Tagged: ClimateChange

Speeches: Remarks at the Council on Foreign Relations

(As Delivered)

Date: 03/12/2015 Description: Assistant Secretary Crocker at the Council on Foreign Relations. - State Dept Image

Thank you first and foremost to the Council on Foreign Relations for hosting today’s conversation and to Stuart for guiding it, and for that kind introduction. Thanks also to all of you for coming this afternoon for a discussion of the status, purpose, and value of multilateral diplomacy.

I’m here today in the context of the 70th anniversary of the United Nations, whose Charter was signed in San Francisco on June 26, 1945. That Charter, and the lofty aspirations contained in it, remains very much at the center of today’s international system, a system that has evolved and expanded well beyond the vision of its earliest promoters. But a system that has endured – remarkably – and a Charter that retains relevance even some seven decades on.

My comments today are not intended to be retrospective, but rather a brief survey of the UN and the larger international system as it is today, and the qualities and capacities that I believe will be crucial for its continued relevance.

As I begin, I take the liberty of assuming your stipulation to some guiding realities:

First, that pressing transnational challenges are only growing in scope, scale, and variety. In this category, I might offer climate change, food security, pandemic health challenges such as Ebola, the threat of violent extremism, and more.

Second, that these varied challenges require often urgent and sometimes simultaneous multilateral action. This truth is perhaps most evident often in the case of humanitarian crises.

Third, that today’s remarkable connectivity accelerates the pace at which events become available to global audiences, and thus in turn accelerates the pace at which the international community is expected and called upon to respond.

And finally, that an international system unable to respond to these truths would quickly become irrelevant on the global stage.

Seventy years ago, the need for an international body to provide a convening authority and a constraint for disputing nations was obvious. And though it is true that since that day in San Francisco there have been few constants on the international stage, it is also true that a body that was conceived primarily as a means to prevent war among the great powers of the world has met that fundamental objective.

The original 50 signatories of the UN Charter have grown to 193. The modern international system comprises dozens of organizations and agencies, with responsibility for engaging on innumerable shared priorities, and – let’s be honest – more than a handful most of us have never heard of. Civil society networks have emerged as a powerful complement to multilateral tools, and globalization has fostered economic and cultural linkages that would have been unimaginable at the end of World War II.

And yet, across that timeline and in all those categories, American leadership within the international system has been steadfast and instrumental. Now, in making that statement, I acknowledge that from its earliest moments, the UN has been the source of discomfort in some segments of the U.S. political universe. That said, it is notable that for all of its seven decades, the UN and the evolving international system have enjoyed the strong support of U.S. administrations and the Congress.

But why? Why is the vitality and agility of the United Nations and other international organizations of such importance to the United States?

In its most simple expression, it comes to this – we ask the international system to do a great many things on our behalf, and on the whole it is genuinely and actively responsive in that regard.

Yes, there are failings in the system, frustrations inherent in its history and exploited by its membership. There are recurring instances of mismanagement and inefficiency. There is a deeply-rooted anti-Israel bias that rears its ugly head across the system. And there is a persistence of division, call it North vs. South, NAM vs. the West, or G77 vs. the likeminded, that seems almost unthinkable given how much has changed on the global stage since 1945.

But the challenges we face today require as never before the multiplier effect of an effective international system. And the reality is that with the UN, that means we must take the good with the bad – accept the shortcomings, because the benefits to the United States still far outweigh the stories that grab headlines.

So today I will briefly discuss the UN’s unique capability and capacity, where today’s international system succeeds, where it falls short, and why we must remain relentless in our efforts to push it toward improved effectiveness, efficiency, and innovation and expand our efforts to encourage UN member states to break through tired voting habits and stale thinking. Any discussion of where the international system works must be predicated on an acceptance that the system is messy. With 193 UN member states, division is not uncommon – but we also have to remember how much gets done by consensus, even in the unwieldy UN General Assembly.

And, frankly, if member states were all of one mind, the need for an international system would be far from obvious. No, clearly our differences illustrate the need, create opportunities for unanticipated partnerships, and can make multilateral accomplishments all the more resonant. They are, in fact, the source of the legitimacy that the UN bestows when it speaks to an issue of global concern.

So, where does one look for such accomplishments? I’ll offer a few examples in three broad categories. First, we find accomplishment where the international system effectively channels shared aspirations.

Take, for example, human rights and the UN Human Rights Council. This is a body that has been fairly criticized as providing solace and protection to some of the world’s worst human rights abusers while focusing with unrelenting, unhealthy attention on a single nation – Israel.

When the United States decided to seek election to the Council in 2009, it was with a determination to redirect the Council’s energies, refocus its purpose, and begin strengthening its reputation as the global focal-point for universal human rights.

In the succeeding years, we’ve achieved a great deal. In 2011, we led an effort to pass a groundbreaking resolution on the rights of LGBT persons – the first such resolution in the UN system. We supported the Latin Americans in taking the lead on the follow-on resolution this past September. We have worked with our partners to lift the veil of secrecy on the horrendous human rights abuses in North Korea at the hands of the regime and to get this issue on the agenda of the Security Council – a huge accomplishment.

We have also led a sustained effort to promote the investigation of and accountability for human rights violations in Sri Lanka, and in fact consistently promote the utility of focusing on country-specific situations to highlight some of the most distressing human rights situations around the world.

That effort has resulted in Commissions of Inquiry and Special Rapporteurs on the human rights situations in Iran, Syria, Belarus, Burma, and North Korea and independent experts on the situations in Sudan, Somalia, and Mali. We have also led efforts to pass important thematic actions to bolster freedoms of expression and association, the rights of women and girls, the protection of civil society, and much more.

And, I would note, that we have achieved this level of success in spite of the recurring presence on the Council of some of the world’s worst offender states.

It is also true that we have not succeeded in ending the ingrained bias against Israel, but we continue to advocate forcefully against that bias in the Human Rights Council and across the international system. In fact, as Secretary Kerry pointed out earlier this month, we have intervened on Israel’s behalf over the last two years a couple of hundred times in more than 75 different multilateral fora, both to defend it and to support its positive agenda.

This recent progress notwithstanding, the Human Rights Council will obviously never be flawless. But consider the outsized influence of this relatively small body of just 47 member states and the small Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights. We measure that influence not just in the allergic responses often displayed by offender nations, but more meaningfully in the feedback we receive from civil society in those nations, who remind us frequently that Council action has a powerful impact on the ground.

Today, shared aspirations are evident across the UN system, from the heightened focus on gender issues, to strengthened humanitarian coordination across UN agencies, to the elevation of climate change and other (inaudible) issues, and in the energy and ambition fueling negotiations toward a Post-2015 Development Agenda.

Obviously, shared aspirations do not immediately or even necessarily equate to agreed action, but they serve to shape many of the conversations defining today’s multilateral diplomacy.

We also find accomplishment in the international system where it acts to promote peace and security. The headline institution here is of course the UN Security Council, which has not always warranted or enjoyed universal admiration. At times, disagreement between permanent members has inhibited action on urgent crises and Syria is an obvious example here.

But it should come as no surprise that in situations closest to our core interests, the United States and other permanent members won’t always – or even often – agree. And indeed the Council was created to give us a mechanism to air our differences and try to foster solutions without resorting to open conflict.

And where the P5’s interests align, the Security Council plays an indispensable role. We have continued to work effectively with Russia and the rest of the Council on combatting the flow of foreign terrorist fighters, on substantive actions to counter terrorism, counter piracy, on robust nonproliferation regimes targeting Iran and North Korea, on authorizing peacekeeping missions, and much more.

To be sure, the Council’s failures on matters such as Syria are as inexcusable as they are unsurprising. And over time, failure to act time and again to address front-burner issues could undermine the body’s legitimacy. But as often as that has been predicted it has been disproved, as even when we and others have acted without Council authorization, we have generally returned to the Council to bestow legitimacy and to coordinate on additional actions.

UN peacekeeping is also a widely-known UN peace and security tool, and lends itself well as an example of multilateral burden-sharing. UN peacekeepers, in fact, are currently the largest deployed military force around the world, with 16 missions and over 130,000 personnel today. We’ve had UN peacekeeping missions nearly as long as we’ve had the UN itself, and like the parent body, they have not always measured up. In particular, we see the challenge when missions are mandated to take actions they don’t deliver on, such as the protection of civilians.

We learned from the experiences of Rwanda, of the Balkans, and elsewhere that missions needed strengthened mandates to make clear the authority to use force and protect civilians. Today, more than 95 percent of peacekeepers serve in missions with a responsibility to protect civilians. Today, the problems we see relate more to how to plan for such operations, how to get host nations to do their job, how to make sure troop contributing countries are able and willing to enforce robust mandates – and a lack of the political underpinning needed to ensure missions’ success.

We are committed to modernizing peacekeeping missions and pressing to fill critical gaps and as the nation contributing over 28 percent of the UN peacekeeping budget and with a seat on the Security Council, we obviously have strong views. We are engaging with and support the new Independent Panel chaired by former President Jose Ramos-Horta to review UN peace operations, and in fact held serious discussions with panel members at the State Department on Tuesday.

Also earlier this week, both Ambassador Power and Deputy Secretary Blinken spoke forcefully on the continued U.S. commitment to peacekeeping and the gaps we are focused on filling, and President Obama will host a Peacekeeping Summit in New York in September.

Finally, we find accomplishment where the international system provides unique specialized and technical expertise. Consider, for example, the ongoing negotiations related to Iran’s nuclear program. While I want in no way to prejudge the outcome of those negotiations, I do think they offer an important reminder of the need to invest in credible international organizations. In this instance, I’m referring to the International Atomic Energy Agency, which occupies an indispensable place on the global stage as an authoritative technical entity.

As the Iran negotiations continue through the P5+1 process, the IAEA has the proven capacity to undertake the monitoring and verification roles that would likely be required of it under any agreement and that have been required to verify compliance under the Joint Plan of Action. Imagine how much more difficult these already highly technical and complex negotiations would be without the existence of this international agency.

In a similar vein, I think it fair to speculate that the international community would have struggled mightily to deal with the Assad regime’s chemical weapons stockpiles in the absence of the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons. I take little risk in suggesting that not all of knew about the OPCW before their services and capabilities were required in Syria, and the fact that those capabilities were employed effectively further endorses the sustained investment required to maintain the many and varied elements of our modern international system.

