November 16th, 2006 02:43 EST
Remarks by the President at National Singapore University
THE PRESIDENT: Thank you very much. Good evening. Laura and I are really pleased to be back in Singapore. And I appreciate the chance to come and speak to you at this fine university. I thank the government and the people of Singapore for such gracious hospitality. I'm particularly pleased that my friend, the Senior Minister Goh, and his wife are with us today. Mr. Minister, thank you for joining us. (Applause.)
I also had a very fine meeting with Prime Minister Lee earlier. I've come to know him as a wise man. I appreciate his good counsel. He's a friend and a partner, and he's a strong voice for peace and prosperity in Asia.
Our roots, America's roots in Singapore are deep and enduring. I don't know if you know this or not, but our first counsel to Singapore arrived in the 1830s to promote American trade in this region. His wife was the daughter of one of America's most famous patriots, Paul Revere. She came to love the city and she came to love its people. And to show that love, she donated a bell that was cast by the Revere Foundry to the old St. Andrew's Church. The Revere bell is now in the National Museum of Singapore, and it is a symbol of the long affection between the people of our two nations.
The story of Singapore is a story of people who overcame challenges and transformed a small port city into one of the most prosperous nations on Earth. Many of you have parents or grandparents who remember riding ox carts, and now fly across the oceans from one the world's most modern airports. Some learned four national anthems over their lifetime -- Britain's, Japan's, Malaysia's, and finally, Singapore's. Others recall Singapore's early days and the pessimists who predicted that a small country with no natural resources was doomed to fail.
By your effort and enterprise, you have proven the pessimists wrong. And today, Singapore has one of the most vibrant economies in the entire world. In many ways, Singapore's transformation from a small trading outpost to a confident and prosperous leader is the story of Asia. Like Singapore, this region was mired in poverty after the second world war. Like Singapore, the region had to overcome challenges that included war and occupation and colonialism. Like Singapore, the region faced threats from movements that sought to destabilize governments and impose their ideology on others. And like Singapore, the region has overcome these challenges, and the Asia we see today is the fastest growing and most dynamic region in the world.
The United States has long recognized that it is in our interests to help expand hope and opportunity throughout Asia. And our policies have reflected this commitment for more than six decades. By opening our doors to Asian goods, America has ensured that Asian workers and businesses and entrepreneurs would have access to the world's largest economy. By maintaining a strong military presence in the region, America has helped provide stability. And with these actions, America has helped contribute to the modern and confident Asia we see today -- a region where people's incomes and opportunities are rising, where businesses compete in the global economy, and where citizens know that a world growing in trade is a world expanding in opportunity.
In this new century, America will remain engaged in Asia, because our interests depend on the expansion of freedom and opportunity in this region. In this new century, our trade across the Pacific is greater than our trade across the Atlantic, and American businesses see a bright future in your thriving economies and rising middle class.
In this new century, we see threats like terrorism and proliferation and disease that have the potential to undermine our prosperity and put our futures in doubt. Amid these challenges, we hear voices calling for us to retreat from the world and close our doors to its opportunities. These are the old temptations of isolationism and protectionism, and America must reject them. We must maintain our presence in the Pacific. We must seize on our common opportunities. We must be willing to confront our common threats. And we must help our partners build more hopeful societies throughout this vital part of the world.
Building more hopeful societies starts with opening up to the opportunities of a global trading system. By opening up to trade, countries attract foreign investment they need to provide jobs and opportunities for their people. By opening up to trade, countries help attract the know-how that will enable them to compete in a global marketplace. And by opening up to trade, countries build wealth and empower their citizens.
The United States has long been committed to a global trading system that is free and that is fair. And so is Singapore. Singapore was the host of the first meeting of the World Trade Organization in 1996, where we announced an important new agreement on information technology goods. A decade later, America and Singapore are again close partners working toward a common purpose, a breakthrough in the Doha negotiations. Only an ambitious Doha agreement with real market access can achieve the economic growth and development goals that this world has set, and we look to nations across the Asia Pacific region to help put these vital talks back on track.
