EIB and Bhutan sign a Framework Agreement for capital investments

EIB and Bhutan sign a Framework Agreement for capital investments

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EIB and Bhutan sign a Framework Agreement for capital investments

Román Escolano, EIB Vice-Président and Bhutan ‘s Finance Minister, Lyonpo Namgay Dorji

08/12/2014

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On Thursday 4 December, the European Investment Bank (EIB), the European Union’s long-term financing institution and Kingdom of Bhutan signed a Framework Agreement under which the Bank can start financing capital investments in the country.

The agreement was signed by the EIB Vice-President with special responsibility for the Bank’s activities in Asia, Román Escolano and his Excellency Lyonpo Namgay Dorji, Finance Minister of the Royal Government of Bhutan in Thimphu, capital of Bhutan.

The EIB is the long-term lending institution of the European Union and its shareholders are the EU Member States. Its remit is to make long-term finance available for viable projects in order to contribute towards EU policy objectives. Outside the EU, the Bank support projects that contribute to economic development in countries that have signed association or cooperation agreements with the EU or its Member States.

In Asia, the European Investment Bank has so far signed Framework Agreements with Bangladesh, Cambodia, China, India, Indonesia, Laos, Maldives, Mongolia, Nepal, Pakistan, the Philippines, Sri Lanka, Thailand, Vietnam and Yemen.

The signing of the Framework Agreement represents the first step of the EIB to support development projects in Bhutan. EIB is cooperating closely with the European Commission and the EEAS, in support of the EU’s policy objectives in the country. In pursuing sustainable investments in Bhutan, the Kingdom of Bhutan and EIB already discussed potential projects in the country, namely in the areas of energy and water infrastructure.

The EIB has been active in Asia since 1993 under mandates granted by the EU Council and the European Parliament. During this period the EU bank has signed contracts in the region for a total of EUR 5.6 billion. On 1 July 2014 the EU’s new External Lending Mandate, covering the period 2014-2020, entered into force. Part of the current mandate is dedicated to Asia, enabling the EIB to finance operations that contribute to climate change mitigation and adaptation or the development of sustainable economic infrastructure. Additionally, the EIB can also draw on its own resources under the Climate Action and Environment Facility or the Strategic Projects Facility to finance relevant projects on a selective basis.

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U.S. Engagement in the Asia Pacific

The White House

Office of the Press Secretary

For Immediate Release

November 15, 2014

University of Queensland

Brisbane, Australia

1:11 P.M. AEST

PRESIDENT OBAMA:  Thank you so much!  (Applause.)  Thank you!  Thank you, everybody.  Everybody, please have a seat.  Hello, Brisbane!  It’s good to be back in Australia.  I love Australia — I really do.  The only problem with Australia is every time I come here I’ve got to sit in conference rooms and talk to politicians instead of go to the beach.  (Laughter.) 

To Chancellor Story, Professor Høj, faculty and staff, distinguished guests, ladies and gentlemen, and most of all, the students of the University of Queensland — it is great to be here at UQ.  I know that we are joined by students from universities across this city, and some high school students, as well.  And so I want to thank all of the young people especially for welcoming me here today.   

On my last visit to this magnificent country three years ago, I had the privilege to meet some of the First Australians; we’re joined by some today.  So I want to begin by acknowledging the Traditional Owners of this land and by paying my respects to your elders, past and present.

This university is recognized as one of the world’s great institutions of science and teaching.  Your research led to the vaccine that protects women and girls around the world from cervical cancer.  Your innovations have transformed how we treat disease and how we unlock new discoveries.  Your studies have warned the world about the urgent threat of climate change.  In fact, last year I even tweeted one of your studies to my 31 million followers on Twitter.  (Laughter.)  Just bragging a little bit.  (Applause.)  I don’t think that’s quite as much as Lady Gaga, but it’s pretty good.  (Laughter.)  That’s still not bad.

I thank Prime Minister Abbott and the people of Brisbane and Queensland for hosting us at the G-20 Summit.  This city, this part of Australia, is just stunning — “beautiful one day, and then perfect the next.”  (Laughter.)  That’s what I understand.  (Applause.)  We travel a lot around the world.  My staff was very excited for “Bris Vegas.”  (Laughter.)  When I arrived they advised I needed some XXXX.  (Laughter.)  You have some?  (Laughter.) 

Part of the reason I have fond memories of Australia is I spent some time here as a boy when I was traveling between Hawaii and Indonesia, where I lived for several years.  And when I returned three years ago as President, I had the same feelings that I remembered as a child — the warmth of the people of Australia, the sense of humor.  I learned to speak a little “strine.”  (Laughter.)  I’m tempted to “give it a burl.”  That’s about as far as I can go actually.       

But I do want to take this opportunity to express once again the gratitude of the American people for the extraordinary alliance with Australia.  I tell my friends and family and people that I meet that there is an incredible commonality between Australia and the United States.  And whether that’s because so many of us traveled here as immigrants — some voluntary and some not; whether it’s because of wide open spaces and the sense of a frontier culture — there’s a bond between our two countries. 

And Australia really is everything that you would want in a friend and in an ally.  We’re cut from the same cloth — immigrants from an old world who built a new nation.  We’re inspired by the same ideals of equality and opportunity — the belief everybody deserves a fair go, a fair shot.  And we share that same spirit — that confidence and optimism — that the future is ours to make; that we don’t have to carry with us all the baggage from the past, that we can leave this world a better, safer, more just place for future generations.  And that’s what brings me here today — the future that we can build together, here in the Asia Pacific region.

Now, this week, I’ve traveled more than 15,000 miles — from America to China to Burma to Australia.  I have no idea what time it is right now.  (Laughter.)  I’m completely upside down.  But despite that distance, we know that our world is getting smaller.  One of Australia’s great writers spoke of this — a son of Brisbane and a graduate of this university, David Malouf.  And he said, “In that shrinking of distance that is characteristic of our contemporary world, even the Pacific, largest of oceans, has become a lake.”  Even the Pacific has become a lake.

And you see it here on this campus, where you welcome students from all across Asia and around the world, including a number of Americans.  You go on exchanges, and we’re proud to welcome so many of you to the United States.  You walk the streets of this city and you hear Chinese, Vietnamese, Bahasa Indonesia, Korean, Hindi.  And in many neighborhoods more than half the people you meet were born somewhere else.  This is a global city in a globalized world. 

And I often tell young people in America that, even with today’s challenges, this is the best time in history to be alive.  Never in the history of humanity have people lived longer, are they more likely to be healthy, more likely to be enjoying basic security.  The world is actually much less violent today.  You wouldn’t know it from watching television that it once was.

And that’s true here in the Asia Pacific as well.  Countries once ravaged by war, like South Korea and Japan, are among the world’s most advanced economies.  From the Philippines to Indonesia, dictatorships have given way to genuine democracies.  In China and across the region, hundreds of millions of people have been lifted from poverty in the span of one generation, joining a global middle class.  Empowered by technology, you — the young people in particular of this region — are connecting and collaborating across borders and cultures like never before as you seek to build a new future.

So the opportunities today are limitless.  And I don’t watch a lot of Australian television, so — as you might imagine, because I’m really far away.  (Laughter.)  So I don’t know whether some of the same tendencies that we see in the United States — a focus on conflict and disasters and problem — dominate what’s fed to us visually every single day.  But when you look at the facts, opportunities are limitless for this generation.  You’re living in an extraordinary time. 

But what is also true, is that alongside this dynamism, there are genuine dangers that can undermine progress.  And we can’t look at those problems through rose-tinted glasses.  North Korea’s nuclear and missile programs — that’s a problem.  Disputes over territory, remote islands and rocky shoals that threaten to spiral into confrontation. 

The failure to uphold universal human rights, denying justice to citizens and denying countries their full potential.  Economic inequality and extreme poverty that are a recipe for instability.  And energy demands in growing cities that also hasten trends towards a changing climate.  Indeed, the same technologies that empower citizens like you also give oppressive regimes new tools to stifle dissent.

So the question that we face is, which of these futures will define the Asia Pacific in the century to come?  Do we move towards further integration, more justice, more peace?  Or do we move towards disorder and conflict?  Those are our choices — conflict or cooperation?  Oppression or liberty?

Here in Australia three years ago, in your parliament, I made it clear where the United States stands.  We believe that nations and peoples have the right to live in security and peace; that an effective security order for Asia must be based — not on spheres of influence, or coercion, or intimidation where big nations bully the small — but on alliances of mutual security, international law and international norms that are upheld, and the peaceful resolution of disputes.

