Full Text Political Transcripts May 24, 2016: President Barack Obama’s Speech in Address to the People of Vietnam

POLITICAL TRANSCRIPTS

OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 114TH CONGRESS:

Remarks by President Obama in Address to the People of Vietnam

Source: WH, 5-24-16

National Convention Center
Hanoi, Vietnam

12:11 P.M. ICT

PRESIDENT OBAMA:  Xin chào!  (Applause.)  Xin chào Vietnam!  (Applause.)  Thank you.  Thank you so much.  To the government and the people of Vietnam, thank you for this very warm welcome and the hospitality that you have shown to me on this visit.  And thank all of you for being here today.  (Applause.)   We have Vietnamese from across this great country, including so many young people who represent the dynamism, and the talent and the hope of Vietnam.

On this visit, my heart has been touched by the kindness for which the Vietnamese people are known.  In the many people who have been lining the streets, smiling and waving, I feel the friendship between our peoples.  Last night, I visited the Old Quarter here in Hanoi and enjoyed some outstanding Vietnamese food.  I tried some Bún Chả.  (Applause.)  Drank some bia Ha Noi.  But I have to say, the busy streets of this city, I’ve never seen so many motorbikes in my life.  (Laughter.)  So I haven’t had to try to cross the street so far, but maybe when I come back and visit you can tell me how.

I am not the first American President to come to Vietnam in recent times.  But I am the first, like so many of you, who came of age after the war between our countries.  When the last U.S. forces left Vietnam, I was just 13 years old.  So my first exposure to Vietnam and the Vietnamese people came when I was growing up in Hawaii, with its proud Vietnamese American community there.

At the same time, many people in this country are much younger than me.  Like my two daughters, many of you have lived your whole lives knowing only one thing — and that is peace and normalized relations between Vietnam and the United States.  So I come here mindful of the past, mindful of our difficult history, but focused on the future — the prosperity, security and human dignity that we can advance together.

I also come here with a deep respect for Vietnam’s ancient heritage.  For millennia, farmers have tended these lands — a history revealed in the Dong Son drums.  At this bend in the river, Hanoi has endured for more than a thousand years.  The world came to treasure Vietnamese silks and paintings, and a great Temple of Literature stands as a testament to your pursuit of knowledge.  And yet, over the centuries, your fate was too often dictated by others.  Your beloved land was not always your own.  But like bamboo, the unbroken spirit of the Vietnamese people was captured by Ly Thuong Kiet — “the Southern emperor rules the Southern land.  Our destiny is writ in Heaven’s Book.”

Today, we also remember the longer history between Vietnamese and Americans that is too often overlooked.  More than 200 years ago, when our Founding Father, Thomas Jefferson, sought rice for his farm, he looked to the rice of Vietnam, which he said had “the reputation of being whitest to the eye, best flavored to the taste, and most productive.”  Soon after, American trade ships arrived in your ports seeking commerce.

 

During the Second World War, Americans came here to support your struggle against occupation.  When American pilots were shot down, the Vietnamese people helped rescue them.  And on the day that Vietnam declared its independence, crowds took to the streets of this city, and Ho Chi Minh evoked the American Declaration of Independence.  He said, “All people are created equal.  The Creator has endowed them with inviolable rights.  Among these rights are the right to life, the right to liberty, and the right to the pursuit of happiness.”

In another time, the profession of these shared ideals and our common story of throwing off colonialism might have brought us closer together sooner.  But instead, Cold War rivalries and fears of communism pulled us into conflict.  Like other conflicts throughout human history, we learned once more a bitter truth — that war, no matter what our intentions may be, brings suffering and tragedy.

At your war memorial not far from here, and with family altars across this country, you remember some 3 million Vietnamese, soldiers and civilians, on both sides, who lost their lives.  At our memorial wall in Washington, we can touch the names of 58,315 Americans who gave their lives in the conflict.  In both our countries, our veterans and families of the fallen still ache for the friends and loved ones that they lost.  Just as we learned in America that, even if we disagree about a war, we must always honor those who serve and welcome them home with the respect they deserve, we can join together today, Vietnamese and Americans, and acknowledge the pain and the sacrifices on both sides.

More recently, over the past two decades, Vietnam has achieved enormous progress, and today the world can see the strides that you have made.  With economic reforms and trade agreements, including with the United States, you have entered the global economy, selling your goods around the world.  More foreign investment is coming in.  And with one of the fastest-growing economies in Asia, Vietnam has moved up to become a middle-income nation.

We see Vietnam’s progress in the skyscrapers and high-rises of Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City, and new shopping malls and urban centers.  We see it in the satellites Vietnam puts into space and a new generation that is online, launching startups and running new ventures.  We see it in the tens of millions of Vietnamese connected on Facebook and Instagram.  And you’re not just posting selfies — although I hear you do that a lot — (laughter) — and so far, there have been a number of people who have already asked me for selfies.  You’re also raising your voices for causes that you care about, like saving the old trees of Hanoi.

So all this dynamism has delivered real progress in people’s lives.  Here in Vietnam, you’ve dramatically reduced extreme poverty, you’ve boosted family incomes and lifted millions into a fast-growing middle class.  Hunger, disease, child and maternal mortality are all down.  The number of people with clean drinking water and electricity, the number of boys and girls in school, and your literacy rate — these are all up.  This is extraordinary progress.  This is what you have been able to achieve in a very short time.

And as Vietnam has transformed, so has the relationship between our two nations.  We learned a lesson taught by the venerable Thich Nhat Hanh, who said, “In true dialogue, both sides are willing to change.”  In this way, the very war that had divided us became a source for healing.  It allowed us to account for the missing and finally bring them home.  It allowed us to help remove landmines and unexploded bombs, because no child should ever lose a leg just playing outside.  Even as we continue to assist Vietnamese with disabilities, including children, we are also continuing to help remove Agent Orange — dioxin — so that Vietnam can reclaim more of your land.  We’re proud of our work together in Danang, and we look forward to supporting your efforts in Bien Hoa.

Let’s also not forget that the reconciliation between our countries was led by our veterans who once faced each other in battle.  Think of Senator John McCain, who was held for years here as a prisoner of war, meeting General Giap, who said our countries should not be enemies but friends.  Think of all the veterans, Vietnamese and American, who have helped us heal and build new ties.  Few have done more in this regard over the years than former Navy lieutenant, and now Secretary of State of the United States, John Kerry, who is here today.  And on behalf of all of us, John, we thank you for your extraordinary effort.  (Applause.)

