Remarks for the Signing of the Agreement between the Government of the Republic of Korea and the Government of the United States of America on Environmental Cooperation

Robert D. Hormats
   Under Secretary for Economic Growth, Energy, and the Environment 
Kerri-Ann Jones
   Assistant Secretary, Bureau of Oceans and International Environmental and Scientific Affairs
Korea's Ambassador to the United States Han Duk-soo
Washington, DC
January 23, 2012

ASSISTANT SECRETARY JONES: Good morning everyone.

I am Kerri-Ann Jones the Assistant Secretary of State for Oceans, International Environmental and Scientific Affairs. I would like to welcome you here today for the signing of the Environmental Cooperation Agreement between the Government of the Republic of Korea and the Government of the United States of America.

For more than sixty years our nations have worked together. We cooperate on a host of issues that include security, clean energy, and environment. For example, in October 2011, we established the U.S. - Korea Clean Energy Technology Partnership that will strengthen our bilateral cooperation in clean energy technology, research, and development. The agreement we are signing today, together with the environmental provisions in the U.S. - Korea Free Trade Agreement, cements our environmental partnership and provides the framework to expand the partnership in the future.

We are honored to have two distinguished representatives of our governments here to sign this agreement. Robert Hormats is the Under Secretary of State for Economic Growth, Energy, and the Environment. Under Secretary Hormats has a distinguished career in the United States government and in the private sector. He has served as the Vice Chairman of Goldman Sachs International, Assistant Secretary of State for Economic and Business Affairs, Ambassador and Deputy U.S. Trade Representative, and Senior Deputy Assistant Secretary for Economic and Business Affairs at the Department of State.

Han Duk-soo is Korea’s Ambassador to the United States. Previously, Ambassador Han was the Prime Minister of the Republic of Korea, Minister of Trade, Ambassador to the OECD, President of the Korea Institute for the Industrial, Economics, and Trade, and Chairman of the Presidential Committee on facilitating our new Free Trade Agreement. We are very pleased to have such illustrious representatives of their countries here to sign this important agreement.

I will now turn the podium over to Under Secretary Hormats.

UNDER SECRETARY HORMATS:  Ambassador Han, distinguished guests, ladies and gentlemen—good morning. Let me begin by thanking all participants for joining us in the signing of the Environmental Cooperation Agreement between the United States and the Republic of Korea.

Our two governments have a deeply rooted partnership which has endured over decades. Our alliance—as Secretary Clinton noted—is a “symbol of security, stability, peace, and prosperity.”

The Environmental Cooperation Agreement will further strengthen our partnership. Together, we can: combat illegal logging and trade in wildlife; reduce air and water pollution; increase the use of environmentally friendly materials and the recycling of waste; and implement measures to ensure that our transportation sectors—our cars, airplanes, and ships—meet high environmental standards.

The Environmental Cooperation Agreement was negotiated in parallel with the U.S.-Korea Free Trade Agreement, which President Obama noted as having groundbreaking protections for the environment during President Lee’s October visit to the United States. The two texts reference one another, which, combined, will orient the United States and Korea to lead the world as we transition to a green economy.

This transition has the potential to grow our economies and create millions of jobs. But it will not be easy. Nine out of ten units of energy that we consume today are produced by hydrocarbons—coal, oil, and natural gas. The United States and Korea—along with the broader global community—must work together to include the environment as a variable in our economic calculus.

Despite the obstacles ahead, I have high hopes because our nations have repeatedly exceeded expectations over the past fifty years. Recall that Korea grew from nominal per capita GDP of approximately $100 in 1962 to almost $21,000 in 2010.

Improvements in labor productivity were a key component of our economic growth in the twentieth-century. The management of natural resources—the environment—will define our success in the 21st century.

At our present level of resource productivity, our planet can feed and accommodate some 1.5 billion people at the OECD country standard of living. The world today has 7 billion people. There is an obvious gap, which is why we need new ideas and new solutions to raise standards of living around the world in a way that’s sustainable, as well as change the way we ourselves live. The U.S.-Korea Environmental Cooperation Agreement inches us towards that reality.

Before I turn to Ambassador Han, I will also note that we are cooperating with the Republic of Korea on another environmental venture this summer.

The United States will host a pavilion at the 2012 Yeosu World Expo, which will have an environmental theme: The Living Oceans and Coast. The U.S. pavilion will showcase our diversity, values, and demonstrate the innovation and creativity of American companies. The pavilion will highlight how we can work collaboratively to solve our common global environmental challenges.

We hope that today’s event serves as a reminder of the strong and important relationship between our countries.

Thank you.

AMBASSADOR HAN:  Good morning. I think this morning is a very meaningful time for us to reaffirm again the real cooperation between the United States and Korea based on common values. In June 2009 when President Lee Myung-bak visited here to Washington, he and President Obama signed a joint vision for the future alliance and partnership of the United States and Korea in the future.

They emphasized not only the traditional military alliance which is crucial. They affirmed that they will diversify the scope of their alliance and partnership into other areas which have not been so much well taken advantage of – that was economics and that was also the environment. They promised that environmental protection and low carbon green growth will be the momentum for the future prosperity of Korea and the United States.

We have had experience of more than decades of cooperation in the area of environmental protection, research and development, and smart grid areas, but I think the agreement we will sign today with respectable Under Secretary Hormats will be the real framework agreement on what we have been doing up until now, and that will also be a stimulus in implementing our very well-defined provisions in our historic Korea-U.S. Free Trade Agreement.

Free Trade Agreement should always be combined with more jobs and a higher level of standards for environmental protection and labor standards, and those are exactly what have been tried and scrupulously written in our agreements of FTA. So this agreement we will sign today will be a basis for the efforts that we will conduct in the future for making the prosperity and joint alliance and joint partnership possible between the United States and Korea. So I would really like to thank all the staff of the State Department and the corresponding staff of the Korean Government for making their efforts in making this agreement possible.

We will in the future very faithfully implement this agreement so that our efforts on our commitments to common values will be the norm of our corporations in the future.

Thank you very much.