We believe in open markets and trade that is fair and free — a level playing field where economies play by the same rules; where the purpose of trade is not simply to extract resources from the ground, but to build true partnerships that raise capacity and living standards in poor countries; where small business owners and entrepreneurs and innovators have the freedom to dream and create and flourish; and how well a country does is based on how well they empower their individual citizens.

And we believe in democracy — that the only real source of legitimacy is the consent of the people; that every individual is born equal with fundamental rights, inalienable rights, and that it is the responsibility of governments to uphold these rights.  This is what we stand for.  That is our vision — the future America is working toward in the Asia Pacific, with allies and friends.

Now as a Pacific power, the United States has invested our blood and treasure to advance this vision.  We don’t just talk about it; we invest in this vision.  Generations of Americans have served and died in the Asia Pacific so that the people of the region might live free.  So no one should ever question our resolve or our commitment to our allies. 

When I assumed office, leaders and people across the region were expressing their desire for greater American engagement.  And so as President, I decided that — given the importance of this region to American security, to American prosperity — the United States would rebalance our foreign policy and play a larger and lasting role in this region.  That’s exactly what we’ve done.  

Today, our alliances, including with Australia, are stronger than they have ever been.  American exports to this region have reached record levels.  We’ve deepened our cooperation with emerging powers and regional organizations, especially in Southeast Asia.  We expanded our partnerships with citizens as they’ve worked to bolster their democracies.  And we’ve shown that — whether it’s a tsunami or an earthquake or a typhoon — when our friends are in need, America shows up.  We’re there to help.  In good times and bad, you can count on the United States of America.

Now, there have been times when people have been skeptical of this rebalancing.  They’re wondering whether America has the staying power to sustain it.  And it’s true that in recent years pressing events around the world demand our attention.  As the world’s only superpower, the United States has unique responsibilities that we gladly embrace.  We’re leading the international community in the fight to destroy the terrorist group ISIL.  We’re leading in dealing with Ebola in West Africa and in opposing Russia’s aggression against Ukraine — which is a threat to the world, as we saw in the appalling shoot-down of MH17, a tragedy that took so many innocent lives, among them your fellow citizens.  As your ally and friend, America shares the grief of these Australian families, and we share the determination of your nation for justice and accountability.  So, yes, we have a range of responsibilities.  That’s the deal.  It’s a burden we gladly shoulder.

But even in each of these international efforts, some of our strongest partners are our allies and friends in this region, including Australia.  So meeting these other challenges in the world is not a distraction from our engagement in this region, it reinforces our engagement in this region.  Our rebalance is not only about the United States doing more in Asia, it’s also about the Asia Pacific region doing more with us around the world.

So I’m here today to say that American leadership in the Asia Pacific will always be a fundamental focus of my foreign policy.  It won’t always make the headlines.  It won’t always be measured in the number of trips I make — although I do keep coming back.  (Laughter.) But day in, and day out, steadily, deliberately, we will continue to deepen our engagement using every element of American power — diplomacy, military, economic, development, the power of our values and our ideals.  And so in the time I have left, I want to describe, specifically, what America intends to do in the coming years.

First, the United States will continue strengthening our alliances.  With Japan, we’ll finalize new defense guidelines and keep realigning our forces for the future.  With the Republic of Korea, we’ll deepen our collaboration, including on missile defense, to deter and defend against North Korean threats.  With the Philippines, we’ll train and exercise more to prepare for challenges from counterterrorism and piracy to humanitarian crises and disaster relief.  And here in Australia, more U.S. Marines will rotate through to promote regional stability, alongside your “diggers.”

Although I will say when I went out to Darwin to inaugurate the new rotation of our U.S. Marines there, that the mayor, I think it was, took out crocodile insurance, which disturbed me.  (Laughter.)  I mean I was flattered that he took out insurance on my behalf.  (Laughter.)  But I did ask my ambassador what this was all about.  (Laughter.)  And he described to me how crocodiles kill more people than sharks, and there are just a lot of things in Australia that can kill you.  (Laughter.)  But that’s an aside.  (Laughter.)

We have an ironclad commitment to the sovereignty, independence, and security of every ally.  And we’ll expand cooperation between allies, because we believe we’re stronger when we stand together.

The United States will continue to modernize our defense posture across the region.  We’ll deploy more of our most advanced military capabilities to keep the peace and deter aggression.  Our presence will be more distributed, including in Southeast Asia with partners like Singapore.  And we’ll increase military training and education, including working with the military partners we have in this region around the respect for human rights by military and police.  And by the end of this decade, a majority of our Navy and Air Force fleets will be based out of the Pacific, because the United States is, and will always be, a Pacific power.

And keep in mind we do this without any territorial claims.  We do this based on our belief that a region that is peaceful and prosperous is good for us and is good for the world.

The United States will continue broadening our cooperation with emerging powers and emerging economies.  We intend to help Vietnam pursue economic reforms and new maritime capabilities.  We will continue to move ahead with our comprehensive partnership with Indonesia, which is a strong example of diversity and pluralism.  We’ll continue to expand ties with Malaysia, a growing center of entrepreneurship and innovation.  And we support a greater role in the Asia Pacific for India, which is the world’s largest democracy.

The United States will continue expanding our engagement with regional institutions, because together we can meet shared challenges — from preventing the horror of human trafficking to countering violent extremism, to stemming the flow of foreign terrorist fighters.  Together, we can improve maritime security, upholding freedom of navigation and encouraging territorial disputes are resolved peacefully.  We’ll work with partners to develop the East Asia Summit into the region’s leading forum for addressing political and security challenges.  And we’ll support ASEAN’s effort to reach a code of conduct with China that reinforces international law in the South China Sea.

And speaking of China, the United States will continue to pursue a constructive relationship with China.  By virtue of its size and its remarkable growth, China will inevitably play a critical role in the future of this region.  And the question is, what kind of role will it play?  I just came from Beijing, and I said there, the United States welcomes the continuing rise of a China that is peaceful and prosperous and stable and that plays a responsible role in world affairs.  It is a remarkable achievement that millions of people have been lifted out of poverty in China because of the extraordinary growth rates that they’ve experienced.  That is a good thing.  We should want and welcome that kind of development. 

And if, in fact, China is playing the role of a responsible actor that is peaceful and prosperous and stable, that is good for this region, it’s good for the world, it’s good for the United States.  So we’ll pursue cooperation with China where our interests overlap or align.  And there are significant areas of overlap:  More trade and investment; more communications between our militaries to prevent misunderstandings or possible conflict; more travel and exchanges between our people; and more cooperation on global challenges, from Ebola to climate change. 

But in this engagement we are also encouraging China to adhere to the same rules as other nations — whether in trade or on the seas.  And in this engagement we will continue to be frank about where there are differences, because America will continue to stand up for our interests and principles, including our unwavering support for the fundamental human rights of all people. 

We do not benefit from a relationship with China or any other country in which we put our values and our ideals aside.  And for the young people, practicality is a good thing.  There are times where compromise is necessary.  That’s part of wisdom.  But it’s also important to hang on to what you believe — to know what you believe and then be willing to stand up for it.  And what’s true for individuals is also true for countries.

The United States will continue to promote economic growth that is sustainable and shared.  So we’re going to work with APEC to tear down barriers to trade and investment and combat the corruption that steals from so many citizens.  We’ll keep opposing special preferences for state-owned companies.  We’ll oppose cyber-theft of trade secrets.  We’ll work with partners to invest in the region’s infrastructure in a way that’s open and transparent.  We’ll support reforms that help economies transition to models that boost domestic demand and invest in people and their education and their skills.

We’ll keep leading the effort to realize the Trans-Pacific Partnership to lower barriers, open markets, export goods, and create good jobs for our people.  But with the 12 countries of the TPP making up nearly 40 percent of the global economy, this is also about something bigger.  It is our chance to put in place new, high standards for trade in the 21st century that uphold our values.  So, for example, we are pushing new standards in this trade agreement, requiring countries that participate to protect their workers better and to protect the environment better, and protect intellectual property that unleashes innovation, and baseline standards to ensure transparency and rule of law. 

It’s about a future where instead of being dependent on a single market, countries integrate their economies so they’re innovating and growing together.  That’s what TPP does.  That’s why it would be a historic achievement.  That’s why I believe so strongly that we need to get it done — not just for our countries, but for the world.

But that’s also why it’s hard — because we’re asking all these countries at various stages of development to up their game.  And it requires big transitions for a lot of these countries, including for the United States.  And TPP is just one part of our overall focus on growing the global economy.  That’s what the G-20 meetings are all about. 

Over the last few years, the United States has put more people back to work than all other advanced economies combined.  But America can’t be expected to just carry the world economy on our back.  So here in Brisbane, the G-20 has a responsibility to act — to boost demand, and invest more in infrastructure, and create good jobs for the people of all our nations.

