The Gates Letter, 2015

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

Ebola

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)

Africa

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)

MENA

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)

Asia

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)

The Americas

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)

Opinion/Blogs

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)

Research/Reports

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)

Discussion

comments…

Helen Clark: Opening Speech at the South-South Co-operation on Climate Change Forum UN Climate Change Conference COP20, Lima, Peru

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.

Conclusion

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.

FACT SHEET: 2nd ASEAN-U.S. Summit

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.

Economic Engagement

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.

Political-Security Engagement

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.

Speeches: ASEAN and America: Partners for the Future

As Prepared for Delivery

Thank you, Phil. I’m glad to be in San Francisco, and with all of you here at the Commonwealth Club.

You’re here today because you understand the importance of Asia to America. This is especially evident in a Pacific Coast state like California. More than 5.5 million Asian-Pacific Americans live in California, and millions more Californians do business, study, or otherwise benefit from their ties with the region. California exported nearly $70 billion in goods to the region last year, more than any other state. And Asia matters to the entire United States – to our economy, to our security, to our families.

As a Pacific power and a trading nation, we can’t afford not to be in the Asia-Pacific. That’s why President Obama decided, before he even took office, to institute a long-term, strategic emphasis on the region. And I’m confident that strategy will extend far beyond his presidency, because we have strong bipartisan support for it – both parties understand the importance of Asia.

Now, there is a lot going on in Asia today, from the dramatic rise of China and the historic reforms in Burma, to the ongoing threat from North Korea’s pursuit of nuclear weapons, to the dangerous tensions in the South China Sea.

And while I know that as a topic, “strengthening regional institutions” probably ties for last place with “corporate tax policy” in its headline-grabbing power, it’s one of the most consequential undertakings in terms of American interests. And that’s what I’d like to discuss with you today — namely, the effort to shape a rules-based order that is stable, peaceful, open and free.

First let me say that the region I am responsible for–East Asia and the Pacific–is a diverse one. Northeast Asia, Oceania–which includes Australia, New Zealand, and the Pacific island states–and then Southeast Asia, are all quite different.

Northeast Asia is home to two of our important treaty allies – Japan and the Republic of Korea. We’ve modernized defense cooperation with both countries to address the very real threat posed by North Korea. And we’ve deepened economic engagement through free trade agreements such as the one reached with South Korea.

Northeast Asia is also home, of course, to China–with which we’ve dramatically increased our engagement.

I was with Secretary Kerry, Treasury Secretary Jack Lew, and other Cabinet officials earlier this month for the annual Strategic and Economic Dialogue covering nearly every area of our relationship with China, from concrete steps to combat climate change and wildlife trafficking, to preventing nuclear proliferation on the Korean Peninsula and in Iran, to facilitating business and investment between our two countries.

These exchanges show the conviction of both sides – as the world’s two largest economies, two of the strongest military powers, and the two largest carbon emitters – to cooperate on the world’s toughest problems whenever we can. And just as important, they show our shared commitment to tackle problem areas frankly and openly, instead of merely agreeing to disagree on issues like human rights or intellectual property protection.

Australia, New Zealand, and the Pacific island states are extremely important partners. We’ve upgraded our defense cooperation with our Australian treaty ally, and we’re working to create jobs and shared prosperity with both Australia and New Zealand through the TPP trade agreement.

We’re also working with the vulnerable island states to protect the environment. Last month, Secretary Kerry hosted the “Our Ocean” conference, a first-of-its-kind diplomatic effort rallying heads of state, scientists and advocates from the Pacific Island nations and beyond to protect this shared resource.

But in many respects, the dynamic center of the region is Southeast Asia, and the ten countries that make up ASEAN.

Let me first say a few words about each.

Our ally the Philippines is a stable democracy with strong economic growth. We completed an enhanced defense cooperation agreement during President Obama’s visit in April, which enables us to better address common security challenges and provide relief for disasters, such as Typhoon Haiyan. Our economies also continue to grow closer, with two way trade reaching $24 billion last year.

We have strong partners in Indonesia and Malaysia, both pluralistic and tolerant Muslim-majority nations with growing economies. Indonesia’s recent presidential election shows the strength of their democracy. And President Obama’s recent visit to Malaysia highlighted our growing economic, people-to-people, and security ties.

