Tagged: AlternativeEnergy

Magdy Martínez-Solimán: Statement at the Policy Symposium on “Financing Asia’s Future Growth”

06 Apr 2015

Ambassador Mr.  Abulkalam Abdul Momen (PR of Bangladesh to the UN),

Ambassador Mr. Mr. Durga Prasad Bhattarai (PR of Nepal to the UN),

Ambassador Mr. Desra Percaya (PR of Indonesia to the UN) (TBC),

Mr. Lenni Montiel, Assistant Secretary-General for Economic Development, UN DESA

Mr. Shang-Jin Wei, Chief Economist, Asian Development Bank

It is my great pleasure to welcome you to this seminar on “Financing Asia’s Future Growth”. This symposium is timely and important. Timely because the third International Conference on Financing for Development, to be held in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, in July 2015 is a historic opportunity for the international community to agree on an ambitious framework for the post-MDG era. It is also important because of the ongoing inter-governmental discussions both on FfD and on post-2015 development agenda.

I bring you warm greetings from Haoliang Xu, UNDP Regional Director for Asia and the Pacific. Mr. Xu sends his sincere and heartfelt apologies for not being able to be with you today. I am grateful for his invitation to Chair this Symposium.

I am especially pleased that this event is being jointly hosted between UNDP and the Asian Development Bank (ADB). This year’s Asian Development Outlook (ADO) will give us a reference to guide our discussions. The ADO is ADB’s flagship annual economic report, analyzing trends in and proposing forecasts for the Asia-Pacific region. ADO is smart and influential  also inside the UN’s development community and beyond.

Excellencies, distinguished delegates, Ladies and Gentlemen,

This year’s ADO has as its special theme “Financing Asia’s Future Growth.” The way in which the report approaches the challenge of financing is refreshing and extremely relevant for the broader discussion around finance for development.

In the MDG-era, financing was often conceived as tallying up the resources available from different sources (mobilized domestically as well as international private flows, ranging from FDI to remittances) available to developing countries to meet the MDGs, with the gap being filled with Official Development Assistance (ODA). Over the last 15 years, estimates abounded of the billions in ODA that would be required to meet the MDGs.

It is clear that this “gap-filling” approach is insufficient as we confront the implementation of the post-2015 agenda. The universality and broad breadth of the new agenda (from poverty eradication, to economics lifestyle changes towards sustainable patterns of production and consumption, to promoting peaceful and inclusive societies) imply that estimating gaps – which is only partially possible – will inevitable take us to amounts in the trillions of dollars. We need to think anew about how we approach the challenge of financing development. And we need to think big.

While doing so, I want to emphasize the continued importance – and value – of development aid. The Addis Ababa conference represents an opportunity for donor countries to reaffirm their longstanding commitment to allocate 0.7% of GNI to ODA as well as pledge to allocate at least 0.15-0.2% of GNI to the LDCs or more. The current draft of the Addis Ababa outcome document being considered even suggests that countries agree to meet these targets by 2020. But the post-2015 agenda cannot be achieved through aid alone. There is a need to consider other forms of international public finance for investments in communicable disease control, climate change adaptation and mitigation, science, innovation and new technologies. More public resources for climate finance are needed, but these should not come at the expense of ODA.

Even lumped together, all sources of public finance will not suffice. We need to find the right convergence between policy driven and profit led sources of development finance. Incentives are needed to ensure that private investment decisions move the world towards sustainable development aspirations. The progressive elimination of inefficient and ineffective subsidies could help to shift transportation and energy investments towards less fossil fuel intensive and more sustainable options, while releasing public resources for social and development purposes. The ADO argues that the current context of low world oil prices presents an opportunity in Asia for this type of fiscal reforms. In fact, the report shows that several countries in Asia are already seizing on this opportunity, either by reducing fossil fuel subsidies, increasing taxes on their use, or both. This is the type of policy action that sends the right incentives to people and businesses, while releasing public resources, that are important in the context of the new agenda.

Financing for development in the post-2015 era cannot be considered only in the context of ‘stable times’; there are fewer of them and we have to recognize that volatility is becoming the new normal. This is particularly relevant to Asia, a region especially vulnerable to extreme climate events. But there are many sources of risk beyond disasters, with the costs of shocks as diverse as conflict and disease outbreaks high and increasing.
And, of course, we continue to face recurrent economic crisis. Asia had a painful experience with a major financial crisis in 1997/1998. The ADO reminds us of the traumatic growth collapses that occurred in 1998: Indonesia’s economy contracted by 13 percent, the Republic of Korea’s by 6 percent, Malaysia’s by 7 percent, and Thailand by 11’s percent (from pre-crisis annual growth in excess of 7 percent in every country). The development setbacks were deep and long-lasting. But Asia also showed resilience and has put in place a range of policies to better protect countries from economic shocks. It has bounced back with energy. What we need to achieve sustainable development is for nations and communities to be resilient, not only to economic but to a wider set of shocks, so that they are able to anticipate, shape and adapt to the many shocks and challenges that can devour development gains. All development needs to be risk-informed.

Excellencies, distinguished delegates, Ladies and Gentlemen,

In this context, and without preempting the detailed presentation of the report and its special theme, I want to emphasize that the perspective taken in the ADO on how to finance Asia’s growth is particularly relevant. The challenge of financing is presented less as one of mobilizing resources (domestically or from abroad), and more as one of ensuring that the financial systems in Asia work to allocate savings to high-return and productive investments. This is the type of analysis that will enable us to think more broadly about financing, as a challenge of unlocking funding by pursuing policies that enable more efficient and effective resource allocation.

Excellencies, distinguished delegates, Ladies and Gentlemen,

Allow me, before I introduce our speakers, to elaborate briefly on the important of financing for the achievement of post 2015 as well as the importance of inclusive financial sector for the eradication of extreme poverty and reduction of inequality.

Today 2.5 billion adults – more than half of the world’s working adults – are excluded from formal financial services. This is most acute among low-income populations in developing countries, where approximately 80% of poor people do not have access. Access to well-functioning and efficient financial services can empower poor women and men. It is now well-established that giving low-income households access to formal financial services can help reduce poverty and inequality.

In the Pacific, financial inclusion is particularly challenging, where less than 10 percent of adults seem to have access to basic financial services. Challenging geography, poor infrastructure and the high costs associated with delivering services to sparse populations are barriers in this region. UNDP and UNCDF are therefore jointly implementing a Pacific-wide Financial Inclusion Programme (PFIP), which helps low-income households to gain access to quality and affordable savings, insurance, credit and other financial services and financial education. The programme, with funding from the Australian Government, the European Union and the New Zealand Government, also disburses grants to financial service providers. The programme aims to add one million Pacific Islanders to the formal financial sector by 2019 by spearheading policy and regulatory initiatives, facilitating access to appropriate financial services and delivery channels and by strengthening financial competencies and consumer empowerment.

As we consider the importance of financial systems to help finance the post-2015 agenda and the need to ensure financial inclusion, UNDP’s programme in the Pacific is an illustration of the comprehensive and inclusive development approaches that we will need to pursue to finance development.

Let me take a moment to introduce our guests here.

We have with us today, Mr. Shang-Jin Wei, ADB’s Chief Economist. Mr. Wei is a key spokesperson for ADB and oversees the Economics and Research Department. Mr. Wei previously served as Professor of Finance and Economics at Columbia University’s Graduate School of Business. Before joining Columbia University, he held senior positions at the IMF, at the Brookings Institution, and at Harvard University’s Kennedy School of Government.

Ambassador Mr. Abulkalam Abdul Momen, Permanent Representative of Bangladesh to the United Nations, New York, has been serving in this role since August 2009. Prior to that, he served as Chairman of the Department of Economics and Business Administration, Framingham State College. He also worked earlier in senior positions in the government of Bangladesh.

Ambassador Mr. Desra Percaya, Permanent Representative of Indonesia to the United Nations, New York, has been serving in this role since Feb 2012. Prior to this, Dr. Percaya was Indonesia’s Deputy Permanent Representative to the United Nations in Geneva. He has held a variety of posts related to multilateral diplomacy and international security since joining the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in 1986.

We have with us today Ambassador Mr. Durga Prasad Bhattarai, Permanent Representative of Nepal to the United Nations, New York. Prior to this, he served as the Permanent Secretary of Nepal’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs. A career diplomat, Mr. Bhattarai held senior posts in Nepal’s foreign service and government.

Finally, we have with us Mr. Lenni Montiel, the Assistant Secretary-General for Economic Development, at UN DESA. Prior to his appointment, Mr. Montiel was the Director for Economic and Social Affairs in the Executive Office of the Secretary-General, preceded by a distinguished career in development as a colleague of ours in UNDP.

Thank you.

Cornerstones of the new EU Energy Union

Vice-President Šefčovič speech at EUFORES 15th Inter-Parliamentary Meeting on Renewable Energy and Energy Efficiency

Vienna

Ladies and gentlemen,

Two weeks ago, the European Commission adopted the Energy Union Strategy. I then called it the most ambitious energy project since the European Coal and Steel Community of the 1950s, because what we want to achieve, is nothing less than a fundamental transition of our energy system. We want to set our economy on a new, sustainable trajectory. As one Member of the European Parliament summarized it in a single image: we want to move from a Community of Coal and Steel to a Union of Sun and Wind.

Such an overarching strategy can only succeed if we work together across institutions and stakeholders at all levels: European, regional, national and local. Just like we worked together within the Commission, across portfolios, bringing together 14 Commissioners and 16 DGs. I am therefore very grateful for the opportunity to discuss the Energy Union directly with you – parliamentarians from across Europe, civil society, and businesses. Your contribution will be crucial to achieve the goals of this forward-looking energy and climate change policy.

Ladies and gentlemen, the Energy Union is a big step towards an energy market that is economically sustainable, environmentally friendly, and socially inclusive. An energy market that is integrated, interconnected, resilient and secure. It is a ‘triple win’ strategy, because it will benefit citizens, businesses, and the environment.

For that, we set out a series of concrete actions – both legislative and non-legislative – in the five dimensions that I presented to the European Parliament in my hearing and that, next week, the European Council will hopefully confirm:

  • First, securing our supply. Member States, and citizens, should know that they can rely on neighbouring countries when faced with possible energy supply disruptions. That is what the word ‘solidarity’ means in the energy field; that is how we can build more trust between Member States. We are therefore working on a series of measures to diversify our energy resources and supply routes. Next week, for instance, I will attend the groundbreaking ceremony of the Trans Anatolian Natural Gas Pipeline (TANAP), in Kars, Turkey; a project that will bring gas from Azerbaijan’s Shah Deniz II field through Turkey, into Europe. It is this kind of projects we need. But security of supply means much more than only gas, however important gas will remain for years to come. Security of supply means – and I would even say: it means first and foremost – becoming more energy efficient, knowing that for every 1% improvement in energy efficiency, EU gas imports fall by 2.6%.
  • Energy security also means: building a single energy market will allow energy to flow freely across EU countries as a fifth European freedom. This internal market is the second dimension of the Energy Union Strategy.By removing technical and regulatory barriers of cross-border energy flows, consumers will enjoy the fruits of a increased competition – lower prices and better service!
  • The third, fourth and fifth dimensions go hand in hand with the first two and go to the core of today’s conference and the work you do at EUFORES, namely: increasing energy efficiency, decarbonising our economy and investing in innovative renewable sources of energy.

This covers a very broad range of issues, which will require the full involvement of many commissioners. Let me just mention three issues, amongst many other issues, that I intend to give a serious push in the weeks and months ahead.

First, to tap the full potential of energy efficiency of buildings. The figures clearly show why more action is needed in this field: currently, 75% of Europe’s building stock is not energy efficient; buildings are responsible for 40% of energy consumption and 36% of CO2 emissions in the EU. About 35% of our buildings are over 50 years old. They eat energy! While older buildings consume about 25 litres of heating oil per square meter per year on average (some even up to 60 litres!), new buildings only need three to five litres on average. So we can – and should – do better.