As we develop, as we focus on our econ, we cannot forget the need to lead on the global fight against climate change.  Now, I know that’s — (applause) — I know there’s been a healthy debate in this country about it.  (Laughter.)  Here in the Asia Pacific, nobody has more at stake when it comes to thinking about and then acting on climate change.

Here, a climate that increases in temperature will mean more extreme and frequent storms, more flooding, rising seas that submerge Pacific islands.  Here in Australia, it means longer droughts, more wildfires.  The incredible natural glory of the Great Barrier Reef is threated.  Worldwide, this past summer was the hottest on record.  No nation is immune, and every nation has a responsibility to do its part.

And you’ll recall at the beginning I said the United States and Australia has a lot in common.  Well, one of the things we have in common is we produce a lot of carbon.  Part of it’s this legacy of wide-open spaces and the frontier mentality, and this incredible abundance of resources.  And so, historically, we have not been the most energy-efficient of nations, which means we’ve got to step up. 

In the United States, our carbon pollution is near its lowest levels in almost two decades — and I’m very proud of that.  Under my Climate Action Plan, we intend to do more.  In Beijing, I announced our ambitious new goal — reducing our net greenhouse gas emissions by 26 to 28 percent below 2005 levels by the year 2025, which will double the pace at which we’re reducing carbon pollution in the United States.  Now, in a historic step, China made its own commitment, for the first time, agreeing to slow, peak and then reverse the course of China’s carbon emissions.  And the reason that’s so important is because if China, as it develops, adapts the same per capita carbon emissions as advanced economies like the United States or Australia, this planet doesn’t stand a chance, because they’ve got a lot more people.

So them setting up a target sends a powerful message to the world that all countries — whether you are a developed country, a developing country, or somewhere in between — you’ve got to be able to overcome old divides, look squarely at the science, and reach a strong global climate agreement next year.  And if China and the United States can agree on this, then the world can agree on this.  We can get this done.  And it is necessary for us to get it done.  (Applause.)  Because I have not had to go to the Great Barrier Reef — (laughter) — and I want to come back, and I want my daughters to be able to come back, and I want them to be able to bring their daughters or sons to visit.  (Applause.)  And I want that there 50 years from now.

Now, today, I’m announcing that the United States will take another important step.  We are going to contribute $3 billion to the Green Climate Fund so we can help developing nations deal with climate change.  (Applause.)  So along with the other nations that have pledged support, this gives us the opportunity to help vulnerable communities with an early-warning system, with stronger defenses against storm surges, climate-resilient infrastructure.  It allows us to help farmers plant more durable crops.  And it allows us to help developing countries break out of this false choice between development and pollution; let them leap-frog some of the dirty industries that powered our development; go straight to a clean-energy economy that allows them to grow, create jobs, and at the same time reduce their carbon pollution.

So we’ve very proud of the work that we have already done.  We are mindful of the great work that still has to be done on this issue.  But let me say, particularly again to the young people here:  Combating climate change cannot be the work of governments alone.  Citizens, especially the next generation, you have to keep raising your voices, because you deserve to live your lives in a world that is cleaner and that is healthier and that is sustainable.  But that is not going to happen unless you are heard. 

It is in the nature of things, it is in the nature of the world that those of us who start getting gray hair are a little set in our ways, that interests are entrenched — not because people are bad people, it’s just that’s how we’ve been doing things.  And we make investments, and companies start depending on certain energy sources, and change is uncomfortable and difficult.  And that’s why it’s so important for the next generation to be able to step and say, no, it doesn’t have to be this way.  You have the power to imagine a new future in a way that some of the older folks don’t always have.   

And the same is true when it comes to issues of democracy and human rights.  There are times where when we speak out on these issues we are told that democracy is just a Western value.  I fundamentally disagree with that.  (Applause.)  Japan, Taiwan, South Korea, they have built thriving democracies.  Filipinos showed us the strength of People Power.  Indonesians just voted in a historic election.  I just came from Burma; this is a place that for 40 years was under the grip of a military junta, one of the most closed and oppressive nations on Earth.  And there, I was inspired by citizens and civil society and parliamentarians who are now working to sustain a transition to a democratic future.  I had a town hall meeting with young people like you, in which they were asking, what does it mean to create rule of law?  And how should we deal with ethnic diversity in our city?  You could feel the excitement.  What does a free press look like, and how does it operate?  And how do we make sure that journalism is responsible?  Incredible ferment and debate that’s taking place. 

Those young people, they want the same things that you do.  The notion that somehow they’re less interested in opportunity or less interested in avoiding arbitrary arrest, or less interested in being censored is fundamentally untrue.  Today, people in Hong Kong are speaking out for their universal rights. 

And so here in Asia and around the world, America supports free and fair elections, because citizens must be free to choose their own leaders — as in Thailand where we are urging a quick return to inclusive, civilian rule.  We support freedom of assembly, and freedom of speech, and freedom of the press, a free and open Internet, strong civil societies, because the voices of the people must be heard and leaders must be held accountable — even though it’s uncomfortable sometimes.  I promise you, if you lead a country, there are times where you are aggravated with people voicing opinions that seem to think you’re doing something wrong.  You prefer everybody just praise you.  I understand.  (Laughter.)  But that’s not how societies move forward.

We support strong institutions and independent judiciaries and open government, because the rule of force must give way to the rule of law.

And in that same fashion, the United States will continue to stand up for the inherent dignity of every human being.  Now, dignity begins with the most basic of needs — a life free of hunger and disease and want.  So, yes, we’ll speak out on behalf of human rights, but we are also going to invest in the agriculture that allows farmers to feed their families and boost their incomes.  We’ll invest in the development that promotes growth and helps end the injustice of extreme poverty in places like the Lower Mekong Delta.  We intend to partner with all the countries in the region to create stronger public health systems and new treatments that save lives and realize our goals of being the first AIDS-free generation.

And what we’ve learned from the Ebola outbreak is that in this globalized world, where the Pacific is like a lake, if countries are so poor that they can’t afford basic public health infrastructure, that threatens our health.  We cannot built a moat around our countries, and we shouldn’t try.  What we should be doing is making sure everybody has some basic public health systems that allow for early warning when outbreaks of infectious disease may occur.  That’s not just out of charity.  It is in our self-interest. 

And again, I want to speak to young people about this.  When we talk about these issues of development, when we invest in the wellbeing of people on the other side of the globe, when we stand up for freedom, including occasionally having to engage in military actions, we don’t do that just because we are charitable.  We do that because we recognize that we are linked, and that if somebody, some child is stricken with a curable disease on the other side of the world, at same point that could have an impact on our child.

We’ll advance human dignity by standing up for the rights of minorities, because no one’s equality should ever be denied.  We will stand up for freedom of religion — the right of every person to practice their faith as they choose — because we are all children of God, and we are all fallible.  And the notion that we, as a majority, or the state should tell somebody else what to believe with respect to their faith, is against our basic values. 

We will stand up for our gay and lesbian fellow citizens, because they need to be treated equally under the law.  (Applause.)  We will stand up for the rights and futures of our wives and daughters and partners, because I believe that the best measure of whether a nation is going to be successful is whether they are tapping the talents of their women and treating them as full participants in politics and society and the econ.  (Applause.)

And we’re going to continue to invest in the future of this region, and that means you, this region’s youth — all of you — your optimism, your idealism, your hopes.  I see it everywhere I go.  I spend a lot of time with young people.  I spend a lot of time with old people, too.  But I prefer spending time with young people.  (Laughter.)  I meet them in Tokyo and Seoul, and Manila and Jakarta.  It’s the spirit of young men and women in Kuala Lumpur and Rangoon, who are participating in our Young Southeast Asian Leaders Initiative.  And like you, they’re ready to lead. 

To the young woman with an idea who dreams of starting her own business — if she just had the network, if she just had the capital, America wants to be her partner, because we believe in the entrepreneur that you can be, the innovations you can spark and the jobs you can create.  And when you succeed, we’ll all be more prosperous. 

To the young man who’s working late in a clinic, tending to a patient, who dreams not just of treating diseases, but preventing them — if I just had the resources, if I just had the support — we want to be your partner, because we believe in the advocate that you can be, and in the families you can reach and the lives you can save.  And when you succeed, our world will be better.

To the young woman tired of the tensions in her community, who dreams of helping her neighbors see beyond differences — if she could just start a dialogue, if she knew how others had walked the same path — well, America wants to be your partner, because we believe in the activist that you can be, and the empathy that you can build, and the understanding you can foster between people.  And when you succeed, our world will be a little more peaceful. 

