Tagged: CommunicableDiseases

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

06 Apr 2015

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Excellencies, distinguished delegates, Ladies and Gentlemen,

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

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

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

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

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

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

Excellencies, distinguished delegates, Ladies and Gentlemen,

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

Excellencies, distinguished delegates, Ladies and Gentlemen,

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

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

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

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

Let me take a moment to introduce our guests here.

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

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

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

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

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

Thank you.

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.

Boko Haram Takes the Fight to Cameroon

The militant group has launched a series of attacks along the Cameroon border. “The coordinated assaults on five towns and villages showed a change in tactics by Nigerian Boko Haram fighters, who have focused on hit-and-run raids on individual settlements in the past, Information Minister Issa Tchiroma added. Boko Haram’s campaign to carve out an Islamist caliphate has spread from its stronghold in northeast Nigeria to neighboring Cameroon, raising fears for an already unstable region also threatened by Islamist militants in the Sahel. (VOA http://bit.ly/1xud2cD)

Displaced Muslims Precariously Trapped in Central African Republic Village…”About 500 Muslims, mainly ethnic Peuls, have been in the town of Yaloke in western C.A.R. since fleeing there nine months ago to escape hostile Christian and animist anti-balaka militia.In Yaloke, they have had some protection from French and United Nations peacekeepers, and have been receiving some food aid. But they are trapped in a small area and unable to move outside it for fear of attacks. Health conditions have deteriorated. VOA http://bit.ly/1xucTpw)

Best commentary of the 10 year Anniversary of the Indian Ocean Tsunami: Nancy Lindborg, Assistant USAID Administrator and incoming president of the US Institute for Peace on the six lessons the international community should draw from the tragedy. (HuffPo http://huff.to/1xd6WLE)

Africa

Dozens of new Ebola cases have erupted in Liberia, near the border with Sierra Leone, Liberian health officials warned Monday, marking a setback amid recent improvements. (AP http://yhoo.it/13F8J01)

The United Nations said on Monday it had begun delivering food aid to war-torn South Sudan via the Nile River from Sudan for the first time since it became independent in 2011, warning the country could face a “hunger catastrophe”. (Reuters http://bit.ly/1rvtfeT)

The United States launched an airstrike against a senior Shabab militia leader in southwestern Somalia on Monday, a Pentagon spokesman disclosed. (Time

Sierra Leone started a fresh push against the virus in mid-December. It is concentrating its efforts in the north and west of the country. The government prohibited public gatherings at Christmas. The northern district of Port Loko marked the holiday by declaring a lockdown as health workers went door to door. Health ministry spokesman Sidie Y Tunis said that’s ongoing. (VOA http://bit.ly/1zrF03N)

With a population that has already passed the 50 million mark and a sustained unemployment rate of more than 25%, attention is being focused on South Africa’s child grant incentives for single mothers which may be encouraging young women to bear children to get an income. (VOA http://bit.ly/1BfopTb)

Recent studies indicate Burundi is the hungriest place on earth. War, poverty and overpopulation have left up to two thirds of the residents with chronic food shortages, stunting people’s growth physically and also professionally, while rising demands for scarce resources pose serious problems for Burundi’s stability. (VOA http://bit.ly/1zrEVNE)

Birth control is a divisive issue across much of Africa – it challenges culture, religion and patriarchy. In Dakar, bringing religious leaders into the discussion has been an important step to overcoming resistance in Senegal. (VOA http://bit.ly/1BfoqXr)

In some African countries, the social and economic forces collide on workplace issues like parental leave. While some countries are moving to extend leave, others are having a hard time enforcing the laws they already have. (VOA http://bit.ly/1wY0U1H)

Roche Holding AG said U.S. health regulators have approved its Ebola test for emergency use in response to the world’s worst outbreak of the disease in West Africa. (Reuters http://bit.ly/1rvtcjn)

MENA

Arab U.N. delegations on Monday endorsed a Palestinian proposal to forge a peace deal with Israel within a year and end Israeli occupation of Palestinian territories by late 2017, despite fierce Israeli and U.S. opposition. (Reuters http://reut.rs/1xu9Pqi)

Three Al-Jazeera journalists are marking one year since they were arrested in Egypt on charges of supporting the banned Muslim Brotherhood, as they look toward a court date Thursday to appeal their case. (VOA http://bit.ly/1wY0mJ9)

The United Nations Support Mission in Libya (UNSMIL) has condemned a series of airstrikes on targets in the city of Misrata amid an upsurge in fighting across the war-torn North African country, adding that any further escalation in hostilities could plunge the nation back into “all-out war.” (Ekklesia http://bit.ly/1xu9BQ7)

An Egyptian prosecutor referred 15 alleged members of the banned Muslim Brotherhood to a military court on Sunday on violence-related charges, the state news agency reported. (Reuters http://bit.ly/1wwuYfH)

Asia

Thousands of Afghans are pouring into makeshift camps in the capital where they face a harsh winter as the Taliban return to areas once cleared by foreign forces, who this week are marking the end of their combat mission. (AP http://yhoo.it/13F8KRI)

The suspected mastermind of the 2008 militant attacks on Mumbai that killed 166 people has won an appeal against his detention in Pakistan. (VOA http://bit.ly/1xud9F4)

South Korea on Monday proposed restarting a dialogue with North Korea on issues of mutual concern, such as reuniting families separated by the 1950-53 Korean War. This outreach to the North comes at a time of growing antagonism between Pyongyang and the West over issues of cyberattacks and human rights abuses. (VOA http://bit.ly/1xudcR6)

The grip on Internet freedom in China has tightened once again, with Google’s Gmail largely inaccessible for a fourth day. An internet transparency monitor reports the e-mail service is 84 percent blocked in the country after months of disruptions. (VOA http://bit.ly/1zrF0AU)

The Americas

A non-governmental group that tracks crime in Venezuela says the country’s homicide rate rose again in 2014. (AP http://yhoo.it/13F8JNz)

A lawyer for Hipolito Mora says the Mexican vigilante leader and 26 of his followers face murder charges for a Dec. 16 confrontation with another group that killed 11. (AP http://yhoo.it/13F8It2)

The Census Bureau said the U.S. population grew a bit less than 1 percent over the last year and will hit 320,090,857 at New Year. (VOA http://bit.ly/1xudaJ3)

Opinion/Blogs

Crowdsourced Anticorruption Reporting, 2.0 (The Global Anticorruption Blog http://bit.ly/1ED9DLZ)

Peter Piot: the veteran scientist who helped to raise the alarm over Ebola |(The Guardian http://bit.ly/13FOiAb)

Exploring Border Issues through Film (Development Diaries http://bit.ly/13FOlfk)

Broken Windows: Mending the Cracks (People, Spaces, Deliberation http://bit.ly/13FOqzM)

Data exchange helps humanitarians act fast and effectively (The Guardian http://bit.ly/1ED9Q1I)

Discussion

comments…

Robust Responses From the Asia-Pacific Region to Ebola

“In West Africa, this remains the worst Ebola epidemic in history by a long shot.

Every hot-spot is an ember that, if not contained, could become a new fire.

So we cannot let down our guard, even for a minute.

And we can’t just fight this epidemic; we have to extinguish it.”

                                     –       President Obama, December 2, 2014

All across the world, diplomats, scientists, doctors, nurses, healthcare workers, logistics experts, soldiers, and countless other men and women are working to stop the spread of the Ebola outbreak in West Africa.  The response in the Asia-Pacific region, where our partners have valuable experience and lessons to share from having addressed the challenges of infectious diseases such as SARS and H5N1, is no different.  In fact, over the past few months, the response from the Asia-Pacific region to one of the most brutal epidemics the world has seen has been robust and generous. So much so that I’d like to share some highlights.

In November, Japan announced that they would contribute an additional $100 million to the international Ebola response, on top of earlier commitments of $45 million and a range of in-kind donations such as emergency vehicles, medical equipment, and emergency relief goods, including tents and blankets.  Japanese medical experts have also participated in World Health Organization (WHO) missions in Sierra Leone and Liberia.  On December 9, Japan extended additional emergency grant aid of approximately $8.5 million to the WHO and the United Nations World Food Program (WFP) in connection with Japan’s donation of 700,000 sets of personal protective equipment (PPE) and for infection prevention and control.

Later, in mid-December, the Republic of Korea deployed the first of three 10-person specialized medical teams to Sierra Leone to help with much needed prevention and treatment efforts.  They also pledged $5 million in assistance, in addition to the $5.6 million they contributed earlier this year. 

Australia has made important contributions, donating $36 million to the Ebola response, including funds to staff and run a 100-bed Ebola Treatment Unit (ETU) in Sierra Leone and training to enhance regional preparedness in the event of an outbreak in the Asia-Pacific region.

China is a leading contributor to the global Ebola response in the Asia-Pacific, having donated more than $122 million so far in financial and in-kind assistance, including a 100-bed Ebola Treatment Unit (ETU) in Liberia, a mobile laboratory in Sierra Leone, 60 ambulances, 100 motorcycles, tens of thousands of medical kits and Personal Protective Equipment (PPE), and more than 700 medical personnel including those who are training tens of thousands of African health care workers. 

One of Asia-Pacific’s smallest and newest countries, Timor-Leste, has also made significant contributions to the global effort to end this devastating outbreak, with financial contributions totaling $2 million, and a commitment to fund 25 doctors from Cuba and 15 doctors from Timor-Leste to work to fight the spread of the virus in Guinea Bissau.  

New Zealand has financially supported New Zealand Red Cross delegates in Sierra Leone and Liberia, and 24 clinical staff from New Zealand will work alongside Australian and Sierra Leonean medical personnel in an Australian-run ETU in Freetown.  New Zealand also contributed approximately $1.56 million to administer the unit.  Additional financial contributions from New Zealand to the WHO response in West Africa and the UN Ebola Response Multi-Partner Trust Fund totaling $1.59 million will help ensure a coherent UN system response.

Thailand has sent $150,000 worth of rice to ensure food security in West Africa, and recently hosted an ASEAN +3 ministerial in Bangkok to address ways the region can work at a national, regional, and global level to respond to and prepare for Ebola outbreaks.

Malaysia, in turn, sent over 20 million gloves to West Africa to help protect the courageous healthcare workers fighting on the front lines of this response, and has just announced that it will make an in-kind donation worth approximately $864,000 to Guinea, Sierra Leone, and Liberia through the Malaysian Medical Relief Society.

Finally, Taiwan has made noteworthy contributions in the global fight against Ebola.  Working closely with the United States, Taiwan has donated 100,000 units of PPE to the three most heavily-affected countries in West Africa. In early December, Taiwan also contributed $1 million in financial assistance to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) Foundation to help meet the most urgent needs in Liberia, Guinea, and Sierra Leone. On December 5, Taiwan announced its plans to establish a training center to help equip health care workers in the Asia Pacific region with the tools needed to contain an outbreak of Ebola or other dangerous infectious diseases within or beyond their borders.

