Excerpts from Obama Speech

 

President Obama with Prime Minister Julia Gillard in Canberra

 

Excerpts from President Obama’s Speech and some question from various journalists on issues and President’s answers on issues affecting Asia-Pacific region:

President Obama: Good day everybody and thank you Madam Prime Minister for your generous welcome, your friendship and partnership.

President Obama in his speech said that he was thrilled to be Down Under and said, “As you may know, this is not my first visit to Australia, in fact I first visited Australia as a boy and I’ve never forgotten the warmth and kindness that the Australian people extended to me when I was six and eight and I can see that the Australian people have lost none of that warmth.

We are bound by common values, the rights and freedom that we cherish and for nearly a century we have stood together in defence of these freedoms and I’m very happy to be here as we celebrate the 60th anniversary of our alliance and as we work together to strengthen it for the future.

We are two Pacific nations and with my visit to the region I am making it clear that the United States is stepping up its commitments to the entire Asia-Pacific. In this work we are deeply grateful for our alliance with Australia and the leadership role that it plays, as it has been for six decades.

Our alliance is going to be indispensable to our shared future. The security we need, and the prosperity that we seek, not only in this region but around the world. I’m also very grateful for my partnership with Prime Minister Gillard. We have worked quite a bit together lately, spanning time zones, the G20 in Cannes, APEC and TPP in Hawaii and now here in Australia and next on to Bali for the East Asia Summit.

And this speaks to how closely our countries work together on a wide range of issues. And in my friend Julia, I see the quality that we Americans admire most in our Australian friends – somebody who’s down to Earth, easy to talk to and who says it like it is, straight up.

Along with our G20 partners we agreed that we have to stay focused on the growth that creates jobs and that every nation needs to play by the same economic rules of the road.

As two global partners, we discussed the whole range of challenges where we stand shoulder-to-shoulder, including Afghanistan. Obviously this has not been an easy mission for either of our countries and our hearts go out to the families that were affected on October 29th.

But we both understand what’s at stake, what happens when al-Qaeda has safe havens. We have seen the awful loss of life from 9/11 to Bali

I salute the extraordinary sacrifices of our forces who serve together, including your Australian troops who have shown no job is too tough for your Diggers.

Today your Prime Minister and I reaffirmed the way forward. The transition has begun, Afghans are stepping in to lead. As they do, our troops, American and Australian, will draw down responsibly together so that we preserve the progress that we have made and by 2014 Afghans will take full responsibility for security in their country.

But our focus today, as the Prime Minister has said, was on preparing our alliance for the future and so I’m very pleased that we are able to make these announcements here together on Australian soil.

Because of these initiatives, that are the result of our countries working very closely together as partners, we are going to be in a position to more effectively strengthen the security of both of our nations and this region.

As Julia described, we are increasing our co-operation and I would add, America’s commitment to this region. Our US Marines will begin rotating through Darwin for joint training and exercises.  Our Air Force will rotate additional aircraft through more air fields in northern Australia and these rotations which are going to be taking place on Australian bases, will bring our militaries even closer and make them even more effective.

It will enhance our ability to train, exercise and operate with allies and partners across the region and that, in turn, will allow us to work with these nations to respond even faster to a wide range of challenges, including humanitarian crises and disaster relief, as well as promoting security co-operation across the region.

And this commitment builds upon the best traditions of our alliance. For decades, have welcomed our service members as they have come here to work, train and exercise together and I’m looking forward to joining the Prime Minister in Darwin tomorrow to thank our troops, Australians and Americans, for the incredible work that they are doing.

On India:

Mark Riley from Seven News Australia:  Mr President, I wanted to ask you about the other rising giant of our region, India, and the Prime Minister might like to add some comments.

How significant is it for the US that Australia’s now considering selling uranium to India, and could you clear up for us what influence or encouragement your administration gave Australia as it made that decision?

And also, the decision is so India can produce clean energy. In that regard, you’re aware that our parliament has passed a new Bill pricing carbon, a carbon tax, if you like, but we’re intrigued about where America is going on this issue, and countries like Australia don’t see a carbon trading system in the world working unless America is a big part of it.

Can you tell us, is it your wish that America will have an emissions trading scheme across the nation within the next five years or so? How heavily do you want to see America involved in an

On Australia selling Uranium to India and whether US influenced Australia in considering that decision:

President Obama: Well, first of all, with respect to India, we have not had any influence, I suspect, on Australia’s decision to explore what this relationship, in terms of the peaceful use of nuclear energy in India, might be.