Because our veterans showed us the way, because warriors had the courage to pursue peace, our peoples are now closer than ever before.  Our trade has surged.  Our students and scholars learn together.  We welcome more Vietnamese students to America than from any other country in Southeast Asia.  And every year, you welcome more and more American tourists, including young Americans with their backpacks, to Hanoi’s 36 Streets and the shops of Hoi An, and the imperial city of Hue.  As Vietnamese and Americans, we can all relate to those words written by Van Cao — “From now, we know each other’s homeland; from now, we learn to feel for each other.”

 

As President, I’ve built on this progress.  With our new Comprehensive Partnership, our governments are working more closely together than ever before.  And with this visit, we’ve put our relationship on a firmer footing for decades to come.  In a sense, the long story between our two nations that began with Thomas Jefferson more than two centuries ago has now come full circle.  It has taken many years and required great effort.  But now we can say something that was once unimaginable:  Today, Vietnam and the United States are partners.

And I believe our experience holds lessons for the world.  At a time when many conflicts seem intractable, seem as if they will never end, we have shown that hearts can change and that a different future is possible when we refuse to be prisoners of the past.  We’ve shown how peace can be better than war.  We’ve shown that progress and human dignity is best advanced by cooperation and not conflict.  That’s what Vietnam and America can show the world.

Now, America’s new partnership with Vietnam is rooted in some basic truths.  Vietnam is an independent, sovereign nation, and no other nation can impose its will on you or decide your destiny.  (Applause.)  Now, the United States has an interest here.  We have an interest in Vietnam’s success.  But our Comprehensive Partnership is still in its early stages.  And with the time I have left, I want to share with you the vision that I believe can guide us in the decades ahead.

First, let’s work together to create real opportunity and prosperity for all of our people.  We know the ingredients for economic success in the 21st century.  In our global economy, investment and trade flows to wherever there is rule of law, because no one wants to pay a bribe to start a business.  Nobody wants to sell their goods or go to school if they don’t know how they’re going to be treated.  In knowledge-based economies, jobs go to where people have the freedom to think for themselves and exchange ideas and to innovate.  And real economic partnerships are not just about one country extracting resources from another.  They’re about investing in our greatest resource, which is our people and their skills and their talents, whether you live in a big city or a rural village.  And that’s the kind of partnership that America offers.

As I announced yesterday, the Peace Corps will come to Vietnam for the first time, with a focus on teaching English.  A generation after young Americans came here to fight, a new generation of Americans are going to come here to teach and build and deepen the friendship between us.  (Applause.)  Some of America’s leading technology companies and academic institutions are joining Vietnamese universities to strengthen training in science, technology, engineering, mathematics, and medicine.  Because even as we keep welcoming more Vietnamese students to America, we also believe that young people deserve a world-class education right here in Vietnam.

It’s one of the reasons why we’re very excited that this fall, the new Fulbright University Vietnam will open in Ho Chi Minh City — this nation’s first independent, non-profit university — where there will be full academic freedom and scholarships for those in need.  (Applause.)  Students, scholars, researchers will focus on public policy and management and business; on engineering and computer science; and liberal arts — everything from the poetry of Nguyen Du, to the philosophy of Phan Chu Trinh, to the mathematics of Ngo Bao Chau.

And we’re going to keep partnering with young people and entrepreneurs, because we believe that if you can just access the skills and technology and capital you need, then nothing can stand in your way — and that includes, by the way, the talented women of Vietnam.  (Applause.)  We think gender equality is an important principle.  From the Trung Sisters to today, strong, confident women have always helped move Vietnam forward.  The evidence is clear — I say this wherever I go around the world — families, communities and countries are more prosperous when girls and women have an equal opportunity to succeed in school and at work and in government.  That’s true everywhere, and it’s true here in Vietnam.  (Applause.)

We’ll keep working to unleash the full potential of your economy with the Trans-Pacific Partnership.  Here in Vietnam, TPP will let you sell more of your products to the world and it will attract new investment.  TPP will require reforms to protect workers and rule of law and intellectual property.  And the United States is ready to assist Vietnam as it works to fully implement its commitments.  I want you to know that, as President of the United States, I strongly support TPP because you’ll also be able to buy more of our goods, “Made in America.”

Moreover, I support TPP because of its important strategic benefits.  Vietnam will be less dependent on any one trading partner and enjoy broader ties with more partners, including the United States.  (Applause.)  And TPP will reinforce regional cooperation.  It will help address economic inequality and will advance human rights, with higher wages and safer working conditions.  For the first time here in Vietnam, the right to form independent labor unions and prohibitions against forced labor and child labor.  And it has the strongest environmental protections and the strongest anti-corruption standards of any trade agreement in history.  That’s the future TPP offers for all of us, because all of us — the United States, Vietnam, and the other signatories — will have to abide by these rules that we have shaped together.  That’s the future that is available to all of us.  So we now have to get it done — for the sake of our economic prosperity and our national security.

This brings me to the second area where we can work together, and that is ensuring our mutual security.  With this visit, we have agreed to elevate our security cooperation and build more trust between our men and women in uniform.  We’ll continue to offer training and equipment to your Coast Guard to enhance Vietnam’s maritime capabilities.  We will partner to deliver humanitarian aid in times of disaster.  With the announcement I made yesterday to fully lift the ban on defense sales, Vietnam will have greater access to the military equipment you need to ensure your security.  And the United States is demonstrating our commitment to fully normalize our relationship with Vietnam.  (Applause.)

More broadly, the 20th century has taught all of us — including the United States and Vietnam — that the international order upon which our mutual security depends is rooted in certain rules and norms.  Nations are sovereign, and no matter how large or small a nation may be, its sovereignty should be respected, and it territory should not be violated.  Big nations should not bully smaller ones.  Disputes should be resolved peacefully.  (Applause.)  And regional institutions, like ASEAN and the East Asia Summit, should continue to be strengthened.  That’s what I believe.  That’s what the United States believes.  That’s the kind of partnership America offers this region.  I look forward to advancing this spirit of respect and reconciliation later this year when I become the first U.S. President to visit Laos.

