Secretary of State Blinken: A free and open Indo-Pacific

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While on a visit to Jakarta, Secretary of State Antony Blinken spoke at Universitas Indonesia and spoke about the Unites States’ vision for the Indo-Pacific region.

Good morning, everyone.  It is wonderful to be with all of you.  And Dr. Kusumayati, thank you so much for the generous introduction.  But more than that, thank you for decades of service working to improve public health, to educate the next generation of doctors and nurses – including as the first woman to serve as the University’s Dean of the School of Public Health.  From your research on reproductive health to your leadership on Indonesia’s COVID task force, your dedication to your community is truly inspirational, and I thank you.

And good morning to everyone here. Selamat pagi.  It is wonderful to be back in Jakarta.  I was here on a couple of occasions when I was last in government as deputy secretary of state, and I was looking forward to this opportunity to return to Southeast Asia’s largest democracy.

And for the students who are in this room, I expect it feels good to be back on campus.  I understand many of you have been studying remotely for some time and are looking forward to actually getting back in the classroom, and I’m glad we’ve had a little bit of an excuse to bring you back together today.  I know, Doctor, you and the task force want the students back, and I know how much everyone is looking forward to that.

I’m here, we’re here, because what happens in the Indo-Pacific will, more than any other region, shape the trajectory of the world in the 21st century.

The Indo-Pacific is the fastest-growing region on the planet.  It accounts for 60 percent of the world economy, two-thirds of all economic growth over the last five years.  It’s home to more than half the world’s people, seven of the 15 biggest economies.

And it’s magnificently diverse, more than 3,000 languages, numerous faiths stretching across two oceans and three continents.

Even a single country like Indonesia is home to a rich patchwork that is hard to distill, except for its variety.  And this nation’s motto holds – Bhinneka Tunggal Ika, unity in diversity – which sounds pretty familiar to an American.  In the United States we say E Pluribus Unum, out of many, one.  It’s the same idea.

The United States has long been, is, and always will be an Indo-Pacific nation.  This is a geographic fact, from our Pacific coast states to Guam, our territories across the Pacific.  And it’s a historical reality, demonstrated by our two centuries of trade and other ties with the region.

Today, half of the United States’ top trading partners are in the Indo-Pacific.  It’s the destination for nearly one-third of our exports, the source of $900 billion in foreign direct investment in the United States, and that’s creating millions of jobs spread across all 50 of our states.  And more members of our military are stationed in the region than anywhere outside the continental U.S., ensuring peace and security that have been vital to prosperity in the region, benefiting us all.

And of course, we’re tied together by our people, whose connections go back generations.  There are more than 24 million Asian Americans living in the United States, including Ambassador Sung Kim, when he’s not serving his country in one part of the world or another, as he has been for the last three decades.

Before the pandemic, there were more than 775,000 students from the Indo-Pacific studying at U.S. colleges and universities.  And your American classmates here at Universitas Indonesia are among the millions of Americans who have come to the region to study, to work, to live, including one who went onto become our president.

There’s an Indonesian proverb – one that I’m told kids are taught from a young age: “We have two ears, but only one mouth.”  That means that before we speak or act, we have to listen.  And we’ve done a lot of listening to people in the Indo-Pacific in the first year of this administration to understand your vision for the region and its future.

We’ve welcomed leaders from the region in our country, including the first two foreign leaders President Biden hosted after taking office from Japan and South Korea, and all the foreign ministers whom I’ve had the privilege of hosting at the State Department, including Foreign Minister Retno.  And we’ve come to your region – Vice President Harris, Secretary of Defense Austin, Secretary of Commerce Raimondo, and so many other Cabinet members, not to mention many senior State Department officials from my team.

The President has participated in multi leader-level summits held by key regional bodies: APEC; the U.S.-ASEAN and East Asia Summits; and the Quad, made up of India, Japan, and Australia.  I’ve done the same with fellow foreign ministers, including hosting the Mekong-U.S. Partnership Ministerial.  And President Biden has met with Indo-Pacific leaders overseas as well, including a very productive meeting with President Jokowi in Glasgow during the COP26.

