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Robert Zoellick - Remarks in Singapore

Remarks in Singapore

Robert Zoellick, Deputy Secretary of State
May 10, 2005

(3:00 p.m. Local)

MR. ERELI: Hello everybody. Thank you for coming. I'm Adam Ereli, the Deputy Spokesman of the State Department. We're very pleased to have with us today the Deputy Secretary of the State Department, Robert Zoellick, who is wrapping up a trip to the region and will speak to us. First, he will give a few remarks about his trip to the region as well as his visit here to Singapore and then will be free to take your questions on the whole trip as well as our meetings here today. And thank you for coming

DEPUTY SECRETARY ZOELLICK: As Adam mentioned, I'm going to give you a little bit of an overview of the trip as well. I'll be happy after that to take questions related to Singapore specifically or any of the elements of the trip. Secretary Rice began her tenure by visiting South Asia and Northeast Asia. And so, I decided it would be good to complement that relatively early in the President's second term by visiting Southeast Asia. So, I have been to Thailand, the Philippines, Vietnam, Indonesia, including both Jakarta and Aceh, Malaysia and now Singapore. And here in Singapore, I had dinner with the Foreign Minister, who is my good friend, the former Trade Minister George Yeo, last night, along with Ambassador Lavin. And then today, we started out by visiting Schering-Plough pharmaceutical plant. And then, and I will come back to that in a moment, and than had an opportunity to meet with the Prime Minister, the Senior Minister and then later this afternoon, I will have a chance to meet with the Minister Mentor. And the thought was that it would be very useful at the start of the president's second term to have a chance to consult with our partners and friends in the region. One of the items that has been part of almost all my discussions has been the post-tsunami response. We worked very closely with Singapore and Malaysia and others in being able to respond very promptly from the humanitarian side to the tragedy. And part of the purpose of this visit was for me to come out and talk to people and see for myself some of the requirements of the reconstruction side. The U.S. Congress is just completing action on a 900 million dollar plus post-tsunami package, and as you know we had some very prompt high-level attention by Secretary of State Powell along with Governor Jeb Bush of Florida, President Bush's father President Bush 41 was out here with President Clinton. So I wanted to keep the focus of attention on those issues. In particular, when I was in Indonesia I had a good opportunity to talk with President Yudhoyono, but also Sri Mulyani, the Planning Minister. And then spent a day in Aceh where I went around with Pak Kuntoro, the former Minister of Mines and Energy, who has been designated to be the lead person, and including inaugurating the U.S. commitment for a road of about 250 kilometers that is the key artery along the western part of the island.

A second part of the trip is to build on that to emphasize our relationship with Indonesia, the largest Muslim country in the world, a democracy, and a relatively new government with the first directly elected president in Indonesian history. President Yudhoyono will be visiting the United States later this month on May 25th. So we had a chance to talk about a full range of political, security, economic issues in advance. And I also had a chance while in Jakarta to talk to some of the multilateral players that are involved in the reconstruction effort, the World Bank, Asian Development Bank, the U.N. agencies, some of the other Embassies. And one of the other aspects that I discussed with a number of people, including the Coordinating Minister for Economics at a dinner, is how we then connect the reconstruction aspects to the development aspects.

The third part to the trip was to help lay the foundation for a stronger U.S.-ASEAN relationship in the second term. Indonesia has traditionally been the cornerstone, or anchor if you will, of the ASEAN role, and since 1997 because of the various economic travails and political transitions, it's been less able to play that role. So starting with Indonesia, but obviously with every county on this trip, I wanted to talk about how we could work more closely with ASEAN, because I wanted to try to emphasize that while many people think about the broader Asian context--they focus on China, India and Japan--that Southeast Asia is obviously a key region. For the United States, the countries I visited represent over 500 million people and dynamic economies. A number of the countries are treaty allies, strategic sea lanes; so it's a core part of our global outlook.

