By: Taing Vida The Ministry of Mines and Energy has announced that it will grant two sand dredging licences around Phnom Penh Port, just days after declaring that no new … Read More
More than four decades ago, as a young lieutenant in the “brown-water Navy,” my crew and I journeyed down the Mekong River on an American gunboat. Even with the war all around us, in quiet moments we couldn’t help but be struck by the beauty and the power of the river — the water buffalo, the seafood we traded for with local fishermen, the mangrove on the sides of the river and inlets.
Long ago, those waterways of war became waters of peace and commerce — the United States and Vietnam are in the 20th year of a flourishing relationship.
Today, the Mekong faces a new and very different danger — one that threatens the livelihoods of tens of millions and symbolizes the risk climate change poses to the entire planet. Unsustainable growth and development along the full reach of the river are endangering its long-term health and the region’s prosperity.
From the deck of our swift boat in 1968 and 1969, we could see that the fertile Mekong was essential to the way of life and economy of the communities along its banks. In my many visits to the region since then as a senator and secretary of state, I’ve watched the United States and the countries of Southeast Asia work hand in hand to pursue development in a way that boosts local economies and sustains the environment.
Despite those efforts, the Mekong is under threat. All along its 2,700 miles, the growing demand for energy, food, and water is damaging the ecosystem and jeopardizing the livelihoods of 240 million people. Unsustainable development and the rapid pace of hydropower development are undermining the food and water needs of the hundreds of millions of people who depend on the river.
What’s at stake? In Cambodia, the Mekong supports the rich biodiversity of a watershed that provides more than 60 percent of the country’s protein. In Vietnam, it irrigates the country’s “rice bowl” that feeds the fast-growing economy. Throughout the region, the river is a vital artery for transportation, agriculture, and electricity generation.
The Mekong rivals the Amazon for biodiversity. Giant Mekong catfish and the Irrawaddy dolphin are unique to the river, and scientists are constantly identifying new species of animals and plants across the delta. Some of these newly discovered species could one day hold the promise of new lifesaving drugs.
The challenge is clear: The entire Mekong region must implement a broad strategy that makes sure future growth does not come at the expense of clean air, clean water, and a healthy ecosystem. Pulling off this essential task will show the world of what is possible.
The fate of this region will also have an impact on people living far beyond it. For instance, U.S. trade with the Mekong region increased by 40 percent from 2008 to 2014. This trend has meant more jobs for Americans and continued economic growth for countries across Southeast Asia.
Meeting this challenge requires that we work with these countries to address very real development needs even as we work to sustain the environment. This requires good data for proper analysis and planning, smart investments, strong leaders, and effective institutions to manage the Mekong’s riches for the benefit of everyone in the region.
To that end, we joined with Cambodia, Laos, Myanmar, Thailand, and Vietnam, to launch the Lower Mekong Initiative. Its goal is to create a shared vision of growth and opportunity that recognizes the river’s role as an economic engine and respects its place in the environment.
That is why this week (Feb. 2 and 3) the United States and the government of Laos are co-hosting a major meeting of senior officials from the five lower Mekong countries, the United States, and the European Union in Pakse, Laos, where the Mekong and Xe Don rivers meet. They will be joined by representatives of the private sector and donors like the Asian Development Bank to work on a blueprint for a sustainable future.
At the meeting, we will launch the Sustainable Mekong Energy Initiative, a plan to encourage the countries of the region to develop programs that will redirect their investments to innovations in renewable energy and other sources that do not harm the environment.
This is not a question of dictating the path of development in these countries. Rather, it is about the United States and other countries working alongside our partner nations to establish a consistent set of investment and development guidelines that ensure long-term environmental health and economic vitality all along the river’s path.
This partnership is an essential part of the broader effort by President Barack Obama and the entire administration to support the people of the Asia-Pacific region, and a further sign of our commitment to helping these vibrant economies and emerging democracies.
For Americans and Southeast Asians of my generation, the Mekong River was once a symbol of conflict. But today it can be a symbol of sustainable growth and good stewardship.
The release of an annual letter from Bill and Melinda Gates has become an event akin to the State of the Union Address for the international development and health crowd. The big highlights from this year: The Gates’ predict what life will be like in 2030, including worldwide child deaths halved; diseases like, polio, guinea worm and river blindness will be eradicated; and a cure for malaria. Also, the Gates’ announce an ambitious plan to organize “global citizens” and are ambitiously backing the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals. Read the letter. Read a news story about the letter from Reuters.
Why Obama’s India visit is such a big deal…President Obama is heading to India this weekend. This is the first time that a president will visit India twice while in office. Tanvi Madan of Brookings explains the significance of this trip, what can be expected on the climate change front and why this trip could have profound historic consequences. (Global Dispatches Podcast http://bit.ly/1yVcGMR)
Saudi Arabia’s long King Abdullah has died at the age of 90. He was best described as a cautious reformer. The transition to Prince Salman seems to be smooth, at least on the surface. NYT http://nyti.ms/1yVchKk
Is private equity really hot for sub-saharan Africa? The Economist thinks so. http://econ.st/1CHO2wo
Sierra Leone said on Thursday it would reopen schools across the country in March, with the deadly Ebola epidemic slowing throughout west Africa. (AFP http://yhoo.it/1E6B6V3)
Even though the Ebola outbreak in West Africa continues, the U.N. says it’s time to plan for the recovery of Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone. A joint mission has just completed its assessment in Sierra Leone. (VOA http://bit.ly/1t2AaNp)
Recent news reports indicate a drop in the number of new cases the three countries hardest hit by the Ebola: Guinea, Liberia, and Sierra Leone. Some treatment centers built with foreign aid are operating at a fraction of their capacity. Health care specialists say now’s the time to focus on revitalizing weakened health care systems. (VOA http://bit.ly/1t2AjAp)
The Democratic Republic of Congo‘s Senate has announced a one-day delay for its vote on a proposed electoral law that has sparked days of violent protests. Senators now say they will vote Friday on the bill, which would require completion of a national census before a presidential election can be held. (VOA http://bit.ly/1t2AcVr)
Nigeria should delay next month’s elections to give organisers more time to distribute millions of biometric ID cards to voters, the country’s top security official said on Thursday. (Reuters http://bit.ly/1CGddPT)
Madagascar’s opposition is to challenge the appointment of Prime Minister Jean Ravelonarivo in the constitutional court after the administrative court said it would not hear the case, extending uncertainty in a country struggling to repair its economy. (Reuters http://bit.ly/1yJMCTa)
A new report by Human Rights Watch accuses the Ethiopia’s government of systematically cracking down on media ahead of the May 2015 elections. The report, released Thursday, details how Ethiopia has restricted independent reporting since 2010. (VOA http://bit.ly/1y3sq9r)
In Kenya, the rise of drug resistant bacteria could reverse the gains made by medical science over diseases that were once treatable. Kenyans could be at risk of fatalities as a result if the power in antibiotics is not preserved. (VOA http://bit.ly/1y3sB4K)
An outbreak of H5N1 bird flu in Nigeria has spread to 21 commercial farms in seven different states, with more than 140,000 birds having been exposed to the virus, the agriculture minister said on Thursday. (Reuters http://bit.ly/1y3uXAC)
The slaughter of rhinos in South Africa hit a new record in 2014, with poachers killing 1,215 of the iconic savannah animals as Asian-led demand for their horn showed no sign of abating, authorities said Thursday. (AFP http://yhoo.it/1E6B8fC)
