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Published:November 18th, 2006 10:18 EST
Secretary Condoleezza Rice Remarks at the APEC CEO Summit

Secretary Condoleezza Rice Remarks at the APEC CEO Summit

By SOP newswire

SECRETARY RICE: Thank you for that overly generous introduction and I bring you greetings on behalf of President Bush, who is currently attending the first session of the APEC Leaders. I'd also like to thank the organizers of this year's CEO Summit, and of course our hosts here in Vietnam, the Vietnam Chamber of Commerce and Industry. Before I go any further, let me extend a special note of gratitude to the government and the people of Vietnam because I know that it must have been an extraordinary effort to put on this summit, but their hospitality and hard work is paying off. And I have to note, too, I've never seen a friendlier people than the people of Vietnam. So thank you very much. (Applause.)

Fellow ministers, distinguished guests, ladies and gentlemen: It is my great pleasure to join all of you here in Hanoi for this year's APEC summit. The United States views APEC as the premier multilateral organization in the Asia-Pacific region. And here in this room today, we see the true spirit of APEC - in people like you, and millions of other entrepreneurs across the Asia-Pacific, who work every day to create jobs, to expand opportunity, and to unleash the energy and the imagination of the Asia-Pacific community.

The United States has always been a Pacific power, and we are proud to support and be a part of Asia's success. We have opened our markets to Asia's entrepreneurs. We have opened our schools and universities to Asia's students. And as a former provost, I can tell you that we have not only through that enriched Asia by educating young people, but we have enriched America by their presence and interaction with American students and universities. And of course, we have opened our communities to people across this region. In 1989, we and our Pacific partners joined together to create this great organization, APEC.

The results of our cooperation have been dramatic: Since the creation of APEC, the combined wealth of our economies has grown by 66 percent. Today, nearly two-thirds of all U.S. trade occurs with our friends in the Asia-Pacific. And the benefits on this side of the ocean are plain for all to see: People in this region are lifting themselves out of poverty, in greater numbers and with greater speed, than ever before in human history.

The lesson, ladies and gentlemen, is clear: The economies of the Asia-Pacific region are completely and inextricably linked together. We share the benefits, as well as the burdens, of expanding prosperity. For this reason, APEC, and the free economies of the Asia-Pacific, should know that they have no better friend, and no stronger supporter, than the United States of America.

Today, I would like to share America's vision for APEC with you. It is a vision that transcends simple cooperation, and looks to the emergence of a true Asia-Pacific Economic Community, spanning the public sphere and the private sector. I see several principles that must define that sense of community.

We must create opportunities for sustainable growth. There is simply no better way to achieve this goal than free trade, and the United States has a comprehensive trade policy in the Asia-Pacific.

Our trade policy priority is to successfully conclude the Doha Round of global trade negotiations. At the same time, we are actively working to advance free trade with all willing partners, especially here in the region. At present, more than 50 preferential trade arrangements are completed or still under negotiation in the Asia-Pacific. I know that many of you would like the network of trade to become better integrated and more rationalized. We would too, and we are working with our APEC partners, and with you in the business community, to promote regional economic integration, including the possibility of a Free Trade Area of the Asia-Pacific.

In order to foster trade, we must also facilitate interaction and travel. Therefore, the United States has decided this year to recognize the APEC Business Travel Card, as the first step toward joining the program. This will enable entrepreneurs like you to gain visas, to move through our immigration lines, and to visit America - in a faster, safer, and easier manner. (Applause.) I know, everywhere I go I hear about the visa issues. (Laughter.) Let me assure you that the United States of America wants to be open, open and secure, but open to a free flow of people, just as we want to be open to the free flow of goods. And I am sure that this step forward with the APEC Business Travel Card will benefit all businesses in the region, including American ones.

Our sense of economic community must also confront threats to our prosperity. A consensus is emerging in the Asia-Pacific that security is an essential condition of development. If natural disasters can cripple entire nations in a single day ? if the specter of pandemic disease continues to haunt our societies ? if violent extremists and weapons traffickers can exploit peaceful networks of commerce to advance their nefarious agendas - then our economies face a grave danger, and it is those on the margins of society, the poor and the disenfranchised, who are at risk of suffering most.

Our sense of economic community must promote well-governed societies. Just as APEC is increasingly recognizing that prosperity depends on security, we are also acknowledging the connection between development and good governance. More and more entrepreneurs are sick and tired of bearing the economic risks of political malfeasance - and for good reason. Who wants to do business in an economy where the rule of law is enforced by whim or perhaps not at all? Or where the state is compromised by corruption? Or where the intellectual products of innovation can be pirated at any cost?