Other partners in Asia-Pacific are contributing to the Ebola response by preventing the spread of the virus through preparedness efforts within their borders and their region.  Such efforts will contribute to preparedness for all infectious disease threats, which is a key tenet of the multinational Global Health Security Agenda (GHSA) launched on February 13, 2014 to elevate global health security as a national leaders-level priority.  In one of the first two pilot projects under GHSA, in fact, the CDC worked with Vietnam to enhance their newly created Emergency Operations Center (EOC) in Hanoi.  Building EOCs and sharing surveillance information across borders will help protect the region from future outbreaks of Ebola, avian influenza, and other diseases.

As Ambassador Power said, although the international efforts made to date are significant and are beginning to have an impact, a larger and more sustainable global response is urgently needed to save even more lives and stop the ravaging spread of this outbreak.  Only with the support of a global coalition of countries, non-profits, international institutions and the private sector, along with indispensable help from individual citizens, will we be able to fulfill this goal and contain and end this epidemic. And we must continue to stand at West Africa’s side in the months and years to come, helping the region to recover from the devastating social, economic, and psychological impacts of the outbreak.

About the Author: Andy Weber serves as Deputy Coordinator for the Ebola Coordination Unit at the U.S. Department of State. Follow @andyweberNCB on Twitter.

For more information:

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

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.

STATE OF THE NATION ADDRESS BY HIS EXCELLENCY LT. GEN. SERETSE KHAMA IAN KHAMA,

STATE OF THE NATION ADDRESS BY HIS EXCELLENCY LT. GEN. SERET…

13/11/14

1. Madam Speaker, before we begin may I request that we observe a moment of silence for those of our citizens who have departed from us during the past year. Thank you. 2. Honourable Members, it is my pleasure to once more present an updated assessment of how Government intends to move Botswana forward by seizing opportunities to secure our future. 3. As this is the first session of the 11th Parliament, let me preface my remarks by welcoming the newly elected members of this Assembly. Let me further congratulate you Madam Speaker on your own election.

STATE OF THE NATION ADDRESS BY HIS EXCELLENCY LT. GEN. SERETSE KHAMA IAN KHAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE REPUBLIC OF BOTSWANA, TO THE FIRST SESSION OF THE ELEVENTH PARLIAMENT – “MOVING BOTSWANA FORWARD”

 

INTRODUCTION

 

1. Madam Speaker, before we begin may I request that we observe a moment of silence for those of our citizens who have departed from us during the past year. Thank you.

 

2. Honourable Members, it is my pleasure to once more present an updated assessment of how Government intends to move Botswana forward by seizing opportunities to secure our future.

 

3. As this is the first session of the 11th Parliament, let me preface my remarks by welcoming the newly elected members of this Assembly.  Let me further congratulate you Madam Speaker on your own election.

 

4. Today’s gathering is an outcome of our 11th consecutive general election. As is our tradition, the ballot was conducted in a peaceful, free and fair manner. For this we can once more thank Batswana in general, as well as the Independent Electoral Commission (IEC) and other individuals and organisations that helped to ensure the poll’s success.

 

5. In any democracy elections are the means to the greater end of forming a Government capable of translating the popular will into public service delivery. We who have the honour of sitting in this House are accountable to the hundreds of thousands who entrusted us with their votes. Although divided in their choices, the voters were united by a shared desire for a better future. It is, therefore, our responsibility to ensure that together we deliver that future by at all times putting the national interest before our own.

 

6. Last month my party, the Botswana Democratic Party, was re‐elected on the basis of a detailed manifesto that promised to secure our common future by building on our past achievements. Today, before this House I reaffirm our commitment to honour that pledge.

 

7. In as much as we recognise that a government of and by the people is not an event but a process; this administration shall continue to engage Batswana across the country about their concerns through various fora and media, from the venerable realm of dikgotla to the digital world of interactive online communication. It was as a result of wide-ranging consultation that our manifesto was predicated on what we understood to be our citizens’ core aspirations. These include achieving:

 

• Job creation for sustainable livelihoods and income generation;

• Food security through continued agricultural renewal;

• Expanded access to land and housing ownership;

• Access to world-class quality education that caters to current and future needs;

• Citizen, including youth, economic empowerment;

• Dignity for all through the eradication of poverty;

• Zero tolerance for corruption in all of its manifestations;

• Elimination of mother-to-child transmission of HIV; and

• Government reform that leverages on the application of new technologies. 

 

8. Each of these commitments is based on realistic analysis of where our country is and needs to go in order to meet the reasonable expectations of its people, while improving our global standing in an ever more competitive world. Taken together they are consistent with our broader vision of achieving inclusive sustainable development that upholds the dignity of all.

 

ECONOMIC OUTLOOK

 

9. Madam Speaker, owing to the prudent economic and financial management by my Government, the country was able to survive the 2008/09 global financial crisis and economic recession with minimum impact on the domestic economy. We were able to save jobs in both the public service and private sector, as well as continued to provide essential public services to our people.

 

10. Having successfully weathered the storm of the economic downturn, we can look forward to better days ahead, with economic growth buttressed by reduced inflation. These positive trends should allow us to revive some of our postponed projects, along with outstanding issues affecting the conditions of service among public employees. Our optimism is in part based on forecasts of continued, albeit still fragile, global economic recovery, with worldwide output projected to grow by 3.3% in 2014 and 3.8% in 2015.

 

11. Turning to the domestic economy, the gross domestic product (GDP) at current prices stood at P124 billion in 2013 and it is projected to expand to P136.5 billion in 2014. In real terms, the GDP grew by 5.8% in 2013, and is projected to grow by 5.2% in the current year, driven by both the mining and non-mining sectors.   Within the non-mining sector, retail and hospitality industries, as well as agriculture are experiencing growth.

 

12. Average national inflation continued to decline from 8.5% in 2011 to 7.5% in 2012 to 5.9% in 2013 and further to 4.5% in September 2014, which is well within the Bank of Botswana objective range of 3 to 6%. This positive trend gives us confidence in our ability to maintain a low inflation environment, which is necessary for domestic enterprises to compete in the global market.

 

13. In terms of our fiscal management, Government succeeded in restoring a balanced budget during 2012/13 financial year, after four years of budget deficits. For the 2013/14 financial year we were able to collect P 48.9 billion, up from the P 41.7 billion received in 2012/13, while total expenditures and net lending for 2013/14 amounted to P 41.73 billion. This resulted in a budget surplus of P7.2 billion, largely due to the good performance of the mineral sector. For 2014/15 a budget surplus of P1.3 billion is currently projected. These savings will allow us to reduce our debt burden and rebuild our financial reserves.

 

14. To sustain a positive balance sheet will, however, require expanded revenues. Here I can report that we were able to collect P48.9 billion in the 2013-14 financial year, up from the P41.7 billion received in 2012-13. The 2013/14 outturn for expenditure and net lending was P41.7 billion.

 

EMPLOYMENT

 

15.  Madam Speaker, to be meaningful to Batswana, economic growth has to be accompanied by expanded employment, which is why our manifesto listed job creation at the top of our aspirations. To reiterate what I said in my own message to the voters, of all our campaign promises tackling unemployment is the most important one. While there has been some progress in recent years, current estimates put unemployment among those 18 and above at just over 17%. Although this reflects a modest reduction since 2007, it has been insufficient to absorb all those seeking employment, especially among our talented youth. We can and shall do more.

 

16. Our Economic Diversification Drive (EDD) is a key instrument for job creation. Since its 2010 inception, EDD has been facilitating employment generating business opportunities by promoting the consumption of local products. While our immediate focus has been leveraging public procurement in support of domestic industries, as we move forward our emphasis will shift to developing greater internal capacity for export-led growth, while continuing to value local goods and services.

 

17.  So far a total of P13.3 billion worth of goods and services were recorded since the inception of the initiative. Out of this figure, the value of local manufacturers and service providers (EDD purchases) amounted to P590.5 million for 2010/2011, P1.8 billion for 2011/2012 and 2012/2013 and P2.3 billion for 2013/2014. Over one thousand enterprises have so far been registered under the EDD Programme, which has contributed to the employment of 28,000 Batswana.

 

18. We have already begun implementing our EDD Medium to Long Term Strategy, to develop sustainable sectors for economic growth and diversification. A leading example is the Leather Sub-sector Strategy, which is focused on the establishment of a Leather Park in Lobatse at a total cost of about P225 million. Government has agreed to finance the park’s primary infrastructure, a Common Effluent Treatment Plant, estimated to cost P102 million, while other components of the project will be financed through private sector investment.

 

19. Government had also budgeted over P20 million to provide temporary assistance for over 12 months to support 34 textile companies, employing 2,912 workers.

 

20. While the nurturing of SMMEs, support for existing industries and value addition remain critical in our achievement of job creation, we further anticipate that over the next few years local formal sector employment will be generated with the emergence of new economic opportunities through the synergies generated by the development growth nodes or clusters across the country.

 

21. In the Chobe region, for example, we anticipate an expansion of opportunities in tourism, construction, transport services and agriculture resulting from the construction of the road and rail bridge at Kazangula and phase one of the water pipeline to Pandamatenga, along with associated infrastructure. It is estimated that when completed these two mega-projects will create over 9000 permanent jobs.

 

22. Additional emerging labour intensive opportunities are already being generated in our urban areas, as reflected in Selebi-Phikwe’s development as a metallurgical hub, the continued growth of Gaborone as a global diamond as well as regional technical services centre, and Francistown’s growth as a nexus for trade and transport. We further anticipate additional jobs through synergies generated by new mining activities, the continued expansion of commercial agriculture and the development of Trans-Kgalagadi road and potential rail corridor.

 

COMPETITIVENESS    

 

23. A key to unlocking these job creation opportunities will be increasing our global competitiveness. To improve our competitiveness ranking in the area of goods market efficiency we have tightened our market monitoring for greater efficiency in the provision of goods and services, while the Competition Authority is reviewing mergers and potential cartel activity involving both local and foreign companies.

 

24. Madam Speaker, job creation is inevitably linked to investment. In this respect the latest FDI Intelligence report indicates that Global Greenfield FDI showed signs of recovery, increasing by an estimated 11% from 2012 to 2013. The increase in local investment has been even greater, with UNCTAD’s 2014 World Investment report showing Botswana having grown by 27% in 2013.

 

25.  The Botswana International Trade Centre (BITC) continues to promote our country as a competitive location for investment, making business contacts and generating leads. During the 2013-2014 financial year, BITC helped realise a total combined investment capital of just over 1 billion pula, of which P 642 million was from foreign direct investment (FDI) and P449 million came from new domestic investments. In 2012/13, BITC further recorded P1.9 billion worth of goods and services exported into the region and beyond, of which P738 million was attributable to financial and international business services by the financial services cluster.

 

26. Botswana was ranked number one in the 2014 Baseline Profitability Index, surpassing Hong Kong as a location for medium to long term returns on investment. In essence the Index suggests that investors can expect to do well here once they have established themselves in our market.