Second, as the importance of the local level increases, we should pay more attention to initiatives at the local level, of course in full respect of the principle of subsidiarity. Smart Cities are an excellent example of how the municipal level can play a major role in the transformation of the energy market that we’re looking for. Last week I met an impressive delegation of mayors who shared several good examples of successful initiatives from all over Europe:

  • the German city of Heidelberg created an entire neighbourhood with only passive buildings, (in the city quarter of Bahnstadt. The neighbourhood is powered by district heating, primarily sourced from renewables with smart energy consumption meters, creating local jobs and a passive housing knowledge cluster for future projects.
  • Helsinki is a leader in heating and efficiency standards. 90% of the city is serviced by the district heating system with over 90% efficiency.
  • in the north of France, the city of Loos-en-Gohelle transformed its coal mine into a regional research centre of sustainable development. Visitors now face the surreal image of solar panels in front of the mine’s spoil tips.
  • and I could go on…

These examples showcase the various local initiatives which should be replicated across Europe, and I would add: with a particular emphasis on Central and Eastern Europe.

And third, we have to develop an energy and climate-related technology and innovation strategy to maintain Europe’s global leadership and competitiveness in low carbon technologies. Europe has all the necessary elements to become a global hub and a world leader in renewable technologies. It is in this field – in the field of low-carbon renewable energy sources, in the field of energy efficiency, in the field of smart appliances and smart grids – that Europe can regain its competitive edge! Smart grids are the European shale.

We must better focus our research and innovation policies, we must create synergies between energy and ICT (very appealing to young people), and between research and industry. New industries will emerge that will strengthen our economy and further support job creation across Europe.

It is in this context that I would also like to underline the importance of ecodesign and energy labelling. Not only because this framework will deliver by 2020 energy savings that are roughly the equivalent of annual primary energy consumption of Italy, not only because consumers can save several hundreds of euros per household per year, but also because there is a clear business case. If countries such as Brazil, China, Korea, South Africa and others adopt equipment energy labelling schemes similar to ours, it creates a market for our companies. Let us be the first mover and set the standards!

Ladies and gentlemen, the Strategy is written, the principles have been established, the real work starts now. We will start up a series of specific actions, such as:

  • developing a ‘Smart Financing for Smart Buildings’ initiative to facilitate access to existing funding instruments;
  • we will propose a strategy for heating and cooling; it’s an important hook, because as many of you told me: the energy crisis is first and foremost a heating crisis;
  • we will dedicate a significant share of the European Fund for Strategic Investments to energy efficiency and renewable energy;
  • we will review the Energy Efficiency Directive, as well as the Directive on Energy Performance of Buildings;
  • we should bring together potential investors and solid projects. There are investors willing to invest, and there is a need for smart investments, so let us connect the dots and remove obstacles
  • and we will develop, without delay, the robust governance framework that the Energy Union needs in order to deliver on its promises, including to make sure that we reach the targets set by the October European Council.

Through these and other measures, we will make sure that the principles we endorsed – such as the ‘energy efficiency first-principle – are transformed into reality and become operational.

Ladies and gentlemen,

The first reactions to the Energy Union Strategy have been positive and supportive, in the European Parliament, the Environment and Energy Council, amongst mayors, consumers, business associations, think tanks, and academia. Do not underestimate the importance of such reactions: they really help to create the positive dynamics needed to seize the current momentum and to implement what is on the table.

I therefore hope that throughout this process, I can continue to count on your support, whether you are a parliamentarian, entrepreneur, researcher, civil society activist or a citizen, and I am looking forward to your comments and ideas in today’s discussion and over the five years to come.

Thank you.

Press Releases: Remarks at a Press Availability

SECRETARY KERRY: Well, good afternoon, everybody, and thank you. And I apologize for keeping you waiting for a few minutes.

A little while ago, as I think you know, I had the opportunity to address the UN Human Rights Council here in Geneva. And since the United States made the decision to re-engage on the council, we have worked hard to try to drive a number of significant steps to be able to bring new levels of international attention to some of the world’s most egregious human rights violations, and also to focus on some of the worst abusers – particularly, obviously, we have focused on North Korea and Syria.

We’ve also worked hard to try to create new mechanisms that explore and address serious human rights infringements on the freedom of assembly, expression, and religion, and the rights of LGBT people. And as many of you know, just the other day, I had the privilege of making the appointment for Randy Berry as the first special envoy for global LGBT rights for the State Department.

Because of the important progress that we have seen over the course of the past five years, the United States very much continues to believe in the potential of the Human Rights Council, and we’re dedicated to try to work for its success. At the same time, however, as I mentioned earlier, we recognize that there are places where it needs to improve, and most notably, as I cited earlier, has been the excessive bias, in our judgment, on one country, on Israel. So we wanted to make it clear today that we think that that is an impediment that stands in the way of the progress that should be achieved here when we look at the wide array of the world’s ills and the many challenges that we need to speak out on with respect to human rights.

I made it clear that the United States will oppose any effort by any group or any participant to abuse the UN system in order to delegitimize or isolate Israel. And we think it’s important that for the right – for the council to be able to achieve the breadth of goals that it is faced with – the breadth of the – to address the breadth of the challenges that it currently faces, it really needs to break out of an older mold and begin to put the time and energy and major focus on some of those most egregious situations. And that is really what has happened within the Council over the course of the last five years, particularly if you look at the commission of inquiry work that has been done with respect to the DPRK and other work it has done.

I also met this morning with Foreign Minister Lavrov. And we spent a fair amount of time discussing Syria, Ukraine, ISIS, and Iran. I reiterated the urgency of Russia’s leaders and the separatists that they back implementing the full measure of the commitments under the Minsk agreements and to implement them everywhere, including in Debaltseve, outside Mariupol, and in other key strategic areas. And I underscored this morning that if that does not happen, if there continue to be these broad swaths of noncompliance, or there continues to be a cherry-picking as to where heavy equipment will be moved back from without knowing where it’s been moved to, or if the OSCE is not able to adequately be able to gain the access necessary, then there would be inevitably further consequences that will place added strain on Russia’s already troubled economy. Now, obviously, Ukraine is just one of the issues, as I mentioned, that we focused on. And it’s only one of the issues, frankly, on which the United States and Russia together are focused.

This morning, Foreign Minister Lavrov and I also spoke at some length about Syria. The situation in Syria actually grows worse, if that’s possible for people to imagine. Almost three-quarters of the entire country is now displaced people – half of them refugees in mostly Jordan, Lebanon, and Turkey, but many of them displaced within the country and unable to move because of ISIL, Daesh, al-Nusrah, the regime, or some other extremist group.

So we spoke at length about steps that might be able to be taken in order to try to see if there is a potential of common ground. And we agreed that there is no military solution; we agreed there is a need for a political solution; and we agreed on the need of those countries who have been supporting people in this endeavor, in this conflict, to be able to search yet again to see whether or not there is a path either to Geneva 1 or to some hybrid or some means of ending the violence. And one of the things that drives that interest, that common interest, is the reality of Daesh, the reality of what is happening to Syria as a result of the presence of Daesh there and its use of Syria as a base for spreading its evil to other places.

We also talked about the Iran nuclear negotiations, where we are, together with the other P5+1 members – where we are all focused simultaneously on the need to elicit from Iran answers to questions about their nuclear program – not just answers for today, but answers that are capable of lasting well into the future in order to be able to provide people with a confidence that the program is, indeed, a peaceful nuclear program.

We continue to believe, all the members of the P5+1, that the best way to deal with the questions surrounding this nuclear program is to find a comprehensive deal, but not a deal that comes at any cost, not a deal just for the purpose of a deal; a deal that meets the test of providing the answers and the guarantees that are needed in order to know that the four pathways to a nuclear bomb have been closed off. And that is the task. And we hope it is possible to get there, but there is no guarantee.

Sanctions alone are not going to provide that solution. What needs to happen is that Iran needs to provide a verifiable set of commitments that its program is in fact peaceful. And that average people and experts alike looking at that verifiable set of commitments have confidence that they are sustainable, that they are real, and that they will provide the answers and guarantees well into the future.

Any deal must close every potential pathway that Iran has towards fissile material, whether it’s uranium, plutonium, or a covert path. The fact is only a good, comprehensive deal in the end can actually check off all of those boxes.

Now, I want to be clear about two things. Right now, no deal exists, no partial deal exists. And unless Iran is able to make the difficult decisions that will be required, there won’t be a deal. Nothing is agreed until everything is agreed. That is the standard by which this negotiation is taking place, and anyone who tells you otherwise is simply misinformed.

Now, we are concerned by reports that suggest selective details of the ongoing negotiations will be discussed publicly in the coming days. I want to say clearly that doing so would make it more difficult to reach the goal that Israel and others say they share in order to get a good deal. Israel’s security is absolutely at the forefront of all of our minds, but frankly, so is the security of all the other countries in the region, so is our security in the United States. And we are very clear that as we negotiate with Iran, if we are able to reach the kind of deal that we’re hoping for, then it would have to be considered in its entirety and measured against alternatives.

Second – I cannot emphasize this enough. I have said this from the first moment that I become engaged in this negotiating process, President Obama has said this repeatedly: We will not accept a bad deal. We have said no deal is better than a bad deal, because a bad deal could actually make things less secure and more dangerous. Any deal that we would possibly agree to would make the international community, and especially Israel, safer than it is today. That’s our standard. So our team is working very hard to close remaining gaps, to reach a deal that ensures Iran’s nuclear program is exclusively and verifiably peaceful, and we have made some progress, but we still have a long way to go and the clock is ticking.

That’s why I will leave here momentarily to head to Montreux to meet with Foreign Minister Zarif and continue the negotiations. And in the days and weeks ahead, we’re going to answer a very simple question. We’re going to find out whether or not Iran is willing to make the hard choices that are necessary to get where we need to be. I’m happy to take a few of your questions.

MS. PSAKI: Michael Gordon, New York Times. Right over here.

QUESTION: Sir, Minister Lavrov asserted in his address that the ceasefire in Ukraine was being consolidated, but you made clear that Russia cannot expect to consolidate its gains in Debaltseve and avoid economic sanctions. Did Minister Lavrov offer you any assurances that Russia would arrange for the separatists to pull back from Debaltseve? And how long is the Obama Administration prepared to wait before imposing those additional sanctions you’ve been talking about? And did he have any response to your assertion to Congress last week that Russians have lied to your face?

And lastly, you’re meeting shortly with Foreign Minister Zarif on the Iran issues. You told Congress last week that you hoped to know soon, “whether or not Iran is willing to put together an acceptable and verifiable plan.” What do you need to hear from Mr. Zarif today, and what do you need to get done over the next three days to stay on track for the framework accord? Thank you.

SECRETARY KERRY: Well, Michael, first of all regarding Russia, it’s clear from the conversations that I’ve had with President Poroshenko as well as with Foreign Minister Lavrov, and the conversations that we’ve had in Washington in the aftermath of the Minsk negotiations, that there was not a clarity with respect to Debaltseve, which we obviously saw play out in the drama of the soldiers who were left there and who were fighting and who eventually fought their way out, with many being killed. What is critical here is that the maps that were agreed to show several different areas of drawback on both sides from the line of contact and according to the size of the weapon, the gauge of a particular weapon, they have to pull back different amounts.

Right now, the OSCE has complained to us, at least, that they have not been granted full access to be able to make those judgments, and particularly the end zones as to where items that have been withdrawn have actually been placed, whether they’ve been placed there or not.

So there’s been a kind of cherry picking, a piecemeal selectivity to the application of the Minsk agreements. And as we all know, shooting, shelling has still been going on and people have still been killed over the course of these last days. So there is not yet a full ceasefire, and it’s extremely difficult for the full measure of the Minsk agreement, which includes a political component, to begin to be implemented until you actually have the full measure of security that comes with OSCE monitoring and an actual ceasefire. So our hope is that in the next hours, certainly not more than days, this will be fully implemented. I might add, a convoy that came through from Russia passed across the border into the eastern part of Ukraine without being properly inspected also.

So these are the issues I raised with the foreign minister. He assured me that they are intent on seeing to it that the accord – that the agreements are, in fact, implemented. He said he would get back to me with respect to a number of the issues that I raised. And our hope is, indeed, that this will prove to be a road to further de-escalation rather than a road to disappointment, potential deception, and further violence. But that’s going to have to play out, obviously, over the course of the next few days. So I’m very hopeful that it will, in fact, be the start of a change which would be an improvement for everybody.

