By: Lee Ji-hye Key world-figures are to visit Seoul next week, starting tomorrow. U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry will arrive at Seoul Air Base Saturday afternoon for a two-day...
Category: Energy and Power
Pact is positive in general but leaves something to be desired Seoul and Washington have signed a new nuclear cooperation accord after four and a half years of grueling negotiations....
On February 2, Counselor Tom Shannon and Senior Advisor to the Secretary Ambassador David Thorne led a U.S. delegation to the Extraordinary Meeting of the Friends of the Lower Mekong in Pakse, Laos. The Friends of the Lower Mekong, a donor coordination group, came together with the countries of the Lower Mekong to discuss the connection between water resources, energy needs and food security. Accompanying Counselor Shannon and Ambassador Thorne were representatives from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID), Environmental Protection Agency, and the Department of Energy.
The health of the Mekong River is essential to the economic growth and sustainable development of the region. In Cambodia, the Mekong supports the rich biodiversity of a watershed that provides more than 60% of the protein intake for the entire country. The river irrigates the “rice bowl” in Vietnam, where more than half of the nation’s rice production is concentrated in the provinces that make up the Mekong delta. In Laos, Thailand, and Burma, the Mekong is an important artery for transportation, a water source for aquaculture and agriculture, and a generator of electricity.
Meeting participants discussed the challenges of ensuring a future in which economic growth does not come at the expense of clean air, clean water and healthy ecosystems. The meeting brought together senior officials from Laos, Burma, Cambodia, Thailand, and Vietnam alongside representatives from the United States, the Mekong River Commission, the Asian Development Bank, the World Bank, the European Union, and the governments of Australia, Denmark, Finland, Germany, Japan, Korea, the Netherlands, and Sweden.
At the meeting, the U.S. delegation announced several new initiatives, including the launch of USAID’s Sustainable Mekong Energy Initiative (SMEI). Through the SMEI, the United Stateswill promote the use of alternative energy and low-emission technologies. The delegation also announced that the Department of State will organize and send a Sustainable Energy Business Delegation to the region later this year.
The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers announced that it will provide technical assistance on hydropower management. In conjunction, Counselor Shannon and Ambassador Thorne announced that the State Department will contribute $500,000 in support of a Mekong River study on the impacts of hydropower on the community and environment.
The Friends of the Lower Mekong will also work together to strengthen the capacity of Lower Mekong countries to more effectively implement social and environmental safeguards such as environmental impact assessments and strategic environmental analyses. The U.S. government, Asian Development Bank, World Bank, Japanese International Cooperation Agency and the Government of Australia plan to jointly develop a Regional Impact Assessment Training Center at the Asian Institute of Technology Center in Vietnam.
Under the auspices of the Lower Mekong Initiative the United States is continuing successful projects like Smart Infrastructure for the Mekong (SIM) to provide technical assistance to the region on land and water use management, renewable energy, and infrastructure development. $1.5 million will be spent on SIM projects in the Mekong region this year.
Under Canada’s Global Markets Action Plan (GMAP), the government’s pro-export, pro-jobs plan, new markets around the world have been opened for Ontario exports. These historic trade achievements will benefit hard-working Canadians in Ontario and throughout Canada.
In just one year, the government has delivered on its GMAP commitment to eliminate tariffs and support Canadian companies, especially small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs), and to boost exports, including through:
- the conclusion of negotiations and release of the complete text of the historic Canada-European Union trade agreement. The agreement will eliminate tariffs on virtually all of Ontario’s exports. Ontario is one of the hubs of Canada’s manufacturing activities and is set to benefit greatly from this agreement. On the first day of the agreement’s coming into force, 99 percent of tariffs on manufactured products entering the EU will be duty-free.
- the conclusion of Canada’s first free trade agreement in Asia with the landmark Canada-Korea Free Trade Agreement (CKFTA), which will come into force on January 1, 2015. Ontario will see tremendous opportunities for export growth, given the complete elimination of South Korean duties on many Canadian products. For example, as of January 1, over 95 percent of South Korean tariffs on industrial products will be eliminated. This will lead to increased market access for key sectors of interest to Ontario, include aerospace, medical devices, clean technology, food manufacturing, information and communications technologies, life sciences, and metals and minerals.
Historic trade agreements require historic trade promotion, and under GMAP, the Harper government is supporting workers and businesses in Ontario and ensuring that SMEs have all the necessary tools to seize new opportunities and realize their full export potential.
Key elements of the trade promotion efforts include:
Go Global Export Workshops
Over the next several months, the Honourable Ed Fast, Minister of International Trade, is holding workshops across Canada in collaboration with Canadian Manufacturers & Exporters and all the Government of Canada’s export support agencies. Under GMAP, the Canadian Trade Commissioner Service, Export Development Canada, the Business Development Bank of Canada and the Canadian Commercial Corporation have been aligning their activities, facilitating referrals, sharing market intelligence and information, and providing a whole-of-government approach to boost SME exports. In 2014, over 300 SMEs participated in Go Global workshops, including one in Mississauga, Ontario, in November.
Minister Fast will be hosting Go Global workshops in Kitchener-Waterloo on January 20 and in Richmond Hill on January 29, 2015.
Regional Trade Commissioner Service (TCS) Activities
In 2014, the TCS’s Ontario Regional Office assisted 732 SMEs, providing them with on-the-ground international business support, including 1,083 targeted services, and connecting them to new business opportunities.
Trade commissioners have been embedded with public and private sector partners across Canada, including in Ontario—with the Aerospace Industries Association of Canada, Canadian Manufacturers & Exporters – Ontario, the Canadian Services Coalition – Canadian Chamber of Commerce, the Information Technology Association of Canada, the MaRS Discovery District and the Ontario Chamber of Commerce—so they may work closely with businesses to ensure the Government of Canada is responsive to their needs.
Export Development Canada (EDC)
EDC helped 2,041 Ontario companies finance or insure $19.42-billion worth of international sales and investments. For example, General Electric (GE) Canada and EDC worked together to identify and introduce innovative and globally minded Canadian companies into the supply chain of two GE Canada divisions in Peterborough; EDC provided financing for Toronto-based Merus Labs for its acquisition of an established pharmaceutical product in several European countries; and EDC led a $20-million commercial project finance facility for BioAmber to develop a biochemical production facility in Sarnia.
Overall, EDC’s new outlook calls for Ontario exports to increase by 7 percent in 2014 and 5 percent in 2015.
Canadian Commercial Corporation (CCC)
In 2013-14, CCC worked with over 65 companies in Ontario on export opportunities abroad, including Allen Vanguard Corp. of Ottawa, General Dynamics Land Systems – Canada of London, and Manitex Liftking of Vaughan.
Attracting Job-Creating Investments in Ontario
Significant investments were made in Ontario in 2014 that created jobs and opportunities for Canadians.
Through the Invest Canada – Community Initiatives program, the Government of Canada provided a total of $1.6 million to 22 Ontario communities or community organizations: Burlington Economic Development Corporation, Canada‘s Technology Triangle Inc., Chapleau Economic Development Corporation, City of Guelph, City of Hamilton, City of Niagara Falls, City of Welland, Greater Peterborough Area Economic Development Corporation, Greater Toronto Marketing Alliance, Invest Ottawa, Invest Toronto, Kingston Economic Development Corporation, London Economic Development Corporation, Niagara Region, Quinte Economic Development Corporation, Regional Municipality of Durham, Sarnia-Lambton Economic Partnership, Southwestern Ontario Marketing Alliance, Municipality of Chatham-Kent, Regional Municipality of Halton, United Counties of Stormont, Dundas and Glengarry, and Town of Whitby.
As part of GMAP, the government attracts investment to Canada, benefiting hard-working Canadians and their families. In the 2013-14 fiscal year, the Canadian Trade Commissioner Service (TCS) worked with provincial, territorial and municipal investment partners to facilitate 146 successful investment projects worth $3.65 billion and create over 5,500 new jobs within Canada.
Opening Markets and Supporting Ontario Businesses Abroad
In 2014, Minister Fast led 13 trade missions to 20 countries. Trade missions connect Canadian businesses, especially SMEs, with new opportunities to boost their exports, which creates jobs, growth and prosperity across all regions of Canada, including Ontario. Minister Fast was joined by representatives of 78 Ontario companies on several of these missions—including Germany in March, where he was joined by 12 representatives; the United Kingdom in September, where he was joined by 11 representatives; and China in November, where he was joined by 28 representatives.
During his trade mission to India in October, Minister Fast was joined by eight Ontario companies: Best Theratronics, DataWind, Deloitte LLP, Environmental Waste International, IT Measures Ltd., LM Technologies Canada, Nrich Canada and Prudential Consulting. While in India, the Minister witnessed the signing of an agreement between Novadaq Technologies of Mississauga, Ontario, and Kirloskar Technologies of New Delhi to market innovation technologies in India.
During his trade mission to China in May, Minister Fast witnessed the signing of a contract potentially worth $10 million between EHC Global of Oshawa, Ontario, and the Shanghai Mitsubishi Elevator Corporation to develop innovative solutions for the Chinese elevator and escalator market.
Also during his trade mission to China in November, Minister Fast witnessed numerous signing agreements between various Chinese and Ontario companies, including:
- one between Anemoi Technologies Inc. of Ontario and CSR Sifang to design and supply a high-speed train crash-testing facility;
- one between Candu Energy of Ontario and the China National Nuclear Corporation to develop the Advanced Fuel CANDU Reactor and deliver CANDU new build projects in China and international markets;
- one between Ontario-based Firan Technology Group Corporation and Shanghai Avionics Corporation concerning the design, development, manufacturing and product support of display system control panels for the Chinese C919 aircraft;
- one between Ontario-based KELK and Wuhan Iron and Steel Group to supply state-of-the-art electronic measurement equipment for new builds or revamping of steel rolling projects;
- one between Ontario-based LeMine Investment Group and Guizhou Fengguan Group for exporting canola oil;
- two for Ontario-based Michael H.K. Wong Architects Inc. for design services for the headquarters building of the Fujian International Business Association and for the new Yangjiang Guo-Fu-Yi-Jia Health Care & Resort Centre in Guangdong; and
- one between Ontario-based Plasco Energy Group and Shougang Group to bring Plasco’s waste-to-energy facilities to Beijing.
Innovative companies from Ontario can also count on the support of the Canadian Technology Accelerator (CTA) program. Seventy-six companies from Ontario have recently participated in CTA programs, including 41 in 2013-14 and 35 in 2014-15. These include dynamic companies like iNTERFACEWARE Inc., which took part in a CTA program in Philadelphia, and Voices.com, which which took part in a CTA program in San Francisco.
Minister Fast encouraged Ontario-based businesses to take advantage of the Enterprise Canada Network, provided in partnership with EDC and Canadian Manufacturers & Exporters, which provides online access to more than 30,000 business profiles and opportunities in the European market to help Canadian companies take full advantage of the historic Canada-EU trade agreement
Under GMAP, the Harper government committed to developing comprehensive strategies in key sectors. Strategies released this year that support Manitoba businesses include the International Education, the Extractive Sector and the Corporate Social Responsibility strategies, and an export-oriented Defence Procurement Strategy.
Minister Fast invited businesses in Ontario to accompany him on his first trade mission of 2015. This trade mission to South Korea, which will take place from February 8 to 13, will enable businesses to take full advantage of the Canada-Korea Free Trade Agreement and benefit from the on-the-ground support from the Government of Canada.
“This year, 2014, has been the most successful year for international trade in Canadian history, benefiting hard-working Canadians in Ontario and in every region of the country. Under Canada’s Global Markets Action Plan, we will continue our vigorous trade promotion efforts to boost our exports.
“In 2015, we will continue to focus on the real priorities of hard-working Canadians: creating new jobs and prosperity.”
– Ed Fast, Minister of International Trade
Quotes from Ontario Stakeholders
“The trade mission to India was a fabulous experience overall. It was a great way to get the inside scoop on the feel and flavour of India by meeting the local entrepreneurs and elected officials who make the country work. The positive effects of this India mission for me included higher sales revenue opportunities, visibility and goodwill and a better perspective. An additional benefit was that the mission helped us develop close business relationships. This was a great way for the participants who were looking at doing business in India for the first time to initiate the process of breaking into a new market.”
– Dilip Ghose, Director/President, Global Business, LM Technologies Canada Inc.
“The trade mission provided a number of opportunities to connect with other Canadian companies operating within the region, as well as with key stakeholders and clients in Tanzania. We appreciate the support of the Canadian government to engage in this trade mission to Tanzania, as it highlights the current opportunities and ultimately benefits Canadian companies.”
– Peter James, Senior Consultant, CPCS Transcom Limited
“My company is very satisfied with the results of this trip, and all our strategic objectives have been met. We were impressed by all the work done by embassy personnel and commercial delegates and by ministers Bernier and Fast during this extremely well-organized event.”
– Marc Carrier, Account Director – Business Development, Rheinmetall Canada Inc.
“We are most appreciative of the opportunity to participate in this trade mission with Minister Fast. The whole-of-government support for defence export sales was an important factor in our recent contracts with Colombia and Peru. The ability to sign government-to-government contracts through the Canadian Commercial Corporation with a sovereign guarantee of performance provides a significant advantage to Canadian exporters.”
– Chris Brown, General Dynamics Land Systems-Canada
“We have found the support of Canadian Trade Commissioner Service officers to be extremely valuable. The experience with the other participants during the trade mission helps to verify our common interest in this market. With the support of the officials, we met with a client yesterday truly interested in a solution for their situation. We are very grateful.”
– John MacDonald, President, IT Measures Ltd.
Canadian Technology Accelerator
“The Canadian Technology Accelerator experience helped refine and accelerate segment plan and pipeline development refinements, and help received during CTA participation has create an accelerated sales process and a more successful market strategy. The CTA was a useful facility in accelerating business/market planning, saving a substantial amount of time and effort and compressing plan-to-execution cycle.”
– Toni Skokovic, Vice President, Sales, iNTERFACEWARE Inc.
“The Canadian Technology Accelerator located in San Francisco’s RocketSpace provided Voices.com with the launching pad necessary for connecting with key stakeholders, for drawing new customers and engaging existing customers already in the San Francisco area, and for securing new partnerships with heavy hitters like Adobe—many who were part of RocketSpaces’ corporate development arm. Thanks to the CTA, a number of invaluable relationships were created for Voices.com. The growth experienced in the CTA has supported the expansion of our London, Ontario office.”
– David Ciccarelli, Founder and CEO, Voices.com
Canada-European Union Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement (CETA)
“The industry congratulates the Prime Minister and the Minister of International Trade on the government’s ongoing commitment to opening international markets and successfully negotiating CETA. The health of the Canadian economy depends on the ability to competitively export to markets around the world. CETA will deliver significant dividends for the Canadian economy over the years ahead.”
– Andrew Casey, President and CEO, BIOTECanada
“Ford Motor Company of Canada congratulates the Government of Canada on reaching a transformational free trade agreement with the European Union. Ford is a company built on free trade. Throughout our history, Ford has supported deals that provide an opportunity to increase effective two-way trade among all partners. Expanding trade opportunities is fundamental to Ford’s business plan, and the EU market represents a significant global market for our vehicles.”
– Dianne Craig, President and CEO, Ford Motor Company of Canada
“We applaud Canada and the EU for completing a modern, high-standard comprehensive economic and trade agreement that will provide enhanced opportunities for growth in both regions. We appreciate the hard work to find creative solutions that improve market access for Canadian-produced automobiles, while ensuring Canada continues to benefit from the integrated manufacturing sector that has developed in North America over the past 50 years.”
– Kevin Williams, former president and managing director, General Motors of Canada
“The EU is the largest buyer of Canadian soybeans, with more than a million tonnes exported to the region annually. We look forward to even greater trade with Europe with the implementation of CETA.”
– Barry Senft, CEO, Grain Farmers of Ontario
“Canada has some tightly controlled pricing regimes as [they] relate to drug products, and subsequently as time moves forward there should be no reason as to why drug prices would increase from the levels that we currently are at. This is good for Canada. It enables us to become more competitive with other countries around the world that currently have better intellectual property regimes.”
– Chris Halyk, President, Janssen Inc.
“We anticipate that this agreement, when it comes into force, will open new markets to Canadian exporters like NOVO Plastics throughout Europe and will generate significant commercial opportunities for all Canadian small to medium-sized businesses. NOVO Plastics will benefit from the elimination of EU tariffs on auto parts, which are as high as 4.5 percent. This will provide us with a competitive advantage in the EU market that few other countries have.”
– Baljit Sierra, President and CEO, NOVO Plastics Inc.
“Gaining preferential access to the world’s largest economy—with a GDP of almost $17 trillion and a market of 500 million consumers—will be good news for a trading nation like Canada. The value of the [financial] industry’s exported services has doubled in the past decade, and the sector now accounts for roughly half of Canada’s total stock of outward foreign direct investment. What’s more, exports by financial companies are growing faster than [those in] other sectors, and CETA could open new opportunities for our financial services providers.”
– Janet L. Ecker, President and CEO, Toronto Financial Services Alliance
“The European Union has become a key export market for us, with customers in Poland, Hungary and Slovakia who appreciate the high-quality and low-cost products we are able to provide. This agreement will make our products even more cost-competitive, which will expand our business, create new sources of prosperity for current and future employees and benefit Canadian manufacturers as a whole.”
– Ben Whitney, President, Armo Tool Limited
“Our exports to the European market are an important and growing aspect of our business. Creating an improved access to the European market with reduced tariffs and barriers would help us to continue to diversify our customer base and stabilize employment at ODG.”
– Michael Eckardt, CEO, Ontario Drive and Gear Ltd. (ODG)
“We at Miovision are in full support of a Canada-EU trade agreement, and would consider freer trade with Europe to be a milestone achievement for the government procurement sector. At a minimum, the reduction of technical barriers to trade will allow companies like Miovision to reap far greater gains from existing deals with European customers. Ultimately, the faster Canada can gain preferential access to the European Union, the faster companies on both sides of the equation can grow and create jobs.”
– Kurtis McBride, Co-founder and CEO, Miovision Technologies
“In the eyes of our industry, CETA means increased demand here in Canada for construction. It means expanding companies. It means housing for the new workers. And it means people have the confidence to invest in their future and in construction. Hand in hand with seeking increased trade in the Asia-Pacific [region] and our existing free trade with the United States, freer trade with Europe will benefit Canadians and construction for decades to come.”
– Terrance Oakey, President, Merit Canada
“There is no doubt that a Canada-EU comprehensive economic trade agreement will be a huge win for the Waterloo region. As a regional economic development partnership, we seek to attract investment by showcasing the region as a place of great opportunity with an exceptionally talented and innovative labour force. That is exactly what this agreement will help us do, and is why Canada’s Technology Triangle Inc. supports a successful CETA as a means to improving the Waterloo region’s competitive edge in the world.”
– John G. Jung, CEO, Canada’s Technology Triangle Inc.
“This is the classic way to create jobs, by lowering trade barriers. We are a trading nation. We are convinced that with better opportunities in Europe we can increase our production, therefore hire more people and, therefore, create jobs. That is how it is done.”
– Paul Van Meerbergen, Business Development Manager, Lamko Tool and Mold Inc.
“The Chemistry Industry Association of Canada strongly supports the government’s pro-trade agenda and successful completion of the comprehensive economic and trade agreement with the EU. A trade agreement would help Canada’s chemistry manufacturing industry secure new markets; stimulate economic growth, job creation and investments; and provide more opportunities to develop Canada’s natural resources—including energy—into value-added products for the benefit of the broader manufacturing sector.”
– Richard Paton, President and CEO, Chemistry Industry Association of Canada
“As a world-class supplier of medical and industrial high purity alcohol, a comprehensive economic trade agreement with the European Union will allow GreenField Ethanol to expand our operations into the lucrative EU market and take our products global. This agreement is about moving Canada forward and positioning Canadian companies to compete and succeed in the 21st-century global economy. Access to the European market through the reduction of tariffs and other barriers to trade will open up new opportunities for my business and allow me to create well-paying jobs right here in Canada.”
– Kenneth Field, Chairman, GreenField
Canada-Korea Free Trade Agreement
“This trade agreement is of tremendous importance to the food and beverage processing sector in Ontario and across Canada. For the agri-food sector the agreement commits to eliminating nearly 87 percent of tariffs on products from Canada to Korea. An open door to Korea will offer new opportunities for Ontario food and beverage processing companies not just in Korea, but all of Asia through a network of supply chains.”
– Steve Peters, Executive Director, Alliance of Ontario Food Processors
“The Winery & Grower Alliance of Ontario is supportive of a Canada-Korea free trade agreement. South Korea is the second most important Asian market for Ontario wines, particularly our premium product, icewine. Such an agreement should increase the competitiveness of Ontario wines in Korea and ultimately lead to increased exports.”
– Patrick Gedge, President and CEO, Winery & Grower Alliance of Ontario
“The signing of a free trade agreement between Canada and Korea is great news. We anticipate this agreement, when it comes into force, will open new markets to Canadian exporters like NOVO throughout the dynamic and fast-growing Asian market and will generate significant commercial opportunities for all Canadian small to medium sized businesses.”
– Baljit Sierra, President and CEO, NOVO Plastics Inc.
“Free and open trade with priority markets in Asia, most notably Korea and Japan, is vital to Canada’s national interest to be globally competitive, create jobs and increase prosperity. The successful conclusion of a trade agreement with Korea would also allow Canada to direct its full resources towards the swift completion of the economic partnership agreement with Japan.”
– Jerry Chenkin, Chairman, Japan Automobile Manufacturers Association of Canada
“With the imminent completion of these negotiations with South Korea, we expect that the Government of Canada will move expeditiously to finalize a Canada/Japan economic partnership agreement to level the playing field for all vehicle distributors in the Canadian market, which will create benefits for Canadian consumers.”
– David Adams, President, Global Automakers of Canada
The White House
Office of the Press Secretary
For Immediate Release
November 15, 2014
Prime Minister Tony Abbott of Australia, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe of Japan, and President Barack Obama of the United States met in Brisbane, Australia on 16 November 2014 in the margins of the G20 Leaders’ Summit.
The leaders expressed their commitment to deepening the trilateral partnership among Australia, Japan and the United States to ensure a peaceful, stable, and prosperous future for the Asia-Pacific region. They noted that this partnership rests on the unshakable foundation of shared interests and values, including a commitment to democracy and open economies, the rule of law, and the peaceful resolution of disputes.