In the South China Sea, the United States is not a claimant in current disputes.  But we will stand with partners in upholding core principles, like freedom of navigation and overflight, and lawful commerce that is not impeded, and the peaceful resolution of disputes, through legal means, in accordance with international law.  As we go forward, the United States will continue to fly, sail and operate wherever international law allows, and we will support the right of all countries to do the same.  (Applause.)

Even as we cooperate more closely in the areas I’ve described, our partnership includes a third element — addressing areas where our governments disagree, including on human rights.  I say this not to single out Vietnam.  No nation is perfect.  Two centuries on, the United States is still striving to live up to our founding ideals.  We still deal with our shortcomings — too much money in our politics, and rising economic inequality, racial bias in our criminal justice system, women still not being paid as much as men doing the same job.  We still have problems.  And we’re not immune from criticism, I promise you.  I hear it every day.  But that scrutiny, that open debate, confronting our imperfections, and allowing everybody to have their say has helped us grow stronger and more prosperous and more just.

I’ve said this before — the United States does not seek to impose our form of government on Vietnam.  The rights I speak of I believe are not American values; I think they’re universal values written into the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.  They’re written into the Vietnamese constitution, which states that “citizens have the right to freedom of speech and freedom of the press, and have the right of access to information, the right to assembly, the right to association, and the right to demonstrate.”  That’s in the Vietnamese constitution.  (Applause.)  So really, this is an issue about all of us, each country, trying to consistently apply these principles, making sure that we — those of us in government — are being true to these ideals.

In recent years, Vietnam has made some progress.  Vietnam has committed to bringing its laws in line with its new constitution and with international norms.  Under recently passed laws, the government will disclose more of its budget and the public will have the right to access more information.  And, as I said, Vietnam has committed to economic and labor reforms under the TPP.   So these are all positive steps.  And ultimately, the future of Vietnam will be decided by the people of Vietnam.  Every country will chart its own path, and our two nations have different traditions and different political systems and different cultures.  But as a friend of Vietnam, allow me to share my view — why I believe nations are more successful when universal rights are upheld.

When there is freedom of expression and freedom of speech, and when people can share ideas and access the Internet and social media without restriction, that fuels the innovation economies need to thrive.  That’s where new ideas happen.  That’s how a Facebook starts.  That’s how some of our greatest companies began — because somebody had a new idea.  It was different.  And they were able to share it.  When there’s freedom of the press — when journalists and bloggers are able to shine a light on injustice or abuse — that holds officials accountable and builds public confidence that the system works.  When candidates can run for office and campaign freely, and voters can choose their own leaders in free and fair elections, it makes the countries more stable, because citizens know that their voices count and that peaceful change is possible.  And it brings new people into the system.

When there is freedom of religion, it not only allows people to fully express the love and compassion that are at the heart of all great religions, but it allows faith groups to serve their communities through schools and hospitals, and care for the poor and the vulnerable.  And when there is freedom of assembly — when citizens are free to organize in civil society — then countries can better address challenges that government sometimes cannot solve by itself.  So it is my view that upholding these rights is not a threat to stability, but actually reinforces stability and is the foundation of progress.

After all, it was a yearning for these rights that inspired people around the world, including Vietnam, to throw off colonialism.  And I believe that upholding these rights is the fullest expression of the independence that so many cherish, including here, in a nation that proclaims itself to be “of the People, by the People and for the People.”

Vietnam will do it differently than the United States does.  And each of us will do it differently from many other countries around the world.  But there are these basic principles that I think we all have to try to work on and improve.  And I said this as somebody who’s about to leave office, so I have the benefit of almost eight years now of reflecting on how our system has worked and interacting with countries around the world who are constantly trying to improve their systems, as well.

Finally, our partnership I think can meet global challenges that no nation can solve by itself.  If we’re going to ensure the health of our people and the beauty of our planet, then development has to be sustainable.  Natural wonders like Ha Long Bay and Son Doong Cave have to be preserved for our children and our grandchildren.  Rising seas threaten the coasts and waterways on which so many Vietnamese depend.  And so as partners in the fight against climate change, we need to fulfill the commitments we made in Paris, we need to help farmers and villages and people who depend on fishing to adapt and to bring more clean energy to places like the Mekong Delta — a rice bowl of the world that we need to feed future generations.

And we can save lives beyond our borders.  By helping other countries strengthen, for example, their health systems, we can prevent outbreaks of disease from becoming epidemics that threaten all of us.  And as Vietnam deepens its commitment to U.N. peacekeeping, the United States is proud to help train your peacekeepers.  And what a truly remarkable thing that is — our two nations that once fought each other now standing together and helping others achieve peace, as well.  So in addition to our bilateral relationship, our partnership also allows us to help shape the international environment in ways that are positive.

Now, fully realizing the vision that I’ve described today is not going to happen overnight, and it is not inevitable.  There may be stumbles and setbacks along the way.  There are going to be times where there are misunderstandings.  It will take sustained effort and true dialogue where both sides continue to change.  But considering all the history and hurdles that we’ve already overcome, I stand before you today very optimistic about our future together.  (Applause.)  And my confidence is rooted, as always, in the friendship and shared aspirations of our peoples.

I think of all the Americans and Vietnamese who have crossed a wide ocean — some reuniting with families for the first time in decades — and who, like Trinh Cong Son said in his song, have joined hands, and opening their hearts and seeing our common humanity in each other.  (Applause.)

I think of all the Vietnamese Americans who have succeeded in every walk of life — doctors, journalists, judges, public servants.  One of them, who was born here, wrote me a letter and said, by “God’s grace, I have been able to live the American Dream…I’m very proud to be an American but also very proud to be Vietnamese.”  (Applause.)  And today he’s here, back in the country of his birth, because, he said, his “personal passion” is “improving the life of every Vietnamese person.”

I think of a new generation of Vietnamese — so many of you, so many of the young people who are here — who are ready to make your mark on the world.  And I want to say to all the young people listening:  Your talent, your drive, your dreams — in those things, Vietnam has everything it needs to thrive.  Your destiny is in your hands.  This is your moment.  And as you pursue the future that you want, I want you to know that the United States of America will be right there with you as your partner and as your friend.  (Applause.)