Now, these accomplishments are real, they are valuable, and in many cases they contribute directly to our national security. There are also, to be sure, areas in where the international system falls short, and while I have alluded to several already, they bear repeating.

First, there is one suite of issues that I believe represents one of the UN system’s biggest sustained failures. That is, of course, the treatment of Israel-Palestine issues.

There remains a persistent, corrosive bias against Israel in many UN fora, including the UN General Assembly, the Human Rights Council, UNESCO, and beyond. It is made manifest in resolutions and commissions of inquiry, and reinforced by incendiary language and bloc voting. This bias diminishes every international body in which it is allowed to persist, and does nothing to advance the vision of a two-state solution in the Middle East.

Recently, more assertive Palestinian action has compounded the challenge. They have sought to elevate their status in the General Assembly and elsewhere across the UN system. They sought and won member state status at UNESCO, which triggered a legislative requirement that the U.S. cease funding that organization. They signed the Rome Statute and are seeking to employ the ICC to adjudicate questions that should be left to negotiations to resolve.

This appropriation of the international system is more than a dangerous precedent. It poses a threat to the legitimacy and viability of institutions, and provides ready ammunition to those who would seek to diminish U.S. leadership across the international system.

In a similar vein, the UN system is frequently and justifiably criticized for providing open venues for rogue states and bad global actors. I’ll brace myself for the laugh track when I tell you that Venezuela is on the Security Council and China, Russia, and Cuba are members of the Human Rights Council. Bloc voting can result in counterintuitive outcomes, and bad actors are sometimes determined to employ multilateral venues to advance goals antithetical to the hosting organization.

I think we can all agree that these realities are unfortunate at best and all too often corrosive and damaging. And there are times when the system in which we’ve invested so much just doesn’t perform as well or as quickly as we’d want – for example WHO being so slow off the mark in responding to the Ebola crisis.

Finally, in the category of shortcomings we need to make special note of continued management, transparency, and accountability failings. Such failings have a profound impact on the international system – damaged credibility, diminished impact, and justifiable exposure to critics. In this category I would include a long history of poorly managed or mismanaged budgets, a sclerotic personnel system, an opaque response to crises such as sexual exploitation and abuse by UN peacekeepers.

The United States is at the forefront of efforts across the UN system to promote the positive evolution in the management cultures of all organizations and agencies. Sometimes we feel a little lonely in that position, but our sustained focus on these issues is beginning to make a difference. There is more budget transparency and accountability in many organizations today. There are more robust investigation tools. There is momentum toward addressing the lack of uniform whistleblower protections.

These steps and others are important, but we must be unrelenting in our demand for continuous, thoughtful evolution of the UN’s psychology and physiology.

In order to see that evolution realized, member states must care, and many do, including of course the United States. We care because we’ve built this system to manage shared responses to global challenges. As many before me have said, if the United Nations didn’t exist, we would almost certainly have to invent it – and I’m not sure in today’s world, that we could.

The United Nations at 70 shows some of its age, to be sure. But the questions facing the global community today demand an invigorated international system, not an internment. And that system is trying to get a lot done this year – in its 70th year – from major negotiations on post-2015 and climate, to peacekeeping reform, to addressing the threats of (inaudible) by violent extremism, to negotiations around the UN budget, to major discussions on internet governance and cyber security and Security Council reform. And let’s not forget the geopolitical shifts that underlie all these questions – from a revanchinist Russia to an increasingly assertive India, China, and Brazil.

Indeed, in some ways this seems like a test year for the UN system: can it still deliver on the kinds of big-ticket multilateral agenda items it is trying to get done? Can it prove that it has evolved and is continuing to evolve to take on new challenges? Will we and other member states continue to see value in using this system – will it continue to deliver for us?

These important questions will all be tested as the year proceeds, and I hope I’ve given some flavor today of why it’s so important that the answers continue to be “yes.”

For now, I want to thank you very much for your attention this afternoon, and I look forward to our conversation.

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.

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

Gina Casar: Remarks at the Opening Ceremony of the Global South-South Development Expo, Organization of American States

17 Nov 2014

Washington D.C., USA

Your Excellency Ambassador Abulkalam Abdul Momen, President of the High Level Committee on South-South Cooperation and Permanent Representative of Bangladesh to the UN;

Your Excellency Ambassador Kingsley Mamabolo,

Chair-elect of the Group of 77 and Permanent Representative of South Africa to the UN;

Ms. Rebeca Grynspan, Secretary General of Secretaría General Iberoamericana;

Mr. José Miguel Insulza, Secretary-General of the Organization of American States;

Mr. Christian Friis Bach, Executive Secretary of UN Economic Commission for Europe;

Mr. Jon Lomøy, Director of OECD-DAC;

Mr. Yiping Zhou, Envoy of the UN Secretary-General and Director of the UN Office for South-South Cooperation;

Excellencies,

Ladies and Gentlemen,

Good morning and welcome to the 2014 Global South-South Development Expo.

Allow me to first warmly thank the Organization of American States and Secretary-General José Miguel Insulza for generously hosting the Expo in Washington DC.

Let me also congratulate the United Nations Office for South-South Cooperation – proudly hosted by UNDP – for organizing the Expo and for being a champion of co-operation and partnership across the global South.

The theme of this year’s Expo, ‘Scaling up South-South and Triangular Cooperation for Sustainable Development’, is particularly timely.

Next year, in 2015, world leaders will meet in Addis Ababa at the Financing for Development Conference, in New York for the UN Summit to adopt the new post-2015 agenda, and in Paris for the UN Climate Conference. The convergence of these and other important fora make it a decisive year. The decisions made will put the world on a trajectory to greater sustainability, equity, and prosperity – or move it further away. South-South and triangular cooperation already does – and can increasingly help us to get on track.

UNDP takes a proactive approach to supporting and facilitating South-South and triangular Cooperation because we are convinced – it is a necessary piece of the sustainable development puzzle. Without more and more effective cooperation, collaboration, and partnerships – including across and between countries in the Global South – the world is likely to fall short of addressing its shared and pressing challenges, and miss out on the opportunity to improve the lives of people everywhere. With so much on the line, this is a risk we all cannot afford to take.

South-South cooperation is a central part of the rise of the South and the good news is that South-South cooperation is already embedded in the way countries in the Global South do business.

Let me give you some quick facts. From 2008 to 2009, developing countries exported more to one another than they did to developed countries. Since 2011, developing countries have traded products and services worth more than $4 trillion dollars.

Investment flows to developing economies, much of it originating from the South, reached a new high in 2013, accounting for 52 per cent of total global foreign direct investment. In 2011, the value of South-South development assistance was estimated to have reached between $16.1 billion and $19 billion. By some accounts, the real value is higher.

The result has transformed the world economy and altered international relations forever. Hundreds of millions have been lifted from poverty – joining the ranks of the growing global middle class.

However, such achievements are undoubtedly uneven – within and between countries in the South. Rapid environmental degradation, extreme weather events, social instability, and violence have also left much of the new middle class feeling vulnerable – while threatening the livelihoods and lives of those confined to poor communities.

No one is safe from climate change, deforestation, water pollution and increasingly extreme natural disasters.

Without clean water, healthy air, or safe climate – no one can profit or prosper. A balance between economic growth and measures that improve people’s lives will raise the prospect of our societies and protect the one planet on which we depend.

The Global South has the biggest stake in ensuring that growth and prosperity is sustained, inclusive, and extends across the South. Through South-South Cooperation, countries in the Global South are acknowledging that their fates are intertwined, and that they must spare no effort to ensure that the jump in human progress is sustained. There are many encouraging examples:

• The Sister Cities International Sino-African Initiative is a trilateral partnership among the cities of Nairobi in Kenya, Denver in the USA, and Kunming in China. This initiative aims to ensure development and poverty alleviation projects address community needs, and promote transparent business practices and government accountability. As a result, access to safe water and toilet facilities to schools are successfully expanding in Nairobi.

• India IMPEX’s SUNLITE Off-grid Solar Lighting Initiative has developed a simple lantern that works for approximately 8 to 9 hours on a single day’s charge. UNHCR has procured these innovative solar lanterns for refugee camps in Kenya, Liberia, Sudan and Uganda, among others.

• Thus far, this South-South initiative has planted millions of hectares of biomass for ethanol and biodiesel production; 100,000 jobs have already been created in the first phase; youth have received leadership and management training; dependence on fossil fuel has been reduced by 10 per cent of total consumption; electricity has been distributed to remote communities; and the beneficiary population is currently about 1 million people.

• In Africa – Angola, Namibia and the Republic of South Africa have formed the Benguela Current Commission by which the three countries work together to protect an ecosystem that is highly rich in fish and other marine natural resources, across their shared coastal waters in the Atlantic Ocean.

These global examples are a testament that solutions often emerge from where the challenges are. We know that at UNDP and we are more committed than ever, and uniquely prepared, to support development partners in their efforts.

• We have placed South-South cooperation and triangular cooperation at the core of UNDP’s Strategic Plan for the period 2014-2017.

• Facilitating South-South and triangular cooperation, is central to UNDP’s ability to obtain development results. Through our presence on the ground in 177 countries and territories, UNDP offers global perspective, local insight, capacity and skills to link countries and communities to knowledge, best practice, and lessons learned.

• We have established global policy centres in Brazil, Kenya, the Republic of Korea, Singapore and Turkey to facilitate South-South policy coordination and other interactions. We are also supporting initiatives under seven strategic partnership agreements that we have signed with Brazil, China, India, Indonesia, Mexico, South Africa and Turkey.

• UNDP has also declared its commitment to become a knowledge broker, through initiatives to identify, share, and adapt scalable and tested solutions from the South.

I am very pleased that UNDP is joining so many other UN organizations here, along with a high level representation from Member States, to showcase successful South-South and triangular partnership solutions.

The challenge we face now is to find ways that would enable us to effectively scale up proven solutions widely, and sustainably, together.

South-South and triangular cooperation offer a path to balancing growth and equity in the context of a new collaborative Global Partnership for Sustainable Development, where all stakeholders stand shoulder to shoulder in their political, economic, social, and environmental development efforts.

The spirit of solidarity that inspires South-South and triangular cooperation creates the space for developing countries to share lessons on policy choices, business models, and technological innovations that have been effective in lifting millions out of poverty.