I suspect that you’ve got some pretty smart government officials here who’ve figured out that India’s a big player and that the Australia-India relationship is one that should be cultivated. I don’t think Julia or anybody else needs my advice in figuring that out. This is part of your neighbourhood, and you are going to make bilateral decisions about how to move forward.

I think, without wading into the details, the discussions that are currently taking place here in Australia around that relationship and the nuclear issue with India are ones that are compatible with international law, compatible with decisions that were made in the NPT, and I will watch with interest what’s determined, but this is not something between the United States and Australia. This is signed between India and Australia.

On Carbon Emissions:

President Obama: With respect to carbon emissions, I think I share the view of your Prime Minister and most scientists in the world that climate change is a real problem, and that human activity is contributing to it, and that we all have a responsibility to find ways to reduce our carbon emissions.

Each country is trying to figure out how to do that most effectively. Here in Australia, under the leadership of the Prime Minister you’ve moved forward with a bold strategy. In the United States, although we haven’t passed what we call a cap-and-trade system, an exchange, what we have done, is, for example, taken steps to double fuel efficiency standards on cars, which will have an enormous impact on removing carbon from the atmosphere. We’ve invested heavily in clean energy research.

We believe very strongly that with improved efficiencies and a whole range of steps that we can meet the commitments that we made in Copenhagen and Cancun, and as we move forward over the next several years, my hope is that the United States, as one of several countries with a (inaudible) carbon footprint, can fine further ways to reduce our carbon emissions. I think that’s good for the world.

I actually think over the long term it’s good for our economies as well, because it’s my strong belief that industries, utilities, individual consumers, we’re all going to have to adapt how we use energy and how we think about carbon.

Now, another belief that I think the Prime Minister and I share is that the advanced economies can’t do this alone, so part of our insistence, when we are in multilateral fora – and I will continue to insist on this when we go to Durban – is that if we are taking a series of steps, then it’s important that emerging economies like China and India are also part of the bargain. It doesn’t mean that they have to do exactly what we do. We understand that, in terms of per capita carbon emissions, they’ve got a long way to go before they catch up to us, but it does mean that they’ve got to take seriously their responsibilities as well.

Ultimately, what we want is a mechanism whereby all countries are making an effort, and it is going to be a tough slog, particularly at a time when a lot of economies are still struggling, but I think it’s actually one that, over the long term, can be beneficial.

Obama on China and its growing influence in the south pacific region:  

President Obama : I’ve said repeatedly and I will say again today, that we welcome a rising peaceful China. What they have been able to achieve in terms of lifting hundreds of millions of people out of poverty over the last two decades has been nothing short of remarkable.

And that is good, not just for China, but it’s potentially good for the region. I know Australia’s economy obviously has benefited by the increased demand that you are seeing in China.

The main message that I’ve said, not only publicly but also privately, to the Chinese is that with their rise comes increased responsibilities. It’s important for them to play by the rules of the road and in fact help underwrite the rules that have allowed so much remarkable economic progress to be made over the last several decades.

And that’s going to be true on a whole host of issues, so where China is playing by those rules, recognising its new role, I think this is a win-win situation.

There are going to be times where they’re not and we will send a clear message to them that we think that they need to be on track, in terms of accepting the rules and responsibilities that were being a world power.”

In answer to a Reuters’ journalist about the tough times and instability Europe is facing:

President Obama: With respect to Europe, I’m deeply concerned, have been deeply concerned, I suspect will be deeply concerned tomorrow and next week and the week after that.

Until we put in place a concrete plan and structure that sends a clear signal to the markets that Europe is standing behind the euro and will do what it takes, we’re gonna continue to see the kinds of turmoil that we saw in the markets today – or was it yesterday? I’m trying to figure out what time zone I’m in here.

We have consulted closely with our European friends. I think there is a genuine desire on the part of leaders like President Sarkozy and Chancellor Merkel to solve this crisis, but they have got a complicated political structure.

The problem right now is a problem of political will. It’s not a technical problem.

We saw some progress with Italy and Greece both putting forward essentially unity governments that can implement some significant reforms that need to take place in those countries, but at this point, the larger European community has to stand behind the European project, and for those American readers or listeners and those Australian readers or listeners, I think we all understand at this point we have got an integrated world economy and what happens in Europe will have an impact on us.

So, we are going to continue to advise European leaders on what options we think would meet the threshold where markets would settle down. It is going to require some tough decision on their part. They have made some progress on some fronts, like their efforts to recapitalise their banks, but ultimately what they are going to need is a firewall that sends a clear signal: ‘We stand behind European project and we stand behind the euro, and those members of the Eurozone, they are going to have the liquidity they need to service their debt.’

