There are few regions in the world where as many opportunities exist as in the Asia-Pacific.
About half the world’s population lives in the Asia-Pacific. It has some of the largest and fastest-growing economies in the world. Nine of the world’s ten busiest ports are in Asia. It drives the world’s economy, comprising more than half of global trade and economic output. More than half of the world’s energy and cargo passes through this region.
Asian countries are rising, developing quickly, and becoming economic powerhouses. This region is where the world’s future will be written – and we need to be prepared.
The United States is deeply committed to preserving the peace and stability that – together with the hard work of the people in the region – have led to its amazing economic success. That peace and prosperity would not be possible without the U.S.-Australia alliance.
The U.S.-Australia alliance has helped support the tremendous economic growth of the last forty years. Our deep ties, shared interests in the region, and our abiding friendship are among the reasons why President Obama announced the United States’ rebalance to the Asia-Pacific in Canberra almost three years ago.
Our rebalance to the Asia-Pacific is an acknowledgement that we must increase our engagement across all dimensions, from diplomacy to trade and investment, from security and defense to engagement on human rights.
Together with our allies and partners, we have ensured the security and stability of the region since the end of World War II. We have worked with our partners to establish the rules of the road in trade and investment that have, along with the hard work of the region’s people, spurred its economic development. And so, as a Pacific nation, it would be a mistake for us the U.S. not to seek more contact, stronger alliances, and better engagement to build for the future.
A key objective of the rebalance is modernizing and upgrading our ties with key allies like Australia and Japan. We are also expanding our cooperation with China and emerging powers such as Indonesia, Vietnam, and Malaysia.
We have also established a permanent mission to ASEAN – our fourth largest export market and our fifth largest trading partner. We are working to enhance the region’s security architecture and to provide a more energy-secure future. And, American diplomats all over the region are working hard to strengthen the cultural, scientific, and educational exchanges that are vital to building deeper understanding across borders.
We are working hard to build up the regional institutions that are so vital to the diplomatic resolution of differences and global problems. We believe that established rules and norms must determine the outcome of disputes – not the size or power of any one nation. Whether we are addressing climate change, improving regional diplomacy and trade, managing problems with North Korea, or resolving territorial disputes, we are better when we work together.
This kind of cooperation is vital to ensuring that this region continues to be peaceful, prosperous, and secure.
We also want to ensure that trade and investment in the region is conducted in ways that are open, honest, and fair for all parties involved.
As we continue to recover from the Global Financial Crisis, expanded access to markets and better conditions for trade are more important than ever.
So we are working hard with Australia and ten other partners to conclude the Trans-Pacific Partnership agreement. This is the key economic component of our rebalance to the region.
The TPP is an ambitious trade agreement that will bring down barriers to trade and investment and open new markets. It will include strong protections for workers, the environment, intellectual property, and innovation. It will promote green and innovative technologies. It will improve the coherence of regulatory systems, and increase supply chain efficiency.
We believe the TPP will become the model for addressing new and emerging trade issues in the 21st century.
Today, we are in the home stretch on the TPP negotiations. In just a few days, negotiators from all twelve TPP countries will be coming together in Canberra and then in Sydney to hammer out an agreement on the last remaining issues. Although we still need to make some of the hardest decisions, momentum is on our side. We look forward to completing the agreement as soon as possible.
Through this agreement, Australian and American businesses and farmers will have greater access to a trading area that produces 40% of the world’s GDP, creating more and better jobs.
Today, the United States is in a great position to work on improving economic relations with Australia and countries around the world.
Housing starts are up, and our banks are lending again. The U.S. stock markets are regularly breaking records for all-time highs.
Through the “shale gas revolution” and other measures, such as increasing the fuel efficiency standards for vehicles and investing in clean technologies, we are on track to be almost entirely energy independent within 20 years.
That same “revolution” has lowered energy costs, leading to increases in manufacturing jobs for the first time in more than two decades. Even better, companies are bringing manufacturing jobs back to the United States from overseas.
These gains have brought our September unemployment rate down to 5.9% – the lowest rate in six years. We have created more than ten million jobs since the worst days of the recession.
The Federal Reserve is carefully ending quantitative easing. We are proceeding in a measured way and keeping watch over its effects on the rest of the world. Soon, this economic tool will be returned to our “toolbox.”
