Vladivostok, Russia–(ENEWSPF)–September 9, 2012.
SECRETARY CLINTON: Good afternoon, everybody. Well, first, let me say how pleased I was to visit Vladivostok, and to see the new university for this APEC meeting. I was very delighted to attend on behalf of President Obama. Let me just highlight a few of the developments, beginning with what APEC’s members are doing to promote sustainable growth while preserving and protecting our natural resources.
Last year in Honolulu, APEC leaders committed to spark green growth by developing a list of environmental products on which we would significantly reduce tariffs. And here in Vladivostok, the leaders delivered on that commitment, agreeing on a list that includes solar panels, gas, and wind turbines and dozens more products. Today, tariffs on these products can run as high as 35 percent. By 2015, APEC members will cut them to 5 percent or less. By making green products more affordable and creating jobs wherever they are manufactured, including in the United States, we hope this decision will inspire other trading groups to emulate APEC’s record of trade innovation.
Second, as leaders meet here in Russia, our negotiating partners are engaged in intense diplomacy to advance the Trans-Pacific Partnership, known as the TPP. This free trade agreement is central to America’s economic vision in Asia. By reducing market distortions and leveling the playing field, the TPP will raise the bar for competition in a way that benefits every economy in the region, whether it is an active partner in the TPP or not.
Third, APEC members took important steps to promote food security. Record-breaking droughts are driving up the price of corn, wheat, and other grains, with the fear that people will be left without enough to eat. The APEC leaders recognized we won’t solve this problem by banning or restricting food exports; we need to ensure greater agricultural productivity, and that food supplies reach the people who need them most, no matter where they live.
Fourth, we continued our progress on an area that bears directly on this region’s economic competitiveness, as a growing body of evidence proves investing in women is great for the bottom line. The APEC region is losing as much as $47 billion every year because of barriers that keep women from fully participating in the economic and political lives of their countries.
Now, I could list many more areas where we have advanced our work. I’m especially pleased that APEC leaders pledged to enhance our efforts to combat trafficking in illegal wildlife. You’ve have seen the posters of tigers, and it is an issue I discussed with President Putin, because it’s tigers and leopards, it’s rhinos and elephants, and APEC leaders recognize we have to do so much more in stopping poachers and stopping demand and consumption. We’ve covered a lot of ground, and we look forward to working with our Indonesian colleagues on these and other issues as they host APEC next year.
I had the opportunity to meet with both President Putin and Minister Lavrov yesterday. We discussed matters ranging from deepening our economic ties to addressing the crisis in Syria. The Obama Administration has been committed to strengthening our relationship with Russia, and we are moving ahead in many areas. Yesterday we announced joint initiatives on scientific research in Antarctica, cooperation between our national parks, and partnerships among our state and local governments. And today, our new visa agreement goes into force, freeing up Russian and American businesses to spend less time doing paperwork and more time trading, investing, and creating jobs.
However, I have also said we would be frank about our differences. As I told both the President and the Prime Minister – I mean, excuse me, the President and the Foreign Minister, the United States disagrees with the approach on Syria. We are concerned by new laws that could restrict civil society, and by recent measures targeting people who have spoken out about Russia’s democratic future. Domestic entrepreneurs and foreign investors alike understand that in the 21st century, political modernization can and does drive economic growth, and it can create stronger societies and strengthen partnerships in pursuit of shared goals.
So I very much appreciate the opportunity that I’ve had to be here, and I look forward to your questions.
MODERATOR: We’ll take three today. We’ll start with Matt Lee. Happy birthday, Matt Lee.
SECRETARY CLINTON: Oh, happy birthday, Matt.
QUESTION: Thank you.
SECRETARY CLINTON: Wow. A red letter day.
QUESTION: A long birthday.
SECRETARY CLINTON: (Laughter.) Yes, we are going to take you over many time zones. You can keep celebrating.
QUESTION: It might be another year by the time we –
SECRETARY CLINTON: Exactly.
QUESTION: Madam Secretary, understanding that you didn’t make this trip with the expectation that you were going to get either the Russians or the Chinese to do a 180 and change their positions on Syria, Iran, or, in fact, the South China Sea, after your discussions both here and in Beijing, do you get the sense that there is any kind of traction or movement, as we had toward the UN General Assembly, on Syria in particular? And then – but also with – between ASEAN and China in the South China Sea.
And then, also with the Russians, did you explore with President Putin what his ambitions or aims and intents are in this Look East policy? And do you think that the Russians can help? But – it is all the same question. (Laughter.)
Do you think – I mean, do you get the sense that the Russians are willing to play a positive role in the territory in these disputes? It could be a calming influence in the East China Sea. Thanks.
SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, first, with respect to Syria, I made the international community’s case again yesterday to both the Foreign Minister and the President that we have to bring more pressure to bear on the Assad regime to end the bloodshed and begin a political democratic transition. I will continue to work with Foreign Minister Lavrov to see if we can revisit the idea of putting the Syria transition plan that we agreed to in Geneva earlier this summer into a Security Council resolution.
But as I underscored yesterday with Foreign Minister Lavrov, that will only be effective if it includes consequences for noncompliance. And there’s no point passing a resolution with no teeth, because we’ve seen time and time again that Assad will ignore it and keep attacking his own people.