And to the young man who believes his voice isn’t being heard, who dreams of bringing people like him together across his country — if he just knew how to organize and mobilize them — we want to be your partner, because we believe in the leaders that you can be, in the difference you can make to ignite positive change.  And when you succeed, the world will be a little more free. 

So that’s the future we can build together.  That’s the commitment America is making in the Asia Pacific.  It’s a partnership not just with nations, but with people, with you, for decades to come.  Bound by the values we share, guided by the vision we seek, I am absolutely confident we can advance the security and the prosperity and the dignity of people across this region.  And in pursuit of that future, you will have no greater friend than the United States of America. 

So thank you very much.  God bless Australia.  (Applause.)  God bless America.  God bless our great alliance.  Thank you.

                        END                1:51 P.M. AEST

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“Regional integration and global developments – a view from the European Union”

European Commission

[Check Against Delivery]

José Manuel Durão Barroso

President of the European Commission

“Regional integration and global developments – a view from the European Union”

World Economic Forum

Istanbul, 29 September 2014

Dear Prime Minister, Mr Ahmet Davutoğlu,

Dear President,

Distinguished guests,

Ladies and gentlemen,

It is my pleasure to get this opportunity to address you all and to give you a view from the European Union on the issue of regional development and global developments, after the meeting of minds you’ve had over the last two days. Indeed I believe that regional development can also come from further developing such bonds between regional leaders and stakeholders.

When we discuss the challenges facing the European Union and the wider region today, it is important to bear in mind the starting point: that the European Union as such is precisely a project meant to overcome the divisions of the past and deal with those challenges. That European integration was always meant to be, and will always need to be, a tool to help its member countries face the issues they cannot successfully face alone. That bringing Europe as a region together is the only way to protect our interests and defend our values in a rapidly evolving world. And that the same logic of regional integration and increasing cooperation is at the heart of what the European Union does both internally and internationally, especially with its immediate neighbours.

That is as true today as it was when European integration took off after the Second World War.

That is where our lasting commitment to regional integration comes from.

Because then, and now, when times change, institutions need to change as well. So let me briefly recall what the current pace of change we are facing means for our governance at global and regional level. I will then try and highlight how I see the need for the world order to adapt itself to these new challenges. To conclude, I will say a few words on EU-Turkey relations.

Ladies and gentlemen,

As we speak, times are changing drastically, in some cases even dramatically. The rate of technological progress is unprecedented, global economic integration is rapidly expanding, issues like climate change and international migration are affecting all of us.

Trade flows and supply chains cross borders with increasing ease, information travels globally and decision-making centres are spread across the globe as well. So political decision-making and cooperation must rise above national borders too. The political mind-set needs to evolve as well.

One of the main questions of our times is whether or not we succeed in adapting our governance institutions to such a changing, complex and challenging global environment, and how. Governing structures need to evolve to support more dynamic societies, empower them get the most out of the opportunities that globalisation offers in terms of jobs, travel, knowledge and innovation, education and exposure to new ideas. They also need to shield them from some of the harmful effects of globalization like the growing threat of increasing international terrorist networks. Institutions are there to support us, and they need a certain flexibility to be able to do so.

This is particularly true in times of change and crisis, when hard questions are asked of governments everywhere. Around the world, we now see a triple gap of confidence widening: a gap between markets and states; between states amongst one another; and last but not least between governments and the governed. As a result, political institutions and economic systems across the world are under pressure.

This is, let’s be clear, not a “European” or “Western” issue.

True, in democracies such gaps show easily. But this is not – as some would have it until a few years ago – a problem aggravated by democratic openness. The legitimacy question is a fundamental one everywhere, and indeed democracies are better suited to deal with such issues than the ‘pressure cooker’ model of undemocratic or less-democratic systems. Our openness, the accountability of our political structures and the diversity inherent in our model of society, is what allows us to be more flexible and to adapt better to changing environments.

But for that to happen, we need leadership and we need cooperation.

That is why events such as this one organised by the World Economic Forum can really make a difference.

Ladies and gentlemen,

Let’s be honest: today, our governance systems are in many cases sub-optimal.

Few would deny that we struggled to deal with the global financial crisis. In many ways we had to improvise and the creation of the G20 – I will come back to it in a moment – was a clear illustration that our governance models needed to adapt to a totally new situation. Indeed, a lot of what we have done since the financial crisis, most obviously in the European Union but beyond as well, was trying to remedy the defects of our financial and economic governance systems.

Even fewer would deny that the ongoing war in Syria or the emergence of a totally new form of terrorism in the region, to take only these examples in the current international turmoil in the Middle East, are showing the inadequacy of some governance systems. And the actions taken by the United Nations, as well as the support given by countries around the world including in Europe, are a necessary effort to deal with the situation collectively.

As a result of systemic defects or delay, we must also admit that there is some popular scepticism about both regional and global governance systems. This could, in the longer term, undermine them. Sometimes, they are seen as over-powering and interfering – as you can note from emotional protests against the World Trade Organisation, for instance. At other times, they are damned as ineffective – as if often claimed of the United Nations. And indeed, they may even be criticised for being both – which is sometimes the case of criticism of the European Union, that some criticise because it is too intrusive in Member States’ competences; others because it does not rely on sufficient coherence of Member States’ action. Such criticism may or may not be true, but it undoubtedly underlines an increasing need for greater legitimacy in our institutions, as well as enhanced effectiveness.

The regional dimension is part of that effort.

There is frequently a gap also between regional and global decision-making. Global bodies such as the UN and the WTO explicitly recognise the desirability of regional input and support – but the truth is that we have no established model or mechanism for how this should take place. In some cases the gap between global and regional decision-making is widening. A clear example is the relative stasis of the WTO agenda compared to the proliferation of regional or bilateral trade deals.

Besides, interdependence and interconnectedness are evolving fast, but the dynamic propelling us towards a “global village” and shared decision-making is confronted by that of a world which seems to be drifting apart. The renewed claim for identity at subnational or local level can sometimes be seen as a threat to the Nation State model, potentially leading to greater fragmentation. Globalisation has shortened the distances but has not erased differences in political and social models and has sometimes even exacerbated them. Today, we live not just in economic, scientific and technological competition with each other, but also in a broader geo-political competition of models of governance. Differences seem harder to bridge – at a time when the need to bridge them is much greater.

On top of that, the dynamic of divergence between East and West, North and South, seems set to continue. It is no exaggeration to say that power and influence are shifting, but I do not necessarily consider this as a “loss of power” of the West – I see it as part and parcel of truly global integration, which, if implemented according to some values and principles, can be a true win-win situation for the different players in our world.

In concrete terms we have seen challenges to the post-war bodies, on which global governance was based, such as the UN, the IMF and World Bank. A certain amount of complexity may be part of the new reality, but new competing institutions could further complicate regional and global governance. So the real question in my view is: do we want to focus on cooperation and collaboration or on competition?

Ladies and gentlemen,

Against this backdrop, how do we see the world order shifting and adapting itself?

A first, major development which I already mentioned is the emergence of the G20 in response to problems of global economic governance.

The economic liberalisation, and therefore also: the economic interdependence that has been so spectacular and successful over the last two decades came under threat as soon as the financial crisis erupted. The need for openness and for a global response was more obvious than ever before, namely by collectively resisting pressures of naked and ugly protectionism. But that in itself was not enough to bring it about, because the temptation to go it alone and try to survive the crisis by ‘beggar-thy-neighbour’ policies was very strong. We simply had to step up our common engagement.

I vividly remember when French President Sarkozy, then holding the rotating Presidency of the European Council, and myself went to Camp David in October 2008 in order to try to convince President George W. Bush to join our call to act against the crisis in a concerted and convincing way. This led to the G20 in its current format, at Heads of State or government level, and the hugely important effort to globalise the response to the crisis at that stage. Since then, the G20 has become the only truly global forum for coordination of economic policies between its members, giving concrete shape and form to a lot of the concepts that the European Union has brought to the table, for instance on a framework for balanced and sustainable growth, on financial regulation and supervision or on action against tax evasion and fraud.

The development of the G20, from which Turkey is a member and will hold its next presidency, is a constructive and an institutional response to the problems we face together. As such, it is one of the most significant transformations of the global system – in the short term probably the most important one – and its creation certainly helped to avoid much more negative scenarios that might well have happened without it.

A second, major test for global governance is climate change, on which we had an important UN Summit in New York last week where I had the honour to speak on behalf of the European Union.

Climate change is one of the defining challenges of our times. It ignores borders, disrupts societies, undermines development and destroys our global commons. It is by its very nature a problem we can only face together. At the same time, climate change also presents an opportunity to reinvent our economies in a cleaner, leaner, greener and more efficient way. But we, the international community, can only grasp this opportunity and defend our shared planet if we show courage, vision, determination – and unity.