The U.S. is now – more than ever – open for business and is encouraging investment like never before. Programs that make investment easier – such as SelectUSA – provide information and a single point of contact for overseas companies interested in doing business with us.
There is a reason why the United States is the number one destination for Australians looking to expand overseas: the United States is a great country in which to do business.
Since the implementation of the Australia-U.S. Free Trade Agreement almost a decade ago, our bilateral trade of goods and services has risen to approximately $60 billion. In the first six years alone, the number of Australian companies operating in the United States nearly doubled. This is especially impressive since much of the growth occurred during one of the worst financial crises since the Great Depression.
Today, the United States is the largest foreign investor in Australia. By the end of last year, U.S. Foreign Direct Investment stock in Australia was $159 billion, and Australian companies had invested $44 billion in the United States.
If we count indirect investment, the entire U.S.-Australia economic relationship is worth more than a trillion dollars.
Chevron’s massive Gorgon and Wheatstone LNG projects represent the largest U.S. investments in Australia ever – more than $70 billion. On completion, they will add around 24 million tons of LNG per year in exports to the Asia-Pacific market.
Hundreds of U.S. businesses operate here in Australia. Some of our most successful companies – including Chevron, ConocoPhillips, GE, and Citibank – have operations here that provide jobs and income for thousands of Australians.
But this is not a one-way street.
For example, in 2012-2013, trade between the U.S. and Queensland alone was worth $6.4 billion. Queensland’s efforts to diversify its economy – including through the development of the gas industry – have ensured that it is poised to be an even bigger player in markets in the Asia-Pacific and in the United States.
The Queensland Trade Office and the Australian Consulate that were opened in Houston earlier this year will undoubtedly help in those efforts. We’re looking forward to seeing even more Queenslanders doing business in the U.S. in the future!
Australia is our eleventh largest investor – thanks in part to companies like BHP Billiton which is investing $3 billion in the U.S. this year. Incitech (IN-SE-TECH) Pivot is building an $850 million dollar ammonia plant in Louisiana. Innovative software company Atlassian (AT-LASS-EE-AN) currently employs hundreds of Americans in its San Francisco and Austin offices – and it is expanding rapidly.
We want to do business with more companies like these. We also want to expand our cooperation into newer arenas. I think we can use our combined gifts for creative problem solving and innovation to take our bilateral economic relationship to the next level. I see opportunities in at least three different areas – infrastructure investment, alternative energy sources, and innovation.
When I travel around the country and talk to Australian and American business people, they mention some very specific areas where we could expand our cooperation.
First, the Australian superannuation industry is sitting on a couple of trillion dollars in assets that need to be invested. I’d like to strongly suggest that the United States would be a great place for at least part of that investment.
Business leaders recently ranked the U.S. as the top pick for corporate FDI for the second year in a row. One of the important factors in this rating was that the United States is “a bedrock of stability” and a great place for investment.
In order to make investment easier, the U.S. Commercial Service works to connect superannuation funds with state governments and companies in the United States that are seeking investment.
When I talk about the superannuation industry with my Australian friends, the discussions usually turn to the big projects – airports, toll roads, and other infrastructure that could be built with the help of superannuation assets.
Not only does superannuation present a huge opportunity for attracting investment to the United States, there also are great opportunities in the other direction for U.S. firms to invest in Australian infrastructure.
Infrastructure investment in both of our countries helps build growth and jobs. Supers are a natural fit for this kind of investment in the United States. We should also inform U.S. investors about the opportunities to invest in assets here in Australia.
Another area ripe for growth in cooperation and investment is in development of alternative energy.
Over the past few years, the U.S. government has made some of the biggest investments in clean tech in U.S. history. We want to ensure clean energy projects are the most attractive investments in the global energy sector in order to encourage our best minds to develop new technologies.
Oil and gas companies are among the businesses leading the charge to develop cost effective wind and solar power that will help reduce carbon emissions, giving our children and grandchildren a healthier planet.
Given Queensland’s impressive record in this field, and efforts to develop new sources of energy, this is a third area in which we can increase our cooperation. We have already made a pretty good start.
ConocoPhillips, Sinopec, and Origin Energy are investing more than $20 billion to build the largest LNG project in eastern Australia on Curtis Island. Back in May, I visited that site with Chinese Ambassador Ma. That visit demonstrated to me more than anything else the vast potential of the clean energy market here in Australia and what we can do when we work together.