To help build momentum for more open global trade we're also opening up markets with individual nations. On this side of the Pacific, America has negotiated free trade agreements with Singapore and Australia, and we're negotiating similar agreements with Malaysia and South Korea. On the other side of the Pacific, we have successful free trade agreements with Canada and Mexico and Chile, and we've concluded negotiations with Peru. America believes in free and fair trade, and we will continue to open up new avenues to commerce and investment across this region.
Tomorrow I'm going to travel to Vietnam for the annual Summit of the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation Forum. APEC has a vital role to play in promoting more open trading. In 1994, in Bogor, Indonesia, APEC reached an historic agreement to liberalize trade and investment throughout the region by 2020, and the United States strongly supports this goal. Recently, some APEC members have advanced the idea of a free trade agreement for the entire APEC region. I believe this idea deserves serious consideration. The United States believes that APEC is the premier economic forum in the region. We believe APEC has immense potential to expand free trade and opportunity across the Pacific, and we will do our part to help APEC become a stronger organization that serves as an engine for economic growth and opportunity throughout the region.
The remarkable economic growth that this region has achieved points to a clear lesson: The expansion of trade is the most certain path to lasting prosperity. America will continue to pursue trade at every level with individual countries, across all regions and through the WTO. We will work to remove barriers to trade and investment, and by doing so, we will help reduce poverty and promote stability. And we will give citizens on both sides of the Pacific a brighter future.
Building more hopeful societies means working together to confront the challenges that face the entire region. Open markets and the entrepreneurial spirit have set off historic economic booms in Asia. This economic growth creates new opportunities, and yet, we've got to recognize it creates new challenges. We must find the energy to power our growing economies. We must counter the risk of pandemic disease. And we must bring more people into the circle of development and prosperity. Meeting these challenges will require the effort of every nation, and you can count on the commitment of the United States.
As the economies of the Asia Pacific thrive and expand, one of our most pressing needs will be an affordable, reliable supply of energy. Four of the world's top five energy consumers are APEC members, and the region's need for energy is going to continue to rise. The answer to this challenge is familiar in Asia: Harness the power of technology. Together, we must unleash the same spirit of innovation and enterprise that sparked the Asian economic revolution to spark a new revolution in new energy technologies.
America knows the importance of developing new energy sources because we are too dependent on a single source, and that is oil. So we're investing aggressively in clean coal technology, renewable fuels like ethanol and biodiesel, and hydrogen fuel cells. Since 2001, we've spent nearly $10 billion on clean energy technologies, and we're going to invest even more in the years to come. Across this region, we're cooperating with friends and allies to share our discoveries. We are learning from your experiences, and we're going to work together to improve new energy technologies -- it's in our mutual interest to do so.
This cooperation includes several key initiatives that hold the promise of a cleaner and more energy-efficient world. Through the Asia Pacific Partnership on Clean Development and Climate, the United States is working with Australia and China and India and Japan and South Korea to share best practices and deploy new energy technologies. Last month our partnership announced nearly 100 new projects, ranging from clean coal to renewable energy to more efficient buildings. These new technologies are helping us to improve our energy security, and as importantly, are helping to improve air quality by cutting greenhouse gas emissions.
Through the Global Nuclear Energy Partnership, America is working with other leaders in nuclear energy, like Russia and France and Japan, to help developing nations use civilian nuclear energy, while guarding against weapons proliferation. And through the APEC Biofuels Task Force, we're working with nations across the region to search for new ways to replace oil with clean fuels made from palm oil and sugar cane and other natural products.
My hope is that the investments that we make today will enable you to drive different kind of automobiles, and to heat your homes and air-condition your homes using different sources of energy. It's in the world's interest that we work together to end our addiction from oil.
Keeping our economies growing also requires protecting the health of our people. Four years ago we saw the SARS virus inflict terrible damage on Asian Pacific economies, a virus that claimed the lives of hundreds of people all across the world. Now this region faces a new threat of avian flu, and we're working together to address that threat. Vietnam was recently among the nations hardest hit by avian flu. Then Vietnam's leaders started to share information with the international community, and improve monitoring and public awareness, and take the difficult step of culling birds that might be infected. Vietnam's decisive actions have paid off. When I arrive in Hanoi for the APEC summit tomorrow, the country will have gone more than a year without a human case of avian flu. Our strategy is beginning to work.