The European Union has been and remains at the forefront of efforts to address climate change. In 2005, we created the world’s first and largest carbon market with the European Emissions Trading System (ETS). In 2008, we set the most ambitious targets for domestic emissions’ reductions, renewable energy and energy savings under our 2020 framework. This ambition is paying off. The European Union is on track to meet our targets.

And we try to lead by example in the future as well. The European Commission has proposed an ambitious reduction target of 40% of domestic emissions by 2030, compared to 1990 levels, plus a renewables target of at least 27% and energy savings of 30%.

So, the European Union will be ready to agree a comprehensive, global and binding climate treaty at the end of next year in the Paris Summit. And we urge those countries with the greatest responsibilities and capabilities to get ready as well. Climate change is probably the most obvious example of the need for stronger global governance.

At the same time, we must also assist the most vulnerable countries, many of which are less able to take action on climate change, but who nevertheless suffer the consequences. For that reason, over the next 7 years, the European Union aims to allocate more than €3 billion in grants to support sustainable energy in developing countries. This will leverage between €15 and €30 billion in loans and equity investment, to plug gaps in energy infrastructure and businesses, to power schools, homes and hospitals in a sustainable manner. In total, Europe will provide €14 billion of public climate finance to partners beyond its borders over the next seven years.

We need to keep up the momentum on climate action, and foster a true coalition of all stakeholders, not just governments and international organisations but business leaders, financial institutions, and civil society. This concerns us all.

A third, major evolution in global governance is the increasingly dense web of trade agreements that spans the globe – not least around the European Union’s free trade agreements.

This too is a case of rules and institutions following economic reality, while shaping it at the same time. Open trade needs to go hand in hand with a rules-based system and a level playing field for all nations, citizens and companies, otherwise its effectiveness and legitimacy will suffer gravely.

Over the last five years, Europe was able to conclude a new generation of deals with South Korea, Singapore, Colombia, Peru, Central America, and Canada; we finalised economic partnership agreements in Africa, with West Africa and the Southern African Development Community (SADC); we resumed negotiations with the Southern Cone Common Market (Mercosur); we launched important negotiations on free trade agreements (FTAs) with Japan, India, Vietnam and Thailand, and on an investment agreement with China. And we took the unprecedented step to start negotiations with the United States of America on a Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP). All this shows clearly: the European Union as the world’s largest trading block remains open for business. The crisis has not prompted us to pull up the drawbridges – on the contrary.

Now, we have always made it clear that this system of deeper bilateral ties, for us, is a second-best option. Indeed, we have only resumed bilateral and regional negotiations once it was regrettably but unmistakably clear that a multilateral trade deal encompassing the whole of the WTO membership was not forthcoming because some of the most important players were not ready for a global agreement. And in the EU we have made sure that our bilateral agreements, all of which go much beyond what would be possible multilaterally, are building blocks and not stumbling blocks for the multilateral trading system. It is a good example of pragmatic policies of bilateral and regional integration adding up to a race to the top, instead of a race to the bottom.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

Since we are here in this historical and great city of Istanbul, let me conclude with some words about Turkey – a country that I respect and admire so much – and also about Turkey-EU relations.

EU-Turkey relations are almost as old as the EU itself! We are close partners – and it is absolutely critical that we sustain and deepen this partnership. I think both Europeans and Turks understand this shared interest very well.

The EU is Turkey’s central trade and investment partner. In 2013, 41.5% of Turkish goods exports went to the EU and 36.7% of all imports of goods came from the EU. The great majority of all foreign direct investment in Turkey comes from the EU. With the customs union, Turkey has access to the biggest internal market in the world. Also, I believe that adopting the EU acquis – as required by the agreement – encourages and facilitates investment in Turkey.

Turkey has gone through tremendous changes over the past ten years. The most spectacular change obviously concerns the economy: thanks to a series of difficult but smart reforms after the big crisis of 2001. Turkey has become a much wealthier country, with a 5% annual growth on average, entered the G-20 club and qualified as a functioning market economy, one of the economic criteria for EU accession.

Turkey has also made progress in its alignment with the EU legislation even if we consider that the picture is mixed as regards the political criteria.

Let me stress that the EU stands by Turkey’s reforms. I have to say that Turkey is the biggest recipient of pre-accession assistance from the EU – it benefited from €4.8 billion in the period 2007-2013. For the next programming period 2014-2020 Turkey will benefit from around €4.5 billion. Strategic priorities include support to political reform and democratisation, including rule of law and human rights, social development and social inclusion, development towards a resource-efficient low carbon economy, increased inter-connectivity, and progress towards alignment with the EU.

We welcome the fact that the new Government has tabled its EU Strategy, which is intended to reinvigorate Turkey’s work on its European path. We would like to see this clear European commitment on the Turkish side. On the European side, I would like very much to see new chapters open as soon as possible, in particular chapters 23 and 24.

So, Turkey is and remains a key partner for the EU. This has been repeated many times by the Council of the EU and by the Commission, and I’m sure this will again be one of the central messages of the upcoming Progress Report.

Take any major challenge we are faced with – from the economic crisis and energy security to migration policy or terrorism – Turkey appears as a strategic partner for the European Union and as part of the solution. Not to mention of course Turkey’s crucial role in its neighbourhood – which is also the EU’s neighbourhood. The way Turkey has so far offered shelter to a million of Syrian refugees and recently to Kurdish refugees is very impressive. But to be able to tackle all these challenges, Turkey strongly needs the EU, too! We are bound to succeed together. There is also a large, untapped potential for cooperation between us. This ranges from foreign policy to counter-terrorism, the economy, trade, energy, migration policy and the visa dialogue.

I know there are some, both in the EU and in Turkey, who have doubts about EU enlargement. But let me tell you I am convinced EU enlargement will continue because a bigger Europe is a stronger Europe.

In 2012, EU GDP was 23% of world GDP, amounting to €13 trillion while our share on the global population is just 7%. Accession benefited both those countries joining the EU and the established member states.

Enlargement extended the internal market, opened trade and financial flows and created new opportunities for businesses and companies to firms in the EU and in the incoming countries. Trade between old and new member states grew almost threefold in less than 10 years preceding the 2004 and 2007 enlargements and fivefold among the new members themselves. Central and Eastern Europe grew on average by 4% annually in the period 1994-2008. It is estimated that the accession process itself contributed almost half to this growth over the period 2000-2008.

The economic dynamism of these countries generated three million new jobs in just six years from 2002 to 2008. Growth in the acceding countries contributed to growth in the old member states through increased investment opportunities and demand for their products. It contributed 0.5 percentage point to cumulative growth of EU-15 in 2000-2008. German exports to the 12 countries that joined in 2004 have almost doubled since then, totalling €124.5 billion last year.

These figures speak for themselves. EU enlargement was and is a good thing for Europe.

Ladies and gentlemen,

Government structures are stubborn things.

But facts, as we know, are even more stubborn.

So we need to be ready to change the way we work when faced with new realities, in order to better serve and protect our citizens.

In a world where threats and opportunities are ever more global, I am confident we will find solutions that transcend the traditional boundaries of politics as well.

Pragmatism and conviction will overcome all pessimism. After ten years at the helm of the European Commission, I can say that this is not wishful thinking. This is simply the lesson I draw from all what was achieved to overcome the worst part of the financial and economic crisis, as well as to face new global challenges.

Thank you very much.

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Daily News of 2014-07-30

MEX 14 / 30.07

DAILY NEWS

30 / 07 / 14

Agreement on additional restrictive measures against Russia 

Following the agreement by the European Union on a package of significant additional restrictive measures targeting sectoral cooperation and exchanges with the Russian Federation, President of the European Commission José Manuel Barroso and President of the European Council Herman Van Rompuy issued a joint statement, saying that the measures were “meant as a strong warning: illegal annexation of territory and deliberate destabilisation of a neighbouring sovereign country cannot be accepted in 21st century Europe.” The decisions will limit access to EU capital markets for Russian State-owned financial institutions, impose an embargo on trade in arms, establish an export ban for dual use goods for military end users, and curtail Russian access to sensitive technologies particularly in the field of the oil sector.