 

27. Government is, furthermore, working to limit the number of licenses and permits, while allowing mixed land use zoning, adopting risk based approach for Environmental Impact Assessments and Management Plans, and decentralising the management of electricity connections.

 

28.  Government has also embarked on a National Work Ethic programme to promote productivity. So far, 254 facilitators have been assessed to implement the programme, which commenced in May 2014.

 

29. The drafting of a Bill which will provide the legal framework for the establishment of Special Economic Zones and the Special Economic Zone Authority is being finalized.

 

30. The Rural Development Council (RDC) has been upgraded as the national consultative body to promote and coordinate the implementation of rural development policies and programmes. As a result community based projects such as the Zutshwa Salt Project and the Mogobane Irrigation Scheme, to mention some, have been resuscitated.

 

CITIZEN EMPOWERMENT

 

31. Madam Speaker, it is pleasing to note that to date, CEDA has funded 5,462 enterprises with a total value of nearly P8.55 billion, in the process creating over 48,935 thousand jobs.  During the 2013/14 financial year, CEDA assisted 151 new enterprises with a total monetary value of P152 million, collectively generating 1042 new jobs.

 

32. Since its inception, LEA has also facilitated the creation of 4995 new jobs, including 568 in the ongoing financial year. The Authority has further trained a total of 9,317 entrepreneurs. In an effort to inculcate an entrepreneurial culture, LEA embarked upon the Entrepreneurship Awareness Workshops among secondary school leavers, vocational trainees and prison inmates; over 26,000 of whom have been trained.

 

33. Madam Speaker, through the Botswana Bureau of Standards (BOBS), we have encouraged our small and medium enterprises to implement quality assurance activities within their businesses. Progress has been made in certification of goods especially in the building and construction industry. To further ensure that prescribed goods entering our borders comply with domestic standards, a BOBS office has been opened at the Tlokweng Border.

 

RULE OF LAW

 

34. Madam Speaker, adherence to the rule of law remains a cornerstone to our national development. It is thus encouraging that independent comparative surveys, as well as domestic polling, consistently place us among the best in the world as well as first in Africa in terms of our upholding the rule of law while ensuring the safety and security of all our citizens. These surveys include:

 

• 2014 Ibrahim Index of African Governance, where we ranked first in the category of safety and security;

• World Justice Project’s 2014 Rule of Law Index, where we were ranked 25th in the world as well as first in Africa;

• 2014 Global Peace Index where we were at 36th place, ranking above half of European countries surveyed;

• 2014 Legatum Index for Governance and Rule of Law, where we were ranked 28th in the world; and

• 2013 Global Democracy Index, where besides ranking 35 out of 167 countries we achieved a near perfect score in the area of civil liberties.

 

35.  In light of such reputable findings it is unfortunate to say the least that some individuals, working through foreign as well as domestic media, including rumour mongering on social media, have attempted to instil the perception of Batswana living in fear. This is in an apparent effort to undermine this country’s longstanding and shared record of peace, order and good Government.

 

36. While the mass circulation of false and malicious reports intended to incite undue alarm may be aimed at promoting the political agenda of some, it is at the collective cost of tarnishing the image of the country as a whole. It is also a threat to the economy we all must depend upon for our livelihoods. Such disinformation should therefore be rejected with contempt by all peace-loving Batswana. All citizens, residents and potential visitors to Botswana can be confident that this Government will continue to both abide and uphold the rule of law without fear or favour.

 

37. Let me, nonetheless, also observe that we have not, and shall not, allow past achievements or international accolades to breed complacency as we recognise that, here as elsewhere, criminal activity is constantly evolving and increasingly sophisticated. We therefore remain determined to pursue a zero tolerance approach to all forms of criminal activity, including corruption.

 

38. To counter emerging domestic and trans-national challenges the Police Service has deployed integrated law enforcement strategies to combat all forms of criminality and anti-social behaviour. This has involved an ongoing redirection of resources to deal with violent and intrusive, cross border and cyber based criminal activities.

 

39. Whilst total recorded crime excluding road traffic violations rose by 4.7% during the year 2013, significant reductions were, however, registered in respect of violent and intrusive crimes.  Offences in this category, which included burglary, store breaking, robbery, house breaking, threats to kill, murder, rape, motor vehicle and stock theft, declined by 15.4%.

 

40. Road traffic management poses an additional policing challenge. Analysis of road accidents shows a youth bias, expressed in reckless driving, often aggravated by the influence of alcohol. As a result of the increase in the intensity of road policing initiatives, the number of detected road traffic offences rose by 32.4%, while there was a corresponding decrease in the number of fatal road accidents by 2.6%.

 

41. Madam Speaker, the Department of Prisons and Rehabilitation continues to improve security in the prisons and rehabilitation of offenders. While overcrowding has been a problem in some of the Prison institutions, there has been substantial reduction in congestion since 2008. In June 2014 there were 3824 offenders held in prisons, which was 13% below the authorised holding capacity.

 

42. Madam Speaker, the internal and external challenges of today’s constantly changing security landscape, call for a structurally aligned, strategically focused and adequately resourced, as well as highly trained and motivated, defence force. The BDF will thus continue to evolve its structures and strategies to defend the nation, while continuing to provide assistance to other law enforcement agencies in combating crime, including poaching.

 

ACCESS TO JUSTICE

 

43. Madam Speaker, as was most recently demonstrated in the Judgments of the High Court and the Court of Appeal upholding the constitutionality of the Standing Orders of this very House, our Judiciary continues to independently and effectively deliver on its constitutional mandate of settling disputes, both large and small, without fear or favour.  This Government will, as always, respect decisions of the Courts and expects all citizens to do the same.  Equally, we must all display tolerance and recognize everyone’s right to approach the Courts for the resolution of any legal issue no matter how strongly we may disagree.

 

44. To improve everyday access to justice several special court projects like the stock theft, maintenance, traffic, small claims and most recently corruption court have been put in place so as to speed up and improve the case disposal rates, while promoting greater access to justice by simplifying court rules and processes to make them more user friendly.  In addition a Court Annexed Mediation will be in place by the end of the current financial year.  This f

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

Press Releases: Joint Statement of the 2014 United States – Republic of Korea Foreign and Defense Ministers’ Meeting

The text of the following statement was released by the Governments of the United States of America and the Republic of Korea on the occasion of the United States – Republic of Korea Foreign and Defense Ministers’ Meeting in Washington.

Begin Text:

Preamble

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry and Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel convened a “2+2” meeting with ROK Foreign Minister Yun Byung-se and Minister of National Defense Han Min-koo in Washington on October 24, 2014. The “2+2” session followed the Security Consultative Meeting (SCM) between Secretary Hagel and Minister Han at the Pentagon. Building on the vision for the Alliance expressed in recent summit meetings and through the Joint Declaration in Commemoration of the 60th Anniversary of the U.S.-ROK Alliance, the four Ministers reaffirmed the strength of the alliance in the face of existing security threats and new and evolving regional and global challenges. The United States reaffirmed its unyielding commitment to the defense of the Republic of Korea under the Mutual Defense Treaty.

The Ministers recognized that the U.S.-ROK Alliance, over the past 60 years, has played an enormous role in maintaining regional stability and prosperity, and is stronger than ever before. Both sides reaffirmed their commitment to further develop the Alliance into a global partnership that is more than just the linchpin of peace and stability in Northeast Asia. With a common understanding of the Alliance’s global capabilities, the Ministers committed to building on those capabilities to actively address emerging challenges to peace and security around the world, including Ebola and ISIL.

U.S.-ROK Alliance

The Alliance between the United States and the Republic of Korea, now in its 61st year, remains the linchpin of peace and security in the Asia-Pacific region. Secretary Kerry and Foreign Minister Yun acknowledged the extensive and continuing work by the U.S. Department of Defense and the ROK Ministry of National Defense, discussed at length during the SCM, and they welcomed the SCM Joint Communique, released earlier by the Defense Ministers of both countries.

Following up on the presidential decision in April 2014 that, due to the evolving security environment in the region, including the North Korean nuclear and missile threat, the current timeline for the transition of wartime operational control (OPCON) in 2015 can be reconsidered, Secretary Kerry and Foreign Minister Yun welcomed that after productive consultations the two sides reached an agreement on the decision at the SCM to implement the ROK-proposed conditions-based approach to the transition of wartime operational control from the U.S. forces-led Combined Forces Command (CFC) to a new ROK forces-led combined defense command. The ROK reaffirmed that it will continue its efforts to build the necessary capabilities required to lead the Combined Defense, while the U.S. provided assurance that the United States will continue to remain committed to the defense of the ROK and the stability of the region.

The Ministers highlighted the importance of our longstanding, mutually beneficial cooperation on the peaceful uses of nuclear energy, and welcomed the significant progress made in negotiations on a new agreement, which will serve as a strong foundation for bilateral civil nuclear cooperation for the future. Both sides reaffirmed their commitment to conclude an agreement in a timely manner. The Ministers also praised the work of the U.S.-ROK Bilateral Cyber Policy Consultations and the 2nd U.S.-ROK Cyber Cooperation Working Group, and reaffirmed their shared objective of an open, interoperable, secure, and reliable cyberspace. Both sides looked forward to the next Consultations meeting, to take place in Washington in 2015.

The Ministers welcomed our shared commitment and partnership on nuclear safety and security, as well as the global non-proliferation regime, such as the IAEA, the Global Partnership, the Global Initiative to Combat Nuclear Terrorism, UNSCR 1540, the Proliferation Security Initiative and other key international mechanisms. They decided to work together to ensure a successful Nuclear Security Summit in 2016, to be hosted by the United States.

The Ministers reaffirmed their commitment to strengthening cooperation on space, building on the first ROK-U.S. Civil Space Dialogue in July 2014 as well as the signing of the Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) on Space Situational Awareness (SSA) Service and Information Sharing at the 4th ROK-U.S. Space Cooperation Working Group (SCWG) in September 2014. The Ministers also decided to cooperate closely in addressing challenges to space security and sustainability, particularly by encouraging the early adoption of the International Code of Conduct for Outer Space Activities.

North Korea

The Ministers agreed that the denuclearization of North Korea is critical to lasting peace and security on the Korean Peninsula. Echoing the discussions at the SCM, the Ministers expressed their solidarity in the face of North Korean threats and urged North Korea to denuclearize and refrain from provocations. The Ministers also urged North Korea to return to credible and meaningful negotiations aimed at the complete, verifiable, and irreversible denuclearization of North Korea. The Ministers underscored that North Korea cannot succeed in pursuing economic development without denuclearization and that it will remain isolated internationally unless it relinquishes all of its nuclear and missile programs and fully complies with its international obligations under the U.N. Security Council resolutions and commitments under the September 19, 2005 Joint Statement of the Six-Party Talks. The Ministers urged all countries, including the Six-Party Talks partners, to fully implement all sanctions and other measures set forth in the relevant UN Security Council resolutions.

