I’d like to thank FM Bishop for inviting me to speak to you today. I’m not sure it’s entirely necessary, however. I recently read the excellent speech she delivered in Washington last month. So, I guess all I have to say tonight is: Ditto what the FM said. Thank you. I look forward to your questions.
Like President Obama, I am looking forward to a year of action in 2014. Whether it’s supporting Australia’s leadership of the G20, moving forward on trade negotiations, deepening our historic alliance, or conserving the world around us, I have no doubt that the U.S.-Australia partnership will finish the year stronger than ever.
Last October, when the U.S. government shut down, many wondered about our future and our staying power in the Asia-Pacific. I’m pleased to say that we have turned the page and are looking forward – and outward – more than ever before.
This is possible because of the good economic news coming out of the United States. Our government is showing signs of improving bipartisanship and a renewed focus on addressing national challenges. On December 26, the President signed a $1.012 trillion budget that protects our national security, advances national priorities, and continues the trend of reducing the deficit faster than at almost any time since World War II. Congress has already approved next year’s budget number, guaranteeing our government’s operations for the next two years.
Even more important, the worst of the global financial crisis is now behind us. Housing starts are up and the market is rebounding, banks are lending again, manufacturing jobs are increasing for the first time in more than two decades, and unemployment is in decline. More than 8 million jobs have been created since the worst days of the recession. Although unemployment is still higher than we’d like, January’s rate of 6.6% represents a five year low.
The Federal Reserve has begun the delicate task of ending quantitative easing, and while we are seeing some reaction in the stock markets, it is being done in a measured and responsible way that keeps careful watch on its effect on the rest of the world.
On the energy front, through both the “shale gas revolution” and conservation measures, such as increasing the fuel efficiency standards for vehicles, we are on track to be almost entirely energy independent by 2035. A decreased reliance on coal has resulted in our lowest CO2 emissions in 20 years. Per capita emissions are lower than at any time since 1961.
So things are looking bright, at home. In foreign affairs, from trade and investment to security and conservation, we are —as President Obama said – “all in” on our commitments in the Asia-Pacific and in Australia.
Since our free trade agreement went into effect in 2005, trade has more than doubled between our countries. We are the largest foreign investor in Australia, and our bilateral trade and investment relationship means more jobs, more goods, and a higher standard of living for Australians and Americans.
Like Australia, the United States is actively developing stronger economic ties with other key countries in the Asia Pacific like China, Indonesia, Vietnam, Japan, and Korea. This year’s G20 in Australia, and the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation Forum in China, will both be opportunities to further strengthen those relationships.
At the heart of our shared commitment to building prosperity in the region is the Trans Pacific Partnership. Together with 10 other countries, the United States and Australia are negotiating an agreement that will bring down barriers to trade and investment and open markets. It will also include strong protections for workers, the environment, intellectual property, and innovation. The TPP will set the standards for trade in the 21st century. Australia’s businesses and farmers will have greater access to a trading area that produces 40% of the world’s GDP, creating more and better jobs for Australians. The TPP is open to new members, and we would welcome other countries in the region ready to commit to the TPP’s high standards.
We are moving forward in rebalancing our security posture as well. By 2020, we will have 60 percent of our naval assets in the Pacific. That’s not 60% of the ships we have now. It’s 60% of the larger, more technologically advanced Navy we are building. I met with the Secretary of the Navy last week. He told me that on 9/11, the U.S. Navy had 316 ships. By 2008 we were down to 278. In the four years before he took over the job in 2009, 19 ships were put under contract. Now, we have 60 ships under contract and should have more than 300 ships by 2019.
This year, the number of Marines conducting rotational training in Darwin will increase to 1100.
We will continue joint training exercises in the region – with you, and with Indonesia, the Philippines, Japan, and South Korea. For the first time, China will participate in this year’s Rim of the Pacific exercise, led by the U.S. Pacific Fleet. These exercises foster understanding, enable us to better respond to any crisis in the Pacific, and improve our ability to work together seamlessly after natural and humanitarian disasters.
And that work will be made easier with the recent delivery – on budget and ahead of schedule, which I’m sure you appreciate – of the first two MH-60R Seahawk helicopters to the Australian Navy. Later this year, we’ll deliver the first Joint Strike fighter and the first C-27J battlefield airlifter.
Now, I’m sorry to report that not everyone in the region is happy about our close cooperation.
Recently, Australian law enforcement, with the assistance of the DEA, seized almost $6 million in cash as part of a joint money laundering investigation. Task Force Eligo has led to the seizure of more than $580 million worth of drugs and assets and has disrupted organized crime groups. And this is the kind of cooperation we need. Criminal networks don’t recognize borders. And we are more likely to fight them successfully when we cooperate.
Discussions about trade and security only scratch the surface of our partnership, however. We are working together to combat climate change, to protect the environment, to develop cleaner energy sources, and to improve energy efficiency. While this year promises to be very productive, we can – and should – do more.
For example, we are working together on issues of conservation that are vitally important.
Leading U.S. researchers are working with Australian scientists to find a cure for Tasmanian devil facial tumor disease. We are also maintaining insurance populations at the San Diego Zoo and at New Mexico’s BioPark. Together, we hope to ensure the survival of one of Australia’s most iconic creatures.
We are also working together to protect krill, the foundation of the food chain in the Southern Ocean.
We work together as members of the Commission for the Conservation of Antarctic Marine Living Resources and are trying to establish the first Marine Protected Area in Antarctica – an issue that is very dear to me.
In March, we will celebrate the 50th anniversary of the Deep Space Network. The partnership between CSIRO and NASA is one of the most enduring examples of our bilateral cooperation.
The International AIDS Conference in Melbourne in July – which HHS Secretary Janet Sibelius plans to attend – will give our health experts the opportunity to share best practices in HIV/AIDS research and treatment.
Finally, we are engaged in a robust program of exchanges. For more than sixty years, young Fulbright scholars have worked on a range of projects that make the world a better place for all of us.
On a more personal note, you may know that I’m the second generation of my family to serve in the Pacific. My father fought during WWII as part of the 1st Marine Division. My uncle, for whom I am named, was a fighter pilot who lost his life in the Philippines. Because of their service and sacrifice, I feel a special responsibility to advance the cause of peace they fought so valiantly to secure.
My father fought in the Battle of Guadalcanal, widely regarded as the turning point in the war in the Pacific. He told me that the Marines landed with few supplies, and received very little more due to the Japanese blockade. They endured many hard mornings on Guadalcanal. They knew it would be a bad day when – more than once after night time naval battles – they looked out at the ocean and saw that all the ships were flying the Rising Sun. And they knew that help was not coming anytime soon.
In conditions like those it would be easy to lose hope. But the Marines – my father among them – were lucky enough to come to Australia to rest and recuperate. And he told me that Australia – and Australians – reminded him of all the things he was fighting for. And that his time here gave him the strength to keep fighting.
And so, tonight, I’m pleased to say two things about my time here in Australia. First, that I understand what my father meant about Australians when he praised your warmth, kindness, and generosity. And second, that it is my privilege to work with you – as my father worked with your parents and grandparents – to strengthen our alliance and bring greater peace and prosperity to the region.