But we’re not just listening to leaders. At our embassies and consulates across the region, our diplomats are using two ears to take in the views of people from all walks of life – students, activists, academics, entrepreneurs.

And while it’s an extraordinarily diverse region with distinct interests, distinct views, we see a great deal of alignment between the vision we’re hearing from the Indo-Pacific and our own.

People and governments of the region want more, better opportunities for all of their people. They want more chances to connect – within their nations, between their nations, around the world.  They want to be better prepared for crises like the pandemic that we’re living through. They want peace and stability.  They want the United States to be more present and more engaged. And above all, they want a region that is more free and more open.

So what I’d like to do today is to try to set out that shared vision, and how together we’re going to work to make it a reality.  And there are five core elements that I’d like to focus on.

First, we will advance a free and open Indo-Pacific.

Now, we talk a lot about a free and open Indo-Pacific, but we don’t often define what we actually mean by that.  Freedom is about the ability to write your future and have a say in what happens in your community and your country, no matter who you are or who you know.  And openness naturally flows from freedom.  Free places are open to new information and points of view.  They’re open to different cultures, religions, ways of life.  They’re open to criticism, to self-reflection, as well as to renewal.

When we say that we want a free and open Indo-Pacific, we mean that on an individual level, that people will be free in their daily lives and live in open societies.  We mean that on a state level, that individual countries will be able to choose their own path and their own partners.  And we mean that on a regional level, that in this part of the world problems will be dealt with openly, rules will be reached transparently and applied fairly, goods and ideas and people will flow freely across land, cyberspace, and the open seas.

We all have a stake in ensuring that the world’s most dynamic region is free from coercion and accessible to all.  This is good for people across the region.  It’s good for Americans because history shows that when this vast region is free and open, America is more secure and more prosperous.  So we will work with our partners across the region to try to realize this vision.

We will continue to support anti-corruption and transparency groups, investigative journalists, think tanks across the region like the Advocata Institute in Sri Lanka.  With our support, that institute created a public registry of state-owned enterprises like banks and airlines that operate with big losses, and proposed ways to reform them.

We’re finding partners in government, too, like Victor Sotto.  He’s the mayor of the city of Pasig in the Philippines.  Victor set up a 24/7 hotline for constituents to report cases of corruption.  It has made the awarding in public contracts more transparent, has given community-based organizations a say in the way the city spends its resources.  He’s part of the State Department’s first group of global anti-corruption champions that we announced earlier this year.

And we’ll continue to learn best practices from our fellow democracies. That’s the idea behind the Summit for Democracy that President Biden convened last week, where President Jokowi spoke – indeed, he was the first speaker – and the Bali Democracy Forum that Indonesia just held for the fourteenth time, and where I had an opportunity to speak.

We’ll also stand up against leaders who don’t respect their people’s rights, as we are seeing now in Burma.  We will continue to work with our allies and partners to press the regime to cease its indiscriminate violence, release all of those unjustly detained, allow unhindered access, and restore Burma’s path to inclusive democracy.

ASEAN has developed a Five-Point Consensus, and it calls on the regime to engage in constructive dialogue with all parties to seek a peaceful resolution that respects the will of the Burmese people, a goal we will not give up on.

Another way we will promote freedom and openness is by defending an open, interoperable, secure, and reliable internet against those who are actively working to make the internet more closed, more fractured, and less secure.  We’ll work with our partners to defend these principles, and help build the secure, trusted systems that lay the foundation for it.  At the Moon-Biden Leaders’ Summit earlier this year, the Republic of Korea and the United States announced more than $3.5 billion in investments in emerging technologies, including research and development on secure 5G and 6G networks.

Finally, we’ll work with our allies and partners to defend the rules-based order that we’ve built together over decades to ensure the region remains open and accessible.