The Ministers agreed on the need to establish a foundation for peaceful reunification as envisioned in the Initiative for Peaceful Unification on the Korean Peninsula proposed by President Park on March 28, 2014 and confirmed by President Obama during his April 2014 visit to Seoul. The Ministers called on North Korea to take positive actions that will lead to improved inter-Korean relations.

The Ministers also welcomed increased international attention on human rights in North Korea. The UN Commission of Inquiry’s report clearly documents the systematic, widespread, and gross violations of human rights taking place in North Korea. The United States thanked the ROK for its commitment to host a field-based structure to be established by the U.N. Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, which will help enhance the international community’s awareness of ongoing human rights violations in North Korea and of the need to implement the COI recommendations.

Regional Issues

The Ministers recognized that trilateral security cooperation between the United States, the ROK, and Japan strengthens deterrence against the North Korean threat and expressed their intention to expand trilateral security cooperation and coordination, and decided to continue consulting on trilateral information sharing measures as discussed at the Shangri-La Dialogue in May 2014. The United States briefed the ROK, earlier this month, at the senior-level on the ongoing consultations with Japan on the revision of the U.S.-Japan Defense Guidelines, which will proceed in a transparent manner within the framework of the U.S.-Japan Alliance. The Ministers recognized the value of the Defense Trilateral Talks and the trilateral Foreign Ministers talks on the margin of the ASEAN Regional Forum.

The Ministers were in agreement on the importance of constructive cooperation with China through various forms of dialogue to further our shared goals of peace, stability, and prosperity. The Ministers emphasized the importance of maintaining peace and stability, ensuring maritime security and safety, and freedom of navigation in the South China Sea. The Ministers shared the view on the need for full and effective implementation of Declaration on the Conduct (DOC) and the early adoption of a meaningful Code of Conduct (COC) by ASEAN and China.

The ROK Ministers highlighted the ongoing efforts to promote cooperation in the region, including the Park Administration’s signature Northeast Asia Peace and Cooperation Initiative (NAPCI), and plans to hold a NAPCI conference in Seoul on October 28. In the spirit of the Joint Declaration in May 2013, which states that the United States and the ROK are prepared to address common challenges and to seek ways to build an era of peace and cooperation in Northeast Asia based on the U.S.-ROK Alliance, the Ministers recognized the contribution that such a dialogue can make to addressing diverse regional challenges.

Global Partnership

The Ministers stressed the commitment of the United States and the ROK to combat the scourge of Ebola, emphasizing that it is not just a public healthcare issue affecting a limited region but a grave threat to the international community. Secretary Kerry outlined the U.S. effort to organize a thorough, coordinated international response to the spread of Ebola. Secretary Hagel reaffirmed the Department of Defense’s plans to establish a command center in Liberia, build more than a dozen Ebola Treatment Units (ETUs), and distribute kits with sanitizing equipment and medicine. The ROK has contributed more than $600,000 to the effort so far, and Ministers Yun and Han reaffirmed the ROK’s plans to contribute additional $5 million through the UN Ebola Response Multi-Partner Trust Fund and to send highly-skilled health care personnel to West Africa to help fight the further spread of the Ebola virus.

Acknowledging the grave humanitarian situation in Iraq, the Ministers reaffirmed their commitment to assisting the people of Iraq against the threat of ISIL and Foreign Terrorist Fighters. The United States thanked the ROK for its recent commitment of an additional $4 million in humanitarian assistance to Iraq. Both countries condemned the brutality of ISIL, underscoring that their actions violate the basic norms of humanity and civilization, and expressed their support for the international community fighting against the threat of ISIL. The Ministers also underscored the continuing need to assist Syrian refugees and reiterated their call for a political transition in Syria that ends the crisis.

Secretaries Kerry and Hagel expressed appreciation for President Park’s announcement at UNGA that the ROK would seek to enhance the quality of its overseas development assistance. They welcomed the ROK’s commitment to long-term sustainable growth in developing countries, recognizing its positive impact on peace, prosperity, and global security. Both sides also reaffirmed their close diplomatic and military cooperation in support of humanitarian assistance and disaster relief.

Regarding the Iranian nuclear issue, the Ministers reaffirmed the importance of successfully reaching a comprehensive arrangement between Iran and the P5+1, deciding to continue to work together towards this goal by the November 24 deadline. The United States thanked the ROK for its support of the joint efforts in Afghanistan, particularly its participation in the International Security Assistance Forces (ISAF) in Afghanistan and development assistance, including its provincial reconstruction team. The ROK Ministers reaffirmed that the ROK would continue assistance efforts to Afghanistan even after the termination of the ISAF mission in 2014.

The Ministers reaffirmed their respect for the sovereignty, territorial integrity, and independence of Ukraine, and stressed that the international community does not recognize the purported annexation of Crimea by Russia. The Ministers called for the full implementation of the 12-point Minsk agreement.

The Ministers emphasized the importance of mitigating and adapting to climate change, particularly to achieve a new climate regime agreement by the 2015 Conference of the Parties in Paris. In May, the ROK hosted and the U.S. Secretary of Energy attended the 5th Clean Energy Ministerial, a high-level global forum to share best practices and promote policies and programs that encourage and facilitate the transition to a global clean energy economy.

Conclusion

The U.S.-ROK Alliance continues to benefit not only the United States and the Republic of Korea, but increasingly the Asia Pacific region and the world at large. Acknowledging that today’s meeting was very productive and useful, the Ministers decided to continue to hold close bilateral consultations to deepen and intensify our cooperation in growing areas of mutual interest.

Remarks by the Vice President at the John F. Kennedy Forum

The White House

Office of the Vice President

For Immediate Release

October 03, 2014

Harvard Kennedy School
Boston, Massachusetts

6:37 P.M. EDT

THE VICE PRESIDENT:  Well, Dean, you did that introduction exactly like my sister wrote it sounds like.  (Laughter.)  Thank you.  That was very, very generous of you.

And as we used to say in the Senate, please excuse the point of personal privilege.  There are three reasons why I’ve won the races I’ve won and why I sustained winning, and they’re right here in this front row.  The first one is my sister, but also the guy who got me through the 1972 campaign is one of the best political strategists I have ever known, and a man who is — as Frank — is that you, Frank, back there?  Frank Fahrenkopf, the former chairman of the Republican Party.  We’ve known each other a long time, back to the days when we really liked one another, Republicans and Democrats.  (Laughter.)  We still do.  It’s great to see you, Frank.

But as Frank can tell you and anyone else can tell you that the one thing when you hire a political consultant that you most are concerned about — and I mean this sincerely — is will they reflect your values.  This guy that I’m about to introduce to you has more integrity in his little finger than most people have their whole body, but is the reason I overcame that deficit — John Marttila, a native Bostonian here. 

And the guy sitting next to him who has fought in Vietnam and came back to fight against the war in Vietnam and has become my friend.  And if you ever have to — that old joke, if you have to be in a foxhole, this is the guy you want with you, Professor Tommy Vallely (ph).  Tommy, it’s great to see you.  I didn’t expect to see you.

And it’s great to be here.  And I have one plea, don’t jump.  (Laughter.)  Don’t jump.  It’s good to be back.

I understand that Senator Markey may be here.  I hope for his sake he’s not and he’s out campaigning because — but I was told he might be, and Congressman Delahunt, two fine friends.  If they’re here I want to acknowledge them.

Folks, “all’s changed, changed utterly.  A terrible beauty has been born.”  Those are the words written by an Irish poet William Butler Yeats about the Easter Rising in 1916 in Ireland.  They were meant to describe the status of the circumstance in Ireland at that time.  But I would argue that in recent years, they better describe the world as we see it today because all has changed.  The world has changed.

There’s been an incredible diffusion of power within states and among states that has led to greater instability.  Emerging economies like India and China have grown stronger, and they seek a great force in the global order and global affairs. 

Other powers like Russia are using new asymmetrical forms of coercion to seek advantage like corruption and “little green men,” foreign agents, soldiers with a mission but no official uniform.  New barriers and practices are challenging the principles of an open, fair, economic competition.  And in a globalized world, threats as diverse as terrorism and pandemic disease cross borders at blinding speeds.  The sheer rapidity and magnitude, the interconnectedness of the major global challenges demand a response — a different response, a global response involving more players, more diverse players than ever before.

This has all led to a number of immediate crises that demand our attention from ISIL to Ebola to Ukraine — just to name a few that are on our front door — as someone said to me earlier this week, the wolves closest to the door.

Each one in its own way is symptomatic of the fundamental changes that are taking place in the world.  These changes have also led to larger challenges.  The international order that we painstakingly built after World War II and defended over the past several decades is literally fraying at the seams right now.

The project of this administration, our administration at this moment in the 21st century, the project that President Obama spoke about last week at the United Nations is to update that order, to deal with these new realities, but also accommodate and continue to reflect our enduring interests and our enduring values.

And we’re doing this in a number of ways.  First, by strengthening our core alliances; second, building relationships with emerging powers; third, defending and extending the international rules of the road that are most vital; and fourthly, confronting the causes of violent extremism.  But all of this rests on building a strong, vibrant economy here at home to be able to underpin our ability to do anything abroad.

So tonight I want to talk to you about our efforts and provide, as best I can, an honest accounting of what it’s going to take for America to succeed in the beginning of the 21st century.

The first thing we have to do is to further strengthen our alliances.  Many of the challenges we face today require a collective response.  That’s why we start from a foundation of the strong alliance we’ve had historically in Europe and in Asia, a feature of American strength unmatched by any other nation in history and built on a sacred commitment to defend one another, but also built on shared political and economic values.

One of the cornerstones of our foreign policy is the vision we share with our NATO allies of a Europe whole and free, where every nation can choose the path it wishes with no interference.  But that vision has been recently challenged.  We’ve seen aggression on Europe’s frontier.  And that’s why we’ve moved to mobilize our NATO allies to step up and provide significant security assistance to Ukraine. 

Each of the 28 NATO allies has now committed to providing security assistance to Ukraine, including over $115 million from the United States.  And as we respond to the crisis in Ukraine, we are determined that NATO itself emerge stronger from the crisis thrust on us by Russia.  With our allies, we are increasing deployments on land, sea and in the skies over Central and Eastern Europe.

And at the most recent NATO Summit in Wales, the Alliance agreed to create a Rapid Response Force to make sure that NATO is ready and can respond to any contingency.  And we’re increasing exercises and capacity building with non-NATO nations, countries in European — on Europe’s eastern frontier to ensure that they too can exercise their right to choose their own future, and that NATO’s door remains open.

But beyond mutual defense, we’re working closely with Europe on everything from trade to counterterrorism to climate change.  But we have to be honest about this and look it squarely in the eye, the transatlantic relationship does not sustain itself by itself.  It cannot be sustained by America alone.  It requires investment and sacrifice on both sides of the Atlantic, and that means ensuring that every NATO country meets its commitment to devote 2 percent of its GDP to defense; establishing once and for all a European energy strategy so that Russia can no longer use its natural resources to hold its neighbors hostage.  Reaching a final agreement on the so-called Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership, the new mechanism to try to strengthen the economic engines to sustain our mutual efforts in Europe and at home.