This is an area in which we must work together, because corruption and the absence of the rule of law will most certainly retard economic growth, both for growing, developed economies and also for those who wish to enter the international economic system and gain benefit and prosperity for their people.

Finally, our sense of economic community must strengthen our shared institutions. On this front, the United States will lead by example. Over the next two years, President Bush plans to increase America's funding for APEC - to empower this organization to meet the challenges of the 21st century.

Let me just say one more thing about the idea of a community in the Asia-Pacific. I find it really remarkable, as the American Secretary of State, to be standing here in Hanoi, barely three decades after the tragic war between our countries, and yet our conversation today is not about conflict, it's about community, it's about progress. (Applause.) One has to ask: How is this possible?

Well, in fact, the answer is really pretty simple and it is an answer about the triumph of the human spirit and an answer about the triumph of human desire to overcome difficulty: Twenty years ago, the leaders of Vietnam took a hard look at their isolated economy, and they made a strategic choice to begin reforms. As Vietnam sought to create opportunities for its people, it has found a friend in the United States - a friend who has continued, and will continue, to raise our issues of concern, issues of human rights and religious freedom, but a friend nonetheless. We have supported Vietnam's good decisions and worked to bind up old wounds. We have opened our markets to Vietnamese goods and joined in its fight against AIDS. We are helping Vietnam to enter the World Trade Organization and, hopefully very soon, we will extend Permanent Normal Trade Relations to Vietnam. (Applause.) But most of all, the United States and Vietnam, of course, have restored diplomatic relations, but they have restored more than that. They restored a hopeful partnership and a hope for the people of Vietnam and America to work towards a better future.

Now, this case of Vietnam is instructive - for it shows how the past can be overcome to the benefit of countries. It dhows that one does not have to be captive of the past, but that you can look to the future. There are other countries with which we hope to overcome difficult circumstances, too. The United States continues to look to the day when cooperation is possible with Burma and with North Korea. So far, these governments have chosen to reject the path of cooperation - violating their agreements and isolating their countries from the prosperity of the region. But if the leaders of Burma and North Korea were to follow the example of Vietnam and the example of other adversaries throughout history who have overcome their adversarial history, if they make the strategic choice and take the necessary steps to join the international community, it will open a new path of peace and opportunity. And nothing will be better for the people of those countries than their integration into an international community that I can assure you would welcome them, too, to a future of hope and prosperity. Together, we could then all realize the promise of a true community in the Asia-Pacific region.

Building this APEC sense of community will take time, and patience, but we can already see it emerging, and we already know the principles that define our partnership: Freedom of navigation, freedom of trade, freedom of exchange, and the freedom of all people to live under laws of their own making. These ideas are inspiring and empowering hundreds of millions of men and women, all around the Pacific Rim, to build new lives of hope and opportunity. This is a source of optimism for an organization that represents countries in the great sweep from the tip of South America all the way through Northeast Asia. And it will be the greatest source of strength as we transform APEC from a forum of cooperation to a true and lasting community.

Thank you very much for everything that you do every day to bring hope and peace and prosperity to so many people around the world, and thank you for what you are doing to strengthen this great organization. Thank you, and I would now like to take a few questions. (Applause.)

MODERATOR: Secretary Rice has just generously agreed to take some questions from the floor. Back here. The microphone is here.

SECRETARY RICE: A microphone will come.

QUESTION: Your Excellency, Mr. Chairman, and fellow delegates, that was a remarkable, brilliant speech and you were the only woman who speaks. (Laughter and applause.) I have to say you are the only woman so I'm very delighted to see a woman. I am -- my name is Mai Li Ko (ph) and I'm from California. I'm a delegate from America and I am here leaving my home in United States, coming back to my homeland, Vietnam. I want to thank you, to you President Bush and Administration, for making this wonderful visit and this contribution to Vietnam.

But I don't have a question. I have a plead and a request, and this plead and request will affect worldwide global market economy as well education. I have great respect for you as a policy maker, but foremost as an educator, in my hometown. Global education and international education is a vital, important part of moving forward the market economies and we understand that American educational system is in crisis. So I have to plead to Your Excellency and your passion in education that you will continue to advise President Bush to really, really invest in global education and that's what we hope because that's where our future leaders to move forward to a more peaceful. So I just hope that what we request, that will be better for all of us in the world. Thank you. (Applause.)

SECRETARY RICE: Thank you. Thank you very much. Just to pick up on the comment of the lady, yes, I don't think there is any single more important element of human development than education. We tend to think that education provides people skills. We tend to think that it provides a basis from which people can get a job. But it does much more than that. Education opens the horizons of human beings to what is possible. And it is then not surprising that people who come from the most modest of circumstances, the most difficult of circumstances sometimes, go on to be great leaders. But without education to open those horizons for them, it would not happen.