Yet despite this impressive progress, one child in five still goes to bed hungry, 1.3 billion people still live in extreme poverty, 2.5 billion people still lack access to decent sanitation facilities, women and girls continue to face gender discrimination and violence, and climate change and greenhouse gas emissions still pose a major threat to populations and ecosystems.

South-South cooperation holds the promise to make a difference in the lives of millions.

As we approach the 2015 MDG target date, it is clear that strengthened efforts are needed to accelerate progress. And critical to success are broad-based global partnerships for sustainable development.

All development partners are here this week. And together, we can achieve much, much more than we can even imagine on our own.

I wish you all a very productive and rewarding Expo.

Thank you!

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. 

###

World will benefit greatly from more future-oriented, integrated Asia – Ban

13 November 2014 – Asia – and indeed the world – will benefit greatly from a future-oriented Asian region that is ever more integrated, engaged and assuming greater responsibilities commensurate with its clout, Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said today, addressing a regional summit in Myanmar.

Asia is on the “leading edge” of 21st century solutions, but it is plagued by tensions rooted in another time including historical and territorial disputes that have to be managed and resolved peacefully” Mr. Ban told the 9th East-Asia Summit, held in Nay Pyi Taw.

“We know the absence of dialogue heightens the risk of escalation – even inadvertent conflict – due to misunderstanding or miscalculation,” Mr. Ban added, welcoming the Summit and its efforts to build an Asia-wide institutional framework for dialogue.

The Secretary-General called on Asian countries to expand their coordination and explore creating a new security architecture for closer regional cooperation, especially in the Northeast Asia. The world faces immense challenges that cannot be addressed by one conflict or organization alone, he said.

Conflict continues to rage in Syria, Iraq and beyond. The Ebola virus continues its deadly grip on West Africa. Threats such as drug trafficking, transnational crime and terrorism are growing in intensity and feeding off each other.

Mr. Ban applauded the initiative of the Republic of Korea to complement existing security or coordination mechanisms and explore ways to fill the current gaps in dialogue. He also welcomed efforts such as those by China and Japan to find a constructive, positive path forward.

Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon meets with Aung San Suu Kyi, Chairperson of Myanmar’s National League for Democracy (NLD). UN Photo/Rick Bajornas

Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon addresses members of the local media in Myanmar, during his trip to the country to attend the ASEAN Summit. UN Photo/Rick Bajornas

Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon greets a member of the local media in Myanmar. UN Photo/Rick Bajornas

Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon (left) meets with Takehiko Nakao, President of the Asian Development Bank (ADB), in Nay Pyi Taw, Myanmar. UN Photo/Rick Bajornas

Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon (left) meets with Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev of the Russian Federation, in Nay Pyi Taw, Myanmar. UN Photo/Rick Bajornas

Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon (left) meets with Thura Shwe Mann, Speaker of the Pyidaungsu Hluttaw (or Assembly of the Union) of Myanmar. UN Photo/Rick Bajornas

Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon (left) meets with President Thein Sein of Myanmar. UN Photo/Rick Bajornas

Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon with local UN staff in Myanmar. UN Photo/Rick Bajornas

Various international issues and challenges including regional maritime security, the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, pandemics, natural disasters, illegal trafficking in arms, narcotics and people, and environmental degradation depend on enhanced cooperation among the countries of Asia.

“I thank many countries around this table for stepping up in solidarity to respond to the unprecedented Ebola outbreak in West Africa,” Mr. Ban said, urging the need to help speed up efforts to first get the crisis under control with an “all hands on deck” approach.

Efforts are paying dividends with the rate of new Ebola cases showing encouraging signs of slowing. But as caseloads go down in some areas, they are rising in others. Huge gaps remain in funding, equipment and medical personnel.

As for regional issues, the Secretary-General called for more to be done to reduce the risks of disasters in Asia. Mr. Ban commended leadership on improving disaster response capacities – and look forward to active participation in the third UN World Conference on Disaster Risk Reduction, in Sendai, Japan next March.

Next year will be pivotal for three important priorities, namely, the target year of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), shaping the post-2015 development agenda, the sustainable development goals and addressing climate change.

The Secretary-General commended yesterday’s announcement by the Governments of China and the United States of their post-2020 action on climate change.

All countries, especially all major economies, should follow the lead of the world’s two largest economies and announce ambitious post-2020 targets no later than the first quarter of 2015.

On the margins of the Summit, the Secretary-General met with Myanmar’s President Thein Sein commending him for advancing the peace process between the Government and ethnic armed groups. Mr. Ban underlined the need for all stakeholders to move toward signing a ceasefire and beginning a political dialogue.

Concerning the situation in Rakhine and the continued polarization between the communities, Mr. Ban took note of the recent developments, including the appointment of a new Chief Minister and consultations on the three-year Action Plan. Underlying causes had to be addressed through substantive and early action, including on the issue of citizenship.

The establishment of the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights in the country would help further strengthen human rights, the UN Chief said.

Mr. Ban also met with Thura U Shwe Mann, Speaker of the Lower House of Myanmar’s Parliament, to highlight the positive role it has played. Debates in Parliament on media laws, hate speech, interfaith marriage, religious conversion, and other issues would help promote democracy and communal harmony.

The Secretary-General also underlined the role the Parliament could play in ensuring that the upcoming general election process would be credible, inclusive and transparent.

Speaking with the Chairperson of the National League for Democracy (NLD), Daw Aung San Suu Kyi, Mr. Ban commended her important role in leading the opposition and her positive contributions toward strengthening the democratic fabric of Myanmar.

The Secretary-General and Daw Aung San Suu Kyi exchanged views on the upcoming elections, constitutional reform and national reconciliation in Rakhine and elsewhere in the country. There was great expectation that the upcoming elections in 2015 would be transparent and fair.

Mr. Ban also met with Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev to discuss the conflict in Ukraine. He expressed strong concern at the current situation and its impact on the relations between Russia and Europe as well as the United States.

Russia should use its considerable influence to help de-escalate the conflict and bring Ukraine back to a path of peace and stability. All parties should ensure that the Minsk Protocol be fully implemented.

Prime Minister Medvedev and Mr. Ban also discussed the post-2015 development agenda and climate change. In addition, the Secretary-General thanked Russia for its role in the Ebola response.

Press Briefing by Press Secretary Josh Earnest, Deputy National Security Advisor for Strategic Communications Ben Rhodes and U.S. Trade Representative Michael Froman

The White House

Office of the Press Secretary

For Immediate Release

November 11, 2014

Intercontinental Hotel
Beijing, China

10:56 A.M. CST

MR. EARNEST:  Good morning, everybody.  It’s nice to see you all.  You don’t look nearly as bleary-eyed as I expected.  I’m joined today by Ben Rhodes, the President’s Deputy National Security Advisor, and Ambassador Mike Froman, who is the United States Trade Representative.

Ambassador Froman has, as you would expect, primarily focused on the aspects of the President’s trip that’s focused on the economy and strengthening the American economy and expanding economic opportunity for Americans back home.  That is, as you would expect, a core component of the President’s agenda while he out here so Mike has got a couple of things to talk to you about.

Then we’ll turn it over to Ben, who will do a review of some of the other aspects of the agenda that the President has been discussing in the context of these APEC meetings but also what we’ll be focused on in the context of the President’s bilateral meetings with President Xi that will begin later on this evening.

And then after that, the three of us will be up here to take questions you have on any topic.  We’ll do this for 45 minutes or so.  All right, Ambassador Froman, would you like to start us off?

AMBASSADOR FROMAN:  Well, thanks, Josh, and I’d like to start with an announcement on an important breakthrough we had in our negotiations with China on the Information Technology Agreement, or ITA, and that’s news that the President just shared with his other APEC leaders at the leaders summit.

Last night, we reached a breakthrough in our ongoing efforts to expand the Information Technology Agreement.  This is a WTO agreement that eliminates tariffs on high-tech products among 54 economies, including the U.S. and China.  And to give you some idea of the importance of this agreement, the last time the WTO agreed to eliminate tariffs on IT products was in 1996 when most of the GPS technology, much of the medical equipment software, high-tech gadgetry that we rely on in our daily lives didn’t even exist.  In fact, since that time, global trade in these types of high-tech products have reached $4 trillion annually.  And despite the explosion of trade, the coverage of the ITA of products has never been expanded.

And so that’s why for the last two years, we’ve been working to –- very intensively –- with our global partners to expand the Information Technology Agreement.  But unfortunately, during the summer of 2013, those talks broke down due to disagreements over the scope of coverage -– what list of products would be covered by the agreement, with most countries, led by the U.S., working to achieve an ambitious outcome.

Since that time, the United States and China have been working to close our differences but without a breakthrough sufficient to resume the plurilateral negotiations in Geneva.  And that finally changed here last night with an agreement between the U.S. and China that we expect will pave the way for the resumption of ITA negotiations in Geneva and their swift conclusion.  And that will be the first major tariff-cutting agreement in the WTO in 17 years.  At a time when there have been a lot of FTAs and other regional arrangements, the WTO hasn’t actually cut tariffs in 17 years and the ITA presents the first opportunity to do that.

This is encouraging news for the U.S.-China relationship.  It shows how the U.S. and China work together to both advance our bilateral economic agenda but also to support the multilateral trading system.  And it also underscores the importance of institutions like APEC — regional organizations — APEC actually gave birth to the ITA back in 1996.  It’s always been a key part of the ITA –- APEC leaders have always called for swift conclusion of the ITA so this is another indication of the utility of forums like this.

Industry estimates have concluded that successfully concluding the ITA would eliminate tariffs on roughly $1 trillion of global sales of IT products.  It would contribute to global GDP $190 billion and would support up to 60,000 additional U.S. jobs in technology and manufacturing.  And by also boosting productivity around the world and particularly in developing countries.

So we’re going to take what’s been achieved here in Beijing back to the Geneva and work with our WTO partners.  And while we don’t take anything for granted, we’re hopeful that we’ll be able to work quickly to bring ITA to a successful conclusion, and that will help support good-paying jobs in the United States, where we lead the world in creating and selling made-in-America high-tech products that the world is hungry to buy.

Let me conclude just about — a word perhaps about TPP, which has obviously been another area of major focus while we’re here.  As you all know, President Obama convened the TPP leaders yesterday.  They had a very productive conversation.  It was a good opportunity to take stock of where we were in the negotiations, to provide political impetus and guidance in terms of resolving the remaining issues.  All the leaders made clear in that joint statement that we’ve narrowed many of the gaps.

