Remarks at a Press Availability With United States Trade Representative Ambassador Froman

John Kerry
   Secretary of State
Jen Psaki
   Department Spokesperson, Office of the Spokesperson
Bali, Indonesia
October 5, 2013

The video is also available with closed captioning on YouTube. 

SECRETARY KERRY: Good afternoon, everybody. Thank you for being patient. We appreciate it very much. I’m delighted to continue my trip through Asia, and on behalf of President Obama, it is an honor to represent the United States at the annual APEC economic leaders meeting. And I’m delighted to be here with a member of the President’s cabinet, our United States Trade Representative, Ambassador Mike Froman.

I want to thank Indonesia for its extraordinary welcome and wonderful hospitality over the day and a half that we’ve been here meeting already, and we thank them for their exceptional hosting of the APEC conference.

First, I’d like to say just a few words about the disappointing situation back home, which, regrettably, has kept the President of the United States from attending this year’s APEC. I am not in partisan or elected politics anymore, but I did spend 28-plus years in the United States Senate, and I believe that those standing in the way in the other body of the Congress, standing in the way of reopening our government, need to think long and hard about the message that we send to the world when we can’t get our own act together. Because I’ve said many times, the values of great institutions like the United States Senate and the House is how we use them and what they represent to the world. And because these institutions are instruments of the people, they are broken only if we let them break. So I can tell you from experience that it is not only within Congress’ power to prevent the shutdown, it is also within Congress’ power to end it. To end it now. To end it today.

And to all of our friends and foes watching around the world, let me be crystal clear: Do not mistake this momentary episode in American politics as anything less than a moment of politics, or anything more than a moment of politics. This is an example, really, of the robustness of our democracy, the capacity for any people to make their voices heard, sometimes, we may feel, incorrectly. But nevertheless, it as a sign of the vibrancy and capacity of people to make their voices heard.

The American people are remarkably strong and resilient people, and we all know that we will get beyond this moment, and we will get beyond it quickly. And in the end, nothing will change with respect to the issues that bring us here to the APEC conference. Nothing will diminish our commitment to Asia, the rebalance that President Obama’s engaged in. We will continue to fulfill our responsibilities, and our engagement around the world, and I think people are confident of that.

For the moment, there are some things that do get affected, and that is regrettable. For instance, our security assistance for Israel, our closest ally in the Middle East, is being delayed. The new fiscal year started this last week, but because of the shutdown, some entities don’t have the funding that they need, including supporting the peacekeeping mission in the Sinai, at a time of growing unrest in a critical area. The U.S. Congress could fix this very quickly by reopening the U.S. Government.

Another example: The opportunity to engage diplomatically with Iran is critical to all of us in the world, and we wouldn’t be where we are today if it weren’t for the pressure that has been brought to bear by the sanctions. But right now, as a direct result of the shutdown, our Treasury Department’s Office of Foreign Asset Control has been forced to furlough nearly all of its staff.

So the world is watching to see whether a combination of tough sanctions and careful diplomatic diplomacy can lead Iran to verifiably give up the chase for nuclear weapons. I think it’s clear that we cannot lose this opportunity to moments of politics that deprive us of the opportunity to embrace larger and more important goals.

Of course, the situation back home, as I mentioned, has unfortunately kept President Obama from joining us here this weekend. I will be traveling at his request to Malaysia and to the Philippines in order to represent the United States. But I do want to make clear: None of what is happening in Washington diminishes one iota our commitment to our partners in Asia, including our efforts to promote trade and investment throughout the region. And this remains one of our top priorities, and I’m very, very pleased to be here together with two other members of the President’s cabinet – Ambassador Froman and Secretary of Commerce Pritzker – all of us engaged, as we will stay engaged, in this region.

Why does that matter to us? APEC matters because it provides a very critical platform for government and private sector partners to be able to come together and break down the barriers to commerce. It is the way in which we open up opportunity for all of our citizens, and begin to create rules of the road that bring our countries closer together. It is the way to create opportunity for all people. Today, even in our discussions, we had a talk about how we make this economic opportunity with equity, meaning that women and men all joined together in their capacity to share opportunity in the workforce. It’s a chance for us to come to a fast-growing region of the world – the fastest growing region – and begin to talk about how we invest in each other and how we can better connect our economies one to the other, and how we create jobs and economic growth in all of our countries.