To the East, for six decades, America’s alliances in Asia have made possible the security and stability that has flowed from — that has allowed the economic miracle.  When I met not long ago and I met many, many hours with President Xi — I probably had dinner alone with him over 22, 23 hours over two five-day periods, talking about — I mentioned that America — I made clear that America is a Pacific power and we will remain a Pacific power.  And us in the area is the reason for the existence of a stability in Asia for the past 50 years.  That’s why it’s essential that we modernize our Pacific alliances, updating our posture and expanding our partnerships to meet the new challenges we face.

America today has more peacetime military engagements in the Asia Pacific than ever before.  By 2020, 60 percent of our naval assets and 60 percent of our air power will be stationed in the Pacific.  We’re supporting Japan’s efforts to interpret its constitution to allow it to play a larger security role.  We’ve signed enhanced defense cooperation agreements with the Philippines.  We’re strengthening our missile defense capabilities in the region to deter and defend against North Korea.  And three years ago, we had no forces in Australia; today, we have more than a thousand Marines rotationally deployed in Darwin.  And we have a growing partnership with Vietnam, in no small part — by the way — to the work of Tommy Vallely and his colleagues actively engaged in regional organizations like ASEAN.

We have an historic opportunity as well to build a new relationship with Burma if we get lucky.  But our Asian allies also have tough choices to make.  We cannot do this on our own.  It will relate to their willingness to work closely and more closely with one another.  As the President and I have done in meetings with the leaders of Japan and South Korea, we’re going to continue to promote trilateral cooperation among our allies and partners in the Pacific to make the most of those ties that will benefit the entire region if we succeed.

In the Middle East, our alliances are also crucial.  We will never waver from our steadfast support for Israel, and we’re working alongside a coalition of Arab partners and countries from around the world to confront ISIL. 

So even as we strengthen our traditional alliances, we’re building wider coalitions to bolster the world’s ability to respond to these emerging crises.

Take Ebola.  A horrific disease that is now a genuine global health emergency.  Our Centers for Disease Control, USAID and our military have taken charge of that world epidemic.  We are organizing the international response to this largest epidemic in history.  The President rallied the world at the United Nations last week, mobilizing countries from all around the world to act, and to act quickly.  We’re deploying over 3,000 American soldiers to West Africa to support regional civilian responses and advance the effort in fighting the disease of Ebola.

The second thing we have to do besides strengthening our alliances and cooperation, we have to effectively manage our relationships with emerging powers of the 21st century.  And that means putting in the effort to realize the potential of America’s friendship with emerging democratic partners like Brazil and President Dilma, President Peňa Nieto in Mexico, Prime Minister Modi in India, who just made a historic visit to the United States this week.

Each of these relationships has a significant potential to genuinely, genuinely promote shared interest and shared ideals.  But each one has to overcome domestic politics, bureaucratic inertia, and a significant legacy of mistrust over the last century.  But there is great potential here, but there is no guarantees.  There is no substitute for direct engagement and an unstinting effort to bridge the gap between where we are today and where we can and should be tomorrow.

The world in which emerging powers and responsible stakeholders promoting common security and prosperity has yet to arrive, but it’s within our grasp to see that happen.  That’s why we’ve embraced the G20 as a model for economic cooperation.  That’s why it’s also important that we fully support international institutions like the IMF, fund them and reform and modernize them to better serve all nations.

But managing our relationship with China is the single most essential part of the strategy at which we must succeed.  Even as we acknowledge that we will often be in competition, we seek deeper cooperation with China, not conflict. 

Nowhere is it written that there must be conflict between the United States and China.  There are no obvious, obvious impediments to building that relationship.  And we’re committed to building up that partnership where we can, but to push back where we must.  The President plans to visit China this fall as part of his second trip to Asia this year.  This is the kind of engagement that is necessary for us to come together and do consequential things.

At Sunnylands, when he met with President Xi last, they reached an historic agreement on the super pollutant known as HFCs, hydrofluorocarbons.  And our hope is that this year we can continue to expand our cooperation with China on climate and environment, but also be very direct about our differences.  That’s why in a five-hour meeting I had with President Xi this past December — after they had several days earlier announced unilaterally an air defense identification zone, contrary to international law — I sat with President Xi and I told him bluntly, Mr. President, understand one thing.  We do not recognize it, we do not honor it, and we’re flying a B-52 through it.  Understand. (Laughter.)  No, I’m serious.  I’m not asking you to do anything.  I’m not asking you to renege.  Just understand — we will pay no attention whatsoever to it.  It’s important.  It’s important that in emerging relationships there be absolute, frank, direct discussions.
 
That’s why we’ve made clear as well that freedom of navigation must be maintained in the South China Sea.  But that’s also why President Obama has been direct in public and private with China’s leaders on cyber theft.  And as the world watches Hong Kong’s young people take to the streets peacefully to demand respect for their own rights, we’ll also never stop standing up for the principles we believe in that are universal — democratic freedoms and human rights.

President Xi asked me, why do we focus on human rights so much?  I’m serious.  And I gave him a direct answer — which is almost unique to the United States; it doesn’t make us better or worse, but unique to the United States.  I said, Mr. President, even if a President of the United States did not want to raise human rights abuses with you to have a better relationship on the surface, it would be impossible for him or her to do that — for the vast majority of the American people came here to seek human rights and freedom.  It is stamped into our DNA.  It is impossible for us to remain silent.  Again, he took it on board — and it’s important to understand why we do it.  It is not a political tool.  It is who we are.
 
To build these robust relationships with emerging powers, we also have to demonstrate staying power — which is hard and costly — in places that will do the most to shape the world that our grandchildren are going to inherit.  That’s why our rebalance to the Asia-Pacific region depends in no small part on completing a trade initiative known as the Trans-Pacific Partnership.  And that’s the whole Pacific — from Peru all the way to Japan. 
It’s a partnership that will stitch together the economies of 12 Pacific nations, stretching from South America to Asia, united behind rising standards regarding labor, the environment, and fair completion.  Once completed, these trade agreements we are negotiating across the Atlantic and the Pacific will encompass nearly two-thirds of the global trade in the world, and can shape the character of the entire economic global economy.

The Trans-Pacific Partnership also has a profound strategic — not just economic — strategic element to it.  Because deeper economic ties cement our partnerships but, most of all, help small nations resist the blackmail and coercion of larger powers using new asymmetric weapons to try to achieve their ends in other countries.

And this brings me to the Western Hemisphere, a vital part of the Pacific equation, but where there’s another great opportunity.  The President asked me to oversee our hemispheric relations.  And for the first time in history, you can truly envision a Western Hemisphere that is secure, democratic and middle class, from northern Canada to southern Chile, and everywhere in between.  But we have to overcome centuries of distrust.  We can no longer look at the region in terms of what we can do for it.  The question is what can we do together in this hemisphere.  And the possibilities are endless.

On energy, North America is literally — not figuratively — the epicenter of energy in the world today.  There are more rigs, gas and oil rigs in the United States pumping today than every other nation in the world combined.  Combined.  North America will account — meaning Mexico, China and Canada — for two-thirds of the growth of global energy supply over the next 20 years.  By 2018, the United States will be a net exporter of natural gas, and most projections show North America will be totally energy independent by 2020, and the United States shortly thereafter.
 
Look at the hemisphere in terms of trade.  Forty percent of all our exports stay in this hemisphere — 40 percent.  We have $1.3 trillion in trade in a yearly basis just in North America, including $1.3 billion per day with Mexico alone.
 
On security, we partnered with Colombia and Mexico and others to combat the scourge of drug trafficking.  We’re helping Central American countries address the root causes of poverty and violence and migration.

But to realize the potential of our partnerships in the region, we have to be present, we have to build that trust — which is why I’ve made five trips to Latin America just in the last — and to South America as well — just in the last 18 months.
 
It’s why we have to pass immigration reform here in the United States.  It’s one thing to say we respect the rest of the Americas, the majority of which are Hispanic.  But it’s another thing to say I respect them and yet not respect the immigrant population that’s the Hispanic community of the United States.  It does not connect.

The single most significant thing we can do to fundamentally change the relationship in terms of trust and commitment is to pass immigration reform.  Those of you who travel to or are from Central and South America know of what I speak.  Because respecting immigrants from the Americas is part of how we show that we really have changed our view, that South and Central America is no longer our back yard; it is our front yard.  It is our partner.  The relationship is changing.  And when it changes fully the benefits for us are astounding.

The third thing we need to do — and are doing — is to defend and extend the international rules of the road and deal with asymmetrical threats that are emerging.  The international system today is under strain from actors pushing and sometimes pushing past the limits of longstanding important international norms like nonproliferation and territorial integrity.  That’s why we insisted that Syria remove its chemical weapons stockpile and the means to manufacture them.  So we assembled under great criticism a coalition with Russia and others to remove Syria’s chemical stockpile.  That’s why have made it clear to Iran that we will not allow them to acquire a nuclear weapon.  So we’ve put together the single most effective, international sanctions in history to isolate Iran, and to push them back to the negotiating table.

Elsewhere, actors are subverting the fundamental principle of territorial integrity through the use of new asymmetric tactics, the use of proxies to quietly test the limits and probe the weaknesses across boundaries and borders on land and sea; the use of corruption as a foreign policy tool, unlike any time in modern history, to manipulate outcomes in other countries in order undermine the integrity of their governmental institutions.  That’s exactly what’s happening in Ukraine today. 

Putin — President Putin was determined to deny Ukraine and the Ukrainian people the power to make their choices about the future — whether to look east or west or both.  Under the pretext of protecting Russian-speaking populations, he not only encouraged and supported separatists in Ukraine, but he armed them.  He sent in Russian personnel out of uniform to take on the Ukrainian military, those little, green men.

    And when that wasn’t enough, he had the audacity to send Russian troops and tanks and sophisticated, air-defense systems across the border.  But we rallied the world to check his ambitions and defend Ukrainian sovereignty.  We didn’t put boots on the ground. 

Putin sought to prevent a free and open election.  We rallied the world to help Ukraine hold quite possibly the freest election in its history.  Putin sought to destabilize Ukraine’s economy.  We provided a billion dollars directly from the United States and worked with the IMF on a $27 billion international rescue package to keep them from going under.

Putin sought to keep Ukraine weak through corruption.  We’re helping those leaders fight back corruption, which by the way is an issue that demands our leadership around the world, by helping them write new laws, set up a new judiciary and much more.  Putin sought to hollow out Ukraine’s military the last 10 years, and he was very successful.  But we rallied NATO and NATO countries to begin to build that military capability back up.  Putin sought to keep secret Russian support for separatists who shot down a civilian airliner.  We exposed it to the world, and in turn rallied the world.  And remember this all began because Putin sought to block Ukraine’s accession agreement with the European Union.  Well, guess what:  That agreement was signed and ratified several weeks ago.