So if we can make progress in New York in the run-up to the UN General Assembly, we will certainly try. But we have to be realistic. We haven’t seen eye-to-eye with Russia on Syria. That may continue. And if it does continue, then we will work with likeminded states to support the Syrian opposition to hasten the day when Assad falls, and to help prepare Syria for a democratic future and help it get back on its feet again.
With respect to looking east, of course those are – that question should be posed to the President, the Foreign Minister, or other Russian officials. But we have no problem with Russia playing a responsible role in Asia. In fact, we welcome it. Just as we have told the Russians – and I told President Putin yesterday – the U.S. wants to deepen our economic cooperation with Russia in Asia, in the Far East.
American companies have made a number of significant investments in the Russian Far East which support increasing opportunity and development in this part of Russia. For example, ExxonMobil has a very large oil and gas project that is worth about $10 billion in investment, and it directly employs nearly 600 Russian citizens. With over $7.7 billion in contracts awarded to Russian companies or joint ventures, the project has also created many, many other jobs throughout the region.
We are very committed to working with Russia, particularly on economic growth and enhanced prosperity. In fact, later this month, the Russian American Pacific Partnership Forum will be held in Tacoma, Washington, to connect business and government leaders in an effort to strengthen business ties between our Pacific Coast and the United States and the Russian Far East.
So we’re really supportive, and we want to see more travel between our two countries. And now we anticipate – a recent announcement that was just held, Vladivostok Air, with regular flights between Anchorage and – I think it’s Kamchatka – I don’t know if I said that right. And that’s one of the reasons why we liberalized visas. We want more business-to-business connections, people-to-people connections, and bring our countries closer together, and bring this part of Russia closer together to Alaska and our West Coast.
MODERATOR: Next one from Dmitry Khrustalev with Rossiya 1, please.
QUESTION: Secretary Clinton, (inaudible), United States are about to abolish or cancel the Jackson-Vanik amendment. But at the same time, you are turning now to approve the (inaudible). I ask why. Thank you.
SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, first, let me start by saying the United States worked very hard over the last three presidencies – my husband, George W. Bush, and President Obama – to work to get Russia into the WTO. And in particular, President Obama and this Administration were just tireless in working with Russia and working with others who were already in the WTO to clear the way for Russia to be a – finally, a member of WTO.
We think expanding our trade, as I was just saying to the prior questioner, is one of our top economic priorities. We think it’s good for Russia, we think it’s good for the United States. And we are urging Congress to terminate the application of Jackson-Vanik to Russia so that American businesses can benefit from the WTO accession by Russia. I mean, frankly, it’s somewhat ironic if we did so much work to help Russia get into the WTO and then we are prohibited for our businesses to actually work in Russia. So we have to clear the way on the Jackson-Vanik amendment.
And with respect to the second part of your question, I think it’s fair to say, as I said in my opening remarks, we do believe that it’s important to promote the cause of human rights here in Russia, and that members of Congress believe the same thing, and they are particularly concerned about addressing the case of Mr. Magnitsky’s wrongful death. So we continue to consult with Congress on this as they consider two different drafts of legislation. I would note that the United States Government, the Obama Administration, has already taken important action to ensure that no one that we are told credibly was in any way implicated in Mr. Magnitsky’s death can travel to the United States already.
MODERATOR: Last one today, Shaun Tandon, AFP.
SECRETARY CLINTON: Thank you, Madam Secretary. In the course of your 11-day trip to the region, you’ve spoken a lot about boosting the U.S. role in Asia. But two of the closest U.S. allies, Japan and the Republic of Korea, have been at loggerheads over a territorial dispute of the disputed islands.
You’ve met over the past couple of days with Prime Minister Noda of Japan and President Lee of South Korea. Do you see any signs of hope in resolving or at least managing this dispute? And what does it mean for U.S. policy in the region to have these two members having so much difficulty?
SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, Shaun, one of the valuable things about this long trip is that I have had a chance to see so many leaders in the region. So whether we’re talking about the South China Sea or the East China Sea, my message has been the same to all of them. And now is the time for everyone to make efforts to reduce the tensions and strengthen diplomatic involvement for resolving these tensions.
And the United States is committed to playing a constructive role based on clear principles which we have consistently enunciated. We want to see the issues resolved through diplomatic processes that lower tension, avoid any form of confrontation, and lead to the ultimate resolution of what are very longstanding disputes in a manner that is consistent with international law.
Specifically with respect to our two good friends and allies, Japan and the Republic of Korea, I raised these issues with both of them, urging that their interests really lie in making sure that they lower the temperature and work together in a concerted way, to have a calm and restrained approach. And I think that’s being heard. There does seem to be a recognition on the part of all of the leaders that this region of the world is the economic engine in what is still a fragile global economy. And we can’t let anything happen. It’s not in the interests of any of the Asian countries, it’s certainly not in the interest of the United States or the rest of the world to raise doubts and uncertainties about the stability and peace in the region.
So I’m committed to working closely with all of the countries involved. And the United States will do what we can to try to ensure that these longstanding disputes don’t become a significant problem for our friends or for the broader region.
MODERATOR: Thank you all very much.
SECRETARY CLINTON: Thank you all very much. Okay. Thank you all.