And many years from now, when even more Vietnamese and Americans are studying with each other; innovating and doing business with each other; standing up for our security, and promoting human rights and protecting our planet with each other — I hope you think back to this moment and draw hope from the vision that I’ve offered today.  Or, if I can say it another way — in words that you know well from the Tale of Kieu — “Please take from me this token of trust, so we can embark upon our 100-year journey together.”  (Applause.)

Cam on cac ban.  Thank you very much.  Thank you, Vietnam.  Thank you.  (Applause.)

END
12:43 P.M. ICT

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Full Text November 13, 2011: President Barack Obama Holds Press Conference on the APEC Summit’s progress in Hawaii

POLITICAL SPEECHES & DOCUMENTS

OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 112TH CONGRESS:

President Obama Holds a Press Conference at the APEC Summit

 

President Obama makes remarks and takes questions about progress made at the 19th annual Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation leader’s summit.

Download mp4 (404MB) | mp3 (39MB)

Read the Transcript

POLITICAL QUOTES & SPEECHES

News Conference by President Obama

JW Marriott Ihilani Resort & Spa
Kapolei, Hawaii

PRESIDENT OBAMA:  Good afternoon, everybody.  Aloha.  I want to begin by thanking the people of Hawaii for their extraordinary hospitality.  Usually when Michelle and I and our daughters come back to visit, it’s just one President, and this time we brought 21.  So thank you so much for the incredible graciousness of the people of Hawaii — and their patience, because I know that traffic got tied up a little bit.

Now, the single greatest challenge for the United States right now, and my highest priority as President, is creating jobs and putting Americans back to work.  And one of the best ways to do that is to increase our trade and exports with other nations. Ninety-five percent of the world’s consumers are beyond our borders.  I want them to be buying goods with three words stamped on them:  Made in America.  So I’ve been doing everything I can to make sure that the United States is competing aggressively for the jobs and the markets of the future.

No region will do more to shape our long-term economic future than the Asia Pacific region.  As I’ve said, the United States is, and always will be, a Pacific nation.  Many of our top trading partners are in this region.  This is where we sell most of our exports, supporting some 5 million American jobs.  And since this is the world’s fastest growing region, the Asia Pacific is key to achieving my goal of doubling U.S. exports — a goal, by the way, which we are on track right now to meet.

And that’s why I’ve been proud to host APEC this year.  It’s been a chance to help lead the way towards a more seamless regional economy with more trade, more exports, and more jobs for our people.  And I’m pleased that we’ve made progress in three very important areas.

First, we agreed to a series of steps that will increase trade and bring our economies even closer.  We agreed to a new set of principles on innovation to encourage the entrepreneurship that creates new businesses and new industries.  With simplified customs and exemptions from certain tariffs we’ll encourage more businesses to engage in more trade.  And that includes our small businesses, which account for the vast majority of the companies in our economies.

We agreed to a new initiative that will make it easier and faster for people to travel and conduct business across the region.  And yesterday, I was pleased to sign legislation, a new travel card that will help our American businessmen and women travel more easily and get deals done in this region.

I’d note that we also made a lot of progress increasing trade on the sidelines of APEC.  As I announced yesterday, the United States and our eight partners reached the broad outlines of an agreement on the Trans-Pacific Partnership.  And today I’m pleased that Japan, Canada and Mexico have now expressed an interest in this effort.

This comes on the heels of our landmark trade agreements with South Korea, Panama and Colombia, which will support tens of thousands of American jobs.

And in my meeting with President Medvedev, we discussed how to move ahead with Russia’s accession to the WTO, which will also mean more exports for American manufacturers and American farmers and ranchers.

Second, APEC agreed on ways to promote the green growth we need for our energy security.  We agreed to reduce tariffs on environmental goods and make it easier to export clean energy technologies that create green jobs.  We raised the bar on ourselves and we’ll aim for even higher energy efficiencies.  And we’re moving ahead with the effort to phase out fossil fuel subsidies.  This would be a huge step toward creating clean energy economies and fighting climate change, which is a threat to both the beauty and the prosperity of the region.

Third, we’re redoubling our efforts to make sure that regulations are encouraging trade and job creation, not discouraging trade and job creation.  And this builds on the work that we’re doing in the United States to get rid of rules and regulations that are unjustified and that are overly burdensome. Our APEC partners are joining us in streamlining and coordinating regulations so that we’re sparking innovation and growth even as we protect public health and our environment.

And finally, since many of the leaders here were also at the recent G20 summit, we continued our efforts to get the global economy to grow faster.  APEC makes up more than half the global economy, and it will continue to play a key role in achieving the strong and balanced growth that we need.

As I’ve said, as the world’s largest economy, the best thing that the United States can do for the global economy is to grow our own economy faster.  And so I will continue to fight for the American Jobs Act so that we can put our people back to work.

I was glad to see that Congress moved forward on one aspect of the jobs bill — tax credits for companies that are hiring veterans.  But we’ve got to do a lot more than that.

So, again, I want to thank the people of Hawaii for their extraordinary hospitality and for all that they’ve done to help make this summit such a success.  I want to thank my fellow leaders for the seriousness and sense of common purpose that they brought to our work.  And I believe that the progress we’ve made here will help create jobs and keep America competitive in a region that is absolutely vital not only for our economy but also for our national security.

So, with that, I’m going to take a few questions.  I’ll start with Ben Feller of AP.

Q    Thank you very much, Mr. President.  I’d like to ask you about Iran.  Did you get any specific commitments from Russia or China on tightening sanctions?  Did you move them at all?  And do you fear the world is running out of options short of military intervention to keep Iran from getting nuclear weapons?

PRESIDENT OBAMA:  One of the striking things over the last three years since I came into office is the degree of unity that we’ve been able to forge in the international community with respect to Iran.  When I came into office, the world was divided and Iran was unified around its nuclear program.  We now have a situation where the world is united and Iran is isolated.  And because of our diplomacy and our efforts, we have, by far, the strongest sanctions on Iran that we’ve ever seen.  And China and Russia were critical to making that happen.  Had they not been willing to support those efforts in the United Nations, we would not be able to see the kind of progress that we’ve made.

And they’re having an impact.  All our intelligence indicates that Iran’s economy is suffering as a consequence of this.  And we’re also seeing that Iran’s influence in the region has ebbed, in part because their approach to repression inside of Iran is contrary to the Arab Spring that has been sweeping the Middle East.