With respect to Iran, I really just articulated – I just said it – France doesn’t have to answer questions here, Germany doesn’t have to answer questions here, Great Britain doesn’t have to, China doesn’t, Russia doesn’t, the United States doesn’t. We’re not the ones who have been pursuing a program outside of international norms. Iran has posed the questions over the course of time sufficient to invite United Nations sanctions, United Nations Security Council resolution, and IAEA outstanding questions. Iran needs to answer those questions and Iran needs to give confidence to the world that its many articulations of a peaceful program can have the confidence of verification. Every arms agreement in history has been subject to verification to clear levels of access and knowledge and insight, transparency, that allow people to be able to measure that program.

And one of the reasons I make it clear to people that we’re not going to accept a bad deal is because we know that whatever agreement is reached here doesn’t suddenly get stuffed in a drawer and put away and disappear to be implemented; it is going to be scrutinized by people all over the world – leaders of countries, scientists, nuclear experts, every NGO involved in nonproliferation – not to mention, obviously, all the countries in the region most affected by the choices we are making, and all of the members of the United States Congress House and Senate.

This is going to be highly judged and we’re aware of that, and frankly, we would be either – well, I’m not going to – we just – we’re not about to jump into something that we don’t believe can get the job done. Now, there may be disagreements; if somebody believes that any kind of program is wrong, then we have a fundamental disagreement. And clearly, sanctions are not going to eliminate just any kind of program. You can’t bomb knowledge into oblivion unless you kill everybody. You can’t bomb it away. People have a knowledge here. The question is: Can you provide an adequate level of the management of intrusive inspections; structured, tough requirements; limitations; all the insights necessary to be able to know to a certainty that the program is, in fact, peaceful?

That’s what the IAEA was set up to be there for, that’s what the NPT is, that’s what the additional protocol – the NPT is. There are all kinds of tested components of this. This isn’t happening at first blush. This has been in effect for a long time with a lot of countries, and there are ways to be able to make certain that a program is peaceful and the test – what we’re looking for in the next days, Michael, is adequate satisfaction that this program is, in fact, going to be complying with its own promises, that it is a purely peaceful nuclear program.

MS. PSAKI: Frédéric Koller from Le Temps.

QUESTION: Yes, thank you. You just said on Iran that sanctions cannot eliminate problems. And I would like to know – with the Ukrainian situation, it seems the conflict in Ukraine becomes more and more conflict between Russia and Western countries – Russia and United States. And I would like to know how to deal with these problems, knowing that United States threatens now Russia with more sanctions if the Minsk agreement is not implemented. And a few years ago, you were here in the – at the hotel – Intercontinental Hotel, and you started – well, it was Hillary Clinton at the time who started with this reset policy with Russia. What went wrong with Russia? And how to deal now with Russia? Comprehensive agreement somehow is needed between Russia and United States, I guess to deal with —

SECRETARY KERRY: How what? I’m sorry. I missed the last part. How to?

QUESTION: How to deal with Russia. We understand that Russia needs something more to build a new confidence with the United States and Western countries. When we hear Mr. Lavrov this morning at the Human Rights Council, he has very strong statement against United States and its values – it’s kind of clash of values. How to deal with today’s Russia?

SECRETARY KERRY: Well, it may be a clash of realities. I don’t see it as a clash of values. It seems to me that on sanctions, there’s a real distinction between sanctions that are calculated to have an impact on a nuclear program which is one set of choices for a particular country, and sanctions which are broadly adopted by many nations because of a violation of a norm of international law and which particularly have an impact on the – particularly have an impact on Russia’s choices at this particular moment, given a lot of other variables like oil prices, other exigencies that Russia faces.

So sanctions have obviously had a significant impact on Russia, and you try to use them in order to make a point about the choices that are available. And in the case of Russia, the ruble has gone down 50 percent, there’s been about $151 billion of capital flight, the bonds of Russia are now judged to be junk bonds, and the economic predictions are that Russia will be going into recession this year. So it’s obviously had a profound impact, but not sufficient that President Putin has decided that he isn’t going to pursue his particular strategy. It may change at some point in the future, but those are the things you have to weigh in deciding what alternative policies you may pursue or what alternative choices may be available.

I suspect that President Putin, as the months go on, is going to have to really weigh those things. And we’ve tried to make it clear to him and particularly to the Russian people we’re not doing this to hurt the people of Russia, we’re not doing this to make life difficult for all Russians. We’re doing this to try to affect the choices that their leaders are making in order to uphold the norms of international law. We’re here in a UN facility, and the United Nations is critical to the upholding of international standards of behavior. And the world has worked hard since World War II to try to adhere to a set of global norms of behavior, particularly with respect to respect for territorial integrity.

One of the cries that came out of the World War II experience was we can’t allow nations to make land grabs running over the territorial integrity of external borders, as we saw in the period leading up to and then during World War II. So we’ve really ingrained in international behavior this notion of the value of international borders and of upholding the sovereignty and integrity of nation states. That sovereignty and integrity has been violated over the course of the last months, and that’s the purpose of the sanctions that we put in place.

But our hope is, obviously, that we can get back to a better place of cooperation with Russia. I personally – I think President Putin misinterprets a great deal of what the United States has been doing and has tried to do. We are not involved in multiple color revolutions, as he asserts, nor are we involved in a particularly personal way here. We are trying to uphold the international law with respect to the sovereignty and integrity of another nation. And others have joined us. The fact is that Europe has the same sense of commitment to this. And our hope is that we can persuade President Putin and Russia that we’re prepared to cooperate with them as soon as they are genuinely prepared to uphold the agreements that they signed and to live by these international standards.

We have happily been able to find cooperation continue on other issues. Russia has been helpful in the context of the P5+1 talks. Russia was extremely engaged and essential in our success in getting chemical weapons out of Syria in the arrangement that we reached right here in Geneva. And we were able to work together to do that. Russia is sitting with us even now, as I discussed with you, and talking about ways we might – might, I underscore – be able to try to make some progress with respect to Syria and with respect to Daesh.

So even in the midst of this major disagreement over Ukraine, we are still finding ways to cooperate together, and I hope that if we can work through Ukraine, we will get back to a place where we are finding more to be able to cooperate on and less to disagree on. And I’m not going to get into resets or non-resets, but I think that sometimes events get in the way of the best-laid policies. But both countries have indicated, I think, a maturity with respect to the willingness to try to find ways to cooperate notwithstanding this fundamental disagreement over Ukraine.

MS. PSAKI: Unfortunately, we need to get on the road for our next meeting, so this will conclude this press availability. Thank you, everyone.

Speeches: U.S. Economic Policy in East Asia and the Pacific

(As delivered)

Thank you very much. Good afternoon ladies and gentlemen. Chairman Hasegawa, thank you so much for your generous introduction and for inviting me here today. It’s an honor to be with all of the membership of the Keizai Doyukai. I understand you’ve been early and strong supporters of the TPP – something I look forward to talking about in a little while.

I also want to recognize my colleagues from the United States administration, especially from the Embassy – our deputy chief of mission and also Ambassador Caroline Kennedy. Ambassador Kennedy, as I think all of you know, is a public servant cut from the same cloth as her father. His legacy of friendship with Japan lives on through her.

I have to tell you also it’s a pleasure to be back in Tokyo. I first came here – I believe it was in 1980 with my family, and I wanted to come here on my first trip as Deputy Secretary of State – and not just to have a drink at the Okura’s Orchid Bar before it’s too late. I wanted to come here to Japan because our alliance is the cornerstone of President Obama’s Asia-Pacific policy.

In fact, when I was moving from the White House to the State Department just a few weeks ago, and I was sitting with President Obama to ask him what he wanted me to focus on, he said Asia. And Secretary Kerry, when I got over to the State Department, I asked him the same question, and he gave me the same answer, and it’s simply a reflection of the importance that both the President and the Secretary attach to the region and to the Alliance with Japan.

There is a reason that President Obama made the strategic decision to rebalance America’s engagement and resources toward the region, and it’s very simple: Nowhere in the world are economic and strategic opportunities clearer or more compelling than in the Asia-Pacific. As Prime Minister Abe said last year, “Asia is a synonym for growth and another name for achievement.”

And that’s because of what the Asia-Pacific has done over the past 70 years, and what it has done is nothing short of a miracle, a miracle that stretches from the base of Mount Fuji to the emerald waters of the Coral Sea – millions out of poverty, some of the fastest growing economies on the planet, home to more than one-third of the world’s population, a growing percentage of whom are middle-class, and of course many dictatorships having given way to democracies.

That’s why the President has made seven visits to the Asia-Pacific including three separate visits to Japan. It’s why Secretary Kerry has traveled to the region nine times in just two years. It’s why Vice President Biden and almost every member of the President’s cabinet have traveled here as well – most of them more than once.

So what exactly is the United States doing to support and share in the growth, in the achievement, and the stability, prosperity, and peace that we see spreading throughout the Asia-Pacific?

We have this policy that we call the rebalance, and it has several pillars, each of which contributes in substantial ways to facilitating and supporting this region’s growth and economic dynamism. To start with, we’re redoubling our commitment to the region’s security, which is essential to its economic future. Because the plain fact is that conflict and trade do not mix. So we’ve enhanced and we’re modernizing our alliances, especially with Japan. Over the past few years, our two nations began revising our bilateral Defense Guidelines for the first time in more than two decades. This is part of a larger, transparent discussion about our collective self-defense. This review – along with Japan’s decision to relax some restrictions on defense equipment exports – will help make sure that the Alliance evolves to reflect both the shifting security environment and the growing capabilities of Japan’s Self-Defense Forces.

Elsewhere in the region, we strengthened our security alliances with South Korea, with the Philippines, with Australia, and we’ve reinforced partnerships with India, Indonesia, Malaysia, Singapore, Vietnam, and others. We’ve begun to conduct more joint training exercises – like the Keen Edge exercises we hold with Japan biannually. And we’ve sent more assets to the region, both diplomatic and military. And we’ve bolstered our trilateral cooperation with Japan and Australia, and with Japan and South Korea.

Strengthening our relationship with China is also part and parcel of the rebalance. We seek a relationship with China defined by practical and tangible cooperation on challenges that face both of our nations. The more we can work together, and be seen as working together, the more we can avoid the trap of inevitable rivalry.

I just came from Beijing where I met with a range of senior Chinese officials. And just in the last year – it’s been quite extraordinary – our cooperation has grown deeper and wider, from combating climate change, to facilitating travel between our people; from confidence-building measures between our militaries to working together to bring peace to South Sudan and to pursue a comprehensive agreement with Iran to ensure that its nuclear program is for exclusively peaceful purposes.

This year, we intend to build on this momentum of last year through ongoing, day-to-day bilateral discussions, our Strategic and Economic Dialogue, and the state visit of President Xi that he will make to Washington coming up in September.

But even as we deepen cooperation, we also deal forthrightly with our differences – and we will continue to do so. For example, we are firm in our stance on maritime security. Free commerce requires free waterways for ships to pass. It requires that the needs of business take precedence over squabbles over rocks and shoals.

We have made clear that the U.S. military would not abide by China’s unilateral declaration of an Air Defense Identification Zone in the East China Sea, including over the Senkaku Islands. And President Obama has clearly stated that the Senkaku Islands fall under Japan’s administration and under the mutual defense treaty with Japan and the United States. We don’t take a position on the various territorial claims of others, but we do take a strong position on how those claims are pursued. Any disagreement must be dealt with in accordance with international law, peacefully, with restraint, and avoid actions that unilaterally change the status quo. We have urged China and ASEAN to reach a code of conduct that will reduce the potential for conflict in the years to come.

The true question at the heart of these conflicts is who controls access to Asia’s abundant energy resources. The region depends, as you know, on sustainable, affordable, and reliable access to diverse energy supplies – which in turn rely upon the safe and reliable transport of oil and gas in maritime channels. Almost a third of global crude oil and over half of global LNG passes through the South China Sea, making it one of the most important trade routes in the world.

Uncertainty fueled by competing South China Sea claims affects energy security; it affects trade and commerce; it creates a more unpredictable investment environment. If we can peacefully end ongoing conflicts over rocks and reefs, then the Asia-Pacific region will be better able to attract investment. Cooperation is needed to fully prove and develop the billions of barrels of oil and hundreds of trillions of cubic feet of LNG that are estimated to reside under the sea. Developing these resources will bring jobs; it will bring growth and a more secure energy future to the region.