The three leaders reaffirmed the global reach of their cooperation and the value of comprehensive US engagement in the Asia-Pacific region. They resolved to tackle pressing issues such as: degrading and ultimately defeating the threat of the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) and countering the threat posed by foreign terrorist fighters; ending the deadly Ebola virus disease epidemic in West Africa; and opposing Russia’s purported annexation of Crimea and its actions to destabilize eastern Ukraine, and bringing to justice those responsible for the downing of Flight MH17. The three leaders also underscored the strength of their regional cooperation, including eliminating the North Korean nuclear and missile threat; addressing human rights in North Korea including the abductions issue; and ensuring freedom of navigation and over-flight and the peaceful resolution of maritime disputes in accordance with international law, including through legal mechanisms such as arbitration.
The leaders expressed their firm commitment to deepen the already strong security and defense cooperation among the three countries and to strengthen the collective ability to address global concerns and promote regional stability through enhanced cooperation on: trilateral exercises; maritime security capacity building and maritime domain awareness; peacekeeping capacity building, particularly in the area of prevention of violence against women; increasing development assistance coordination throughout the region; humanitarian assistance and disaster relief; cyber capacity building; and defense equipment and technology. They welcomed work being done to this end and directed their governments to expand trilateral cooperation in all of these areas.
The leaders resolved to continue to work together and with our partners in the region to promote strong sustainable growth and prosperity in the Asia-Pacific, including through cooperation in the G20, APEC, EAS and other regional forums to promote sustainable, inclusive, and resilient growth and prosperity, free trade and investment, including in infrastructure development and energy efficiency.
Press Briefing by Press Secretary Josh Earnest, Deputy National Security Advisor for Strategic Communications Ben Rhodes and U.S. Trade Representative Michael Froman
The White House
Office of the Press Secretary
For Immediate Release
November 11, 2014
10:56 A.M. CST
MR. EARNEST: Good morning, everybody. It’s nice to see you all. You don’t look nearly as bleary-eyed as I expected. I’m joined today by Ben Rhodes, the President’s Deputy National Security Advisor, and Ambassador Mike Froman, who is the United States Trade Representative.
Ambassador Froman has, as you would expect, primarily focused on the aspects of the President’s trip that’s focused on the economy and strengthening the American economy and expanding economic opportunity for Americans back home. That is, as you would expect, a core component of the President’s agenda while he out here so Mike has got a couple of things to talk to you about.
Then we’ll turn it over to Ben, who will do a review of some of the other aspects of the agenda that the President has been discussing in the context of these APEC meetings but also what we’ll be focused on in the context of the President’s bilateral meetings with President Xi that will begin later on this evening.
And then after that, the three of us will be up here to take questions you have on any topic. We’ll do this for 45 minutes or so. All right, Ambassador Froman, would you like to start us off?
AMBASSADOR FROMAN: Well, thanks, Josh, and I’d like to start with an announcement on an important breakthrough we had in our negotiations with China on the Information Technology Agreement, or ITA, and that’s news that the President just shared with his other APEC leaders at the leaders summit.
Last night, we reached a breakthrough in our ongoing efforts to expand the Information Technology Agreement. This is a WTO agreement that eliminates tariffs on high-tech products among 54 economies, including the U.S. and China. And to give you some idea of the importance of this agreement, the last time the WTO agreed to eliminate tariffs on IT products was in 1996 when most of the GPS technology, much of the medical equipment software, high-tech gadgetry that we rely on in our daily lives didn’t even exist. In fact, since that time, global trade in these types of high-tech products have reached $4 trillion annually. And despite the explosion of trade, the coverage of the ITA of products has never been expanded.
And so that’s why for the last two years, we’ve been working to –- very intensively –- with our global partners to expand the Information Technology Agreement. But unfortunately, during the summer of 2013, those talks broke down due to disagreements over the scope of coverage -– what list of products would be covered by the agreement, with most countries, led by the U.S., working to achieve an ambitious outcome.
Since that time, the United States and China have been working to close our differences but without a breakthrough sufficient to resume the plurilateral negotiations in Geneva. And that finally changed here last night with an agreement between the U.S. and China that we expect will pave the way for the resumption of ITA negotiations in Geneva and their swift conclusion. And that will be the first major tariff-cutting agreement in the WTO in 17 years. At a time when there have been a lot of FTAs and other regional arrangements, the WTO hasn’t actually cut tariffs in 17 years and the ITA presents the first opportunity to do that.
This is encouraging news for the U.S.-China relationship. It shows how the U.S. and China work together to both advance our bilateral economic agenda but also to support the multilateral trading system. And it also underscores the importance of institutions like APEC — regional organizations — APEC actually gave birth to the ITA back in 1996. It’s always been a key part of the ITA –- APEC leaders have always called for swift conclusion of the ITA so this is another indication of the utility of forums like this.
Industry estimates have concluded that successfully concluding the ITA would eliminate tariffs on roughly $1 trillion of global sales of IT products. It would contribute to global GDP $190 billion and would support up to 60,000 additional U.S. jobs in technology and manufacturing. And by also boosting productivity around the world and particularly in developing countries.
So we’re going to take what’s been achieved here in Beijing back to the Geneva and work with our WTO partners. And while we don’t take anything for granted, we’re hopeful that we’ll be able to work quickly to bring ITA to a successful conclusion, and that will help support good-paying jobs in the United States, where we lead the world in creating and selling made-in-America high-tech products that the world is hungry to buy.
Let me conclude just about — a word perhaps about TPP, which has obviously been another area of major focus while we’re here. As you all know, President Obama convened the TPP leaders yesterday. They had a very productive conversation. It was a good opportunity to take stock of where we were in the negotiations, to provide political impetus and guidance in terms of resolving the remaining issues. All the leaders made clear in that joint statement that we’ve narrowed many of the gaps.
There’s still work to be done, but the end of these important negotiations is coming into focus, and that’s awfully important to the United States from a number of perspectives — it’s with 40 percent of the global economy covered by TPP, some of the fastest-growing markets in the world successfully concluding TPP will help support jobs, promote growth, strengthen the middle class in the United States. It’s a key part of our rebalancing strategy, it underscores how the U.S. is embedded in this region and how the economic wellbeing of this region is integrally related to the wellbeing of the economy in the United States.
And with that, I’ll turn it over to Ben.
MR. RHODES: Great, I’ll just give a brief preview of the President’s upcoming meetings here in China, and then we can take your questions on Mike’s issues or any other issues in foreign or domestic policy.
With respect to the bilateral visit here to China, the two issues that we’ve highlighted over the course of the last two days I think are the key priorities that we were able to get down and closed out around this bilateral visit: That is the visa announcement that was made yesterday, and then the bilateral understanding on ITA that was reached today.
I think what speaks to the significance and dynamism of the U.S. economic — U.S.-China economic relationship. Today at APEC that is clearly going to be broadened out into a discussion in regional issues related to trade and economic cooperation, as well as a number of other areas.
But as you know, tonight the President will have a dinner with President Xi Jinping of China to kick off the state visit portion of our time here in Beijing. And then tomorrow, the two leaders will have bilateral meetings, as well.
In addition to discussing and marking the progress that’s been made on these bilateral economic issues, they’ll also discuss a range of other bilateral and global issues that are of mutual interest to the United States and China.
Specifically I’d expect there to be a discussion around our cooperation on clean energy and climate change as our two countries prepare for the ongoing international climate negotiations heading into next year.
We’ll have a discussion of a number of regional security issues, among them our shared commitment to denuclearization on the Korean Peninsula, as well as the security environment in the broader Asia Pacific region, including our interest in maritime security and the situation in the South and East China Sea. We’ll discuss our military-to-military relationship and what we can do to develop greater dialogue and cooperation and confidence-building measures working together.
There will certainly be a discussion of the ongoing talk in Iran with Iran over its nuclear program. And Secretary Kerry will be joining the President from Oman, where he’s been in a trilateral dialogue with the Foreign Minister of Iran and Cathy Ashton from the European Union.
Cybersecurity, of course, will be an important focus for the President given some of our concerns related to cybersecurity and the theft of intellectual property. Afghanistan is an area where we are looking to cooperate with China. We very much welcomed President Ghani visit here to Beijing earlier in the year and believe that China can be a partner in promoting development and stability in Afghanistan going forward.
Global issues like Ebola and ISIL will certainly be a part of the discussion. And we’ve worked with China to enlist them in the effort to fight the outbreak of Ebola in West Africa. And then, of course, as is always the case when we meet with China we’ll have a discussion around areas where we have differences — not just cybersecurity, but issues related to human rights and universal values.
So there will be a very broad agenda. I think we’ve already had very good progress on our leader economic priorities heading into the visit with the ITA and visa understandings that were reached. I think that shows an ability to identify areas of practical cooperation with China even as we’re, of course, going to have differences on a range of other political, economic and security issues.
And so tomorrow we’ll have those believe meetings. And then the President will be hosted at a lunch here. He’ll have a chance to meet with a range of Chinese officials before leaving for the EAS and ASEAN summits in Naypyidaw.
So with that, we’ll move to questions.
MR. EARNEST: Let’s get started. Julie, do you want to take us up?
Q I have one two for Mike and one for Ben also. Mike, can you say exactly what the U.S. and China agreed to that led to the breakthrough? And, Ben, with the Obama and Xi bilat starting, the President has invested a lot of personal time in trying to build a relationship with Xi. At the same time, China continues to be provocative on cyber and maritime issues. How do you see their personal relationship at this point? And how does that affect their conversations over the next two days?
AMBASSADOR FROMAN: Sure, so the ITA is basically a list of tariff lines that are to be covered by tariff elimination. And we now have agreed to more than 200 tariff lines representing about a trillion dollars of trade to be covered by the ITA. And some of the — for the last six months we’ve been focused not just on the quantity of the lines, but the quality of the lines. And the lines that have the greatest potential, for example, for U.S. exports, where the U.S. plays a leading role, areas of expected future growth. So things like high-end semiconductors where there are tariffs up to 25 percent currently. We already export over $2 billion of high-tech, high-end semiconductors even with 25 percent tariffs. Eliminating those tariffs will obviously expand that trade significantly. It’s an area where we have a comparative advantage, and where we can support a lot of good well-paying American jobs.
Same thing on medical equipment, MRIs, CAT scans. We export more than $2 billion of those products a year, and they face high tariffs around the region — 8 percent in some places, as well as tariffs elsewhere. This will eliminate those tariffs and allow us to expand our exports.
Same is true on some of the high-tech instruments that have become components in advanced manufacturing that we’re very much involved in. So those were some of the issues that we had a breakthrough on that will allow the negotiations now to move forward in Geneva.
MR. RHODES: Sure, Julie, on your second question, the President has invested a good deal of time and energy in his relationship with President Xi. I think if you look at the breadth of the agenda, it’s clearly, as Secretary Kerry said, the most consequential bilateral relationship in the world. And what they were able to do at Sunnylands is cover this whole spectrum of issues. And, in fact, actually the ITA came up at Sunnylands so this was an area of focus on our trade agenda.
And I think what the President was able to do is convey in that meeting his thinking on all these issues, both strategically and at a tactical level, and he was able to hear the same from President Xi. Again, Xi Jinping has clearly established himself as a strong and assertive leader here in China. And the way we look at the relationship is there, at any given time, are going to be areas where we can identify ways to make progress and then there are going to be areas where we’re going to have differences.
And I think we’ve been opportunistic in saying, okay, where do we have an agreement that we can drive the relationship forward on something like visas or ITA. But on, frankly, the global security issues like Iran and North Korea, the Chinese have been constructive partners. In the Iran negotiations, they have played a constructive role in being unified with the P5-plus-1, in pressing Iran to take this opportunity to demonstrate that their program is peaceful. In North Korea, they’ve taken a very strong line to support the notion that denuclearization has to be the goal of any discussions with North Korea.
When we look at the global issues, we’ve encouraged China to play a more assertive role on things like Ebola. We want them to be stepping up to the plate and kicking in more resources so we welcome the desire from China that is clearly on display here at this summit to play a role in the international community commensurate to its economic and political standing, and its standing as the world’s most populous nation.
At the same time, we’re going to be very clear when we believe that China’s actions are actually pushing outside the boundaries of what we believe to be the necessary international norms that govern the relations between nations and the ways in which we resolve disputes. And so when we see things on cyber security where we have Chinese actions that disadvantage U.S. businesses or steal intellectual property, we’re going to be very candid about that.
On maritime security, what we’ve said is we’re not a claimant, but there cannot be a situation where a bigger nation is simply allowed to bully smaller nations. There has to be a means of resolving disputes through international law and international cooperation through discussion between China, for instance, and ASEAN countries on the South China Sea, dialogue between China and Japan on issues related to the Senkakus. And to that end, actually, we welcomed the meeting yesterday between President Xi and Prime Minister Abe as an opportunity to reduce the tensions between those two countries.
So I think the benefit of the personal relationship is that they know where they’re coming from. There’s no mystery in our position on these issues, there’s no mystery on the Chinese position. What we need to do is find when there’s an opening, we take it, and we run through that opening, we work together. And when there’s a difference, we’re just going to keep raising it repeatedly with China, raising it in international forums like this and try to find ways to encourage China to work within an international system that ultimately is going to be the best way of delivering stability, prosperity, security to this part of the world and also dealing with global challenges.
Q One for Ambassador Froman and one for Ben. Ambassador, what are the remaining sticking points when it comes to TPP? And you say the end of negotiations are coming into focus –- what specifically does that mean? Do you have a timeline in your head for when there might be an actual deal? And, Ben, can you talk a little bit about what, if any, specific asks President Obama will have on Ebola and ISIS when he meets with President XI?
MR. EARNEST: Okay, so just to repeat –- I’ll try to repeat the questions just so everybody can hear them. So the question about TPP –- final sticking points and timeline for completion, and then any requests that President Obama will make related to ISIS -– ISIL and Ebola. So, Mike, do you want to go first?
AMBASSADOR FROMAN: Well, with TPP, it’s a two-track negotiation. There’s market access and then there are the rules. In market access, we’ve made very significant progress with most countries, including Japan, on agriculture and on autos we’ve made progress. We’re not done yet, there are still outstanding issues, but we have made quite good progress there in recent weeks.
On the rules issues, we’re working to close out issues and narrow differences on the remaining. I’d say areas that there are still issues we need to work through include intellectual property rights, state-owned enterprises, the environment –- those are three examples of areas where we’re paying particular attention to, to try and further narrow the differences and find appropriate landing zones.
In terms of the end coming into focus, these negotiations are an ongoing reiterative process. And at every stage, we close out issues, we narrow differences, we try and find landing zones, and then we try and build consensus around them. And I think it’s becoming clearer and clearer what the final landing zones might look like, but we still have some work to do, both to define them and then build support for them.
Q But can you put any type of timeline —
AMBASSADOR FROMAN: We’re going to complete it as soon as we achieve the ambitious, comprehensive high standards we set out for ourselves and we’re all working very hard to do that. There’s a lot of momentum, all the countries are very focused on doing that, but we want to make sure that we get it right.
MR. RHODES: Kristen, I think on Ebola we’ve encouraged the Chinese and they have made commitments, both financial commitments in the provision of health care workers and support for health care infrastructure in West Africa. So I think we’ve welcomed those commitments. We are always encouraging nations to consider ways to do more, but also to galvanize international action — as we head into the G20, for instance. So I think at the G20 this will be a topic among the countries in Brisbane. And China obviously has a key role to play there. So I don’t want to suggest that it’s kind of the lead item on the agenda but I think given the focus that we have on Ebola right now, we want to make sure we’re understanding what the Chinese contributions are, and then how we can work together on a collaborative basis heading into the G20 to get the international community to continue to step up and provide resources.
On ISIL, with respect to China, we obviously wouldn’t anticipate them playing a role in the military coalition. I think all the countries here in the Asia Pacific region share the concern about foreign fighters going to and from Iraq and Syria, so we can have a discussion around those issues. I think regionally, too, of course we’ve made clear that any lasting solution is going to have to deal with the political situation inside of Syria. So it’s an opportunity to exchange views about how to bring about the type of transition that could ultimately end the civil war in Syria.
So I think more likely that they’re going to spend a lot of their time on some of the other issues that I mentioned –- Iran, North Korea, cyber, mil-mil relations, Asia Pacific –- but we want to make sure China is invested on the global agenda that we’re focused on and I think Ebola and ISIL clearly plays into that, particularly on the Ebola front where they can kick in significant resources.
And Ebola is an area where what we said to the Chinese is, there’s both the commitments you can kick in here on Ebola with respect to money and health care workers and infrastructure but also how we’re thinking about infectious disease going forward, and how we have the Global Health Security Initiative where nations are anticipating what’s going to be needed if there are additional outbreaks of different diseases. And we’ve seen airborne diseases here in the Asia Pacific region. So I think we want to make sure that when we talk about China playing a bigger role ono the world stage, it’s exactly those types of issues where they can bring resources and expertise to bear in fighting not just Ebola but future infectious disease.
Q Ambassador Froman, please. What about the TISA, the Trade in Services Agreement? There was hope that maybe some steps ahead could have been done also on that subject within the WTO. Also do you think that you could every close quickly the TPP without a TPA? And thirdly, what about the development bank for investment in infrastructure that China is building up? Is the U.S. now open to have it and maybe to participate in it?
MR. EARNEST: I’ll just repeat the questions. The Trade in Services Agreement in the context of the broader trade negotiations. A question about TPA and — what was the last one? The development bank.
AMBASSADOR FROMAN: Well, we’ve had quite good progress over the course of this year on the Trade In Services Agreement negotiations. Several rounds and countries putting on the table offers. And we have a robust work program going into next year as well. So there is a lot of work being done on that. But I would just put in the context of today’s announcement. I think that the ITA announcement is a significant step in terms of showing the vitality of these plurilateral agreements where countries – likeminded countries can come together and make progress in trade liberalization, whether it’s in Geneva, the WTO, or elsewhere. So ITA, we took a major step forward today. TISA is well on its way, the Trade In Services Agreement. And we have a very good work program ahead. And earlier this year, we launched the Environmental Goods Agreement negotiation, which also includes China and we hope to work well with China and the other parties in the Environmental Goods Agreement to make progress on that in the coming year or so as well.
On TPP and TPA, our view has always been that the President has made clear that of course he would like to get a Trade Promotion Authority, he’d like to finish TPP consistent with it being an ambitious, comprehensive, high-standard agreement as soon as possible. And we are working in parallel tracks on that, that ultimately the only guarantee that a trade agreement earns the support of Congress is that we bring back a good agreement. And our focus is on bringing back an agreement that meets those standards.
On the infrastructure front, obviously the U.S. is very active in the G20 and a variety of other forums, including here at APEC, in talking about the importance of infrastructure and financing for infrastructure. We have been a strong supporter of the World Bank and the Asian Development Bank. And we think it’s important that whatever mechanisms are put in place, they live up to the high standards of the multilateral development banks in terms of procurement practices, environmental practices; that they have the very highest standards that exist for international lending.
Q For Ben. Ben, before you left on the trip, I think you met with NGOs that were doing work on human rights and democracy in Burma. What message were they giving to you? And how do you respond to them when they say, as they maybe have to journalists, it’s not a bump in the road on the reforms when you have the violence going on in some parts of the country. I think the violence — you have to do more to stand up to — how did you talk to them about that? And also, how do you carry that message forward in Burma? What notes will you strike so that the United States doesn’t look like they’re maybe lecturing but rather trying to encourage further —
MR. EARNEST: Just to repeat the question for everybody else in the room. Question about how you respond to concerns that have been raised by human rights advocates about the slow pace of progress in Burma, and how does that impact the message that you’ll deliver to Burmese officials when the President is there later this week.
MR. RHODES: Well, David, I did meet with a number of NGOs, human rights advocates, a number of Burmese separately from that as well who are engaged in civil society there. I also talked to a lot of the congressional staff that is focused on these issues, given Congress’s interest. And I think our message is – let me just step back here. On the one hand, what we’ve seen in the last five years in Burma is transformational. The opening of a country that had been completely closed off for decades, the opening of some political space, the release of Aung San Suu Kyi, the release of political prisoners, and the initiation, really, of a kind of politics in Burma that just didn’t exist several years ago. But it’s a country with enormous challenges and enormous needs. It has a lot to do.
And you don’t complete those types of transitions quickly or easily. This is going to take years to work through all the different issues that have to be addressed inside of Burma. However, I think we need to be practical about the timelines associated with those transitions. When we look at, for instance, Indonesia, the President met with the newly elected President of Indonesia yesterday. It took many years for them to work through elections and constitutional reforms and dealing with different ethnic groups in the country. So we’re taking a view here in Burma that this is enormous opportunity for the people inside the country, enormous opportunity for democratization. However, I think that we are concerned about areas where we do not see progress and where we see significant challenges. And I think there are really three broad categories that we’re going to be focused on heading into this visit. One is the ongoing process of political reform in the country.
And, again, what I said to the people I met with is that we share the same objective here –- we share the objective of there being a credible election next year in the parliamentary elections in which the Burmese people can choose their leadership but we also share the objective of supporting the process of constitutional reform inside of Burma. One election isn’t going to fix all the problems. There needs to be constitutional reform that enables there to be a fuller transition from military to civilian rule, that enables Burma to choose their own leaders. And the President will definitely be discussing the progress in planning for those elections but also the progress on, and the need for constitutional reform. And that’s something that he’ll talk to Thein Sein and Aung San Suu Kyi about.
Secondly, there is the issue in Rakhine State. And here I think is we’ve seen the most troubling difficulties with the humanitarian situation deteriorating in Rakhine State. A very specific issue having to do with the treatment of the Rohingya population there. And there, too, I think we share the same objective of the human rights community. We want to see better humanitarian access to the Rohingya, to help alleviate the humanitarian situation. We would like to see a long-term plan, an action plan that does not rely on camps but rather allows people to settle in communities and pursue development within the country. And we would like to see a process where the Rohingya can become citizens of Burma without having to self-identify as something other than who they are, which is citizens of –- prospective citizens of Burma.
So We’ve been working very hard in the country, working with other countries to try to bring a focus on the situation in Rakhine State, and it will certainly be front and center in the President’s discussions.
Then the third area is the ethnic insurgencies and the ceasefires that have been reached. Here, I think the government has made a good deal of progress. They have reached individual ceasefires with many of the different ethnic group. The Kachin is one that we’ve been particularly focused on of late. But they’re working to translate that into a nationwide ceasefire that can lead into a process of reconciliation that addresses the underlying issues of ethnic political participation, of economic development in the ethnic areas, and the role of the military as well.