So we are in a much stronger position now than we were two or three years ago with respect to Iran.  Having said that, the recent IAEA report indicates what we already knew, which is, although Iran does not possess a nuclear weapon and is technically still allowing IAEA observers into their country, that they are engaging in a series of practices that are contrary to their international obligations and their IAEA obligations.  And that’s what the IAEA report indicated.

So what I did was to speak with President Medvedev, as well as President Hu, and all three of us entirely agree on the objective, which is making sure that Iran does not weaponize nuclear power and that we don’t trigger a nuclear arms race in the region.  That’s in the interests of all of us.

In terms of how we move forward, we will be consulting with them carefully over the next several weeks to look at what other options we have available to us.  The sanctions have enormous bite and enormous scope, and we’re building off the platform that has already been established.  The question is, are there additional measures that we can take.  And we’re going to explore every avenue to see if we can solve this issue diplomatically.

I have said repeatedly and I will say it today, we are not taking any options off the table, because it’s my firm belief that an Iran with a nuclear weapon would pose a security threat not only to the region but also to the United States.  But our strong preference is to have Iran meet its international obligations, negotiate diplomatically, to allow them to have peaceful use of nuclear energy in accordance with international law, but at the same time, forswear the weaponization of nuclear power.

And so we’re going to keep on pushing on that.  And China and Russia have the same aims, the same objectives, and I believe that we’ll continue to cooperate and collaborate closely on that issue.

Dan Lothian.

Q    Thank you, Mr. President.  Last night at the Republican debate, some of the hopefuls — they hope to get your job — they defended the practice of waterboarding, which is a practice that you banned in 2009.  Herman Cain said, “I don’t see that as torture.”  Michelle Bachmann said that it’s “very effective.”  So I’m wondering if you think that they’re uninformed, out of touch, or irresponsible?

PRESIDENT OBAMA:  That’s a multiple-choice question, isn’t it?  (Laughter.)  Let me just say this:  They’re wrong.  Waterboarding is torture.  It’s contrary to America’s traditions. It’s contrary to our ideals.  That’s not who we are.  That’s not how we operate.  We don’t need it in order to prosecute the war on terrorism.  And we did the right thing by ending that practice.

If we want to lead around the world, part of our leadership is setting a good example.  And anybody who has actually read about and understands the practice of waterboarding would say that that is torture.  And that’s not something we do — period.

Norah O’Donnell.

Q    Thank you, Mr. President.  If I could continue on that, the Republicans did have a debate on CBS last night.  A lot of it was about foreign policy, and they were very critical of your record —

PRESIDENT OBAMA:  That’s shocking.  (Laughter.)

Q    So if I could get you to respond to something that Mitt Romney said.  He said your biggest foreign policy failure is Iran.  He said that if you are reelected Iran will have a nuclear weapon.  Is Mitt Romney wrong?

PRESIDENT OBAMA:  I am going to make a practice of not commenting on whatever is said in Republican debates until they’ve got an actual nominee.  But as I indicated to Ben in the earlier question, you take a look at what we’ve been able to accomplish in mobilizing the world community against Iran over the last three years and it shows steady, determined, firm progress in isolating the Iranian regime, and sending a clear message that the world believes it would be dangerous for them to have a nuclear weapon.

Now, is this an easy issue?  No.  Anybody who claims it is, is either politicking or doesn’t know what they’re talking about. But I think not only the world, but the Iranian regime understands very clearly how determined we are to prevent not only a nuclear Iran but also a nuclear arms race in the region, and a violation of nonproliferation norms that would have implications around the world, including in the Asia Pacific region where we have similar problems with North Korea.

David Nakamura.

Q    Thank you, Mr. President.  Yesterday in a speech before business leaders, you said that you want China to play by the rules.  And then your staff later said that, in a bilateral meeting with President Hu, that you expressed that American business leaders are growing frustrated with the pace of change in China’s economy.  What rules is China not playing by?  What specific steps do you need to see from China?  And what punitive actions is your administration willing to take, as you said it would yesterday, if China does not play by the rules?

PRESIDENT OBAMA:  Well, first of all, I also said yesterday that we welcome the peaceful rise of China.  It is in America’s interests to see China succeed in lifting hundreds of millions of people out of poverty.  China can be a source of stability and help to underwrite international norms and codes of conduct.

And so what we’ve done over the last two years is to try to develop a frank, consistent, open relationship and dialogue with China, and it’s yielded considerable benefits — for example, support for issues like Iran.  But what I’ve also said to Chinese leadership since I came into office is that when it comes to their economic practices, there are a range of things that they have done that disadvantage not just the United States but a whole host of their trading partners and countries in the region.

The most famous example is the issue of China’s currency.  Most economists estimate that the RMB is devalued by 20 to 25 percent.  That means our exports to China are that much more expensive, and their imports into the United States are that much cheaper.  Now, there’s been slight improvement over the last year, partly because of U.S. pressure, but it hasn’t been enough. And it’s time for them to go ahead and move towards a market-based system for their currency.

We recognize they may not be able to do it overnight, but they can do it much more quickly than they’ve done it so far.  And, by the way, that would not necessarily be a bad thing for the Chinese economy, because they’ve been so focused on export-driven growth that they’ve neglected domestic consumption, building up domestic markets.  It makes them much more vulnerable to shocks in the global economy.  It throws the whole world economy out of balance because they’re not buying as much as they could be from other countries.

And this is not something that’s inconsistent with where Chinese leadership say they want to go.  The problem is, is that you’ve got a bunch of export producers in China who like the system as it is, and making changes are difficult for them politically.  I get it.  But the United States and other countries, I think understandably, feel that enough is enough.

That’s not the only concern we have.  Intellectual property rights and protections — companies that do business in China consistently report problems in terms of intellectual property not being protected.  Now, that’s particularly important for an advanced economy like ours, where that’s one of our competitive advantages, is we’ve got great engineers, great entrepreneurs, we’re designing extraordinary new products.  And if they get no protection and the next thing you know China is operating as a low-cost producer and not paying any fees or revenues to folks who invented these products, that’s a problem.

