SAN FRANCISCO -- President Clinton said yesterday that he will use this week's Tokyo summit to define America's global role in the post-Cold War era -- a time when economic insecurity has replaced communism as the world's greatest challenge.
In a speech here to the National Education Association delivered just hours before he flew off to Tokyo, Mr. Clinton outlined his goals for the summit of the world's seven leading industrial democracies, and stressed how the event relates to the lives of ordinary Americans.
"A foreign summit, with all of its protocol, its interpreters, its communiques, seems awfully remote to most Americans' lives," Mr. Clinton told the receptive audience. "But in fact the work that I will be doing in the next few days and the work that you do every day are closely related. For we have entered an era where the line between our domestic policy and our foreign policy has completely evaporated."
Polishing themes he has emphasized since he first sought the presidency last year, Mr. Clinton said today's information revolution requires Americans to overhaul education, to slash the country's budget deficits and to find solutions to the perennial job shortage crippling the world's major nations.
Unemployment is stuck at 7 percent in the United States two years after the official end of the 1991-1992 recession, is rising in Japan and has remained stubbornly high -- at 10 percent to 12 percent -- across most of Europe for years.
Calling the lack of jobs a "global crisis," Mr. Clinton announced that he is inviting the top economics and labor officials from the other Group of Seven industrial powers to a conference, perhaps at Camp David, Md., sometime in the next few months "in which we will search for the causes and possible answers for this stubbornly high unemployment."
In addition to the United States, the nations participating in the economic summit are Japan, Germany, Great Britain, France, Italy and Canada. Their heads of state and finance ministers will meet for their annual economic summit conference tomorrow through Friday in Tokyo.
Few firm commitments to action are expected from the conference, primarily because each leader is facing political and economic problems at home.
Many are calling this a gathering of the world's strongest countries, but weakest leaders.
Consequently, Mr. Clinton hopes to convert this -- his second trip abroad as president -- into a world stage upon which he can set a vision and direction for coordinated action in the years ahead.
In today's competitive new global economy, the president said, "the very best investment we can make is in the one resource that remains firmly rooted within our borders -- the people who live in the United States of America."
Mentions budget deficit
Mr. Clinton also said that in Tokyo, he would claim credit for tackling his country's debilitating budget deficits, which sap the nation's economic strength.
Mr. Clinton said that for years, allies have been telling American presidents, "Your government deficit is messing up the whole works. Don't tell us to change until you change."
"Well, guess what? I'm going to be able to go for the first time in a decade and say, 'We're changing. Now you must change, too. Work with us. Let's put some jobs back in this global economy,' " Mr. Clinton said, noting that his program to cut the deficit by $500 billion over five years is nearing approval by Congress.
The president will press his peers to renew their commitment to lower barriers to trade and said he will stress America's relations with Asia, not only at the Tokyo summit, but also in a visit Saturday and Sunday to South Korea.
For too long, Mr. Clinton said, Americans have focused almost exclusively on U.S. trade deficits with Japan.
'Unacceptable' trade deficit
"Our trade deficit with Japan is real, unacceptable, and we're working very hard to take some steps with Japan to deal with that," the president said.
But the U.S. stake in Asia is far larger than that, Mr. Clinton said. U.S. service industries run a trade surplus with Japan, and U.S. trade with South Korea is almost in balance.
"Already over 40 percent of our trade is with this region," Mr. Clinton noted. "Our exports to Asia last year exceeded $120 billion and accounted for 2.3 million American jobs. Along with Europe and the Western Hemisphere, Asia is where we must find much of our growth."
Some 250 protesters concerned with issues ranging from health care reform to the bombing of Iraq held a boisterous demonstration outside the hall where Mr. Clinton spoke.
The protest at the Moscone Center site of the National Education Association convention was generally peaceful, but five people were arrested when they tried to move some police barricades.
Peter Sutherland, new head of the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade, challenged Mr. Clinton and the other leaders attending the summit to cut a trade deal this week or risk plunging the global economy into deeper recession and prolonging mass unemployment.
At his first news conference since starting the job Thursday, the Irish lawyer said in Geneva that he would not be satisfied with mere political platitudes from the Tokyo summit about the so-called Uruguay Round of trade talks.
"If the G-7 are serious about attacking the root of chronic long-term unemployment, about reigniting growth and prosperity, the way to do it is by actively assisting in the conclusion of the Uruguay Round," he said.