At our summit, leaders will reaffirm our mutual responsibilities to report new avian flu cases, to contain the spread of animal outbreaks, and to follow wise preparedness plans. We've taken the important steps to stop the spread of avian flu, but we must continue to increase cooperation to ensure that if the pandemic ever does break out, the world will be ready to deal with it.
America has committed over $15 billion to fight the spread of HIV/AIDS across the world. Today, Vietnam has an estimated 280,000 citizens who suffer from this deadly virus, and many more who are in danger of becoming infected. Through our emergency plan for AIDS relief, we're working with Vietnam to do something about it. We've launched an ambitious five-year program to help Vietnam meet three clear goals: to support treatment for 22,000 people; to support care for 110,000 people; and to support testing and prevention for 660,000 people.
Since 2004, we've provided more than $138 million for this plan. We've helped bring relief to thousands of Vietnamese. It is in our interest to help defeat the spread of HIV/AIDS. This is a global challenge that grows daily and must be confronted directly. And I look forward to working with our Asian partners to do our duty to defeat this disease.
Our partners also know they can count on the United States when a disaster strikes suddenly. After the tsunami struck in 2004, we quickly dispatched military assistance and humanitarian relief to save lives and help devastated communities rebuild. By coming to the aid of people in dire need, America showed the good heart of our citizens and the depth of our friendship in this region.
Our commitments extend far beyond responding to disaster, and they must if we expect this world to be peaceful and prosperous. We're helping countries like the Philippines and Indonesia to provide their children an education that prepares them to succeed in the global economy. My administration started a new and bold foreign policy -- foreign aid initiative called the Millennium Challenge Account. The United States will provide financial assistance to developing nations that govern justly -- in other words, fight corruption -- that invest in their people and enforce the rule of law. We've signed a Millennium Challenge threshold agreement with the Philippines. We will soon begin discussions with Peru. And, tomorrow, we will sign an agreement with Indonesia. By providing governments that are committed to reform vital aid we will help bring this region closer to a day when the benefits of economic growth and prosperity reach every citizen.
America has a clear approach to the challenges of the Asia Pacific region. We believe that alleviating poverty and fighting disease and harnessing the benefits of technology require partnership, not paternalism. And the United States makes this pledge: Every nation that works to advance prosperity, health and opportunity for all its people will find a ready partner in the United States.
Building more hopeful societies depends on a foundation of security. At the start of this young century, the nations of the Asia Pacific region face a profound challenge: The same technology and global openness that have transformed our lives also threaten our lives. The same innovations that make it easier to build cars and computers make it easier to build weapons of mass destruction. The same advances in international transportation and finance that allow a manufacturer in Singapore to sell electronics to a store in San Francisco would also allow a proliferating regime in the Far East to sell dangerous technologies to a terrorist organization in the Middle East.
The danger is unmistakable. In an age of unprecedented technological advances, irresponsible behavior by a few can have catastrophic consequences for the entire world. The people of this region understand the threat that the world faces because they have been the targets of terrorist violence. The terrorists have attacked a nightclub in Bali, a hotel in Jakarta, a ferry packed with passengers in Manila Bay, a school full of children in Russia, Australia's embassy in Indonesia, and other targets.
The killers who committed these acts of terror are more than criminals; they are followers of a clear and focused ideology that hates freedom and rejects tolerance and despises all dissent. Their stated goal is to establish a totalitarian Islamic empire stretching from Europe to Southeast Asia. The greatest danger in our world today is that these terrorists could get their hands on weapons of mass destruction and use them to blackmail free nations or to kill on an unimaginable scale. This threat poses a risk to our entire civilization, and all our nations must work together to defeat it.
In this region, the most immediate threat of proliferation comes from North Korea. America's position is clear: The transfer of nuclear weapons or materiel by North Korea to states or non-state entities would be considered a grave threat to the United States, and we would hold North Korea fully accountable for the consequences of such action. For the sake of peace, it is vital that the nations of this region send a message to North Korea that the proliferation of nuclear technology to hostile regimes or terrorist networks will not be tolerated.
After North Korea's recent nuclear test, the United Nations Security Council passed a unanimous resolution making it clear that the regime's pursuit of nuclear weapons is unacceptable. The resolution imposes sanctions on North Korea's regime and America will work with our partners to enforce those sanctions. We'll also continue working with Japan and China and South Korea and Russia through the six-party talks. Our nations are speaking with one voice: The only way for North Korea to move forward, for the good of their people, is to abandon its nuclear weapons programs and rejoin the international community.