Fourth is to emphasize the economic linkages. Our trade with ASEAN as a whole represents our 5th largest trading partner, about 136 billion dollars. When I was in Thailand, I wanted to have a chance to meet with the Prime Minister to try to get renewed energy for our Free Trade Agreement negotiations with the Thais. I also met with a number of parliamentarians in Thailand, because when you negotiate these agreements, it's important to have good outreach and an open process. In Vietnam, we are still working on the implementation of our bilateral trade agreement. It's not a free trade agreement, but a bilateral agreement that was negotiated by the Clinton Administration, but which I worked in getting passage through the Congress in my prior role as the Trade Minister. And now the focus in Vietnam is very heavily on the WTO accession. I also visited Ho Chi Minh City, because I wanted to try to emphasize some of the economic entrepreneurial aspects. We visited an E-tech center that has drawn a lot of investment and creates some different possibilities in the economy there. A key aspect of my visit to Vietnam was that this is the tenth anniversary of the resumption of diplomatic relations, and I was able to extend a visit invitation to the Prime Minister to visit the United States, visit the President on June 21st.

And I also, in Vietnam, visited an HIV/AIDS center where the United States is making a special commitment to Vietnam as part of a 15-country program around the world to try to deal with HIV/AIDS issues from prevention to treatment to dealing with some of the family victims of HIV/AIDS.

We also discussed some of the other aspects of our trade relations. For example, in Malaysia while I was out here, there was a Malaysian team back in the United State with my former office, U.S. Trade Representative, discussing bilateral issues and walking through the elements of our free trade agreement to talk about possible preparations for that. When I was in Malaysia yesterday, I also had a chance to visit a young enterprise entrepreneurs' group in a high school that was sponsored by the Chamber of Commerce and Citicorp.

Here, obviously we have the Free Trade Agreement that we negotiated and passed and completed. One of the reasons that the Ambassador and I went to out to see the Schering-Plough plant is that it's an excellent example of what the high intellectual property rights standards that we've sought to incorporate in our free trade agreements how it can help an economy. This Schering-Plough plant is one that represents part of an overall investment of about $1 billion in Singapore and employs over 800 people. This facility in addition to the production is a key stage in terms of the technology transfer in terms of some of the pharmaceuticals as their being developed and being prepared for the overall testing process. What struck me is that in addition to the expansion of Schering-Plough's operation, and when the expansion was made Fred (inaudible), the CEO, made a particular point of saying that it's the strength and protection of intellectual property rights in Singapore that was one of the reasons that gave them the confidence to expand their higher technology operations here. Since the Free Trade Agreement, you've had Oracle come in with an advanced technology and solutions center in 2004. ISIS Pharmaceuticals has come in with an R&D center, the very first that they have outside the United Sates. And also Lucas Films Animation, adding a full range of intellectual property rights issues. The one reason I wanted to draw attention to this is that as we negotiate other Free Trade Agreement, people often ask about the benefit of higher standard intellectual property rights. So this really shows here in Singapore what can be done.

More generally, obviously economics is very important in Southeast Asia, but it also has the security linkages to it. So a fifth element of my visit was to talk about security ties. I wanted to get the assessment of the countries that I visited, the various issues and share some ideas and get their perspectives. So this would include issues of maritime security, counter terrorism efforts, Proliferation Security Initiative. In Indonesia, I had an opportunity to meet with a round-table of strategic thinkers put together by CSIS, which was a useful way of stepping back and looking at some of the regional issues. When I was in Malaysia yesterday, I met with the Deputy Prime Minister, the Defense Minister and also signed a Special Acquisition and Cross Servicing Agreement that is very helpful for us in terms of being able to cooperate with the Malaysians on issues like the ones after the tsunami on December 26th. When I was in the Philippines, I also had the chance to visit Corregidor. Included in the company were four Filipino veterans, two of whom had surrendered on Corregidor, which was a good way of highlighting, in this year the 60th anniversary of the end of WWII, the long-standing security ties.