European Commission adopts ‘Partnership Agreement’ with Portugal

The European Commission has adopted a “Partnership Agreement” with Portugal setting down the strategy for the optimal use of European Structural and Investment Funds throughout the country. Today’s agreement paves the way for investing €21.46 billion in total Cohesion Policy funding over 2014-2020 (current prices, including European Territorial Cooperation funding and the allocation for the Youth Employment Initiative). Portugal also receives €4.06 billion for rural development and €392 million for fisheries and the maritime sector. The EU investments will help tackle unemployment and boost competitiveness and economic growth through support to innovation, training and education in Portugal’s cities, towns and rural areas. They will also promote entrepreneurship, fight social exclusion and help to develop an environmentally friendly and a resource-efficient economy. Later today, President of the European Commission José Manuel Barroso and Regional Policy Commissioner Johannes Hahn will participate in a meeting with the Portuguese prime minister and other members of the government in Lisbon to mark the launch of the Partnership Agreement. Commenting on the adoption, President Barroso said: ”The adoption of the ‘Partnership Agreement’ is vital to continue the support to Portugal’s recovery and development. It is very much geared towards improving competitiveness, creating jobs and promoting social inclusion. It is now paramount to use the nearly €26 billion in an efficient and productive manner, directly benefiting Portuguese people.” Portugal is the 10th EU Member State to have adopted its Partnership Agreement.

Other news

EU scales up funding in response to West Africa Ebola outbreak

The European Commission is allocating an additional €2 million to respond to the worst Ebola outbreak ever recorded. This EU funding will help contain the spread of the epidemic and provide immediate healthcare to the affected communities. It brings the Commission’s aid to fight the Ebola epidemic to €3.9 million. The Commission is in close contact with Member States. In addition, the EU has deployed health and humanitarian experts to the affected countries.

An off-the-record technical briefing on the EU response to the Ebola outbreak will be held after the Midday briefing today in the Commission’s press room.

Transport: €320 million for 106 infrastructure projects

The European Commission has selected 106 key projects that will benefit from over €320 million in EU support to improve TEN-T (trans-European transport network) infrastructure. These projects will use the EU’s financial support to speed up the completion of the TEN-T network, as well as studying innovative ways of reducing the transport sector’s environmental footprint.

Migrant integration in the labour market in 2013: Unemployment rate for non-EU citizens notably higher than for nationals in the EU28

In 2013 in the EU28, the unemployment rate for non-EU citizens (21.3%) aged 20 to 64 was more than twice the level for citizens of the reporting country (10.0%), referred to as “nationals”. However, the share of people unemployed for 12 months or more was at almost the same level for non-EU citizens (48.6%) and for nationals (49.4%). As regards employment, the rate for non-EU citizens aged 20 to 64 in the EU28 stood at 56.1%, while it was 68.9% for nationals. The share of employees aged 20 to 64 with a temporary contract was higher for non-EU citizens (20.2%) than for nationals (12.4%). The pattern was the same for the proportion of part time employment, which was more widespread amongst non-EU citizens (27.5%) than amongst nationals (18.4%).

Another step in the finalization of the Banking Union’s architecture: publication of Single Resolution Mechanism (SRM) Regulation

Today, the Regulation establishing a Single Resolution Mechanism (SRM) for the Banking Union has been published in the Official Journal of the EU, only one year after the European Commission presented its proposal. The Single Resolution Mechanism will implement in the Eurozone the new rules set for all 28 Member States by the Bank Recovery and Resolution Directive (BRRD) in order to put an end to the old paradigm of bank bail-outs, which cost taxpayers’ hundreds of billions of euros in the crisis. The Single Resolution Mechanism will allow for the timely and effective resolution of cross border and domestic banks, over a weekend if necessary. The Regulation will enter into force on 19 August. The provisions relating to the cooperation between the Single Resolution Board and the national resolution authorities for the preparation of the banks’ resolution plans will apply from 1 January 2015 and the Single Resolution Mechanism should be fully operational from 1st January 2016. Today’s publication contributes to making the Banking Union a reality. See also MEMO/14/295 and MEMO/14/475 for SRM and MEMO/14/294 for Banking Union.

Mergers: Commission clears acquisition of Vencorex by PTT Public Company Limited

The European Commission has approved under the EU Merger Regulation the acquisition of Vencorex of France by PTT Public Company Limited of Thailand, via its Dutch subsidiary PTTGC International. Vencorex produces and sells globally various chemicals, including toluene diisocyanate and raffinates, used primarily in polyurethanes foams and coatings, as well as aliphatic diisocyanates and derivatives used in coatings for cars, plastics, floors etc. PTT Public Company Limited is active globally in various sectors, including energy, natural gas, distribution of refined fuels, lubricating products and various chemicals. The Commission concluded that the proposed acquisition would not raise competition concerns, in particular because the parties’ activities do not overlap and the vertical links are limited. The transaction was examined under the simplified merger review procedure. More information is available on the Commission’s competition website, in the public case register under the case number M.7303 .

Mergers: The Commission clears acquisition of Ipreo by Goldman Sachs and Blackstone

The European Commission has approved under the EU Merger Regulation the acquisition of Ipreo Holdings LLC (Ipreo) of the USA by the Goldman Sachs Group, Inc (Goldman Sachs) of the USA and the Blackstone Group L.P. (Blackstone) of the USA. Ipreo is active, globally, in the financial information industry as a provider of financial information products. Goldman Sachs is a global investment banking, securities and investment management firm. Blackstone is a global alternative asset manager and provider of financial advisory services. The Commission concluded that the proposed acquisition would not raise competition concerns given the very low combined market shares resulting from the transaction. The transaction was examined under the simplified merger review procedure. More information is available on the Commission’s competition website, in the public case register under the case number M.7261 .

State aid: Commission approves prolongation of Portuguese guarantee scheme

The European Commission has authorised, under EU State aid rules, the extension until 30 June 2014 of a guarantee scheme for credit institutions in Portugal. The scheme was initially approved in October 2008 (see IP/08/1601) and prolonged several times, last in December 2013 (see MEX/13/1912). The Commission found the extension of the measures to be in line with its guidance on state aid to banks during the crisis (see IP/08/1495 , IP/11/1488 and IP/13/672). In particular, the extended measure is well targeted, proportionate and limited in time and scope. More information will be available on the Commission’s competition website, in the public case register, under the case number SA.38900 .

State aid: Commission approves second prolongation of Portuguese guarantee scheme on EIB lending

The European Commission has authorised, under EU State aid rules, a second prolongation, until 31 December 2014, of a Portuguese scheme providing State guarantees to banks that guarantee European Investment Bank (EIB) loans granted to companies in Portugal. The scheme was initially approved on 27 June 2013 (see IP/13/617) and first prolonged in December 2013 (see MEX 13/1812). The Commission found the prolongation of the measure to be in line with its guidance on state aid to banks during the crisis (see IP/08/1495 , IP/11/1488 and IP/13/672). In particular, the prolonged measure is well targeted, proportionate and limited in time and scope. The scheme will allow the continuation of funding provided by the EIB to the real economy and prevent the disruption of the credit granted by the EIB through the banks participating in the scheme. More information will be available on the Commission’s competition website, in the public case register, under the case number SA.38778 .

Antitrust: Commission closes its investigation into the refusal by several manufacturers of prestige/luxury watches to supply spare parts to independent repairers

The European Commission has closed its antitrust investigation in the sectors of the supply of spare parts and the provision of repair and maintenance services for luxury/prestige watches in several member states (notably France, Germany, Italy, Spain and the UK). The investigation concerned watches which are typically worth repairing and maintaining (in that regard, the Commission focused on watches sold above a certain retail price). The Commission investigated, further to a complaint by the European Confederation of Watch and Clock Repairers’ Association (CEAHR), whether the discontinuance of the supplies of spare parts by prestige watch manufacturers to independent watch repairers (i.e. repairers that do not belong to their respective official networks for repair and maintenance services) may constitute an infringement of EU competition rules on restrictive agreements and abuse of a dominant position (Articles 101 and 102 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the EU, respectively). Following a comprehensive investigation, the Commission has concluded that there is limited likelihood of finding such an infringement. The Commission has accordingly decided to close its antitrust probe (see web statement for more background on the case).

First World Day against Trafficking in Persons:  “Addressing trafficking in human beings must remain a political priority” says Commissioner Malmström

At the occasion of the first World day against Trafficking in Persons, Commissioner Cecilia Malmström reminded that trafficking in human beings “happens in the EU and affects us all”. Today “is an occasion to renew our commitment to work together for eradicating human trafficking. It is a day to reflect our personal and collective responsibility towards the victims. Our behaviour creates demand that fosters all forms of exploitation, and this must stop. We owe it to the victims”, explained the Commissioner for Home Affairs. She called upon all citizens to be aware that “The food we eat, the clothes we wear, the goods we use every day could be products of slavery”, before emphasizing that” addressing trafficking in human beings must remain a political priority – in Europe and beyond our borders”.

