It’s a pleasure to be here with you today. I’d like to congratulate the U.S. Studies Centre for lining up such a star-studded cast for today’s proceedings. The diversity and caliber of those in this room today is a true reflection of the depth of our alliance, and the many ties that make our relationship so vibrant and strong.
As you all know, President Obama announced the U.S. “rebalance” to the Asia-Pacific region almost three years ago – just down the road from here, in fact.
It is not, however, as if we ever “left” the region: The United States is after all a Pacific nation. And our enduring friendship with the people of Australia – founded on shared sacrifices and common values – has been a pillar in our vision of promoting peace and prosperity in the region.
The rebalance – or the U.S.-Australia alliance, for that matter – of course has a defense component. But there’s so much more that goes into maintaining security and stability. Especially in today’s world, where no nation can “go it alone” – and the private sector, civil society, and non-state actors play such an important role.
Alliance 21 has aptly captured these dynamics by focusing on the key themes of Defence and Security, Trade and Investment, Education and Innovation, Natural Resources and the Environment, Energy Security, and Emerging Asia.
Taken together, our discussions are helping to chart the course of the enduring and evolving relationship between Australia and the United States against the backdrop of a region that produces 40% of the world’s GDP, and is home to the fastest-growing middle class.
I’ve just returned from Washington, where I had the privilege to participate in Prime Minister Abbott’s first meeting with President Obama in the Oval Office. This visit led me to reflect on the many milestones we have seen in just my first nine months here in Australia, and the opportunities that lie ahead.
The Force Posture Agreement announced last week advances the initiatives our President announced in 2011. It is an important step in maintaining the flexibility and interoperability of our alliance. This year, we increased the rotational presence of U.S. Marines in Darwin to approximately 1,100. We continue to step up our levels of cooperation between our air forces.
Australia’s assumption of the G20 presidency, and the UN Security Council, are perfect examples of Australian leadership on the global stage. And of course we’re ramping up to the G20 Leaders Summit in November, when President Obama will again visit Australia.
I was able to meet with the fantastic team planning the Summit when I was last in Brisbane, and have no doubt that it will be an extraordinary success. Already, Treasury Secretary Lew and Federal Reserve Chair Yellen visited in February for a meeting of G20 Finance Ministers and Bank Governors. Next month, we will welcome U.S. Trade Representative Mike Froman to Sydney for the G20 Trade Ministers meeting. Mike is hard at work negotiating the Trans-Pacific Partnership.
As you know, it is our goal to conclude an ambitious, comprehensive and high standard agreement that will be a model for trade in the 21st century. It will promote growth and create jobs both in the United States, Australia, and the region as a whole.
Hundreds of U.S. companies operate in Australia, and some of our most successful companies – ExxonMobil, Chevron, GE, Citibank, Google – have operations here. In fact, you’ll hear from some of them today.
Some of Australia’s largest resources projects are U.S. investments, including Chevron’s massive Gorgon and Wheatstone LNG projects and ConocoPhillips’ LNG project at Gladstone. Chinese Ambassador Ma and I visited this joint U.S.-China-Australia commercial venture together in May.
We’re looking forward to our 29th AUSMIN, taking place later this year in Australia.
In March, we welcomed NASA Administrator Bolden to Australia to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the Deep Space Network. Our long and storied partnership in space is one of the most enduring examples of our bilateral cooperation – and one in which there is tremendous potential for growth.
The International AIDS Conference in Melbourne in July will give our health experts the opportunity to share best practices in HIV/AIDS research and treatment.
The sixth World Parks Congress – a global forum on protected areas that is held once a decade – will take place this November in Sydney. Environmental protection is an issue that is particularly important to me. I’m looking forward to discussing with experts the next steps in conservation, climate change, and sustainable development.
In sum, this conference takes place amid a very exciting year of accomplishments for the U.S. and Australia. We have tremendous opportunities to strengthen our historic partnership.
Again, I’d like to thank all of you for your role in helping map out the future of this relationship.
It is now my great honor to introduce Assistant Secretary of State for East Asian and Pacific Affairs, Danny Russell.
I know Danny is well-known to many of you from his writing and his trips to Australia. And so you’ll know that Danny’s a consummate diplomat. As proof, I will note that he has fans on both sides of the aisle in Washington. It doesn’t get any tougher than that. He has been an Asia hand at the State Department and at the White House for many years. More important, he’s one of the chief architects of the Obama Administration’s strategic rebalance to the Asia-Pacific region.
We’re all very pleased that he could be with us today – at least in spirit.
Please join me in welcoming him.