Beginning a New Era of Diplomacy in Asia

Press Conference
Hillary Rodham Clinton
Secretary of State, Secretary of State
Remarks With ASEAN Secretary General Dr. Surin Pitsuwan
Jakarta, Indonesia
February 18, 2009

DR. SURIN: Madame Secretary, ladies and gentlemen, members of the press, we welcome the Secretary of State of the United States here with 30 yellow roses – 32 yellow roses. Thirty-two symbolizes the 32 years of (inaudible) partnership between the United States and ASEAN. Yellow, in our dictionary, means a new beginning. It means prosperity. It means happiness. So we do hope, Madame Secretary, that your visit today, being the highest ranking U.S. official visiting us, the first Secretary of State of the United States to visit us here at the headquarters of ASEAN, 576 million people, represents a new beginning and a new engagement on the part of the United States to ASEAN and with ASEAN.

Your visit shows the seriousness of the United States to end its diplomatic absenteeism in the region. You have said the U.S. is ready to listen. We are also ready to listen, Madame Secretary. Your willingness to listen will go a long way to winning friends and partners, and reassuring allies in the region.

Your visit also emphasizes the importance of ASEAN in the regional architecture. ASEAN, with its 41 years of history, has been an anchor of stability, peace, and harmony for the region. As a region, ASEAN and East Asia is ready, able, and willing to work with the United States in the search for solutions to global impasses, including bridging the cultural divide.

Ladies and gentlemen, this evening, Secretary Clinton and I had a very, very constructive conversation about a more robust engagement of the United States with the ASEAN region. We touched on several issues: global economic security was one of them; we agreed that we will join hands to coordinate and consolidate and create synergy to cope with the impact of the global financial crisis and to find the best means to cushion our communities from economic distress.

In this connection, I welcome Secretary Clinton’s strong commitment not to erect trade and other barriers. In your own words, Madame, we must remain committed to a system of open and fair trade. That was at the Asia Society on the 13th of this month in New York. I hope with this commitment, the Doha Round will have a new push.

I warmly welcome the Obama Administration’s commitment to launch its interagency process to pursue accession to the Treaty of Amity and Cooperation. It is a reaffirmation of the United States political and security commitment to this region.

The U.S. has been a Dialogue Partner of ASEAN for more than three decades. The commemorative summit between ASEAN and the U.S. to accelerate that occasion – to celebrate that occasion is still waiting to be realized. We hope this important milestone will be fulfilled soon.

We appreciate in the past 32 years, many, many initiatives on your part, Madame. The American people, the American Government have assisted, cooperated with ASEAN on many, many issues, including assisting us in our community-building efforts, preparing us for a higher engagement with the international community on trade and on many other issues.

We appreciate your help, your government’s, coming to our help very quick – very fast, very timely in our response to the Cyclone Nargis in early May this past year.

Madame Secretary, your presence here represents the beginning of a new era of diplomacy and development using smart power that you have articulated recently. ASEAN is very much honored to be a part of that new beginning.

Thank you, once again, and I look forward to meeting you at the ASEAN Post-Ministerial Conference and the 16th ASEAN Regional Forum in Thailand in the middle of the year. Thank you very much, Madame Secretary. (Applause.)

SECRETARY CLINTON: Thank you very much, Secretary General, for hosting our meeting here at the ASEAN Secretariat. I am very proud to be here at the Secretariat on my first overseas trip as Secretary of State of the United States. I came here to underscore the close ties the Obama Administration seeks between ASEAN and the United States, and to discuss issues of common concern to the ASEAN community and our country.

I congratulate the Secretary General on the adoption of the ASEAN charter, which came into force just last December. This is a major milestone in ASEAN’s development.

As the Secretary General stated, I have spoken a lot, as has President Obama, about the importance of listening. We are sending that message to friends and partners around the world. And we have listened to our friends in ASEAN. They have expressed their concern that the United States has not been fully engaged in the region at a time when we should be expanding our partnerships to address the wide range of challenges confronting us, from regional and global security, to the economic crisis, to climate change and human rights.

