CBS Interview: The Secretary's Trip to Asia

Hillary Rodham Clinton
Secretary of State
Interview With Wyatt Andrews of CBS
Tokyo, Japan
February 17, 2009

QUESTION: Madame Secretary, thank you for taking the time this afternoon. Now, you have talked a lot about coordinating the response between America and Asia on this global fiscal crisis. But we have a little news today. The Japanese finance minister is resigning under somewhat embarrassing circumstances. Does this complicate your efforts to coordinate things with the Japanese?

SECRETARY CLINTON: I don’t think so. I think that the Japanese Government understands what it’s up against, and the loss of the finance minister doesn’t, in any way, undermine what I know to be the commitment by the government to address the very serious economic contraction.

But what is important is that we get prepared for the G-20 in London, in very early April, because Japan is the second-largest economy in the world. We’re the largest. And it’s incumbent upon both of us to, you know, really help lead the world as well as our own countries out of this economic challenge.

QUESTION: You know the stimulus in our own country was very hard to coordinate.


QUESTION: So how – any concrete examples of how you coordinate a fiscal response globally?

SECRETARY CLINTON: I think there are several ways to do it. One is the fact that we did, in the United States, commit to a very large stimulus. I know that it was a difficult political decision, but it was the right one, and we are going to begin implementing that as quickly as possible.

Japan is also looking at what it can do to stimulate its own economy, because we’ve got to stimulate demand in our respective economies as we then reach out and try to figure out how to help shore up economies of smaller or emerging nations, how we coordinate with a country like China so that it too tries to stimulate its economy and create some internal demand. I have discussed at length with the foreign minister what could be done to actually take one of Japan’s great strengths, which is its leadership in clean energy and energy efficiency, and begin trying to, you know, marry that to both economic opportunity and the global climate change challenge.

So there’s going to be a lot of opportunity for us to work together. The important thing is that we don’t build walls between us, that we don’t engage in activity that will worsen the financial situation, and Japan and the United States both understand that.

QUESTION: All right. I want to talk about when you were candidate Hillary Clinton. It wasn’t that long ago. But when you were candidate Hillary Clinton, you were pretty brutal, accusing the Chinese of cheating on trade, especially in currency manipulation. “I’ll stand up to China,” you said. “I will aggressively crack down on China.” Those are your words from the campaign.

Now that you’re Secretary of State, is that still the plan? “I’ll aggressively crack down on

SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, I think you also heard that from President Obama when he was campaigning and others as well, because there are concerns that we share. But the overwhelming situation that we confront today is of a global economic crisis and the world in an economic contraction. And I think what we have to do is face the situation as we see it today, and that’s going to require very careful cooperation.

When I’m in China at the end of this week, certainly I’ll congratulate them for having passed a stimulus, which is a significant step on their part, and look for ways that we can partner to try to get the economy and growth moving again. So I think it’s like in any political campaign. That was at a different time when we weren’t facing the kind of difficult situations we face today.

QUESTION: That sounds like you feel forced to pull the punch.

SECRETARY CLINTON: No, not at all, Wyatt. You know, I think that you will hear from the Obama Administration about the opportunities that we hope to pursue with China. But we also know that there are differences that we have. At this moment in time, there is no difference between our joint commitment to try to work our way through this economic crisis.

And we’re very interdependent. You know, the Chinese economy is very dependent on selling a lot of goods to the United States. As the United States sees increasing unemployment and consumers are cutting back and saving more, that has a direct impact on the Chinese economy. As our government goes into deeper deficit in order to fund this stimulus, we are relying on the Chinese Government to continue to buy our debt.

So one result of this economic crisis has been a clear understanding on the part of everyone as to how interdependent the global economy is, and in particular, the Chinese and American economies.

QUESTION: But briefly, do you still think that the – do you still think that China is cheating on trade, is costing American jobs?

SECRETARY CLINTON: I think that what China is trying to do now is what the United States is trying to do: How do we get back to growth? And China has a deep commitment to improving the lives of their people, as we do of our people. And I want to make sure that we play by the same rules, that we have a level playing field.

But at this moment, the game is how do we get both of our economies moving again. You know, once we’re growing again, once we have a robust economy creating new jobs in America, once the Chinese are dealing with their unemployment problem by creating more jobs and our trade is once again moving back and forth, there will be other problems for us to address. But right now, I think we are all fixated on what we’re going to do to get global growth up and going.

QUESTION: All right. Less than a minute here, but I really want to get to Indonesia.
This is fascinating. The world’s largest Muslim country.


QUESTION: Clearly, the United States – you - are seeking a broader, more friendly relationship with Indonesia. Why is this so important to you?

SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, Indonesia has shown an extraordinary commitment to democracy in the last several years. Yes, of course, it is the world’s largest Muslim country. But now, it is a vibrant, dynamic democracy where women are actively involved in the political and economic life of the country, where many of the longstanding internal problems, from East Timor to Aceh, have been resolved, where there is a really impressive commitment to a positive future that Indonesia will play in the region. So I --

QUESTION: Is this trip – if I might, is this trip important to the broader outreach to Muslims around the world?

SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, I think it is, of course, that. But more than that, it is country-specific. Indonesia deserves our attention because of what Indonesia has accomplished. And I’m very proud that I will be visiting on my very first trip as Secretary of State. You know, President Obama has a special affection for Indonesia because of the years he spent there as a child. I think we both feel that the progress that Indonesia has shown in and of itself is very noteworthy. The fact that it is such a large Muslim country with a diverse political structure where the voices of many different people are now being heard makes it an even more impressive story.

QUESTION: All right. Madame Secretary, thank you.

SECRETARY CLINTON: Good to see you. Thank you.

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PRN: 2009/T1-4