Another part of the visit was to discuss with people what is perhaps the question of the struggle for the soul of Islam, as I believe now Senior Minister Goh Chok Tong put it in a speech in New York that I thought was a good encapsulization of the challenge. Indonesia is obviously very important in this. I've long used as an example in my mind the layers of traditions, of culture, and religion here that as a private individual, I think it was in the late 1990s, my wife and I visited Yogyakarta to have a better sense of Java. We drove to Solo, and along the way we stopped at Borobudur and Pramadan that have these two tremendous Hindu and Buddhist temples structures. It gives you a sense of the mixing of religions and cultures in this region, a much more syncretic sort of history. When I was in Malaysia yesterday, I enjoyed having a chance to talk with the Prime Minister about Islam Hadari, his effort to try to talk about some of the civilization aspects of Islam, and met with a roundtable of scholars and law professors and others, human rights activists, on the topic and we talked about some of the applicability of some of the ideas in this region to elsewhere in the Middle East, and Iraq and others.

And then finally, this is a region that marks something very important to this administration--the advance of democracy. Indonesia, as I mentioned, had the first directly elected president in recent elections. The Philippines just had elections. The Prime Minister in Thailand just went through elections. Malaysia as well. Obviously, there is still progress that needs to be made. For example, in Vietnam where you still have an authoritarian regime. We've discussed some ways to advance the human rights agenda in that country. In particular, right before I came we signed an agreement related to religious freedom. So, this visit fits into a larger sequence. I will be flying back to Washington tomorrow getting in late on the 11th. On the 12th there's a big conference being held in Washington by the Asia Society and the Asia Foundation for private sector support for the post tsunami effort. President Bush 41 and President Clinton will be there. I had a chance to talk to President Clinton right before leaving, because he is organizing the private sector effort with UN support. As you may know, there are over $1.3 billion private sector funds that complement the government funds. In the evening, I'm going to be interviewed by Dick Holbrooke of the Asia Society about the post- tsunami and some of the aspects of this trip. Subsequently, Secretary Rice will likely be coming out here for the ASEAN Regional Forum Meeting, I believe, in July in Laos. Then there's the meeting held in Singapore with the defense ministers, the Shangri-La Dialogue, that I believe the Secretary of Defense may also be coming out for.

One other aspect related to Singapore was that obviously in the discussions with the Prime Minister we talked about the fact that we were looking forward to him coming to Washington sometime this summer. The exact date has not been announced yet. Singapore has been a very good partner and good friend, and as in the case of my discussions today, we always gain an awful lot from our discussion with our Singapore colleagues. So I'm happy to answer your questions.

MR. ERELI: Can we ask that you identify yourself and your organization.

QUESTION: En-Lai from the Associated Press. Did you raise the issue of Myanmar at all during your swing through Southeast Asia? And also with respect to terrorism, do you believe that there are any specific threats to American interests throughout the region as a whole?

DEPUTY SECRETARY ZOELLICK: As to your first question, I think it came up pretty much on every stop and the context was really two-fold. One, we're very troubled by the events in Burma, the fact that Aung San Suu Kyi remains in detention, the lack of movement on democracy issues, given that Burma is an ASEAN member. And I wanted to emphasize how I hope we can work more closely with ASEAN. I also emphasized that if Burma is the Chair next year, it will obviously tie our hands, but this is an issue for the ASEAN countries to decide. They've been having their discussions with the government in Rangoon and trying to come to some sense of how ASEAN as a whole can deal with this problem. So it came up in I think all the discussions that I had. But I have a sense that there is recognition of the issues that I talked about and I think countries had their various dialogues and discussions with Burma. In Indonesia, for example, President Yudhoyono has been asked by the UN Secretary General to play a role in the process. The Thais have had sort of a traditional contact and dialogue, so it varies an awful lot by each player. As for your second question, which is on terrorism and threats in the region. Clearly there are terrorist dangers in all of the regions. So I was pleased that in every stop there was a strong focus of the government on counter-terrorism issues. Now, different countries are dealing with it in different ways. And one of the aspects that we discussed is military dimensions, but also trying to deal with the underlying environment in which the terrorists operate, and here we talk about issues of development. Not that I believe that poverty is the cause of terrorism, because if you look at the demographics of terrorists, it's hard to make that case. But it is the case that where societies lose a sense of hope and opportunity for the future, those become breeding grounds. So this was the discussion in a number of dimensions. It takes different forms. So for example, when I was in the Philippines, we talked about the efforts in Mindanao. Malaysia is actually playing a constructive mediating role between MILF and the government in Manila. In the discussions in the '90s with the Mindanao National Liberation Front, once there was an accord reached, the U.S. has provided various aid assistance to help in the reintegration of those forces. So that is one type of example that we talked about. We talked about terrorism in Thailand in the south, which at least now seems to be more localized in manner and there, as you know, the government is switching to an overall reconciliation commission. In Indonesia, we emphasized the criticality of trying to catch the terrorists and make sure they are punished severely and how we can work more closely together to do that. We've had very good cooperation in Malaysia and Singapore over time. So, it's a theme that ran through pretty much every stop, but with slightly different gradations and dimensions. QUESTION: Arnold Gay, Straits Times. Before you began your trip, a number of reports have characterized your trip as an effort to, among other things, contain China. Was this an issue that was broached at all at any of your visits?

