to seek job opportunities outside their country. And the only way to do it is by creating jobs in Mexico. And the only way is precisely multiplying our possibilities of trade.
In the case of the U.S. economy, if you were to take a step backwards with regard to NAFTA or free trade, you would be condemning Americans to have one of the least competitive economies in the developed world, while other parts of the world are accelerating their growth, their integration -- China, Japan, India, Asia -- in order to have more competitive economies and more complementary situations, and Europe is already becoming a single trade group and they're adding more and more countries to that block every year. Here you see protectionist voices arising and the only thing they would achieve if they were to prosper would be to condemn North America as a region to complete backwardness in today's world.
What possible solution you can provide to your citizens? It is not my role to talk to the three candidates or pre-candidates to the presidency.