President to sound out G-7 on global job-creation plan

March 14, 1994|By Knight-Ridder News Service

WASHINGTON -- President Clinton will propose an unusual global job-creation plan at an economic summit this summer if the idea is supported at an international jobs conference beginning today in Detroit.

In an Oval Office interview with the Detroit Free Press, Mr. Clinton said he is "trying to formulate" the plan in time for a June summit in Italy of the Group of Seven leading economic nations.

"Frankly, I'm going to gauge how forthcoming and how open they all seem to be on this at this conference in Detroit," he said.

Mr. Clinton said the plan would include proposals to stimulate the Japanese and European economies and to ensure that growth in technology and international trade helps rather than hurts workers.

Before such a plan could be presented, he said, the Detroit conference must "build a consensus among these countries that . . . unemployment in one country affects unemployment in another, that stagnant wages in one country affects stagnant wages in another, that the rich countries have common interests in continuing to grow."

Mr. Clinton touched on an issue that he must handle delicately in Detroit: how far the United States can go in asking Europe to boost employment by cutting the cost of its extensive social programs.

When the president addresses Cabinet ministers from Europe and Japan today, aides said, he must acknowledge the growing European concern about the burden of those programs without trying to be critical.

"I don't think for a moment they should relax their commitment to things like health care and family support policies," he said. "But they need to really focus a little bit on some of their internal policies as it relates to how unemployment works." For instance, the generous unemployment benefits in some European countries might actually keep jobless rates higher than necessary, Mr. Clinton said.

Much of Mr. Clinton's discussion focused on broad issues of how technology and international competition are affecting jobs and workers.

The fear "is that there will be fewer jobs than all the rich countries need, [and] that a lot of the other high-paying jobs we used to take for granted will be lost either to mechanization or to overseas competition from the low-wage countries," he said.

Mr. Clinton repeated the description of the international jobs problem that his Cabinet members have outlined in recent days: Europe has high unemployment but rising wages, while the United States is creating more jobs with stagnant wage growth.

Many members of Mr. Clinton's Cabinet have tried in recent days to lower expectations for the Detroit conference, reminding the news media and the public that an exchange of views is all that is expected. Several of them have said repeatedly in Washington that the G-7 ministers are not even expected to issue the customary communique after the meeting.

"There is no magic bullet," Labor Secretary Robert B. Reich said Friday at the White House. "We want to share diagnoses and perspectives."

After Mr. Clinton opens the conference today with a speech, the G-7 labor, finance and economic ministers will gather in private sessions to "roll up their sleeves and talk," Mr. Reich said. The labor secretary will lead a session on the work force and job training. Other session topics will include world economic problems, job creation and technology.

The G-7 nations are the United States, Japan, Germany, Italy, France, Canada and Britain. Mr. Clinton will be the only head of state attending the Detroit meeting.

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