And let me be clear about one thing: the goal of defending the rules-based order is not to keep any country down.  Rather, it’s to protect the right of all countries to choose their own path, free from coercion, free from intimidation.  It’s not about a contest between a U.S.-centric region or a China-centric region.  The Indo-Pacific is its own region.  Rather, it’s about upholding the rights and agreements that are responsible for the most peaceful and prosperous period that this region and the world has ever experienced.

That’s why there is so much concern, from northeast Asia to southeast Asia, and from the Mekong River to the Pacific Islands, about Beijing’s aggressive actions, claiming open seas as their own, distorting open markets through subsidies to its state-run companies, denying the exports or revoking deals for countries whose policies it does not agree with, engaging in illegal, unreported, and unregulated fishing activities.  Countries across the region want this behavior to change.

We do, too, and that’s why we’re determined to ensure freedom of navigation in the South China Sea, where Beijing’s aggressive actions there threaten the movement of more than $3 trillion worth of commerce every year.

It’s worth remembering that, tied up in that colossal number, $3 trillion, are the actual livelihoods and well-being of millions of people across the world.  When commerce can’t traverse open seas, that means that farmers are blocked from shipping their produce; factories can’t ship their microchips; hospitals are blocked from getting lifesaving medicines.

Five years ago, an international tribunal delivered a unanimous and legally binding decision firmly rejecting unlawful, expansive South China Sea maritime claims as being inconsistent with international law.  We and other countries, including South China Sea claimants, will continue to push back on such behavior.  It’s also why we have an abiding interest in peace and stability in the Taiwan Strait, consistent with our longstanding commitments.

Second, we will forge stronger connections within and beyond the region.  We’ll deepen our treaty alliances with Japan, the Republic of Korea, Australia, the Philippines, and Thailand.  Those bonds have long provided the foundation for peace, security, and prosperity in the region.  We’ll foster greater cooperation among these allies, as well.  That’s one of the things we’ve done by deepening U.S.-Japan-South Korea trilateral cooperation, and launching an historic new security cooperation agreement with Australia and the United Kingdom.  We’ll find ways to knit our allies together with our partners, as we’ve done by reinvigorating the Quad.  And we’ll strengthen our partnership with a strong and independent ASEAN.

ASEAN centrality means we will keep working with and through ASEAN to deepen our engagement with the region all the more, given the alignment between our vision and ASEAN’s outlook on the Indo-Pacific.

In October, President Biden announced more than $100 million to bolster our cooperation with ASEAN across key areas, to include public health, women’s empowerment.  And the President will be inviting ASEAN’s leaders to a summit in the United States in the coming months to discuss how we can deepen our strategic partnership.

We’re strengthening strategic partnerships with other countries in the region:  Singapore, Vietnam, Malaysia, and, of course, Indonesia.  And that’s the reason I’ve made this trip.

We’re also deepening ties between our people.  YSEALI, the signature program to empower the rising generation of leaders in Southeast Asia, has more than 150,000 members and counting.

Finally, we’ll work to connect our relationships in the Indo-Pacific with an unmatched system of alliances and partnerships beyond the region, particularly in Europe.  The European Union recently released an Indo-Pacific strategy that aligns closely with our own vision.  At NATO, we’re updating our Strategic Concept to reflect the Indo-Pacific’s growing significance, and address new threats, like the security implications of the climate crisis.  And we’re putting ASEAN’s centrality at the heart of our work with partners.  We did that just a few days ago, when the G7 ministers were meeting in the UK, and met with their ASEAN counterparts for the first time.

We’re doing all this for a simple reason:  it allows us to assemble the broadest, most effective coalitions to tackle any challenge, to seize any opportunity, to work toward any goal.  The more countries that we can rally around common interests, the stronger we all are.

Third, we will promote broad-based prosperity.  The United States has already provided more than $1 trillion in foreign direct investment in the Indo-Pacific.  The region has told us loud and clear that it wants us to do more.  We intend to meet that call.  At President Biden’s direction, we’re developing a comprehensive Indo-Pacific economic framework to pursue our shared objectives, including around trade and the digital economy, technology, resilient supply chains, decarbonization and clean energy, infrastructure, worker standards, and other areas of shared interest.

