Vice President Biden Speaks on US-Korea Relations and the Asia Pacific, 12/6/13

The Vice President:

“But as much progress as you’ve made in the last 60 years, we can make even greater progress together in the next 60 years if we’re wise, trust one another, and are willing to make some sacrifices, shaping a peaceful and prosperous Pacific region. This is one of those inflexion points in history. We actually have a chance — a chance to bend history just slightly.

That’s why our administration adopted a policy of what we call “rebalancing” to the region. Rebalancing economically, diplomatically, and, yes, militarily — and Barack, the President, and I and the American people are all in. We’re determined to strengthen our alliances, cultivate new partners in the Pacific Basin, build constructive relations with China, pursue major agreements that further integrate our economies, and join and strengthen the institutions of the Asia Pacific and of the East Asian Summit — APEC, ASEAN and others.

President Obama is absolutely committed to rebalance. And to make the point again, no one should underestimate or question our staying power. Just look at the last 60 years in Korea. Ask the people of Japan — the Mutual Defense Treaty since 1960 and still going strong. Ask the people of the Philippines — American helicopters, small ships, medical services, road clearing — all responding on the backs of U.S. Marines when one of the most fierce tropical storms in history devastated their country. We were there and so was Korea.

And as I speak, my son has just boarded — my grown son has just boarded a plane, an aircraft — he’s heading to the Philippines. His name is Hunter Biden. He’s Chairman of the World Food Program U.S.A, and he’s going there out in the field, like so many of you did. I’m so incredibly proud of him, and the tens of thousands of young people around the world who either went or wanted to.

Or ask the people of Burma. When their leaders bravely chose to change their country’s path, they looked to America. And Secretary Clinton was there, and President Obama was there, not only to extend a hand but to help and commit, helping the people of Burma find a better future. Our commitment to rebalance starts with growing our economies, the lifeblood of this region.

By the way, when we talk about rebalance here, for years, as the General knows, I was in charge of the Senate of U.S.-European, U.S.-NATO, and U.S. then “Soviet relations.” All my European friends are saying, what does this mean for us? Are you leading? Let me make clear what rebalancing means. It means adding to, not subtracting from, existing commitments we have around the world.

What we seek is an open, transparent economic order to deliver the growth for all — because in growth resides peace. And we believe the way to sustain and enhance the region’s remarkable economic progress is not just make sure it is physically secure, but to eliminate trade barriers at and behind borders, protections for intellectual property, one set of rules that applies to all companies, domestic or foreign. These are the principles behind the Korean-U.S. Free Trade Agreement.

Trade between our countries has already grown 65 percent from $80 billion a year in the year 2000 to $130 billion in 2012. That means employment. That means the ability to live a middle-class life. That means stability. That’s what’s happened. But before it went into force — our Free Trade Agreement went into force — now, it’s in force. Now that it is, bilateral trade will continue to grow if we fully implement it, and we still have implementation to do.

There’s more work to be done. We have to end the bureaucratic hurdles that close off trade in key sectors like autos and agriculture. We have to agree on final regulations that allow financial institutions to operate fully. And the United States welcomes Korea’s interest in joining the Transpacific Partnership. The negotiating taking place now literally encompasses 40 percent of the world’s GDP. That’s without Korea. With Korea added, it will be impossible for the rest of the world to resist moving toward sane 21st century rules of the road.”

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