Throughout we’ve given Putin a simple choice:  Respect Ukraine’s sovereignty or face increasing consequences.  That has allowed us to rally the world’s major developed countries to impose real cost on Russia.

It is true they did not want to do that.  But again, it was America’s leadership and the President of the United States insisting, oft times almost having to embarrass Europe to stand up and take economic hits to impose costs.  And the results have been massive capital flight from Russia, a virtual freeze on foreign direct investment, a ruble at an all-time low against the dollar, and the Russian economy teetering on the brink of recession.

We don’t want Russia to collapse.  We want Russia to succeed.  But Putin has to make a choice.  These asymmetrical advances on another country cannot be tolerated.  The international system will collapse if they are.

And to state the obvious, it’s not over yet.  And there are no guarantees of success.  But unlike — the Ukrainian people have stood up.  And we are helping them, leading and acting strategically. 

The fourth element of our strategy is countering violent extremism.  As you know, we’ve engaged in a relentless campaign against terrorists in Afghanistan, in the so-called FATA, in Pakistan, Somalia and elsewhere.  This campaign against violent extremism predates our administration, and it will outlive our administration.  But we’ve made real progress against al Qaeda’s core and its affiliates since 9/11.  But this threat of violent extremism is something we’re going to have to contend with for a long time. 

Today, we’re confronting the latest iteration of that danger, so-called ISIL; a group that combines al Qaeda’s ideology with territorial ambitions in Iraq and Syria and beyond, and the most blatant use of terrorist tactics the world has seen in a long, long time.  But we know how to deal with them.

Our comprehensive strategy to degrade and eventually defeat ISIL reflects the lessons we have learned post-9/11 age about how to use our power wisely.  And degrading them does not depend upon an unsustainable deployment of hundreds of thousands of boots on the ground.  It’s focused on building a coalition with concrete contributions from the countries in the region.  It recognizes outside military intervention alone will not be enough.  Ultimately, societies have to solve their own problems, which is why we’re pouring so much time and effort into supporting a Syrian opposition and Iraqi efforts to re-establish their democracy and defend their territory.  But this is going to require a lot of time and patience.

The truth is we will likely be dealing with these challenges of social upheaval not just in Iraq and Syria, but across the Middle East in the wake of the Arab Spring, which will take a generation or more to work itself out. 

We can’t solve each of these problems alone.  We can’t solve them ourselves.  But ultimately — and we can’t ultimately solve them with force, nor should we try.  But we can work to resolve these conflicts.  We can seek to empower the forces of moderation and pluralism and inclusive economic growth.  We can work with our partners to delegitimize ISIL in the Islamic world, and their perverse ideology. 

We can cut off the flow of terrorist finance and foreign fighters, as the President chaired the hearing in the United Nations Security Council on that issue just last week.  We can build the capacity of our partners from the Arab world to Afghanistan to solve their security problems in their own countries with our help and guidance.  The threat posed by violent extremists is real.  And I want to say here on the campus of Harvard University:  Our response must be deadly serious, but we should keep this in perspective.  The United States today faces threats that require attention.  But we face no existential threat to our way of life or our security.  Let me say it again:  We face no existential threat — none — to our way of life or our ultimate security.

You are twice as likely to be struck by lightning as you around to be affected by a terrorist event in the United States.

And while we face an adaptive, resilient enemy, let’s never forget that they’re no match for an even more resilient and adaptive group of people, the American people, who are so much tougher, smarter, realistic and gutsy than their political leadership gives them credit for.

We didn’t crumble after 9/11.  We didn’t falter after the Boston Marathon.  But we’re America.  Americans will never, ever stand down.  We endure.  We overcome.  We own the finish line.  So do not take out of proportion this threat to us.  None of you are being taught to dive under your desks in drills dealing with the possibility of a nuclear attack.  And I argue with all of my colleagues, including in the administration, the American people have already factored in the possibility that there will be another Boston Marathon someday.  But it will not, cannot — has no possibility of breaking our will, our resolve, and/or our ultimate security.

Which brings me to the fifth and final point, the strength of America’s economy.  Without a strong economic foundation, none of which I have spoken to is possible — none of it.  It all rests on America remaining the most vibrant and vital economy in the world. 

And America is back.  America remains the world’s leading economy.  I got elected when I was 29 years old, as was pointed out, and I was referred to in those days as a young idealist.  And I’m today — if you read about me among the many things that are often said, good and bad, I’m always referred to as the White House Optimist, as if somehow, as my grandpop would say, I fell off the turnip truck yesterday.  (Laughter.)

I’m optimistic because I know the history of the journey of this country.  And I have never been more optimistic about America’s future than I am today, and that is not hyperbole.  We are better positioned than any other nation in the world to remain the leading economy in the world in the 21st century. 

We have the world’s greatest research university.  We have the greatest energy resources in the world.  We have the most flexible venture-capitalist system, the most productive workers in the world.  That’s an objective assertion.  We have a legal system that adjudicates claims fairly, protects intellectual property.  Don’t take my word for it.  AT Kearney has been doing a survey for over the last I believe 30-some years.  They survey the 500 largest industrial outfits in the world.  They ask the same question:  Where is the best place in the world to invest?  This year, America not only remains the best place in the world to invest by a margin larger than any time in the record of the survey, but Boston Consulting Group right here, a first-rate outfit, surveys every year American corporations with manufacturing facilities in China and asks them what are they planning for next year.  This year, the response was 54 percent of those invested in China said they planned on coming home.

I don’t know how long I’ve been hearing about how China — and I want China to succeed, it’s in our interest they succeed economically — about how China is eating America’s lunch.  Folks, China has overwhelming problems.  China not only has an energy problem, they have no water.  No, no, not a joke — like California.  They have no water.  (Laughter.)  It is a gigantic and multi-trillion-dollar problem for them.  We should help them solve the problem. 

Ladies and gentlemen, raise your hand if you think our main competition is going to come from the EU in the next decade.  Put your hands up.  (Laughter.)  I’m not being facetious here now, I’m being deadly earnest.  We want — it is overwhelmingly our interest that the EU grow, and that China grows, because when they don’t grow, we don’t grow as fast.  But, ladies and gentlemen, relative terms, we are so well-positioned if we act rationally, if we invest in our people.

A recent study points out that American workers are three times as productive as workers in China.  It matters in terms of where people will invest their money, where jobs will be created.  And one of my — I was in and out of Kosovo and Bosnia and Herzegovina over twenty-some times.  As Maggie will remember, I was the voice that kept hectoring President Clinton to lift the arms embargo and take on Milosevic, which he did, to his great credit.

And one of my trips to Kosovo, I had a Kosovar driver, meaning he was Muslim, a Kosovar driver and who spoke a little English.  And I was going up to Fort Bondsteel, which is right outside of Pristina, a fort that was being built on a plateau.  And it was a rutted, muddy road, and we were — the tires were spinning to get up there, but there were all these cranes and bulldozers and all these incredible movement.  And my driver very proudly sort of looked down like this and looked out the window and he pointed at me and he said, Senator, America, America.  And we were literally at a gate – and, Tommy, you know, the old pike that came down across this rutted road in red and white striped.  And standing to the right of the gate, stopping us, were five American soldiers.  An African American woman, who was a master sergeant; a Chinese American — I forget the rank; an African American man; a woman colonel, and a Hispanic commanding officer.  And I tapped him on the soldier and I said, no, no, and I meant it so seriously — there’s America.  There’s America.  Until you figure out how to live together like we do, you will never, never, never make it. 

America’s strength ultimately lies in its people.  There’s nothing special about being American — none of you can define for me what an American is.  Can’t define it based on religion, ethnicity, race, culture.  The uniqueness of America is that we are a group of people who agreed on — whether we say it, whether we’re well-educated or not, whether we say it in terms of basic agreements but we really do believe without saying it, “We the People.”   “All men are created equal, endowed by their Creator.”  Sounds corny.  But that’s who we are.  That’s the essential strength and vibrancy of this country.

And that’s why it’s our obligation to lead.  It’s costly.  It takes sacrifice.  And sometimes it’s dangerous.  But we must lead — but lead in a more rational way, as I hope I’ve outlined for you, because we can.  We can deal with the present crisis, and it is within our power to make a better world.

You’re a lucky group of students.  I’m not being solicitous.  You’re lucky because you are about to take control at a time where one of those rare inflection points in the history of the world, in this country.  Remember from your physics class in high school, if you didn’t have to take it in college.  I remember my physics professor saying an inflection point is when you’re riding down the highway at 60 miles an hour and your hands are on the steering wheel, and you turn it abruptly 2, 5, 10 degrees one way or the other, and you can never get back on the path you were on.
 
We are at an inflection point.  The world is changing whether we like it or not, but we have our hands on the wheel.  The only time you get a chance to bend history a little bit are these moments of great change.  And if we’re wise, if we have courage and resolve, and with a little bit of luck we can all make the world a better place — for real.
 
God bless you all and may God protect our troops.  Thank you.  (Applause.)  

END
7:20 P.M. EDT

FACT SHEET: Global Health Security Agenda: Getting Ahead of the Curve on Epidemic Threats

The White House

Office of the Press Secretary

For Immediate Release

September 26, 2014

The Ebola epidemic in West Africa highlights the urgency for immediate action to establish global capacity to prevent, detect and rapidly respond to biological threats like Ebola.  Beginning in his 2011 speech at the United Nations General Assembly, the President has called upon all countries to work together to prevent, detect, and respond to outbreaks before they become epidemics. 

The Global Health Security Agenda (GHSA) was launched on February 13, 2014 to advance a world safe and secure from infectious disease threats and to bring together nations from all over the world to make new, concrete commitments, and to elevate global health security as a national leaders-level priority. The G7 endorsed the GHSA in June 2014; and Finland and Indonesia hosted commitment development meetings to spur action in May and August.

On September 26, President Obama, National Security Advisor Rice, Assistant to the President for Homeland Security and Counterterrorism Monaco, and Secretaries Kerry, Hagel, and Burwell will meet with Ministers and senior officials from 44 countries and leading international organizations to make specific commitments to implement the GHSA and to work toward a commitment to assist West Africa with needed global health security capacity within 3 years.

Commitments to Action

In 2014, countries developed 11 lines of effort in support of the GHSA – known as Action Packages.  The Action Packages are designed to outline tangible, measurable steps required to prevent outbreaks, detect threats in real time, and rapidly respond to infectious disease threats —whether naturally occurring, the result of laboratory accidents, or an act of bioterrorism. The Action Packages include specific targets and indicators that can be used as a basis to measure how national, regional, and global capacities are developed and maintained over the long-term.  Since February, countries have made over 100 new commitments to implement the 11 Action Packages.  For its part, the United States has committed to assist at least 30 countries over five years to achieve the objectives of the GHSA and has placed a priority for our actions on combating antibiotic resistant bacteria, to improve biosafety and biosecurity on a global basis, and preventing bioterrorism.  www.cdc.gov/globalhealth/security

Next Steps: Governance and Tracking

Going forward, 10 countries have agreed to serve on the GHSA Steering Group, which will be chaired by Finland starting in 2015, with representation from countries around the world, including: Canada, Chile, Finland, India, Indonesia, Italy, Kenya, the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, the Republic of Korea, and the United States.  The Steering Group is charged with tracking progress, identifying challenges, and overseeing implementation for achieving the objectives of the GHSA in support of international standards set by the World Health Organization, the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, and the World Organization for Animal Health. This includes the implementation of internationally agreed standards for core capacities, such as the World Health Organization International Health Regulations, the World Organization for Animal Health Performance of Veterinary Services Pathway, and other global health security frameworks. To provide accountability and drive progress toward GHSA goals, an independent, objective and transparent assessment process will be needed.  Independent evaluation conducted over the five-year course of the GHSA will help highlight gaps and needed course corrections to ensure that the GHSA targets are reached. 