July 2014: Economic Sentiment stable in the euro area, decreasing slightly in the EU

In July the Economic Sentiment Indicator (ESI) remained broadly stable in the euro area (+0.1 points at 102.2), while it decreased slightly in the EU (by 0.6 points to 105.8).

Business Climate Indicator decreases marginally in July

In July 2014 the Business Climate Indicator (BCI) for the euro area decreased marginally by 0.04 points to +0.17. Managers’ more optimistic views on expected production and, to a lesser extent, the current level of overall order books were offset by an important decline in their assessments of past production. Managers’ assessment of stocks of finished products and export order books remained broadly unchanged.

Digital privacy: EU-wide logo and “data protection impact assessments” aim to boost the use of RFID systems

New EU-wide technical standards have been agreed that will help users of Radio Frequency Identification (RFID) smart chips and systems comply with EU Data Protection rules and the Commission’s 2009 recommendation on RFID. A “data protection impact assessment” process has also been agreed. Among the practical effects of these new standards, people using electronic travel passes, or buying clothes and supermarket items with RFID tags in the label, will know that smart chips are present thanks to a new RFID sign. Retailers using RFID technology to improve stock management and prevent theft will be confident that they are respecting current EU data protection rules. Vice President Neelie Kroes said:Smart tags and systems are part of everyday life now, they simplify systems and boost our economy. But it is important to have standards in place which ensure those benefits do not come at a cost to data protection and security of personal data“.

EU Timber Regulation: new scorecard shows mixed progress to date

In March 2013, the EU Timber Regulation entered into application outlawing the placing of illegal timber on the internal market. A scoreboard published today by the Commission shows a mixed picture with regard to the implementation of the Regulation across the EU. To be effective, the legislation needs to be applied in full in an efficient and effective way, but there is still room for improvement in a number of Member States. The scorecard grades Members States against three main obligations under the legislation – designation of competent authorities, laying down the rules on penalties applicable to infringements, and an adequate system of checks. Illegal logging – the harvesting of timber in contravention to the laws and regulations of the country of harvest – is a global problem, causing deforestation, climate change and a loss of biodiversity, lost revenues for governments and legitimate operators, and disempowering local and indigenous communities. The Timber Regulation, which is part of the EU’s Forest Law Enforcement Governance and Trade (FLEGT) Action Plan , aims to combat the problem by developing responsible trading practices and obliging suppliers to ensure their timber complies with national legislation in the place of harvest. An overview can be consulted here: http://ec.europa.eu/environment/forests/timber_regulation.htm

The new scoreboard is part of a more robust approach that aims to ensure uniform application of the Timber Regulation across the Union.

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Speeches: ASEAN and America: Partners for the Future

As Prepared for Delivery

Thank you, Phil. I’m glad to be in San Francisco, and with all of you here at the Commonwealth Club.

You’re here today because you understand the importance of Asia to America. This is especially evident in a Pacific Coast state like California. More than 5.5 million Asian-Pacific Americans live in California, and millions more Californians do business, study, or otherwise benefit from their ties with the region. California exported nearly $70 billion in goods to the region last year, more than any other state. And Asia matters to the entire United States – to our economy, to our security, to our families.

As a Pacific power and a trading nation, we can’t afford not to be in the Asia-Pacific. That’s why President Obama decided, before he even took office, to institute a long-term, strategic emphasis on the region. And I’m confident that strategy will extend far beyond his presidency, because we have strong bipartisan support for it – both parties understand the importance of Asia.

Now, there is a lot going on in Asia today, from the dramatic rise of China and the historic reforms in Burma, to the ongoing threat from North Korea’s pursuit of nuclear weapons, to the dangerous tensions in the South China Sea.

And while I know that as a topic, “strengthening regional institutions” probably ties for last place with “corporate tax policy” in its headline-grabbing power, it’s one of the most consequential undertakings in terms of American interests. And that’s what I’d like to discuss with you today — namely, the effort to shape a rules-based order that is stable, peaceful, open and free.

First let me say that the region I am responsible for–East Asia and the Pacific–is a diverse one. Northeast Asia, Oceania–which includes Australia, New Zealand, and the Pacific island states–and then Southeast Asia, are all quite different.

Northeast Asia is home to two of our important treaty allies – Japan and the Republic of Korea. We’ve modernized defense cooperation with both countries to address the very real threat posed by North Korea. And we’ve deepened economic engagement through free trade agreements such as the one reached with South Korea.

Northeast Asia is also home, of course, to China–with which we’ve dramatically increased our engagement.

I was with Secretary Kerry, Treasury Secretary Jack Lew, and other Cabinet officials earlier this month for the annual Strategic and Economic Dialogue covering nearly every area of our relationship with China, from concrete steps to combat climate change and wildlife trafficking, to preventing nuclear proliferation on the Korean Peninsula and in Iran, to facilitating business and investment between our two countries.

These exchanges show the conviction of both sides – as the world’s two largest economies, two of the strongest military powers, and the two largest carbon emitters – to cooperate on the world’s toughest problems whenever we can. And just as important, they show our shared commitment to tackle problem areas frankly and openly, instead of merely agreeing to disagree on issues like human rights or intellectual property protection.

Australia, New Zealand, and the Pacific island states are extremely important partners. We’ve upgraded our defense cooperation with our Australian treaty ally, and we’re working to create jobs and shared prosperity with both Australia and New Zealand through the TPP trade agreement.

We’re also working with the vulnerable island states to protect the environment. Last month, Secretary Kerry hosted the “Our Ocean” conference, a first-of-its-kind diplomatic effort rallying heads of state, scientists and advocates from the Pacific Island nations and beyond to protect this shared resource.

But in many respects, the dynamic center of the region is Southeast Asia, and the ten countries that make up ASEAN.

Let me first say a few words about each.

Our ally the Philippines is a stable democracy with strong economic growth. We completed an enhanced defense cooperation agreement during President Obama’s visit in April, which enables us to better address common security challenges and provide relief for disasters, such as Typhoon Haiyan. Our economies also continue to grow closer, with two way trade reaching $24 billion last year.

We have strong partners in Indonesia and Malaysia, both pluralistic and tolerant Muslim-majority nations with growing economies. Indonesia’s recent presidential election shows the strength of their democracy. And President Obama’s recent visit to Malaysia highlighted our growing economic, people-to-people, and security ties.

Singapore is an influential and effective economic, diplomatic and security partner. Brunei is a major energy producer that, while small, has been a valuable partner for us on crucial regional issues like renewable energy and free trade.

Vietnam, of course, has a complicated history with the U.S. But our relations are now flourishing. Trade is increasing dramatically as Vietnam’s economy grows. And we’re forging closer security ties, even as we encourage greater political openness and respect for human rights.

We cooperate with Laos and Cambodia on a range of development issues, and we also push them to adhere to global standards of human rights.

With our longtime treaty ally Thailand, despite the recent setback of a military coup, we remain committed to our enduring friendship.

Perhaps no other country shows the promise of this region better than Burma, which has made a turn of historic proportions towards democracy and reform.

But that turn is by no means complete. Burma faces many challenges, and the success of its reform process is by no means certain. Burma is working to negotiate a lasting peace to end the world’s longest running civil war. It is grappling now with the key issue of constitutional reform, of military versus civilian control over its government, and of who it deems eligible to serve as head of state.

It continues to face hard choices in determining how to resolve an ongoing humanitarian crisis in Rakhine State. On that issue, we have seen some positive movement in the past week, as the government announced its intent to welcome the return of assistance providers, like Doctors Without Borders, and put forth its strategy on how to bring access to livelihoods and security back to populations that have been living tenuously for many months because of ethno-religious violence and discrimination.

Secretary Kerry will be very focused on seeing how this process is proceeding, when he visits in early August. He, and then President Obama when he visits in November, will be keen to get a sense of Burma’s preparedness for its landmark elections next year. The world will be watching, and we will continue to stand with the government and people of Burma as they enter this testing period. So we will continue to press Burma’s leaders to protect and respect all of their peoples, and their human rights and fundamental freedoms. And we will continue to support that country’s transformation.

That’s the overview of Southeast Asia today. The region’s economic dynamism and strategic importance has made it a particular focus of this administration – the ‘rebalance within the rebalance,’ if you will.

These ten countries have many differences, but they are bound by the conviction that they can achieve more together than they can apart. But before we talk about where they’re headed, it’s important to know how they came together.

Today’s ASEAN began in 1967 when the Vietnam War was heating up, and the Cold War seemed never-ending. In this uncertain world, five Southeast Asian nations signed a Declaration that they would support each other as they sought to build prosperous, independent states.