There’s still work to be done, but the end of these important negotiations is coming into focus, and that’s awfully important to the United States from a number of perspectives — it’s with 40 percent of the global economy covered by TPP, some of the fastest-growing markets in the world successfully concluding TPP will help support jobs, promote growth, strengthen the middle class in the United States.  It’s a key part of our rebalancing strategy, it underscores how the U.S. is embedded in this region and how the economic wellbeing of this region is integrally related to the wellbeing of the economy in the United States.

And with that, I’ll turn it over to Ben.

MR. RHODES:  Great, I’ll just give a brief preview of the President’s upcoming meetings here in China, and then we can take your questions on Mike’s issues or any other issues in foreign or domestic policy.

With respect to the bilateral visit here to China, the two issues that we’ve highlighted over the course of the last two days I think are the key priorities that we were able to get down and closed out around this bilateral visit:  That is the visa announcement that was made yesterday, and then the bilateral understanding on ITA that was reached today.

I think what speaks to the significance and dynamism of the U.S. economic — U.S.-China economic relationship.  Today at APEC that is clearly going to be broadened out into a discussion in regional issues related to trade and economic cooperation, as well as a number of other areas.

But as you know, tonight the President will have a dinner with President Xi Jinping of China to kick off the state visit portion of our time here in Beijing.  And then tomorrow, the two leaders will have bilateral meetings, as well.

In addition to discussing and marking the progress that’s been made on these bilateral economic issues, they’ll also discuss a range of other bilateral and global issues that are of mutual interest to the United States and China.

Specifically I’d expect there to be a discussion around our cooperation on clean energy and climate change as our two countries prepare for the ongoing international climate negotiations heading into next year.

We’ll have a discussion of a number of regional security issues, among them our shared commitment to denuclearization on the Korean Peninsula, as well as the security environment in the broader Asia Pacific region, including our interest in maritime security and the situation in the South and East China Sea.  We’ll discuss our military-to-military relationship and what we can do to develop greater dialogue and cooperation and confidence-building measures working together.

There will certainly be a discussion of the ongoing talk in Iran with Iran over its nuclear program.  And Secretary Kerry will be joining the President from Oman, where he’s been in a trilateral dialogue with the Foreign Minister of Iran and Cathy Ashton from the European Union.

Cybersecurity, of course, will be an important focus for the President given some of our concerns related to cybersecurity and the theft of intellectual property.  Afghanistan is an area where we are looking to cooperate with China.  We very much welcomed President Ghani visit here to Beijing earlier in the year and believe that China can be a partner in promoting development and stability in Afghanistan going forward.

Global issues like Ebola and ISIL will certainly be a part of the discussion.  And we’ve worked with China to enlist them in the effort to fight the outbreak of Ebola in West Africa.  And then, of course, as is always the case when we meet with China we’ll have a discussion around areas where we have differences — not just cybersecurity, but issues related to human rights and universal values.

So there will be a very broad agenda.  I think we’ve already had very good progress on our leader economic priorities heading into the visit with the ITA and visa understandings that were reached.  I think that shows an ability to identify areas of practical cooperation with China even as we’re, of course, going to have differences on a range of other political, economic and security issues.

And so tomorrow we’ll have those believe meetings.  And then the President will be hosted at a lunch here.  He’ll have a chance to meet with a range of Chinese officials before leaving for the EAS and ASEAN summits in Naypyidaw.

So with that, we’ll move to questions.

MR. EARNEST:  Let’s get started.  Julie, do you want to take us up?

Q       I have one two for Mike and one for Ben also.  Mike, can you say exactly what the U.S. and China agreed to that led to the breakthrough?  And, Ben, with the Obama and Xi bilat starting, the President has invested a lot of personal time in trying to build a relationship with Xi.  At the same time, China continues to be provocative on cyber and maritime issues.  How do you see their personal relationship at this point?  And how does that affect their conversations over the next two days?

AMBASSADOR FROMAN:  Sure, so the ITA is basically a list of tariff lines that are to be covered by tariff elimination.  And we now have agreed to more than 200 tariff lines representing about a trillion dollars of trade to be covered by the ITA.  And some of the — for the last six months we’ve been focused not just on the quantity of the lines, but the quality of the lines.  And the lines that have the greatest potential, for example, for U.S. exports, where the U.S. plays a leading role, areas of expected future growth.  So things like high-end semiconductors where there are tariffs up to 25 percent currently.  We already export over $2 billion of high-tech, high-end semiconductors even with 25 percent tariffs.  Eliminating those tariffs will obviously expand that trade significantly.  It’s an area where we have a comparative advantage, and where we can support a lot of good well-paying American jobs.

Same thing on medical equipment, MRIs, CAT scans.  We export more than $2 billion of those products a year, and they face high tariffs around the region — 8 percent in some places, as well as tariffs elsewhere.  This will eliminate those tariffs and allow us to expand our exports.

Same is true on some of the high-tech instruments that have become components in advanced manufacturing that we’re very much involved in.  So those were some of the issues that we had a breakthrough on that will allow the negotiations now to move forward in Geneva.

MR. RHODES:  Sure, Julie, on your second question, the President has invested a good deal of time and energy in his relationship with President Xi.  I think if you look at the breadth of the agenda, it’s clearly, as Secretary Kerry said, the most consequential bilateral relationship in the world.  And what they were able to do at Sunnylands is cover this whole spectrum of issues.  And, in fact, actually the ITA came up at Sunnylands so this was an area of focus on our trade agenda.

And I think what the President was able to do is convey in that meeting his thinking on all these issues, both strategically and at a tactical level, and he was able to hear the same from President Xi.  Again, Xi Jinping has clearly established himself as a strong and assertive leader here in China.  And the way we look at the relationship is there, at any given time, are going to be areas where we can identify ways to make progress and then there are going to be areas where we’re going to have differences.

And I think we’ve been opportunistic in saying, okay, where do we have an agreement that we can drive the relationship forward on something like visas or ITA.  But on, frankly, the global security issues like Iran and North Korea, the Chinese have been constructive partners.  In the Iran negotiations, they have played a constructive role in being unified with the P5-plus-1, in pressing Iran to take this opportunity to demonstrate that their program is peaceful.  In North Korea, they’ve taken a very strong line to support the notion that denuclearization has to be the goal of any discussions with North Korea.

When we look at the global issues, we’ve encouraged China to play a more assertive role on things like Ebola.  We want them to be stepping up to the plate and kicking in more resources so we welcome the desire from China that is clearly on display here at this summit to play a role in the international community commensurate to its economic and political standing, and its standing as the world’s most populous nation.

At the same time, we’re going to be very clear when we believe that China’s actions are actually pushing outside the boundaries of what we believe to be the necessary international norms that govern the relations between nations and the ways in which we resolve disputes.  And so when we see things on cyber security where we have Chinese actions that disadvantage U.S. businesses or steal intellectual property, we’re going to be very candid about that.

On maritime security, what we’ve said is we’re not a claimant, but there cannot be a situation where a bigger nation is simply allowed to bully smaller nations.  There has to be a means of resolving disputes through international law and international cooperation through discussion between China, for instance, and ASEAN countries on the South China Sea, dialogue between China and Japan on issues related to the Senkakus.  And to that end, actually, we welcomed the meeting yesterday between President Xi and Prime Minister Abe as an opportunity to reduce the tensions between those two countries.

So I think the benefit of the personal relationship is that they know where they’re coming from.  There’s no mystery in our position on these issues, there’s no mystery on the Chinese position.  What we need to do is find when there’s an opening, we take it, and we run through that opening, we work together.  And when there’s a difference, we’re just going to keep raising it repeatedly with China, raising it in international forums like this and try to find ways to encourage China to work within an international system that ultimately is going to be the best way of delivering stability, prosperity, security to this part of the world and also dealing with global challenges.

Q       One for Ambassador Froman and one for Ben.  Ambassador, what are the remaining sticking points when it comes to TPP?  And you say the end of negotiations are coming into focus –- what specifically does that mean?  Do you have a timeline in your head for when there might be an actual deal?  And, Ben, can you talk a little bit about what, if any, specific asks President Obama will have on Ebola and ISIS when he meets with President XI?

MR. EARNEST:  Okay, so just to repeat –- I’ll try to repeat the questions just so everybody can hear them.  So the question about TPP –- final sticking points and timeline for completion, and then any requests that President Obama will make related to ISIS -– ISIL and Ebola.  So, Mike, do you want to go first?

AMBASSADOR FROMAN:  Well, with TPP, it’s a two-track negotiation.  There’s market access and then there are the rules.  In market access, we’ve made very significant progress with most countries, including Japan, on agriculture and on autos we’ve made progress.  We’re not done yet, there are still outstanding issues, but we have made quite good progress there in recent weeks.

On the rules issues, we’re working to close out issues and narrow differences on the remaining.  I’d say areas that there are still issues we need to work through include intellectual property rights, state-owned enterprises, the environment –- those are three examples of areas where we’re paying particular attention to, to try and further narrow the differences and find appropriate landing zones.

In terms of the end coming into focus, these negotiations are an ongoing reiterative process.  And at every stage, we close out issues, we narrow differences, we try and find landing zones, and then we try and build consensus around them.  And I think it’s becoming clearer and clearer what the final landing zones might look like, but we still have some work to do, both to define them and then build support for them.

Q       But can you put any type of timeline —

AMBASSADOR FROMAN:  We’re going to complete it as soon as we achieve the ambitious, comprehensive high standards we set out for ourselves and we’re all working very hard to do that.  There’s a lot of momentum, all the countries are very focused on doing that, but we want to make sure that we get it right.

MR. RHODES:  Kristen, I think on Ebola we’ve encouraged the Chinese and they have made commitments, both financial commitments in the provision of health care workers and support for health care infrastructure in West Africa.  So I think we’ve welcomed those commitments.  We are always encouraging nations to consider ways to do more, but also to galvanize international action — as we head into the G20, for instance.  So I think at the G20 this will be a topic among the countries in Brisbane.  And China obviously has a key role to play there.  So I don’t want to suggest that it’s kind of the lead item on the agenda but I think given the focus that we have on Ebola right now, we want to make sure we’re understanding what the Chinese contributions are, and then how we can work together on a collaborative basis heading into the G20 to get the international community to continue to step up and provide resources.