All nations share a responsibility to provide health security for our world and for accelerating action toward a world safe and secure from all infectious disease threats. 

Participating Nations—Australia, Azerbaijan, Canada, Chile, China, Denmark, Ethiopia, Finland, France, Georgia, Germany, Guinea, India, Indonesia, Israel, Italy, Japan, Jordan, Kenya, Liberia, Malaysia, Mexico, Netherlands, Norway, Pakistan, Peru, Portugal, Republic of Korea, Saudi Arabia, Sierra Leone, Singapore, South Africa, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, Thailand, Turkey, Uganda, Ukraine, United Arab Emirates, United Kingdom, United States, Vietnam, and Yemen. 

Press Releases: Joint Communique AUSMIN 2014

Begin Text:

Minister for Foreign Affairs Julie Bishop, Minister for Defence Senator David Johnston, Secretary of State John Kerry and Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel met on 12 August in Sydney for the annual Australia-United States Ministerial Consultations (AUSMIN).

On the 29th anniversary of the first AUSMIN, the talks reaffirmed the Alliance’s important contribution to the peace, security, and prosperity of the Asia Pacific and Indian Ocean regions as well as its enduring value in addressing contemporary and evolving challenges in the regions and throughout the world. The Alliance is a cornerstone of our strong and dynamic bilateral relationship, which is based on shared values and close friendship.

1. The Australia-United States Alliance

Australia and the United States reaffirmed the strong state of bilateral defence and security cooperation under the Alliance, as demonstrated through a decade of operations together in Afghanistan and Iraq.

With the signature today of the legally-binding Force Posture Agreement between Australia and the United States, we reaffirmed our commitment to work towards full implementation of the Force Posture Initiatives in Australia. The agreement provides a robust policy and legal framework and financial principles for implementation of the force posture initiatives announced in 2011. It demonstrates the United States’ strong commitment to the Asia Pacific and Indian Ocean regions and Australia’s firm support for the US rebalance. The agreement also reaffirms our mutual intent to deepen our relationship and regional security through expanded cooperation together and with other countries in the region.

Australia and the United States welcomed the larger US Marine Corps presence under the third rotational deployment currently in Darwin and discussed the way forward for enhanced aircraft cooperation. They discussed the potential for additional bilateral naval cooperation and welcomed the significant, wide-ranging series of port visits planned for 2015. They also asked their respective officials to develop practical options to enhance naval training and exercises in Australia and the region.

Acknowledging the high-level of interoperability between Australian and US Special Forces, both sides supported fostering these links to address shared threats and enhance capacity within the region.

The two countries committed to continue to work together to counter the growing threat of ballistic missiles in the Asia Pacific region, including by establishing a bilateral working group to examine options for potential Australian contributions to ballistic missile defence in the region.

Australia and the United States reaffirmed their intention to continue strategic planning collaboration between their respective defence departments, to develop common approaches to regional security challenges, and to harness opportunities for greater defence cooperation across the Asia Pacific and Indian Ocean regions.

They highlighted the importance of the bilateral Exercise Talisman Sabre to continue to enhance Australia-US interoperability, practise our joint collective capabilities, and demonstrate mutual resolve in maintaining joint defence readiness under the Alliance. They emphasised the importance of civilian agency participation in the Exercise and the desire to strengthen our capacity to deliver humanitarian assistance and disaster relief, and incorporate ‘women, peace and security’ objectives into our combined planning. They planned to hold the next round of the bilateral Political-Military Talks at the earliest opportunity.

Australia and the United States reaffirmed their commitment to practical space cooperation, encouraged by recent steps towards establishing combined operations. They welcomed the significant progress made toward establishing the C-Band space surveillance radar and the Space Surveillance Telescope in Australia. They reiterated support for regional and global efforts to strengthen the safety, security and sustainability of space, including finalising the International Code of Conduct for Outer Space Activities.

Australia and the United States welcomed continued high-level bilateral cooperation on defence science and technology. The rise of increasingly sophisticated and complex threat environments, combined with continued resource pressures, makes the development of affordable capabilities an imperative. This includes diverse areas such as cyber, electronic warfare, hypersonics, as well as integrated intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance technologies.

Australia and the United States reflected on defence industry collaboration between the two countries. Over the last decade, Australia has agreed to purchase important capabilities from the United States, including the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter, EA-18G Growler, P-8A Poseidon maritime surveillance aircraft and E-7A Wedgetail early warning aircraft. These shared platforms and capabilities provide opportunities to maintain and enhance bilateral interoperability.

Both countries emphasised that international law, including the United Nations Charter and, where relevant, international humanitarian law, applies to state conduct in cyberspace and reaffirmed that Australia and the United States would act in accordance with their obligations.

Both countries welcomed the expansion of bilateral trade and investment, driven by the strong affinities between our economies. They noted the dynamism and diversity in the economic relationship, including the significant level of business engagement across a broad spectrum of economic activity. Both countries looked forward to celebrating the 10th anniversary of the entry into force of the Australia-United States Free Trade Agreement on 1 January 2015. The Agreement has deepened economic integration and boosted both economies.

Australia and the United States reaffirmed the importance of their people-to-people ties. The two countries also noted this year as the 65th anniversary of the Australian-American Fulbright Commission, which has supported the professional growth of close to 5,000 students and scholars, and enriched bilateral relations.

Both countries welcomed the growth in cooperation on innovation, energy, science, technology and health. Bilateral innovation cooperation will strengthen our work on cutting edge issues, ranging from neuroscience to clean energy and energy efficiency, to research on global ocean acidification, to information technology and bio-preparedness.

2. Asia Pacific and Indian Ocean regions

Australia and the United States reaffirmed their commitment to comprehensive engagement in the rapidly developing Asia Pacific and Indian Ocean regions. Australia expressed support for the United States’ role in underpinning the regions’ security, stability and prosperity. The United States welcomed the important contribution that Australia’s wide-ranging engagement in those regions continues to make to security and stability.

They recognised regional economic integration and development as essential to the future prosperity of Australia and the United States, and of the Asia Pacific and Indian Ocean regions as a whole. They supported economic initiatives that foster growth and market openness, and deepen economic integration in those regions and globally.

Australia and the United States reaffirmed their strong commitment to concluding an ambitious, high quality, comprehensive Trans-Pacific Partnership agreement (TPP) as soon as possible. This will deepen regional integration, open new trade and investment opportunities, create jobs, and support economic growth.

They pledged to work closely in support of the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation’s (APEC) agenda to advance economic integration across the Asia Pacific region, especially in the areas of trade and investment liberalisation, structural reform and regulatory coherence, enhancing global value chains, improving supply-chain performance, combating corruption, promoting cross-border education cooperation, and women’s economic empowerment.

Australia and the United States shared their views that the East Asia Summit (EAS) is the premier regional forum for dialogue and cooperation on the political, security, strategic and relevant economic challenges confronting the Asia Pacific and Indian Ocean regions. They will work more closely together, and with EAS partners, in continuing to enhance the EAS’ role, through deepening its agenda on maritime security, non-proliferation and disaster response, and building synergies with other regional forums.

Australia and the United States welcomed the practical cooperation fostered under the ASEAN Regional Forum (ARF) and the ASEAN Defence Ministers’ Meeting Plus (ADMM+) and expect to cooperate closely to ensure an open dialogue on key regional security issues. They intend to build confidence through maritime security and maritime domain awareness, non-proliferation and disarmament, humanitarian assistance and disaster relief, counter-terrorism, space and cyber security. Both countries strongly supported the ARF’s work on preventive diplomacy and also noted their partnership in encouraging the ARF and ADMM+ to develop a regional strategic multi-year exercise plan to coordinate and improve the effectiveness of humanitarian assistance and disaster relief activities. They reaffirmed their support for the Expanded ASEAN Maritime Forum (EAMF) as an important avenue for regional discussion of maritime issues. They are working closely together in taking forward a workshop on maritime environmental pollution in October 2014 under the US-led Expanded ASEAN Seafarer Training (EAST) initiative.

The two countries underscored their shared interest in the maintenance of peace and stability, respect for international law, unimpeded lawful commerce, and upholding freedom of navigation and overflight in the East China and the South China Seas. They called on claimants to refrain from actions that could increase tensions and to clarify and pursue claims in accordance with international law, including as reflected in the Law of the Sea Convention. They reaffirmed support for the rights of claimants to seek peaceful resolution of disputes, including through legal mechanisms such as arbitration under the Law of the Sea Convention. They opposed unilateral attempts to change facts on the ground or water through the threat or use of force or coercion.

The two countries emphasised the need for South China Sea claimant states to build upon the framework for managing disputes set forth in the 2002 Declaration on the Conduct of Parties in the South China Sea, including the commitment of ASEAN states and China to “undertake to exercise self-restraint in the conduct of activities that would complicate or escalate disputes and affect peace and stability.” They encouraged claimant states to reach consensus on what types of activities should be permissible and what types of activities should be avoided in areas that are in dispute. They underscored that such a voluntary arrangement would serve as a good faith gesture among all parties and could help facilitate the early completion of a meaningful Code of Conduct in the South China Sea. The United States and Australia affirmed their support for a voluntary ‘freeze’ by claimants on activities in disputed maritime areas.

Australia and the United States acknowledged the significance of Indonesia’s third direct presidential election. They recognised the significant contributions of outgoing President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono in leading his country, and welcomed Indonesia’s leadership role in the Asia Pacific and Indian Ocean regions. Both countries look forward to working closely with Indonesian President-elect Joko Widodo and his administration after his inauguration in October. They affirmed their desire to seek opportunities to enhance joint cooperation with Indonesia on defence as well as humanitarian assistance and disaster relief.

Affirming the longstanding and enduring friendship among Australia, the United States and the people of Thailand, both countries recognised that Thailand faced complex challenges that only the Thai people could address. They noted that Australia and the United States had expressed concern about the military coup. They looked forward to a transition to civilian rule and a return to democracy, stressing the importance of inclusive processes which reflect the will of the Thai people. They also stressed the importance of respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms.

