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Bush Promotes His Economic Policy

One week after his State of the Union address, President Bush is making an all out effort to win support for his economic policies. VOA's Paula Wolfson reports from the White House that Mr. Bush is focusing on trade and taxes.

The president went to America's heartland to make the case for free trade and against protectionism.

During a trip to Peoria, Illinois, he visited a tractor factory, and talked about the growing demand overseas for American goods.

In a speech to employees of Caterpillar Incorporated, Mr. Bush said those who advocate a more protectionist stance in the name of saving American jobs are wrong.

"It is a topic of hot debate," he said. "The temptation is to say, 'Trade may not be worth it, let's isolate ourselves'. 'Let's protect ourselves.' I know it would be a mistake for Caterpillar workers to do that. I know it is a bad mistake for the country to lose our confidence and not compete."

The president said the United States is the largest exporter in the world, exporting a record $1.4 trillion in goods and services in 2006. He said exports now make up about 11 percent of the U.S. economy, and that level can only rise as new free-trade agreements are implemented, and new markets open to American products.

"One way to look at trade is this," he added. "We are five-percent of the people of the world. That means 95 percent live outside of America. And shouldn't we put ourselves in a position where we can sell goods and services to that 95 percent? I think it makes sense to do so."

Mr. Bush made the comments at a crucial time in efforts to restart negotiations on a world trade agreement. His top trade negotiator, Susan Schwab, recently met informally with other trade ministers and is expressing confidence the Doha Round of trade talks may be back on track.

The president did not refer directly to the status of the world trade negotiations in his Peoria address, but he did talk about the need for free and fair trade across the board.

"We just want people to treat us fairly," he explained. "I am confident in our ability to sell American products and services overseas if the playing field is level."

Mr. Bush went on to discuss other economic issues, saying once again that he intends to send Congress a spending plan next week that could balance the federal budget in five years while keeping taxes low.