So those are two examples, but there are a number of others. These practices aren’t secret.  I think everybody understands that they’ve been going on for quite some time.  Sometimes, American companies are wary about bringing them up because they don’t want to be punished in terms of their ability to do business in China.  But I don’t have that same concern, so I bring it up.

And in terms of enforcement, the other thing that we’ve been doing is actually trying to enforce the trade laws that are in place.  We’ve brought a number of cases — one that the U.S. press may be familiar with are the cases involving U.S. tires, where we brought very aggressive actions against China and won.  And as a consequence, U.S. producers are in a better position, and that means more U.S. jobs.

So I think we can benefit from trade with China.  And I want certainly to continue cultivating a constructive relationship with the Chinese government, but we’re going to continue to be firm in insisting that they operate by the same rules that everybody else operates under.  We don’t want them taking advantage of the United States or U.S. businesses.

Jake Tapper.

Q    Thank you, Mr. President.  The other day you told ESPN that the scandal at Penn State — which you said was heartbreaking — should prompt some soul-searching throughout the nation.  I’m wondering if you could elaborate on that, what exactly you meant and — I know you’re a big fan of college sports — if this something you think that is an indictment not just of what happened at Penn State, allegedly, but how athletics are revered in universities.

PRESIDENT OBAMA:  Well, I think that’s the kind of soul-searching that I was referring to, Jake.  You’re right, I’m a big college sports fan.  I think that when it’s kept in perspective, college athletics not only provides a great outlet for competition for our young people, but helps to bring a sense of community and can help to brand a university in a way that is fun and important.  But what happened at Penn State indicates that at a certain point, folks start thinking about systems and institutions and don’t think about individuals.  And when you think about how vulnerable kids are, for the alleged facts of that case to have taken place and for folks not to immediately say, nothing else matters except making sure those kids are protected, that’s a problem.

It’s not unique to a college sports environment.  I mean, we’ve seen problems in other institutions that are equally heartbreaking.  Not all of them involve children, by the way.  There have been problems, obviously, with respect to sexual abuse or assault directed against women, where institutions sort of closed ranks instead of getting on top of it right away.  And that’s why I said I think all institutions, not just universities or sports programs, have to step back and take stock, and make sure that we’re doing everything we can to protect people who may be vulnerable in these circumstances, but also just keep in mind what’s important — making sure that our excitement about a college sports program doesn’t get in the way of our basic human response when somebody is being hurt.

And it’s been said that evil can thrive in the world just by good people standing by and doing nothing.  And all of us I think have occasion where we see something that’s wrong, we’ve got to make sure that we step up.  That’s true in college athletics.  That’s true in our government.  That’s true everywhere.

Julianna Goldman.

Q    Thank you, Mr. President.  In conversations that you’ve had over the past couple of days with Asia Pacific leaders, have any of them brought up the rhetoric that we’re seeing from Republican presidential candidates when it comes to China?  And does that kind of rhetoric or posturing jeopardize the progress that your administration has made with China and the Asia Pacific region as a whole?

THE PRESIDENT:  I think most leaders here understand that politics is not always measured or on the level, and so most of our discussions have to do with substance:  How do we put our people back to work right now?  How do we expand trade?  How do we expand exports?

I’ve been very frank with Chinese leaders, though, in saying that the American people across the board — left, right and center — believe in trade, believe in competition.  We think we’ve got the best workers in the world.  We think we’ve got the best universities, the best entrepreneurs, the best free market. We’re ready to go out there and compete with anybody.  But there is a concern across the political spectrum that the playing field is not level right now.

And so, in conversations with President Hu and others, what I’ve tried to say is we have the opportunity to move in a direction in which this is a win-win:  China is benefiting from trade with the United States; the United States is benefiting as well.  Jobs are being created in the United States and not just in China.  But right now things are out of kilter.  And that is something that is shared across the board, as we saw with the recent vote on the Chinese currency issue in the Senate.

And I think leaders in the region understand that as China grows, as its economic influence expands, that the expectation is, is that they will be a responsible leader in the world economy — which is what the United States has tried to do.  I mean, we try to set up rules that are universal, that everybody can follow, and then we play by those rules.  And then we compete fiercely.  But we don’t try to game the system.  That’s part of what leadership is about.

China has the opportunity to be that same type of leader.  And as the world’s second-largest economy, I think that’s going to be important not just for this region, but for the world.  But that requires them to take responsibility, to understand that their role is different now than it might have been 20 years ago or 30 years ago, where if they were breaking some rules, it didn’t really matter, it did not have a significant impact.  You weren’t seeing huge trade imbalances that had consequences for the world financial system.

Now they’ve grown up, and so they’re going to have to help manage this process in a responsible way.

Laura Meckler.

Q    Thank you, Mr. President.  Why did you get rid of the aloha shirts and the grass skirts?  (Laughter.)  Are you at all concerned that it not appear that you’re having a party over here while so many people are living with such a tough economy?  And I’m wondering if those perceptions were at all on your mind as you were making plans for this trip, which, by necessity, takes you to some pretty exotic and fun locations.

PRESIDENT OBAMA:  I got rid of the Hawaiian shirts because I had looked at pictures of some of the previous APEC meetings and some of the garb that had appeared previously, and I thought this may be a tradition that we might want to break.  I suggested to the leaders — we gave them a shirt, and if they wanted to wear the shirt, I promise you it would have been fine.  But I didn’t hear a lot of complaints about us breaking precedent on that one.

With respect to this trip, look, this is a pretty nice piece of scenery here and I take enormous pride in having been raised in the state of Hawaii, but we’re here for business.  We’re here to create jobs.  We’re here to promote exports.  And we’ve got a set of tangible, concrete steps that have been taken that are going to make our economy stronger, and that’s part of what our leadership has been about.

When I went to Europe last week, our job was to help shape a solution for the European crisis.  And a lot of folks back home might have wondered, well, that’s Europe’s problem; why are we worrying about it?  Well, if Europe has a major recession, and the financial system in Europe starts spinning out of control, that will have a direct impact on U.S. growth and our ability to create jobs and people raising their living standards.

The same is true out here.  If we’re not playing out here in the world’s largest regional economy and the world’s fastest regional economy, if we’ve abandoned the field and we’re not engaged, American businesses will lose out and those jobs won’t be in the United States of America.