Chad’s President Idriss Deby has secured control of regional operations against deadly Boko Haram Islamists, riding roughshod over his supposed allies in a week-long diplomatic and military offensive. (AFP http://yhoo.it/1E6Ba78)
The Yemeni government has offered its resignation to President Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi, a source close to Prime Minister Khaled Bahah said on Thursday. (Reuters http://yhoo.it/1CjcwhD)
Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi called on world leaders gathered at the World Economic Forum on Thursday to unite against the global threat of terrorism. (Reuters http://bit.ly/1y3uRci)
Rights group Amnesty International said Thursday that Saudi Arabia would postpone the flogging of blogger Raef Badawi, whose case has sparked international criticism, for a second week on medical grounds. (AFP http://yhoo.it/1y3xLxK)
The U.N. agency in charge of aiding Palestinians will run out of money by the end of January to repair homes in Gaza damaged in the 2014 war with Israel, worsening an already dire humanitarian situation, an agency spokesman said on Thursday. (TRF http://yhoo.it/1Bi67lg)
It is an unlikely friendship that ties the fates of war correspondent Kenji Goto and troubled loner Haruna Yukawa, the two Japanese hostages for whom Islamic State militants demanded a $200 million ransom this week. (Reuters http://yhoo.it/1ClB3CO)
It costs thousands of euros for a false passport and place on a boat to Turkey, but Syrian refugees stranded in Cyprus are ready to try anything. (AFP http://yhoo.it/1Bi6E6B)
Thirteen Vietnamese social activists say they were attacked by police and taken into custody after visiting recently freed dissident Tran Anh Kim. (VOA http://bit.ly/1y3rUZ4)
Pakistan says it wants an early repatriation of Afghan refugees in the country but does not intend to forcefully evict them. Meanwhile, Afghan officials are warning that unwarranted pressure on the refugee population as part of Islamabad’s increased counterterrorism measures could hinder bilateral ties. (VOA http://bit.ly/1t2zE20)
Cambodia has managed to reduce poverty in many parts of the country but admits it is still falling behind on many of its United Nations development targets as a deadline to reach such goals approaches. (VOA http://bit.ly/1y3rVMM)
Chinese Premier Li Keqiang said Wednesday that China’s slowing economy reflected the broader, global situation and promised that he would forge ahead with major reforms to boost growth prospects. (VOA http://bit.ly/1y3rW3p)
The disclosure by a key United Nations witness, that parts of his testimony about his life in North Korean prison camps were untrue, is raising questions about the credibility of the U.N. report on human rights abuses in that country. (VOA http://bit.ly/1t2zHL9)
“We cannot be counted as citizens of the 21st century” Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi said in a hard-hitting message to the country during the launch of a nationwide campaign to save and educate girls. (VOA http://bit.ly/1t2Afkn)
Pakistan has outlawed two militant groups accused of plotting terrorist attacks in neighboring India and Afghanistan. The announcement comes before President Barack Obama’s trip to New Delhi this week. (VOA http://bit.ly/1yJLMWL)
Thailand’s former Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra strongly defended herself in parliament before a vote by members on whether to impeach her for her role in a controversial rice subsidy scheme. (VOA http://bit.ly/1CGcC0C)
India will look to the United States for more private sector partnerships and technology to support a drive to expand its use of clean energy, as Washington looks to secure political support for a global climate change deal in 2015. (Reuters http://yhoo.it/1Cjdjiu)
Myanmar’s government has accused ethnic rebels of trying to scuttle a nationwide peace deal, as tensions soar in the northern state of Kachin, where an activist said sporadic clashes between the army and insurgents have trapped more than 1,800 villagers. (AP http://yhoo.it/15vNQ8U)
Amnesty International is calling on the Mexican government to investigate the army in the disappearance of 43 students in southern Mexico on September 26. (AP http://yhoo.it/1E7biIl)
A bill that would prohibit using federal money to pay for “any abortion” or for “health benefits coverage that includes coverage of abortion” has been approved by the US House of Representatives. (NPR http://n.pr/1Bit9IN)
Bill and Melinda Gates Want the UN to Get Real (Businessweek http://buswk.co/1E6Voxw)
Africa’s Economy Is Rising. Now What Happens to Its Food? (Upshot http://nyti.ms/1JdYD6r)
Microfinance not a quick escape from poverty, studies show (Humanosphere http://bit.ly/1JdYAHV)
Nigerians Don’t Need More Boko Haram Coverage, They Need Action (Vanity Fair http://vnty.fr/186mg3E)
Is USAID Helping Haiti to Recover, or US Contractors to Make Millions? (The Nation http://bit.ly/1yKfKbw)
Why Boko Haram Has Stepped Up Attacks in Nigeria (UN Dispatch http://bit.ly/15tX5GK)
Double standards of celebrity humanitarianism (WhyDev http://bit.ly/1yOavHT)
Every movie rewrites history. What American Sniper did is much, much worse. (Vox http://bit.ly/1CGBeX9)
Heartfelt and provocative on Boko Haram (Storify http://bit.ly/1yOaseY)
The United Nations asked governments on Thursday to submit plans to cut greenhouse gas emissions as the building blocks of a deal due in Paris in December to limit global warming, after scientists said 2014 was the hottest year on record. (Reuters http://yhoo.it/1y3xAlQ)
Countries are divided on how a new global plan to reduce the risk of disasters should measure progress, with some governments opposed to setting numerical targets for cutting deaths and economic losses and protecting infrastructure. (TRF http://yhoo.it/1y3xHOi)
08 Dec 2014
UNDP is very pleased to be co-sponsoring this Forum with the National Development and Reform Commission of China and the United Nations Environment Programme. We also thank UNFCCC, the Swiss Development Co-operation, WWF-China, INTASAVE, and the China Academy of Science for their support for this event.
There are many experiences on tackling climate change to be exchanged through South-South Co-operation. The path which China itself is taking is of great global interest.
The large population and economy of China make its moves on climate change very significant. We see that four of the world’s largest wind turbine manufacturers and five of the world’s largest solar energy equipment manufacturers are now from China. The International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA) estimates that in 2013 there were 2.6 million people employed in the renewable energy sector in China. That is around forty per cent of the entire global labour force employed in that sector.
Recently China has made two very important announcements on climate change. At the UN Secretary General’s Climate Summit in New York in September, China pledged to double its support to South-South Co-operation on climate change. Then, just last month, the Presidents of China and the United States announced new climate change commitments. Accordingly, China intends to achieve the peaking of CO2 emissions around 2030, and to make best efforts to peak early. It also intends to increase the share of non-fossil fuels in primary energy consumption to around twenty per cent by 2030.
I congratulate Minister Xie and NDRC for their important role in making these commitments. Your actions will undoubtedly inspire others to pursue pathways to more sustainable futures.
UNDP works with many developing countries to support both adaptation to climate change and mitigation strategies. All have experiences to share. Let me mention just three of many countries where we are proud to be associated with groundbreaking work:
• Ethiopia’s “Climate Resilient Green Economy” (CRGE) strategy is a central element in the country’s ambition to become a low-carbon middle income economy by 2025. The Government has set up a national financial mechanism to mobilize, access, and combine domestic and international public and private sources of finance to support the implementation of the Strategy.
• The Government of Viet Nam is taking a number of steps to address climate change and advance green growth, including through developing national climate change and green growth strategies and legal frameworks on environmental protection.
• In Egypt, with backing from UNDP and the GEF, the Government is creating enabling conditions for the implementation of a Bioenergy National Programme (BNP) which focuses on addressing climate change through low emission energy generation. The Egyptian Environmental Affairs Agency (EEAA) is leading the development of a commercially-viable, market-oriented, biogas sector through a range of measures, including piloting technology, capacity building for policy makers, and support to households.
In tackling climate change, we can all learn from the many initiatives which have been taken around the world. Policies, skills, and technical expertise originating from countries in the South on low emission and climate resilient development pathways are being shared through South-South Co-operation.