And so let me just say that I think every country has an obligation to educate its citizens. President Bush is a strong believer in the importance of education. And then as an international community, we have an obligation to support countries that are trying to bring their educational systems along. The United States spends a great deal of financial aid on educational programs around the world.

And then when people get to a certain stage, I just want to reiterate that it's very good to have the possibility of educational exchange. Secretary Spellings, Secretary of Education of the United States, and I held a University Presidents Summit last year and in that summit we encouraged American universities to invite students to their universities from abroad and to have our students study abroad. And so I think that both in terms of providing people that horizon and in providing a means of interchange between people, education is definitely the key factor. Thank you. (Applause.)

MODERATOR: Yes, if you would, again, please state your name and ask a question, please. Back here.

QUESTION: (Via interpreter.) My name is Thac (ph). I'm an owner of a small local enterprise. First of all, on behalf of Vietnamese women, I would like to extend my warmest greetings to you and the U.S. delegation to Vietnam, and through you I would like to extend our best wishes of health and success to you and all the American women.

And prior to your visit to Vietnam, you had an interview with Vietnam News Agency and you said that more women are involved in business than in politics. And you are not only beautiful and charming, but the most powerful woman in the world -- (applause) -- so can you share with us how you can help to get more women involved in politics, not just business?

SECRETARY RICE: Well, thank you. You know, it's a very good question because I think that women are becoming more involved in politics and we see really only the most visible women involved in politics. And by the way, there have been a number of women recently who have been elected to the highest offices -- Chancellor Merkel in Germany, President Bachelet of Chile, who is here. And so women are gaining.

But I am a great believer particularly in democratic systems that the level at which it is really important to have people involved in politics and women too, is from the local level up. Because if people are getting the urge to be involved in politics early on and at the local level, then you begin to grow leaders who can end up in national politics. So I hope, too, as the political system here opens up that women who are in business will also be involved in their local governments because that will be very important. (Applause.)

MODERATOR: Yes, sir. Right here.

QUESTION: Hi Condi. Good to see you here.

SECRETARY RICE: Hi.

QUESTION: My name is Sonny Vu (ph). I'm from Boston, Massachusetts and here for the first time at the APEC conference. It's great to see you here. There's some of us here from the United States and some of us here from the United States who are Vietnamese Americans returning to our homeland here with all sorts of hopes and dreams, some entrepreneurial and some on the development side.

And with the recent changes in Congress, I'd like to just ask you, just in front of the Vietnamese American community and the Asian American community more broadly, what can we do back home to be supportive and helpful as Vietnam opens up and with this new change in Congress? I'd like to get your comments on that.

SECRETARY RICE: Thank you. Well, first of all, I think that we will continue -- obviously, the President will continue to lead from his strongest principles. And his strongest principles really are that the United States must be involved in the world, the United States must promote and sustain free trade in the world, the United States must reach out to newly emerging countries like Vietnam and continue to press for openness of ideas and openness of markets, and that the United States must be a welcoming place for people from around the world. This is a President who very much believes in the global engagement of the United States. And he said in a meeting that I was just with him in that he believes particularly that we've got to make a case to the American people that America's deep and continuous involvement in the Asia-Pacific, which is the most dynamic region in the world, is absolutely essential.

I think that if you can keep carrying that message at home, because I do worry that there are elements, by the way, on both sides of the aisle in the United States, that would tend toward protectionism, that would tend toward isolationism. The President and I and many others in this Administration believe that Americans can and will compete well when you have a free trading system that is open and fair. But we're going to have to fight for those ideals. We are going to have to continue to demonstrate that America's engagement and involvement in the world is both beneficial for the world and beneficial for the United States.

I think we have some real challenges coming up. The Doha Round is going to be a real challenge because I am a firm believer that if we can take the United States promise deal with agricultural subsidies, but to do so when we can achieve market access, that if you can get a Doha Round that is successful, that's going to give a tremendous boost to free trade. And the free trading system needs not just to stay in tact; it needs to continue to flourish. We have been signing free trade agreements really all over the world. And so this President will remain committed to it.

The other thing that I would say is that people like yourself who have this heritage need to let people know about Vietnam. This is an extraordinary story and it's an extraordinary country, and it's a country that I think has a very bright future. And it does show what can happen when you begin to make -- when a country begins to make good decisions. I doubt that very many Americans really know about Vietnam. And the Vietnams of the world that demonstrate that commitment to open market principles can really work are also a very good affirmation of America's belief in open markets, open trade and openness toward people from around the world. So I think that's a message that all of you who are here from the United States can help to carry back home. (Applause.)

MODERATOR: This is the final question. Right there, please, sir.