DEPUTY SECRETARY ZOELLICK: No, we've never had the concept of containing China. Certainly I've never used that word. I don't know anybody else in the U.S. government that has. I think there is a recognition in the region that China is a growing influence. And this is natural as China becomes a more growing and larger economy and interconnects with this region as well as other parts of the world. I think the Chinese have tried to signal their multiple interests in Southeast Asia through their discussions of a free trade accord, which on the one hand shows the region that others can benefit from China's growth, but also signals the rising influence of China in the region. From the U.S. perspective, the key message is that we believe that we should have our own activist engagement with Southeast Asia and that a policy to try to limit or restrict China would be both foolish and ineffective.

So instead I think there is a sense that I received from the countries that I visited that there is a very strong interest in U.S. economic ties for many of these countries. The U.S. remains the largest export market, or the second largest export market; it's often the first or second largest foreign direct investor. And so what I wanted to do was to consult with countries here about how we can best add to that relationship. So in Singapore, it's the follow-through on the FTA; in Thailand, it's to complete the FTA; in Vietnam, it's to bring them into the WTO accession; and Malaysia, there is discussions about possible FTAs that need various work. In Indonesia, there is a key reconstruction development and relating it to an overall reform process with the new government. So, you know we have very strong and active ties with China, as do countries in the region. There are other players of influence in the region: India, Japan.

And I think if there's any core theme, it's that the we believe that it is in the region's, the broader Asian region's interest, to have a strong healthy dynamic ASEAN. And so in so far as we can help and support that process, we are looking for ways to try to do so, and my visit is one small contribution to it.

QUESTION: Clement Mesenas from Today newspaper. You have been to Aceh and were you impressed with the pace of post-tsunami reconstruction or would you feel that perhaps more could be done to disburse funds properly so that reconstruction could proceed faster perhaps?

DEPUTY SECRETARY ZOELLICK: Well, first, I had a number of impressions and I'm very, very glad I could go. The first impression was that I was very pleased with the role that my country and many others could play on the humanitarian side. And I was very proud of the contributions of our navy coming in with some of the help of operations from Singapore and Malaysia and elsewhere. But also the role of our AID people, the NGOs, private companies, a real outpouring of support for a country and a province at a time of need. I think the humanitarian efforts have averted what could have been some terrible disasters in terms of lack of water, food, sanitation. If you looked at the news stories shortly after the tsunami, people were worried about widespread hunger, disease and cholera and other aspects. We have been able to avoid that, but there is still a tremendous amount of work to do. Now a second impression that I drew was that we're going to need to weave together the humanitarian and the reconstruction support. In many of the places that I saw in Aceh, they're going to need food supplies at least through the end of the year, maybe longer. And as one deals with questions like sanitation and health, you're going to have to keep alert to the steps that one took early on are going to have to be ones that reinforce as supplies need to be provided over a longer period of time. Then there's the broader reconstruction effort.

And here I think it's very important that President Yudhoyono has put Pak Kuntoro in charge of the effort. It was my first chance to meet him, but we drove around for a number of hours and I was impressed with his integrity, which I knew about from his record, his desire to kind of press forward decisions and sort of bring forward various reconstruction supplies and efforts. And one of the points that he emphasized, which our AID mission also emphasized, is that it's not just a question of rebuilding infrastructure, homes, and roads, but people want to get back and restore their livelihood. So fishermen want to get boats and get back on the sea; people want to get back in their village areas so they can start to grow some of the basic food supplies that they had. So the effort here is going to have to be integrated to bring people from temporary shelters and communities back to villages. At the same time, one is trying to create the infrastructure of reconstruction.