As the largest service provider in the UN system on climate change and environmental initiatives, UNDP has supported more than 140 countries to pursue low emission and climate resilient development pathways. Supporting South-South Co-operation is an important and growing part of our work. Our role is that of a knowledge broker, a builder of capacities, and a facilitator of exchanges of expertise and experiences. We bring to this task an understanding and experience of what is working around the world, which derives from our universal presence in developing countries.
In 2012, for example, UNDP hosted a sustainable energy forum, where representatives from a number of developing countries came together to showcase and share energy access solutions. The Forum enabled participants to learn from each other’s successes, and to apply that knowledge to sustainable energy policy and planning back home.
Under its new Strategic Plan, UNDP is significantly stepping up its promotion of South-South Co-operation, with the Canada-UNDP Climate Change Adaptation Facility supporting us to do that. Under the Facility, we are supporting six countries – Cambodia, Cape Verde, Haiti, Mali, Niger, and Sudan – to address food security through climate-resilient approaches to agriculture and water management, with special attention paid to women’s needs. A central element of this programme is the promotion of exchanges of knowledge and experiences between the six countries.
Another example of our commitment to supporting South-South Co-operation on climate change is the Adaptation Learning Mechanism (ALM) – UNDP administers this online forum, and works in partnership with other agencies to provide a platform for practitioners to exchange knowledge and experiences on climate change adaptation. The majority of the exchanges on the platform are between countries in the South.
Today’s Forum will raise awareness of the role which South-South Co-operation can play and is playing in climate change adaptation and mitigation. It will discuss the opportunities to play that role – and the challenges which lie ahead.
I am convinced that South-South Co-operation will have a vital role to play in implementing the new global climate agreement -which we all hope to see reached in Paris next year.
I hope that participants at the Forum today will leave energized to step up the promotion of South-South Co-operation on climate change even further. We at UNDP are committed to partner with you to help make this happen.
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EIB and Bhutan sign a Framework Agreement for capital investments
Román Escolano, EIB Vice-Président and Bhutan ‘s Finance Minister, Lyonpo Namgay Dorji
On Thursday 4 December, the European Investment Bank (EIB), the European Union’s long-term financing institution and Kingdom of Bhutan signed a Framework Agreement under which the Bank can start financing capital investments in the country.
The agreement was signed by the EIB Vice-President with special responsibility for the Bank’s activities in Asia, Román Escolano and his Excellency Lyonpo Namgay Dorji, Finance Minister of the Royal Government of Bhutan in Thimphu, capital of Bhutan.
The EIB is the long-term lending institution of the European Union and its shareholders are the EU Member States. Its remit is to make long-term finance available for viable projects in order to contribute towards EU policy objectives. Outside the EU, the Bank support projects that contribute to economic development in countries that have signed association or cooperation agreements with the EU or its Member States.
In Asia, the European Investment Bank has so far signed Framework Agreements with Bangladesh, Cambodia, China, India, Indonesia, Laos, Maldives, Mongolia, Nepal, Pakistan, the Philippines, Sri Lanka, Thailand, Vietnam and Yemen.
The signing of the Framework Agreement represents the first step of the EIB to support development projects in Bhutan. EIB is cooperating closely with the European Commission and the EEAS, in support of the EU’s policy objectives in the country. In pursuing sustainable investments in Bhutan, the Kingdom of Bhutan and EIB already discussed potential projects in the country, namely in the areas of energy and water infrastructure.
The EIB has been active in Asia since 1993 under mandates granted by the EU Council and the European Parliament. During this period the EU bank has signed contracts in the region for a total of EUR 5.6 billion. On 1 July 2014 the EU’s new External Lending Mandate, covering the period 2014-2020, entered into force. Part of the current mandate is dedicated to Asia, enabling the EIB to finance operations that contribute to climate change mitigation and adaptation or the development of sustainable economic infrastructure. Additionally, the EIB can also draw on its own resources under the Climate Action and Environment Facility or the Strategic Projects Facility to finance relevant projects on a selective basis.
The White House
Office of the Press Secretary
For Immediate Release
November 13, 2014
Today, President Obama met with Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) leaders and foreign ministers and the ASEAN Secretariat’s Secretary-General at the 2nd ASEAN-U.S. Summit in Nay Pyi Taw, Myanmar. President Obama reaffirmed the importance of U.S.-ASEAN ties as a crucial element of the United States’ strategic rebalance to the Asia-Pacific region and highlighted many of the cooperative activities the United States has undertaken with ASEAN across its economic, political-security, and socio-cultural pillars.
U.S.-ASEAN Expanded Economic Engagement (E3): To expand trade and investment ties between the United States and ASEAN and to create new jobs and business opportunities, President Obama in 2012 announced the creation of an Enhanced Economic Engagement Initiative (E3). Under the E3, the United States is working with ASEAN to promote trade facilitation, standards development and practices, small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs), and establishing open and transparent investment and information technology environments. In August 2014, U.S. businesses participated in the 2nd ASEAN-U.S. Business Summit, which focused on improving the capacity of SMEs to connect to regional and global supply chains.
Commercial Engagement: The U.S. Departments Commerce and State will sponsor four business and trade delegations to ASEAN next year focused on a range of sectors, including health and energy. The first delegation will take place in February 2015, going to the Philippines and Indonesia, and focusing on the health sector. These delegations will visit several ASEAN countries, including the Philippines, Indonesia, Vietnam and Malaysia, and will be led by senior officials.
Lower Mekong Initiative Business Delegation: The U.S. Department of State, the U.S. Department of Commerce, and USAID, in cooperation with U.S. businesses, will lead a business delegation to the Lower Mekong region in 2015 to highlight regional energy security and sustainability. The delegation will complement the Extraordinary Meeting of the Friends of the Lower Mekong scheduled for January 2015, in which eight of the largest donor states and organizations will meet to discuss regional development strategies.
ASEAN Reverse Trade Mission and Symposium: In collaboration with the U.S. Departments of Commerce, State, and Energy, the U.S. Trade and Development Agency plans to lead a high-level ASEAN Ministers Energy and Transport Infrastructure Symposium and Reverse Trade Mission in 2015. The event will enhance U.S. economic engagement in Southeast Asia, increase U.S. economic opportunities and jobs, and advance ASEAN’s infrastructure priorities targeted by the U.S.-Asia Pacific Comprehensive Energy Partnership (USACEP) and the U.S.-ASEAN Connectivity Cooperation Initiative by connecting policy makers with U.S. suppliers.
Advancing Entrepreneurship and Business Growth: The U.S.-ASEAN Business Alliance for Competitive SMEs, a public private partnership between USAID and the U.S.-ASEAN Business Council, held training programs in five ASEAN countries and will soon begin creating an online academy to support SMEs in three key areas: access to finance; access to regional and international markets; and access to information and information technology.
ASEAN Integration and ASEAN Single Window (ASW): The United States is supporting the creation of an ASEAN Single Window through the ASEAN Connectivity through Trade and Investment (ACTI) program. The ASW is a hallmark of ASEAN’s progress toward building the ASEAN Economic Community (AEC) in 2015 that is designed to speed customs clearance procedures and lower costs for businesses, allowing increased trade.
Environmentally Sustainable Energy Development: The U.S. Department of Energy, the Department of State and USAID continue to support the U.S.-Asia Comprehensive Energy Partnership, and in 2014 held a workshop on rural electrification with the ASEAN Center for Energy, cosponsored with Brunei a Renewable and Alternative Energy Financing Workshop to highlight financing and technical assistance resources available for renewable energy project, and co-sponsored with Vietnam a regional Unconventional Gas Technical Engagement Program workshop.
Collaborative ASEAN and Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) Activities: The United States is working to include non-APEC ASEAN members (Myanmar, Cambodia, and Laos) in APEC capacity building activities in areas of mutual interest to both organizations so all ASEAN economies fully benefit from this work as ASEAN advances toward the AEC.