So enhancing security is one pillar of the President’s rebalance. Supporting regional institutions is another.

We know that strong regional institutions are essential to helping to lower tariffs, encourage cooperation, maintain stability, and resolve disputes. So that’s why we’ve remained a very strong supporter of ASEAN and its mission to promote smart energy, trade, and investment. It’s why we’ve taken an active role in APEC, an organization working to promote trade and investment liberalization, cut global carbon emissions, and expand economic opportunities for women. And it’s why we’ve worked hard to elevate the East Asia Summit to the premier forum for dealing with political and security issues throughout region.

Today, though, it is my honor to have the attention of so many of Japan’s business leaders, and so I’d like to focus the balance of my time on the third pillar of our rebalance strategy, and that of course is the economic pillar.

U.S. businesses, workers, farmers, and consumers have been a dependable foundation for growth in the Asia-Pacific for decades. I see it everywhere I travel. Trade with the United States fills bank accounts, store shelves, and ocean freighters – from the Port of Yokohama, to the Stock Exchange of Hong Kong, to the markets of Kuala Lumpur. We remain the single largest source of foreign direct investment in the region – U.S. investment stock here reached $622 billion a couple of years ago in 2012. We are also the most important market for Asian goods, exchanging well over $1 trillion dollars in trade with the continent each year.

But we’re not the only driver of growth in the Asia – far from it. Japan is fueling billions of dollars in trade with Thailand, South Korea and Hong Kong. Australia, which signed free-trade agreements with China, South Korea and Japan last year, is importing from Singapore and Japan. And of course China is exporting to Malaysia and Vietnam. Overall, trade among APEC nations reached $1.4 trillion this year and is outpacing world trade growth by a 40 percent margin.

As we look forward and deeper into 2015, the single most important step we can take together for our economic relationships is completing the Trans-Pacific Partnership.

The state-of-the-art Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement – or as we call it, TPP – establishes high standards on labor, intellectual property, the environment, and it levels the playing field for businesses in all of our nations. It will unlock vast new markets. It will curb the role of state-owned enterprises as they compete with private companies. It will expand trade in a region that already represents one-third of all global exchange. And it will bring economic growth and jobs to all our shores. For example, economists predict it will add $100 billion to Japan’s GDP over the next decade.

Working together to create a rules-based regional trade architecture built on transparency and competition – this is an ambitious undertaking. But it is an achievable one. And it will change how we trade for decades to come.

This agreement is about more than the economic opportunities it unleashes, because the fact is, TPP is not just a technical trade agreement, it’s a strategic opportunity for the entire region.

The TPP serves both the United States and Japan’s strategic interests for three principal reasons:

First, it will cement the strong alliance framework and partnerships that ensure the Asia-Pacific’s security and prosperity. We’ve long had a security presence in the region, as I just discussed. The TPP is the vital next step. It will assure our allies and partners that our long-term commitment to the region reaches beyond security and into the economic realm. It will add another dimension to our strong and enduring presence in the Asia-Pacific.

Second, concluding the TPP, with over 40 percent of global GDP, will build a magnetic effect attracting non-members across the region to the benefits that it offers. It will spur them to make the necessary reforms like lowering tariff and non-tariff barriers to trade and investment. And in the end, it will lead them to enter the fold as liberal and open economies. Indeed, what we’re seeing is that a number of non-TPP countries like South Korea are expressing strong interest in joining. Even China is showing interest. We welcome new members – so long as they can meet the high standards that will be front-and-center in this agreement.

And there is a very important point there that I want to emphasize, and I want to be very clear with all of you about it. The TPP is not an attempt to isolate or contain China. Any nation that is willing to rise to the occasion and meet the high standards we have set for ourselves is welcome – China included. In fact, the world would be a better place if China made the changes and embraced the reforms that would make it an eligible candidate for TPP.

Finally, concluding the TPP is about defining the values that we want to see prevail in the Asia-Pacific – values like fair labor standards, environmental protection, and laws updating intellectual property rights. The standards enshrined within this agreement reflect our values and interests as nations committed to dynamic, just, and rules-based economic practices. The TPP offers economic stability in a turbulent world.

Ultimately, this agreement establishes a framework that enables countries throughout the region to grow together – in a way that will benefit us for generations to come. It will ensure that we focus not just on whether our economies grow, but how they grow.

So where does TPP stand today? We made lots of progress during the most recent negotiations in New York, and I was just discussing that with the chairman before we came out here. The contours of a final agreement are coming into focus. But the closer you get to the end of something as complicated and meaningful as TPP, you get to the toughest issues and the hardest choices. So we need all stakeholders in all sectors – including those of you in this room – to help make those choices and push TPP over the finish line. We need you to make the calls, convene the meetings, and remind officials of the economic and strategic benefits that this agreement will bring. With your help, we can complete this agreement and continue to bend the arc of the region in the direction of progress and prosperity.

There are enormous opportunities in the years ahead – that you know better than most anyone – to make headway on trade. And we have to seize them. But TPP alone is not a cure all. It’s not the only answer. Broad-based economic growth requires a thriving society. It requires that people have access to training and education. It requires the free flow of ideas and information. It requires the rule of law, the protection of intellectual property. And it requires that governments protect the universal human rights of their citizens.

This too is a pillar of our policy in the region, and it helps to uphold all the others. Promoting these values serves some very practical goals. When all people in society are unshackled – when they are free to think and act creatively and for themselves to question and criticize, to challenge conventional wisdom – that’s how you get innovation. That’s how you get entrepreneurship and the building blocks of a growing, self-sustaining economy.

These values empower citizens to demand a cleaner environment and safer products, to ask for high labor standards, to make their governments more accountable and less corrupt – all of which makes trade more free and fair and helps our companies compete.

That’s why in Burma we’ve been working to keep the government accountable to its people as Burma opens to the world. It’s why in Vietnam – 20 years after normalizing relations – we continue to work encourage reforms that will strengthen the rule of law and freedom of expression. And it’s why in Cambodia, we are supporting civil society and pluralistic politics while strengthening our relationship at the same time.

In the United States, entrepreneurship is almost written into our DNA. But we believe that businesses and governments alike can’t just invest in profits; we have to invest in all the tools that create prosperity, especially our human resources.

Think about this: If you asked people 50 or 100 years ago to define the wealth of a nation, they might talk about the size of its population, the expanse of its land mass, the strength of its military, the abundance of its natural resources. And all of those things still matter. And in the United States, we’re blessed with all of them. But in the 21st century, the true wealth of a nation lies in its human resources and in the ability of countries to maximize their potential, to let them be free and creative and innovative. That is the true wealth of a nation.

On top of the list, then, are the investments we have to make in our young people – the men and women who will be making our economic decisions in 10, 15 or 20 years down the road. And that’s something I know that all of you are well aware of. We are grateful for your efforts to expand student exchange programs between Japan and the United States.

And programs like the Young Southeast Asian Leaders Initiative, or YSEALI, are also leading the way in these efforts. As we encourage students to come to the U.S. to learn about open markets and entrepreneurship, we send Americans to Asia as students, as Fulbright Scholars, as Peace Corps volunteers.

These programs empower young people to be the business leaders of the future. In Manila, I heard one YSAELI alumnus launched a program to help modernize the Philippines’ agricultural economy. In Cambodia, another graduate wrote a handbook to help students choose the right career path. And in Singapore, we brought graduates of our program together with American firms to help open markets, but also open minds.

I was in South Korea just a few days ago at the beginning of this trip. I met with college students and alumni from our International Visitor Leadership Program, and a few of them told me a little bit about their careers. Some of them were journalists. Some of them spoke passionately about their studies to become businesspeople, to become lawyers, to become engineers.

And then yesterday I sat with three remarkable young entrepreneurs on a train from Tientsin to Beijing, and they told me about the challenges and opportunities of launching start-up ventures in China.

Across the board, these young people are thinking big. They don’t just want an education; they want to be able to vote for their leaders. They don’t just want a big paycheck; they want to make sure everyone has the right to speak freely and that that right is respected at the same time.

I’ve had inspiring conversations with young people throughout the region, and every time I walk away with confidence that – if we can make the right choices today and take advantage of the economic opportunities that are staring us literally in the face – then the region’s future will be bright, and it will be in very good hands.

America’s engagement with the Asia-Pacific – economic and otherwise – is a testament to a simple fact: America too is a Pacific nation. Our commitment to this region has stood the test of time, the test of conflict, the test of Mother Nature. And one of the clearest indicators of this commitment is our long history of partnership and alliance with Japan, a partnership based not on a temporary alignment of interests, but on a permanent foundation of shared values, a partnership and alliance we look forward to reaffirming when Prime Minister Abe makes a state visit to the United States in April, a partnership that sets a powerful example for the rest of the world.

Seventy years after the end of a bloody war, our countries have never been closer. Your cities host the U.S. Navy’s 7th Fleet and 50,000 American troops – including the U.S. Marines on Okinawa. And across the Pacific, more than 1.3 million Japanese-Americans populate and energize cities from San Francisco to New York.

But these statistics tell only part of the story. Behind the numbers are businesses creating new technology, volunteers distributing emergency food aid in the Philippines after the typhoon, government agencies working hand-in-glove to combat climate change, battle violent extremism, and the scourge of Ebola.

The next chapter in this historic friendship will be about how we shape the Asia-Pacific economy for the 21st century and beyond. We have weathered the storms of war and conflict. We’ve transcended the differences that divided us. Now it’s up to us to take the next step and unite behind a shared economic vision.

I believe Japan, the United States, and the other economies in the Asia-Pacific region will continue to grow and prosper together. But it depends on wise leadership. And it depends on all of you, the business community, continuing to make and strengthen your connections with businesses and people across the Pacific. And it depends on our governments, seeing past short-term concerns to long-term opportunities.

Change is never easy, but we know what our shared future should look like. The task before us is to turn that vision into reality, to the benefit of this time and the benefit of generations to come. Thank you so very much.

QUESTION: Thank you for your inspiring speech. We have been very much encouraged by your confidence in TPP, especially I’ve been chairman of promoting TPP for the last four years, so I am really glad that this is going to be the time that we can probably celebrate by summertime. The next action, though, for us after TPP is the Japan-China-Korea trilateral, then going to the Rsep, so we really hope that the TPP will set the stage for the fundamental agreement going forward with China and East Asian countries. Having said all this, we, who just came back from Davos, a lot of discussion being talked about geo-political risk in East Asia, and the first thing you mentioned out of the three is also the regional security. So if you could mention a little bit about the geo-political risk in East Asia after you have visited Korea, China, and Japan – what will be the take-away after you visit, and also on a long-term basis, what we can do to keep peace over here.

QUESTION: I’d like to take the privilege of master of ceremonies and add one question related to the TPP. You said that TPP is nothing about isolating or excluding China, but on the other hand, how much do you think China is serious or ready to join TPP discussions?

DEPUTY SECRETARY BLINKEN: Thank you both and I want to thank you personally for your extraordinary leadership in working to advance TPP. It doesn’t happen without the kind of leadership that you, and indeed the members of this organization have made.

Let me start actually with the second question very quickly, because I just came from China. My sense is that there has been a real shift in China with regard to TPP from looking to reject and hoping in fact that it didn’t happen, to being quite curious and interested in it. And as I said a few minutes ago, we would welcome that. But like with any member, China would have to meet the high standards across the board that the TPP establishes. If that were to happen, it would be a very good thing for all of us, because those standards would continue to help China move in a positive and progressive direction. So ultimately, as with anything it’s going to be up to China more than anyone else. So we’ll see if it evolves in that direction, but once TPP gets done and you have 40 percent of the world’s GDP represented, I think that’s going to cause countries who are not in it to want to be in it. And then we have another agenda beyond TPP, and that of course is the so-called TTIP in Europe, and if you were to realize that and bring TPP and TTIP together, you would have about 75 percent of the world’s GDP represented, and again I think that will create a very powerful magnet for those countries not in either agreement to want to get in.