That’s why the United States works so closely with Indonesia and with other APEC countries. We work together on regulatory issues, on how we can make it easier for exporters to be able to cut tariffs and be able to move their goods to another country. How we sell goods and services in foreign markets. We work together on logistical issues, like how you improve the performance and connectivity at every step along the supply chain of these goods. And all of this breaks down barriers between our countries and forges a stronger relationship, which adds to the peace and security and prosperity, not just of the region, but of the rest of the world.

We also work together on something that is very important to me personally, and that is promoting trade and investment in a way that can help our environment and the planet that we share and deal with the responsibilities of energy policy and of global climate change. For example, implementing tariff reductions on solar panels and other environmental goods will speed growth in the profitable sector of green technology, at a time when we see great environmental degradation and climate change that threatens the way of life In the Pacific region.

Here in Bali this week, we will also continue to advance the Trans-Pacific Partnership. Ambassador Froman and I will represent the President at a meeting of the leaders of the TPP countries. And this agreement is a key part of our agenda in the Asia Pacific and the President’s jobs agenda at home.

The relationship between the United States and the Asia Pacific has really never been more important than it is now. President Obama began a rebalance to this region in the course of his first four years, and we intend to continue that over the course of his second term. It is very clear that most of the economic issues that we face today require the kind of cooperation that APEC makes possible. And the United States views APEC as its premier forum for economic and development issues in this region.

So on behalf of President Obama, the United States looks forward in the next few days to a very productive dialogue and to a significant, continued collaboration with Indonesia and with the rest of our APEC partners.

Ambassador Froman.

AMBASSADOR FROMAN: Well, thank you very much, Mr. Secretary and good afternoon. As Secretary Kerry said, the United States has a strong commitment to APEC. We are Pacific nation, and we always will be. This is the fastest growing region of the world, and our work here is critical to expanding exports and therefore to promoting growth, creating jobs, and strengthening the America middle class.

APEC economies represent 55 percent of global GDP, and about 45 percent of global goods and services trade. The United States exports more than a trillion dollars of goods and service to APEC countries, and that’s more than 50 percent of total U.S. exports. And those exports support millions of hardworking American jobs. Our capacity to grow our economy and create jobs is integrally tied to the success of this region and our engagement with it.

From a trade and investment perspective, APEC continues to be an incubator for policy innovation. As APEC economies cooperate to advance the value of our regional relationships, we realize ideas together that can boost the whole global trading system.

APEC is on the leading edge of a number of global efforts to increase economic integration and opportunity. Together, we’re working to improve supply chains. Together, we’re working to fight new forms of protectionism, like localization; to implement regulatory policies that make it fast and more efficient to do business; and to building on the groundbreaking commitments in Honolulu in 2011 to advance trade and environmental goods.

At the same time, APEC economies continue to play an important leadership role in the multilateral trading system. The WTO’s Information Technology Agreement, for example, got its start at APEC. And now longstanding APEC priorities have the potential to be enshrined in a global trading rules at the WTO. These include a win-win agreement on trade facilitation that will help developed and developing countries alike, as well as an expanded information technology agreement. On that front, I’m pleased to announce that there is a hopeful sign this week of our ability to work creatively together to solve problems and make progress in the WTO. We were happy to work with China and others to get the information technology agreement talks back on track. After discussions this week, we’re hopeful that resumption of formal, plural-lateral negotiations will begin as soon as possible.

As I said in Geneva earlier this week, the United States is a strong supporter and believes in the World Trade Organization. Along with our APEC partners, we also believe that this is a crucial moment for that system. In two months, we’ll be back in Bali for the 9th WTO ministerial. If we succeed in producing a multilateral package on trade facilitation, agriculture, and development, it can provide impetus to the multilateral trading system. If we fail, it will harm – it will be hard to see how we further that agenda. And we’re pleased to see our APEC partners this week working together to push for a meaningful result at the WTO.

Finally, of course, as the Secretary said, we spent a great deal of time this week working on TPP. The TPP countries are strongly committed to working to conclude negotiations this year. In Brunei in August, and now in Bali, trade ministers have been charting a path forward on outstanding issues, particularly state-owned enterprises, intellectual property rights, environment, and market access, in order to move the negotiations toward completion.