Enhancing Maritime Cooperation: As part of our ongoing efforts to strengthen U.S.ASEAN defense cooperation in areas including maritime security and humanitarian assistance and disaster relief, Secretary of Defense Hagel hosted the ten ASEAN Defense Ministers at an informal meeting In Hawaii in April 2014. In September 2014, the United States and the Philippines hosted the 2nd Expanded ASEAN Seafarer Training Counter Piracy workshop to exchange best practices on counter-piracy training, welfare, and safety issues in support of ASEAN seafarers.
Combating Piracy: Also in September, the United States became the 20th contracting party to the Regional Cooperation Agreement on Combating Piracy and Armed Robbery against Ships in Asia (ReCAAP), an international organization that serves as a platform for information exchange and for promoting and enhancing cooperation to combat piracy and armed robbery against ships in Asia.
Building ASEAN’s Cyber Confidence: The United States is helping to build ASEAN’s capacity to increase cybersecurity cooperation and reduce the risk of conflict during a cyber incident by supporting an ASEAN cybercrime workshop hosted by Singapore in 2014, jointly chairing with Singapore the ASEAN Regional Forum Seminar on Operationalizing Cyber Confidence Building Measures scheduled for 2015.
Combating Human and Wildlife Trafficking: The United States is working with ASEAN partners to combat human and wildlife trafficking. In October 2014, the United States co-chaired with Burma a seminar on combating trafficking in persons, and is providing training for Heads of Anti-trafficking Specialist Units (HSUs) in crime scene management and victim-centric approaches in investigations. On wildlife trafficking, the United States worked with Myanmar to draft the East Asia Summit Declaration on wildlife Trafficking.
ASEAN Youth Volunteer Program: The United States and the National University of Malaysia entered into a multiyear agreement for USAID to provide support for the ASEAN Youth Volunteer Program (AVYP) to support ASEAN’s efforts to sponsor young volunteers to work throughout ASEAN on solutions to development challenges facing their communities.
Climate Change Cooperation: The United States and ASEAN announced the U.S.-ASEAN Joint Statement on Climate Change, demonstrating their commitment to a successful United Nations Climate Change Conference in Paris in December 2015.
Promoting Women and Children’s Rights: In April 2014, the United States and ASEAN launched the ASEAN Women Entrepreneurship Network in Vietnam. The project brings together the resources of USAID, the U.S. Department of State, the ASEAN Committee on Women, and the private sector to provide mentorship, training, and networking resources to women entrepreneurs.
U.S.-ASEAN Science and Technology (S&T) Fellow Program: The United States and the ASEAN Committee on Science and Technology (COST) launched the S&T Fellow Program in April 2014. Seven fellows worked on issues related to biodiversity, climate change, water management, health, and disaster risk reduction. The United States and ASEAN plan to expand the program in 2015.
SECRETARY KERRY: Thank you so much, Evan. Thank you. Wow, thank you. I didn’t know I was going to be interrupting cocktails. (Laughter.) I feel entirely guilty. It’s okay if you don’t eat, but not drinking is really serious. (Laughter.)
Thank you very, very much. It’s sort of complicated to parachute in like this and then race off. And I think I’m hearing music accompanying my speech, which is interesting. (Laughter.) Beg your pardon?
PARTICIPANT: The heavenly choir.
SECRETARY KERRY: Beg your pardon?
PARTICIPANT: The heavenly choir.
SECRETARY KERRY: That’s fine by me, so long as it’s not calling me somewhere. (Laughter.)
But I’m really grateful. Evan, thank you so much for a very generous introduction. And I know I’m all that stands between all of you and dinner, so I will be – try to be respectful of that. On the other hand, this is an important gathering for an important effort, and I want to be very clear to everybody about why that is. Let me start by thanking the U.S.-ASEAN Business Council. I want to congratulate you on an extraordinary 30 years. To get an understanding of why this organization has been so successful, you only have to look to your right, look to your left, look at the leadership of the businesses of that are represented here. I just came from a small reception of a number of the folks who’re sponsoring it. But Evan, Alex Feldman, the president, CEO, others – US-ABC has some of the best and brightest businesses that are participating in – not just this evening, but in the ongoing enterprise of ASEAN efforts. And I thank all of you for your partnership over the years.
It’s also a pleasure to be among a lot of familiar faces. I was walking around, and from where I’m standing there’s – a whole bunch of the State Department is here. (Laughter.) Fair warning, I don’t care how much champagne you drink tonight, you’ve just got to be at work tomorrow morning. (Laughter.) Let me just quickly take this opportunity, if I can, to embarrass somebody who’s in the audience tonight, and he’s one of the most important people on my team. And I’m talking about Assistant Secretary for East Asia and Pacific Danny Russel, who’s standing right over here. (Applause.) When I first became Secretary, President Obama and I sat down to talk about his priorities, among them the Asia rebalance. And we realized that we really needed somebody who had the respect of people in the region and knew the region intimately and had the relationships which are a critical part of any kind of effort in East Asia, as all of you know. And there was never a doubt in President Obama’s mind or my mind who that person had to be. He had worked very closely with Danny in the White House – the President had – and Danny was actually one of the architects of the rebalance.
So before too long, I got to know Danny a lot better. I’d only known him parenthetically. But I’ll tell you, there are few people who understand the region better than he does. He lives it and he breathes it. It’s a mantle that he wears on his shoulders and carries with him all the time, and he loves it. And a year or two ago, just to prove this, I was walking through the White House one day and I passed the Situation Room and I saw Danny sitting across from Henry Kissinger. So I pop my head in and I say, “Henry, you’re giving Danny a briefing on Asia. That’s great.” And he turned to me and said, “No, John. Danny’s the one briefing me.” (Laughter.) Very, very – and it’s true, actually. That’s Danny, and there’s nobody better to drive our policy forward.
I’m also very, very delighted that tonight there are so many members of the diplomatic corps who are here. Thank you all for coming. I met with a number of the ambassadors just as I walked in and others – our ASEAN partner nations – are here in the audience. And I had an opportunity just the other day in New York at this massive speed dating exercise we get involved in in New York called UNGA, the UN General Assembly. So I met with all of the foreign ministers from the region there. We had a session in the evening, several hours. And I also met with our terrific U.S. Ambassador to ASEAN Nina Hachigian, and I think she’s here somewhere. Nina, why don’t you raise your hand? There she is. Our new ambassador right here, folks. (Applause.) She’s got a brother she’s marrying off, and the minute she got rid of him she’s heading out there, right? All right.
As I told everybody on Friday, ASEAN really is front and center in the region’s multilateral architecture, and we want it to remain there. ASEAN is central to upholding the rules-based system throughout the Asia Pacific and is the best way to ensure that countries big and small are going to have a voice as we work together to address the challenges that maritime security present, climate change presents, food security presents, not to mention just working our way through the complicated differentials between countries and barriers, non-tariff barriers, the different impediments to doing business. And it’s critical, because this group actually is creating significant economic opportunities, and the members who are here are helping to foster a very different playing field, which is critical. And I thank all of you for your partnership in that effort.
Lastly, I’m particularly excited to be among a lot of America’s elite business leaders heading up some of the most innovative and exciting businesses in the world. And that includes our own Assistant Secretary for Economic and Business Affairs Charlie Rivkin, who I saw somewhere. There he is right there. We actually had to call Charlie back from Paris where he had been serving as ambassador for a number of years so he could focus fulltime with me on advancing our economic agenda. And the reason we picked Charlie to lead our efforts and to promote American business abroad is very simple: Not a lot of assistant secretaries have been CEO of a billion-dollar company and a U.S. ambassador at the same time overseeing a bilateral relationship that clears one billion in business transactions every day. I might add that diplomacy is also in his blood, because his father, William Rivkin, was one of our finest ambassadors. He served in Luxembourg and Senegal. And Charlie has proven himself more than worthy of his father’s legacy, and we couldn’t be happier than to have him part of our team. So Charlie, thank you for taking on this job. (Applause.)