On ISIL, with respect to China, we obviously wouldn’t anticipate them playing a role in the military coalition.  I think all the countries here in the Asia Pacific region share the concern about foreign fighters going to and from Iraq and Syria, so we can have a discussion around those issues.  I think regionally, too, of course we’ve made clear that any lasting solution is going to have to deal with the political situation inside of Syria.  So it’s an opportunity to exchange views about how to bring about the type of transition that could ultimately end the civil war in Syria.

So I think more likely that they’re going to spend a lot of their time on some of the other issues that I mentioned –- Iran, North Korea, cyber, mil-mil relations, Asia Pacific –- but we want to make sure China is invested on the global agenda that we’re focused on and I think Ebola and ISIL clearly plays into that, particularly on the Ebola front where they can kick in significant resources.

And Ebola is an area where what we said to the Chinese is, there’s both the commitments you can kick in here on Ebola with respect to money and health care workers and infrastructure but also how we’re thinking about infectious disease going forward, and how we have the Global Health Security Initiative where nations are anticipating what’s going to be needed if there are additional outbreaks of different diseases.  And we’ve seen airborne diseases here in the Asia Pacific region.  So I think we want to make sure that when we talk about China playing a bigger role ono the world stage, it’s exactly those types of issues where they can bring resources and expertise to bear in fighting not just Ebola but future infectious disease.

Q       Ambassador Froman, please.  What about the TISA, the Trade in Services Agreement?  There was hope that maybe some steps ahead could have been done also on that subject within the WTO.  Also do you think that you could every close quickly the TPP without a TPA?  And thirdly, what about the development bank for investment in infrastructure that China is building up?  Is the U.S. now open to have it and maybe to participate in it?

MR. EARNEST:  I’ll just repeat the questions.  The Trade in Services Agreement in the context of the broader trade negotiations.  A question about TPA and — what was the last one?  The development bank.

AMBASSADOR FROMAN:  Well, we’ve had quite good progress over the course of this year on the Trade In Services Agreement negotiations.  Several rounds and countries putting on the table offers.  And we have a robust work program going into next year as well.  So there is a lot of work being done on that.  But I would just put in the context of today’s announcement.  I think that the ITA announcement is a significant step in terms of showing the vitality of these plurilateral agreements where countries – likeminded countries can come together and make progress in trade liberalization, whether it’s in Geneva, the WTO, or elsewhere.  So ITA, we took a major step forward today.  TISA is well on its way, the Trade In Services Agreement.  And we have a very good work program ahead.  And earlier this year, we launched the Environmental Goods Agreement negotiation, which also includes China and we hope to work well with China and the other parties in the Environmental Goods Agreement to make progress on that in the coming year or so as well.

On TPP and TPA, our view has always been that the President has made clear that of course he would like to get a Trade Promotion Authority, he’d like to finish TPP consistent with it being an ambitious, comprehensive, high-standard agreement as soon as possible.  And we are working in parallel tracks on that, that ultimately the only guarantee that a trade agreement earns the support of Congress is that we bring back a good agreement.  And our focus is on bringing back an agreement that meets those standards.

On the infrastructure front, obviously the U.S. is very active in the G20 and a variety of other forums, including here at APEC, in talking about the importance of infrastructure and financing for infrastructure.  We have been a strong supporter of the World Bank and the Asian Development Bank.  And we think it’s important that whatever mechanisms are put in place, they live up to the high standards of the multilateral development banks in terms of procurement practices, environmental practices; that they have the very highest standards that exist for international lending.

Q       For Ben.  Ben, before you left on the trip, I think you met with NGOs that were doing work on human rights and democracy in Burma.  What message were they giving to you?  And how do you respond to them when they say, as they maybe have to journalists, it’s not a bump in the road on the reforms when you have the violence going on in some parts of the country.  I think the violence — you have to do more to stand up to — how did you talk to them about that?  And also, how do you carry that message forward in Burma?  What notes will you strike so that the United States doesn’t look like they’re maybe lecturing but rather trying to encourage further —

MR. EARNEST:  Just to repeat the question for everybody else in the room.  Question about how you respond to concerns that have been raised by human rights advocates about the slow pace of progress in Burma, and how does that impact the message that you’ll deliver to Burmese officials when the President is there later this week.

Q       (Inaudible.)

MR. RHODES:  Well, David, I did meet with a number of NGOs, human rights advocates, a number of Burmese separately from that as well who are engaged in civil society there.  I also talked to a lot of the congressional staff that is focused on these issues, given Congress’s interest.  And I think our message is – let me just step back here.  On the one hand, what we’ve seen in the last five years in Burma is transformational.  The opening of a country that had been completely closed off for decades, the opening of some political space, the release of Aung San Suu Kyi, the release of political prisoners, and the initiation, really, of a kind of politics in Burma that just didn’t exist several years ago.  But it’s a country with enormous challenges and enormous needs.  It has a lot to do.

And you don’t complete those types of transitions quickly or easily.  This is going to take years to work through all the different issues that have to be addressed inside of Burma.  However, I think we need to be practical about the timelines associated with those transitions.  When we look at, for instance, Indonesia, the President met with the newly elected President of Indonesia yesterday.  It took many years for them to work through elections and constitutional reforms and dealing with different ethnic groups in the country.  So we’re taking a view here in Burma that this is enormous opportunity for the people inside the country, enormous opportunity for democratization.  However, I think that we are concerned about areas where we do not see progress and where we see significant challenges.  And I think there are really three broad categories that we’re going to be focused on heading into this visit.  One is the ongoing process of political reform in the country.

And, again, what I said to the people I met with is that we share the same objective here –- we share the objective of there being a credible election next year in the parliamentary elections in which the Burmese people can choose their leadership but we also share the objective of supporting the process of constitutional reform inside of Burma.  One election isn’t going to fix all the problems.  There needs to be constitutional reform that enables there to be a fuller transition from military to civilian rule, that enables Burma to choose their own leaders.  And the President will definitely be discussing the progress in planning for those elections but also the progress on, and the need for constitutional reform.  And that’s something that he’ll talk to Thein Sein and Aung San Suu Kyi about.

Secondly, there is the issue in Rakhine State.  And here I think is we’ve seen the most troubling difficulties with the humanitarian situation deteriorating in Rakhine State.  A very specific issue having to do with the treatment of the Rohingya population there.  And there, too, I think we share the same objective of the human rights community.  We want to see better humanitarian access to the Rohingya, to help alleviate the humanitarian situation.  We would like to see a long-term plan, an action plan that does not rely on camps but rather allows people to settle in communities and pursue development within the country.  And we would like to see a process where the Rohingya can become citizens of Burma without having to self-identify as something other than who they are, which is citizens of –- prospective citizens of Burma.

So We’ve been working very hard in the country, working with other countries to try to bring a focus on the situation in Rakhine State, and it will certainly be front and center in the President’s discussions.

Then the third area is the ethnic insurgencies and the ceasefires that have been reached.  Here, I think the government has made a good deal of progress.  They have reached individual ceasefires with many of the different ethnic group.  The Kachin is one that we’ve been particularly focused on of late.  But they’re working to translate that into a nationwide ceasefire that can lead into a process of reconciliation that addresses the underlying issues of ethnic political participation, of economic development in the ethnic areas, and the role of the military as well.

And we believe that there’s a real opportunity here for the government to move forward with this plan.  But again, it has to be one that doesn’t just put a lid on things, but addresses the underlying challenges and works towards the type of federal union that I think has been contemplated in many of the discussions with the ethnic groups.

So we’re coming at a time where a lot of these are in flux.  But the fact of the matter is they can be dealt with through politics — and that’s new in Burma.  That doesn’t mean it’s perfect, but it means that people are going to get around the table; there’s going to be a process for reviewing the constitutional amendments.  There’s going to be elections.  There are going to be talks ongoing with the ethnic groups.  And so we want this opening to continue to move forward.  We want the trajectory to continue to be one of progress.

And the United States can best — I think to sum up my message, the United States can best move that forward by engagement.  If we disengage, frankly I think that there’s a vacuum that could potentially be filled by bad actors.  But when we’re at the table, when we’re pressing these issues, we’re bringing more attention to the situation in Rakhine State.  We are working to bring the parties together in the political process.  We can help facilitate and support through development assistance the implementation of the nationwide ceasefire.

So I covered a lot of ground there, but the bottom line here is I think that we share the same objectives with the advocacy community here.  We are pursuing those objectives through engagement, and we’re clear-eyed about where there’s been progress and where there needs to be more.  And we believe we can best move that along by the President raising this with Thein Sein, with Aung San Suu Kyi.  But you’ll notice he’s also meeting with civil society, he’s meeting with young people.  We’re sending the message that we’re engaging very broadly in this country because we care deeply about its future and we see a real opportunity, but that opportunity can only be seized if they continue moving in the right direction and don’t let some of the recent very significant challenges through the reform off course.

MR. EARNEST:  Carol.

Q       I have one for each of you actually.  On the ITA, can you explain what the difference this one is going to make to the tech industry given that — and how it will impact consumers, and if China got any concessions in this breakthrough?  And then, Ben, you mentioned that Obama and Xi are going to talk about military-to-military cooperation.  Can you guys talk on those building measures?  And have you guys reached agreements on notifying each other about military activities and on a code of conduct for encounters in sea and air?

Josh, on the net neutrality announcement, can you talk about why you guys did that now and what you’re trying to accomplish, and what sort of pushback can you expect from the new Congress?  And whether or not the President has talked to Comcast about it?

MR. EARNEST:  Mike, I’ll let you go first.  Do you want to repeat the question for — I think I lost track by the end.

AMBASSADOR FROMAN:  The benefits of ITA.

Q       Right.  (Off mic) and how it’s going to affect consumers.

AMBASSADOR FROMAN:  Well, in these tariff reduction agreements, it obviously benefits both the producers who can now sell more of their product, but also the consumers — because they’ll see access to products more easily.  And when you’re talking about medical devices, for example — medical equipment, like MRIs and CAT scans, and a whole variety of implantable devices — that means better health care for people all over the world.

The tariffs range as high as 25 percent for some of the next generation semi-conductors; 30 percent for loud speakers; 30 percent for certain software media; 30 percent for video game consoles.  So some of the tariffs are in the 5 to 8 percent range, some are in the 25 to 30 percent range.  And right now the trade in these cover lines is about $1 trillion, and we’d expect it to grow significantly for the benefit of consumers and the benefits of producers, including a lot of products made in the United States.  We export over a billion dollars of these products right now, even with these barriers in place, and that will help support more jobs in the United States.