Singapore is an influential and effective economic, diplomatic and security partner. Brunei is a major energy producer that, while small, has been a valuable partner for us on crucial regional issues like renewable energy and free trade.

Vietnam, of course, has a complicated history with the U.S. But our relations are now flourishing. Trade is increasing dramatically as Vietnam’s economy grows. And we’re forging closer security ties, even as we encourage greater political openness and respect for human rights.

We cooperate with Laos and Cambodia on a range of development issues, and we also push them to adhere to global standards of human rights.

With our longtime treaty ally Thailand, despite the recent setback of a military coup, we remain committed to our enduring friendship.

Perhaps no other country shows the promise of this region better than Burma, which has made a turn of historic proportions towards democracy and reform.

But that turn is by no means complete. Burma faces many challenges, and the success of its reform process is by no means certain. Burma is working to negotiate a lasting peace to end the world’s longest running civil war. It is grappling now with the key issue of constitutional reform, of military versus civilian control over its government, and of who it deems eligible to serve as head of state.

It continues to face hard choices in determining how to resolve an ongoing humanitarian crisis in Rakhine State. On that issue, we have seen some positive movement in the past week, as the government announced its intent to welcome the return of assistance providers, like Doctors Without Borders, and put forth its strategy on how to bring access to livelihoods and security back to populations that have been living tenuously for many months because of ethno-religious violence and discrimination.

Secretary Kerry will be very focused on seeing how this process is proceeding, when he visits in early August. He, and then President Obama when he visits in November, will be keen to get a sense of Burma’s preparedness for its landmark elections next year. The world will be watching, and we will continue to stand with the government and people of Burma as they enter this testing period. So we will continue to press Burma’s leaders to protect and respect all of their peoples, and their human rights and fundamental freedoms. And we will continue to support that country’s transformation.

That’s the overview of Southeast Asia today. The region’s economic dynamism and strategic importance has made it a particular focus of this administration – the ‘rebalance within the rebalance,’ if you will.

These ten countries have many differences, but they are bound by the conviction that they can achieve more together than they can apart. But before we talk about where they’re headed, it’s important to know how they came together.

Today’s ASEAN began in 1967 when the Vietnam War was heating up, and the Cold War seemed never-ending. In this uncertain world, five Southeast Asian nations signed a Declaration that they would support each other as they sought to build prosperous, independent states.

Now, nearly half a century after its founding, ASEAN has doubled to 10 nations with more than 620 million people, and a GDP of $2.2 trillion.

As Southeast Asia has grown and developed, ASEAN’s relations with the U.S. have grown as well. Under our Trade and Investment Framework Agreement signed in 2006, we have deepened our economic ties.

Since President Obama decided in 2009 to sign the Treaty of Amity and Cooperation–a treaty that ASEAN has extended to key neighbors–we’ve deepened our political ties as well. This is shown by the President’s decision to participate annually in the East Asia Summit, as he will again this year in November. This commitment to enhanced engagement with ASEAN is a key feature of the rebalance.

And we’re strengthening our ties with ASEAN across the entire U.S. government. Take this past April, when Secretary Hagel, USAID Administrator Raj Shah, and U.S. Pacific Commander Admiral Sam Locklear hosted defense ministers from the ASEAN nations in Hawai’i. This was the first-ever ASEAN meeting here in the United States–a recognition that our security and prosperity are more intertwined than ever before.

For instance, California already sells over $11.6 billion worth of goods to ASEAN. Exports to ASEAN support more than 90,000 California jobs [in 2012]. And both of those numbers can grow a lot more. Your state also stands to gain from more tourists and students from the region.

And ASEAN matters to the entire United States. We had $206 billion worth of trade in goods last year. ASEAN is our fourth-largest export market and trading partner. With a diaspora reaching across America, the region contributes to our culture. And sitting astride vital trade routes, it is important to our security.

A stable Southeast Asia that meets the aspirations of its people–for economic growth, clean air and water, education, and a voice in how they’re governed–is in America’s national interest. And one of the best, most efficient ways for America to help the region meet its aspirations is by investing in ASEAN.