And the team includes Under Secretary Cathy Novelli, who also came from the private sector, from Apple; and Ambassador David Thorne, who became an ambassador from the private sector; and Scott Nathan, who has been a finance – who’s been engaged in finance, in funds – very, very successful in Boston, and who has joined our team. So we have a team that understands your challenges. They understand what it means to try to start a business, grow a business, open more opportunities, and get your decisions rapidly and get government out of the way as you try to do that, except to the degree that government can help you move forward.
So with so much focus on the challenges that are confronting us today, from ISIL to Ebola to Ukraine to Iran to Syria, and you can run the list, Afghanistan, it can be easy to miss the fact that there are also unprecedented opportunities staring us in the face at this moment, particularly when it comes to business and economic growth. And each and every business leader in this room would tell you that few regions in the world are as ripe for those opportunities as Southeast Asia.
Many of you have been involved initiative his region for decades. US-ABC includes some of the very first American businesses to open up shop in the ASEAN states. So you know better than anybody how dramatic the region’s transformation has been. I will personally never forget my first visit back to Vietnam as a civilian and as a senator in 1991. And I watched with great excitement because I was down in the south of Vietnam in prior years, never in the north. The north we looked at with great sort of trepidation, except for the pilots who obviously flew over it.
And as I flew into Hanoi, I looked down and I could see all kinds of craters from bombs that had been dropped. This is in 1991. And I noticed the streets as I drove in along the river, it was a very narrow road. The main highway had not yet been built. There was some construction going on. The streets were filled, chock-a-block full of bicycles, bicycles, and bicycles. No cars. Very few cars. There were few motorcycles, very few tall buildings. Not a stoplight worked in the entire city when I set foot there, not one stoplight. And it was just a massive constant mesh of bikes that somehow made it across and made it through.
And it was a place that had literally been frozen in time. I was back in Vietnam last year for maybe my 20-something trip over the last 30 years. And I’m sure many of you have experienced this as well. It just stuns you how far things have moved in this span of time.
The energy in Vietnam today is absolutely remarkable, and the transformation is nothing short of amazing. In the years since we lifted the embargo and normalized relations, Vietnam has become a modern nation and an important partner of the United States. And when you talk to the young people in Vietnam, you can feel the enthusiasm for the potential of the future: 65 percent under the age of 35.
This isn’t just Vietnam’s story. This dynamism, energy, transformation – similar stories can be told throughout Southeast Asia. I was at the Malaysian entrepreneurial fair that they had last year, summit, and it was just stunning: 15,000 kids cheering like at a rock concert, excited about entrepreneurial activity and possibilities. And the year – in 1984 – that was the year that the US-ABC was founded – the annual GDP of the 10 countries that are now ASEAN was about $220 billion in today’s dollars. Today, that GDP has grown more than 10 times over to more than $2.4 trillion.
Now, it’s not a coincidence that President Obama and the Secretary of Commerce Penny Pritzker and U.S. Trade Represent Mike Froman and I have all individually made a trip to one or more of the ASEAN states just within the past six months. Roughly $100 billion of exports to Southeast Asia every year, and every year that supports millions of jobs both there in the region as well as right here on our own shores.
Now, I don’t need to convince you probably – most of the leaders here – of these enormous opportunities. But for the folks who are tuning in tonight to understand what this is about, I want them to understand that enormous business opportunities exist throughout ASEAN, and all of you here are already the choir, so I don’t need to preach further.
I don’t need to remind you also that our embassies are there to help you, and I want you to understand that, from the ambassadors on down. We have a number of the ambassadors here tonight representing the countries of ASEAN. I know many of your businesses work with our ambassadors every single day. We’ve worked to bring about a billion dollars in business deals throughout the ASEAN region, including the largest – in billions, multiple billions – which we have been working towards, including the largest single commercial aircraft sale in Boeing’s history to Indonesia’s Lion Air. And our then-ambassador Scot Marciel played a critical role in helping Boeing to secure that deal which ultimately is worth almost $23 billion.
So what we need to focus on today is how do we make sure this growth continues. As you sit around your tables tonight, as you enjoy this dinner, as you think about the next years, think about that, because it’s not a given. There are still many places in the region where steep tariffs and unclear rules of the road breed uncertainty and stifle the flow of goods and ideas. And that will tampen down the capacity to keep on keeping on what we’re doing.
There are places where businesses don’t have access to the financing that they need to get off the ground, where infrastructure challenges like crumbling roads and inadequate internet and inconsistent power grids prevent businesses from reaching markets. Now, we can’t – I certainly can’t and I don’t know anybody here who can – just wave a magic wand and address all of these challenges tomorrow. But there are steps that we can take together in order to help bring about a more prosperous future for both the United States and our ASEAN partners, and I’ll be very, very quick.
First and foremost, as any business leader would agree, freer markets create more opportunity, more competition, more growth, more dynamism, and more innovation. And we need to do more to open up trade and investment in every corner of the globe, and particularly in that region. Every one of you knows the enormous difference that the Trans-Pacific Partnership agreement – one that includes a number of ASEAN countries – could make. Just this afternoon, I hosted a lunch with Vietnam’s Deputy Prime Minister and Foreign Minister Pham Binh Minh, and we spoke at length about the potential of this agreement and how urgently we need to get it off the ground, and he agreed. The TPP is a state-of-the-art, 21st century trade agreement that will connect more than 40 percent of the global GDP and one-third of global trade, and it raises the standards. It brings everybody up, not a race to the bottom. It’s consistent with our shared economic interests and our shared strategic interests, and it’s rooted in our shared values.
And it’s about promoting stability in this dynamic region and also establishing a fair and transparent framework that enables countries throughout the region to deepen their economic integration and grow in harmony. We need to make it happen, folks, and we can’t do it without you. We need you to help make the case for TPP with the Congress and with the American people, and we need you to make the phone calls and set up the meetings and do all you can to get Capitol Hill on board. And this is a battle we need to prepare for and it’s a battle we absolutely need to win.
Second, we need to make sure that the leaders of the future are getting the training and the education that they need in order to thrive in a growing economy. About 65 percent, as I said, of the population of ASEAN region is under the age of 35, and these young people are innovative, creative, and they’re eager to contribute their ideas, energy, to improve not only their own lives but the lives of others in their communities and their country. I’ve seen this firsthand in Malaysia and the Philippines and Indonesia on every trip I’ve taken to Southeast Asia. And that’s why we are investing in programs like President Obama’s Young Southeast Asian Leaders Initiative, the YSEALI, as it’s known. Through YSEALI, every year we bring young men and women from Southeast Asia to universities in the United States where they can receive training, deepen their knowledge about regional issues and experience and perspectives. This year’s YSEALI class includes women like Sovan Srun from Cambodia. She’s an aspiring social entrepreneur who coauthored a handbook for high school graduates to plan for their career paths, in hopes that she will help her community become more self-sufficient and less dependent on foreign aid. She’s a remarkable young woman, and we need to make sure that others like Sovan have the opportunities they need to make the mark on their communities and that their energy is harnessed in a completely positive way.
Third – and this is especially important – we need to do more at the State Department to make sure that the U.S. Government and the U.S. business community are working with one another, not against one another. I tell every Foreign Service officer that they are, each and every one of them, an economic officer, no kidding. That’s how we have to think. And we need to show the world that the State Department means business, literally. We’re planning to do this by expanding what we call detail opportunities with the private sector. Department employees spend a year working with our private sector partners so they can get a better understanding of the business world and what’s needed from government for when they return. And we’re developing similar programs that will bring folks from the private sector to the State Department on detail as well so the bureaucracy can benefit from their entrepreneurial world view.