Australia and the United States welcomed Burma’s commitment to political, economic and social reforms and encouraged further efforts towards constitutional reform, free and fair elections in 2015, and protecting the rights of all people in Burma. They also welcomed ongoing efforts to reach a nationwide ceasefire with ethnic armed groups and encouraged an inclusive political dialogue with stakeholders to achieve a lasting peace. They acknowledged steps that Burma has taken regarding non-proliferation, including its signature of the Additional Protocol with the IAEA in September 2013, and agreed on the importance of Burma severing all proscribed activities with the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, in accordance with relevant UN Security Council resolutions. They supported Burma’s deepening engagement with the international community and acknowledged its chairmanship of ASEAN and the East Asia Summit in 2014.

Australia and the United States welcomed Japan’s efforts to make a greater contribution to international peace and stability, including through its decision to allow for the exercise of its UN Charter right to collective self-defence. They undertook to maintain strong bilateral security relationships with Japan and committed to enhance trilateral security and defence cooperation, including through the Trilateral Strategic Dialogue and further developing existing trilateral exercises.

The two countries committed to intensify their collaboration with the Republic of Korea to promote stability on the Korean Peninsula, in the wider region and globally, through expanded trilateral security and defence cooperation and by working together in bodies such as the UN Security Council, including on peacekeeping, counter-proliferation, maritime cooperation and humanitarian assistance and disaster relief.

Australia and the United States reaffirmed their commitment to building positive and constructive relations with China, including by pursuing dialogue on strategic security issues and by expanding practical cooperation in support of their common interest in maintaining regional peace and stability, and respect for international law. They will endeavour to strengthen their comprehensive and cooperative relations with China, including through stronger economic engagement, and to encourage China to make further progress in respect for human rights. They welcomed China’s contributions to United Nations peacekeeping operations and international efforts to combat piracy in the Gulf of Aden, as well as its participation in the 2014 Rim of the Pacific Exercise (RIMPAC). They looked forward to joining China for the inaugural iteration of Exercise Kowari, a trilateral defence exercise to be conducted in Australia in October.

Australia and the United States underscored their serious concern that Democratic People’s Republic of Korea’s (DPRK) behaviour undermined the stability of the entire region and called on the DPRK to cease its threats and provocations, comply with its international commitments and obligations, including by abandoning its nuclear, missile and proliferation activities. They expressed their deep concern for the welfare of the North Korean people and the abducted citizens of other countries, called on the DPRK to implement the UN Commission of Inquiry’s recommendations for ending the ongoing systematic, widespread, and extreme violations of human rights, and reiterated that those responsible must be held to account.

Both countries welcomed their close cooperation with affected countries in the region and beyond during the initial surface search for missing Malaysia Airlines flight MH370. This joint effort was a powerful example of regional cooperation. Australia, Malaysia and China continue the search, with an intensive underwater search of 60,000 km2 due to start in early September after a bathymetric survey.

Australia and the United States recognised India’s position as the world’s largest democracy and an important economic and strategic power in the Asia Pacific and Indian Ocean regions. They intend to work with India to expand trilateral cooperation, including on shared challenges such as maritime security, energy security, and ensuring economic growth, and through collaboration in regional institutions.

They recognised the important role that the Indian Ocean Rim Association (IORA) played as the only ministerial-level grouping that spans the Indian Ocean region. They intend to continue to support IORA’s work to facilitate closer cooperation in the Indian Ocean region. As IORA Chair, Australia reaffirmed its intention to develop a stronger policy agenda for IORA and welcomed the United States’ participation as a Dialogue Partner at the Council of Ministers Meeting to be held in Perth on 9 October.

The two countries expect to further enhance maritime security cooperation, including combating piracy and promoting regional security, stability and freedom of navigation, by working closely together under the US-led Combined Maritime Forces in the Indian Ocean and through the Regional Cooperation Agreement on Combating Piracy and Armed Robbery against ships in Asia (ReCAAP), which the United States will join in September.

Australia and the United States encouraged Fiji’s progress toward holding elections on 17 September. They will continue to work together with other international partners to support elections and democratic reforms in Fiji.

They reaffirmed their commitment to assist the Pacific Island countries in realising their goal of a stable, secure and prosperous region. They welcomed the adoption of a new Framework for Pacific Regionalism by Pacific Islands Forum Leaders at their July meeting. Both countries welcomed the election of Dame Meg Taylor of Papua New Guinea as the first female Secretary General of the Pacific Islands Forum Secretariat.

They undertook to continue to work together in pursuit of the sustainable management of oceans and fisheries, which are among the key development challenges in the Pacific and globally. They reaffirmed their commitment to cooperative efforts to address illegal, unreported and unregulated (IUU) fishing.

Australia and the United States will endeavour to continue to provide development assistance that fosters economic growth and prosperity in the Asia Pacific and Indian Ocean regions. They intend to continue supporting development programs that reduce poverty by promoting innovation, gender equality, education and health, and collaborate on the provision of humanitarian assistance.

Australia and the United States reaffirmed their shared commitment to advance gender equality and the status of women and girls. In particular, they recognised that women’s economic empowerment is a significant driver of growth and development, and planned to work together to promote women’s employment and economic opportunity, particularly in the Asia Pacific and Indian Ocean regions.

3. Global challenges

Australia and the United States plan to work together through the G20 toward achieving their shared goals of promoting strong, sustainable, and balanced global economic growth and employment, and increasing the resilience of the global economy, including by strengthening infrastructure investment, enhancing trade and building cooperation on energy, including on energy efficiency. The United States shared Australia’s ambition for G20 members to boost the collective GDP of members by more than two per cent above current projections over the next five years.

Recognising the challenges climate change poses to security, Australia and the United States intend to continue to work through the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change process to negotiate a new, ambitious climate agreement applicable to all countries by 2015 to take effect in 2020.

The United States welcomed Australia’s engagement on the Global Health Security Agenda, which seeks to accelerate progress toward a world safe and secure from infectious disease threats and to promote global health security as an international security priority.

The United States welcomed Australia’s strong contribution during its term on the United Nations Security Council (UNSC) and our shared efforts to reach constructive and practical solutions to international peace and security issues. Both countries are continuing to work closely to tackle serious challenges before the Council, including the ongoing conflict and humanitarian crisis in Syria, protection of civilians in conflict zones, effective implementation of sanctions, countering the international terrorist threat and regional weapons proliferation.

Australia and the United States reaffirmed their commitment to the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Ukraine. Russia’s purported annexation of Crimea has no basis in international law.

Both countries condemned Russia’s support for and enabling of the continued destabilisation of eastern Ukraine; destabilisation which led to the shooting down of a passenger airliner, Malaysia Airlines flight MH17, killing all 298 on board. Both countries affirmed their commitment to completing a full international investigation into the attack¬¬– an appalling tragedy and terrible act of senseless violence – including through implementation of UNSC Resolution 2166 on MH17.

Australia and the United States condemned in the strongest possible terms the actions of the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) and other armed opposition groups in Iraq. They welcomed the nomination of Dr Haider al-Abadi as Prime Minister-designate, and encouraged him to form a new and inclusive Iraqi Government as soon as possible. They called on all Iraqi leaders to work closely together and adopt a unified approach to addressing the country’s challenges. The two countries indicated their deep concern about recent developments in northern Iraq and their commitment to work together and with other partners to undertake humanitarian operations to relieve besieged communities and to combat the threat posed by ISIL.

The two countries discussed the worsening humanitarian, social and political crisis in Syria and reaffirmed the urgent need for a political solution to the conflict consistent with the Geneva Communiqué. They also called for all nations to cooperate in applying pressure to those responsible for the crisis, the Assad regime and violent radical extremists, and to provide humanitarian aid for the civilian population suffering from the conflict. They expressed their intention to continue to work through the UNSC to press the parties to the conflict, and particularly the Syrian regime, to adhere to the provisions of UNSC Resolution 2139 on the protection of civilians and humanitarian access and UNSC Resolution 2165 on humanitarian access.

They intend to continue to work closely together and with the international community to address the national security risks posed by foreign fighters in the conflicts in Syria and Iraq, and the impact of their return, particularly in Southeast Asia. They will work together also in developing a set of established best practices for addressing this threat at the national level, including through legislation, border security, immigration and consular policies.

Australia and the United States reaffirmed their intention to continue assisting the Government of Afghanistan as it assumes full responsibility for the security of Afghanistan post-2014 and works to increase stability and prosperity. They welcomed the commitment of the parties to form a government of national unity.

They acknowledged the importance of Pakistan to South Asian stability and welcomed Prime Minister Sharif’s commitment to economic reform. They committed to continue to work with Pakistan to help it address ongoing security and development challenges, including its critical energy needs.

Australia and the United States called on Iran to continue engaging constructively with the P5+1 to negotiate a joint comprehensive plan of action to resolve international concerns about its nuclear program, and called on Iran to resolve all outstanding issues related to its nuclear program – particularly those concerning its possible military dimensions – and fully and urgently to implement Iran’s Framework for Cooperation agreed with the International Atomic Energy Agency. They urged Iran to take tangible steps to improve the country’s human rights situation and to cooperate fully with the UN Special Rapporteur.

Both countries reaffirmed their commitment to working with Israel and the Palestinians, the United Nations and international partners to support the resumption of direct negotiations towards a just and lasting two-state solution. They expressed the need for an unconditional, prolonged ceasefire that significantly de-escalates the violence and leads to a permanent cessation of hostilities. Both countries are providing urgently needed humanitarian assistance to Gaza in addition to carrying through with existing commitments for development assistance to the Palestinian Territories.

The two countries called on Egypt to demonstrate its commitment to inclusive democracy, economic reform, human rights and fundamental freedoms in the interests of long-term stability. They expressed their deep disappointment about the recent decision by an Egyptian court to impose lengthy jail sentences on journalists, including Australian reporter Peter Greste. They pledged to continue representations at senior levels of the Egyptian Government to underline their concerns about the restrictions on freedom of expression in Egypt, including the targeting of journalists simply for doing their jobs. They called for the resolution of these cases as soon as possible.

Australia and the United States continued to support counter-terrorism cooperation and capacity building in South Asia, Southeast Asia, the Middle East, Eastern Africa, and through the Global Counter-Terrorism Forum. Australia and the United States reaffirmed intelligence cooperation and sharing as core elements of the Alliance that make a vital contribution to managing threats.

They reaffirmed their shared commitment to continue to work closely and cooperatively to help prevent the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction and their means of delivery. The use of chemical weapons in Syria served as a stark reminder of the gravity of this threat and the two sides reiterated their condemnation of Syria’s actions. They noted the contributions of the annual Australia-US Counterproliferation Dialogue in coordinating responses to proliferation threats in the Southeast Asia region and elsewhere, and committed to continue to put priority on this cooperation in the future.

The two countries encouraged the earliest entry into force and effective implementation of the Arms Trade Treaty (ATT), while recognising that the international trade in arms is a legitimate commercial activity. The ATT provides an important means of preventing and eradicating illicit trade in small arms.

4. AUSMIN 2015

The United States offered to host the next AUSMIN meeting in 2015.

End Text