And we believe that there’s a real opportunity here for the government to move forward with this plan. But again, it has to be one that doesn’t just put a lid on things, but addresses the underlying challenges and works towards the type of federal union that I think has been contemplated in many of the discussions with the ethnic groups.
So we’re coming at a time where a lot of these are in flux. But the fact of the matter is they can be dealt with through politics — and that’s new in Burma. That doesn’t mean it’s perfect, but it means that people are going to get around the table; there’s going to be a process for reviewing the constitutional amendments. There’s going to be elections. There are going to be talks ongoing with the ethnic groups. And so we want this opening to continue to move forward. We want the trajectory to continue to be one of progress.
And the United States can best — I think to sum up my message, the United States can best move that forward by engagement. If we disengage, frankly I think that there’s a vacuum that could potentially be filled by bad actors. But when we’re at the table, when we’re pressing these issues, we’re bringing more attention to the situation in Rakhine State. We are working to bring the parties together in the political process. We can help facilitate and support through development assistance the implementation of the nationwide ceasefire.
So I covered a lot of ground there, but the bottom line here is I think that we share the same objectives with the advocacy community here. We are pursuing those objectives through engagement, and we’re clear-eyed about where there’s been progress and where there needs to be more. And we believe we can best move that along by the President raising this with Thein Sein, with Aung San Suu Kyi. But you’ll notice he’s also meeting with civil society, he’s meeting with young people. We’re sending the message that we’re engaging very broadly in this country because we care deeply about its future and we see a real opportunity, but that opportunity can only be seized if they continue moving in the right direction and don’t let some of the recent very significant challenges through the reform off course.
MR. EARNEST: Carol.
Q I have one for each of you actually. On the ITA, can you explain what the difference this one is going to make to the tech industry given that — and how it will impact consumers, and if China got any concessions in this breakthrough? And then, Ben, you mentioned that Obama and Xi are going to talk about military-to-military cooperation. Can you guys talk on those building measures? And have you guys reached agreements on notifying each other about military activities and on a code of conduct for encounters in sea and air?
Josh, on the net neutrality announcement, can you talk about why you guys did that now and what you’re trying to accomplish, and what sort of pushback can you expect from the new Congress? And whether or not the President has talked to Comcast about it?
MR. EARNEST: Mike, I’ll let you go first. Do you want to repeat the question for — I think I lost track by the end.
AMBASSADOR FROMAN: The benefits of ITA.
Q Right. (Off mic) and how it’s going to affect consumers.
AMBASSADOR FROMAN: Well, in these tariff reduction agreements, it obviously benefits both the producers who can now sell more of their product, but also the consumers — because they’ll see access to products more easily. And when you’re talking about medical devices, for example — medical equipment, like MRIs and CAT scans, and a whole variety of implantable devices — that means better health care for people all over the world.
The tariffs range as high as 25 percent for some of the next generation semi-conductors; 30 percent for loud speakers; 30 percent for certain software media; 30 percent for video game consoles. So some of the tariffs are in the 5 to 8 percent range, some are in the 25 to 30 percent range. And right now the trade in these cover lines is about $1 trillion, and we’d expect it to grow significantly for the benefit of consumers and the benefits of producers, including a lot of products made in the United States. We export over a billion dollars of these products right now, even with these barriers in place, and that will help support more jobs in the United States.
AMBASSADOR FROMAN: In trade negotiations there’s always issues of how the obligations are phased in over time, and that will be part of what’s discussed in Geneva.
MR. RHODES: Sure, on the specific nature of the confidence-building measures with the Chinese and mil-mil ties. I don’t want to get ahead of the discussions, but we’ve certainly been focused on both just simply the lines of communication with China, but also how to address some of the challenges we’ve seen recently, for instance, with respect to circumstances where we certainly came a little too close for comfort between the United States and Chinese military assets. And so we’re looking at what practical things can be done to build confidence and have more transparency. So we’ll keep you updated on that. I don’t want to get ahead of the leaders.
But the bottom-line principle is, first of all, it’s incredibly important that we avoid inadvertent escalation and that we don’t find ourselves having an accidental circumstance lead into something that could precipitate conflict. So there’s enormous value in that type of dialogue.
And the second point I think is it’s good for the region if the United States and China are able to have greater transparency between our militaries. I think that will ultimately promote stability. And we’ve encouraged that type of transparency across the region — whether it’s an ASEAN code of conduct or whether it’s the type of dialogue that President Xi and Prime Minister Abe had yesterday. This is something that we’ve been encouraging all of our partners to do — to be more transparent, to build confidence, develop practical means to avoid an inadvertent escalation.
So it will be an important topic of their meeting, and we’ll keep you updated on it.
Q So just the two things that —
MR. RHODES: I mean, there are those and then there’s just the broader nature of our military-to-military relationship and how we interact, how we have exchanges. So I think we’ll have more to say on this, but I don’t want to get ahead of the leaders.
MR. EARNEST: And then before we move on to — just on the net neutrality question that you raised earlier, Carol — I know that there are members of Congress on both sides of this issue who have made their views known. The White House has been in touch with the business community on a variety of issues, as we always are. And I know that this is something that, again, on both sides of this issue they are very strongly held views.
The position that the President articulated in the statement that was released today is consistent with the President’s previously expressed strongly held views about the important of an open Internet; that the Internet has been the source of innovation, that it’s been good for the economy, in particular in the United States. And putting in place a regulatory regime that does not allow some of those companies to sort of extend some preferential treatment to some content is an important way that we can protect the freedom and openness that’s associated with the Internet that will ensure that it continues to be a space that’s open to innovation and progress.
But again, this is something that has been — has engendered strongly held views on both sides, so I would anticipate this will continue to be a pretty robust debate in the political sphere back home in the United States.
I will say that in terms of the timing of this announcement, it is not related to this specific trip; that there are some regulatory decisions that are due. And the President felt like this was an appropriate time to, again, reiterate his views about the important principle that’s at stake here.
Q Ben, I had a question about Putin in terms of — I know it was just a brief conversation so far. But can you say anything that happened there? But also more importantly moving forward what you hope to accomplish, what message you hope to send to Putin because we’ve heard again and again that sanctions are working against Russia. And certainly we’ve seen the ruble in the last couple days — there’s been an economic impact. But the administration put out a statement a day or two ago saying that heavy artillery and tanks are being sent to the front line basically by Russia. And that’s your own assessment. So doesn’t that suggest that the sanctions are not stopping them from this heavy influence inside Ukraine?
MR. EARNEST: The question is about the exchange between the President — President Obama and President Putin yesterday and the impact of sanctions on influencing Russia’s actions in Ukraine. Ben, you want to take that.
MR. RHODES: Sure. Well, first of all, their interaction, as I think we said last night, it was very brief. The leaders greeted each other as the President greeted many leaders. They did not have the substantive exchange that they do today on the margins of APEC, where I think there’s a lot more time. We’ll certainly let you know.
But, Ed, I think — first on the message and then on the situation in Ukraine specifically, on Ukraine, we continue to be deeply troubled by Russia’s activities. And I guess to take your question head-on, the sanctions are clearly succeeding and having an impact on the Russian economy. There’s no question that if you look at every metric from the status of the ruble, to their projections for growth, that the Russian economic picture is grim and getting grimmer because of the sanctions.
The sanctions have yet to sufficiently affect Russia’s calculus as it relates to Ukraine. That’s why we continue to impose them. That’s why we continue to be very clear about where we need to see better Russian action, specifically, as you said, we’ve seen the continued provision of support to the separatists, including heavy weapons that are in complete violation of the spirit of the Minsk agreement. And what our message is to Russia is there’s an agreement that you reached with the government in Kyiv, and you just abide by that agreement. The separatists must abide by that agreement. And escalating the situation by providing these types of weapons into Ukraine is clearly not in service of that process.
And what Russia will find is, if they continue to do that, it’s a recipe for isolation from a broad swath of the international community. It’s a recipe for the type of economic disruption they’ve seen from the sanctions going forward.
So our message is one of resolve in insisting upon the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Ukraine. It’s a message that there is a road map here through the Minsk agreement that should be followed. And the President will certainly I think express that view publicly and privately in the coming days and weeks.
I think more broadly with Russia, I think at the same time we’ve had differences with them on Ukraine, we’re working to pursue an Iran agreement. We’re working in a range of areas where we can make progress together. But clearly what we’ve seen is a troubling focus from President Putin on the situation in Ukraine that is going to demand a response from the international community going forward, just as it has the last several months. And the United States is going to be committed to leading that response.
MR. EARNEST: Mark.
Q Thank you. Just a question for Mike and then a question either for Mike or Ben — if more appropriate.
On the trade talks, Mike, I’m paraphrasing, but you said earlier the best way to get Congress to pass a TPP deal is to bring them a very good agreement. And some trade analysts say that that sort of has it backwards, that you sort of need to get the TPA authority first because that allows you to obtain concessions from trading partners.
I’m wondering sort of whether you think you can get those concessions without the President having TPA, and whether foreign leaders have pressed the President in the wake of the elections to try to get that authority from Congress.
And then secondly on cyber, the working group that Secretary Kerry set up on the cybersecurity issues obviously stopped working after the charges were brought against the Chinese military officers for hacking. Will President Obama in his talks with President Xi encourage him, ask him to resume the dialogue of that working group?
MR. EARNEST: So just to restate the two issues on the microphone, the second question was about the cybersecurity working group and the relationship between the U.S. and China and how the President will raise that with President Xi when they discuss it tomorrow.
And then the first question was related to does the Ambassador feel as if he can reach a good agreement with other countries without having TPA authority first, right? Okay.
AMBASSADOR FROMAN: Well, our approach has always been to pursue both in parallel and to make clear that ultimately, again, as I said the only guarantee that agreement gets the support of Congress is that it is a good agreement and meets that ambitious, comprehensive, high-standard outcome that we have sought to achieve.
I think — we have an ongoing discussion with our trading partners. They follow our political system very closely, and we have made clear — and I think they understand — that every country has its domestic processes to go through on trade agreements. And we’re responsible for ours, and they’re responsible for theirs. And as the President has made clear that he wants to work with leaders in Congress, Republican and Democratic leaders in Congress, to advance the trade agenda, that has allowed our negotiations to continue. So we’re continuing to work in parallel to close out the TPP negotiations consistent with the high standard that we’ve set for ourselves. And we’re continuing to work with Congress to achieve trade promotion authority with as broad bipartisan support as possible.
MR. EARNEST: Ben, do you want to do the cyber?
MR. RHODES: Yes, Mark, it’s certainly the case that after those charges were brought we did see a chill in the cyber dialogue. I think the fact that we pursued those cases demonstrates that we’re not going to simply stand idly by. If we see activity that we don’t like, that we can call out, we’re going to do that.
At the same time, though, we do believe that it’s better if there’s a mechanism for a dialogue where we can raise concerns directly with one another. So I think President Obama will highlight the importance of having a means to have a cyber-dialogue so that our governments can share information. We can be direct about areas of concern. We can try to find ways to build confidence in that space, as well.
So it is something where we’ve been very firm in our position. We did see a Chinese reaction to those charges. Again, we’re going to continue to call out behavior as we see it. But I think the message in the bilat today, and has it has been going forward, is better for us to have a means to have a dialogue, just as we do on a whole host of other issues through the Strategic and Economic Dialogue, so that we can be more transparent.
MR. EARNEST: Major.
Q Ben, on Ukraine, I’m just trying to get a sense, if the President wants to use this venue for the G-20 as an opportunity to engage Putin directly and say, what’s happening in Ukraine right now? Which seems to be an escalation after several months of relative calm, to protest in a very specific way, and to convey that message to him directly.
Secondarily, can you in any way shape or form provide any clarity on the status al-Baghdadi?
MR. EARNEST: So just to repeat the two questions. The first is does the President plan to raise directly with President Putin the concerns that the United States has about their actions on Ukraine either while we’re here at APEC or in the context of the G-20 meetings.
And then an update on the latest assessment about the strike against ISIL that may have had impact on al-Baghdadi.
Ben, do you want to —
MR. RHODES: Well, Major, I think our position on Ukraine is well known, and it’s manifested in our sanctions and our policy. So I don’t think we’re necessarily looking to focus to make this a — to go out of our way to try to make the focus of these multilateral Ukraine in the way that we did when we were in Europe, when it was obviously a more natural venue.
That said, I think if the President has the opportunity to talk President Putin, I know he’ll be expressing the need to highlight and get back to the Minsk agreement and express concern over these latest reports.
I also know that other leaders share those concerns, as well. And yesterday, for instance, with Prime Minister Abbott, we discussed the situation in Ukraine. He’s obviously very focused on the MH17 investigation and the need for there to be justice for Australian families. So it’s not simply the United States. You have a number of leaders — Chancellor Merkel, Prime Minister Abbott, a number of other European leaders — Prime Minister Cameron — who share our concerns.
And so this is not just simply a U.S. view. I think it’s probably held among many of our friends and allies. And so I can’t predict exactly what will happen except to say that I know where different nations stand, and I know that that’s what they’ve been saying to the Russians.
Q Is it fair to interpret, Ben, then that you don’t consider what’s happening right now to be particularly alarming?
MR. RHODES: We do consider it to be particularly alarming. That’s why we’ve spoken out about it. I guess what I’m saying is our position is very clear on this, and the pathway out of this is very clear. It’s to get back to the Minsk agreement. And the pattern of imposing consequences on Russia when we see an escalation is also established, as well.
So again, I could anticipate knowing how these meetings go that as the President has an opportunity to engage with leaders like Chancellor Merkel, for instance, on the margins of the G-20, this will certainly come up. And again, I was just highlighting that President Putin knows full well where we stand. And we’ve made that clear through not just our words, but our policies, our sanctions. And that’s go to continue to be our approach here.
On Baghdadi, we cannot confirm his status at this point. As you know, we did take a strike that successfully hit a number of ISIL vehicles that we assessed was associated with ISIL leadership. We obviously take time to do due diligence to get an understanding of what the impact was.
The message I think is very clear, though, which is that we’re not going to allow for a safe haven for ISIL and its leadership and its fighters in Iraq or Syria. And they had for months. They were able to operate freely. And I think what they’re finding now — whether it’s outside of Kobani, whether it’s in Anbar province, whether it’s in northern Iraq, whether it was that strike outside of Mosul — that if they move, we’re going to hit them.
Q Just to clarify — you’re saying you don’t —
MR. RHODES: I don’t have an update on his status. No.
MR. EARNEST: Josh.
Q Two for Ben. The first one on Indonesia and the second one in China. At the meetings yesterday, were there any — meeting yesterday between the President and President Widodo, was there any discussion of Hambali, the terrorist suspect that’s been locked up at Guantanamo for more than 10 years. I think President Bush at one point promised to return him to Indonesia for trial. Regardless of whether it came up, what’s going to happen to that individual? Is there any plan to do anything with him or just keep him at Guantanamo indefinitely?
And then on the Chinese front, given the concerns about press freedom in China, can you explain the President’s decision to do a written interview with the Xinhua Agency, since the Chinese leaders have been criticized in the past for insisting on sort of canned interviews with American news outlets?
MR. EARNEST: The two questions. Did the President discuss with the Indonesian leader the status of an Indonesian terror suspect that’s being held at Guantanamo? And the decision-making behind the President’s decision to do a written interview with Xinhua.
Ben, do you want to take those?
MR. RHODES: Yes. Well, on the first question, it did not come up in the discussion. Counterterrorism did, ISIL did. We discussed ways to share information. And we have a good relationship with Indonesia on information sharing related to counterterrorism. And so those issues were addressed.
But on his specific status, I’ll have to check, Josh, on exactly what the status of his case is. As you know, we’ve reviewed each one and have a very rigorous process to determine who is cleared for transfer, who is not. So we can get back to you on that.
On the second question, look, it’s very — when we go on trips, this is something we do everywhere. As you know from covering us, we tend to do written interviews with outlets when we arrive in a country.
Our view is on the one hand, we need to engage. And the more the President’s voice can be heard in a country the better because people understand where we come from. So we do engage Chinese media. We engage CCTV in the Briefing Room every day. We engage Xinhua.
At the same time, we’ll raise issues of press freedom. And the President has raised it directly with President Xi in their believe meetings. We’ve raised our concerns about the status of some U.S. media organizations and the treatment — the adjudication of their visas. We’ve raised, again, our concern on having more free access to information here — not just as it relates to the news media, but as it relates to Internet.
So these are things that we will consistently raise, but again, I think better for the President’s voice to get out and to be heard in a country. We use those interviews as important venues to address different issues. But in no way does that diminish the fact that we have concerns about the press freedom here in China, just as we do in a range of other countries that we’ve visited who have — who are on a spectrum of how they treat the press.
MR. EARNEST: Mr. Acosta.
Q Yes, just to follow up on that with Ben. What does the President see as his legacy with China? Is it more engaging with China, but not changing China’s behavior? Because I was struck by something the President said yesterday with Prime Minister Abbott that press freedoms he likes, that those are U.S. values. But he does not expect China to have those traditions, to follow those traditions. Why not? Why not publicly with Xi push the Chinese to adopt a more American value system on press freedoms and human rights?
MR. EARNEST: To repeat the question again. Jim’s question is about who aggressively the President pushes the Chinese on some of the human rights concerns that the President himself has spoken about pretty publicly.
Q And how that fits into his legacy?
MR. EARNEST: Yes, and how that fits into his legacy, with that relationship.
MR. RHODES: Yes, so I’ll start with the human rights piece. Jim, the President doesn’t just see these as American values. There are certain things that are universal values. They’re embedded in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights at the United Nations. And they should be able to take root in any society. When you talk about freedom of speech, freedom of association, again, America has championed those values, but we believe that they are universal.
I think what the President is speaking about is the fact that China is at a different stage of development. Obviously, it has different traditions. But we do raise these issues. And we do believe that certain things are universal, the right to, again, speak your mind, access information, to freedom of assembly. And so it’s something that we’re going to press. It’s something that comes up in every meeting. It’s something that we raise publicly, as well. And at the end of the day, again, I think the people of China are going to determine the future of their country. But we want to make sure that just as we want China to live up to the rules of the road, we want them to live up to the rules of the road on universal values.
In a place like Hong Kong, that involves respect for freedom of assembly. It also involves the people of Hong Kong being able to select their own leaders, as was agreed to, to choose their own leadership, again, which was the one county, two systems notion.
In terms of the President’s legacy, I think there’s — what did we get done with China. On a bilateral basis to, again, improve the American economy, to save the global economy — and coordinated action with China was critical to that — to take the steps we’ve taken on this trip that will promote U.S. exports, promote more tourism and investment in the United States. All that will have a positive economic impact for America and the American people.
Then I think, however, we want to look at where do we enlist China in regional and global efforts. Because, again, we want them to play a bigger role. We want them to be a part of international climate negotiations because you can’t deal with climate change unless China is coming to the table in a serious way.
We want them to be a part of settling disputes and resolving disputes around maritime security in the region. We want them to be part of pursuing an agreement with Iran over its nuclear program. So China kind of fits into the type of international order we’re trying to build in which nations are invested in solving problems.
And that very much speaks to rebalance, the signature Asia Pacific policy of the President’s. We want to see this region more prosperous, more cooperative; again, a place of robust American engagement in ways that support our economy; support the security of our allies and the civility of the region; support the values we care about in a place like Burma where we have an ongoing transition. And that mitigates the risk of conflict that could derail the extraordinary progress we see here.
So again, when we look at his legacy, it’s going to be where do we move the ball forward bilaterally in ways that benefit the American people? How do we embed China, working with them, in an international system that can solve problems like climate change and maritime security? And how is this region a more stable, prosperous and secure place which has robust American engagement. They’re critical to all those things. And human rights in our view is a part of the international norms that we uphold.
So just as we care about maritime security and cybersecurity, we care about universal values. And that’s going to be a part of how we judge the status of the relationship.
Q You mentioned Iran a couple of times. If I could just follow up on that. November 24th is coming up very quickly. Do you foresee a scenario where that deadline might be put back a little bit? And you’ve seen Netanyahu’s comments, where he seems to be pretty upset about Khamenei tweeting about the (inaudible) and what do you make of that?
MR. EARNEST: Can you repeat the question?
MR. RHODES: Yes, so the question. Was the states of the Iran negotiations heading to the 24th and the Israeli Prime Minister’s comments on the Supreme Leader’s tweet.
On the first question, what we’ve been focused on is driving towards what progress can we make towards an agreement for the 24th. We have not focused on discussions with Iran on extending those discussions because we want to keep the focus on closing gaps.
Secretary Kerry was meeting into the night in Oman. He’s currently on a plane, set to arrive in Beijing. He will give the President an update on where things stand and what progress he made, so President Obama will hear directly from him about the status of the talks.
And then there are negotiations scheduled in Vienna where we’ll see where we can get by the 24th, and we’ll keep people posted on where things stand.
With respect to the — first of all, the sentiments expressed by the Supreme Leader’s office in that tweet. They’re obviously outrageous. It’s the type of rhetoric we’ve seen from the Iranian leadership for years. We completely reject it, of course.
The fact of the matter is what we’ve always said is even as we pursue this effort around diplomacy on the Iranian nuclear program, that’s about addressing a security concern of the United States and Israel and the international community. If we can prevent Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon, that’s in all of our interests.
At the same time, it doesn’t lessen our concern over other Iranian behaviors, including the virulent anti-Israeli rhetoric that has been a part of their political tradition. So we’ll continue to speak out against that.
With respect to the agreement itself, though, what we would say is, again, if we can verifiably discern that Iran is not building a nuclear weapon, that it’s program is for peaceful purposes, that’s a good thing. That’s far better than an outcome where Iran is back to trying to accumulate more stockpile, enriching at a higher percent and getting more breakout capacity. So we’ve already frozen their nuclear — the progress of their nuclear program. We’ve rolled back the stockpile just during these negotiations.
If we can get a comprehensive agreement, we would say that would be in the interest of American national security and also the security of our friends and allies.
MR. EARNEST: We’re nearing the one-hour mark here, so we’ll just do two more. Ching-Yi and then Jim Avila, I’ll let you wrap up. Go ahead.
Q Thank you, thank you, Josh. First question is to Ambassador Froman. According to interview with Xinhua, President Obama say our summit will also be an opportunity to make progress toward ambitious bilateral investment treaty. So what kind of progress? What kind of breakthrough that we can expect about the VIT?