But all of us in government and business alike have to keep in mind that the true measure of our success is going to be whether our economies continue – is not whether they continue to grow, but it’s how they grow. If we make the correct choices in the months and years to come, U.S. trade and investment has the potential to create shared prosperity up and down the food chain: growth that’s sustainable and environmentally friendly, wealth that lifts up communities and creates opportunity, and enormous amounts of jobs for the United States and for all of our partner nations. And on top of that, if we commit high standards when it comes to business practices, we absolutely encourage this race to the top, which I think every one of you understands with globalization is at risk. So we need a race to the top from companies all around the world, and I think that’s a race that we can win.
So all of us at the State Department know well that in the 21st century a nation’s interests and the well-being of its people are advanced not just by troops and diplomats but also by entrepreneurs and executives in ways that are really quite significantly different from prior centuries. It is happening by virtue of the businesses that they build and the workers that they employ and the students that they train, and ultimately, the shared prosperity that they create. I say it all the time. I said it in the first days of my nomination to be Secretary. I said it in my opening statement to the committee: Economic policy is foreign policy, and foreign policy is economic policy. And the fact is that American businesses are some of the best ambassadors our country has. Just think about it. US-ABC businesses collectively represent more than 6 trillion in annual revenue. Your businesses support more than 13 million employees worldwide, and you do it all the time while wearing America’s jersey, so to speak.
And I underscore this: The reason we are so grateful to have such a capable and influential group of ambassadors throughout America’s business community is not simply because you do well, but also because you do good. And that’s particularly true in the ASEAN states. I’ve seen it firsthand in the factories I’ve been into, in the people I’ve talked to and the businesses they work for. American businesses have been the number one investor in ASEAN economies for decades. In fact, U.S. investments are larger than Chinese investments, Japanese investments, and Korean investments combined.
And it’s not just about the quantity of our investments; it’s about the quality. When we invest in countries, we actually do it differently. When businesses from some countries enter new markets, they bring in their own workers, their own tradesmen. We, on the other hand, hire local employees. And guess what – we train them as well. Some businesses in the world recklessly pollute the environment, knowing full well that it’ll be difficult to hold them accountable. But so many of our businesses make a point of investing in clean energy and environmental solutions in order to accompany their facilities abroad. And businesses that come in from other nations have been known to promote corruption instead of working to stop it, not held to account by our Foreign Corrupt Businesses Act. But we take every step we can to end corrupt practices abroad or elsewhere, because we know that when we eliminate corruption we’re able to build the long-term relationships that will withstand the test of time and make the environment safer for new businesses to be able to invest in.
So we do all of this because business doing right is part of the American brand. It’s part of our what our companies stand for and it’s part of the proposition of how we attract more investment to follow. What I’m talking about is more than agreeing to abide by a set of principles or guidelines. It’s really rolling up your sleeves and taking action to integrate responsible investment and objective corporate management decision making.
Now, there are a lot of other things that we could go on to say. I’m going to – I said I wouldn’t – I’ve gone on longer than I meant to. But I want to just emphasize to everybody here that the real excitement that comes with this is watching these countries go through these amazing transformations. I am nothing less than stunned by what has happened, the transformation taking place. I have absolute confidence, and as we go forward in these next years the differences between our nations, even as we respect cultures and history, but differences will evaporate in the way that people have fears and that they suspect people from abroad. There’ll be a unity because everything in the world is different today. Today’s kids all have smartphones; they all talk to each other. They’re talking to everybody in the world all the time about everything. And it changes everything in life. Politics is different. Building consensus is different. Getting your market share is different. Holding onto it is different. We’re living in a very, very different time, and nowhere are the possibilities more evident than in the transformations taking place throughout Southeast Asia.
So I think you all are onto something, and I profoundly say congratulations to ABC. We’re going to be in Burma. The President and I are going to be there a month from now. We’re looking forward to being in China, likewise, in November for the APEC conference. We’ll be there for the East Asia Summit. We are front and center and present because we’ve been a Pacific nation all of our history and we will never turn away from that.
So I thank those of you who have been the pioneers. I thank those of you who are on the front lines today. I say congratulations to all of you. Celebrate well tonight and tomorrow we all get back to work and continue on the road. Thank you all very, very much. (Applause.)
4 August 2014 – Asia-Pacific countries will gather in Bangkok this week for the annual policy session of the United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (ESCAP), focusing on the role of regional connectivity in supporting economic growth and development.
With a particular focus on the three dimensions of sustainable development – social, economic and environmental – senior Government officials from over 40 member countries and associate member countries will meet at ESCAP’s 70th session today through 6 August, ahead of the Commission’s high-level ministerial segment, which will run from 7 to 8 August, to be attended by Heads of State and senior ministers.
In a press release kicking off the annual session, ESCAP says that more than 30 ministers from Asia and the Pacific are expected to participate in the ministerial segment.
In addition, Ministers from Cambodia, Indonesia, India, Myanmar, Philippines, Pakistan, Mongolia, Kazakhstan, Sri Lanka, Solomon Islands and Tonga will be among key speakers at panel discussions during the high-level session this week, focusing on steering the region towards equitable, environment-friendly and resilient growth.
The ESCAP session is being held against the backdrop of high public debt levels and declining international development assistance, which has affected Asia-Pacific growth and contributed to rising income inequality, both within and between countries in the region.
A Ministerial Round Table on the theme of the 70th session, “Regional connectivity for shared prosperity”, on the opening day of the ministerial segment will focus on transport, ICT and energy connectivity and multi-sectoral and cross-border cooperation.
At a media launch on 6 August, ESCAP Executive Secretary Shamshad Akhtar will present the key findings of the Economic and Social Survey of Asia and the Pacific 2014, the Commission’s flagship publication, outlining the latest macroeconomic projections and policy advice for the region.
On the second day of the ministerial segment, Asia-Pacific Government leaders and policymakers will join a panel discussion on sustainable development and development finance to suggest policy options for addressing existing and emerging vulnerabilities.
Key events during the week, including all panel discussions, will be webcast live at http://www.unescap.org/commission/webcast.
The Commission session can also be followed on social media using the hash tag #CS70.
August 3, 2014 – Singapore
Check Against Delivery
Good morning, and thank you for that kind introduction. It’s great to be here at the IISS [International Institute for Strategic Studies] with such a distinguished audience.
I’d like to thank all of you for deciding to start your no doubt busy week by listening to me tell you about how great my country is, and how much I know about Asia.
Does that kind of speech sound familiar? I can’t promise that I won’t do those things, but I did want to take this opportunity to reflect on where I see this region going, and how Canada can and will play a part in that journey.
It’s a good time for me to do so. I’m in the middle of a journey of my own: a two- to three-week tour of East and Southeast Asia.
I’ll be referencing “Asia” a lot in this speech but I’m mostly referring to the Asia-Pacific region, given the focus of my trip.
A trip of this scale gives me the opportunity to visit a few of the big partners at the same time—as well as Singapore, I’ve been to Beijing and Tokyo, and I’ll be going to Jakarta, Hong Kong and Guangzhou.
But I have also had time to get out to some of the newer, less traditional partners.
I made the first visit of a Canadian Foreign Minister to Mongolia, and the first ministerial visit to the young country of Timor-Leste. I will conclude by attending a dialogue with ASEAN as part of my second visit to Burma.
More seriously, I learn primarily through talking to people. During these travels I have listened to and learned from fellow foreign ministers, business leaders, community leaders, security experts, activists and expats.
From these conversations it’s become very clear to me that Canada and Asian nations have more common interests—and collective needs—than ever before.
And that is my message today.
Canada is well placed in the Asia-Pacific. We have strong common interests.
But in an increasingly unstable world, we also have a collective need, not just a desire, to work together.