So geo-political risk: I’d actually start from the other way around. I see TPP as a fundamental way to lower geo-political risk, to create incentives for countries to trade together, to do business together, to work together, and to avoid conflict. That’s the power of it as a strategic proposition, not simply an economic one. But I also think that the work we’ve been doing in the region is designed precisely to lessen risk. Our presence in the region, our military presence in the region, has been a force for stability for decades. It’s allowed, I believe, some of the remarkable progress we’ve seen over the last 70 years. Similarly, the work we’re doing to try to build the institutions in the region – that too is a way to lower geo-political risk because it creates mechanisms and forums where countries can work through their differences and try and come to common solutions. That’s why we spend so much time on it.

And then the other element in this, of course, it the relationships between and among the different countries in the region, apart from the institutions, and there we’ve seen some positive developments in recent months. I think the progress that has been made in the relationship between Japan and China, including the meeting between Prime Minister Abe and President Xi at the end of last year, the commitment to work together on a number of issues – that’s encouraging. We’ve seen similarly a more positive relationship develop between South Korea and China. That’s also promising and important in terms of lowering risk. And as I said, our own relationship with China – we’re determined to build on the cooperation we’ve already established even as we address the differences. That too, I think, will lower geo-political risk.

So all of these things taken together, I think, can make a big difference. Now, there are clearly sources of significant instability. I believe the most significant source of instability in the region is North Korea and its reckless pursuit of a larger and larger nuclear program and the missiles to deliver those weapons around the world. And that’s why we’ve been trying to make common cause with Japan, with South Korea, with China, with Russia to convince North Korea that it needs to denuclearize. But I actually feel that the entire rebalance is starting to shift and lower geo-political risk, and that in turn is going to create an even more attractive place for investment and for trade.

QUESTION: My name is Hirano, MetLife Japan vice chairman. Can I ask one more TPP question? Or if it’s too much, I withdraw. OK. I heard lots of positive voices when I visited Washington last month, and I’m quite encouraged by your tone of speech – that’s quite encouraging. But we also know that there are many big impediments going forward. So my question is quite straightforward: What are the biggest remaining impediments for TPP to move forward? And to what extent can we be optimistic about the closing of negotiations? Thank you.

DEPUTY SECRETARY BLINKEN: Thank you very much. Well, since negotiations are ongoing at this very moment, the last thing I want to do is get in the middle of them. I trust our negotiators very much. In fact, when I first began in government 22 years ago in the Clinton administration, for about six months I shared an office with Ambassador Froman, our trade negotiator, so I’ve known him for a long time, and I know his dedication and commitment to getting this done. Let me just say this: In anything this complicated and this meaningful, the last mile or the last kilometer is the toughest. The hardest things remain at the end. But what I’m confident of is that with regard to the United States and Japan, both countries, both teams, are working through the remaining issues with determination, and I think in a very pragmatic way, and I’m convinced that there is a determination in particular from Prime Minister Abe and from President Obama to see this to conclusion in the coming weeks and months. So I never want to minimize the challenges of that last mile or last kilometer, but given the determination and good will on both sides, I’m feeling confident that we’ll get there.

QUESTION: (via interpreter) … About the Senkaku Islands and also about visiting Yasukuni Shrine where war criminals are enshrined.

DEPUTY SECRETARY BLINKEN: Again, with regard to the Senkakus, I think President Obama has been very clear. They are under Japanese administration and part of and covered by the U.S.-Japan security treaty. It’s as clear and simple as that. The only thing I would say with regard to the second part of the question is, I think that in many areas in many countries it’s important to be sensitive to history and to the sensitivities created by history, but what strikes me when I think about the countries in this region, and for example Japan and South Korea, to cite just one example, whatever the sensitivities of history, so much more unites countries than divides them. And those common interests and those shared values today, in the year 2015, are what we should focus on, what our leaders should focus on, and they are the foundation for the future that we are trying to build together. Thank you.

QUESTION: At the Keizai Doyukai, I am the chairman of the project team for empowerment of “Japan Hands.” Japan Hands means friends of Japan and experts on Japan. In your speech you mentioned about youth exchange and investment in the youth, which means the next generation is quite important, and I totally agree. And you referred to the high school exchange, but I would like to know if, under the implementation of TPP, how we can encourage the next generation of professional level or high-level exchange between Japan and the United States. Thank you.

DEPUTY SECRETARY BLINKEN: Thank you very much. To me, actually, nothing is more important than exchange – at every level. High school students, college students, professionals, science, technology, business – this is what knits our countries together more than anything else. This is the foundation that we are building the next generation of the relationship on. And I see this every day. As I mentioned, when I was in South Korea and then in China, I met with some of the people who had been involved in our exchange programs. And as an American, I have to tell you it’s profoundly powerful because young people will go to the United States on these programs and come back with a totally different picture of the United States, a totally different understanding than they had before. And usually it’s positive. And they share it with their families, with their friends. And this is how you build a relationship. And similarly, we have Americans coming to Japan, and they come home, and they’re able to explain Japan, to share it with their friends and with their families, and that builds the relationship. So I believe deeply in these programs, and even if I didn’t, I wouldn’t have a choice because my wife is responsible for these programs at the State Department. She’s the Assistant Secretary of State for Educational and Cultural Affairs. She runs the Fulbright program. She runs all of the exchange programs. So even if I didn’t believe it, she’d make me. But as it happens, I think nothing is more important. Ambassador Kennedy is very focused on strengthening, expanding, building these programs, and I have to tell you, maybe the No. 1 supporter and cheerleader for these programs is President Obama. He himself benefitted from exchange programs in his youth. He knows the power that they bring. I applaud you for all that you are doing and your support for these programs. Thank you.

QUESTION: I am Tabata, former board member of the International Monetary Fund representing the Japanese government. My question is the relation between the military rebalancing that you mentioned a couple of times and the security of East Asia. A couple of day ago, President Obama asked the U.S. Congress to approve the use of ground forces for the war against terrorism and so on, which means that the former original part of the rebalancing of military forces left from the Middle East and to be concentrated on Asia and so forth. But actually, if military force will be used for the war against terrorism in the Middle East or the Islamic State, then some emptiness will happen in East Asia. But as you know, last year China’s military expenditures exceeded $100 billion U.S. dollars, which is 8 percent of the world’s military expenditures. So taking account of this situation, you mentioned about practical and precise situations are important for the security of East Asia. So my question is for instance to restore Subic Base in the Philippines – you were thinking about that – at the same time, how do you think about restoring and utilizing Cam Ranh Bay in Vietnam? These are very practical strategies and so forth. I would like to ask your comment about this.

DEPUTY SECRETARY BLINKEN: Thank you. Let me be very clear, because I don’t want there to be any misunderstanding, and the President has been extremely clear about this – we will not be sending tens of thousands of troops back to Iraq or to Syria or anyplace else in the region for that matter. The President, as you know – and if you look at the National Security Strategy that we just published last week – we’re focused on moving away from having tens of thousands of American troops in one place locked in for years or even more. What we’re trying to do is to build the capacity of others to deal with the challenges that they face, and so in Iraq, the small number of forces that we have there are trying to help the Iraqis, to train them, to advise them so that they can deal in the first instance with the problems posed and the challenges posed by ISIL. So we are not going to be sending tens of thousands of troops back to Iraq. What the President asked for the other day was really a matter that’s very important – to demonstrate that the executive branch, the White House, and Congress are united in the way we’re going to deal with the threat posed by ISIL. And so he wanted to have Congress on record in this authorization supporting what we’re doing together to deal with this threat. And that’s what that’s about. It is not to authorize tens of thousands of ground forces in Iraq – that is not going to happen. What we’re looking at is a small number of trainers, some advisers, and indeed that’s what we have on the ground in Iraq now. So I just want to be very clear about that.

And then again, with regard to this region, I think what you’re seeing across the board is countries working together to develop their capacity. For example, the United States, Japan, South Korea, and others are working with countries from the Philippines, Vietnam, Malaysia, Indonesia for example to develop their maritime capacity. This is very beneficial in doing exactly what we discussed in response to the first question, which is lowering strategic risk, lowering tensions, creating an environment of stability. So we have a very active program working with countries throughout the region in those areas, and I think we’re already seeing the benefits of that. But the rebalance itself is balanced, with a security component, with an economic component, with an institutional component, with a bilateral component, and increasingly as well with people-to-people exchanges that are another foundation of what we’re doing. So you have to look at the balance within the rebalance to see its strength.

Thank you.

East Asia and the Pacific: Extraordinary Meeting of the Friends of the Lower Mekong

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.

Benefits of Historic Trade Achievements for Ontario in 2014

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.

Quotes

“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

Associated Links

Quotes from Ontario Stakeholders

Trade Missions

“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

Remarks by the President in Year-End Press Conference

The White House

Office of the Press Secretary

For Immediate Release

December 19, 2014

James S. Brady Press Briefing Room

1:53 P.M. EST

THE PRESIDENT:  Hello, everybody.  We’ve really got a full house today, huh?  Well, all I want for Christmas is to take your questions.  (Laughter.)  But first let me say a little bit about this year. 

In last year’s final press conference, I said that 2014 would be a year of action and would be a breakthrough year for America.  And it has been.  Yes, there were crises that we had to tackle around the world, many that were unanticipated.  We have more work to do to make sure our economy, our justice system, and our government work not just for the few, but for the many.  But there is no doubt that we can enter into the New Year with renewed confidence that America is making significant strides where it counts.

The steps that we took early on to rescue our economy and rebuild it on a new foundation helped make 2014 the strongest year for job growth since the 1990s.  All told, over a 57-month streak, our businesses have created nearly 11 million new jobs.  Almost all the job growth that we’ve seen have been in full-time positions.  Much of the recent pickup in job growth has been in higher-paying industries.  And in a hopeful sign for middle-class families, wages are on the rise again.

Our investments in American manufacturing have helped fuel its best stretch of job growth also since the 1990s.  America is now the number-one producer of oil, the number-one producer of natural gas.  We’re saving drivers about 70 cents a gallon at the pump over last Christmas.  And effectively today, our rescue of the auto industry is officially over.  We’ve now repaid taxpayers every dime and more of what my administration committed, and the American auto industry is on track for its strongest year since 2005.  And we’ve created about half a million new jobs in the auto industry alone.

Thanks to the Affordable Care Act, about 10 million Americans have gained health insurance just this past year.  Enrollment is beginning to pick up again during the open enrollment period.  The uninsured rate is at a near record low.  Since the law passed, the price of health care has risen at its slowest rate in about 50 years.  And we’ve cut our deficits by about two-thirds since I took office, bringing them to below their 40-year average.

Meanwhile, around the world, America is leading.  We’re leading the coalition to degrade and ultimately destroy ISIL — a coalition that includes Arab partners.  We’re leading the international community to check Russian aggression in Ukraine. We are leading the global fight to combat Ebola in West Africa, and we are preventing an outbreak from taking place here at home. We’re leading efforts to address climate change, including last month’s joint announcement with China that’s already jumpstarting new progress in other countries.  We’re writing a new chapter in our leadership here in the Americas by turning a new page on our relationship with the Cuban people. 

And in less than two weeks, after more than 13 years, our combat mission in Afghanistan will be over.  Today, more of our troops are home for the holidays than any time in over a decade. Still, many of our men and women in uniform will spend Christmas in harm’s way.  And they should know that the country is united in support of you and grateful not only to you but also to your families.

The six years since the crisis have demanded hard work and sacrifice on everybody’s part.  But as a country, we have every right to be proud of what we’ve accomplished — more jobs; more people insured; a growing economy; shrinking deficits; bustling industry; booming energy.  Pick any metric that you want — America’s resurgence is real.  We are better off. 

I’ve always said that recovering from the crisis of 2008 was our first order of business, and on that business, America has outperformed all of our other competitors.  Over the past four years, we’ve put more people back to work than all other advanced economies combined.  We’ve now come to a point where we have the chance to reverse an even deeper problem, the decades-long erosion of middle-class jobs and incomes, and to make sure that the middle class is the engine that powers our prosperity for decades to come. 

To do that, we’re going to have to make some smart choices; we’ve got to make the right choices.  We’re going to have to invest in the things that secure even faster growth in higher-paying jobs for more Americans.  And I’m being absolutely sincere when I say I want to work with this new Congress to get things done, to make those investments, to make sure the government is working better and smarter.  We’re going to disagree on some things, but there are going to be areas of agreement and we’ve got to be able to make that happen.  And that’s going to involve compromise every once in a while, and we saw during this lame duck period that perhaps that spirit of compromise may be coming to the fore.   