And also the second question is to Ben. Other than ITA and the visa, what else deliverables that the U.S. is looking forward to reaching this time. Thank you.
MR. EARNEST: Repeat the question so everybody can hear. Ambassador Froman, an update on progress related to the VIT negotiations. And, Ben, what other deliverables do you anticipate out of the meetings between President Obama and President Xi.
AMBASSADOR FROMAN: Well, as you may recall it was about a year and a half ago that China agreed to negotiate a bilateral investment treaty on the basis of what we call a negative list, which is to open up their economy but for specific carve-outs that they negotiate with us. And that was a major step forward, as were some of the other provisions that we agreed to then.
Since that time we’ve had very good discussions in the bilateral investment treaty channel. We’ve had a series of rounds to walk through our model of it and to talk about how it would be applied in the case of China. We have further work to do. Next year, early next year, China has agreed to give us their first version of their negative list. And it will be very important if we’re to achieve early progress in these negotiations that that list be as short and as focused, as narrowly tailored as possible. And we’re encouraging our Chinese counterparts, including while we’re here for this visit and around this summit to focus on making that list as narrow and as short as possible so that we can proceed with negotiations and make progress next year.
MR. RHODES: I, of course, will let the leaders speak to the specific deliverables. I think we certainly focused on the visa issue and ITA in these first couple of days because of the economic theme of APEC and the venue of the CEO forum. So again, I think the President’s meeting will certainly address economic issues. But I think we’ll also d
MODERATOR: But now let me now introduce Secretary John Kerry. There’s a spot on the State Department’s website that shows a running log of everywhere Secretary John Kerry has traveled. He’s logged well over 300 miles – Egypt, Jordan, Saudi Arabia, Iraq, Israel, Turkey, Afghanistan, Lebanon – a testament to the complexity and challenge of his charge.
There is another side to Secretary Kerry not widely known. It’s said of Washington politicians that they are there for you when they need you – not so Kerry. Despite his schedule, he’s the first to call a bereaved family, as he did the Bradlees last week. He’s the first to go to a friend or staffer’s bedside at the hospital. He’s the first with small kindnesses. At age 70, when many of us will be resting on whatever laurels we’ve accumulated, dandling our grandchildren, Secretary Kerry is still spending most of his waking hours serving his country.
Let us now cover some of those 300 miles with the – 300,000 miles – (laughter) – with The Atlantic’s Steve Clemons.
QUESTION: Thank you so much, Margaret. (Applause.) Secretary Kerry, we have a lot of ground to cover in 20 minutes, and I thought I would start with —
SECRETARY KERRY: We do, on one of the most uncomfortable sofas I’ve ever sat on too.
QUESTION: Yeah. (Laughter.) That is duly noted.
SECRETARY KERRY: Truly.
QUESTION: Duly noted. I don’t know how you could talk about that from the Senate chairs you had, but I understand.
SECRETARY KERRY: Okay.
QUESTION: Let’s start with – I feel like we need to start with page A1 of The New York Times today, where Mark Landler went through – and to put Mark Landler’s article in context, it’s a very interesting profile of the national security decision-making process and the players in it. And if you contrast it with just a few years ago when you had Hillary Clinton, you had Jim Jones and Tom Donilon, you had various other players in the Department of Defense, that there seemed to be – they were all on the same page. You never saw people speaking off-script.
And I’m really interested to – you were described in there as someone that wasn’t as tightly tethered to the White House, and I’m interested in what your comments on the national security decision-making process are right now.
SECRETARY KERRY: I think it’s extremely effective, and this is a Chatty Cathy town, where – (laughter) —
QUESTION: But it seems to have become more Chatty Cathy than it was a few years ago.
SECRETARY KERRY: Well, I’m not going to – I mean, I don’t want to get – look, we have much more important things to talk about than that. This is – there’s always people who make a business out of really trying to, I think, gossip and tear things down who may be on the outside who don’t have an ability to necessarily be in the loop of what’s happening.
But I will tell you that the coordination and relationship between Susan and me and Dennis and the team is as tight as I’ve ever experienced. Susan was over at my house the other night. We spent three and a half hours at dinner going over the world, working on things. I have not – I don’t think I’ve missed a national security meeting or a principals meeting, as we call them, even when I’m on the road. If it’s midnight or 1 o’clock in the morning, I’m on the VTC dialing in to Washington.
So I don’t think it’s a very accurate portrayal, and I don’t think it’s particularly important to spend a lot of time on it. I think we are more engaged in the world than we have ever been. We are more strategic.
QUESTION: It’s a more confusing world, a more —
SECRETARY KERRY: Well, it’s a much more complicated world. It’s —
QUESTION: What does your dashboard look like? What does the dashboard of the Secretary of State look like when you see, from Asia to Africa —
SECRETARY KERRY: Well, it looks more like an airplane panel. It’s sort of – (laughter) —
SECRETARY KERRY: — both sides. Look, I’m not complaining about it. It’s – I think what is happening is, frankly, the result of years of things we’ve advocated and worked towards. And yes, it’s a confusing and difficult moment. But I don’t think we should be intimidated by it. I think we need to embrace it and envelope it and capture it to the best of our ability, and we’re working to do that.
I mean, there’s an enormous amount of – the workings of the State Department – and I saw a couple folks here who have been there – it’s like an iceberg. You see the top whatever percentage, 20 percent or something like that. There’s a huge amount of daily enterprise and monthly, yearly strategic engagement that you don’t see, and that, frankly, doesn’t get written about.
An example of that – I mean, Afghanistan is not on the front pages, but I will tell you that our efforts to work the election, to know that the election was the critical transition moment, began the day I came in and even before when I was a senator. And as I came in, we worked the relationship so that, as things got difficult, I was able to go over and work with Dr. Abdullah and work with Dr. Ghani and pull the thing together. And so we have a sustainable policy in Afghanistan, where there’s now a unity government and something that nobody thought was possible. That was a strategic outcome.
Iraq similarly – it’s not an accident we have a new government in Iraq. And the President was absolutely correct to hold off getting immediately committed to the ISIL effort until we knew we had a government in Iraq that we could work with. And we knew that wasn’t Maliki, but the United States couldn’t just crash in and say, “Hey, you’re out. Here are the guys that are in.” That’s not our – it would be playing into all of the worst stereotypes that have brought us to the difficulties we’re living with today.
So we put in place a clear strategy, working with all of our friends in the region, particularly the Sunni because the Sunni countries have been so angry about the way Maliki was building a Shia army and linking to Iran and creating a sectarian divide. And that’s why it was dysfunctional. So we worked first to get the Sunni speaker to decide not to run again, to get another person who could run quietly behind the scenes.
QUESTION: Sounds like a lot of micro work.
SECRETARY KERRY: It’s a lot of micro work. And our Ambassador Steve Beecroft and our Assistant Secretary of State Brett McGurk, who practically lived over there during this period, did an extraordinary job of diplomacy. And we worked it. I went over. We worked with Barzani in Erbil to get him to commit, because the Kurds were angling towards independence, to stay with it. We got a Kurd president of the country. Once you had a Sunni speaker and a Kurd president, it was possible to get a new prime minister. And even Sistani – Ayatollah Sistani’s comments that were very much critical to moving Maliki were —
QUESTION: So let me —
SECRETARY KERRY: — came out of a coordinated effort.
SECRETARY KERRY: The bottom line is the Iraqis made the final choice. We couldn’t. So —
QUESTION: And we can check that off as perhaps a success at the moment. I remember some years ago I was in your committee room when you were chair of the Foreign Relations Committee or – with Richard Lugar. I don’t remember who was ranking and who was chair, but you were both cool on either sides. And David Petraeus was testifying —
SECRETARY KERRY: You mean —
QUESTION: — on Afghanistan.
SECRETARY KERRY: — compared to today’s Senate, we actually talked to each other.
QUESTION: Yeah. Yeah. You talked to each other. You seemed to get along. And on this day, David Petraeus was testifying in his ISAF role as head of Afghanistan, and you and Richard Lugar quizzed him about whether what we were doing in Afghanistan fit within a strategic framework for the United States, where our strategic interests were furthered. And both you and Senator Lugar made the point that there was a big difference between being in the silo of Afghanistan and what the other broader strategic issues are.
And I’m interested in whether we’re running the risk, when we think about national security today, of chasing rabbits and forgetting what the – how does Iraq and Iraq solvency fit a strategic plan? How does Afghanistan fit the strategic plan, ISIS – where does it fit within the kind of broad strategic —
SECRETARY KERRY: Well, it’s very straightforward.
SECRETARY KERRY: And let me say to everybody that we’re living – the Cold War was easy compared to where we are today. And the immediate post-war period —
QUESTION: Is Putin trying to make it easy for you again, bring it back?
SECRETARY KERRY: I hope not. (Laughter.) That’s a different – no, because he’s doing it very differently and in a way that’s very challenging to the ability to be able to avoid conflicts and begin to harness the energy of the world and move in a similar direction.
The world we’re living in today is much more – look, a lot of countries have economic power today that they didn’t have in the last century. We wanted that. We have about 15 nations today that 10 years ago were aid recipients from the United States. South Korea is an example. Today, South Korea is a donor country, doing what we’ve urged countries to do, which is accept global responsibility.
So now you have more countries with more economic power in a globalized world, and they’re feeling their oats. They’re going to automatically react and say, well, wait a minute now, do we really want the behemoth United States, superpower of the world, telling us all the time what we have to do? And so you have to approach these things a little bit differently. It requires more diplomacy. It requires more dialogue. It requires more respect for people, more mutual interest finding. It’s much more of the world that Henry Kissinger describes in his wonderful book, Diplomacy, where he talks about state interests and the balance of power.
And we’re much more, in many ways, back towards the latter part of the 19th century or even 18th century in dealing with countries. Countries are flexing their muscles and standing up for their own interests and they have some greater economic independence and ability to do it. And then you see the BRICS – Brazil, China, India – standing up and saying – Russia – we want something – a different access, in a sense.
So we have to work harder at it. And my warning to the Congress and to the country is, really, this doesn’t come for free.
QUESTION: Are we getting —
SECRETARY KERRY: American power needs to be projected thoughtfully and appropriately, but if we’re not – I’ll give you an example. Prime Minister Modi from India came here the other day. He came after going to China and going to India – going to Japan, both of whom gave him double-digit numbers of billions of dollars for infrastructure development. China, I think, did 30 billion; Japan did somewhere similar —
QUESTION: How did we do?
SECRETARY KERRY: — but more. We couldn’t even do a $1 billion loan guarantee, the United States of America.
Now everybody here ought to be shocked by that. We are behaving like we’re the richest country on the face of the planet. We’re still critical to everything that happens in the world. And we are not sufficiently committing the resources necessary to do what we need to do in this world.
QUESTION: So you’re saying American power in the world is living on fumes from the —
SECRETARY KERRY: No, it’s not. We’re doing better than that. And if you look at what we’ve done, look at – we are leading in everything we’re doing in the world. This narrative about the United States disengaging and the President not being committed is just – it’s one of the reasons why I’m here today, because —
QUESTION: But there’s a difference between the argument about disengagement and then going to Brazil, Russia, India and talking to leaders and sensing their doubt in America; that’s a different thing. There’s a doubt out there. It’s palpable.
SECRETARY KERRY: Yeah, but —
QUESTION: How do you fix that?
SECRETARY KERRY: Well, it all came out of one thing, which is somewhat confounding, which was sort of the Syria issue and challenge at that moment. But people seem to be thinking that it’s wiser to bomb for a day and a half and do some damage than it is to get all of the chemical weapons out of a country. We did the unprecedented. We got 100 percent of the declared chemical weapons out of the country and destroyed.
QUESTION: I seem to recall —
SECRETARY KERRY: So that Israel is, in fact, safer today.
QUESTION: I seem to recall that was your idea. (Laughter.)
SECRETARY KERRY: Well, it was shared with a number of people, but let me just make – I want to make a point that I think is key to all of this. You have a world in which masses of numbers of young people – 65 percent of countries throughout Africa, through the Middle East, South Central Asia, et cetera – have populations under the age of 30, 35; fifty percent under the age of 21; and down you go. If these kids are left to no devices or their own, which is what’s happening, madrasas will fill their world, radical wahabi/salafi extremism of one kind or another, something is going to come along and say the world is disappointing you and we’re a better alternative. How else do you get young kids to strap themselves in a suicide vest and think things are better on the other side? But that’s happening.
And the fear I hear from my counterpart foreign ministers in many parts of the world is that that void is not being filled by the West or others. We talk about democracy, we go out and we extol the virtues of our way of life, et cetera, but are we backing it up?
QUESTION: There’s an absence.
SECRETARY KERRY: Are we doing what’s necessary to bring power and electricity so they can share the wealth? And the other thing is, all of these people have mobile devices. They’re all in touch with everybody in the world, all the time, 24/7. They know what’s going on in the world. But they don’t see themselves being able to reach it or reaching it.
And I thought always the dream that America touched people with the most was their ability to be able to reach the brass ring. We have to help them do that more, and that’s a long-term strategy. Other people – I’ll tell you, I’ll share a conversation. The foreign minister of a country in Africa – big country, has a 30 percent Muslim population – and when we went out to dinner, he let his hair down with me and he said, “We’re frightened.” I asked him, “How are you dealing with this Muslim population?” He said the extremists have a strategy. They come in and pay money in poor areas of town, get the young kids, take them out, indoctrinate them, then they don’t have to pay the money anymore. Those young kids become the recruiters or the emissaries or the, unfortunately, the implementers of some policy.
SECRETARY KERRY: And – but what he said to me that was most important is he said they’re disciplined and they don’t have a five-year plan, they have a 30-year plan. Now, we don’t even have a five-year plan. So we’ve got to get our act together, and that’s what the President is trying to say. That’s what he said at West Point when he talked about the focus on terrorism —
SECRETARY KERRY: — that’s what the President is saying in our TPP, our engagement with Asia – the rebalance with Asia, the TTIP – 40 percent of the global economy in Asia, 40 percent of the global economy in Europe and the United States – we’re focused strategically on how do you play the long game here?
SECRETARY KERRY: And the long game is raising the standards of trade, opening up more trade —
QUESTION: So do you think we’re playing the long game in Asia and the short game in the Middle East?
SECRETARY KERRY: No, I think we’re playing a long game in the Middle East. I mean, if you – if you – if we – you asked earlier what’s the importance of Iraq —
QUESTION: Josh Earnest came out and made an interesting comment about the U.S.-Israel relationship where he said that relationship transcends individual leaders. It was a very interesting comment.
SECRETARY KERRY: Well, but —
QUESTION: So what’s the long game? In a case like Israel, there’s been a lot of talk. Jeffrey Goldberg, my colleague, had a —
SECRETARY KERRY: Well, I read the article.
QUESTION: — a spicy word, “chickenshit” thrown out there. But I think the broader question is: What is the American long game in an arena that keeps ripping itself apart.
SECRETARY KERRY: Well, the long game, as everybody knows from the investment I made much of last year, is to find a way to bring the parties to make peace in the Middle East. We still believe it is doable, but it takes courage. It takes strength. You have to be prepared – both sides have to be prepared to compromise in order to do it.
Here’s what I know, and I think all of you know this viscerally and intellectually. And I’ve asked this question of people in the Middle East. One of the great challenges for Israel is, obviously, not to be a binational state. It wants to be a Jewish state. To be a Jewish state, you clearly have to resolve the issue of two states. If you don’t, and you were a unitary state and people have equal rights to vote and participate as citizens, is Israel going to have a Palestinian prime minister? I don’t think so. I don’t think so. Not going to happen.
So therefore, what is the solution here? How do you move forward? And what we’re trying to do is evenhandedly and hopefully thoughtfully strengthen Israel’s ability to be free of rockets – not strengthen; to make it free of rockets, to end this perpetual conflict in a way that provides for the complete security of Israel, which has a right, totally, to be free of tunnels coming into its country, terrorists jumping out of a tunnel with handcuffs, with tranquilizer drugs, guns next to a kibbutz – that’s – no country would tolerate that.
QUESTION: Do you think it’s time for you or the President or someone to be a little bit more evocative in terms of defining what you think a deal would like (inaudible)?
SECRETARY KERRY: No, I think we need to work quietly and effectively, and we condemn anybody who uses language such as was used in this article. That does not reflect the President, it does not reflect me. It is disgraceful, unacceptable, damaging, and I think neither President Obama nor I – I’ve never heard that word around me in the White House or anywhere – I don’t know who these anonymous people are who keep getting quoted in things. But they make life much more difficult, and we are proud of what we have done to help Israel through a very difficult time.
President Obama is the person who committed to Iron Dome. He made it happen. President Obama has consistently been – he was supportive of Israel’s right to defend itself in the recent – obviously, in this recent war. But at the same time, the President wants to try to nurse the parties together to resolve these differences.
Now, in Iraq, if we didn’t get engaged, I don’t know where ISIL would be today. Maybe in Baghdad; there’d be a hell of a war going on there for sure. Iran may move in even more so to protect the Shia interests in an 80 percent Shia country. What would happen then with Assad and deterioration if ISIL commanded even more territory, it would be a – it already is unprecedented as a terror group in the amount of land, money, and assets that it controls. And it has already threatened Europe, the West, others directly.
So you have no choice here. You have to engage in a way – now, I think we’ve engaged thoughtfully. We built a coalition that for the first time ever has brought together five Arab countries that have actually dropped bombs in Syria against Sunni extremists – unprecedented.
QUESTION: I didn’t think it was possible, actually.
SECRETARY KERRY: Unprecedented. And we are carefully trying to nurse this forward so the Iraqi army does the fighting. The Iraqi army comes back, but not an army that represents one person or one sect; that has a national identity and can bring the Shia – the Sunni tribes in Anbar to the table to reclaim the country. Yesterday in Amiriyah we made some gains – in Zumar, a city south of Mosul, they took it back. This will be slow, it will take time. We’ve been honest with the American people and the world. It’s not going to happen overnight. But it is the best way to push back against religious extremism, and we have united all of the countries in the region in that endeavor. We are flying airplanes into Syria, and Syria’s not trying to shoot them down. We are targeting ISIL; we are trying to build a force that can have an impact on Assad’s decision making so we can get back to a table where we could negotiate a political outcome, because we all know there is no military resolution of Syria.
So that’s where we’re trying to get back to, and we reached out to the Russians. There have been conversations with Iranians, conversations with the Saudis. We’re trying to pull people together.
QUESTION: We’re at the end of our time. There’s so many topics – your views on Assad and his survivability, and others. But I just want to finish – and we really are out of time – but on Iran. If I was thinking about Walter Isaacson’s book on you, which he no doubt will write. He wrote “Kissinger” – we’ve seen Walter up here. He wrote the book, “Kissinger.” If he was writing the book “Kerry” and the opening chapter – I’m interested in whether that entails a deal you helped put together on Iran or not. Yesterday Susan Rice gave a deal a 50/50 chance, which was somewhat higher than I thought it might have. But I’m interested in what happens if a deal with Iran is not achieved. What does the world look like in your world if we don’t go that way? Because it seems then there isn’t a Nixon-goes-to-China moment out there to sort of recreate the sense that America can re-sculpt the global international system.
SECRETARY KERRY: No, we’re living in a very different time. As I said, nations are more developed, they’re more assertive, and it’s not a moment like that. But that doesn’t make diplomacy any less important. It’s in fact more important in many ways, because we don’t have the bipolarity that existed for those 70 years or so. We are working in a very different format. I think the first I’d urge Walter Isaacson if he actually wanted to do that is don’t write the first chapter right now. (Laughter.)
But my – look, I – I’m directly involved, obviously. I’m negotiating face to face with Minister Zarif.
QUESTION: But what odds do you give it?
SECRETARY KERRY: I don’t. I’m not going to give it odds. As I said to the President recently, I’m not going to express optimism; I’m going to express hope —
SECRETARY KERRY: — and I think achieving it is critical. But I will say this to everybody: We’ve set a very clear standard. There are four present pathways to a bomb for Iran – the hidden so-called secret facility in a mountain called Fordow, the open Natanz enrichment facility, the plutonium heavy-water reactor called Arak, and then, of course, covert activities. We’ve pledged that our goal is to shut off each pathway sufficient that we know we have a breakout time of a minimum of a year that gives us the opportunity to respond if they were to try to do that.
We’re – we believe there are ways to achieve that. Whether Iran can make the tough decisions that it needs to make will be determined in the next weeks, but I have said consistently that no deal is better than a bad deal. And we’re going to be very careful, very much based on expert advice, fact, science as to the choices we make. This must not be a common ideological or a political decision. And if we can do what we’ve said, what the President set out in his policy – the President said they will not get a bomb. If we could take this moment of history and change this dynamic, the world would be a lot safer and we’d avoid a huge arms race in the region where Saudis, Emiratis, Egyptians, others may decide that if they’re moving towards a bomb, they got to move there too, and obviously it’s a much more dangerous world. And that is not a part of the world where you want massive uninspected, unverified, nontransparent nuclear activities. So that’s what we’re trying to do.
SECRETARY KERRY: Thank you.
QUESTION: Ladies and gentlemen, Secretary of State John Kerry. (Applause.)
SECRETARY KERRY: Thank you all. Thanks very much.
11:00 A.M. EDT
THE WASHINGTON FOREIGN PRESS CENTER, WASHINGTON, D.C.
MR. WANG: Thank you, and thanks for the moon cake. Just kidding. Anyway, I just came back, as you know, from SOM3 in Beijing where we spent a total of actually almost two weeks, including a lot of sort of working group level meetings. And then – so after SOM3 we, as you know, will have a whole series of ministerials leading up to the leaders meeting in November. And so in fact right now in Xiamen they’re doing the oceans ministerial. So it’s a meeting at the ministerial level on oceans issues, and then there will be about six or seven ministerials. I’ll be going back to China in – this weekend. So I’m not sure where I am actually right now. But I’ll be going back to Beijing, and then there’s a human resource development ministerial in Hanoi, in Vietnam. So I go there to that ministerial, and then to the Philippines.
As you know, the Philippines is the host next year for APEC. So they’re very, very eager to begin to prepare for next year’s agenda and how we can follow through from this year. So I’ll be going to the Philippines and meeting with my counterparts there. And then after that I’m going to go to Hong Kong and have some meetings there, and then go to Macao for the tourism ministerial. So that’s September 13th – and then come back. So I’ll be on the road for about two weeks.