Our diplomacy will play a key part.  We’ll identify opportunities that American firms aren’t finding on their own, and make it easier for them to bring their expertise and their capital to new places and new sectors.  Our diplomatic posts, our embassies across the Indo-Pacific are already leading on this, and we’re going to surge capacity so that they can do more.  More than 2,300 business and government leaders from the region joined me for this year’s Indo-Pacific Business Forum, which we co-hosted with India, and where we announced nearly $7 billion in new private-sector projects.

We’ll work with our partners to shape the rules of the growing digital economy on key issues like data privacy and security, but in a way that reflects our values, and unlocks opportunities for our people.  Because if we don’t shape them, others will.  And there’s a good chance they’ll do it in a way that doesn’t advance our shared interests or our shared values.

At APEC in November, President Biden set out a clear vision for how we can build a common way forward in the region.  On digital technologies, he talked about the need for an open, interoperable, reliable, and secure Internet, and our strong interest in investing in cybersecurity and developing digital economy standards that will position all of our economies to compete in the future.  And when U.S. Trade Representative Tai and I co-led our delegation to the APEC ministerial in November, we focused on the need to ensure that technology serves a free and open Indo-Pacific.

We’ll also promote fair and resilient trade.  That’s the story of the ASEAN Single Window, a project the United States supported to create a single automated system for clearing customs across the region.  It helped streamline trade by making it more transparent and secure, lowering costs for business and prices for consumers.  And the move from paper to digital customs has made is possible to keep cross-border trade moving, even during the lockdowns.

During the first year of the pandemic, the countries that were most active on the platform saw their trade activity rise by 20 percent, when most other cross-border trade was actually falling.  And at the U.S.-ASEAN Summit in October, President Biden committed additional U.S. support to the Single Window.  We’ll work with partners to make our supply chains more secure and more resilient.  I think we have all seen, through the pandemic, just how vulnerable they are, how damaging disruptions can be, including shortages of masks and microchips and pileups at ports.

We’ve been leading efforts to bring the international community together to try to resolve bottlenecks and build greater resiliency against future shocks.  President Biden convened a Leaders Summit on supply chain resilience.  Vice President Harris made it a core focus of her meetings during her visit to the region.  Commerce Secretary Raimondo has tackled the issue with Australia, New Zealand, Singapore, and Malaysia on her recent travel.  And U.S. Trade Representative Tai launched the interagency Supply Chain Trade Task Force, and raised the issue in her travel to Japan, the Republic of Korea, and India.  In the new year, the Commerce Secretary, Gina Raimondo, and I will team up to convene government and private-sector leaders from around the world to tackle these issues at a Global Supply Chain Forum.  As the hub of so much of the globe’s production and commerce, this region, the Indo-Pacific, will be core to these efforts.

Finally, we’ll help close the gap on infrastructure.  There is, in this region as well as around the world, a large gap when it comes to infrastructure needs and what’s currently being provided.   Ports, roads, power grids, broadband – all are building blocks for global trade, for commerce, for connectivity, for opportunity, for prosperity.  And they’re essential to the Indo-Pacific’s inclusive growth.  But we’re hearing increasing concerns from government officials, industry, labor, and communities in the Indo-Pacific about what happens when infrastructure isn’t done right, like when it’s awarded through opaque, corrupt processes, or built by overseas companies that import their own labor, extract resources, pollute the environment, and drive communities into debt.

Countries in the Indo-Pacific want a better kind of infrastructure.  But many feel it’s too expensive, or they feel pressured to take bad deals on terms set by others rather than no deals at all.  So we will work with countries in the region to deliver the high-quality, high-standards infrastructure that people deserve.  In fact, we’re already doing that.

Just this week, together with Australia and Japan, we announced a partnership with the Federated States of Micronesia, with Kiribati, and Nauru to build a new undersea cable to improve internet connectivity to these Pacific nations.  And since 2015, the members of the Quad have provided more than $48 billion in government-backed financing for infrastructure for the region. This represents thousands of projects across more than 30 countries, from rural development to renewable energy.  It benefits millions of people.