Canada as a Pacific nation
Let me say at the outset that I am optimistic about the future for Canada and Asia—not just because of specific policies and priorities, but because of our very nature.
Those who know Canada will know that we are, unequivocally, a Pacific nation.
Asia has been, and remains, an important part of Canada’s nation building. We have welcomed large waves of refugees from Korea, Vietnam, Laos and Cambodia who were displaced by war.
When Hong Kong was reverting to mainland rule, large numbers of residents found new homes in Canada. More recently, we welcomed large numbers from India, Pakistan, Sri Lanka and the Philippines.
And we remain open to immigration from Asia today.
Some 60 percent of all new immigration to Canada continues to originate in Asia. It’s a higher number for foreign students, at almost 70 percent. And it is our fastest growing region for tourist arrivals.
Our Asian-Canadian demographics are central to our core identity. They are part and parcel of the basic fabric of our society. And they are one of our greatest strengths as we commit to deepening partnerships in the Asian region.
In fact, in demographic terms, you could say that Canada is as much an Asian country as is Singapore—5 million Canadians claim Asian origin—and that’s the same size as the entire population here.
You could also say that we have the most Asian major city outside of Asia. Almost half—43 percent—of all residents of Vancouver have Asian heritage. Even in Toronto, our biggest city, that figure is over a third.
These are not just numbers. They make a real difference.
The cultural understanding, family links, business ties and language skills of Canadians of Asian heritage are the rivets and buttresses of the Pacific bridge.
To anyone who says that Canada’s geography is a barrier rather than a bridge to deepened relations with Asia, I would point out that Shanghai is closer to the coast of British Columbia than it is to Sydney.
A flight from Vancouver to Beijing is also shorter than one from Sydney. The same is true for Tokyo and Seoul.
Modern connections with Asia and Singapore
For these and many other reasons, Canada already has a deep and growing presence in Asia. Today, Canada’s diplomatic network in Asia is stronger than in any other region. And it is growing.
In the days ahead, I will open our new embassy in Yangon, with more expansion planned elsewhere.
Our first Trade Commissioner abroad was dispatched to the region more than 100 years ago. Some of our great corporations have roots in Asia of more than a century.
I am very aware that for much of humanity’s existence, Asia has been at its centre—Asia as a leader in commerce, governance, science, literature and the arts.
Whenever there is spare time in my schedule, I always make a point of going to at least one cultural or historical site per visit, and I’ve come to develop a real appreciation for Asian art in particular.
Last week in Beijing, I toured some of the museums in the Forbidden City, looking at ceramics that were many centuries old—yet still relatively modern in the context of its ancient civilization.
But what’s changed in the 21st century, compared to the 16th and earlier, is that we are no longer a planet of largely disconnected regions.
We are now an interconnected and interdependent global society, a single pan-regional marketplace that never sleeps, and a marketplace of goods and services, but also of information and ideas.
The world of tall ships, feudal courts, distant frontiers and the occasional marauding army has given way to instant communications, global brands and multinational companies.
In this hyper-connected world, a prosperous Asia means a more prosperous world. What happens in Asia is now instantly felt across the globe.
That means we not only have a stake in Asia’s prosperity, but also in its peace and security, and in its governance.
Given Canada’s open economy and trade dependence—among the highest in the G-7 with some 60 percent of GDP and one in five jobs tied to exports—this is no small matter to Canadians.
We have learned that countries don’t prosper by accident.
Those who capitalize on global opportunities do so through sound policies, political leadership, international strategies and informed populations.
Canada’s traditional trading patterns have naturally involved the United States and Europe. We now know that we must diversify our economic relationships.
And we know that trading relationships don’t happen in isolation from political and security engagement.
We can look to our friendship with Singapore as the benchmark for this level of engagement. In 2015 we will celebrate 50 years of diplomatic relations between our nations.
Singapore is home to thousands of Canadians—a magnet for over $2 billion in Canadian direct investment and a key ally on regional security.
Canada, too, is a key gateway to North America for Singapore. Many of Singapore’s economic and government leaders have studied there. And it invests more in Canada than any other Southeast Asian nation.
I’m looking forward to meeting my counterpart later today to discuss how we can maintain this momentum.
Trading with a changing Asia
I believe that what Canada has to offer meshes neatly with the changing needs of transformed Asian societies.
As incomes rise, Asian populations are looking for safer, higher quality and diversified food products.
Export markets are transitioning into consumer markets.
Populations are demanding a more sustainable environment—in particular improved air quality, but also cleaner water and greener energy.
Families want better educational opportunities to succeed in competitive societies, and insurance services they can rely on.
And modernizing economies means a demand for secure supplies of high-quality raw materials.
Canada is a world leader in each of these fields.
We have world-class companies that are keen to deepen partnerships in the region. We also have smaller, innovative, and rapidly growing firms that are ready to get started.
In turn, as Asian firms are expanding their global reach, our doors are open to Asian direct investment in Canada in these and other sectors. And you’ll find that we have one of the most business-friendly economies in the world by any objective measure.
Our growing trade in China—across ASEAN, and with other major Asian markets—is a testament to this synergy. China has now become our second-largest trading partner after the United States.
My colleague, Minister of International Trade Ed Fast, just announced another four trade offices there, increasing our network of diplomatic and trade offices to 15 and our team of Trade Commissioners to 100.
Canada is, of course, engaged with the Trans-Pacific Partnership negotiations. At the same time, we have just completed negotiations for a free trade agreement with Korea, and are actively negotiating others, including with Japan and India.
We have the unique advantage of not only being a bridge from Asia to North America under NAFTA, but now also to Europe with the recent agreement in principle on a huge Canada-EU Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement.
We also know, however, that we can’t afford to be simplistic about Asia.
We know that the process of modernization and development has been uneven in the region. Some Asian nations are being left behind. And progress in some cases remains fragile.
Canada is stepping up its development support in several countries to address these outstanding challenges. We are building on development assistance to Asia over six decades, with current contributions totalling $1 billion every year.
So I think we’ve established the reasons for increasing trade and development in Canada and Asia: our closeness geographically, historically, demographically and economically.
But I believe the collective need for this engagement comes from external reasons just as much as internal.
In the coming years it will be a constant challenge for Asia to keep its balance in an increasingly unstable world.
I won’t go through all of the global trends and crises, which an audience of this quality is more than familiar with, but I think it is becoming a fact of life.
When we met last week, my Chinese counterpart said he believed the world is now systemically unstable—and he was quoting from our former British counterpart William Hague.
An inordinate number of column inches and web pixels have been dedicated to the rise of Asian economies, and the world’s increasing dependence on them.
What I don’t think we hear enough about is the growing dependence, even vulnerability, that this creates for those Asian nations too.
I began this speech by showing off about how much time I’ve spent in Southeast Asia in recent years. But I have to admit that there is another region that has as many plane tickets with my name on it: the Middle East.
It is a priority for obvious reasons. In this hyper-connected world, instability in places like Iraq and Syria can have a direct impact on the stability of places like Indonesia and Singapore.
For example, when ISIS began to roll across Iraq, oil prices surged and Asian stock prices fell. So just as transforming Asian nations have evolving economic needs, I believe they have evolving diplomatic needs too.
Growing economies and stature on the world stage should bring with it growing responsibilities beyond domestic and regional borders.
This is already happening to some extent. In my bilateral meetings last week in China and Japan, we spent as much time talking about global issues like Ukraine and Gaza as we did about bilateral issues.
Canada is an outward-facing, open trading nation. We have a long-standing interest, and yes sensitivity, to global issues.
But if that is a problem, we are also a major part of the solution.
I believe there are three strategic areas in which Canada can make a meaningful contribution to stability in Asia: governance, energy security, and security cooperation.
Stable, democratic governance
Let me start with governance and democratic development.
“Stability” has in the past been a watchword for autocrats who seek to justify their top-down control.