So part of my job is to make sure that the rules of the road are set up so that our folks can compete effectively.  Part of my job is to sell America and our products and our services around the world, and I think we’ve done so very effectively.

And as I said, just to take the example of exports, we’re on track to double our exports since I came into office.  That was a goal I set, and we’re on track to meet it.  That’s actually been one of the stronger parts of our economic growth over the last couple of years.  And I want to make sure that we keep on driving that.

Chuck Todd.

Q    Thank you, Mr. President.  The Republican co-chair of the super committee, Jeb Hensarling, went on TV today and said if the sequester happens — this idea of the automatic cuts in Medicare and defense — that there was plenty of motivation and plenty of votes to change the makeup of these automatic cuts.

I know you had a conversation with him about this and said that changing it in any way was off the table, that means you’re going to veto this bill, if that’s the case, if it ends up they can’t get a deal in the next 10 days.

And then, can you clarify your end of the “hot mic” conversation with French President Nicolas Sarkozy, as it involved Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu?

PRESIDENT OBAMA:  Could I just say that Chuck is the only guy who asked two questions — so far.  So just — when I cut off here, whoever was next in the queue — I’m messing with you, Chuck.

With respect to the super committee, in August we negotiated to initiate a trillion dollars in cuts over the next 10 years — primarily out of discretionary spending — but we also said that in order for us to move towards a more stable fiscal condition that we’re going to have to get an additional $1.2 trillion — minimum.  I actually argued that we needed more than that.  And the whole idea of the sequester was to make sure that both sides felt obligated to move off rigid positions and do what was required to help the country.

And since that time, they’ve had a lot of conversations, but it feels as if people continue to try to stick with their rigid positions rather than solve the problem.

Now, I’ve put forward a very detailed approach that would achieve $3 trillion-plus in savings.  And it’s the sort of balanced approach that the American people prefer.  It says everything is on the table.  We’ve got to have discretionary spending cuts of the sort we’ve already put in place.  We’ve got to have non-defense cuts.  We’ve got to have defense cuts.  We’re going to have to look at entitlement programs.  We’ve got to reduce our health care costs.  And we’re going to need additional revenue.

And when we’re talking about revenue, if we’ve got to raise money, it makes sense for us to start by asking the wealthiest among us to pay a little bit more before we start asking seniors, for example, to pay a lot more for their Medicare.

Now, this is the same presentation that I made to Speaker Boehner back in August.  It’s the same kind of balanced approach that every single independent committee that’s looked at this has said needs to be done.  And it just feels as if people keep on wanting to jigger the math so that they get a different outcome.

Well, the equation, no matter how you do it, is going to be the same.  If you want a balanced approach that doesn’t gut Medicare and Medicaid, doesn’t prevent us from making investments in education and basic science and research — all the things we’ve been talking about here at APEC, that every world leader understands is the key for long-term economic success — then prudent cuts have to be matched up with revenue.

My hope is that over the next several days, the congressional leadership on the super committee go ahead and bite the bullet and do what needs to be done — because the math won’t change.  There’s no magic formula.  There are no magic beans that you can toss on the ground and suddenly a bunch of money grows on trees.  We got to just go ahead and do the responsible thing.  And I’m prepared to sign legislation that is balanced, that solves this problem.

One other thing that I want to say about this:  When I meet with world leaders, what’s striking — whether it’s in Europe or here in Asia — the kinds of fundamental reforms and changes both on the revenue side and the public pension side that other countries are having to make are so much more significant than what we need to do in order to get our books in order.

This doesn’t require radical changes to America or its way of life.  It just means that we spread out the sacrifice across every sector so that it’s fair; so that people don’t feel as if once again people who are well connected, people who have lobbyists, special interests get off easy, and the burden is placed on middle-class families that are already struggling.  So if other countries can do it, we can do it — and we can do it in a responsible way.

I’m not going to comment on whether I’d veto a particular bill until I actually see a bill, because I still hold out the prospect that there’s going to be a light-bulb moment where everybody says “Ah-ha! Here’s what we’ve got to do.”

With respect to the “hot mic” in France, I’m not going to comment on conversations that I have with individual leaders, but what I will say is this:  The primary conversation I had with President Sarkozy in that meeting revolved around my significant disappointment that France had voted in favor of the Palestinians joining UNESCO, knowing full well that under our laws, that would require the United States cutting off funding to UNESCO, and after I had consistently made the argument that the only way we’re going to solve the Middle East situation is if Palestinians and Israelis sit down at the table and negotiate; that it is not going to work to try to do an end run through the United Nations.

So I had a very frank and firm conversation with President Sarkozy about that issue.  And that is consistent with both private and public statements that I’ve been making to everybody over the last several months.

Ed Henry.

Q    Mr. President, I have three questions — (laughter) — starting with Mitt Romney.  Just one question, I promise.  (Laughter.)

You started with a $447-billion jobs bill.  Two months later, many speeches later, you’ve got virtually nothing from that.  You’ve got the veterans jobs bill — which is important, obviously — and a lot of executive orders.  Are you coming to the realization that you may just get nothing here and go to the American people in 2012 without another jobs bill, 9 percent unemployment, and then wondering about your leadership, sir?

PRESIDENT OBAMA:  Well, I think — I think, first of all, the American people, at this point, are wondering about congressional leadership in failing to pass the jobs bill, the components of which the majority of Americans, including many Republicans, think are a good idea.

And that’s part of the reason why the American people right now aren’t feeling real good about Congress.  Normally, by the way, the way politics works is if the overwhelming majority of the American people aren’t happy with what you’re doing you start doing something different.  So far that hasn’t happened in Congress — and the Republicans in Congress, in particular.  They don’t seem to have that same sense of urgency about needing to put people back to work.

I’m going to keep on pushing.  My expectation is, is that we will get some of it done now, and I’ll keep on pushing until we get all of it done.  And that may take me all the way to November to get it all done.  And it may take a new Congress to get it all done.  But the component parts — cutting taxes for middle-class families, cutting taxes for small businesses that are hiring our veterans and hiring the long-term unemployed, putting teachers back in the classroom — here in the state of Hawaii, you have a bunch of kids who are going to school four days a week because of budget problems.  How are we going to win the competition in the 21st century with our kids going to school basically halftime?
The jobs bill would help alleviate those budget pressures at the state level.