Strengthening regional institutions is a long-term strategy. We pursue it because it’s essential to building the foundations for progress–from ease of trade, travel and transport, to systems for resolving legal disputes, to the ability to act together on pressing issues like environmental protection. We all benefit from a rules-based system.

Strong institutions harness a powerful force. A force you see in both daily life and in international politics–peer pressure. In fact, ASEAN shows that the best way to create positive peer pressure in the long term is through strong institutions.

ASEAN is working towards forming a cohesive economic community by next year through lower barriers and increased trade volumes with each other. For the U.S. economy, this will mean easier and more efficient market access to all 10 ASEAN countries. And in the longer term, a more prosperous ASEAN will be able to buy more American exports–from farm products to manufactured goods, to services.

Even as ASEAN pursues its ambitious agenda of internal integration, it has taken on the challenge of bringing the entire Asia-Pacific region closer together. This fills an important gap – APEC is a forum for economic cooperation, but there was no forum in the region where countries could deal with political, security, and humanitarian issues.

So in 1997, ASEAN started meetings with Japan, South Korea, and China… then with Australia, India, and New Zealand… and four years ago with the United States and Russia, bringing the number of world leaders attending what is now known as the East Asia Summit to 18.

The growth of the East Asia Summit shows ASEAN’s measured advance on the international stage as the hub that connects the region.

Less visible than the leaders’ summit, but even larger, is the ASEAN Regional Forum, an annual gathering of foreign ministers and other senior officials representing 26 countries from Pakistan to the Pacific Rim, and the EU.

This is perhaps the region’s most important ministerial meeting of the year, and it takes place in a few weeks in Burma. Secretary Kerry and his counterparts will discuss political and security issues, and begin fleshing out the agenda for the East Asia Summit, or EAS, which President Obama plans to attend in November.

Why the emphasis on EAS? In Europe, we’ve seen for decades how a region can develop effective institutions tailored to their unique needs, such as NATO and the OSCE. Those organizations have helped tackle regional, political, security and humanitarian problems. We believe the EAS can become the premier forum for addressing pressing issues in the Asia-Pacific region. But it is relatively new, and members are still trying to shape it to increase its usefulness and effectiveness.

We joined EAS because, as an Asia-Pacific nation, we want to be at the table for a strategic discussion about how we build and shape the institution over time.

Let me give you a little preview of the issues that will be at the top of Secretary Kerry’s agenda. We expect to advance collaboration on issues ranging from non-proliferation to humanitarian assistance and disaster response.

Disaster response is incredibly important, since the Asia-Pacific is hit by 70 percent of all natural disasters, costing the region $68 billion annually over the past ten years.

We have worked closely with partners, including China, on improving regional responses to problems and accidents such as oil spills, for example. We are supporting the EAS declaration on Rapid Disaster Response, helping spread the lessons learned in the Philippines from the recent Super-typhoon Haiyan, and working to improve the capabilities of ASEAN’s Centre for Humanitarian Assistance and disaster relief.

We’ve also teamed up with regional partners to develop a strategic plan for exercises that will prepare us to better coordinate delivery of life-saving relief in future disasters. And we are preparing to host an ARF climate change adaptation workshop to help countries protect their people from this growing problem.

In addition to advancing these areas of collaboration, we will have frank discussions about pressing political and security challenges. In recent months, the main security challenge facing ASEAN has been tensions in the South China Sea.

This is, of course, most important to the countries with overlapping territorial and maritime claims there. Let me note up front that the U.S. is not a claimant and does not take a position on others’ claims to land features in the South China Sea. So the United States can be impartial. And we are impartial; we are not taking one claimant’s side against another.

However, peace and stability in the South China Sea is important to the international community, because the South China Sea is essential to the global economy. Up to 50 percent of the world’s oil tanker shipments, and over half of the world’s merchant tonnage, pass through the South China Sea. National interests like freedom of navigation, international law, the peaceful settlement of disputes, and unimpeded commerce are at stake.

Rival maritime and territorial claims have existed here for decades, as countries jostle over islands, shipping lanes, historically rich fisheries, and more recently, oil and gas reserves.

The claimants have, at various times, shown that cooperation in the South China Sea area is possible. They have jointly explored for and managed resources. The Philippines and Indonesia peacefully settled a 20-year maritime boundary dispute just outside the Sea earlier this year. China and Vietnam have settled similar issues in the past. And some claimants have jointly developed energy resources further away from disputed land features.