The Quad recently launched an infrastructure coordination group to catalyze even more investment, and it is looking to partner with Southeast Asia on infrastructure and many other shared priorities.  The United States will do more than that.  Build Back Better World, which we launched with our G7 partners in June, is committed to mobilizing hundreds of billions of dollars in transparent, sustainable financing over the coming years.  And together with Australia and Japan, we launched the Blue Dot Network to start certifying high-quality infrastructure projects that meet the benchmarks developed by the G20, the OECD, and others, and to attract additional investors.

Fourth, we will help build a more resilient Indo-Pacific.  The COVID-19 pandemic and the climate crisis have underscored the urgency of that task.  The pandemic has taken the lives of hundreds of thousands of people across the region, including more than 143,000 men, women, and children here in Indonesia.  It has also inflicted a massive economic toll, from shuttered factories to the halt of tourism.

The United States has been there with the people of this region at every step, even as we battle the pandemic at home.  Of the 300 million doses of safe, effective vaccines that the United States has already distributed worldwide, we’ve sent more than 100 million doses to the Indo-Pacific. And over 25 million of those have come here, to Indonesia.  By the end of next year, we will have donated more than 1.2 billion doses to the world.  And we’ve provided over $2.8 billion in additional assistance to the region to save lives, including $77 million here in Indonesia for everything from personal protective equipment to medical oxygen for hospitals.  And we’ve been providing this aid free of charge, with no strings attached.  By making most of these donations through COVAX, we have ensured they are distributed equitably, based on need, not on politics.

At the same time, we’re working together with our partners to end the pandemic.  The Quad vaccine partnership is playing a key part in that.  We’re working together to finance, to manufacture, to distribute, and to put as many shots in arms as quickly as possible.  Individual countries are stepping up.  India recently committed to produce an additional 5 billion doses by the end of 2022.  The Republic of Korea and Thailand are ramping up their production as well.

We are rallying the private sector to our side.  At a ministerial that I convened last month, we launched something called the Global COVID Corps.  It is a coalition of leading companies that will provide expertise, tools, and capabilities to support logistics and vaccine efforts in developing countries, including the last mile, and that is critical for actually getting shots into arms.  This is what we’re seeing increasingly around the world, where the production of vaccines has increased, they are getting out there, but then they are not getting into arms because of the last-mile difficulties, the logistics that need to be solved, and that is exactly what we are focusing on.

At the same time, as we fight the virus, we’re building the health systems back better in the Indo-Pacific, around the world, to prevent, detect, and respond to the next pandemic.  And the thing is, we actually know how to do this.  The United States has been working with partners to strengthen health systems in the region for decades.  In ASEAN alone, we’ve invested more than $3.5 billion in public health over the past 20 years.  And we have a lot to show for it, both in significant improvements to public health, and also in deep relationships that we’ve built on the ground.

As part of our support for ASEAN, President Biden recently announced that we’ll provide $40 million for the U.S.-ASEAN Health Futures Initiative, and that’s going to accelerate joint research, strengthen health systems, train a rising generation of health professionals.

We’re also supporting the development of an ASEAN Public Health Emergency Coordination System.  That’s going to help countries in the region coordinate their response to future health emergencies.  And the first Southeast Asian regional office of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, which we opened in Hanoi this summer, is already supporting these efforts on the ground.

The climate crisis, of course, is another global challenge that we have to tackle together.  People across the Indo-Pacific are already feeling its catastrophic impact:  70 percent of the world’s natural disasters strike in this region, and over 90 million people in the region were affected by climate-related disasters in 2019.  The following year, on our own Pacific coast, California endured five of the six biggest wildfires in its history.