Part of being a good listener and a good partner is acting on what you hear. So today, I am proud to announce that the Obama Administration will launch our formal interagency process to pursue accession to the Treaty of Amity and Cooperation in Southeast Asia. This is the first time the United States has taken this step. We will work through this process to put forward our concerns, and then work with the countries of ASEAN to resolve them so that we can achieve our goal of accession.

We are taking this step because we believe that the United States must have strong relationships and a strong and productive presence here in Southeast Asia. This region is vital to the future of not only the United States and each of the countries, but to the world’s common interests: a significant and trade-oriented regional economy; a critical strategic location; and a set of countries that will be key to any solutions we pursue on climate change, counterterrorism, global health, and so much else. So, Mr. Secretary General, an American-ASEAN partnership is an important part of our new approach to development and diplomacy, what we call “smart power.”

As we move forward on the track, I look forward to engaging with ASEAN in other ways. I told Secretary General Surin that I plan to participate in the ASEAN Post-Ministerial and ASEAN Regional Forum meetings in Bangkok in July. And the United States will continue to support the technical assistance and training facility here at the Secretariat.

So, Mr. Secretary General, please know that you have a strong partner and ally in the United States, and that I look forward to working with you in the months and years to come. Thank you very much. (Applause.)

DR. SURIN: Thank you, Madame Secretary. Secretary Clinton has kindly agreed to entertain one or two questions. Please.

Yes, you first.

QUESTION: (Off-mike.)

SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, I think that what we are trying to convey in these first weeks of the Obama Administration is that we are reaching out to the entire world. As we all know, there are certain parts of the world that will demand more attention. That is why, almost immediately, the President and I named a Special Envoy to the Middle East and a Special Representative to Afghanistan and Pakistan. It is why we named a Special Envoy for Climate Change, a global problem.

So here we are in Indonesia, which has demonstrated for the entire world to see that Islam, democracy, and modernity can exist very successfully. And that is a message that Indonesia is sending to the rest of the world. Here in the ASEAN region, we have Muslim nations, Catholic nations, Buddhist nations. And what we want to convey is an approach that really does look for partnerships, bilateral where appropriate, multilateral as well. And ASEAN is a key to what we envision as a renewed and vigorous commitment to diplomacy and development.

So there is no pigeon-holing or there is no exclusivity. We are reaching out to the entire world. Because as the Secretary General said, it’s not only the ASEAN countries that feel the United States has been absent. Other parts of the world, unfortunately, do as well. Even in our own hemisphere, as you know, we have many friends in Latin America who feel that we haven’t paid much attention. So there is no specific singling out of any country or any region or any group of people. This is a general effort to reengage with the world and to do so in an effective manner. ASEAN provides such a forum.

DR. SURIN: I have tried to convince Madame Secretary that this is a picture of harmony and diversity in the region, and the road to reconciliation with the Muslim world might very well run through ASEAN and Southeast Asia.

QUESTION: (Off-mike.)


SECRETARY CLINTON: What would I say to American investors who would like to invest in Indonesia? That judging by my ride from the foreign ministry to the ASEAN Secretariat, there is an enormous opportunity for the kind of growth and positive investment climate that was evidenced just along that one road. And I hope that we’ll see investments from around the world in Indonesia and ASEAN countries. Because as we have said over and over again, democratic development and economic development do go hand- in- hand. What we want is to convey that there are benefits to democracy that will have tangible, positive results in the lives of people.

You know, later this evening, I’ll be meeting with a broad cross-section of leaders of civic society and non-governmental organizations here in Indonesia to talk about what more can be done to even further the prosperity and the peace and security of Indonesia. So I would certainly hope that investors will look at all of the ASEAN countries. Because putting people to work, giving people a chance to have a better life for themselves and their children, has to be a primary goal of any development of any country. And it is certainly one of my highest priorities in looking at our development assistance in the United States.

DR. SURIN: Madame Secretary, you have been so generous with your time, and you have another engagement. Thank you very, very much.

PRN: 2009/T1-15