In terms of my own job, I’m energized, I’m excited about the prospects for the next couple of years, and I’m certainly not going to be stopping for a minute in the effort to make life better for ordinary Americans.  Because, thanks to their efforts, we really do have a new foundation that’s been laid.  We are better positioned than we have been in a very long time.  A new future is ready to be written.  We’ve set the stage for this American moment.  And I’m going to spend every minute of my last two years making sure that we seize it.

My presidency is entering the fourth quarter; interesting stuff happens in the fourth quarter.  And I’m looking forward to it.  But going into the fourth quarter, you usually get a timeout.  I’m now looking forward to a quiet timeout — Christmas with my family.  So I want to wish everybody a Merry Christmas, a Happy Hanukkah, a Happy New Year.  I hope that all of you get some time to spend with your families as well, because one thing that we share is that we’re away too much from them.

And now, Josh has given me the “who’s been naughty and who’s been nice” list — (laughter) — and I’m going to use it to take some questions.  And we’re going to start with Carrie Budoff Brown of Politico.  There you go, Carrie.

Q    Thank you, Mr. President.  I’ll start on North Korea — that seems to be the biggest topic today.  What does a proportional response look like to the Sony hack?  And did Sony make the right decision in pulling the movie?  Or does that set a dangerous precedent when faced with this kind of situation?

THE PRESIDENT:  Well, let me address the second question first.  Sony is a corporation.  It suffered significant damage.  There were threats against its employees.  I am sympathetic to the concerns that they faced.  Having said all that, yes, I think they made a mistake.
 
In this interconnected, digital world, there are going to be opportunities for hackers to engage in cyber assaults both in the private sector and the public sector.  Now, our first order of business is making sure that we do everything to harden sites and prevent those kinds of attacks from taking place.  When I came into office, I stood up a cybersecurity interagency team to look at everything that we could at the government level to prevent these kinds of attacks.  We’ve been coordinating with the private sector, but a lot more needs to be done.  We’re not even close to where we need to be.
 
And one of the things in the New Year that I hope Congress is prepared to work with us on is strong cybersecurity laws that allow for information-sharing across private sector platforms, as well as the public sector, so that we are incorporating best practices and preventing these attacks from happening in the first place.

But even as we get better, the hackers are going to get better, too.  Some of them are going to be state actors; some of them are going to be non-state actors.  All of them are going to be sophisticated and many of them can do some damage. 

We cannot have a society in which some dictator someplace can start imposing censorship here in the United States.  Because if somebody is able to intimidate folks out of releasing a satirical movie, imagine what they start doing when they see a documentary that they don’t like, or news reports that they don’t like.  Or even worse, imagine if producers and distributors and others start engaging in self-censorship because they don’t want to offend the sensibilities of somebody whose sensibilities probably need to be offended.
 
So that’s not who we are.  That’s not what America is about.
Again, I’m sympathetic that Sony as a private company was worried about liabilities, and this and that and the other.  I wish they had spoken to me first.  I would have told them, do not get into a pattern in which you’re intimidated by these kinds of criminal attacks.  Imagine if, instead of it being a cyber-threat, somebody had broken into their offices and destroyed a bunch of computers and stolen disks.  Is that what it takes for suddenly you to pull the plug on something?

So we’ll engage with not just the film industry, but the news industry and the private sector around these issues.  We already have.  We will continue to do so.  But I think all of us have to anticipate occasionally there are going to be breaches like this.  They’re going to be costly.  They’re going to be serious.  We take them with the utmost seriousness.  But we can’t start changing our patterns of behavior any more than we stop going to a football game because there might be the possibility of a terrorist attack; any more than Boston didn’t run its marathon this year because of the possibility that somebody might try to cause harm.  So let’s not get into that way of doing business.

Q    Can you just say what the response would be to this attack?  Wwould you consider taking some sort of symbolic step like watching the movie yourself or doing some sort of screening here that —

THE PRESIDENT:  I’ve got a long list of movies I’m going to be watching.  (Laughter.)

Q    Will this be one of them?

THE PRESIDENT:  I never release my full movie list. 

But let’s talk of the specifics of what we now know.  The FBI announced today and we can confirm that North Korea engaged in this attack.  I think it says something interesting about North Korea that they decided to have the state mount an all-out assault on a movie studio because of a satirical movie starring Seth Rogen and James Flacco [Franco].  (Laughter.)  I love Seth and I love James, but the notion that that was a threat to them I think gives you some sense of the kind of regime we’re talking about here.

They caused a lot of damage, and we will respond.  We will respond proportionally, and we’ll respond in a place and time and manner that we choose.  It’s not something that I will announce here today at a press conference.

More broadly, though, this points to the need for us to work with the international community to start setting up some very clear rules of the road in terms of how the Internet and cyber operates.  Right now, it’s sort of the Wild West.  And part of the problem is, is you’ve got weak states that can engage in these kinds of attacks, you’ve got non-state actors that can do enormous damage.  That’s part of what makes this issue of cybersecurity so urgent.

Again, this is part of the reason why it’s going to be so important for Congress to work with us and get a actual bill passed that allows for the kind of information-sharing we need.  Because if we don’t put in place the kind of architecture that can prevent these attacks from taking place, this is not just going to be affecting movies, this is going to be affecting our entire economy in ways that are extraordinarily significant.

And, by the way, I hear you’re moving to Europe.  Where you going to be?

Q    Brussels. 

THE PRESIDENT:  Brussels.

Q    Yes.  Helping Politico start a new publication. 

THE PRESIDENT:  Well, congratulations. 

Q    I’ve been covering you since the beginning.

THE PRESIDENT:  Well, I think —

Q    It’s been a long road for the both of us.

THE PRESIDENT:  I think there’s no doubt that what Belgium needs is a version of Politico.  (Laughter.) 

Q    I’ll take that as an endorsement. 

THE PRESIDENT:  The waffles are delicious there, by the way. 
Cheryl Bolen.  You’ve been naughty.  (Laughter.)  Cheryl, go ahead.

Q    Thank you, Mr. President.  Looking ahead to your work with Congress next year, you’ve mentioned as an area of possible compromise tax reform.  And so I am wondering, do you see a Republican Congress as presenting a better opportunity for actually getting tax reform next year?  Will you be putting out a new proposal?  Are you willing to consider both individual and corporate side of the tax ledger there?  And also, are you still concerned about corporate inversions?

THE PRESIDENT:  I think an all-Democratic Congress would have provided an even better opportunity for tax reform.  But I think, talking to Speaker Boehner and Leader McConnell that they are serious about wanting to get some things done.  The tax area is one area where we can get things done.  And I think in the coming weeks leading up to the State of Union, there will be some conversations at the staff levels about what principles each side are looking at.

I can tell you broadly what I’d like to see.  I’d like to see more simplicity in the system.  I’d like to see more fairness in the system.  With respect to the corporate tax reform issue, we know that there are companies that are paying the full freight — 35 percent — higher than just about any other company on Earth, if you’re paying 35 percent, and then there are other companies that are paying zero because they’ve got better accountants or lawyers.  That’s not fair. 

There are companies that are parking money outside the country because of tax avoidance.  We think that it’s important that everybody pays something if, in fact, they are effectively headquartered in the United States.  In terms of corporate inversion, those are situations where companies really are headquartered here but, on paper, switch their headquarters to see if they can avoid paying their fair share of taxes.  I think that needs to be fixed. 

So, fairness, everybody paying their fair share, everybody taking responsibility I think is going to be very important. 

Some of those principles I’ve heard Republicans say they share.  How we do that — the devil is in the details.  And I’ll be interested in seeing what they want to move forward.  I’m going to make sure that we put forward some pretty specific proposals building on what we’ve already put forward.

One other element of this that I think is important is — and I’ve been on this hobby horse now for six years.  (Audience member sneezes.)  Bless you.  We’ve got a lot of infrastructure we’ve got to rebuild in this country if we’re going to be competitive — roads, bridges, ports, airports, electrical grids, water systems, sewage systems.  We are way behind. 

And early on we indicated that there is a way of us potentially doing corporate tax reform, lowering rates, eliminating loopholes so everybody is paying their fair share, and during that transition also providing a mechanism where we can get some infrastructure built.  I’d like to see us work on that issue as well.  Historically, obviously, infrastructure has not been a Democratic or a Republican issue, and I’d like to see if we can return to that tradition.

Julie Pace.

Q    Thank you, Mr. President.  I wanted to ask about Cuba. What would you say to dissidents or democracy advocates inside Cuba who fear that the policy changes you announced this week could give the Castro regime economic benefits without having to address human rights or their political system?  When your administration was lifting sanctions on Myanmar you sought commitments of reform.  Why not do the same with Cuba?

And if I could just follow up on North Korea.  Do you have any indication that North Korea was acting in conjunction with another country, perhaps China?

THE PRESIDENT:  We’ve got no indication that North Korea was acting in conjunction with another country.

With respect to Cuba, we are glad that the Cuban government have released slightly over 50 dissidents; that they are going to be allowing the International Committee of the Red Cross and the United Nations human rights agencies to operate more freely inside of Cuba and monitor what is taking place.

I share the concerns of dissidents there and human rights activists that this is still a regime that represses its people. And as I said when I made the announcement, I don’t anticipate overnight changes, but what I know deep in my bones is that if you’ve done the same thing for 50 years and nothing has changed, you should try something different if you want a different outcome.
 
And this gives us an opportunity for a different outcome, because suddenly Cuba is open to the world in ways that it has not been before.  It’s open to Americans traveling there in ways that it hasn’t been before.  It’s open to church groups visiting their fellow believers inside of Cuba in ways they haven’t been before.  It offers the prospect of telecommunications and the Internet being more widely available in Cuba in ways that it hasn’t been before.

And over time, that chips away at this hermetically sealed society, and I believe offers the best prospect then of leading to greater freedom, greater self-determination on the part of the Cuban people. 

I think it will happen in fits and starts.  But through engagement, we have a better chance of bringing about change then we would have otherwise.

Q    Do you have a goal for where you see Cuba being at the end of your presidency?

THE PRESIDENT:  I think it would be unrealistic for me to map out exactly where Cuba will be.  But change is going to come to Cuba.  It has to.  They’ve got an economy that doesn’t work.  They’ve been reliant for years first on subsidies from the Soviet Union, then on subsidies from Venezuela.  Those can’t be sustained.  And the more the Cuban people see what’s possible, the more interested they are going to be in change. 

But how societies change is country-specific, it’s culturally specific.  It could happen fast; it could happen slower than I’d like; but it’s going to happen.  And I think this change in policy is going to advance that.

Lesley Clark.

Q    Thank you, Mr. President.  I had a number of questions on Cuba as well.  Appreciate that.  I wanted to —

THE PRESIDENT:  Do I have to write all these down?  How many are there?  (Laughter.)  “A number” sounded intimidating.

Q    As quick as I can.  As quick as I can.  I wanted to see if you got an assurances from the Cuban government that it would not revert to the same sort of — sabotage the deal, as it has in the past when past Presidents had made similar overtures to the government.
 
THE PRESIDENT:  Meaning?  Be specific.  What do you mean?

Q    When the Clinton administration made some overtures, they shot down planes.  They sort of had this pattern of doing provocative — provocative events.
 
THE PRESIDENT:  Okay, so just general provocative activity.

Q    Provocative activities any time the U.S. has sort of reached out a hand to them.  I wanted to see what is your knowledge of whether Fidel Castro — did he have any role in the talks?  When you talked to President Raul Castro, did Fidel Castro’s name come up?  Or did you ask about him?  How he’s doing?  People haven’t seen him in a while.  Given the deep opposition from some Republicans in Congress to lifting the embargo, to an embassy, to any of the changes that you’re doing, are you going to personally get involved in terms of talking to them about efforts that they want to do to block money on a new embassy?

THE PRESIDENT:  All right, Lesley, I think I’m going to cut you off here.  (Laughter.)  This is taking up a lot of time.

Q    Okay, all right.

THE PRESIDENT:  All right.  So, with respect to sabotage, I mean, my understanding of the history, for example, of the plane being shot down, it’s not clear that that was the Cuban government purposely trying to undermine overtures by the Clinton administration.  It was a tragic circumstance that ended up collapsing talks that had begun to take place.  I haven’t seen a historical record that suggests that they shot the plane down specifically in order to undermine overtures by the Clinton government.