In 2002, the ASEAN nations and China signed a Declaration on Conduct in the South China Sea. The Declaration, among other things, said that the parties would resolve disputes peacefully and in accordance with international law, and would refrain from actions that would escalate disputes, such as setting up new outposts on unoccupied features. And they agreed to work toward a more detailed Code of Conduct.

But tensions have flared over the years as well, and this year, they are running high. No claimant is solely responsible for the state of tensions. However, big and powerful countries have a special responsibility to show restraint. China’s recent pattern of assertive, unilateral behavior has raised serious concerns about China’s expansive claims, and its willingness to adhere to international law and standards.

Tensions spiked recently when China sent a deepwater drilling rig and armed ships into an area near the Paracel Islands that Vietnam also claims. The resulting weeks-long confrontation resulted in damaged ships, including the sinking of a Vietnamese fishing vessel, and damaged relations, including anti-Chinese riots in Vietnam.

At the same time, public evidence indicates the claimants are upgrading outposts on small land features in the South China Sea. What worries me is that China’s projects are far outpacing similar upgrades that other claimants are making. This important, resource-rich area should not be heavily militarized.

And actions off the water can raise tensions as well.

All parties should be able to bring disputes for adjudication under international law if they conclude that regular diplomatic efforts will not succeed. The Philippines has done this in a dispute with China over the validity of its claim that a 1948 Nationalist Chinese map “proves” that China owns the land and water within a “9 dash line” in the South China Sea.

But instead of engaging constructively and arguing its case as the Tribunal has proposed, China has pressured the Philippines to drop its case, and attempted to isolate the Philippines diplomatically.

International law, not national power, should be the basis for pursuing maritime claims in the South China Sea.

The United States works to lower tensions and help the parties peacefully manage their disputes in several ways. We have told the claimants – including the Chinese – directly and at the highest levels, of our growing concern. And we’ve encouraged all sides to avoid provocations and make clear claims based on international law.

We’re working with ASEAN and the international community to promote regional structures and arrangements, like a meaningful Code of Conduct, to lower tensions and manage disputes.

Rules and guidelines work best when they’re agreed to by the parties, through institutions that build habits of cooperation.

The U.S. is also investing more than $156 million in the civilian maritime capabilities of allies and partners in the area over the next two years. This includes equipment, training, and infrastructure. And it augments our own security presence in the region, which has been enhanced by the rebalance.

These are steps the U.S. is taking. But the claimants are the ones who must manage and settle the disputes. They are the ones who must generate the peer pressure – who must hold themselves to high standards, and then set an example for each other.

For instance, China and ASEAN already committed under the 2002 Declaration on Conduct to avoid activities that “would complicate or escalate disputes and affect peace and stability.”

However, these problematic activities are not well defined. We are urging China and the other claimants to have a conversation about what activities are acceptable to each of them – both to help reduce tensions now, and manage differences in the long run.

We have called for claimant states to define and voluntarily freeze problematic activities. The exact elements of a freeze would be decided by consensus among the claimants, and would not prejudice the competing claims.

We’ve offered these ideas, in greater detail, both in public and in private. And we plan on advancing this important discussion at the upcoming ASEAN Regional Forum meeting in Burma.

Over time, strong institutions can influence the conduct of all their members, helping to avoid conflict and incentivize peaceful resolution of disputes. We see beneficial outcomes of positive peer pressure with environmental issues, in trade, and human rights. It doesn’t work every time, but it’s responsible for enormous progress.

The Asia-Pacific region has almost limitless potential, if it can avoid the pitfalls ahead. Strong institutions are key – not just to avoid and resolve disputes, but also to lower barriers to trade, and protect human rights and fundamental freedoms.

The U.S., as a resident Pacific power and participant in many of the region’s institutions, will do all we can to strengthen those institutions even further.

We do this through our alliances and our security partnerships–and through our growing business and people-to-people ties, in which California plays an incredibly large role. And together, the American people and our government will continue to help provide a foundation of peace and stability on which the region can grow.

