Ambassador’s Remarks at a Dinner in Honor of Richard Haass

Distinguished guests,

Ladies and Gentlemen,

Curtis and I are very pleased to welcome you to our home this evening.

As you no doubt know, we’re in the midst of focusing more of our attention than ever on the Asia-Pacific.  In the grand scheme of things, this means more diplomacy as we work to improve the regional architecture and strengthen relations with our regional partners and allies.  It also means more trade and investment, more defense and security cooperation throughout the region, and more scientific and technical cooperation.

Before we make Dr. Haass work for his dessert, I’d like to take a minute to talk about some of the highlights of the very busy year we’re expecting in our bilateral relationship.

Australia’s G20 presidency and the G20 Leaders Summit in November is a top priority.  I was able to meet with the fantastic team planning the Summit when I was in Brisbane, and have no doubt that it will be an extraordinary success.

This past weekend, Secretary Lew and Federal Reserve Chair Yellen were in Sydney for a great meeting of G20 Finance Ministers and Bank Governors.

We’re also expecting to mark our 29th AUSMIN later this year where we will welcome Secretaries Kerry and Hagel to Australia.

Next month, we’ll welcome NASA Administrator Bolden who will be coming 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.  Since conservation is an issue that is particularly important to me, I am looking forward to working with experts to discuss next steps in conservation, climate change, and sustainable development.

We’ve been moving forward with negotiations on an agreement to guide the force posture initiatives announced here in 2011.  This year, we’ll increase the number of Marines in Darwin to 1100 and will be working to step up cooperation between our air forces.

So as you can see, we will have tremendous opportunities to strengthen the historic partnership between the United States and Australia.  And, one such opportunity is the visit of Dr. Richard Haass.

We’re very pleased that he agreed to join us this evening to make a few remarks

Dr. Haass has been president of the Council on Foreign Relations for more than ten years.  He’s written a baker’s dozen of books, more articles than he’d probably like to think about, and is working to address some of the thorniest political problems in the world.

He’s also a fellow veteran of the State Department, where he headed up the policy planning team and served as a senior advisor to Secretary Powell, coordinated Afghanistan policy, and was the U.S. envoy to the Northern Ireland Peace process.  He continues his work in Northern Ireland, for which he received the Tipperary International Peace Award.

I’ve had the opportunity to read some of his recent work and found it both insightful and thought provoking.  I think you’ll really enjoy hearing what he has to say tonight.