But we know that this is a superficial stability, certainly in the medium to long term. My friend the foreign policy commentator Ian Bremmer, describes this well with the “J-curve” concept that the most stable countries are those that are open and democratic.
I have to say, after the seemingly inevitable march of democracy in the later decades of the last century, it often feels like progress has stalled over the past decade.
Fortunately, some of the great democracy success stories of the last generation are found right here in Asia: Korea, Japan, Indonesia and Mongolia.
I am optimistic about a fresh era in Indonesia following its historic elections last month.
This hasn’t been made public yet, but I’ll actually be meeting with president-elect Joko Widodo this evening. So I’m very much looking forward to that.
India’s recent election was also breath-taking in its sheer size, scope and complexity.
But there are clearly also continuing challenges in the region. In some cases, democratic practices are sliding backwards and reforms are stalling.
Vietnam’s restrictions on bloggers. Thailand’s military coup. Sri Lanka’s oppression of its Tamil minority. Pakistan’s vibrant civil society under assault by extremists, sometimes with the support of deep state actors.
And probably worst of all, North Korea’s insistence on remaining in its democratic and moral darkness.
This darkness is quite literal too—if you look at night-time satellite images of the region, there is a North Korea-shaped black hole next to the bright lights of South Korea and other neighbours.
We, of course, need to understand that democratic development takes time. Cultivating a culture of democracy involves entire societies, the old and the young, the rich and the poor.
And we need to engage and support societies as a whole—governments and civil society alike.
To avoid doing so risks nations being held back—both individually and the region as a whole.
Societies that fail to develop democratic checks and balances, transparency and accountability, and freedom of expression, contribute to instability and risks of conflict.
Just look at Russia.
The decline of the Russian Federation’s democratic space in recent years has contributed to a leader who is increasingly insulated from reality, and isolated from his own people.
This has resulted in an aggressive foreign policy, reckless actions, delusional justifications, and an economy in a tailspin.
Russian’s illegal annexation of Crimea was a reversion to 19th-century practices. And its dangerous provocations in eastern Ukraine resulted in the shocking downing of Malaysia Airlines flight MH17.
Successful and enduring societies of the 21st century are not built on strongmen and secrecy. They are rooted in democratic norms and standards, independent institutions, the rule of law and accountable, representative governments.
Democracy is not just about elections. And democracy takes work—from those governing as well as from the governed. It is a journey, not a destination.
Canada is committed to working together with our Asian friends and partners to ensure that this region continues to move forward as a region of democracies. The people of Asia, and the world as a whole, will benefit.
The second strategic area I would highlight is energy security.
The IEA [International Energy Agency] projects that most energy demand growth will take place in Asia, with China and India alone accounting for half of that demand expansion.
In a time of global concern about risks in energy supply, the world is looking to Canada as a stable, reliable, resource-rich partner.
We have been blessed with enough resources to become an energy superpower.
Canada has the third-largest proven oil reserves. We are already the fifth-largest crude oil producer and the fifth-largest natural gas producer. We are the second-largest uranium producer and exporter, and a major producer of renewable and clean energy sources.
Not to mention our stable economy, society and democracy.
Secure energy supplies are key to sustained and predictable economic growth in this region, at a time when current sources are predominantly in the volatile Middle East, North Africa and Russia.
This coincides with increased energy self-sufficiency in the United States, Canada’s primary destination for current oil and gas exports.
So there is a natural and mutually beneficial potential to significantly deepening the Canada-Asia energy partnership.
Asia needs more energy—reliable energy. Canada is a natural supplier.
But we have work to do. Canada is committed to expanding our infrastructure to bring our energy to tidewater.
Energy has the potential to transform Canada-Asia relations. It is up to all parties to make that happen. It is in our collective interests to do so.
Third, and not entirely unrelated to energy security, is the need for security cooperation.
The number of security fault lines and trip wires in Asia are multiplying. They are also becoming more dangerous and unpredictable.
It’s becoming widely recognized that more must be done through institutions in the region to deter, manage and respond to these security tensions.
The world’s prosperity now depends on stability in Asia at least as much as it does on a peaceful and responsibly governed Europe or North America.
The world’s most active shipping lanes are in Asia. Two-thirds of the world’s container traffic comes from here. It is difficult to overstate the importance of Asian seas to global prosperity.
Canada is, naturally, deeply concerned by the rise in tensions surrounding maritime boundary disputes.
We don’t choose sides in maritime boundary disputes. We even have a couple of our own, and we deal with these peacefully.
We do, however, call on nations in the region to refrain from provocative actions, to commit to peaceful solutions, and to strengthen the institutions and norms that can underpin regional stability.
The stakes are too high to fail.
Canada is prepared to do its part to help strengthen peace, security and stability in Asia. And we are well positioned to do so.
We are a founding member of regional institutions, such as APEC and the ASEAN Regional Forum.
Canada has a long and proud tradition of involvement in Asian security.
Whether serving in India, Burma and Hong Kong during WWII, or in the more than 60 missions in the region since 1947—including, of course, the Korean War, and most recently in Afghanistan.
We have stood with our allies and friends in Asia. And we are not turning our backs on Asian security now, nor will we in the future.
I believe that Canada can continue to make a difference in areas of defence and security of priority to the region, and where Canada can really add value—not just maritime security, but in areas like cyber security, military medicine, and counterterrorism capacity building.
A key vehicle for our support is ASEAN. We see ASEAN as a vitally important institution in the region, and welcome its work with China toward establishing a code of conduct for the South China Sea. We urge all countries in the region to embrace such a code.
While in Jakarta tomorrow, I will meet with ASEAN’s Secretary General, Le Luong Minh.
And I can announce today that Canada is committing additional funds—building on the $30 million I announced last year in Brunei—to enhance security cooperation in ASEAN. This funding will help tackle non-traditional security threats such as trafficking and radicalization.
Canada also believes that the East Asia Summit has the potential to evolve into an organization that can play a more consequential role in addressing the complex challenges—economic, socio-cultural, security—that Asia and Canada face together.
We have already signalled our willingness to join the East Asia Summit as soon as it is ready to expand its membership. And we are encouraged by the strong support that Canada’s candidacy has received from across the region.
If we get them right, increased democratic development, energy security, and security cooperation can be pillars of stability in this region.
A secure, stable world is something we should all care about as a value in itself, but seeking it isn’t just about liberal internationalism or being an altruistic global citizen.
The cold hard economic facts demand it too. Prosperity is inextricable from stability and security.
You can’t maximize the potential of a country when its people’s needs are not being satisfied by responsible, responsive governance.
You can’t have a free flow of crucial resources like LNG [liquefied natural gas] when a key maritime area like the South China Sea is bubbling with tensions.
You can’t have a sustainable reliance on certain Middle Eastern sources when a clerical regime in Iran threatens to start a nuclear arms race.
You can’t have open trade when it is necessary to take actions like sanctioning Russia over its provocations in Ukraine.
And frankly, you can’t have a prosperous air industry bringing the world together when planes are being shot out of the sky.
As I conclude, I’d like to reaffirm that on all of the themes I have discussed this morning, Canada’s engagement is particularly strong with Singapore.
This strength comes from the bonds of common values, joint interests and a mutual and enduring commitment to work together in advancing them.
I’d also add that this strength comes from personal connection to my Singaporean counterpart, whose advice I’ve come to greatly value.
I want this to be reflective of our relationship with the rest of the Asia-Pacific region. Canada’s common interest in this region’s peace, prosperity and role in global affairs is clear.
We have deep roots here, and as I have tried to explain today, I firmly believe that both Canada and the countries of the region can and will benefit from deepening them further.
We have an unprecedented opportunity to do so. But it won’t come about without energetic and strategic leadership.
Let’s seize that opportunity today.
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