East Asia and the Pacific: U.S. Policy Towards East Asia and the Pacific

It’s a pleasure to be here with the Baltimore Council on Foreign Affairs to discuss U.S. policy toward East Asia and the Pacific. I appreciate the opportunity to be here tonight, because I believe it’s important to explain our policies; to connect with Americans outside the Beltway and get your feedback.

I have worked on Asia policy in the State Department and at the White House for decades. Early in my career, I had the great privilege of working for former Senate Majority Leader Mike Mansfield, when he was Ambassador to Japan. And so I learned quickly, and have seen countless times since, the importance, and the contributions of the Senate, and of individual Senators in our country’s international relations.

Congress may not always poll well at home, but to nations around the world, it embodies American democracy. And when members travel and meet with world leaders, people listen. So it’s important to have thoughtful, knowledgeable, eloquent leaders, especially on the Foreign Relations Committees. Leaders who speak with force and clarity to advance American interests and values.

And Marylanders are very lucky to have such a leader in Senator Ben Cardin, Chairman of the Foreign Relations Subcommittee on East Asia and the Pacific. I’ve valued his wise counsel and advocacy for strong U.S. involvement in the region. It is a privilege to work with him. He is in Vietnam as we speak, en route to the Shangri-La Dialogue in Singapore, where he will participate in a range of foreign policy discussions.

And of course I must also recognize the contributions of Senator Barbara Mikulski, who is a strong supporter of diplomacy and development as Chair of the Appropriations Committee, and is a leader on the Intelligence Committee as well. Maryland is doubly blessed to have these two great Senators.

The Port of Baltimore below us is older than the United States – a reminder that your city has always been a player in international trade, and thus in America’s relations with the world. And that brings me to the foundation of President Obama’s policy toward the Asia-Pacific region.

That policy is built on a simple idea: the region is hugely consequential to the U.S. The broader Asia-Pacific region – from the Pacific Coast of the Americas, through the island nations of the Pacific, to Australia and the Asian continent, constitutes over half the world’s people and economic output. Within that area, the East Asia-Pacific region that I’m responsible for accounts for about one-third of the world’s people and one-quarter of global economic output… and the numbers are growing.

As a resident Pacific power and a trading nation, the United States depends on a stable, prosperous Asia. The Asia-Pacific region matters for U.S. jobs and U.S. security.

Yet, when we looked at how our government’s resources were distributed – diplomatic and development personnel and funds, military assets, and the time and attention of senior leaders – we realized that the distribution of our resources didn’t match the growing importance of the region and our goals there. The distribution was out of balance.

So over the last five-plus years, we have worked to rebalance – this means strengthening our alliances and partnerships, building up regional institutions, and engaging with emerging powers, such as China and Indonesia. Let me give you a few details on each of these three areas.

We have strengthened and reinvigorated relations with our five treaty allies in the region – Australia, Japan, the Republic of Korea, the Philippines and, despite recent unfortunate developments, Thailand.

We have upgraded our economic and trade engagement. For instance, we ratified the Korea-U.S. free trade agreement and have worked to fully implement it. We’re negotiating the Trans-Pacific Partnership, or TPP, which includes allies and other partners as well.

And we have strengthened security cooperation with our allies, from our work with Japan and South Korea to counter the North Korean nuclear threat, to the new defense cooperation agreement signed during the President’s recent trip to the Philippines, to our rotational deployment of Marines to Australia. The strength of our alliances was highlighted by President Obama’s recent visit to Japan, South Korea, and the Philippines.

Our growing ties with emerging powers were highlighted by the President’s stop in Malaysia in April. At the same time, we have rededicated ourselves to collaboration with longtime friends like New Zealand, Singapore, Taiwan, and the Pacific Island nations, as well as renewed engagement with Burma.

Second, we are helping to build up the region’s security and economic institutions.

For example, take the Association of Southeast Asian Nations, or ASEAN – a group formed not by us, but by countries in the region that see elements of a shared destiny and which also have shared concerns.

We were the first non-ASEAN member to have a dedicated mission to ASEAN. President Obama participates annually in the East Asia Summit, a meeting of 18 of the region’s leaders convened and chaired by ASEAN. In the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation, or APEC, forum, we work closely with 20 member economies from across the Asia-Pacific to expand trade and investment, promote sustainable growth and strengthen regional ties. And as I mentioned, we are negotiating the TPP. This is an ambitious, comprehensive, and high standard agreement that will promote growth and create jobs both at home and in the region, and includes nearly 40 percent of global GDP.