The U.S. and Australia are also working together in Cape York. Rio Tinto, the Australian Renewable Energy Agency, and U.S. firm First Solar are teaming up to build a solar energy plant at one of Rio Tinto’s mines. This will help offset the expense of the current diesel fired power plants. In addition to making good economic sense, it also makes good environmental sense.
These partnerships are not unique – they are happening all across Australia and the United States. Creative people and creative companies are teaming up to figure out how to deal with a changing world, changing markets, and a changing climate.
That is becoming more and more important for us as business people, as diplomats, and as citizens of the world.
We don’t know where our economies will take us. We don’t know where the jobs of the 21st century will be. But by investing in the imaginations and ideas of our people, we can remain competitive no matter what the future throws our way.
This brings me to the final area in which I see a lot of potential for growth in our economic cooperation.
President Obama believes that the way to “win the future” is through investment in innovation.
Innovation is essential for success. It will help us face the challenges of an uncertain climate, an aging population, and a changing energy landscape. It will be the pipeline for the consumer products of tomorrow.
Innovation will help us find cures for the most devastating diseases, bring life to new planets, and provide clean water, plentiful food, and safe housing to the billions of people living on this one.
Funding for science, technology, and research is the most important investment we can make for our futures.
The United States is investing in basic research through the President’s Strategy for American Innovation. We are promoting U.S. exports. We are encouraging entrepreneurs. And, we are making historic investments in – among other things – clean energy technology, medical research, and advanced vehicle technologies.
Most important, we are promoting investment in science, technology, engineering and math – or STEM – education. Without the scientists and engineers of tomorrow, none of our other efforts will matter.
But Americans don’t have a monopoly on good ideas or talented people. People from every country are revolutionizing the world we live in. If we want to solve the world’s toughest problems, we must look beyond our borders and increase our cooperation. We would be hard pressed to find better partners in that effort than our friends here in Australia.
Our innovation partnerships here predate even our alliance, especially here in Brisbane. In 1896, General Electric installed the first motors in Brisbane trams when they converted from literal horse power to electricity.
GE is still a big fan of Australian innovators. Its partnership with CSIRO funds research projects across Australian in fields as diverse as aviation, healthcare and energy. Boeing’s largest research facility outside of the United States is here in Australia.
Our cooperation in research and development spans universities and government, think tanks and corporations. These partnerships help our economies expand, develop, and compete in the world market. But we can do more together. We should do more.
That is why I have launched the Ambassador’s Innovation Roundtables – a series of conversations with innovators, investors, businesses, researchers, academics, and students. These events highlight existing innovation partnerships, explore and address shared challenges, and put the spotlight on new opportunities.
Tomorrow, we will be holding our second roundtable in Australia. This time it will take place at the Queensland University of Technology. I’m really looking forward to the discussion. Queensland is full of innovators – it contributes far more than its share to global research.
You don’t have to be a rocket scientist to see that Queenslanders are natural partners in our efforts to promote cooperation in innovation, entrepreneurship, and research.
We’re always looking for new ways to build our trade and investment relationship. Often, the best ideas come from the front lines –men and women like you who are out there in the business world every day. So if you have suggestions, I would encourage you to bring them to me or to the members of the Embassy’s economic team.
Next month, the world’s leaders will arrive here in Brisbane for the G20 Summit. I know that President Obama is looking forward to discussing how to promote strong, sustainable, and balanced economic growth with his fellow leaders.
He’d probably also like to test out “Surf Board One” that Prime Minister Abbott gave him in June.
I think it is appropriate that the President will have the opportunity to visit Brisbane. This is a vibrant and world class city at the heart of one of the most economically dynamic states in Australia.
It is also appropriate because – in many ways – our partnership was born here during the darkest days of World War II. When General MacArthur moved his headquarters to Brisbane in 1942, we were facing an uncertain future. Although we couldn’t know it then, the tide of the war was turning – because we stood together.
Today, we stand together again facing some of the toughest challenges in the world. In Iraq and Syria, we are standing shoulder to shoulder with our allies and partners and the democratically elected government of Iraq to fight our common enemy and defeat the forces of terror.
In peace, in war, in times of trouble, and in times of celebration, standing together, we can – and will – ensure continued peace and prosperity in the Asia-Pacific, and around the globe.