 

Reuter’s journalist: I have a question for Prime Minister Gillard as well. Are you concerned that the fiscal pressures the United States is under at the moment may compromise its ability to sustain its plans for the region, including the initiatives announced today? Do you have to take those with something of a grain of salt until the super committee process is concluded?

President Obama: I don’t want to steal your question, but I do want to just to say, with respect to our budget, there is a reason why I am spending this time out here in Asia and out here in the Pacific region. First and foremost, because it is the fastest growing economic region in the world and I want to create jobs in the United States, which means we’ve got to sell products here, and invest here and have a robust trading relationship here and Australia happens to be one of our strongest trading partners.

But a second message I am trying to send is that we are here to stay. This is region of a huge strategic importance to us. I’ve made very clear and I will amplify in my speech to parliament tomorrow that even as we make a whole host of important fiscal decisions back home, this is right up there at the top of my priority list, and we are going to make sure that we are able to fulfil our leadership role in the Asia-Pacific region.

PM Gillard:  And I was just going to make what I think is the common sense point – I’m not going to issue words of advice about the fiscal position in the United States – but the common-sense point of view of a leader is, ultimately, budgets are about choices, and they’re hard choices about the things you value, and I think by President Obama being here he is saying he values the role of the United States in this region, and our alliance, and that’s what the announcement we’ve made today is all about.

Journalist Jackie Calms: I want to double back to the topic of China. It seems there’s a bit of a schizophrenic aspect to this week of summitry in the Asia Pacific, where China’s participating from Hawaii to Indonesia, but then you have all the rest of you who are talking about on one hand a trade bloc that excludes China and an increased military presence for the United States which is symbolised most by this agreement the two of you have made for a permanent US presence in Australia.

What is it everyone fears so much from China, and isn’t there some risk that you would increase tensions in a way, that China might take some of the very actions you fear?

PM Julia Gillard: I think there’s actually a theme throughout the work we’ve been involved in at APEC, some the discussions here and what we will take to the East Asia Summit. We may be on a journey from saying Aloha to g’day to Bali ha’i or something like that, but I actually think in terms of strategic outlook it remains the same, which is both of our nations are deeply engaged with China as it rises and we want to see China rise into the global, rules-based order. That’s our aspiration. I understand it to be the aspiration of the United States. It’s something that we pursue bilaterally with China. It’s something that we pursue multilaterally in the various forums that we work in.

This East Asia Summit will have a particular significance, coming for the first time with the President of the United States there, and of course Russia represented around the table, so all of the players with the right mandate to discuss strategic, political and economic questions for our region, so I actually believe there’s a continuity here: APEC fundamentally focussed on trade and economic liberalisation; here in Australia, long-time allies talking about the future of their alliance and building for that future, as you would expect; but also preparing for a set of discussions in Bali which will bring us together again with our friends across the region.

President Obama: Just to pick up on this theme, Jackie, I think the notion that we fear China is mistaken. The notion that we are looking to exclude China is mistaken, and TPP is perfect example of this. We haven’t excluded China from the TPP. What we have said is the future of this region depends on robust trade and commerce, and the only we’re going to grow that trade is if we have a high-standards trade agreement where everybody is playing by the same rules; where if one set of markets is open then there’s reciprocity among the other trading partners; where there’s certain rules that we abide by in terms of intellectual property rights protection or how we deal with Government procurement, in addition to the traditional areas like tariffs.

And what we saw in Honolulu at APEC was that a number of countries who weren’t part of the initial discussions, like Japan, Canada, Mexico, all expressed an interest in beginning the consultations to be part of this high-standard trade agreement that could potentially be a model for the entire region.

Now, China says ‘we want to consult with you about being part of this as well’. We welcome that. It will require China to re-think some of its approaches to trade, just as every other country that’s been involved in the consultations for the TPP have had to think through ‘all right, what kinds of adjustments are we willing to make?’, and so that’s the consistent theme here.

This is a growing region, it is a vital region. The United States is going to be a huge participant in both economic and security issues in the Asia Pacific region. Our over-riding desire is that we have a clear set of principles that all of us can abide by so that all of us can succeed, and I think it’s going to be important for China to be a part of that.

I think that’s good for us, but it’s going to require China, just like all the rest of us, to outline our existing policies and what we’ve done in the past with what’s needed for a brighter future.

 

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