And following that, I’ll probably stay in Washington as much as I can, because we start preparing for the actual leaders meeting, and so there will be a lot of demands in terms of – obviously, President Obama is definitely going. That’s what I understand. And we probably will have not just President Obama, but of course, Secretary Kerry, as well as USTR Mike Froman. But this year we may even have, I understand, possibly – well, clearly – Commerce Secretary Pritzker, possibly Agricultural Secretary Vilsack, as well, and maybe one or two other secretaries. So it’ll be a fairly big delegation from the United States going to Beijing in November. So a lot of preparation.
But in the run-up to that we also have a finance ministerial, we’ll have an agricultural ministerial – I think both in Beijing – and then I’m not sure if you know the actual leaders schedule, but it begins in Beijing on the fifth and the sixth, which is the senior officials (SOM) meeting – the fifth and the sixth. And then Secretary Kerry and Mike Froman will do their ministerials – APEC ministerials – on the seventh and the eighth, and then the President and other leaders will arrive on the 10th – and basically it’s the 10th and 11th in Beijing.
And then I think, as you all know, I think President Obama will be staying behind in Beijing for a day on the 12th, after which he heads out to Burma for the EAS – the East Asia Summit – and then he heads to Brisbane in Australia for the G20 – the 15th and the 16th.
So that’s the general schedule of the coming couple months. Of course, I’m involved primarily in APEC, not in the EAS or the G20. Now let me just make a couple of comments about the substance of APEC as we’re moving towards the leaders week. And then I’ll try to leave a lot of time for questions that you all have.
Now on the substance, I think at my last briefing we talked about essentially the agenda for the APEC year from the Chinese perspective, and you have basically three pillars. The one – the first pillar is the trade and investment pillar, and then the second one is what the Chinese call the innovation, reform, and growth pillar. But in general, those are the set of issues that are related to how we sustain economic growth in the region. So issues of the environment, issues of food security, heath security, women empowerment, internet, urbanization, all of those issues that are important in sustaining growth – so not just growing but sustaining it in a way that would allow it to grow, obviously, in a healthy fashion. And the third pillar, as you all know, is the connectivity pillar. Essentially, there we have a whole set of issues related to trying to increase the flow of people and goods throughout the APEC economy, so including cross-border education, physical infrastructure, regulatory convergence, things of that nature. So that’s the third pillar.
And I’m happy to say that SOM3 is usually the most important SOM meeting, the senior official meeting, because it’s the last one before the leaders actually meet. So we really have to get everything together to make sure that we don’t have a lot of problems during the leaders week. We don’t want to spend a lot of time arguing over things, debating things at the last meeting. So this meeting is very important. And the U.S. had about 200 delegation members go to the SOM3, and when I say delegation I mean it fairly loosely. We had about a hundred from the private sector going, and then a hundred from the different agencies within the U.S. Government going. So as you know, it’s not just the State Department. We have people from Homeland Security; people from Agriculture; people from Commerce, of course; USTR, Transportation; et cetera. So a lot of – Department of Justice, because this year we focused a lot on anti-corruption, so we had people from there attend as well. And so a very big meeting.
And I’m happy to say that this year I can honestly say we really made good progress at the SOM3 meeting with the Chinese host. Very well organized. We made progress across the three pillars that I just talked about.
On the first pillar, let me just say that, as you all know already, the Chinese are very focused on the – on, of course, the large FTAAP, the free trade area of the Asia-Pacific. And so we had good discussions on that, and hopefully by the time our leaders get together, we should be able to actually launch the roadmap for FTAAP for the free trade area. We will have, essentially, the roadmap that would include a lot of events that we’ll be doing – activities we’ll be doing that would include information-sharing, it would include capacity-building, it would include, finally, an analytical study of how we’re going to move towards a free trade area of the Asia-Pacific, what we call FTAAP for short.
So that’s something, of course, the Chinese are very much focused on launching this year in Beijing. And again, we had good discussions, and I think we will have a good launch in November. And we did a few – quite a few other things in this trade investment area, including beginning to look at services, access to services market in the region within APEC – for example, manufacturing-related services that the Japanese and Australians both proposed and we cosponsored.
So we’re essentially – the point is that we’re moving away from – not away from, but from sort of focusing on goods, the liberalizations on tariffs and so on, to the services market. And that’s what we call a global supply chain. And we’re also looking at moving into the environmental services area – trying to open access to environmental services in each of these markets where we can actually expand the flow of services in this area.
And so in that area – again, there’s a long list – as most of you know, APEC is a very broad, broad sort of body of issues that we deal with. So apart from that, in the sustainable growth area, I think I spoke to a number of local press people in Beijing. And I actually arrived fairly early in Beijing because there was a very high level workshop on anticorruption. And the U.S. and China are working very closely together in this area. And also, there was the first meeting of the anticorruption and transparency network, and the ambassador, Ambassador Baucus attended that one. The minister for supervision, by the way, attended the first one – the high level workshop on anticorruption. Huang Shuxian, the minister of supervision, opened the meeting itself, and it was a very good meeting.
Again, I learned a lot personally from that meeting, where a lot of private sector companies, people – law enforcement officials from different economies spoke. And at the first meeting of the ACT network – this is a network of law enforcement officials, essentially – first meeting of this group. And Ambassador Baucus, our ambassador in Beijing, delivered opening remarks at that, as well as a number of others. And the Vice Minister for Supervision Fu Kui was there as well throughout the meeting.
So it was a very useful meeting because the whole purpose of this ACT-NET is to get all of the law enforcement officials who are involved in anti-bribery in the APEC region together to try to begin a process of information sharing among the different economies on bribery cases that essentially cross the border within APEC, and to also share best practices on how we do things, so that we can tackle this issue more seriously and more effectively, and also, essentially, to bring them together to also find out what the various regulations are within each economy. For example, the U.S. has a different set of laws and regulations regarding bribery cases, and also asset recovery regulations. So this would be a good chance for law enforcement officials to know about the particular regulations and rules in different economies. So this is the first step towards that, and so we hope that this will bring in greater cooperation.
But beyond this issue, we also touched on a whole range of issues, as I mentioned earlier. The U.S., for example, is still very much – from the year we hosted in 2011 – very much focused on trying to increase women-empowerment in the economy. In other words, how do we provide greater opportunities for women to access finance markets and to also be more involved in the higher levels of management within different companies in different countries?
This was, of course, also not just a U.S. initiative, but also very much led by Japan because, as you know, Abe and women-omics, is very, very concerned about sort of the aging Japanese society and how you have to utilize more the talents that you have within Japan, within your society, and how to essentially elevate and expand the role of women, which means you have to deal with sort of family friendly practices within companies. So the Japanese, for example, have a proposal where they will – they’ve asked all of different APEC economies to nominate five companies from each economy that have best practices in terms of how they promote and facilitate the role of women in their companies by producing family friendly policies on health, on healthcare, and so on.
So we focused on that as well in SOM3. Again, we also had, essentially, health security issues that we focused on. China, as a host, sponsored two particular sessions that I attended as well, that all the senior officials attended, and the internet economy was one of them. So the idea now is all of our societies are changing so quickly and the role of the internet is clearly very, very significant, so we invited people from Alibaba, Baidu. From the U.S. we invited Uber. Do you know what Uber is? Yeah, it’s sort of taxi cabs – not quite taxi cab, but it’s a service. And I actually never knew what Uber is until this summer. But the Uber person came, and they actually have now Uber service in China. So if you have a problem in China, you can go onto this – I guess whatever you have, an app that you have for Uber, but they’re expanding quite a bit.
And so the point there is that they were trying to show how internet can be used to really – as an innovation – to actually do a lot of things. For example, a lot of small businesses that cannot afford big buildings and cannot compete with the CEOs from big companies, can actually use the internet to really quickly link, organize, do business. And so it could also be used to service a lot of the vulnerable groups within societies that they have access to the internet. So a very, very, very useful seminar workshop with discussion afterwards.
And the Chinese also hosted another one on urbanization in this area. China, as you know, and a lot of other countries continue to urbanize. And so we had presentations from Korea, from Japan, from China on different ways of urbanizing in an environmentally friendly fashion, and how important it is to conserve energy, to design – plan the city in a way that would be efficient and healthy for urbanized growth. On the U.S. part, I spoke a little bit about how in the U.S., we already are fairly urban, but how, for example, in New York City, when you go now to New York City, you can find that even the older cities, there are different ways that businesses have started and communities and neighborhoods have started to make it more vibrant by essentially doing pedestrians’ walks and then urging businesses to get together to sort of make more vibrant different neighborhoods within an old city. And so there are many ways of dealing with urbanization, but it’s now a very major issue for a lot of countries. And so we’re trying to share best practices, trying to find out how we can work together to help urbanization proceed in a healthy fashion there. So those are some areas and if you have questions about this area, we can talk about it more later on.
In the last pillar, on connectivity, we talked, of course, about a number of issues in terms of infrastructure, physical infrastructure development, the need for investment in physical infrastructure. But mostly we spent almost a few hours on what we called a connectivity blueprint. So the senior officials earlier in the year asked the APEC secretariat to produce a blueprint on connectivity. In other words, how do we plan to move ahead to connect the APEC economies more closely together in all of these different areas? And underneath the connectivity blueprint, we have another three pillars.
And the three pillars are: physical; and the second one’s regulatory convergence – we’re trying to get regulations more uniform and more coordinated; and then people-to-people, so cross-border education, tourism, travel, the ABTC card, the APEC business travel card, and so on. So we discussed the blueprint at length and we set targets wherein, let’s say by 2025 – we haven’t decided on the actual date yet, but we set targets where we are trying to, let’s say, double the number of people-flow among the APEC economies, or tourism, cross-border education, trying to increase the number of cross-border students studying in different economies. And so we hopefully will be able to complete the blueprint and as a way of moving forward in terms of connectivity and produce this for the leaders week in November.
And let me just add one last thing. One of our major initiatives – one of the United States, supported by eight other economies – is to actually create what we call an APEC scholarship and internship initiative. And by this what we mean is that we’re getting a number of economies to cosponsor scholarships for students; for example, students from the developing APEC economies to be able to study in another economy on a scholarship if they can’t afford it. So I think we had a very good response. This proposal was made earlier and at SOM2 we had a very good response. For example, Chinese Taipei, I believe, will come up with some 20, 25 or so scholarships, where they will provide scholarships for people to go to Taiwan to study. And I know that China also will have quite a number of scholarships that they will be proposing at the end of the year in November.
Australia – very, very positive. They not only are trying to invite people to go to Australia to study on scholarships, but they’re also trying to encourage Australians, young Australians to go abroad to other parts of Asia, to learn more of the culture, learn the educational system, and so on. And in the U.S. we’re proposing to have a number of companies offer internships that will allow and help students from various APEC economies to come to the United States or to go to some of the companies in the region to intern in, let’s say for example in our case, the APEC members – Caterpillar, Eli Lilly, Qualcomm – will be offering sort of internships or scholarships to encourage, again, more cross-border education.
So I think I’ve gone on enough. Is it 10-15 minutes or so already?
MODERATOR: Yeah, it’s about 20.
MR. WANG: Yeah. So what I’ll do now is just turn to you for questions, and I’ll be glad to answer – and she’ll – she said she’ll select who – I don’t get to pick. Thanks. (Laughter.)
MODERATOR: So just remember, again, wait for the microphones and say who you are and your outlet, please. We’ll start with you.
QUESTION: Thank you, Dr. Wang. Yun Zou with China Central TV, CCTV. Well, my question is that during the senior official meeting, both China and United States has expressed your willingness to work together in fighting the corruption, but we all know that by no means that will be an easy task, because, as you just said, that different countries has their own different interpretation of corruption and also has their own legal system. So I’m just curious that under this agreement, what kind of rules will all the countries abide by and who will mainly chair this agreement? Thank you.
MR. WANG: Okay. Well, first of all, in terms of the actual organization itself, it’s not so much trying to arrive at one rule, because we all know that we have very different political, legal systems. It’s really more to try to understand what each country’s rules and regulations are, so by understanding that – for example, if you – let’s say you had somebody cross a border. If somebody, let’s say, left China or left U.S. to go somewhere else with illegal funds, whatnot, then what you’d need to know – for example, the Chinese officials need to know is if you want to get somebody back to China or their illegally-obtained funds, you need to know what U.S. regulations are, what kind of evidence is needed to be able to actually get that person back or to recover the funds.
So it’s not an attempt to make everybody have one rule or law, because that’s going to be impossible. But it’s more to understand what the requirements are. So in fact, from this meeting that we had of the ACT Net, we produced, to begin with, a directory of all of the offices and the people in charge of the offices in the different economies. So, for example, if you have – if someone went to Malaysia and you have a case in Malaysia, then you can open up the book, essentially, and you know who the responsible offices are and the people are, then you can contact them to begin with. And then we also are producing a guidebook on the asset recovery process. So then this guidebook will have in it, for example, the process or procedures in the United States for recovering assets that are essentially stolen from another country and in the United States. So that’s the purpose of the ACT Network, and it’s not to really come up with one rule.
The other thing, of course, is to exchange best practices. So one of the major goals is to really have cross-border cooperation on assets or people that go cross-border, but also it’s really to learn about how you do it within your own country as well. So in our own country, how we deal with bribery and how you deal with it in other systems. So one of the important things we hope – again, it’s not done yet, but by the end of the year – we hope to have our leaders endorse a set of – and this is more like what you were saying – actually endorse a set of principles on anti-bribery that is very similar, for example, to the ones in OECD. So OECD has anti-bribery principles in terms of making sure that there’s a way of detecting and responding to sort of bribery cases.
So hopefully by the end of the year we will actually have – the U.S. actually drafted a sort of APEC principles on anti-bribery and enforcement of anti-bribery laws. And so we’re hoping that that will then be adopted by the different economies, and this will be one set that APEC economies will then be able to subscribe to and agree to. So you’re welcome.
MODERATOR: Yes, right up here.
QUESTION: Thank you, Dr. Wang, for holding this press conference. Ching-Yi Chang, Shanghai Media Group. I’d like to know, does President Obama expect to sign bilateral investment agreement with China during his trip to Beijing? And also, is there any change of the view of the United States on China’s market economy status, especially after China establishes its free trade zone? Thank you.
MR. WANG: Sure. I honestly don’t really follow that very closely, the BIT. Actually, it’s not a BIA, it’s a BIT – Bilateral Investment Treaty – if it’s between China and the United States. I do know that they’re having about three or four meetings a year, either in Beijing or in the U.S., on the Bilateral Investment Treaty. But I don’t know at what state it is at this point. But my guess is – just in terms of my interaction with my China desk counterparts and all that, and USTR – is that it won’t be at APEC. It’s still a couple years down the line, is my guess, so it won’t be that fast.
But again, I may be wrong. But I don’t expect that we are coming anywhere close this year to actually completing it. We’re exchanging negative lists, for example. There’s a list that the Chinese have that I know is very long from the U.S. perspective, and so we’re still negotiating that. And so it’ll take a while.
Now on the question of market status, again, I know of that more from my job when I was a deputy chief of mission in Beijing. And so I’ve been following that negotiation as well as the BIT. And that one, I believe, we’re still a long way off. But again, I would defer to perhaps others who are more current on this. But I think at this point, if it continues, I think the target date is 2016. So obviously, what China does in terms of its Shanghai pilot zone and so on would help, but I think we’re still a long way off from actually coming up with a change in the sort of market status for China.
MODERATOR: Okay. Yeah, right up here.
MR. WANG: You should give a badge to the people in the back as well.
MODERATOR: I will. (Laughter.)
MR. WANG: We’ve got three people in front.
QUESTION: Thank you very – thank you. Thank you very much, Dr. Wang. My name is Atsushi Okudera from Asahi Shimbun, the Japanese newspaper. I’d like to ask about U.S.-China bilateral relationship. This is not a direct – the APEC meeting, but are you planning to have a bilateral meeting, summit meeting, between President Xi Jinping and President Obama before or after the APEC meeting? And if you have, what kind of style? As you know, Chinese Councilor Yang Jiechi last year announced United States and China has agreed next time they going to have a same time of – same style of —
MR. WANG: Sunnyland.
QUESTION: Freestyle – like Sunnyland. So this time are you going to have same kind of – same style of summit meeting in Beijing or other cities? And if you have, what is the point of this time’s summit meeting, particularly in terms of new model of major power relations? They – both country talking about lots of times, but we still don’t understand. It is not very clear. I know this is for avoiding conflict —
MR. WANG: Right.
QUESTION: — or talking very freely, frankly. But actually, there is lots of differences on South China Sea and East China Sea and cyber problem. So what is the point this time? Thanks.
MR. WANG: Okay. Yeah, as I mentioned at the very beginning, after the leaders meeting is finished, the 10th and 11th, President Obama will stay behind in Beijing on the 12th, and so that’s where the bilateral meetings will be held between China and the United States. Some of the questions you’ve asked actually are probably best answered by the Chinese. We don’t know exactly what the Chinese have planned for the 12th in terms of how they want to do the bilateral at this stage, so I think that’s still in the process of discussion.
But obviously, I’ve heard a lot of comments about how effective it is to actually have smaller meetings where you can actually talk about issues in a more personal way, and I think knowing President Obama’s style and, of course, from the U.S. point of view, we did Sunnyland, and so we think that that’s an effective way of doing things. But – and of course, the Chinese seem to be receptive to that, but exactly what they have planned, we don’t really know at this stage whether it’ll be Beijing, whether it’ll be outside somewhere else. But that’s something I think that the Chinese are discussing with us, but not yet decided, I believe.
And in terms of the actual – the goal and the great – the major power relationship, again – actually, that’s a term that the Chinese came up with, not the U.S. So I’m not sure whether we subscribe completely to the exact interpretation of that. It’s something that Xi Jinping had sort of discussed several times, announced several times. That’s what he wants. But to me, it really – I’m not sure what new style model we have, but to me, it’s really simple.
And essentially, between any two countries – not just China and the United States – is first of all, you have to expand the areas of cooperation as much as you can, whether it’s on trade or whether it’s people-to-people, cultural, whatever it is. So you expand as much as you can the positive side of the relationship. That’s one thing. And the second point is then you manage the differences, because you will have differences, and some more than others, but between China and the United States, we certainly have differences that – some of the things you cited on cyber, on a number of other issues. But – so I would say you try to manage them in a way that would not make it uncontrollable or unmanageable, I guess. So that’s the bottom line.
So we have quite a number of issues between U.S. and China, and so far I think we’ve been able to manage them. So I think the relationship between U.S. and China will essentially be one in which we continue to – on human rights, on cyber or whatever else – we continue to have differences. We need to manage those. And then on the other side, within APEC for example but beyond APEC, we have a lot of, like, CPE, the sort of people-to-people exchange. We’ll continue to expand it as much as possible, and hopefully, the positive side will, in the long term, win out. So that’s what I see as the power relationship that we have.
MODERATOR: The gentleman right here.
QUESTION: Thank you, Dr. Wang. Wait, hello? Yeah. Thank you, Dr. Wang. Xiaoyang Xia, reporter from Wen Hui daily, Shanghai, China. You mentioned that China as a host has set out three pillars for this year’s APEC. The question is: Does the U.S. quite agree with those pillars or themes? And do you have any differences? And what are U.S. priorities for this APEC which you want mostly to achieve?
And secondly, you mentioned under the third pillar the main – one of the main focus is the infrastructure building, and what’s your opinion or what’s U.S. position on the Chinese proposal for the establishment of a Asia Infrastructure Investment Bank? Thank you.
MR. WANG: Yeah. We have no problems at all with the three pillars that the Chinese have proposed because they’re fairly broad, so how can you disagree with trade and investment, or how can you disagree with sustainable growth and how can you disagree with connectivity?
The question, then, of course, underneath them will be working on all of these different issues that are sort of different priorities – some for the Chinese, some for the Japanese, Koreans, Vietnamese, et cetera, and ours. So no disagreement; we’ve been working very well under those three pillars. In terms of U.S. priorities, I mentioned already at some length the question of anticorruption, and I think that’s a joint priority for the U.S. and for China because – and not only that, actually. This priority is actually quite broad, because if you look around the APEC region, whether it’s Philippines, Vietnam, Indonesia, Mexico, Peru, corruption is a big problem. It’s a pervasive problem in all these economies.
And so the question is: How do you continue to sustain growth without dealing with this issue? Because it essentially produces unfair sort of disparity of wealth and no rule of law, so in the long term, you really have to deal with it. That’s why it’s a very high priority for the United States, and I think also for China, clearly, and for the other economies. So that’s a very high priority.
We’re also very concerned – I think especially Secretary Kerry and President Obama – about the environment. And I think China, Vietnam, Indonesia, others are also because, for example, rapid growth in China over the last 20 or 30 years has produced an environment which is really quite hazardous to your health in terms of air, in terms of water, food security – food safety, I should say, not so much food security but food safety. So we all know that you can grow very quickly, but to sustain it and to actually make it healthy for your own people, you have to really focus on the environmental impact of what you’re doing.
So for example, right now, as mentioned earlier, oceans – we’re having an oceans ministerial right now in Xiamen in China. And so beyond air and beyond water and so on, we’re going into the oceans, where so much of the ocean now has marine debris. So people throw things overboard when they’re in ships, they throw them from the land, they dump it out there, and it’s destroying a lot of the oceans that we have. And again, for the moment, we don’t know that, but in the long term, we’re going to rely on the ocean – the big Pacific Ocean and others. So we hope that we’ll be able to get countries within APEC at this point to begin to work on protected marine areas to begin with, and then sustainable fisheries – not to overfish, not to do illegal fishing or unregulated fishing, because if you were to do over-excessive fishing, then essentially you’re going to be drying out the resources that you need in the future. So the environmental issues are very important, and one of our major U.S. initiatives apart from the oceans – as you know, we did an Oceans Conference here, Kerry did one, inviting global members here. So we’re trying to use some of that – the action plan – we table it at – in SOM3, this action plan from the Oceans Conference. And we’re hoping to use some of that now in the oceans ministerial in Xiamen to try to get APEC to support these various principles.
And beyond the environment, I mentioned already that women is a very high priority for us, because again, we think it’s not only the right thing to do to include women in inclusive growth, but it’s also good for the economy, for your development to be able to utilize all the talent that you have within your society. And so that’s a very high priority for us. So in concrete terms, what the U.S. has done in this area is we tabled, for example, a study that we have done on trying to come up with indicators for women participation in the economy as a whole. So in other words, for example, how many women – what percentage of women are in management positions, what percentage of women have access to finance, what percent of women essentially have access to markets.