Q       (Inaudible)

AMBASSADOR FROMAN:  In trade negotiations there’s always issues of how the obligations are phased in over time, and that will be part of what’s discussed in Geneva.

MR. RHODES:  Sure, on the specific nature of the confidence-building measures with the Chinese and mil-mil ties.  I don’t want to get ahead of the discussions, but we’ve certainly been focused on both just simply the lines of communication with China, but also how to address some of the challenges we’ve seen recently, for instance, with respect to circumstances where we certainly came a little too close for comfort between the United States and Chinese military assets.  And so we’re looking at what practical things can be done to build confidence and have more transparency.  So we’ll keep you updated on that.  I don’t want to get ahead of the leaders.

But the bottom-line principle is, first of all, it’s incredibly important that we avoid inadvertent escalation and that we don’t find ourselves having an accidental circumstance lead into something that could precipitate conflict.  So there’s enormous value in that type of dialogue.

And the second point I think is it’s good for the region if the United States and China are able to have greater transparency between our militaries.  I think that will ultimately promote stability.  And we’ve encouraged that type of transparency across the region — whether it’s an ASEAN code of conduct or whether it’s the type of dialogue that President Xi and Prime Minister Abe had yesterday.  This is something that we’ve been encouraging all of our partners to do — to be more transparent, to build confidence, develop practical means to avoid an inadvertent escalation.

So it will be an important topic of their meeting, and we’ll keep you updated on it.

Q       So just the two things that —

MR. RHODES:  I mean, there are those and then there’s just the broader nature of our military-to-military relationship and how we interact, how we have exchanges.  So I think we’ll have more to say on this, but I don’t want to get ahead of the leaders.

MR. EARNEST:  And then before we move on to — just on the net neutrality question that you raised earlier, Carol — I know that there are members of Congress on both sides of this issue who have made their views known.  The White House has been in touch with the business community on a variety of issues, as we always are.  And I know that this is something that, again, on both sides of this issue they are very strongly held views.

The position that the President articulated in the statement that was released today is consistent with the President’s previously expressed strongly held views about the important of an open Internet; that the Internet has been the source of innovation, that it’s been good for the economy, in particular in the United States.  And putting in place a regulatory regime that does not allow some of those companies to sort of extend some preferential treatment to some content is an important way that we can protect the freedom and openness that’s associated with the Internet that will ensure that it continues to be a space that’s open to innovation and progress.

But again, this is something that has been — has engendered strongly held views on both sides, so I would anticipate this will continue to be a pretty robust debate in the political sphere back home in the United States.

I will say that in terms of the timing of this announcement, it is not related to this specific trip; that there are some regulatory decisions that are due.  And the President felt like this was an appropriate time to, again, reiterate his views about the important principle that’s at stake here.

Ed.

Q       Ben, I had a question about Putin in terms of — I know it was just a brief conversation so far.  But can you say anything that happened there?  But also more importantly moving forward what you hope to accomplish, what message you hope to send to Putin because we’ve heard again and again that sanctions are working against Russia.  And certainly we’ve seen the ruble in the last couple days — there’s been an economic impact.  But the administration put out a statement a day or two ago saying that heavy artillery and tanks are being sent to the front line basically by Russia.  And that’s your own assessment.  So doesn’t that suggest that the sanctions are not stopping them from this heavy influence inside Ukraine?

MR. EARNEST:  The question is about the exchange between the President — President Obama and President Putin yesterday and the impact of sanctions on influencing Russia’s actions in Ukraine.  Ben, you want to take that.

MR. RHODES:  Sure.  Well, first of all, their interaction, as I think we said last night, it was very brief.  The leaders greeted each other as the President greeted many leaders.  They did not have the substantive exchange that they do today on the margins of APEC, where I think there’s a lot more time.  We’ll certainly let you know.

But, Ed, I think — first on the message and then on the situation in Ukraine specifically, on Ukraine, we continue to be deeply troubled by Russia’s activities.  And I guess to take your question head-on, the sanctions are clearly succeeding and having an impact on the Russian economy.  There’s no question that if you look at every metric from the status of the ruble, to their projections for growth, that the Russian economic picture is grim and getting grimmer because of the sanctions.

The sanctions have yet to sufficiently affect Russia’s calculus as it relates to Ukraine.  That’s why we continue to impose them.  That’s why we continue to be very clear about where we need to see better Russian action, specifically, as you said, we’ve seen the continued provision of support to the separatists, including heavy weapons that are in complete violation of the spirit of the Minsk agreement.  And what our message is to Russia is there’s an agreement that you reached with the government in Kyiv, and you just abide by that agreement.  The separatists must abide by that agreement.  And escalating the situation by providing these types of weapons into Ukraine is clearly not in service of that process.

And what Russia will find is, if they continue to do that, it’s a recipe for isolation from a broad swath of the international community.  It’s a recipe for the type of economic disruption they’ve seen from the sanctions going forward.

So our message is one of resolve in insisting upon the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Ukraine.  It’s a message that there is a road map here through the Minsk agreement that should be followed.  And the President will certainly I think express that view publicly and privately in the coming days and weeks.

I think more broadly with Russia, I think at the same time we’ve had differences with them on Ukraine, we’re working to pursue an Iran agreement.  We’re working in a range of areas where we can make progress together.  But clearly what we’ve seen is a troubling focus from President Putin on the situation in Ukraine that is going to demand a response from the international community going forward, just as it has the last several months.  And the United States is going to be committed to leading that response.

MR. EARNEST:  Mark.

Q       Thank you.  Just a question for Mike and then a question either for Mike or Ben — if more appropriate.

On the trade talks, Mike, I’m paraphrasing, but you said earlier the best way to get Congress to pass a TPP deal is to bring them a very good agreement.  And some trade analysts say that that sort of has it backwards, that you sort of need to get the TPA authority first because that allows you to obtain concessions from trading partners.

I’m wondering sort of whether you think you can get those concessions without the President having TPA, and whether foreign leaders have pressed the President in the wake of the elections to try to get that authority from Congress.

And then secondly on cyber, the working group that Secretary Kerry set up on the cybersecurity issues obviously stopped working after the charges were brought against the Chinese military officers for hacking.  Will President Obama in his talks with President Xi encourage him, ask him to resume the dialogue of that working group?

MR. EARNEST:  So just to restate the two issues on the microphone, the second question was about the cybersecurity working group and the relationship between the U.S. and China and how the President will raise that with President Xi when they discuss it tomorrow.

And then the first question was related to does the Ambassador feel as if he can reach a good agreement with other countries without having TPA authority first, right?  Okay.

Ambassador Froman.

AMBASSADOR FROMAN:  Well, our approach has always been to pursue both in parallel and to make clear that ultimately, again, as I said the only guarantee that agreement gets the support of Congress is that it is a good agreement and meets that ambitious, comprehensive, high-standard outcome that we have sought to achieve.

I think — we have an ongoing discussion with our trading partners.  They follow our political system very closely, and we have made clear — and I think they understand — that every country has its domestic processes to go through on trade agreements.  And we’re responsible for ours, and they’re responsible for theirs.  And as the President has made clear that he wants to work with leaders in Congress, Republican and Democratic leaders in Congress, to advance the trade agenda, that has allowed our negotiations to continue.  So we’re continuing to work in parallel to close out the TPP negotiations consistent with the high standard that we’ve set for ourselves.  And we’re continuing to work with Congress to achieve trade promotion authority with as broad bipartisan support as possible.

MR. EARNEST:  Ben, do you want to do the cyber?

MR. RHODES:  Yes, Mark, it’s certainly the case that after those charges were brought we did see a chill in the cyber dialogue.  I think the fact that we pursued those cases demonstrates that we’re not going to simply stand idly by.  If we see activity that we don’t like, that we can call out, we’re going to do that.

At the same time, though, we do believe that it’s better if there’s a mechanism for a dialogue where we can raise concerns directly with one another.  So I think President Obama will highlight the importance of having a means to have a cyber-dialogue so that our governments can share information.  We can be direct about areas of concern.  We can try to find ways to build confidence in that space, as well.

So it is something where we’ve been very firm in our position.  We did see a Chinese reaction to those charges.  Again, we’re going to continue to call out behavior as we see it.  But I think the message in the bilat today, and has it has been going forward, is better for us to have a means to have a dialogue, just as we do on a whole host of other issues through the Strategic and Economic Dialogue, so that we can be more transparent.

MR. EARNEST:  Major.

Q       Ben, on Ukraine, I’m just trying to get a sense, if the President wants to use this venue for the G-20 as an opportunity to engage Putin directly and say, what’s happening in Ukraine right now?  Which seems to be an escalation after several months of relative calm, to protest in a very specific way, and to convey that message to him directly.

Secondarily, can you in any way shape or form provide any clarity on the status al-Baghdadi?

MR. EARNEST:  So just to repeat the two questions.  The first is does the President plan to raise directly with President Putin the concerns that the United States has about their actions on Ukraine either while we’re here at APEC or in the context of the G-20 meetings.

And then an update on the latest assessment about the strike against ISIL that may have had impact on al-Baghdadi.

Ben, do you want to —

MR. RHODES:  Well, Major, I think our position on Ukraine is well known, and it’s manifested in our sanctions and our policy.  So I don’t think we’re necessarily looking to focus to make this a — to go out of our way to try to make the focus of these multilateral Ukraine in the way that we did when we were in Europe, when it was obviously a more natural venue.

That said, I think if the President has the opportunity to talk President Putin, I know he’ll be expressing the need to highlight and get back to the Minsk agreement and express concern over these latest reports.

I also know that other leaders share those concerns, as well.  And yesterday, for instance, with Prime Minister Abbott, we discussed the situation in Ukraine.  He’s obviously very focused on the MH17 investigation and the need for there to be justice for Australian families.  So it’s not simply the United States.  You have a number of leaders — Chancellor Merkel, Prime Minister Abbott, a number of other European leaders — Prime Minister Cameron — who share our concerns.

And so this is not just simply a U.S. view.  I think it’s probably held among many of our friends and allies.  And so I can’t predict exactly what will happen except to say that I know where different nations stand, and I know that that’s what they’ve been saying to the Russians.