And the U.S. continues to work for a high level of ambition and high standards for TPP with all due speed. We’ve made significant progress this week, and we look forward to briefing the TPP leaders on Tuesday about that progress and getting their political-level guidance to facilitate the conclusion of the negotiations.

In sum, our work here this week will further U.S. engagement in the Asia Pacific region and create new jobs and opportunities in the United States. Thank you.

MS. PSAKI: The first question will be from Matt Lee of the Associated Press.

QUESTION: Okay. Thank you, Mr. Secretary. Can you hear me, first of all? I’m not sure – yes? Okay.

I’m curious as to, first, how do you make the case back at home to members of Congress that the shutdown hurts American security and potentially the security of its allies, while at the same time you are here, presumably, assuring those allies, at in Asia, that you still have their back, like what you said?

And secondly, how concerned are you that the perception of weakness created by the President’s having to cancel his visit here, whether or not that’s the reality, how concerned are you that that perception will encourage some countries in this region – notably China, but perhaps also Russia – to try and take advantage of the situation? Thank you.

SECRETARY KERRY: Well, Matt, it’s a very good question. It’s a fair question and my answer is very straight-forward. There are momentary disruptions. And the momentary disruption always has the ability to have an impact. I mean, if you are not funding a particular security operation at a particular moment – in the Sinai, for instance, or somewhere – there’s an opportunity for misjudgment. And the other examples that I gave are self-explanatory. But that’s not long term, and I’m convinced it’s not long term.

Now I think it’s reckless, personally, to even provide those moments where you have these risks that are exposed, but the bottom line is that the United States of America is not going to change one iota the fundamental direction of the policy under this President. And I think everybody in the region understands. I haven’t run into one question mark about the long term – everybody sees this as a moment on politics – an unfortunate moment – but they see it for what it is.

But in the long run I think people understand that on an issue like Iran with nuclear weapons, on an issue like North Korea and nuclear weapons, on our fundamental commitments to this region in terms of maritime security and freedom of navigation through the seas and so forth, our commitment is not going to change. And the American people understand the importance of those commitments and we’ll be steadfast.

So I think – I haven’t found one leader here who raised a question with me about the long term for the United States. What they do ask is how long is this going to go on and why is this happening, and those kinds of questions. And I think that people understand that the fundamental commitment of the United States is what it is, and I think they still trust it.

Now with respect to the perception of, quote, weakness, I just disagree with that premise. I don’t believe that anybody here believes there is some connection of any moment of weakness in the President making a decision to deal with his domestic politics. There isn’t one leader here who wouldn’t make the same decision if they were faced with a domestic moment in their politics where they have to resolve a budget or resolve a debt-ceiling or any other kind of issue.

But we just had a very strong meeting in Japan, Secretary Hagel and I. We just reannounced a next 15-20 year projected reevaluation of our guidelines for our relationship with Japan and in the region. Here in my conversation with the Foreign Minister from the Republic of Korea, we had the same kind of long-term horizon, and I think in the discussions that we’ve had in APEC about the code of conduct and the South China Sea and other issues, there hasn’t been one doubt or one question asked about whether the United States will fulfill its obligations and remain engaged.

So there is a distinction between short-term impact and, I think, the long-term interests that people perceive as being much more durable than any moment in our domestic, political life.

MS. PSAKI: The next question will be from Michael Tjandra of RTCI.

QUESTION: Thank you for this opportunity, Mr. Secretary. Where does Indonesia stand as an APEC member with America in playing a role to help to revive the global economy?

SECRETARY KERRY: Well, I’m going to let the Ambassador speak a little bit to that, but I will just tell you that Indonesia is growing at, I think, around 6 percent or so now. They have plans to even raise that level of growth more significantly. Indonesia is a very powerful, significant member of APEC – not just the chair of this year, but one of the larger countries, one of the more important exporting nations, a country with enormous resources, a capacity to contribute to the regional growth.

And we view Indonesia as very important partner in terms of adherence to rules and standards and to the rules of trade, which are so critical to transparency and accountability and to the willingness of people to invest capital and therefore grow economies. So Indonesia has proven itself to be very a significant partner with us in that regard, and I’ll let the Ambassador fill out perhaps a little more detail.

AMBASSADOR FROMAN: Well, the only thing I would add to that is, Indonesia one of the largest economies in the world and as a key member, for example, of the G-20, and has played a critical role in the G-20 in terms of bringing a perspective of an emerging economy to the global economic system and ensuring that issues were addressed in an appropriate way.