I think it is not precedented for the President of the United States and the President of Cuba to make an announcement at the same time that they are moving towards normalizing relations.  So there hasn’t been anything like this in the past. That doesn’t meant that over the next two years we can anticipate them taking certain actions that we may end up finding deeply troubling either inside of Cuba or with respect to their foreign policy.  And that could put significant strains on the relationship.  But that’s true of a lot of countries out there where we have an embassy.  And the whole point of normalizing relations is that it gives us a greater opportunity to have influence with that government than not. 

So I would be surprised if the Cuban government purposely tries to undermine what is now effectively its own policy.  I wouldn’t be surprised if they take at any given time actions that we think are a problem.  And we will be in a position to respond to whatever actions they take the same way we do with a whole range of countries around the world when they do things we think are wrong.  But the point is, is that we will be in a better position I think to actually have some influence, and there may be carrots as well as sticks that we can then apply.

The only way that Fidel’s name came up — I think I may have mentioned this in the Davie Muir article — interview that I did — was I delivered a fairly lengthy statement at the front end about how we’re looking forward to a new future in the relationship between our two countries, but that we are going to continue to press on issues of democracy and human rights, which we think are important. 

My opening remarks probably took about 15 minutes, which on the phone is a pretty long time.  And at the end of that, he said, Mr. President, you’re still a young man.  Perhaps you have the — at the end of my remarks I apologized for taking such a long time, but I wanted to make sure that before we engaged in the conversation he was very clear about where I stood.  He said, oh, don’t worry about it, Mr. President, you’re still a young man and you have still the chance to break Fidel’s record — he once spoke seven hours straight.  (Laughter.) 

And then, President Castro proceeded to deliver his own preliminary remarks that last at least twice as long as mine.  (Laughter.)  And then I was able to say, obviously it runs in the family.  But that was the only discussion of Fidel Castro that we had. 

I sort of forgot all the other questions.  (Laughter.) 

Q    I have a few more if you’re — how personally involved are you going to get in —

THE PRESIDENT:  With respect to Congress?  We cannot unilaterally bring down the embargo.  That’s codified in the Libertad Act.  And what I do think is going to happen, though, is there’s going to be a process where Congress digests it.  There are bipartisan supporters of our new approach, there are bipartisan detractors of this new approach.  People will see how the actions we take unfold.  And I think there’s going to be a healthy debate inside of Congress. 

And I will certainly weigh in.  I think that ultimately we need to go ahead and pull down the embargo, which I think has been self-defeating in advancing the aims that we’re interested in.  But I don’t anticipate that that happens right away.  I think people are going to want to see how does this move forward before there’s any serious debate about whether or not we would make major shifts in the embargo.

Roberta Rampton.

Q    I want to follow on that by asking, under what conditions would you meet with President Castro in Havana?  Would you have certain preconditions that you would want to see met before doing that?  And on the hack, I know that you said that you’re not going to announce your response, but can you say whether you’re considering additional economic or financial sanctions on North Korea?  Can you rule out the use of military force or some kind of cyber hit of your own?

THE PRESIDENT:  I think I’m going to leave it where I left it, which is we just confirmed that it was North Korea; we have been working up a range of options.  They will be presented to me.  I will make a decision on those based on what I believe is proportional and appropriate to the nature of this crime.

With respect to Cuba, we’re not at a stage here where me visiting Cuba or President Castro coming to the United States is in the cards.  I don’t know how this relationship will develop over the next several years.  I’m a fairly young man so I imagine that at some point in my life I will have the opportunity to visit Cuba and enjoy interacting with the Cuban people.  But there’s nothing specific where we’re trying to target some sort of visit on my part.

Colleen McCain Nelson.

Q    Thank you, Mr. President.

THE PRESIDENT:  There you are.

Q    You spoke earlier about 2014 being a breakthrough year, and you ended the year with executive actions on Cuba and immigration and climate change.  But you didn’t make much progress this year on your legislative agenda.  And some Republican lawmakers have said they’re less inclined to work with you if you pursue executive actions so aggressively.  Are you going to continue to pursue executive actions if that creates more roadblocks for your legislative agenda?  Or have you concluded that it’s not possible to break the fever in Washington and the partisan gridlock here?

THE PRESIDENT:  I think there are real opportunities to get things done in Congress.  As I said before, I take Speaker Boehner and Mitch McConnell at their words that they want to get things done.  I think the American people would like to see us get some things done.  The question is going to be are we able to separate out those areas where we disagree and those areas where we agree.  I think there are going to be some tough fights on areas where we disagree. 

If Republicans seek to take health care away from people who just got it, they will meet stiff resistance from me.  If they try to water down consumer protections that we put in place in the aftermath of the financial crisis, I will say no.  And I’m confident that I’ll be able to uphold vetoes of those types of provisions.  But on increasing American exports, on simplifying our tax system, on rebuilding our infrastructure, my hope is that we can get some things done. 

I’ve never been persuaded by this argument that if it weren’t for the executive actions they would have been more productive.  There’s no evidence of that.  So I intend to continue to do what I’ve been doing, which is where I see a big problem and the opportunity to help the American people, and it is within my lawful authority to provide that help, I’m going to do it.  And I will then, side-by-side, reach out to members of Congress, reach out to Republicans, and say, let’s work together; I’d rather do it with you.

Immigration is the classic example.  I was really happy when the Senate passed a bipartisan, comprehensive immigration bill.  And I did everything I could for a year and a half to provide Republicans the space to act, and showed not only great patience, but flexibility, saying to them, look, if there are specific changes you’d like to see, we’re willing to compromise, we’re willing to be patient, we’re willing to work with you.  Ultimately it wasn’t forthcoming.

And so the question is going to be I think if executive actions on areas like minimum wage, or equal pay, or having a more sensible immigration system are important to Republicans, if they care about those issues, and the executive actions are bothering them, there is a very simple solution, and that is:  Pass bills.  And work with me to make sure I’m willing to sign those bills. 

Because both sides are going to have to compromise.  On most issues, in order for their initiatives to become law, I’m going to have sign off.  And that means they have to take into account the issues that I care about, just as I’m going to have to take into account the issues that they care about.
 
All right.  I think this is going to be our last question.  Juliet Eilperin.  There you go.
 
Q    Thanks so much.  So one of the first bills that Mitch McConnell said he will send to you is one that would authorize the construction of the Keystone XL pipeline.  When you talked about this in the past, you’ve minimized the benefits and you highlighted some of the risks associated with that project.  I’m wondering if you could tell us both what you would do when faced with that bill, given the Republican majority that we’ll have in both chambers.  And also, what do you see as the benefits?  And given the precipitous drop we’ve seen in oil prices recently, does that change the calculus in terms of how it will contribute to climate change, and whether you think it makes sense to go ahead with that project?

THE PRESIDENT:  Well, I don’t think I’ve minimized the benefits, I think I’ve described the benefits.  At issue in Keystone is not American oil.  It is Canadian oil that is drawn out of tar sands in Canada.  That oil currently is being shipped out through rail or trucks, and it would save Canadian oil companies and the Canadian oil industry an enormous amount of money if they could simply pipe it all the way through the United States down to the Gulf.  Once that oil gets to the Gulf, it is then entering into the world market, and it would be sold all around the world. 

So there’s no — I won’t say “no” — there is very little impact, nominal impact, on U.S. gas prices — what the average American consumer cares about — by having this pipeline come through.  And sometimes the way this gets sold is, let’s get this oil and it’s going to come here.  And the implication is, is that’s going to lower gas prices here in the United States.  It’s not.  There’s a global oil market.  It’s very good for Canadian oil companies and it’s good for the Canadian oil industry, but it’s not going to be a huge benefit to U.S. consumers.  It’s not even going to be a nominal benefit to U.S. consumers.
 
Now, the construction of the pipeline itself will create probably a couple thousand jobs.  Those are temporary jobs until the construction actually happens.  There’s probably some additional jobs that can be created in the refining process down in the Gulf.  Those aren’t completely insignificant — it’s just like any other project.  But when you consider what we could be doing if we were rebuilding our roads and bridges around the country — something that Congress could authorize — we could probably create hundreds of thousands of jobs, or a million jobs. So if that’s the argument, there are a lot more direct ways to create well-paying Americans construction jobs.
 
And then, with respect to the cost, all I’ve said is that I want to make sure that if, in fact, this project goes forward, that it’s not adding to the problem of climate change, which I think is very serious and does impose serious costs on the American people — some of them long term, but significant costs nonetheless.  If we’ve got more flooding, more wildfires, more drought, there are direct economic impacts on that. 

And as we’re now rebuilding after Sandy, for example, we’re having to consider how do we increase preparedness in how we structure infrastructure and housing, and so forth, along the Jersey Shore.  That’s an example of the kind of costs that are imposed, and you can put a dollar figure on it.

So, in terms of process, you’ve got a Nebraska judge that’s still determining whether or not the new path for this pipeline is appropriate.  Once that is resolved, then the State Department will have all the information it needs to make its decision. 

But I’ve just tried to give this perspective, because I think that there’s been this tendency to really hype this thing as some magic formula to what ails the U.S. economy, and it’s hard to see on paper where exactly they’re getting that information from.

In terms of oil prices and how it impacts the decision, I think that it won’t have a significant impact except perhaps in the minds of folks — when gas prices are lower, maybe they’re less susceptible to the argument that this is the answer to lowering gas prices.  But it was never going to be the answer to lowering gas prices, because the oil that would be piped through the Keystone pipeline would go into the world market.  And that’s what determines oil prices, ultimately.

Q    And in terms of Congress forcing your hand on this, is this something where you clearly say you’re not going to let Congress force your hand on whether to approve or disapprove of this?

THE PRESIDENT:  I’ll see what they do.  We’ll take that up in the New Year.

Q    Any New Year’s resolutions?

THE PRESIDENT:  I’ll ask — April, go ahead. 

Q    Thank you, Mr. President.  Last question, I guess.  (Laughter.)  Six years ago this month, I asked you what was the state of black America in the Oval Office, and you said it was the “the best of times and the worst of times.”  You said it was the best of times in the sense that there was — has never been more opportunity for African Americans to receive a good education, and the worst of times for unemployment and the lack of opportunity.  We’re ending 2014.  What is the state of black America as we talk about those issues as well as racial issues in this country?

THE PRESIDENT:  Like the rest of America, black America in the aggregate is better off now than it was when I came into office.  The jobs that have been created, the people who’ve gotten health insurance, the housing equity that’s been recovered, the 401 pensions that have been recovered — a lot of those folks are African American.  They’re better off than they were.

The gap between income and wealth of white and black America persists.  And we’ve got more work to do on that front.  I’ve been consistent in saying that this is a legacy of a troubled racial past of Jim Crow and slavery.  That’s not an excuse for black folks.  And I think the overwhelming majority of black people understand it’s not an excuse.  They’re working hard. They’re out there hustling and trying to get an education, trying to send their kids to college.  But they’re starting behind, oftentimes, in the race.

And what’s true for all Americans is we should be willing to provide people a hand up — not a handout, but help folks get that good early childhood education, help them graduate from high school, help them afford college.  If they do, they’re going to be able to succeed, and that’s going to be good for all of us.

And we’ve seen some progress.  The education reforms that we’ve initiated are showing measurable results.  We have the highest high school graduation that we’ve seen in a very long time.  We are seeing record numbers of young people attending college.  In many states that have initiated reforms, you’re seeing progress in math scores and reading scores for African American and Latino students as well as the broader population.  But we’ve still got more work to go.

Now, obviously, how we’re thinking about race relations right now has been colored by Ferguson, the Garner case in New York, a growing awareness in the broader population of what I think many communities of color have understood for some time, and that is that there are specific instances at least where law enforcement doesn’t feel as if it’s being applied in a colorblind fashion. 

The task force that I formed is supposed to report back to me in 90 days — not with a bunch of abstract musings about race relations, but some really concrete, practical things that police departments and law enforcement agencies can begin implementing right now to rebuild trust between communities of color and the police department.

And my intention is to, as soon as I get those recommendations, to start implementing them.  Some of them we’ll be able to do through executive action.  Some of them will require congressional action.  Some of them will require action on the part of states and local jurisdictions. 