Q       Is it fair to interpret, Ben, then that you don’t consider what’s happening right now to be particularly alarming?

MR. RHODES:  We do consider it to be particularly alarming.  That’s why we’ve spoken out about it.  I guess what I’m saying is our position is very clear on this, and the pathway out of this is very clear.  It’s to get back to the Minsk agreement.  And the pattern of imposing consequences on Russia when we see an escalation is also established, as well.

So again, I could anticipate knowing how these meetings go that as the President has an opportunity to engage with leaders like Chancellor Merkel, for instance, on the margins of the G-20, this will certainly come up.  And again, I was just highlighting that President Putin knows full well where we stand.  And we’ve made that clear through not just our words, but our policies, our sanctions.  And that’s go to continue to be our approach here.

On Baghdadi, we cannot confirm his status at this point.  As you know, we did take a strike that successfully hit a number of ISIL vehicles that we assessed was associated with ISIL leadership.  We obviously take time to do due diligence to get an understanding of what the impact was.

The message I think is very clear, though, which is that we’re not going to allow for a safe haven for ISIL and its leadership and its fighters in Iraq or Syria.  And they had for months.  They were able to operate freely.  And I think what they’re finding now — whether it’s outside of Kobani, whether it’s in Anbar province, whether it’s in northern Iraq, whether it was that strike outside of Mosul — that if they move, we’re going to hit them.

Q       Just to clarify — you’re saying you don’t —

MR. RHODES:  I don’t have an update on his status.  No.

MR. EARNEST:  Josh.

Q       Two for Ben.  The first one on Indonesia and the second one in China.  At the meetings yesterday, were there any — meeting yesterday between the President and President Widodo, was there any discussion of Hambali, the terrorist suspect that’s been locked up at Guantanamo for more than 10 years.  I think President Bush at one point promised to return him to Indonesia for trial.  Regardless of whether it came up, what’s going to happen to that individual?  Is there any plan to do anything with him or just keep him at Guantanamo indefinitely?

And then on the Chinese front, given the concerns about press freedom in China, can you explain the President’s decision to do a written interview with the Xinhua Agency, since the Chinese leaders have been criticized in the past for insisting on sort of canned interviews with American news outlets?

MR. EARNEST:  The two questions.  Did the President discuss with the Indonesian leader the status of an Indonesian terror suspect that’s being held at Guantanamo?  And the decision-making behind the President’s decision to do a written interview with Xinhua.

Ben, do you want to take those?

MR. RHODES:  Yes.  Well, on the first question, it did not come up in the discussion.  Counterterrorism did, ISIL did.  We discussed ways to share information.  And we have a good relationship with Indonesia on information sharing related to counterterrorism.  And so those issues were addressed.

But on his specific status, I’ll have to check, Josh, on exactly what the status of his case is.  As you know, we’ve reviewed each one and have a very rigorous process to determine who is cleared for transfer, who is not.  So we can get back to you on that.

On the second question, look, it’s very — when we go on trips, this is something we do everywhere.  As you know from covering us, we tend to do written interviews with outlets when we arrive in a country.

Our view is on the one hand, we need to engage.  And the more the President’s voice can be heard in a country the better because people understand where we come from.  So we do engage Chinese media.  We engage CCTV in the Briefing Room every day.  We engage Xinhua.

At the same time, we’ll raise issues of press freedom.  And the President has raised it directly with President Xi in their believe meetings.  We’ve raised our concerns about the status of some U.S. media organizations and the treatment — the adjudication of their visas.  We’ve raised, again, our concern on having more free access to information here — not just as it relates to the news media, but as it relates to Internet.

So these are things that we will consistently raise, but again, I think better for the President’s voice to get out and to be heard in a country.  We use those interviews as important venues to address different issues.  But in no way does that diminish the fact that we have concerns about the press freedom here in China, just as we do in a range of other countries that we’ve visited who have — who are on a spectrum of how they treat the press.

MR. EARNEST:  Mr. Acosta.

Q       Yes, just to follow up on that with Ben.  What does the President see as his legacy with China?  Is it more engaging with China, but not changing China’s behavior?  Because I was struck by something the President said yesterday with Prime Minister Abbott that press freedoms he likes, that those are U.S. values.  But he does not expect China to have those traditions, to follow those traditions.  Why not?  Why not publicly with Xi push the Chinese to adopt a more American value system on press freedoms and human rights?

MR. EARNEST:  To repeat the question again.  Jim’s question is about who aggressively the President pushes the Chinese on some of the human rights concerns that the President himself has spoken about pretty publicly.

Q       And how that fits into his legacy?

MR. EARNEST:  Yes, and how that fits into his legacy, with that relationship.

MR. RHODES:  Yes, so I’ll start with the human rights piece.  Jim, the President doesn’t just see these as American values.  There are certain things that are universal values.  They’re embedded in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights at the United Nations.  And they should be able to take root in any society.  When you talk about freedom of speech, freedom of association, again, America has championed those values, but we believe that they are universal.

I think what the President is speaking about is the fact that China is at a different stage of development.  Obviously, it has different traditions.  But we do raise these issues.  And we do believe that certain things are universal, the right to, again, speak your mind, access information, to freedom of assembly.  And so it’s something that we’re going to press.  It’s something that comes up in every meeting.  It’s something that we raise publicly, as well.  And at the end of the day, again, I think the people of China are going to determine the future of their country.  But we want to make sure that just as we want China to live up to the rules of the road, we want them to live up to the rules of the road on universal values.

In a place like Hong Kong, that involves respect for freedom of assembly.  It also involves the people of Hong Kong being able to select their own leaders, as was agreed to, to choose their own leadership, again, which was the one county, two systems notion.

In terms of the President’s legacy, I think there’s — what did we get done with China.  On a bilateral basis to, again, improve the American economy, to save the global economy — and coordinated action with China was critical to that — to take the steps we’ve taken on this trip that will promote U.S. exports, promote more tourism and investment in the United States.  All that will have a positive economic impact for America and the American people.

Then I think, however, we want to look at where do we enlist China in regional and global efforts.  Because, again, we want them to play a bigger role.  We want them to be a part of international climate negotiations because you can’t deal with climate change unless China is coming to the table in a serious way.

We want them to be a part of settling disputes and resolving disputes around maritime security in the region.  We want them to be part of pursuing an agreement with Iran over its nuclear program.  So China kind of fits into the type of international order we’re trying to build in which nations are invested in solving problems.

And that very much speaks to rebalance, the signature Asia Pacific policy of the President’s.  We want to see this region more prosperous, more cooperative; again, a place of robust American engagement in ways that support our economy; support the security of our allies and the civility of the region; support the values we care about in a place like Burma where we have an ongoing transition.  And that mitigates the risk of conflict that could derail the extraordinary progress we see here.

So again, when we look at his legacy, it’s going to be where do we move the ball forward bilaterally in ways that benefit the American people?  How do we embed China, working with them, in an international system that can solve problems like climate change and maritime security?  And how is this region a more stable, prosperous and secure place which has robust American engagement.  They’re critical to all those things.  And human rights in our view is a part of the international norms that we uphold.

So just as we care about maritime security and cybersecurity, we care about universal values.  And that’s going to be a part of how we judge the status of the relationship.

Q       You mentioned Iran a couple of times.  If I could just follow up on that.  November 24th is coming up very quickly.  Do you foresee a scenario where that deadline might be put back a little bit?  And you’ve seen Netanyahu’s comments, where he seems to be pretty upset about Khamenei tweeting about the (inaudible) and what do you make of that?

MR. EARNEST:  Can you repeat the question?

MR. RHODES:  Yes, so the question.  Was the states of the Iran negotiations heading to the 24th and the Israeli Prime Minister’s comments on the Supreme Leader’s tweet.

On the first question, what we’ve been focused on is driving towards what progress can we make towards an agreement for the 24th.  We have not focused on discussions with Iran on extending those discussions because we want to keep the focus on closing gaps.

Secretary Kerry was meeting into the night in Oman.  He’s currently on a plane, set to arrive in Beijing.  He will give the President an update on where things stand and what progress he made, so President Obama will hear directly from him about the status of the talks.

And then there are negotiations scheduled in Vienna where we’ll see where we can get by the 24th, and we’ll keep people posted on where things stand.

With respect to the — first of all, the sentiments expressed by the Supreme Leader’s office in that tweet.  They’re obviously outrageous.  It’s the type of rhetoric we’ve seen from the Iranian leadership for years.  We completely reject it, of course.

The fact of the matter is what we’ve always said is even as we pursue this effort around diplomacy on the Iranian nuclear program, that’s about addressing a security concern of the United States and Israel and the international community.  If we can prevent Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon, that’s in all of our interests.

At the same time, it doesn’t lessen our concern over other Iranian behaviors, including the virulent anti-Israeli rhetoric that has been a part of their political tradition.  So we’ll continue to speak out against that.

With respect to the agreement itself, though, what we would say is, again, if we can verifiably discern that Iran is not building a nuclear weapon, that it’s program is for peaceful purposes, that’s a good thing.  That’s far better than an outcome where Iran is back to trying to accumulate more stockpile, enriching at a higher percent and getting more breakout capacity.  So we’ve already frozen their nuclear — the progress of their nuclear program.  We’ve rolled back the stockpile just during these negotiations.

If we can get a comprehensive agreement, we would say that would be in the interest of American national security and also the security of our friends and allies.

MR. EARNEST:  We’re nearing the one-hour mark here, so we’ll just do two more.  Ching-Yi and then Jim Avila, I’ll let you wrap up.  Go ahead.

Q       Thank you, thank you, Josh.  First question is to Ambassador Froman.  According to interview with Xinhua, President Obama say our summit will also be an opportunity to make progress toward ambitious bilateral investment treaty.  So what kind of progress?  What kind of breakthrough that we can expect about the VIT?

And also the second question is to Ben.  Other than ITA and the visa, what else deliverables that the U.S. is looking forward to reaching this time.  Thank you.

MR. EARNEST:  Repeat the question so everybody can hear.  Ambassador Froman, an update on progress related to the VIT negotiations.  And, Ben, what other deliverables do you anticipate out of the meetings between President Obama and President Xi.

Ambassador Froman?