So we’re trying to come up with an indicator – we already have done the study; we have come up with 26 indicators. And what we’re trying to do now is get the economies next year to begin to measure exactly where women are in terms of participation in the economy. And once you have that measure as a baseline, then we’ll begin to set targets and see where we’re failing – in other words, why are women so – have no access to finance in certain countries, let’s say, and try to work on improving that. And we’ll set targets and to move ahead.
So we’ve done this study, we hope that this will endorsed – the indicators will be endorsed by the leaders, and then we will then hopefully have the leaders encourage all the economies to begin measuring, and then from there move on to targets in the coming years. And —
MR. WANG: Yeah. The last one, on infrastructure – there a lot more priorities. I have about a list of ten priorities more. But let me just go directly to the infrastructure issue. I think most of you are aware of the Chinese proposal on the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank. And we have been in touch with China and met with Chinese leaders – Jin Liqun will be, of course, the head of that bank, we understand. We’ve had discussions on that. And there we’ve been very clear about what our concerns are. And our concerns are just that this proposal for this AIIB, that they’re able to meet the various standards of other multilateral development banks – meaning essentially, to begin with, the projects should take into consideration safeguards on the environment.
So when you start an infrastructure project, you have to make sure that you look at the environmental impact of that project, or labor, and what kind of labor you use, what conditions under which they work. That’s one thing. Governance, transparency – meaning that if you’re in construction you’re talking about large sums of money. How should it be dealt with in terms of transparency, governance so there’s no corruption? We go back to the issue of corruption. So our main concerns are that, and we’ve conveyed these concerns to China, and we hope that they can be addressed.
QUESTION: Thank you. Kunihiko Yasue from Yomiuri Shimbun.
MR. WANG: Yeah. Just a little softer, but yeah.
QUESTION: As for FTAAP, Trans-Pacific Partnership is a part of FTAAP. And as to Trans-Pacific Partnership —
MR. WANG: TPP.
QUESTION: — President Obama in July said he hopes to get something which is public and the Congress can look at by the time he visit Asia in November. So are there any possibility or a plan that the latest meeting for TPP negotiation will be held in the sideline of APEC latest meeting like last year?
MR. WANG: Okay. Let me first correct you on one thing. I don’t think that APEC – I don’t think that there were TPP negotiations per se on the sidelines of APEC. There were meetings, but there were not negotiations. In other words, APEC, heads of APEC in Bali when I was there last year, for example, the TPP leaders got together for sort of a short discussion, but it was not a negotiation. So that’s a very different thing. On the TPP issue, obviously the key player in the United States is USTR. So we’re not actually negotiating within APEC or involving negotiations on TPP within APEC, as you know.
And so I don’t really know exactly what status it’s in right now. Obviously, last year in Bali we were hoping it could be completed by around that time. And obviously, we’re working very hard this year and understand good progress has been made, especially after the various meetings in Japan on market access. But again, on the specifics of the negotiations, I’m not really privy to it so I don’t know how far along it is. All I know is that every time I turn around to talk to Wendy and others they’re off somewhere – or Mike Froman – they’re off somewhere negotiating it or talking somewhere.
So all I can say is I think we’re making progress, but I don’t know what will happen by the end of the year.
MODERATOR: I’d like to offer an opportunity to New York. New York, can you hear me?
QUESTION: Yeah. This is Shen with China Business Network and from New York. And it is good morning, Dr. Wang.
MR. WANG: Good morning.
QUESTION: And you said President Obama and President Xi Jinping will hold a meeting during APEC like one last year. And what will be the possible topics that interest to leaders? And will the issues about the South China Sea and the Ukraine (ph) will be brought to the meeting? Thank you.
MR. WANG: Okay. I’m not sure if I understood everything you said clearly. Well, President Obama did not go to Bali last year, so I don’t know. They didn’t meet in Bali. I’m not sure if that’s what you said earlier, but in any case that’s not important.
I think within APEC, as far as I know, in the APEC context we will not be dealing with some of the political issues you talked about. At the bilateral I think these topics will probably come up. So on the 12th, I guess whatever differences we have or issues we have between China and the United States probably will come up, it’s my guess, at the bilateral on the 12th. But within APEC it’s not certainly part of the topic.
I’m not sure if I got your question entirely. I wanted to give you another chance to say something. (Laughter.)
QUESTION: Okay. I just want to say whether this topic whether the issue is about South China Sea and Ukraine (ph) would be brought to a meeting, and what would be the possible topics that interest to leaders?
MR. WANG: Possible targets that are interested to leaders?
MR. WANG: Topics. Well, again, you want to separate APEC from the bilateral, and on the bilateral between China and the United States I think we – I can’t say exactly what they will say because it’s something that they will have to determine later on, but my guess is – all of us can guess what the topics would be. I mean, obviously, all of the differences between China and the United States on various issues will be raised, all of the sort of cooperative areas will also be raised.
So I would not be surprised certainly, and I can’t speak for the President, but I would not be surprised if South China Sea came up in a discussion because it is clearly an issue that both countries are concerned about managing, and I think it’s an important issue not just for China and the United States, but it’s an important issue for a lot of other countries in the region. And as for the other topics, again, it’s a wide range of topics. I think we all are aware of some of the range of topics that could be discussed. Human rights could be an issue as well. Trade issues would be important as well. You know we have a lot of trade issues. Cyber could be part of the topic. So I think you probably know better than I do the list of all of the issues that clearly both countries are concerned about today.
MODERATOR: Okay, start here.
QUESTION: Good morning, Dr. Wang. I’m from China, China News Service. I want to go back to the anti-corruption issue. And just now you mentioned that the APEC economies are doing guidebooks, some kind of guidebook to the anti-corruption. And are they going to publish this year, or it will take some year to discuss about the final version of that?
MR. WANG: Right.
QUESTION: Yeah. It will take —
MR. WANG: Yeah.
QUESTION: And besides that, besides the trying to understand each other’s legal system, and what kind of cooperation are they going to do during this anti-corruption issue action, that you call it? Okay, thank you, sir.
MR. WANG: Well, I think on the issue of the publication, actually the United States already has the publication, so we have a template for it. We already have our offices and also we have our asset recovery guidebook. So what we’re trying to do, probably next year, is to have all the APEC economies do the same thing. So clearly, it will not be done by November, but it will be something that will be essentially directed by the leaders for us to do in the coming year. So that’s the agenda for – I think for next year.
And I forgot the second part.
QUESTION: What else are you going to –
MR. WANG: Oh, yes. Yeah, apart from – okay. Beyond that, I think the whole point is I remember very clearly from one of the presentations at the high-level workshop that I attended and how people were talking about sort of cooperation between the law enforcement officials of one country with another, and one of the most important elements of this cooperation is trust. So in other words, you have to have some trust between the law enforcement officials of one country and another when they begin to exchange information or when they begin to try to get cooperation on specific cases. If there is no trust – and of course, trust is based partially on personal sort of relationships in terms of respect for the other person’s knowledge and respect for the other person’s integrity, but also for the system.
So I think one of the most important things we hope to come out of this network is that you begin to then have people meet more frequently – not just on specific cases, but let’s say on training courses so they’ll have a training course. China will be setting up a – what it calls a secretariat for this ACT network. It’s a small group for 2014-2015 and then maybe it’ll move on to other areas. But the idea is to set up a secretariat that would be able to organize training workshops where all of the law enforcement officials will come together and maybe in some area in some country and work together on learning best practices, how you do things, how I do things, and in that process also develop personal relationships among the different law enforcement officials to begin to understand each other. And in that sense, I think that will help facilitate actual progress on cases that actually occur.
MODERATOR: Hiroaki, and then I’ll go to you. These are probably the last two questions, guys. Go ahead.
QUESTION: Thank you. Thank you, Dr. Wang, for doing this. My name is Wada. I’m with Japan’s Mainichi – I’m with Mainichi newspaper.
DR. WANG: Mainichi. Mm-hmm.
QUESTION: And my question is about maritime territorial disputes in the bilateral meeting between the United States and China. What is the willingness of the Obama Administration to take up this particular issue? And you also talk about managing differences between the United States and China.
MR. WANG: Between who?
QUESTION: But after what happened off Hainan Island the other day, the interception by the Chinese of the U.S. Navy aircraft, what is the sense inside the Administration about the difficulty of managing the difference? Is that sense of difficulty is increasing, or is there any change? Thank you. These are my questions.
MR. WANG: Okay. Well, I think, again, let me just start by saying that this is not in my area, it’s not in my zone, so I’m not really dealing with that. So I want to make that very, very clear so nobody will think that I am actually speaking with authority on this issue. But all I’ll say is that I expect that all of the issues you raise will probably be discussed simply because they’re important issues. The more important the issues are, the more challenging they are, the more likely they’ll be discussed between our leaders, because they’re the ones who have to deal with these very serious problems. So all I’ll say on that then is that with the recent incident over the intercepts, whatever different versions of it – Chinese and American – I think, clearly, it’s something that we need to discuss. So my guess is that it’s already being discussed and that it will continue to be discussed if – at some point by our leaders.
So is it increasingly more difficult? Yeah, and that’s why you need to discuss it.
MODERATOR: Okay. Weihua.
QUESTION: Hi, thank you. Chen Weihua, China Daily. Yeah, I want to go – continue on that ACT network. Will that lead to deterrence for those Chinese – corrupt Chinese officials to seek safe haven in the U.S., Canada, or Australia, or will that lead to extradition and repatriation of those corruption – corrupt officials already here? So thank you.
MR. WANG: Right. Well, I think the goal, certainly, is to – on both sides, not just China and the United States but on all sides, the goal, of course, is to increase the possibility or the probability that illegally obtained funds or criminals who go across the border will be returned and will be treated according to the rule of law in whichever country they come from. So the goal of the entire thing is to increase that probability, and to increase that probability then the presumption is that each side has to understand what the requirements are for doing this.
And so by starting on this first step to try to understand laws and regulations of different sides, the kinds of evidence that’s needed that’s considered to be relevant information or relevant evidence that could be useful in court, that that first step will increase the probability that in the future people who escape to another country with illegal funds will be returned eventually to their country. So that’s the goal of it. Now, how fast that happens, when that happens, is another issue, but that is the goal. And obviously, if the Chinese were to better understand what kinds of evidence is needed, and if they can provide that to us or to any other country, then obviously, the chances that they will be repatriated or be brought back would be higher.
MODERATOR: All right. Do you want to take one more?
MR. WANG: Sure, I’ll take one, yeah.
QUESTION: Matt Field with —
MODERATOR: Wait just one second.
QUESTION: I’m sorry. Matt Field with NHK, Japan Broadcasting Corporation. Just on the corruption efforts, can you just clarify how many countries were involved in these corruption meetings you attended? Were there bilateral meetings just between the U.S. and China? And so can you imagine a day when the U.S. would be helping China track down corrupt officials here in the U.S. and sending them back to China? Thank you very much.
MR. WANG: Sure. No, it wasn’t bilateral. I didn’t count exactly who was there, but I would imagine almost all 21 economies were involved. It was open, certainly, to all 21 economies. And again, the first day was a workshop, a high-level – well, there are three – actually, three days of meetings. The first day was a working group meeting of the anti-corruption and transparency working group. That’s one day.
The second day that I mentioned Minister Huang Shuxian went is the high-level workshop on anti-bribery. And not only were there 21 economies all invited – and many did go, because I was there – they were also on the panel people from Indonesia, people from Malaysia, other people who were speaking on that panel. And also there was private sector, so companies like Siemens and so on actually made presentations. And from the United States, the SEC, Securities and Exchange Commission, had people there. Department of Justice had people there. And so it was a 21-member APEC discussion on anti-corruption.
And – oh, whether or not I can see a day when the United States will actually work with China to bring Chinese criminals back to China, I’ll say that we already do. Again, I worked in China for many years, and we already have a lot of cases where – whether it’s from China, from Americans sent back to the United States or Chinese sent back to China in some cases – fewer of those, probably. But we’ve – not just in the criminal cases, but other cases – we have cooperated. There were some cases where we have actually sent people back to China when I was deputy chief of mission in Beijing.
The question then is: How many of them? Of course, the Chinese would like more, obviously, so we are cooperating already. The question is: How much more cooperation can we have? And there we require, again, a better understanding of what kind of evidence we need for this to happen. And if it’s provided to us, then we’ll continue to cooperate. We have something called the JLG, the Joint Liaison Group, that meets several times a year. And that’s where we are already bilaterally exchanging information about each other’s practices as well as information on specific cases. And we also have what we call ILEA program, where we actually bring a lot of law enforcement officials to Bangkok where we have a training center, and that has included some Chinese in the past for the last 10-20 years. So we are working together already on this issue.
MODERATOR: All right. Well —
MR. WANG: One last one?
MODERATOR: All right.
QUESTION: Thank you very much. Hello, okay? My name is Inoue from Kyodo News of Japan. I’m just wondering whether you had any chance to discuss about cyber issue with your Chinese counterparts, because Chinese Government has denied the U.S. allegation about the cyber theft and they refuse to have working group on cyber issue during the S&ED. So I’m just wondering where you are on this issue.
MR. WANG: Okay, good. The simple answer is that within APEC we did not discuss this. It was not an APEC topic. But as you know, they had an S&ED recently and that’s where they were discussed. Now, obviously, I understand that at the Strategic Security Dialogue that it wasn’t an official topic but the two sides discussed it, how can we deal with this issue. But I was not involved in the S&ED so I don’t know to what extent they discussed it, but I know the topic was certainly raised in that context.
MR. WANG: Yes, we have not discussed this issue through APEC. It’s a bilateral issue so it’s not an issue with Indonesia-U.S., Papua New Guinea. They’re not interested in this issue. So yeah, but that’s a bilateral issue.
MODERATOR: All right. Thank you, everyone. We’ll call this briefing concluded.
MR. WANG: And thank you very much for coming. Appreciate it.
# # #
The White House
Office of the Press Secretary
For Immediate Release
August 26, 2014
Charlotte Convention Center
Charlotte, North Carolina
12:07 P.M. EDT
THE PRESIDENT: Thank you so much. Please, everybody, have a seat. Hello, Legionnaires!
THE PRESIDENT: I want to thank Commander Dellinger for the introduction, but more importantly, for your service in the Army. And as you conclude your tenure as Commander, thank you for your tireless commitment to America’s veterans.
I want to thank the entire leadership team for welcoming me here today, including your National Adjutant, Dan Wheeler; your Executive Director in Washington, Peter Gaytan; Nancy Brown-Park, all the spouses, daughters — (applause) — hey! — sisters of the Auxiliary, and the Sons of the American Legion. (Applause.) And let me say that I join you in honoring the memory of a friend to many of you — an Army veteran and a great Legionnaire from North Carolina, Jerry Hedrick. (Applause.)
To Senators Richard Burr and Kay Hagan, Mayor Dan Clodfelter — thank you for welcoming us to the great state of North Carolina and to Charlotte, and for your great support of our troops and our veterans.
And I do have to mention the President of Boys Nation –Matthew Ellow, from Lacey’s Spring, Alabama. I welcomed Matthew and all the incredible young people of Boys and Girls Nation to the White House last month. I was running a little bit late, so they just started singing, filling the White House with patriotic songs. And then they sang Happy Birthday to me, so I was pretty moved. And they’re a tribute to the Legion and to our country.
I’ve brought with me today our new Secretary of Veterans Affairs, Bob McDonald. (Applause.) And for those of you who are not aware, Bob is one of America’s most accomplished business leaders. He comes from a military family. He excelled at West Point, served as an Army Airborne Ranger — so he’s got a reputation for jumping into tough situations. (Laughter.) And he’s hit the ground running, visiting hospitals and clinics across the country, hearing directly from veterans and helping us change the way the VA does business. And by the way, Washington doesn’t agree on much these days, but he got confirmed 97 to 0. (Applause.) People understand he’s the right man for the job. He has my full support. And, Bob, I want to thank you for once again serving your country. (Applause.)
It’s an honor to be back with the American Legion. In the story of your service we see the spirit of America. When your country needed you most, you stepped forward. You raised your right hand, you swore a solemn oath. You put on that uniform and earned the title you carry to this day — whether Soldier, Sailor, Airman, Marine, Coast Guardsman.
Among you are proud veterans of World War II; of Korea; of Vietnam; of Desert Storm and the Balkans; and our newest veterans — from Iraq and Afghanistan. Across the generations, you served with honor. You made us proud. And you carry the memory of friends who never came home — our fallen, our prisoners of war, those missing in action — heroes that our nation can never forget.
When you took off that uniform, you earned another title –the title of veteran. And you never stopped serving. As Legionnaires, you put on that cap, wore that emblem — “for God and country” — and took care of one another, making sure our veterans receive the care and the benefits that you’ve earned and deserve.
And just as you defended America over there, you helped build America here at home — as leaders and role models in your communities, as entrepreneurs and business owners, as champions for a strong national defense. You helped the United States of America become what we are today — the greatest democratic, economic, and military force for freedom and human dignity that the world has ever known.
Now, these are challenging times. I don’t have to tell you that. Around the world as well as here at home. You turn on the TV and we’re saturated with heartbreaking images of war and senseless violence and terrorism and tragedy. And it can be easy to grow cynical or give in to the sense that the future we seek is somehow beyond our reach. But as men and women who have been tested like few others, you should know better. You know that cynicism is not the character of a great nation. And so, even as we face, yes, the hard tasks of our time, we should never lose sight of our progress as a people or the strength of our leadership in the world.
Think about it — six years after the worst financial crisis since the Great Depression — in some ways, the crisis had the potential of being worse than the Great Depression — thanks to the decisions we made to rescue our economy, thanks to the determination of the American people, we are stronger at home. Over the past 53 months, our businesses have added nearly 10 million new jobs — the longest streak of private sector job creation in American history. Construction and housing are rebounding. Our auto industry and manufacturing are booming. Our high school graduation rate is at a record high. More young people are earning their college degrees than ever before. Millions more Americans now have quality, affordable health care. We’ve cut the deficit by more than half. And now we have to sustain this momentum so more people share in this progress, so our economy works for every working American.
And just as we’re stronger at home, the United States is better positioned to lead in the 21st century than any nation on Earth. It’s not even close. We have the most powerful military in history — that’s certainly not close. From Europe to Asia, our alliances are unrivaled. Our economy is the most dynamic. We’ve got the best workers. We’ve got the best businesses. We have the best universities and the best scientists. With our domestic energy revolution, including more renewable energy, we’re more energy independent. Our technologies connect the world. Our freedoms and opportunities attract immigrants who “yearn to breathe free.” Our founding ideals inspire the oppressed across the globe to reach for their own liberty. That’s who we are. That’s what America is.
And moreover, nobody else can do what we do. No other nation does more to underwrite the security and prosperity on which the world depends. In times of crisis, no other nation can rally such broad coalitions to stand up for international norms and peace. In times of disaster, no other nation has the capabilities to deliver so much so quickly. No nation does more to help citizens claim their rights and build their democracies. No nation does more to help people in the far corners of the Earth escape poverty and hunger and disease, and realize their dignity. Even countries that criticize us, when the chips are down and they need help, they know who to call — they call us. That’s what American leadership looks like. That’s why the United States is and will remain the one indispensable nation in the world.
Now, sustaining our leadership, keeping America strong and secure, means we have to use our power wisely. History teaches us of the dangers of overreaching, and spreading ourselves too thin, and trying to go it alone without international support, or rushing into military adventures without thinking through the consequences. And nobody knows this better than our veterans and our families — our veteran families, because you’re the ones who bear the wages of war. You’re the ones who carry the scars. You know that we should never send America’s sons and daughters into harm’s way unless it is absolutely necessary and we have a plan, and we are resourcing it and prepared to see it through. (Applause.) You know the United States has to lead with strength and confidence and wisdom.
And that’s why, after incredible sacrifice by so many of our men and women in uniform, we removed more than 140,000 troops from Iraq and welcomed those troops home. It was the right thing to do. It’s why we refocused our efforts in Afghanistan and went after al Qaeda’s leadership in the tribal regions in Afghanistan and Pakistan, driving the Taliban out of its strongholds, and training Afghan forces, which are now in the lead for their own security. In just four months, we will complete our combat mission in Afghanistan and America’s longest war will come to a responsible end. And we honor every American who served to make this progress possible — (applause) — every single one, especially the more than 2,200 American patriots who made the ultimate sacrifice in Afghanistan to keep us safe.
And now, as Afghans continue to work towards the first democratic transfer of power in their history, Afghan leaders need to make the hard compromises that are necessary to give the Afghan people a future of security and progress. And as we go forward, we’ll continue to partner with Afghans so their country can never again be used to launch attacks against the United States. (Applause.)
Now, as I’ve always made clear, the blows we’ve struck against al Qaeda’s leadership don’t mean the end to the terrorist threat. Al Qaeda affiliates still target our homeland — we’ve seen that in Yemen. Other extremists threaten our citizens abroad, as we’ve seen most recently in Iraq and Syria. As Commander-in-Chief, the security of the American people is my highest priority, and that’s why, with the brutal terrorist group ISIL advancing in Iraq, I have authorized targeted strikes to protect our diplomats and military advisors who are there. (Applause.)
And let me say it again: American combat troops will not be returning to fight in Iraq. I will not allow the United States to be dragged back into another ground war in Iraq. Because ultimately, it is up to the Iraqis to bridge their differences and secure themselves. (Applause.) The limited strikes we’re conducting have been necessary to protect our people, and have helped Iraqi forces begin to push back these terrorists. We’ve also been able to rescue thousands of men and women and children who were trapped on a mountain. And our airdrops of food and water and medicine show American leadership at our best. And we salute the brave pilots and crews who are making us proud in the skies of Iraq every single day. (Applause.)
And more broadly, the crisis in Iraq underscores how we have to meet today’s evolving terrorist threat. The answer is not to send in large-scale military deployments that overstretch our military, and lead for us occupying countries for a long period of time, and end up feeding extremism. Rather, our military action in Iraq has to be part of a broader strategy to protect our people and support our partners to take the fight to ISIL.
So we’re strengthening our partners — more military assistance to government and Kurdish forces in Iraq and moderate opposition in Syria. We’re urging Iraqis to forge the kind of inclusive government that can deliver on national unity, and strong security forces and good governance that are ultimately going to be the antidote against terrorists. And we’re urging countries in the region and building an international coalition, including our closest allies, to support Iraqis as they take the fight to these barbaric terrorists.