Rebuilding our infrastructure.  Every world leader that you talk to, they’re saying to themselves, how can we make sure we’ve got a first-class infrastructure?  And as you travel through the Asia Pacific region, you see China having better airports than us, Singapore having superior ports to ours.  Well, that’s going to impact our capacity to do business here, our capacity to trade, our capacity to get U.S. products made by U.S. workers into the fastest-growing market in the world.  And by the way, we could put a lot of people back to work at the same time.

So I’m going to keep on pushing.  And my expectation is, is that we will just keep on chipping away at this.  If you’re asking me do I anticipate that the Republican leadership in the House or the Senate suddenly decide that I was right all along and they will adopt a hundred percent of my proposals, the answer is, no, I don’t expect that.  Do I anticipate that at some point they recognize that doing nothing is not an option?  That’s my hope.  And that should be their hope, too, because if they don’t, I think we’ll have a different set of leaders in Congress.

All right?  Thank you very much, everybody.  Thank you.

END
5:50 P.M. HAST

Full Text November 12-13, 2011: President Barack Obama’s Remarks at the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation APEC Summit in Hawaii

POLITICAL SPEECHES & DOCUMENTS

OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 112TH CONGRESS:

President Obama at the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC)

Source: WH, 11-13-11
President Barack Obama meets with the Trans-Pacific Partnership at the APEC

President Barack Obama attends a meeting with the Trans-Pacific Partnership at the APEC summit in Honolulu, Hawaii, Saturday, Nov. 12, 2011. At left is Hassanal Bolkiah, the Sultan of Brunei, and right is U.S. Trade Representative Ron Kirk. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)

Yesterday, President Obama kicked off the annual Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) Ministers and Economic Leaders’ Meeting in Honolulu, Hawaii.  In the morning, the President met with Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) leaders, Australia, Brunei Darussalam, Chile, Malaysia, New Zealand, Peru, Singapore and Vietnam.

President Obama announced in November 2009 the United States’ intention to participate in the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) negotiations to conclude an ambitious, next-generation, Asia-Pacific trade agreement that reflects U.S. priorities and values.  This agreement will boost U.S. economic growth and support the creation and retention of high-quality jobs at home by increasing American exports to a region that includes some of the world’s most robust economies and that represents more than 40 percent of global trade.

As the President noted yesterday:

We just had an excellent meeting, and I’m very pleased to announce that our nine nations have reached the broad outlines of an agreement.  There are still plenty of details to work out, but we are confident that we can do so.  So we’ve directed our teams to finalize this agreement in the coming year.  It is an ambitious goal, but we are optimistic that we can get it done.

The TPP will boost our economies, lowering barriers to trade and investment, increasing exports, and creating more jobs for our people, which is my number-one priority.  Along with our trade agreements with South Korea, Panama and Colombia, the TPP will also help achieve my goal of doubling U.S. exports, which support millions of American jobs.

Later in the day, President Obama participated in an APEC CEO Business summit, including a question and answer session with Boeing CEO, Jim McNerney.

President Barack Obama answers a question at the APEC CEO business summit

President Barack Obama, with Boeing CEO James McHenry, Jr., answers a question at the APEC CEO business summit in Honolulu, Hawaii, Saturday, Nov. 12, 2011. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)

In the afternoon, President Obama hosted bilateral meetings with Prime Minister Noda of Japan, President Medvedev of Russia and President Hu of China.

Prime Minster Noda expressed Japan’s interest in the Trans-Pacific Partnership agreement, with President Obama welcoming and encouraging Japan’s interest in the TPP agreement, noting that eliminating the barriers to trade between our two countries could provide an historic opportunity to deepen our economic relationship, as well as strengthen Japan’s ties with some of its closest partners in the region.

President Barack Obama meets with Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda of Japan

President Barack Obama holds a bilateral meeting with Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda of Japan at the APEC summit in Honolulu, Hawaii, Saturday, Nov. 12, 2011. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)

Next, President Obama met with President Medvedev of Russia, where they had a wide-ranging discussion, in particular focusing on a number of security issues where the U.S. and Russia had significant interested.  This included Afghanistan, and the importance of all regional parties assisting the Afghan government in stabilizing the country for the benefit of the Afghan people as well as Iran and its nuclear program.  President Obama also made an important announcement:

Although it’s not official yet, the invitation has been extended to Russia to join the WTO, as a testament to the hard work of President Medvedev and his team.  We believe this is going to be good for the United States, for the world, as well as for Russia, because it will provide increased opportunities for markets in which we can sell goods and products and services, as well as purchase good, products and services without some of the traditional barriers.

Finally, President Obama met with President Hu of China.  He noted that cooperation between the world’s two of the largest countries and largest economies was vital not only to the security and prosperity of our own people, but also vital to the world.

President Obama continued:

Such cooperation is particularly important to the Asia Pacific region, where both China and the United States are extraordinarily active.  We are both Pacific powers.  And I think many countries in the region look to a constructive relationship between the United States and China as a basis for continued growth and prosperity.

Lastly, in the evening the President and the First Lady welcomed APEC leaders and their spouses for a dinner and reception followed by a cultural performance at the Hale Koa Hotel in Hawaii.

Leaders and their spouses watch cultural performance at the APEC summit

Leaders and their spouses watch a hula performance at the APEC summit at the Hale Koa Hotel in Honolulu, Hawaii, Saturday, Nov. 12, 2011. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)

POLITICAL QUOTES & SPEECHES










AHA Panel: Historians Criticized as Often AWOL From Public Debate Over ‘War on Terror’

HISTORY NEWS & SPOTTED:

Source: Chronicle of Higher Education, 1-12-11

Many historians say a key difference between the Vietnam War and today’s U.S. military involvement in Afghanistan and Iraq is that far fewer members of their profession are stepping forward to be public critics of policies associated with the “war on terror.”

Participants in a panel discussion held here last weekend, at the annual conference of the American Historical Association, said historians’ relative silence about today’s policies stems not from agreement, but from trends in their field that have discouraged their scholarly peers from becoming actively involved in public debates.

They argued that historians in academe need to be doing much more to inform policy makers and sway public opinion on matters such as the Iraq and Afghanistan wars, by sharing their views with members of Congress, submitting op-eds to local newspapers, giving talks, and reaching out to local activists….READ MORE

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