Now, many of the biggest emitters in the region have recognized the need to act urgently, as we saw in the ambitious pledges that they set out at COP26.  In Glasgow, 15 Indo-Pacific countries, including Indonesia, signed the Global Methane Pledge to cut emissions by 30 percent over the next decade.  If all the biggest emitters join us, that would do more to reduce warming than taking every ship out of the seas and every plane out of the skies.

But it would be a mistake to think about climate only through the prism of threats.  Here is why: every country on the planet has to reduce emissions and prepare for the unavoidable impacts of climate change.  And that necessary transformation to new technologies and new industries also offers a once-in-a-generation opportunity to create new, good-paying jobs.

We believe that opportunity runs through the Indo-Pacific, and we’re already working with our partners to seize it.  In the last five years alone, the United States has mobilized more than $7 billion in renewable energy investments in the region.  As we step up our efforts, we’re bringing to bear the unique constellation of partnerships that we’ve built up:  multilateral organizations and advocacy groups, businesses and philanthropies, researchers and technical experts.

Consider the Clean EDGE Initiative that we’re launching this month, which will bring together the expertise and innovation of the U.S. Government and private sector to help advance clean energy solutions across the region.  Consider the more than $20 million that President Biden recently committed to a U.S.-ASEAN Climate Futures initiative, or the $500 million in financing announced just last week by the U.S. International Development Finance Corporation to help build a solar manufacturing facility in Tamil Nadu, India.

The factory, being built by the American company First Solar, will have an annual capacity of 3.3 gigawatts.  That’s enough to power more than two million homes.  Building and operating this facility will create thousands of jobs in India, the majority for women, and hundreds more jobs in the United States.  And that’s just one of the ways in which the United States will help India reach its ambitious goal of 500 gigawatts of renewable energy capacity by 2030, and, in turn, help the world avoid a climate catastrophe.

Now, we recognize that, even if the transition to a green economy produces a big increase in jobs, which we’re confident it will, not all of those positions will be filled by workers who lost jobs in old industries and old sectors during this transition.  So we have an obligation that we are committed to, to bring everyone along.

Fifth, and finally, we will bolster Indo-Pacific security.  Threats are evolving.  Our security approach has to evolve with them.  We’ll seek closer civilian security cooperation to tackle challenges ranging from violate extremism, to illegal fishing, to human trafficking.  And we’ll adopt a strategy that more closely weaves together all our instruments of national power – diplomacy, military, intelligence – with those of our allies and our partners.  Our Secretary of Defense, Lloyd Austin, calls this “integrated deterrence.”

And it’s about reinforcing our strengths so that we can keep the peace, as we’ve done in the region for decades.  We don’t want conflict in the Indo-Pacific.  That’s why we seek serious and sustained diplomacy with the DPRK, with the ultimate goal of denuclearizing the Korean Peninsula.  We’ll work with allies and partners to address the threat posed by the DPRK’s nuclear and missile programs through a calibrated, practical approach, while also strengthening our extended deterrence.

And that’s why President Biden told President Xi last month that we share a profound responsibility to ensure that the competition between our countries does not veer into conflict.  We take that responsibility with the greatest of seriousness, because the failure to do so would be catastrophic for all of us.

On February 14th, 1962, the United States Attorney General, Robert F. Kennedy, came to speak at this university.  He talked about the enduring struggles that our people shared, which, he said, had to be carried forward by young people like the students here today.  And he quoted something that his brother, John F. Kennedy, then President of the United States, said about our vision for the world.  President Kennedy said, “Our basic goal remains the same:  a peaceful world, a community of free and independent states, free to choose their own future and their own system, so long as it does not threaten the freedom of others.”

For all that’s changed in the nearly 70 years since President Kennedy spoke those words, it’s remarkable how much that vision aligns with the one we share.  And the reason I am so grateful to be able to speak about this here at this university, with students and alumni of so many of our youth leadership programs present, is because you are the ones still today who will carry forward that vision.  As you do, know that you have people across the Indo-Pacific, including in the United States, whose hopes and fates are tied up with yours, and who will be your steadfast partners in making the Indo-Pacific, this region that we share, more open and more free.”

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