Today, our prayers are with the Foley family in New Hampshire as they continue to grieve the brutal murder of their son and brother Jim. But our message to anyone who harms our people is simple: America does not forget. Our reach is long. We are patient. Justice will be done. We have proved time and time again we will do what’s necessary to capture those who harm Americans — (applause) — to go after those who harm Americans. (Applause.)
And we’ll continue to take direct action where needed to protect our people and to defend our homeland. And rooting out a cancer like ISIL won’t be easy and it won’t be quick. But tyrants and murderers before them should recognize that kind of hateful vision ultimately is no match for the strength and hopes of people who stand together for the security and dignity and freedom that is the birthright of every human being.
So even as our war in Afghanistan comes to an end, we will stay vigilant. We will continue to make sure that our military has what it needs. And as today’s generation of servicemembers keeps us safe, and as they come home, we also have to meet our responsibilities to them, just as they meet their responsibilities to America. (Applause.)
When I was here at the Legion three years ago, I said that the bond between our forces and our citizens has to be a sacred trust, and that for me, for my administration, upholding our trust with our veterans is not just a matter of policy, it is a moral obligation.
And working together, we have made real progress. Think about it. Working with the Legion and other veterans service organizations, we’ve been able to accomplish historic increases to veterans funding. We’ve protected veterans health care from Washington politics with advanced appropriations. We’ve been able to make VA benefits available to more than 2 million veterans who didn’t have them before, including more Vietnam vets who were exposed to Agent Orange. (Applause.) We’ve dedicated major new resources for mental health care. We’ve helped more than 1 million veterans and their families pursue their education under the Post-9/11 GI Bill.
And moreover, as the Legion and other veterans groups have said, once veterans get in the door the care you receive from the VA is often very good. The specialized care is among the best in the world. And many of the hardworking folks at the VA are veterans themselves — veterans serving veterans. And we can never thank them enough for their good work.
But what we’ve come to learn is that the misconduct we’ve seen at too many facilities — with long wait times, and veterans denied care, and folks cooking the books — is outrageous and inexcusable. (Applause.)
As soon as it was disclosed, I got before the American people and I said we would not tolerate it. And we will not. And I know the Legion has been on the frontlines, fanning out across the country, helping veterans who’ve been affected. And I know Bob is going to give you an update on the actions that we’re taking. But what I want you to know, directly from me, is that we’re focused on this at the highest levels. We are going to get to the bottom of these problems. We’re going to fix what is wrong. We’re going to do right by you, and we are going to do right by your families. And that is a solemn pledge and commitment that I’m making to you here. (Applause.)
Already we’re making sure that those responsible for manipulating or falsifying records are held accountable. We’re reaching out to veterans — more than a quarter million so far — to get them off wait lists and into clinics. We’re moving ahead with reforms at the Veterans Health Administration. And to help get that done, you supported, and Congress passed, and I signed into law the Veterans Access, Choice and Accountability Act, which means more resources to help the VA hire more doctors and nurses and staff. It means if you live more than 40 miles from a VA facility, or your VA doctors can’t see you fast enough, we’ll help you go to a doctor outside the VA.
And we’re instituting a new culture of accountability. Bob doesn’t play. Bob likes to recall a cadet prayer from West Point, which should be the ethos of all of us: “Choose the harder right instead of the easier wrong.” And with the new legislation that I signed into law, Bob and the VA now have the authority to more quickly remove senior executives who don’t meet our high standards. If you engage in unethical practices, or cover up a serious problem, you should be and will be fired. (Applause.)
And by the way, if you blow the whistle on higher-ups because you’ve identified a legitimate problem, you shouldn’t be punished, you should be protected. (Applause.)
So my bottom line is this: Despite all the good work that the VA does every day, despite all the progress that we’ve made over the last several years, we are very clear-eyed about the problems that are still there. And those problems require us to regain the trust of our veterans, and live up to our vision of a VA that is more effective and more efficient and that truly puts veterans first. And I will not be satisfied until that happens. (Applause.)
And we’re in the midst of a new wave of veterans — more than a million servicemembers returning to civilian life. So we have to do more to uphold that sacred trust not just this year or next year, but for decades to come. We’re going to have to stay focused on the five priorities that I outlined last year. And I just want to reiterate them for you just so you know what it is that we’re committing to.
Number one, we need to make sure our veterans have the resources you deserve. And the new funding we just helped — we just passed with the help of Senators Burr and Kay, that helps. But as you know, it’s not enough. Even in these tough fiscal times, I’ve, therefore, proposed another increase in veterans funding for next year. And I’ll continue to resist any effort to exploit the recent problems at the VA to turn veterans health care into a voucher system. We don’t need vouchers. You need VA health care that you have earned and that you can depend on. (Applause.) We need to make the system work.
Second, we need to make sure veterans are actually getting the health care you need when you need it. Reforming the VHA and more doctors and staff is a good step. But with this new wave of veterans, we’ve got to deliver the care our newest veterans need most. And that includes tailored care that treats our women veterans with respect and dignity. (Applause.) It means doing even more to help veterans from all wars who are struggling with traumatic brain injury and post-traumatic stress. And we have to end this tragedy of suicide among our troops and veterans. (Applause.) As a country, we can’t stand idly by on such tragedy.
So we’re doing even more — more than ever — more awareness, more outreach, more access to mental health care. So long as any servicemember or veteran is suffering, or feels like they have nowhere to turn, or doesn’t get the support that they need, that means we haven’t done enough. And we all know we need to do more. Veterans called for it. We heard you — which is why today I’m announcing 19 new executive actions to help improve mental health care for those American heroes and their families. (Applause.)
So just one example: We’re expanding suicide prevention training across the military and the VA, so colleagues and clinicians can spot the warning signs and encourage our troops and veterans to seek help. We’ll improve access to care, with more peer support — veterans counseling veterans — at VA hospitals and clinics. We’re calling on Congress to help us ensure that our troops get coverage for mental health care that’s on par with the coverage for other medical conditions. And we’re going to make it easier for servicemembers being treated for mental health conditions to continue their care as they transition to the VA, so automatically connecting them with the support they need, making sure they don’t lose access to any medications they may be taking.
And maybe most of all, we’re going to keep saying loud and clear to anyone out there who’s hurting, it is not a sign of weakness to ask for help; it is a sign of strength. Talk to a friend. Pick up the phone. You are not alone. We are here for you. And every American needs to know if you see someone in uniform or a veteran who is struggling, reach out and help them to get help. They were there for America. We now need to be there for them. (Applause.)
Our third priority: We have to keep attacking the disability claims backlog. Now, the good news is, since its peak last year, we’ve worked with you to slash the backlog by more than 50 percent. There had been a surge in the backlog in part because of an influx of new veterans; in part because we opened it up for folks who had PTSD, folks with Agent Orange symptoms. And now we’ve had to work that backlog back down. The trend lines are good. But we don’t just want those claims processed fast; we need to make sure they get processed right.
So we’re going to keep at this until we end this backlog once and for all. And as we do, we’re going to keep working to liberate you from those mountains of paper. We’ve got to move towards a paperless system — electronic health records that our troops and veterans can keep for life, and that could cut down on some of the bureaucratic red tape so that you’re getting the benefits that you’ve earned a little bit faster. (Applause.)
Number four: We need to uphold the dignity and rights of every veteran, and that includes ending the tragedy of homelessness among veterans. (Applause.) Again, we’ve got good news to report. Today, I can announce that, working together over the last few years, we have been able to reduce the number of homeless veterans by one-third. (Applause.) And that means on any given night, there are 25,000 fewer veterans on the streets or in shelters. But we’re not going to stop until every veteran who has defended America has a home in America. That’s a basic commitment that we have to uphold. (Applause.)
And finally, we need to make sure our troops and veterans have every opportunity to pursue the American Dream. That includes a home of their own. You know, under the law, our servicemembers are entitled to reduced mortgage rates, but the burden is on them to ask for it and prove they’re eligible, which means a lot of folks don’t get the low rates they deserve.
So, today, we’re turning that around. We’re announcing a new partnership in which some of America’s biggest banks and financial institutions will simplify the process, proactively notify servicemembers who qualify for lower rates and make it easier to enroll. In other words, we’re going to help more of our troops and military families own their own home without a crushing debt. (Applause.)
We’re also going to keep helping our troops transition to civilian life. Because of the work we’ve done together, if you already have a military truck driver’s license, every state now waives the skills test so it’s easier for you to get a commercial driver’s license. (Applause.) And we’re going to keep pushing more states to recognize the incredible skills and training of our veterans. If you could do a job in a warzone, if you’re a medic in a warzone, you shouldn’t have to go take nursing 101 to work in a hospital here in the United States. (Applause.) If you can handle million-dollar pieces of equipment in a warzone, that should count for something in getting certified back here at home. If you can do the kinds of jobs so many of you have done in the most extreme circumstances, I’m pretty confident you can do that job right here at home. (Applause.)
To help our troops and veterans pursue their education, we worked with loan servicers to automatically cap interest rates on student loans to our servicemembers at 6 percent. For veterans going back to school under the Post-9/11 GI Bill, we’ll keep standing up against dishonest recruiting and predatory practices that target and prey on you and your families. So far, about 6,000 colleges and universities have pledged to adhere to our principles of excellence, promising to do right by our veterans. And more than a thousand colleges and universities have adopted our “8 Keys” to make sure that they’re truly welcoming veterans and helping them succeed on campus. And by the way, every school in America should join them. You should be proud if you’re educating a veteran, and you should be doing right by them. (Applause.)
And we’re going to keep helping our veterans find those private sector jobs worthy of your incredible talents. Our new online Veterans Employment Center is a single one-stop shop connecting veterans and their spouses to more than 1.5 million jobs that are open right now. And we’re joining with states and local leaders to identify nearly two dozen cities and regions with the most opportunities for veterans. And with Michelle and Dr. Jill Biden leading the call, America’s businesses are joining forces to hire or train veterans and spouses — more than half a million so far, and growing.
So veterans’ unemployment is going down, and it’s now actually lower than the national average. It was higher to begin with, and we have been driving it down. But we’ve got more to go, especially for our post-9/11 veterans. So we’re going to keep saying to every business in America, if you want somebody who knows how to get the job done, no matter the mission, hire a veteran. Hire a vet. (Applause.)
So fixing what’s broken at the VA; ensuring the resources you deserve; delivering the health care that you’ve earned; eliminating the backlog; standing up for your rights and dignity; helping you realize the American Dream that you so honorably defended — these are our commitments to you. This is what we’re focused on. This is what we can do together — especially as our war in Afghanistan comes to an end and we welcome home our newest veterans.
There are a lot of them here tonight. We salute Captain Scott Miller of Indiana, a proud Hoosier and a proud Marine. In Afghanistan, he went out on dangerous patrols, traveling to remote villages, meeting with tribal elders, building trust, forging partnerships to push back insurgents. And here at the Legion, he continues to serve by encouraging businesses across America to give back to the veterans who defended our way of life and make our prosperity possible. So thank you, Scott. Where is Scott here today? (Applause.) We are proud of him. There here is.
We salute Master Sergeant Carol Barker of Greensboro, North Carolina. As a first sergeant of her medevac unit, she was responsible for more than a hundred troops, helped save the lives of our wounded warriors in those critical first hours when life so often hung in the balance. And here at the Legion, she continues to serve, helping homeless veterans come in off the streets, and begin their lives anew with a roof over their heads. Thank you, Carol. Where’s Carol? (Applause.)
We salute Sergeant Joe Grassi, who grew up just outside New York City. After his hometown was attacked on 9/11, he left his civilian job, he joined the Army. A squad leader in Afghanistan, he spent most of his time on the flight line, in the 120-degree heat, supplying our helicopter crews. And here at the Legion, he continues to serve, helping veterans complete their disability claims, and raising his voice in Washington for a strong national defense, because, he says, “Some things are worth fighting for. America is worth fighting for.” Thank you, Joe. We’re proud of you. Thank you, sir. (Applause.)
Scott, Carol, Joe — they’re among the patriots here today who served in Afghanistan and Iraq. And I would ask all our Post-9/11 Generation veterans to stand if you are able and accept the thanks of a grateful nation. I ask these men and women to stand because the American people have to know that even as our war in Afghanistan comes to an end, our obligation to this generation of veterans has only just begun. And this cannot just be the work of government and veterans groups alone. I want every American to take this commitment seriously. Please stand, Post-9/11 Generation, all of you who’ve served in Afghanistan and Iraq. We’re grateful for you. (Applause.)
This is not just a job of government. It’s not just a job of the veterans’ organizations. Every American needs to join us in taking care of those who’ve taken care of us. Because only 1 percent of Americans may be fighting our wars, but 100 percent of Americans benefit from that 1 percent. A hundred percent need to be supporting our troops. A hundred percent need to be supporting our veterans. A hundred percent need to be supporting our military families. (Applause.)
And everybody can do something. Every American. Every business. Every profession. Every school. Every community. Every state. All of us, as one American team. That’s how we will truly honor our veterans. That’s how we will truly say thank you. That’s how we will uphold the sacred trust with all who’ve served in our name.
God bless you. God bless our veterans. God bless the United States of America. Thank you very much. (Applause.)
12:41 P.M. EDT
MR. MORRISON: Well, thank you. Aloha. I want to welcome everyone. And for our online audience, and also for the Secretary, I’d like to describe who is here in our audience. We have the mayor of Honolulu, Mayor Caldwell. We have our senator, Mazie Hirono. We have our former governor, George Ariyoshi, and our other former governor, John Waihee. We have many members of the business and intellectual and public affairs community here in Honolulu. We have members of the diplomatic corps. We have members of our men and women in uniform. We have the members of the board of governors of the East-West Center. We have the staff of the East-West Center. We have friends of the East-West Center. And most importantly, we have future leaders of the Asia Pacific region. And I was just telling the Secretary, I think yesterday we welcomed 130 new participants from the United States and 40 other countries. They’re here on a unique program to prepare them for being future regional and global leaders.
Now, how do you introduce a man who is so well-known for his own leadership and —
SECRETARY KERRY: First thing, you can just tell everybody to sit down.
MR. MORRISON: Oh. (Laughter.) Please sit down, yes. (Laughter.) Thank you, Mr. Secretary. Anyway, as you know, he has served in war and peace. He was a senator for 28 years; 59 million Americans voted for him for president, including 54 percent of the voters of Hawaii. (Laughter and applause.) But as a former senate staff person, I thought the way to really check him out was to see how his confirmation hearing went. Now, the issues were controversial but the nominee was not controversial, and what his former colleagues said about him, Republicans and Democrats, I think give the essence of the man: extremely well prepared, born in a Foreign Service family, served all 28 years on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, four years as the chairman of that committee. He knows the languages – several foreign languages, countries, leaders, and issues. He is a man of incredible moral and intellectual integrity. He brings conviction and compassion to his job and great energy. He has been, I think, on his seventh trip to Asia, coming back and so we want to welcome him back to the United States. We want to welcome him to our most Asia Pacific state, and we want to welcome him to the East-West Center, an institution that’s building community with this vast region which is so systemically important to the future of the United States.
Mr. Secretary of State. (Applause.)
SECRETARY KERRY: Thank you. Well, good afternoon, everybody. Aloha. It’s wonderful to be here in Hawaii, and man, I can’t tell you how I wish I was as relaxed as some of you in your beautiful shirts. (Laughter.) Here I am in my – whatever you call it – uniform. Uniform, some would say. But it is such a pleasure to be here. Mr. Mayor, it’s great to be here with you. And Mazie, thank you. It’s wonderful to see you, Senator. I’m very happy to see you. Thanks for being here. And governors, thank you for being here very much.
Ladies and gentlemen, distinguished guests all, it’s a great, great pleasure for me to be able to be here. And President Morrison, thank you very much for that generous introduction. I appreciate it very much.
Charles was way ahead of the curve, folks, in seeing the trend towards regionalism in the Asia Pacific in the early 1990s. And he was calling for community-building within East Asia well before it became a standard topic of discussion on the think tank circuit. So clearly, and to everyone’s benefit, he’s had an ability to focus on the long game. And that is a talent that he actually shares with one of the founding fathers of this institution, a former colleague, beloved to all of you, who became a great friend to me, and that’s Senator Dan Inouye. During my sort of latter years, I actually moved up to about seventh in seniority or something in the United States Senate, and had I not been appointed to this job, with all of the retirements that are taking place, I don’t know, I might have been third or fourth or something, which is kind of intimidating. But as a result of that, I got to sit beside the great Dan Inouye for four or five years in the Senate. Our desks were beside each other, and we became very good friends. He was one of the early supporters of mine when I decided to run for President in ’04, ’03. But most importantly, Dan Inouye, as all of you know, was a patriot above all who commanded remarkable respect and affection of all of his colleagues. And Hawaii was so wise to keep him in office for so many years.
Having just visited yesterday Guadalcanal, having stood up on what was called Bloody Ridge, Edson’s Ridge, and walked into one of the still remaining bunkers that Marines were dug in on against 3,000-plus Japanese who kept coming at them wave after wave in the evening, it’s – it was a remarkable sense of the battle that turned the war. And no place knows the meaning of all of that better than here in Hawaii.
Yesterday commemorated really one of the great battles of the Second World War, and so it gave me a chance to reflect with special pride and with humility about Dan’s service to our country. He was a hero in the war, against difficult circumstances which we all understand too well. But he became the first Japanese American to serve in the House of Representatives and the United States Senate, against all the odds of what was still a prevailing sense in our country of misunderstanding between people. And he just never let that get in the way. He shared a very personal commitment to strengthening ties between the United States and the Asia Pacific. And that’s why he championed the East-West Center for decades, and I want you to know that President Obama and I strongly support your mission of bringing people together to think creatively about the future of our role in the region and how we overcome the kinds of inherent, visceral differences that sometimes are allowed to get in the way of relationships, and frankly, in the way of common sense.
We remember too well in America that slavery was written into our Constitution long before it was written out of it. And we all know the struggle that it took – excuse me – to write it out. So as we look at the world today – complicated, difficult, tumultuous, volatile – for so many of us who have spent decades working on issues central to the Asia Pacific, there’s actually something particularly exciting about this moment. It’s almost exhilarating when you look at Asia’s transformation. And like Dan Inouye, I have had the privilege, as many of you have here I can see, you’ve lived a lot of that transformation firsthand.
A number of my – (coughing) – excuse me, it’s the virtue of many hours in an airplane. A number of my ancestors from Boston and from Massachusetts were merchants whose ships dropped anchor in Hong Kong as they plied the lonely trade routes to China. My grandfather, actually, was born in Shanghai and was a businessman who had a partnership with a Chinese businessman. So in our family and in Massachusetts, we’ve had a long sense of the possibilities and of this relationship. Today, East Asia is one of the largest, fastest growing, most dynamic regions in the entire world. And when the Trans-Pacific Partnership negotiations are complete, about 40 percent of global GDP will be linked by a high-standard trade agreement, a trade agreement that creates a race to the top, not a race to the bottom, where people understand the rules of engagement and there’s accountability and transparency, and business and capital know exactly what the rules of the road will be so they’re attracted to invest each in each other’s countries.
After college, I had the privilege of serving in the United States Navy. And I went through Pearl Harbor. I had a remarkable several days here as a young officer on a frigate before we set sail to cross the Pacific. And I drove all over the island everywhere, in places I probably wasn’t supposed to. But I loved it and then spent a second tour in the rivers of Vietnam. And back then, the word Vietnam – just saying Vietnam – carried with it an ominous meaning. It meant war. It meant huge dissent in America, families torn apart. But today, Vietnam, when you say it, has a whole different meaning to most people. It’s now a dynamic country filled with economic opportunity. It’s a market for our businesses and our investors. It’s a classroom for our children. It has one of the largest Fulbright programs in the world. And it’s a partner in tackling regional economic and security challenges.
Such extraordinary transformations have actually become almost the norm in this region. I’ll never forget, 15 years ago, I visited in then Burma – no confusion with Myanmar but now people choose what they want to call it. But I visited with Daw Aung Sung Sui Kyi in the very home in which she was imprisoned for nearly two decades. And this week, I had the privilege of again going back to the very same house – it hadn’t changed, looked the same. She, by the way, 20 years later looks the same. And she is now free to speak her mind as a member of parliament.
It’s remarkable. It doesn’t mean all the president are solved. But these transformations are just some of what makes Asia the most exciting and promising places on the planet.
I am returning, as President Morrison has said, from actually my sixth trip to the Asia Pacific in 18 months as Secretary of State. And later today, I’ll be meeting with our outstanding Commander of United States Forces in the Pacific to review a range of America’s formidable military presence issues. I have returned again and again to this region – I can’t tell you how many times I went, Mazie, as a senator to the region. And we are now – we take our enduring interests there, obviously, very, very seriously.
We know that America’s security and prosperity are closely and increasingly linked to the Asia Pacific. And that’s why President Obama began what is known as the rebalance to Asia in 2009. That’s why he’s asked me to redouble my own efforts in the region over the next two and half years. And that’s why I want to talk to you today about four specific opportunities: creating sustainable economic growth, powering a clean energy revolution, promoting regional cooperation, and empowering people.
Now, these important opportunities can and should be realized through a rules-based regional order, a stable regional order on common rules and norms of behavior that are reinforced by institutions. And that’s what holds the greatest potential for all of us for making progress. We support this approach, frankly, because it encourages cooperative behavior. It fosters regional integration. It ensures that all countries, big and small – and the small part is really important – that they have a say in how we work together on shared challenges. I want you to know that the United States is deeply committed to realizing this vision. President Obama is excited about it. He wants us all to be committed to fostering it and also to understanding why we’re doing it. And frankly, it is this vision that is the underlying reason that so many countries in Asia choose to work with the United States.
You hear some people today talking about the United States retrenching or disengaging. Nothing could be further from the truth. I think we’re more engaged and more active in more countries and more parts of the world than any time in American history. And I can tell you that because just driving over here I was on the phone to people in the Middle East, talking about a ceasefire which is now going to be in place in the next days; talking about the road ahead. Just came back from Afghanistan, where we’re working on the transition to the people of Afghanistan, to their future. We’re engaged with Iran, working on the nuclear program; with the DPRK, with China, and Sudan, and Central Africa. We just had 50-plus African leaders to Washington to talk about the future of American engagement there. We are deeply engaged in a very, very complex world.