They’ve been – the President Yudhoyono and others from (inaudible) play a critical role in the G-20 over the last several years. And similarly, in just two months from now, Indonesia will host and chair the 9th meeting of the WTO ministerial. So it is playing a leadership role in the international trading system, and is working very hard – and that was a big topic of today’s meeting – today’s discussions this morning – working very hard both with APEC members but also with members from around the world to ensure a positive result from the multilateral trading system.

MS. PSAKI: The final question will be from Indira Lakshmanan from Bloomberg News.

QUESTION: Thank you, Secretary Kerry and Ambassador Froman. Secretary Kerry, you addressed this a little bit at the top of your remarks, but the whole question about the government shutdown has certainly created a perception in Asia that it’s undermining the President’s ability to fulfill his Asia pivot promise. And we’ve heard this both in public remarks from certain Asian leaders and also private remarks – that they feel it’s undermining the President’s, what is meant to be his signature issue of his second-term foreign policy distracting him. So I want to ask you: How can you reassure those leaders who’ve expressed their concerns that it’s not undermining the Asia pivot?

And secondly, also, how is affecting, for both of you, the ability to get TPP talks done this week, because again we’d expected the President to be here and his leadership creates a message? So is it giving an opportunity for China or others to work on rival trade groups to the TPP?

SECRETARY KERRY: Well, Indira, I think I did touch on this a little bit, but let me fill it out a little bit more.

President Obama is not here, and he planned to be here. And he is not here because he has to stay at home in order to deal with this domestic challenge, which has been presented to him by a small group of people within one branch of the United States Congress. That obviously undermines the President’s ability to have the conversation he was going to have with President Xi, or have the conversation he was going to have – or the meeting he was going to have with President Putin, all of which are important to the conduct of global affairs. So obviously there is the loss of that as a result of this.

But I think those leaders, all of them, know well enough that in terms of the long term, this will end and the United States will have a budget. And the United States will still be the strongest power in the world, in terms of our military capacity, largest economy in the world, an economy that is now increasingly stronger by the day, a debt that is coming down, a deficit that is coming down, job growth that is robust – not as much as we want – but robust in the circumstances. And importantly, increasingly, an energy power in the world – increasingly independent. I think I saw statistics just the other day that said we are now the largest oil and gas energy producer in the world.

So that is not insignificant. And as the world takes stock of who stands for what who’s fighting for what and who is pushing what values, I believe the United States still stands tall and will not diminish one iota the influence or the direction that we are fighting to move in. So this is a momentary impact. Obviously, if it were prolonged, or it were repeated, people would begin, I think to question the willingness of the United States to stay the course, or its ability to. But that’s not the case, and I don’t think that will be the case. We will get beyond this moment.

And the President wants Ambassador Froman and Secretary Pritzker and myself to make it clear to people that we remain as committed as ever to this robust shift in the Asia rebalance, and that’s why the three of us are out here. And as I said, I just had a very successful 2+2 meeting, a meeting with the defense secretary and the foreign secretaries of Japan and the United States.

We are now here. I am not here for five hours. I’m not here for one day. I’m here for five days. And I go from here to Malaysia and to the Philippines and to Brunei, and, all told, I’ll be out in this part of the world for about almost two weeks. So I think that is a significant statement about the United States presence, about the President’s commitment, and I am absolutely confident that when we get this moment of political silliness behind us, we will be back on track, that the world will respect and want to be part of.

AMBASSADOR FROMAN: Indira, all I’d add on the TPP question is that, as Secretary Kerry indicated in other areas, this is a long-term engagement. The U.S., including the President, has been deeply engaged in this initiative from the start. It’s a key part of our rebalancing agenda, of the economic component of the rebalancing agenda. And we’ve been here for the last several days meeting around the clock as ministers and negotiators making significant progress on the negotiations. Of course, we wish the President were here to lead the meeting of TPP leaders later in the week, but Prime Minister Key of New Zealand has agreed to chair on his behalf. And the leaders are all looking forward to engaging on this issue because they know it’s an important initiative, and they very much see it as a key part of U.S. engagement in the region.

MS. PSAKI: Thanks, everyone.

SECRETARY KERRY: Thank you all very much. Good to be with you. Thank you.

PRN: 2013/T15-05