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Clinton for trade pact despite labor objections

Democrat Bill Clinton has endorsed the recently negotiated free-trade treaty with Mexico, but said additional steps are needed to protect American workers.

Clinton, speaking at North Carolina State University on Sunday, said the agreement embracing the United States, Mexico and Canada must be accompanied by better safeguards for U.S. workers, more environmental protection and a comprehensive economic strategy.

"If it is done right, it will create jobs in the United States and in Mexico," the Arkansas governor said. "We must always remember why we're doing it _ to help the working men and women of America."

The announcement ended weeks of speculation over how the Democratic nominee would land on the trade pact, which was completed in August after 14 months of negotiation by the Bush administration.

Clinton sought to tread a middle ground on the issue, endorsing the pact while stressing the need to look out for U.S. workers. The pact has been opposed by many leading Democrats, major labor groups and environmental organizations.

Gradually, over a 15-year period, all tariffs for goods and services and all barriers to investment over the borders of the United States, Mexico and Canada would be eliminated. Canada and the United States earlier had reached agreement on a trade pact.

The result would be the largest single trade bloc in the world, surpassing the European Community both in consumer demand, with 360-million customers, and in economic clout, with $6-trillion in output.

President Bush is scheduled to sign the agreement Wednesday. The Bush administration predicts the treaty could create 400,000 jobs by 1995, by stimulating the economies of all three nations.

Opponents of the trade pact argue that manufacturers will flee the United States to take advantage of the cheaper labor and less-stringent pollution laws of its southern neighbor.