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Clinton preaches free trade in Brazil

Treating business and education as bookends upholding prosperity, President Clinton today called for opening markets and investing in schools as the best formula to raise living standards around the world.

"Globalization is irreversible. Protectionism will only make things worse," the president told business leaders assembled in an auditorium at the modernistic Memorial America Latina. "But while we cannot turn back the winds of change, we can and must do more to harness their force to everyone's advantage and make sure that the benefits and burdens of expanding trade are fairly borne."The president appealed to business leaders to help erase "the age-old curse of Latin America" - a cultural tradition in which limited access to education fosters the glaring disparity between rich and poor.

"We must work harder to bridge the gap between the haves and have-nots," Clinton said. "We have to give everyone who will work for it a place in the future we are trying to build."

After his speech in this wealthy financial and industrial capital, Clinton was flying to Rio de Janeiro for an appearance in one of the city's poorest slums. He was to visit the Mangueira School, a privately funded model project that combines education and sports to uplift children.

Clinton wanted to watch as students there communicate with U.S. students in Virginia via the Internet. "No tool of learning will be beyond the touch of our children," he said.

Clinton said that both he and Brazilian President Fernando Henrique Cardoso "are working to ensure that every school has high standards and that every child, rich or poor, has the knowledge to succeed in the new economy."

To the business leaders, Clinton acknowledged there are many skeptics about the wisdom of opening markets to global competition.

"In your country and mine and throughout our hemisphere, many people question our course, fearing the pressure of competition, feeling as yet no benefit from the changes under way," he said. "As yet, no nation has found a perfect formula for both embracing the global economy while preserving and extending the social contract."

Brazil is a nation of sharp economic inequality and growing social unrest. Clinton planned to tell Mangueira students to take the fullest advantage of educational opportunities - especially those offered by private companies - so they someday can earn an income that supports a better lifestyle.

The president arrived in Sao Paulo on Tuesday evening after a day in Brasilia, the nation's capital.