Now, coming back to your particular point, I think there's been a concern that the money has to start to get invested and I heard that from Pak Kuntoro as well. But in part this has reflected the fact that Indonesia is well aware that this effort needs to be done in a way that ensures transparency and that the money is properly spent. So they're trying to proceed rapidly but with full attention to the overall need to be able to show that the money that people have contributed or governments contributed is going to the cause. This is going to take time. When you go and see the location, you see what incredible devastation has been wrought. You not only see the flattening out of the villages and other aspects, but there's one point of the road where I saw which is a huge barge. A coal barge from Singapore was just thrust upon the road, and it was big with the tugboat and others. The force of this was clearly overwhelming. I was pleased to see that the process of cleaning up and the spirit of the people seemed to be being revived. When talking with some of our AID people, in the month afterward they said people were walking around in a daze. Now I visited a small village which you know maybe has 80 or 100 people out of 300 originally, and they're starting again. And our people are trying to help them start. But there's still the trauma. I met the elected leader, who was playing a key role. He's a person of great drive and conviction and courage, but he also lost all his family and he showed me the poetry of that. You had some orphans in the village being taken in by some of the other women.

So this is going to take a long time. But one reason I wanted to come back myself, and then talk to the private sector groups back in Washington, is to show that our support was not temporary or ephemeral. We want to stay with them to help them in this process.

MR. ERELI: We have time for one more question.

QUESTION: (Inaudible) from Japanese news. Did you talk about East Asian summit issues with the ASEAN leaders because the Japanese government proposed that the U.S. should take part in the East Asian Summit as an observer but some ASEAN countries objected. How do you think of that?

DEPUTY SECRETARY ZOELLICK: The topic did come up, but it also came up in the context of a number of multilateral fora that we've discussed. For example, the heart of my focus was on ASEAN and U.S. and other relations with ASEAN. There's obviously the ASEAN Regional Forum for security matters. There's APEC, which the United States takes part in. There's the ASEAN + 3 structure. And so I think as people consider the East Asian summit, they're trying to figure out where it fits and what function is to be served.

In every stop, people emphasized the importance of having an open and inclusive system. It appears that's likely to involve India, perhaps Australia and New Zealand, in the process. And from the perspective of the United States, I don't see the likelihood of us participating as an observer. The United States is a very active force in this region, as one sees in post-tsunami efforts, maritime security questions, other issues. And so therefore I think that our participation will be bilaterally with ASEAN and other regional groups, and I think the discussion of the summit process has moved in a healthy direction emphasizing its inclusive nature.

QUESTION: (From Arnold Gay, Straits Times) Sir, just one last question. Singapore-U.S. ties have been described as very good. Can you describe the current state of relations and what was discussed this morning between yourself and the Prime Minister and the Senior Minister as to how to bring this relationship forward.

DEPUTY SECRETARY ZOELLICK: Well I think the ties are exceptional. And I speak as someone who has served in our government for a number of years in different positions. But obviously, in practical terms we have a very good Free Trade Agreement that has very strong business and investment ties which I recognized in terms of going out and visiting the investment location. As the Ambassador can recount for you, we have excellent ties on the security side. I think he mentioned to me that we have more ship visits here than anywhere else in the Pacific area.

But what is just as important from my perspective is that we've got some very good partners here that share many of the perspectives we do about security, economic opportunity, and the need to build relations with others in Southeast Asia, China. But also we talked about the Middle East and Iraq. And I personally always appreciate the generosity of time of the senior officials here that share their perspectives on these topics.

When I come to Singapore, I spend most of my time asking questions and trying to gain perspectives from some good friends who I respect a great deal, and that is one of the nicest aspects of the partnership. So there are other countries and friends around the world one has similar ties with, but it's been my good fortune that starting in 1989, in particular, when we worked on APEC together, that I've been able to build the ties, come back to visit Singapore many times. And I like to run in the Botanical Garden too.

MR. ERELI: Thank you very much.


Released on May 10, 2005


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