But this speech and this moment here at the university and at the center, and the trip that I just made to Asia, are meant to underscore that even as we focus on those crises that I’ve just listed and on conflicts that dominate the headlines on a daily basis and demand our leadership – even as we do that, we will never forget the long-term strategic imperatives for American interests. As Secretary of State, my job isn’t just to respond to crises. It’s also about defining and seizing the long-term opportunities for the United States. And having just traveled to Burma, Australia, and the Solomon Islands, I can tell you that nowhere are those strategic opportunities clearer or more compelling than in the Asia Pacific.
That’s why we are currently negotiating a comprehensive and ambitious Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement that will create thousands of new jobs here in America as well as in other countries, and it will spur this race to the top, not to the bottom. It raises the standards by which we do business. That’s why we’re elevating our engagement in multilateral institutions, from the ASEAN Regional Forum to the East Asia Summit. And that’s why we are revitalizing our security partnerships with our treaty allies: Japan, Australia, South Korea, and the Philippines. And that’s why we are standing up for the human rights and the fundamental freedoms that people in Asia cherish as much as any people in the world.
I have no illusions about the challenges, and nor does President Obama. They are complex in this 21st century, in many ways far more complex than the bipolar, East-West, Soviet Union-versus-West world – the Cold War that many of us grew up in. This is far more complicated. It’s far more, in many ways, like 19th century and 18th century diplomacy, with states asserting their interests in different ways and with more economic players in the planet than we had in the 20th century with power and with a sense of independence. But what I want to emphasize to you all today is there is a way forward. This is not so daunting that it’s indescribable as to what we can do.
So how do we make our shared vision a reality for the region and ensure that Asia contributes to global peace and prosperity? First, we need to turn today’s economic nationalism and fragmentation into tomorrow’s sustainable growth. I say it all the time: Foreign Policy is economic policy, and economic policy is foreign policy. They are one and the same. There’s no denying that particularly in Asia Pacific. Asia Pacific is an engine of global economic growth, but we can’t take that growth for granted.
Because what we face something that is really a common challenge. Across the world, we have seen a staggering growth in youth populations. At the Africa summit it was just underscored to us there are 700 million people under the age of 30. We’ve seen staggering growth in these youth populations. And guess what. In the 21st century, in 2014 when everybody’s running around with a mobile device and everybody’s in touch with everybody every day all the time, all of these people are demanding an opportunity. They’re demanding dignity. And juxtaposed to their hopes, a cadre of extremists, of resisters, of naysayers are waiting to seduce many of those young people into accepting a dead end. And let me tell you, when people don’t have a job, when they can’t get an education, when they can’t aspire to a better future for themselves and for their families, when their voices are silenced by draconian laws or violence and oppression, we have all witnessed the instability that follows.
Now happily, many, if not most governments, in Asia are working to present booming youth populations with an alternative, with a quality education, with skills for the modern world, with jobs that allow them to build a life and a confidence in their countries. That is part of the reason why the young people in Asia are joining the ranks of the middle class, not the ranks of violent extremists. And the fact is that too many countries around the world are struggling to provide those opportunities. There’s a lack of governance, and we ignore the importance of this collective challenge to address the question of failed and failing states in other parts of the world.
In the 21st century, a nation’s interests and the well-being of its people are advanced not just by troops or diplomats, but they’re advanced by entrepreneurs, by chief executives of companies, by the businesses that are good corporate citizens, by the workers that they employ, by the students that they train, and the shared prosperity that they create. That is why we are working with partners across the Asia Pacific to maintain and raise standards as we expand trade and investment by pursuing a comprehensive Trans-Pacific Partnership agreement.
Now, the TPP represents really an exciting new chapter in the long history of America’s mutually beneficial trade partnerships with the countries of the Asia Pacific. It is a state-of-the-art, 21st century trade agreement, and it is consistent not just with our shared economic interests, but also with our shared values. It’s about generating growth for our economies and jobs for our people by unleashing a wave of trade, investment, and entrepreneurship. It’s about standing up for our workers, or protecting the environment, and promoting innovation. And it’s about reaching for high standards to guide the growth of this dynamic regional economy. And all of that is just plain good for businesses, it’s good for workers, it’s good for our economies. And that’s why we must get this done.
Now, every time I travel to Asia, I have the privilege of meeting with young entrepreneurs and business leaders. In fact, at the Africa summit the other day we had this wonderful group of young African leaders – all entrepreneurs, all these young kids in their 20s doing extraordinary things. It’s call the Young African Leaders Initiative, which President Obama started.
In Hanoi last December, I launched the Governance for Inclusive Growth Program to support Vietnam’s transition to a market-based economy. I’ve met with entrepreneurs in Seoul and Manila to talk about how we can drive innovation. On Saturday, I discussed with my ASEAN counterparts the framework for creating business opportunities and jobs that we call Expanded Economic Engagement, or E3. And just yesterday, I met with business leaders in Sydney, Australia to explore ways to reduce the barriers to trade and investment.
To broaden the base of support for this strategy, we need to focus not only on rapid growth, but we also need to focus on sustainability. And that means making the best use of regional institutions. President Obama will join APEC economic leaders in Beijing this fall to focus on promoting clean and renewable fuels and supporting small businesses and women’s participation in the economy and expanding educational exchanges. And just a few days ago, I met with ministers from the Lower Mekong Initiative countries to deepen our partnership and help them wrestle with the challenges of food and water and energy security on the Mekong River.
Ultimately, the true measure of our success will not be just whether our economies continue to grow, but how they continue to grow. And that brings me to our second challenge: We need to turn today’s climate crisis into tomorrow’s clean energy revolution. Now, all of this – all of us in this room understand climate change is not a crisis of the future. Climate change is here now. It’s happening, happening all over the world. It’s not a challenge that’s somehow remote and that people can’t grab onto.
But here’s the key: It’s happening at a rate that should be alarming to all of us because everything the scientists predicted – and I’ll tell you a little addendum. Al Gore – I had the privilege of working with Al Gore and Tim Worth and a group of senators – Jack Heinz – back in the 1980s when we held the first hearing on climate change in 1988. That’s when Jim Hansen from NASA came forward and said it’s happening. It’s happening now in 1988. In 1992 we had a forum down in Brazil, Rio, the Earth Summit. George Herbert Walker Bush participated. We came up with a voluntary framework to deal with climate change, but voluntary didn’t work. And for 20 years nothing much happened. Then we went to Kyoto. We went to all these places to try to do something, and here we are in 2014 with a chance next year in 2015 to do it.
And what’s happening is the science is screaming at us. Ask any kid in school. They understand what a greenhouse is, how it works, why we call it the greenhouse effect. They get it. And here’s what – if you accept the science, if you accept that the science is causing climate to change, you have to heed what those same scientists are telling us about how you prevent the inevitable consequences and impacts. You can’t – that’s why President Obama has made climate change a top priority. He’s doing by executive authority what we’re not able to get the Congress to do. And we’re working very hard to implement the Climate Action Plan and lead by example. We’re doubling the fuel efficiency of cars and trucks on America’s roads. We’ve developed new standards that ensure that existing power plants are as clean as possible and as efficient as possible. And we’re committed to reducing greenhouse gases and emissions in the range of about 17 percent below 2005 levels by 2020.
So we’re heading in the right direction. But make no mistake about it: Our response has to be all hands on deck. By definition, rescuing the planet’s climate is a global challenge that requires a global solution. And nowhere is all of this more evident than in the Asia Pacific. And no two nations can have a greater impact or influence on this debate or this challenge than China and the United States.
During the Strategic and Economic Dialogue last month, Secretary of Treasury Jack Lew and I were in Beijing for two days. And we and China together sent a clear message: The world’s two largest greenhouse gas emitters, the United States and China, are committed to advancing a low-carbon economic growth pattern and significantly reduce our countries’ greenhouse gases. And we’re working together to launch demonstration projects on carbon capture, utilization, and storage. We’re adopting stronger fuel efficiency standards for heavy- and light-duty vehicles. We’re advancing a new initiative on climate change and forests, because we know that the threat of deforestation and its implications of a changing climate are real and they’re grave and they’re growing. And I’ll just say to you this is not an issue on which you can be half pregnant. No such issue. If you accept the science, you have to accept that you have to do these things about it.
Now, the United States and China have a special role to play in reducing emissions and developing a clean energy future. But everybody – every nation – has a stake in getting it right. I just came from the Solomon Islands yesterday, a thousand islands, some of which could be wiped out if we don’t make the right choices. The Pacific Islands across the entire Pacific are vulnerable to climate change. And just yesterday, I saw with my own eyes what sea level rise would do to parts of it: It would be devastating – entire habitats destroyed, entire populations displaced from their homes, in some cases entire cultures wiped out. They just had flash flooding in Guadalcanal – unprecedented amounts of rainfall. And that’s what’s happened with climate change – unprecedented storms, unprecedented typhoons, unprecedented hurricanes, unprecedented droughts, unprecedented fires, major damage, billions and billions of dollars of damage being done that we’re paying for instead of investing those billions of dollars in avoiding this in the first place.
That’s why we are deepening our partnerships with the Pacific Island nations and others to meet immediate threats and long-term development challenges. And we’re working through USAID and other multilateral institutions to increase the resilience of communities. And we’re elevating our engagement through the Pacific Islands Forum. And we’ve signed maritime boundaries, new maritime boundaries with Kiribati and the Federated States of Micronesia in order to promote good governance of the Pacific Ocean and peaceful relations among island nations. And we’re also working on a Pacific Pathway of marine protected areas that includes President Obama’s commitment to explore a protected area of more than a million square miles in size in the U.S. remote Pacific.
We just held a conference on the oceans in Washington the other day with nations all over the world came to it – unbelievably productive. We produced $1.8 billion of commitments to help with fisheries enforcement, anti-pollution, dealing with acidification, and to protect these areas as marine sanctuaries.
The good news is in the end – and this really – it really is good news. Sometimes you have an issue – Mr. Mayor, I know you know this. Governors, you know this. You’re looking at an issue and, man, you scratch your head and you’re not quite sure what the solution is, right? And you work through it. Well, the good news is the biggest challenge of all that we face right now, which is climate change in terms of international global effect, is an opportunity. It’s actually an extraordinary opportunity because it’s not a problem without a solution. The solution to climate change is simple. It’s called energy policy. Energy policy. Make the right choices about how you produce your energy – without emissions, without coal-fired power plants that don’t have carbon capture and storage or aren’t burning clean – then you can begin to produce clean energy.
And the new energy market that we’re looking at is the biggest market the world has ever seen. Think about that for a moment. The wealth that was generated in the 1990s – I don’t know if you know this, but most people think that America got the richest during the 1920s when you had the so-called, even in the late 1800s, robber baron years, and then you had the great names of wealth – Carnegie, Mellon, Frick, Rockefeller, and so forth. And no income tax – wow, gonna make a lot of money.
Guess what. America made more wealth and more money for more people in the 1990s than at any other time in our history. And what it came from, the wealth that was generated then, was the high-tech computer revolution of the 1990s, and guess what. It came from a $1 trillion market with 1 billion users, 1 for 1. The energy market that we’re looking at in the world today is six times bigger, by far more important. It’s a $6 trillion market today with 4 to 5 billion users today, and it will go up to 7 to 9 billion users in the next 30 years. The fastest segment by far of growth in that market is clean energy.
We need to build a grid in America. We need to – we could use solar thermal to produce heat in Massachusetts, in Minnesota, take wind power from our states, sell it somewhere else. We can’t even do that because we don’t have that grid in place.
So I want to emphasize to all of you: We’re not going to find a sustainable energy mix in the 19th century or 20th century solutions. Those are the problems. We need a formula for 21st century that will sustainably power us into the 22nd century. And I believe that, working together, the United States and countries across the Asia Pacific can make this leap. That’s an exciting opportunity and that’s what we’re working on with China today.
The bottom line is we don’t have time to waste. If we’re going to power a clean energy revolution, we have to work together to dampen security competition and rivalry in the Asia Pacific and focus on these other constructive efforts. And so our third challenge is clear: We need to turn maritime conflicts into regional cooperation.
All of us in this room understand that these disputes in the South China Sea and elsewhere, they’re really about more than claims to islands and reefs and rocks and the economic interests that flow from them. They’re about whether might makes right or whether global rules and norms and rule of law and international law will prevail. I want to be absolutely clear: The United States of America takes no position on questions of sovereignty in the South and East China Sea, but we do care about how those questions are resolved. We care about behavior. We firmly oppose the use of intimidation and coercion or force to assert a territorial claim by anyone in the region. And we firmly oppose any suggestion that freedom of navigation and overflight and other lawful uses of the sea and airspace are privileges granted by a big state to a small one. All claimants must work together to solve the claims through peaceful means, big or small. And these principles bind all nations equally, and all nations have a responsibility to uphold them.
Now, I just participated in the ASEAN Regional Forum, and we were encouraged there to – we encouraged the claimants there to defuse these tensions and to create the political space for resolution. We urged the claimants to voluntarily freeze steps that threatened to escalate the disputes and to cause instability. And frankly, I think that’s common sense and I suspect you share that. I’m pleased to say that ASEAN agreed that the time has come to seek consensus on what some of those actions to be avoided might be, based on the commitments that they’ve already made in the 2002 Declaration on Conduct.
Now, we cannot impose solutions on the claimants in the region, and we’re not seeking to do that. But the recent settlement between Indonesia and the Philippines is an example of how these disputes could be resolved through good-faith negotiations. Japan and Taiwan, likewise, showed last year that it’s possible to promote regional stability despite conflicting claims. And we support the Philippines’ taking steps to resolve its maritime dispute with China peacefully, including through the right to pursue arbitration under the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea. And while we already live by its principles, the United States needs to finish the job and pass that Treaty once and for all.
Now, one thing that I know will contribute to maintaining regional peace and stability is a constructive relationship between the United States and China. President Obama has made it clear that the United States welcomes the rise of a peaceful, prosperous, and stable China – one that plays a responsible role in Asia and the world and supports rules and norms on economic and security issues. The President has been clear, as have I, that we are committed to avoiding the trap of strategic rivalry and intent on forging a relationship in which we can broaden our cooperation on common interests and constructively manage our differences and disagreements.
But make no mistake: This constructive relationship, this “new model” relationship of great powers, is not going to happen simply by talking about it. It’s not going to happen by engaging in a slogan or pursuing a sphere of influence. It will be defined by more and better cooperation on shared challenges. And it will be defined by a mutual embrace of the rules, the norms, and institutions that have served both of our nations and the region so well. I am very pleased that China and the United States are cooperating effectively on the Iran nuclear talks and we’ve increased our dialogue on the DPRK. We’re also cooperating significantly on climate change possibilities, counter-piracy operations, and South Sudan.
So we are busy trying to define a great power relationship by the places where we can find mutual agreement and cooperation. We’ve seen the benefits of partnerships based on common values and common approaches to regional and global security. Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel and I met with our Australian counterparts in Sydney earlier this week and we reviewed the U.S.-Australian alliance from all sides. And though we live in very different hemispheres, obviously, and at opposite ends of the globe, the United States and Australia are today as close as nations can get. Our time-honored alliance has helped both of our countries to achieve important goals: standing with the people of Ukraine, supporting long-term progress in Afghanistan, promoting shared prosperity in the Asia Pacific, and collaborating on the United Nations Security Council. And we also agreed to expand our trilateral cooperation with Japan, and that will allow us to further modernize the U.S.-Japan alliance as we address a broader array of security challenges. Similarly, with our ally South Korea, our partnership on a growing range of regional and global challenges has brought much greater security to Asia and beyond.
History shows us that countries whose policies respect and reflect universal human rights and fundamental freedoms are likely to be peaceful and prosperous, far more effective at tapping the talents of their people, and far better partners in the long term.
That is why our fourth and final challenge is so important: We need to turn human rights problems into opportunities for human empowerment. Across the region, there are bright spots. But we also see backsliding, such as the setback to democracy in Thailand.
We all know that some countries in the region hold different views on democratic governance and the protection of human rights. But though we may sometimes disagree on these issues with the governments, I don’t think we have any fundamental disagreement with their people.
Given a choice, I don’t think too many young people in China would choose to have less access to uncensored information, rather than more. I don’t think too many people in Vietnam would say: “I’d rather not be allowed to organize and speak out for better working conditions or a healthy environment.” And I can’t imagine that anyone in Asia would watch more than a 130 million people go to the polls in Indonesia to choose a president after a healthy, vigorous, and peaceful debate and then say: “I don’t want that right for myself.” I also think most people would agree that freedom of speech and the press is essential to checking corruption, and it is essential that rule of law is needed to protect innovation and to enable businesses to thrive. That’s why support for these values is both universal and pragmatic.
I visited Indonesia in February, and I saw the promise of a democratic future. The world’s third largest democracy sets a terrific example for the world. And the United States is deeply committed to our comprehensive partnership. Indonesia is not just an expression of different cultures and languages and faiths. By deepening its democracy, and preserving its traditions of tolerance, it can be a model for how Asian values and democratic principles inform and strengthen one another.
In Thailand, a close friend and ally, we’re very disturbed by the setback to democracy and we hope it is a temporary bump in the road. We call on the Thai authorities to lift restrictions on political activity and speech, to return – to restore civilian rule, and return quickly to democracy through free and fair elections.
In Burma last week, I saw firsthand the initial progress the people and the government have made. And I’m proud of the role – and you should be too – that the United States has played for a quarter of a century in encouraging that progress.
But Burma still has a long way to go, and those leading its democratic transformation are only now addressing the deepest challenges: Defining a new role for the military; reforming the constitution and supporting free and fair elections; ending a decades-long civil war; and guaranteeing in law the human rights that Burma’s people have been promised in name. All of this while trying to attract more investment, combating corruption, protecting the country’s forests and other resources. These are the great tests of Burma’s transition. And we intend to try to help, but in the end the leadership will have to make the critical choices.
The United States is going to do everything we can to help the reformers in Burma, especially by supporting nationwide elections next year. And we will keep urging the government – as I did last week – to take steps to ease the humanitarian crisis in Rakhine state, and push back against hate speech and religious violence, implement constitutional reform, and protect freedom of assembly and expression. The government owes it to the people of those – of that movement to do those things.
And so, my friends, in the great tradition of our country, we will continue to promote human rights and democracy in Asia, without arrogance but also without apology.
Elsewhere in Asia, North Korea’s proliferation activities pose a very serious threat to the United States, the region, and the world. And we are taking steps to deter and defend against North Korea’s pursuit of a nuclear-armed ballistic missile capability. But make no mistake: We are also speaking out about the horrific human rights situation. We strongly supported the extraordinary United Nations investigation this year that revealed the utter, grotesque cruelty of North Korea’s system of labor camps and executions. Such deprivation of human dignity just has no place in the 21st century. North Korea’s gulags should be shut down – not tomorrow, not next week, but now. And we will continue to speak out on this topic.
So you’ve heard me for longer than you might have wanted to – (laughter) – describing a pretty ambitious agenda. And you’re right; it’s a big deal. We are super engaged. We are ambitious for this process: completing the TPP negotiations, creating sustainable growth, powering a clean energy revolution, managing regional rivalries by promoting cooperation, and empowering people from all walks of life – that’s how we’re going to realize the promise of the Asia Pacific. And this is a region whose countries can and should come together, because there is much more that unites us than divides us. This is a region that can and should meet danger and difficulty with courage and collaboration. And we are determined to deliver on the strategic and historic opportunities that we can create together.
That’s why, together with our Asian partners, we’re developing modern rules for a changing world – rules that help economies grow strong and fair and just, with protections for the environment, safeguards for the people who have both too often been left behind.
That’s why we’re building a region where Asia’s major cities are no longer clouded with smog and smoke, and where people can depend on safe food and water, and clean oceans, clean air, and shared resources from its rivers and its oceans, and with a sense of responsibility one generation passes on to the next to preserve all of that for the future.
That’s why we’re building a region where countries peacefully resolve their differences over islands, reefs, rocks by finding the common ground on the basis of international law.
And that’s why we’re building a region that protects the universal human rights and fundamental freedoms that make all nations stronger.
There is still a long road ahead. But nothing gives me more hope in the next miles of the journey than the courage of those who have reached a different and more hopeful kind of future. And that is the story that I want to leave you with today.
When I became a senator, getting increasingly more and more involved in the region as a young member of the committee and then later as Chairman of the Subcommittee on Asian and Pacific Affairs, the first trip I took in 1986 was to the Philippines. Strongman Ferdinand Marcos had called a sham “snap” election to fake everybody to prove how in charge he was, to preserve his grasp on power. President Reagan asked Senator Richard Lugar and me to be part of a delegation to observe those elections.
And I will never forget arriving in Manila and seeing this unbelievable flood of people in the streets all decked out in their canary yellow shirts and banners of pro-democracy protest. Some of us knew at that time there were allegations of fraud. I was sent down initially to Mindanao to observe the morning votes and then came back to Manila, and was sitting in the hotel there when a woman came up to me crying and said, “Senator, you must come with me to the cathedral. There are women there who fear for their lives.”
And I left my dinner and I ran down to the cathedral. I came in to the Sacristi of the cathedral and talked with these 13 women who were crying and huddled together, intimidated for their lives. And I listened to their story about how they were counting the raw tally of the votes that was coming in from all across the nation, but the raw tally of votes they were counting was not showing up on the computer tote board recording the votes. They blew the whistle on a dictator. We held an international press conference right there in the cathedral right in front of the alter, and they spoke out, and that was the signal to Marcos it was over. Their courage and the courage of the Filipino people lit a spark that traveled throughout the world, inspiring not just a freshman senator from Massachusetts, but popular movements from Eastern Europe to Burma.
Now, I think about that moment even today, about the power of people to make their voices felt. I think about how Cory Aquino rose to the presidency atop a wave of people power when few believed that she could. I think about how her husband fought for democracy, even at the cost of his own life. And I think about how, decades later, their son would rise to the presidency in democratic elections. In his inaugural address, President Benigno Aquino said: “My parents sought nothing less, died for nothing less, than democracy and peace. I am blessed by this legacy. I shall carry the torch forward.”
My friends, today we must all summon up some of that courage, we must all carry that torch forward. The cause of democracy and peace, and the prosperity that they bring, can bring our legacy in the Asian Pacific, it can define it. Our commitment to that future, believe me it is strong. Our principles are just. And we are in this for the long haul – clear-eyed about the challenges ahead.
Thank you. (Applause.)