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SECTION: WHITE HOUSE BRIEFING

SPEAKER: GOVERNOR BRIAN SCHWEITZER (D-MT)



GOV. SCHWEITZER: Hello, this is Brian Schweitzer, governor of Montana, the Big Sky Country.

In 1999, I led busloads of Montana senior citizens across the border into Alberta and British Columbia. The purpose of those trips was to demonstrate the hypocrisy of Congress' trade policies. They passed NAFTA, told us that it would be great for the consumers of the United States. We'd be able to have products and consumer products cross the border from Canada and Mexico, and the United States freely, and that we would find greater choice. And we have NAFTA and we're supposed to have to free choice for everything but medicine.

So as we took those busloads across the border in 1999 for people to find affordable medicine, I gave clipboards with notebooks to those senior citizens and I asked them to keep track of all the truckloads that we met with Alberta and British Columbia plates. Keep track of all the loads of hogs, logs, food products, manufactured goods, petroleum products and there were many, many trucks as we crossed the border.

But we didn't find any trucks with prescription drugs and that's why we took the bus up to small pharmacies along the border. We found the medicine in Canada to be one-third, or half, of what we were paying in the United States. People who couldn't afford to take full pills were cutting the pills in half, but when they went to Canada, they could afford to buy the medicine.

The medicine was made in exactly the same place as the American medicine. It was delivered to those Canadian pharmacies in much the same way as it's delivered to pharmacies in Montana and other states and yet they're able to sell their medicine for half price.

We crossed the border to demonstrate the hypocrisy of Congress who tells us it's good to have free trade for everything but prescription drugs. Apparently if you're the pharmaceutical industry and you can invest hundreds of millions of dollars to own your own Congress, then you can have your own trade policy.

Now time's passed since 1999 and Congress has been embarrassed for some period of time, but they still refuse to open the border. They continue to claim that -- well, you know, you've heard it -- the medicine is not safe in Canada, but their own GAO studied the medicine supply in Canada and they found it to be even safer than the medicine in the United States. And last year, the head of the Food and Drug Administration testified before Congress and he was forced to admit that not a single case of adulterated medicine has been found crossing the border from Canada.

Now a couple of weeks ago, President Bush came to Montana and I was proud to welcome the president to Montana, but we had a very simple question for the president: The GAO has studied the medicine supply and found the medicine to be safe in Canada and yet you won't allow us to reimport it to lower the cost of healthcare in Montana and the rest of this country?

A few years ago, we found that the beef supply in Canada was compromised. They had detected that the cattle in Canada -- some had been detected with BSE, mad cow disease -- so the border was closed until we understood what was happening with the beef supply in Canada.  This administration has announced they will open the border to beef from Canada on March 7th. Even though there have been no instances of compromised medicine, and knowing the beef supply was compromised and they will not open the border to safe medicine.

My question to President Bush is: Why import bad beef and stop safe medicine? It's a very clear question. We need answers in the Heartland, we need answers in Montana. We deserve that. Let's start working together. We can find answers if we'll listen to one another.

Thank you very much. God bless Montana, God bless America.


 

Brian Schweitzer, governor of Montana,

 

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