North Korea recently took an encouraging step when it agreed to come back to the table and re-start the six-party talks. The United States wants these talks to be successful, and we will do our part. If North Korea chooses a peaceful path, America and our partners in the six-party talks are prepared to provide security assurances, economic assistance and other benefits to the North Korean people.
Ultimately, the success of these talks depends on the regime in North Korea. Pyongyang must show it's serious -- show it is serious by taking concrete steps to implement its agreement to give up its nuclear weapons and weapons programs.
As we work for a Korean Peninsula free of nuclear weapons, we're also strengthening defense cooperation in the Asia Pacific region. Unlike Europe, where our security cooperation takes place through the NATO Alliance, America's security cooperation in Asia takes place largely through bilateral defense relations.
America places the highest value on these partnerships. We're committed to strengthening our existing partnerships and to building new ones. With Japan, we continue to work closely to field a missile defense system to protect both our countries and others in the region from rogue regimes threatening blackmail and/or destruction. With South Korea, we have upgraded our deterrent capabilities, while reducing our footprint and repositioning U.S. troops stationed in the country. With Australia, we're working to improve joint training of our forces, and increase cooperation in areas such as intelligence and missile defense research. With the Philippines, we're working to improve the capabilities of the nation's armed forces to fight terrorism and other threats. With India, we signed an historic agreement to expand defense cooperation, increase joint exercises and improve intelligence sharing. With Vietnam, our Navy has made four port calls over the past three years, the first visits by U.S. military ships since the Vietnam War. And with Singapore, we signed a new strategic framework agreement that provides for joint military exercises and cooperation in military research and development.
By building new defense relationships and strengthening existing alliances, we are ensuring that the forces of freedom and moderation in this region can defend themselves against the forces of terror and extremism.
In addition to these bilateral defense relationships, America welcomes the growing multilateral security cooperation in this region. Today, Singapore, Malaysia, Thailand and Indonesia are coordinating patrols in the Strait of Malaka, and working to combat terrorism, piracy and human trafficking. Through the Proliferation Security Initiative, 80 countries are cooperating to stop the spread of weapons of mass destruction and related materiel through air, land and sea.
APEC members know that advancing trade and opportunity throughout the Pacific requires safe travel and transport, so we will continue to work together to improve the security of our ports and airports and transportation routes.
With all these efforts, the nations of this region are answering the threats of the 21st century. And in doing so, we are laying the foundation of security and peace for generations to come. In the long run, the surest path to security is the expansion of liberty and freedom. History shows that free societies are peaceful societies. Democracies do not attack each other. Governments accountable to voters focus on building roads and schools, not weapons of mass destruction. Young people who have a say in their future are less likely to search for meaning in extremism. And nations that commit to freedom for their people don't support terrorists and extremists, but, in fact, will join together to defeat them.
America is committed to advancing freedom and democracy as the great alternatives to repression and radicalism. We will take the side of democratic leaders and reformers. We will support the voices of tolerance and moderation across the world. We will stand with the mothers and fathers in every culture who want to see their children grow up in a caring and peaceful society.
We recognize that every democracy will reflect the unique culture and history of its people. Yet, we recognize that there are universal freedoms, that there are God-given rights for every man, woman and child on the face of this Earth. The people of Asia have faith in the power of freedom because you've seen freedom transform nations across your continent.
At the beginning of World War II, this side of the Pacific had only two democracies: Australia and New Zealand. Today, millions of Asians live in freedom. Freedom has unleashed the creative talents of people throughout Asia. Freedom has helped prosperity sweep across the region.
In all that lies ahead, the people of this region will have a partner in the American government and a friend in the American people. Together, the people of America and Asia have endured dark and uncertain hours. Together, we've seen modern nations rise from the rubble of war and launch dynamic economies that are the envy of the world. Together, we will confront the challenges of the new century and build a more hopeful and peaceful and prosperous future for our children and our grandchildren.
I appreciate your hospitality. Thank you for letting me come by and share some thoughts with you. May God bless the people of Singapore. (Applause.)
Source: The White House