AMBASSADOR FROMAN:  Well, as you may recall it was about a year and a half ago that China agreed to negotiate a bilateral investment treaty on the basis of what we call a negative list, which is to open up their economy but for specific carve-outs that they negotiate with us.  And that was a major step forward, as were some of the other provisions that we agreed to then.

Since that time we’ve had very good discussions in the bilateral investment treaty channel.  We’ve had a series of rounds to walk through our model of it and to talk about how it would be applied in the case of China.  We have further work to do.  Next year, early next year, China has agreed to give us their first version of their negative list.  And it will be very important if we’re to achieve early progress in these negotiations that that list be as short and as focused, as narrowly tailored as possible.  And we’re encouraging our Chinese counterparts, including while we’re here for this visit and around this summit to focus on making that list as narrow and as short as possible so that we can proceed with negotiations and make progress next year.

MR. RHODES:  I, of course, will let the leaders speak to the specific deliverables.  I think we certainly focused on the visa issue and ITA in these first couple of days because of the economic theme of APEC and the venue of the CEO forum.  So again, I think the President’s meeting will certainly address economic issues.  But I think we’ll also d

New global tourism initiative to ‘steer industry onto a truly sustainable path’ – UN

6 November 2014 – Tourism is one of the largest and fastest-growing economic sectors in the world contributing 9 per cent to global GDP, accounting for one in 11 jobs worldwide and for 6 per cent of global exports, the United Nations World Tourism Organization (UNWTO) reported today as it launched a programme aiming to catalyze a shift to more sustainable tourism.

The Sustainable Tourism Programme of the Ten-Year Framework of Programmes on Sustainable Consumption and Production Patterns (10YFP) introduced at the World Travel Market in London this week will be spearheaded by the UNWTO, the Governments of France, Morocco and the Republic of Korea, with the support of UN Environment Programme (UNEP).

“This important initiative is about steering the industry onto a truly sustainable path — one that echoes to the challenge of our time: namely the fostering of a global Green Economy that thrives on the interest, rather than the capital,” said UNEP Executive Director Achim Steiner in a statement .

It is estimated that by 2030, there will be 1.8 billion international tourism arrivals annually. If not sustainably managed, tourism can deplete natural resources leading to water shortages, loss of biodiversity, land degradation and contribute to climate change and pollution. Tourism’s contribution to global warming is estimated at 5 per cent of global CO2 emissions.

“As tourism continues to grow, so too will the pressures on the environment and wildlife. Without proper management and protection, as well as investments in greening the sector, ecosystems and thousands of magnificent species will suffer,” Mr. Steiner said.

UNEP’s 2011 Green Economy Report revealed that under a “business-as-usual” scenario, projected tourism growth rates to 2050 will result in increases in energy consumption by 154 per cent, greenhouse gas emissions by 131 per cent, water consumption by 152 per cent, and solid waste disposal by 251 per cent.

UNWTO Secretary-General Taleb Rifai said, “As the leading organization for tourism, the World Tourism Organization seeks to maximize tourism’s contribution to development while minimizing its negative impacts.”

Already, in the Galapagos Islands and Palau, visitors pay an entry tax to protected areas, which are sometimes referred to as ‘green fees.’ The revenues generated from these fees – which in Palau’s case is $1.3 million annually since 2009 – are used to support conservation and sustainable human development.

The 10YFP Sustainable Tourism Programme will aim to achieve major shifts in tourism policies and stimulate greater sustainability within the tourism supply chain. A collaborative initiative, the programme aims to improve resource efficiency, management effectiveness, and the use of new technologies to promote sustainable consumption and production patterns in this key sector.

Meanwhile, the three countries leading the initiative have already taken steps to promote sustainable tourism. As the most visited tourism destination in the world receiving 85 million tourists a year, France recognizes sustainable tourism as fundamental to preserving its heritage.

And Morocco is hoping to capitalize on its natural and cultural advantages in a way that will yield the most sustainable social and economic benefits to all Moroccans. The Government of the Republic of Korea has already integrated principles of sustainability into its tourism policies and is accelerating programme implementation nationally.

The 10YFP was established after Heads of State, meeting at the UN Conference on Sustainable Development (Rio+20) conference in 2012, agreed that sustainable consumption production was a cornerstone of development, and an important contributor to poverty alleviation and the transition to low-carbon green economies.

Mayors at UN climate summit announce pledges towards major carbon cuts in cities

23 September 2014 – A compact of Mayors from cities around the world announced today that they will expand their commitments to scale up climate resilience efforts, energy efficiency programs and resilient financing mechanisms including through an initiative that aims to reduce their greenhouse gas emissions by 454 megatons by 2020.

According to a statement, these and other initiatives announced at Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon’s Climate Summit, aim to address the effects of development on the environment both in urban and rural areas.

This particular plan – known as the Compact of Mayors – brings together well over two thousands cities, including over 200 with specific targets and strategies for greenhouse gas reductions. Sixty per cent of the world’s population will live in cities by 2030 and that figure increases to 70 per cent by 2050.

“From Rio to Seoul, mayors are already making great progress in fighting climate change and preparing their cities for its devastating impacts,” said Rio de Janeiro Mayor Eduardo Paes. “These announcements show the world that we are committed to transparent, easily accessible, emissions reporting.”

Other announcements including the City Climate Finance Leadership Alliance and a City Creditworthiness Partnership will also help the world’s cities to reduce annual greenhouse gas emissions by 8 gigatons annually in 2050 – the equivalent of 50 per cent of global coal use.

National Governments can be more ambitious in their emissions reduction commitments, according to research recently unveiled by the UN Secretary General’s Special Envoy for Cities and Climate Change and former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg.

“Now is the time for nations to partner with cities as they create more ambitious climate targets over the next year, both to help the world avoid the worst impacts of climate change and to benefit millions of people,” said Mr. Bloomberg.

Today cities, banks, national governments and civil society organizations gathered at the Climate Summit to accelerate commitments to slash greenhouse gas emissions. National Governments, including China, Germany and the United States, also announced their commitments.

The carbon Cities Climate Registry, the designated central repository of the Compact of Mayors, will serve as a platform for city climate data.

“Today’s announcements, including the Compact of Mayors and its standardized reporting process and public data portal, came out of an unprecedented collaboration among city networks,” said Seoul South Korea Mayor Park Won-soon.

About 20 public and private sector partners also united today to launch the City Climate Finance Leadership Alliance to generate trillions of dollars to invest in low-carbon and climate-resistant infrastructure in cities in low- and middle-income countries.

“This will allow increased capital to flow to cities, unblocking the transformational change needed to meet the challenge of climate change and contributing to the new urban agenda of cleaner, more resilient and environmentally sustainable cities,” said UN-Habitat Executive Director Dr. Joan Clos.

The World Bank and its partners are uniting to help 300 cities strengthen their creditworthiness to attract investors. This will help cities improve their financial management, which ultimately will boost their access to private capital.

Making cities climate-friendly is one of eight action areas identified as critical during the Abu Dhabi Ascent, a two-day meeting held in the United Arab Emirates in May 2014. Other topics include agriculture and renewable energy.

Economic growth possible even while tackling climate change, UN-backed report finds

16 September 2014 – Just one week before a major climate summit opens at the United Nations, a new report released today by a commission of global leaders argues that major structural and technological changes in the world economy are making it possible to achieve lower carbon emissions and economic growth at the same time.

“Yes, it is possible to have better growth and better climate. Yes, it is possible to create jobs and reduce poverty and at the same time reduce the carbon emissions that threaten our future. Yes, it is possible, but we need to make some fundamental changes and smart choices,” said former President of Mexico, Felipe Calderón at a UN Headquarters press conference.

Launching the Better Growth, Better Climate: the New Climate Economy report alongside UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, Mr. Calderón said the new data refutes the idea that the world must choose between fighting climate change and growing the world’s economy.

“The transition to a low carbon economy can improve the quality of growth, including the creation of new jobs, cleaner area and better health. A growing number of businesses, cities and countries are showing us it is indeed possible,” said Mr. Calderón.

Chaired by Mr. Calderón, the Global Commission on the Economy and Climate – which conducted the study –, comprises 24 leaders from Government, business, finance and economics in 19 countries. The year-long study was conducted by leading research institutes from Brazil, China, Ethiopia, India, South Korea, the United Kingdom and United States and advised by a panel of world-leading economists.

Secretary- General Ban Ki-moon called the report timely, noting that greenhouse gas emissions are at record levels and the effects of climate change are not only widespread, they are costly and consequential.

“Scientists have long warned of the potential implications of climate change for economic growth. We can no longer afford to burn our way to prosperity. We must manage climate risk for sustained ¬– and sustainable – economic progress. We need a structural transformation in the global economy,” Mr. Ban said.

The UN chief said he looked forward to next week’s climate summit, where leaders from Government, business, finance and civil society are expected to deliberate challenges and deliver recommendations on how to promote low-carbon growth.

Simply put, eradicating extreme poverty is not possible without fighting climate change. The two agendas must be pushed simultaneously.

Today’s report does just that, he said. It sets out a detailed 10-point Global Action Plan of recommendations to achieve prosperity and a safer climate at the same time.

It emphasizes that over the next 15 years, about $90 trillion will be invested in infrastructure in the world’s cities, agriculture and energy systems. That is an unprecedented opportunity to drive investment in low-carbon growth and bring multiple benefits including jobs.

The Commission calculates that if fully implemented its recommendations could potentially achieve up to 90 per cent of the emissions reductions needed by 2030 to avoid climate change. But this would require decisive and early action by economic decision-makers.

“Today we are giving $600 billion in subsidies for fossil fuels, but only $100 billion in support of clean energy every year. We are paying to pollute. That cannot continue,” urged Mr. Calderón.

The report found opportunities to achieve strong growth with lower emissions in three key sectors of the global economy – cities, land use and energy. But Governments and businesses need to improve resource efficiency, invest in infrastructure, and stimulate business innovation.

Building better connected, more compact cities based on mass public transport can save over $3 trillion in investment costs over the next 15 years. Restoring just 12 per cent of the world’s degraded lands can feed another 200 million people and raise farmers’ incomes by $40 billion a year.

As the price of solar and wind power falls dramatically, over half of new electricity generation over the next 15 years is likely to be from renewable energy, reducing dependence on highly polluting coal.

Consistent Government policy signals are essential for businesses and investors to create low-carbon jobs and growth. By establishing a level playing field through an international climate agreement, Governments can unlock investment and innovation, states the report.