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Bush: US Economy Slowing But Resilient


President Bush says the U.S. economy may be slowing, but it remains resilient, and will rebound. He spoke shortly after new government figures were released that showed U.S. economic growth cooling to an annual rate of just 0.6 in the final quarter of 2007. VOA White House Correspondent Paula Wolfson has more.

President Bush was traveling to California when the new economic growth figures were released in Washington.

As he did Monday in his State of the Union address, Mr. Bush sought to ease the fears of Americans that the nation could be headed for a recession.

"There's some uncertainty in the economy," he said. "But in the long run, you've got to be confident about your economy. Inflation is down. Interest rates are low. Productivity is high. Our economy is flexible. It is resilient."

The president stressed while the underpinnings of the economy are sound, action must be taken now to provide a temporary economic boost. He praised the economic stimulus package approved by the House of Representatives and urged the Senate to follow suit.

"My attitude is if you are truly interested in dealing with the slowdown in the economy, the Senate ought to accept the House package, pass it, and get it to my desk as soon as possible," he added.

The president spoke during a visit to a helicopter factory in Southern California. Mr. Bush touted the business as an example of all that is right with the economy: a family-owned enterprise that has grown over the years to become the largest manufacturer of helicopters in the world.

He said the people who work at Robinson Helicopter Company know only too well that expanding U.S. exports goes hand in hand with boosting economic growth.

"You've got good jobs here," he said. "People are working. And 70 percent of what you make gets sold overseas. So you can't tell the people at Robinson Helicopter that trade isn't any good, when 70 percent of what you manufacture gets sold somewhere else than the United States. You ought to have a sign coming in here that says 'trade not only is good, it is great!"

The White House chose this company for another reason. One of its major markets is Colombia. And the fate of the free trade pact the administration negotiated with the Colombian government will soon be decided in the U.S. Congress.

Some lawmakers have raised major objections to the agreement, citing human rights and other concerns. But the president stressed rejecting the measure will send a bad signal to America's neighbors to the south.

"If we reject this opportunity to support a friend with good economic policy, if we turn down this free trade agreement, it will hurt our relations in South America," he explained. "It will give the voices of false populism something to say. It is in our strategic interest that we support democracies in our neighborhood."

The agreement with Colombia is the first of three free trade agreements the White House wants to see clear Congress this year. The others are with Panama and South Korea.

However, the head of the Senate Finance Committee - which handles all legislation dealing with trade - has indicated he is in no rush to bring these measures up for consideration. Senator Max Baucus, a Democrat, said the Senate must first take action to help American workers who have lost their jobs as a result of foreign competition.

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