QUESTION: Welcome, Dr. Rice. My name is Lanin Schmidt (ph). I'm from McLean, Virginia, but I live here in Hanoi and I work here. I know you've had a very warm reception here because we love rice so much. (Laughter.) As you may know, Vietnam is the second larger exporter of rice in the world. As a student of international relations and history, as I know you are also, I can't help but draw comparisons between our recent misadventures in Iraq and the tragedy of the Vietnam War some 30 years ago. How can we resolve this quagmire?

SECRETARY RICE: Well, I think I would first of all question the word "quagmire." This is difficult going in Iraq. Whenever you start on a path that tries to undo a tragic history of a people that were ruled by a tyrant for decades, a tyrant who left 300,000 people in mass graves, who attacked his neighbors twice, used weapons of mass destruction against his neighbors and against his own people, is finally by the way being held to account for those crimes by the Iraqi people themselves, and by the way was in a state of war, continuous war, with the United States for a period of 12 years, it's not easy to undo it.

And the Iraqi people are struggling, but they're struggling in a new environment where they have a chance with new democratic institutions that they themselves created when 12.5 million of them voted last year. We're talking about a people that are struggling, we believe, toward a better future.

Now, change is really hard and historic change is especially hard. But whenever you think, well, you know, we should just give up on change of this magnitude, or perhaps the Iraqis just can't do it, you know, maybe it's just not somehow in their DNA to be able to get a democratic outcome and a democratic future, whenever you look at their day-to-day struggles against terrorists and against violent extremists who would try and undo their very small seeds of democracy, I would ask you to think back on how many times in human history what seemed impossible one day seemed several years later to have been inevitable.

Let me just give you a few examples. I spent last summer reading the biographies of America's founding fathers. By all rights, the United States of America should never have come into being. George Washington lost more than a third of his army to smallpox. We were fighting the greatest empire in history. And yet somehow, stumbling along and managing day by day, the United States of America did come into being. We in the United States then survived a civil war that was catastrophic for our country, but we came out on the other side. In my lifetime, I was born, as Mike said, in Birmingham, Alabama -- in my lifetime, I went to segregated schools, I couldn't stay in a hotel until we got to Washington, D.C., I couldn't go to a restaurant, I barely ever saw a white person. And yet I stand here as Secretary of State of the United States some 40 years later. (Applause.)

Towards the end of World War II, when the great men who inhabited the building that I now inhabit, Marshall and Kennan and Nitze and others, what did they face very day after World War II? In 1946, large communist victories in Italy and in France. In 1947, a civil war in Greece and civil conflict in Turkey. In 1948, the Berlin crisis which permanently divided Germany. In 1948, the coup in Czechoslovakia that ended the last free society in Eastern Europe. In 1949, the Soviet Union exploded a nuclear weapon five years ahead of schedule, the Chinese communists won the civil war. And in 1950, the Korean War broke out.

And yet, when you look at Europe and Asia, you look at a Europe where no one can imagine war between France and Germany ever again, and where we have overcome the division of Europe with the collapse, the peaceful collapse, of a country with 30,000 nuclear weapons, 5 million men under arms, that stretched 12 time zones, and it collapsed in favor of freedom without (inaudible).

Think about Japan, prostrate at the end of World War II. Now, the vibrant, second most important economy in the world. Think, too, about Korea, South Korea. After years of military dictatorship, finally a vibrant democracy. And think also about where we're standing. Thirty years ago, what American would have thought that you would be standing in Vietnam at a conference of the Asia Pacific Economic Council talking about free markets and open trade and the need to better integrate our economies. Who would have thought it? (Applause.)

So I don't mean to diminish the difficulties that we have in Iraq and that the Iraqi people have in Iraq. They've got a tough road. There are people so violent and so ruthless that I can't even imagine how they can be thought to be human. But you know, the Iraqis, they do make good decisions, like Vietnam has made good decisions. If they'll take tough decisions, if they will face up to their differences and realize that they only have one future and that's a future together, they don't have a future if they try and stay apart; if they do that, and if we support them and if we remain committed to them, and if we realize that the stakes in Iraq are literally the stakes for a different kind of Middle East that can form the center of a more peaceful world, they've got a chance and we'll have a better chance.

And I'll just make you following wager. At some point in time, if we do our work well, and if they do their work well, and if we are as committed to them as we were to that long list that I just went through over all of those years, some Secretary of State will stand someplace in the world and say, "How could it ever have been thought that the Iraqi people weren't capable of democracy? How could anyone have ever questioned that freedom and liberty would reign in the Middle East?" Because after all, the desire to be free, the desire to live a better life, the desire to live in prosperity, is a universal desire. And that's why throughout history, things that one day seemed impossible, several years later seem to have been inevitable.

Thank you very much. (Applause.)

Source: Dept. State