These regional institutions and agreements are becoming an increasingly important part of the international system of the 21st century. This is worth putting in context, because the international system – a lot of which we take for granted – is unique in world history. For instance, never before have people, companies, and nations been able to travel and trade more freely. Most Americans take the ability to fly overseas for granted. They think about the cost, of course, but not about the global network of treaties, agreements, and institutions like the International Civil Aviation Organization that make it possible.

This international system, these global and regional organizations, provide another long-term benefit as well. Because beyond what you read about any single meeting or accomplishment, these bodies inculcate a mindset of working together. Working together on a daily basis can help nations peacefully resolve disputes, and advance each other’s development.

As countries see the value of working together on a growing range of issues, this mindset and the structures that support it become more and more self-sustaining. And so, too, does the shared understanding that rules and norms, and not size and power, determine the outcome of disagreements. While each group and each time is different, the benefits of global cooperation and regional integration are clear.

And today, in Asia and the Pacific, regional institutions are driving real accomplishments, whether:

  • negotiating jointly toward a code of conduct for claimants in the South China Sea;
  • improving management of shared resources, like fisheries;
  • eradicating diseases; or
  • addressing pollution that crosses borders.

Our support of regional institutions will be highlighted by the President’s participation in the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation forum in China, and the East Asia Summit in the fall.

We also have initiatives that bring neighbors in the region closer both to us and to each other, such as the Lower Mekong Initiative. This initiative helps Burma, Cambodia, Laos, Thailand and Vietnam work together to tackle common challenges, including education, infrastructure, agriculture and the environment.

The third pillar of the rebalance that I mentioned is engaging with emerging powers. By this we have traditionally meant our engagement with countries like Indonesia (with which we have developed a comprehensive partnership and a hold annual joint commission meetings on a range of issues), India (with which I hold very productive East Asia Consultations as well as trilateral meetings on the Asia-Pacific with Japan) and of course, China. But a broader definition of emerging powers could include countries like Vietnam, Malaysia, and, hopefully someday, Burma.

Expanding people-to-people ties is important throughout the region, and especially with emerging powers. We have increased people-to-people ties through programs like the Young Southeast Asian Leaders Initiative. President Obama launched this initiative on his recent trip to Asia, with youth from across the region to develop patterns of interaction among the region’s future leaders.

These three pillars support and reinforce each other.

Strengthening our alliances provides a foundation of security for the region, giving countries the confidence and the space to move forward on their collective interests and strengthen regional institutions. Unforeseen challenges, such as the coup last week in Thailand, can strain relations with an ally.

But other challenges can bring allies closer together. Amidst the terrible loss of life and devastation of Typhoon Haiyan, our support for the Philippines, along with that of other allies, has been a bright spot.

Building up those institutions, in turn, helps the region develop the rules of the road that I mentioned. And those rules – developed by and for the nations of the Asia-Pacific – provide the environment for trade, prosperity, and for solving problems.

Our engagement with emerging powers makes clear that the U.S. seeks partnerships and collaboration. It shows that we are committed to building positive-sum relationships. And it shows that we are prepared to welcome the peaceful rise of countries like China.

As the invitation to this event mentioned, relations with China are an important component of our policy toward the region. So let me share the Administration’s approach to our bilateral relationship.

How have we pursued the rebalance with China? By committing to develop a bilateral relationship where we expand areas of cooperation and constructively manage differences. By agreeing that both sides must continue to actively develop bilateral relations and avoid a drift toward strategic rivalry. And by strengthening our engagement with China at all levels, the helps to promote mutual understanding about each other’s intentions, thereby reducing the risk of miscalculation.

By expanding engagement at the highest levels. President Obama has met with his Chinese counterparts some 19 times, and Secretary Kerry and other cabinet members meet with their counterparts on a regular basis. These meetings help us build and maintain the relationships we need to seize opportunities and address concerns:

Our high-level Strategic and Economic Dialogue, chaired jointly by Secretaries Kerry and Lew and their Chinese counterparts, is a key venue for both sides to achieve progress toward these shared objectives. We will have two days of intensive senior-level engagement in Beijing this July. We will use them to candidly address areas of disagreement, while at the same time expanding areas of cooperation.