But I actually think it’s been a healthy conversation that we’ve had.  These are not new phenomenon.  The fact that they’re now surfacing, in part because people are able to film what have just been, in the past, stories passed on around a kitchen table, allows people to make their own assessments and evaluations.  And you’re not going to solve a problem if it’s not being talked about.

In the meantime, we’ve been moving forward on criminal justice reform issues more broadly.  One of the things I didn’t talk about in my opening statement is the fact that last year was the first time in 40 years where we had the federal prison population go down and the crime rate go down at the same time, which indicates the degree to which it’s possible for us to think smarter about who we’re incarcerating, how long we’re incarcerating, how are we dealing with nonviolent offenders, how are we dealing with drug offenses, diversion programs, drug courts.  We can do a better job of — and save money in the process by initiating some of these reforms.  And I’ve been really pleased to see that we’ve had Republicans and Democrats in Congress who are interested in these issues as well.

The one thing I will say — and this is going to be the last thing I say — is that one of the great things about this job is you get to know the American people.  I mean, you meet folks from every walk of life and every region of the country, and every race and every faith.  And what I don’t think is always captured in our political debates is the vast majority of people are just trying to do the right thing, and people are basically good and have good intentions.  Sometimes our institutions and our systems don’t work as well as they should.  Sometimes you’ve got a police department that has gotten into bad habits over a period of time and hasn’t maybe surfaced some hidden biases that we all carry around.  But if you offer practical solutions, I think people want to fix these problems.  It’s not — this isn’t a situation where people feel good seeing somebody choked and dying.  I think that troubles everybody.  So there’s an opportunity of all of us to come together and to take a practical approach to these problems.

And I guess that’s my general theme for the end of the year — which is we’ve gone through difficult times.  It is your job, press corps, to report on all the mistakes that are made and all the bad things that happen and the crises that look like they’re popping.  And I understand that.  But through persistent effort and faith in the American people, things get better.  The economy has gotten better.  Our ability to generate clean energy has gotten better.  We know more about how to educate our kids.  We solved problems.  Ebola is a real crisis; you get a mistake in the first case because it’s not something that’s been seen before — we fix it.  You have some unaccompanied children who spike at a border, and it may not get fixed in the time frame of the news cycle, but it gets fixed. 

And part of what I hope as we reflect on the New Year this should generate is some confidence.  America knows how to solve problems.  And when we work together, we can’t be stopped. 

And now I’m going to go on vacation.  Mele Kalikimaka, everybody.  (Laughter.)  Mahalo.  Thank you, everybody.

END
2:45 P.M. EST

Smart cities at our cities’ thr

Smart cities at our cities’ threshold… to be accepted or rejected: discussion workshops, Jbeil prototype

Mon 24 Nov 2014 at 11:16

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Written by: Mona Soukarieh

Translated by:  Lina Yahya Raydan

Smart cities have started to take its urban shape in a number of countries, including Arab states, and the term “smart cities” started to be defined, marketed and debated in lectures, forums and conferences.

However; this term have not found so far a wide space in our Arab media — written, audio or audio-visual– despite that a number of experiments were carried out where buildings and small cities were accomplished and were named after smart buildings and cities.

What are smart or sustainable cities to be labeled “smart”?

In a simple definition, smart cities or buildings are the ones in which environment systems as of power use, temperature, lighting or sound control and workplace and communications are integrated.

It also could be defined as cities which attempt to develop and update their existence to meet modern standards, limit overpopulation and pollution and increase and sustain green spaces as well as to provide services via an interconnected electronic network and reduce power use through remote sensors; for example an escalator does not move except if a person stepped on it.

Of these cities which have become a fact is Masdar city in the middle of Abu Dhabi desert in the UAE. The city has been designed as one of the sustainable cities that depends on solar energy and wind farms to generate electricity free from carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions and is car- free region and is built on a digital platform that allows access to the advanced techniques which run it.

Moreover; CISCO –the well-known American Company– has finished the design of “U” city in South Korea as an example on a smart city.” U “city is scheduled to be completed by next year. In addition to that, many experiments of the kind were accomplished in various cities in European countries.

The report of the Japanese construction industry has identified three characteristics which should be in a building to be labeled “smart”: the building must enjoy the most efficient ways to achieve appropriate and productive environment for its users, it must meet its users’ demands and it must counter external factors as of climate, fire to security protection.

International market estimates related to investments in smart cities expect investments in smart cities to amount up to $ two trillion by the year 2020. These numbers reveal the size of the high demand on technology, informatics and renewable energy in the coming years.

Conferences in Amman, Beirut

About two years ago, Fredich Aabert- Foundation, Lebanon organized a workshop over two days in Amman, Jordan during which the attendees discussed green economy and smart cities issues as well as other modern terms new to our vocabulary.

And on 4, 5 November 2014, the said company organized a symposium during which concerned specialists put down a road map for sustainable cities in the Middle East, proposed many suggestions which pinpointed the negatives and positives of the Arab cities’ status as well as their ability either to shift towards sustainable cities or the possibility to create pure smart cities as is happening in the Gulf countries-where finances allow that.

In the outcome of the two-day conference in Beirut, Doctor Mohsen Abou Naja, senior architects from Cairo and the supervisor on the implementation of the green economy projects in Dubai linked the need for governmental and civil community planning and construction of secured buildings that meet the green environmental standards to the change in the already established cities or the ones to established.

Abou Naja stressed that the information acquired is basic in carrying out a successful plan and in strengthening and spreading awareness, underscoring that information changes after a certain period to knowledge which in its turn leads to planning, developing initiatives and programs and updating monitoring and surveillance tools.

Abou Naja highlighted need to identify gaps in order to build sustainable cities, to promote analysis processes and to confront obstacles, before embarking on carrying out any strategy.

He also noted that sustainable development concept is the best way to reach sustainable cities as it focuses on integrating economic, political and social aspects to the environmental element so as to ensure a viable environment, not to mention the importance of the role of awareness, education, building capacities and establishing balance.

Dr. Rami Daher from Jordan underscored need to found public spaces, wondering to what extent it is possible to face the Neo-liberalism which threatens our cities.

Daher pointed to the neoliberal threats which result from oil surpluses and its capitals which encourage investment in private sector instead of public spaces, criticizing such projects.

“Some seek to found private spaces not public ones, just as Solidere,” Dr. Daher said criticizing said projects.

Byblos (Jbeil) City

Jbeil city has been present as a model on which work is ongoing to transform it to a sustainable city.

Accordingly, Engineer Antony Sfeir described Jbeil as “the most powerful and resilient,” adding “we are facing climate change, population and urban growth and absence of maintenance on infrastructure not to mention political and security conflicts in the neighboring region.”

Talking about the city development and preserving its heritage, Sfeir said that the municipality has established a 13,000m2 car-free park to lessen emissions and provided small-scale means of transportation into the town.

He noted that they are currently working on a project on the use of energy and water which will be completed in the year 2015 and is considered the first sustainable project.

Sfeir said that they are working on accomplishing the said project after Jbeil was chosen among 33 cities to maintain steadfastness, be ready to face any disaster and be able to recover.

He noted that engineers, municipality and citizens were involved in this project which enables them to formulate the city’s steadfastness strategy.

In conclusion, smart cities might be new cities constructed in a smart way from the very beginning or cities built for a special purpose– so as to be industrial ones or scientific compounds – and then transformed into a smart city depending on the targets of those responsible for its planning.

Thus, it foresees –in the said field– the future on both economic and social levels and allows monitoring basic infrastructure including roads, bridges, subways, rail ways, airports, ports, communications, water and energy in order to acquire the utmost from resources and security, and to provide services to citizens as well as a sustainable environment.   

But, the human being as a moral conscience responsible value is and will always be the cornerstone of any target of development and its backbone regardless the grave development of technology means.

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Australia-Japan-United States Trilateral Leaders Meeting Joint Media Release

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.

FACT SHEET: United States Support for Global Efforts to Combat Carbon Pollution and Build Resilience

The White House

Office of the Press Secretary

For Immediate Release

November 15, 2014

Today, President Obama is announcing the intention of the United States to contribute $3 billion to the Green Climate Fund (GCF), reflecting the U.S. commitment to reduce carbon pollution and strengthen resilience in developing countries, especially the poorest and most vulnerable. The United States joins other nations that have already pledged financial support to this vital new global effort, including Mexico, Korea, Germany, France, Denmark, Norway, and Switzerland.  Additional countries are expected to pledge soon. 

By financing investments that help countries reduce carbon pollution and strengthen resilience to climate change, the GCF will help leverage public and private finance to avoid some of the most catastrophic risks of climate change.  By reducing those risks, the GCF will help promote smart, sustainable long-term economic growth and preserve stability and security in fragile regions of strategic importance to the United States.

The U.S. contribution to the GCF builds on a history of U.S. leadership to support climate action.  In 2008, the Bush Administration pledged $2 billion to the Climate Investment Funds, which were established as a transitional measure to finance efforts to help developing countries address climate change.  The U.S. pledge to the GCF demonstrates a continuation of the bipartisan resolve to help developing nations reduce their own emissions, whose dangerous impacts on the climate affect us all, as well as to help the most vulnerable cope with the impacts of climate change.  The GCF will also help spur global markets in clean energy technologies, creating opportunities for U.S. entrepreneurs and manufacturers who are leading the way to a low-carbon future.

The GCF was originally called for in 2009 in the Copenhagen Accord, in which developing countries first committed to taking action to mitigate their carbon emissions, including by laying out specific goals and targets.  The GCF will employ world-class safeguards and will finance projects and programs with the greatest potential to reduce harmful pollution and foster adaptation to climate impacts.  Although the political impetus to establish the GCF came from the multilateral climate negotiations, the GCF is an independent legal entity that makes independent funding and operational decisions.  It is not a United Nations agency or entity, nor will it have a large bureaucracy.   

The United States intends to contribute $3 billion to this initial fund raising effort, not to exceed 30 percent of total confirmed pledges.  This share is consistent with the U.S. contribution to other funds in which we have exercised U.S. leadership to catalyze other contributions.  We expect that the U.S. share will decline over time as the range of countries contributing to the GCF expands.  While the United States is committed to supporting a wide range of mitigation and adaptation programs in developing countries through the GCF, we will target a significant portion of our GCF support to the GCF’s Private Sector Facility.  This is in recognition of the essential role the GCF must play in mobilizing private sector financing to scale up low-emission and climate-resilient investment in developing countries. 

The United States expects that the GCF will become a preeminent, effective, and efficient channel for climate finance and is working to finalize the GCF’s governance and institutional policies in 2015.  In this regard, the United States reserves the ability to direct a portion of this pledge to other multilateral climate funds to the extent necessary based on the pace of progress.

Some of the innovative features of the GCF include:

  • A dedicated Private Sector Facility.  Unlike most climate funds, the GCF will have a dedicated Private Sector Facility to support entrepreneurs developing low-carbon and climate resilient projects.  It will also mobilize capital from private investors around the world.  The Board is also advised by a standing Private Sector Advisory Group, composed of business leaders from developed and developing countries.
  • Inclusive governance and wider donor base.  The GCF’s governance structure—headed by a 24-member Board with an equal number of developed and developing countries—gives it a uniquely high level of international buy-in and collaboration, with a corresponding ability to attract non-traditional donors. 
  • World-class safeguards and accountability mechanisms. The GCF will require among the strongest fiduciary standards and social and environmental safeguards for all multilateral funds in climate finance today.  This will help promote GCF-financed projects and programs that are responsibly designed and implemented, and that all financial resources are managed prudently and transparently.  Moreover, the GCF has an Independent Evaluation Unit, which evaluates the impact of GCF programs and projects, as well as an Independent Integrity Unit, which investigates allegations of wrongdoing or prohibited practices.  Both units will report to the Board, not the Secretariat.   The Board itself makes independent funding and operational decisions.
  • Work in both mitigation and adaptation.  The GCF will balance its support for emissions mitigation and climate adaptation and resilience activities, building up expertise in both areas and positioning itself to capitalize on synergies between them.  This balance will make the GCF unique compared with other funds.
  • Global reach.   The GCF will work through a larger network of public and private partners than most other climate funds.  This will help reach more regions and communities, as well as unlock opportunities in both adaptation and mitigation in hard-to-reach locations. 

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