This Dialogue brings together senior teams from across both governments to tackle some of the most vexing bilateral, regional, and global issues. Issues include the denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula, climate change, elimination of Syrian chemical weapons stockpiles, food security, maritime security, global health, human rights, economic rebalancing, and energy security.

Our economies are increasingly intertwined, with investment flowing both ways:

  • In the last decade-and-a-half, cumulative Chinese investment in the U.S. has gone from near zero to $36 billion. Our Mission in China has done a lot to facilitate that investment.
  • And the U.S. Commercial Service, under the Department of Commerce has opened new offices in China.
  • And we agreed last year to pursue a “high-standard” bilateral investment treaty – one that can level the playing field for U.S. firms operating in China and create jobs here at home.

We cooperate on protecting the environment:

  • Last year, Secretary Kerry and State Councilor Yang Jiechi created a high-level Climate Change Working Group that has made significant progress.

We cooperate on socio-cultural issues:

  • Through the U.S.-China Consultation on People-to-People Exchange we work to enhance and strengthen ties between citizens of the United States and the People’s Republic of China in fields such as culture, education, science and technology, sports, and women’s issues.
  • The State Department supports more Americans studying in China than in any other country. Approximately 700 students, scholars, and teachers will conduct research, teach, or study Chinese in China through one of our exchange programs. This is in addition to the support we provide for Chinese students and scholars to study and conduct research in the United States.
  • China is the top sender of foreign students to the U.S., with over 230,000 in 2013. We are encouraging more American students to study in China through the 100,000 Strong Initiative and Foundation.

But I believe we must do much more to expand cooperation in the years to come. The logic of our shared interest should compel greater coordination and cooperation.

We share an interest in upholding the rules-based international system under which China has achieved historic levels of economic development. The United States has advocated for and embraced China’s inclusion in multilateral fora like the World Trade Organization, the G-20, and APEC, which China hosts this year. These groups create an environment conducive to China’s continued economic growth.

And more broadly, we know that free access to information, free speech, and the rule of law have been proven ingredients for unlocking human potential in societies across the world. As China works to move up the value chain into innovative industries and the global creative economy, its incentive to reform will increase.

These are all reasons why I believe China should strengthen its contributions to the international system, accepting its constraints to gain its far greater benefits. The U.S. accepts constraints – we lose some trade cases in the WTO, and some votes at the U.N., but we accept that, because the benefits far outweigh the costs.

As the President said yesterday, “America benefits when those norms are not only being upheld by us individually, but where all countries buy in… And China now as a rising power needs to be part of that….”

We will always need to protect our interests where they diverge. We have, and will continue to have, real differences. The question is how we deal with them. The test of our engagement, of our diplomacy is whether we are able to expand practical areas of cooperation on regional and global issues and at the same time manage these differences candidly and constructively.

In fact, this is the challenge of diplomacy writ large – working together when we can, and working to resolve disagreements peacefully when they arise. And that diplomacy depends on the support of the American people. It depends on people like you, who understand that spending on diplomacy and development is just one percent – less than one percent – of the Federal budget.

You understand that we need to invest in these tools. As President Obama said at West Point yesterday, this is “one of the hard-earned lessons of Iraq and Afghanistan, where our military became the strongest advocate for diplomacy and development. They understood that foreign assistance is not an afterthought, something nice to do apart from our national defense, apart from our national security. It is part of what makes us strong.”

Because when you only have a hammer, every problem becomes a nail.

Relations with the Asia-Pacific region matter to all Americans – for our economy, our security, and the advancement of our values.

And they matter to Baltimore, and all of Maryland. For instance, international students contribute over $400 million to the Maryland economy per year. The nearly-complete expansion of the Panama Canal is expected to bring more ships from the Pacific to the East Coast; the rebirth of American manufacturing creates more potential exports, and growth in the Asia-Pacific region should create more demand for our goods, and more two-way trade.

But your involvement – as business leaders, as academics, as engaged citizens – is essential to realizing these possibilities. So thank you. Thank you for the invitation, thank you for engaging with your friends and neighbors on the value of diplomacy; and thank you in advance for your thoughts and questions tonight. Let’s open it up for discussion.