Now, nearly half a century after its founding, ASEAN has doubled to 10 nations with more than 620 million people, and a GDP of $2.2 trillion.

As Southeast Asia has grown and developed, ASEAN’s relations with the U.S. have grown as well. Under our Trade and Investment Framework Agreement signed in 2006, we have deepened our economic ties.

Since President Obama decided in 2009 to sign the Treaty of Amity and Cooperation–a treaty that ASEAN has extended to key neighbors–we’ve deepened our political ties as well. This is shown by the President’s decision to participate annually in the East Asia Summit, as he will again this year in November. This commitment to enhanced engagement with ASEAN is a key feature of the rebalance.

And we’re strengthening our ties with ASEAN across the entire U.S. government. Take this past April, when Secretary Hagel, USAID Administrator Raj Shah, and U.S. Pacific Commander Admiral Sam Locklear hosted defense ministers from the ASEAN nations in Hawai’i. This was the first-ever ASEAN meeting here in the United States–a recognition that our security and prosperity are more intertwined than ever before.

For instance, California already sells over $11.6 billion worth of goods to ASEAN. Exports to ASEAN support more than 90,000 California jobs [in 2012]. And both of those numbers can grow a lot more. Your state also stands to gain from more tourists and students from the region.

And ASEAN matters to the entire United States. We had $206 billion worth of trade in goods last year. ASEAN is our fourth-largest export market and trading partner. With a diaspora reaching across America, the region contributes to our culture. And sitting astride vital trade routes, it is important to our security.

A stable Southeast Asia that meets the aspirations of its people–for economic growth, clean air and water, education, and a voice in how they’re governed–is in America’s national interest. And one of the best, most efficient ways for America to help the region meet its aspirations is by investing in ASEAN.

Strengthening regional institutions is a long-term strategy. We pursue it because it’s essential to building the foundations for progress–from ease of trade, travel and transport, to systems for resolving legal disputes, to the ability to act together on pressing issues like environmental protection. We all benefit from a rules-based system.

Strong institutions harness a powerful force. A force you see in both daily life and in international politics–peer pressure. In fact, ASEAN shows that the best way to create positive peer pressure in the long term is through strong institutions.

ASEAN is working towards forming a cohesive economic community by next year through lower barriers and increased trade volumes with each other. For the U.S. economy, this will mean easier and more efficient market access to all 10 ASEAN countries. And in the longer term, a more prosperous ASEAN will be able to buy more American exports–from farm products to manufactured goods, to services.

Even as ASEAN pursues its ambitious agenda of internal integration, it has taken on the challenge of bringing the entire Asia-Pacific region closer together. This fills an important gap – APEC is a forum for economic cooperation, but there was no forum in the region where countries could deal with political, security, and humanitarian issues.

So in 1997, ASEAN started meetings with Japan, South Korea, and China… then with Australia, India, and New Zealand… and four years ago with the United States and Russia, bringing the number of world leaders attending what is now known as the East Asia Summit to 18.

The growth of the East Asia Summit shows ASEAN’s measured advance on the international stage as the hub that connects the region.

Less visible than the leaders’ summit, but even larger, is the ASEAN Regional Forum, an annual gathering of foreign ministers and other senior officials representing 26 countries from Pakistan to the Pacific Rim, and the EU.

This is perhaps the region’s most important ministerial meeting of the year, and it takes place in a few weeks in Burma. Secretary Kerry and his counterparts will discuss political and security issues, and begin fleshing out the agenda for the East Asia Summit, or EAS, which President Obama plans to attend in November.

Why the emphasis on EAS? In Europe, we’ve seen for decades how a region can develop effective institutions tailored to their unique needs, such as NATO and the OSCE. Those organizations have helped tackle regional, political, security and humanitarian problems. We believe the EAS can become the premier forum for addressing pressing issues in the Asia-Pacific region. But it is relatively new, and members are still trying to shape it to increase its usefulness and effectiveness.

We joined EAS because, as an Asia-Pacific nation, we want to be at the table for a strategic discussion about how we build and shape the institution over time.

Let me give you a little preview of the issues that will be at the top of Secretary Kerry’s agenda. We expect to advance collaboration on issues ranging from non-proliferation to humanitarian assistance and disaster response.

Disaster response is incredibly important, since the Asia-Pacific is hit by 70 percent of all natural disasters, costing the region $68 billion annually over the past ten years.

We have worked closely with partners, including China, on improving regional responses to problems and accidents such as oil spills, for example. We are supporting the EAS declaration on Rapid Disaster Response, helping spread the lessons learned in the Philippines from the recent Super-typhoon Haiyan, and working to improve the capabilities of ASEAN’s Centre for Humanitarian Assistance and disaster relief.

We’ve also teamed up with regional partners to develop a strategic plan for exercises that will prepare us to better coordinate delivery of life-saving relief in future disasters. And we are preparing to host an ARF climate change adaptation workshop to help countries protect their people from this growing problem.

In addition to advancing these areas of collaboration, we will have frank discussions about pressing political and security challenges. In recent months, the main security challenge facing ASEAN has been tensions in the South China Sea.

This is, of course, most important to the countries with overlapping territorial and maritime claims there. Let me note up front that the U.S. is not a claimant and does not take a position on others’ claims to land features in the South China Sea. So the United States can be impartial. And we are impartial; we are not taking one claimant’s side against another.

However, peace and stability in the South China Sea is important to the international community, because the South China Sea is essential to the global economy. Up to 50 percent of the world’s oil tanker shipments, and over half of the world’s merchant tonnage, pass through the South China Sea. National interests like freedom of navigation, international law, the peaceful settlement of disputes, and unimpeded commerce are at stake.

Rival maritime and territorial claims have existed here for decades, as countries jostle over islands, shipping lanes, historically rich fisheries, and more recently, oil and gas reserves.

The claimants have, at various times, shown that cooperation in the South China Sea area is possible. They have jointly explored for and managed resources. The Philippines and Indonesia peacefully settled a 20-year maritime boundary dispute just outside the Sea earlier this year. China and Vietnam have settled similar issues in the past. And some claimants have jointly developed energy resources further away from disputed land features.

In 2002, the ASEAN nations and China signed a Declaration on Conduct in the South China Sea. The Declaration, among other things, said that the parties would resolve disputes peacefully and in accordance with international law, and would refrain from actions that would escalate disputes, such as setting up new outposts on unoccupied features. And they agreed to work toward a more detailed Code of Conduct.

But tensions have flared over the years as well, and this year, they are running high. No claimant is solely responsible for the state of tensions. However, big and powerful countries have a special responsibility to show restraint. China’s recent pattern of assertive, unilateral behavior has raised serious concerns about China’s expansive claims, and its willingness to adhere to international law and standards.

Tensions spiked recently when China sent a deepwater drilling rig and armed ships into an area near the Paracel Islands that Vietnam also claims. The resulting weeks-long confrontation resulted in damaged ships, including the sinking of a Vietnamese fishing vessel, and damaged relations, including anti-Chinese riots in Vietnam.

At the same time, public evidence indicates the claimants are upgrading outposts on small land features in the South China Sea. What worries me is that China’s projects are far outpacing similar upgrades that other claimants are making. This important, resource-rich area should not be heavily militarized.

And actions off the water can raise tensions as well.

All parties should be able to bring disputes for adjudication under international law if they conclude that regular diplomatic efforts will not succeed. The Philippines has done this in a dispute with China over the validity of its claim that a 1948 Nationalist Chinese map “proves” that China owns the land and water within a “9 dash line” in the South China Sea.

But instead of engaging constructively and arguing its case as the Tribunal has proposed, China has pressured the Philippines to drop its case, and attempted to isolate the Philippines diplomatically.

International law, not national power, should be the basis for pursuing maritime claims in the South China Sea.

The United States works to lower tensions and help the parties peacefully manage their disputes in several ways. We have told the claimants – including the Chinese – directly and at the highest levels, of our growing concern. And we’ve encouraged all sides to avoid provocations and make clear claims based on international law.

We’re working with ASEAN and the international community to promote regional structures and arrangements, like a meaningful Code of Conduct, to lower tensions and manage disputes.

Rules and guidelines work best when they’re agreed to by the parties, through institutions that build habits of cooperation.

The U.S. is also investing more than $156 million in the civilian maritime capabilities of allies and partners in the area over the next two years. This includes equipment, training, and infrastructure. And it augments our own security presence in the region, which has been enhanced by the rebalance.

These are steps the U.S. is taking. But the claimants are the ones who must manage and settle the disputes. They are the ones who must generate the peer pressure – who must hold themselves to high standards, and then set an example for each other.

For instance, China and ASEAN already committed under the 2002 Declaration on Conduct to avoid activities that “would complicate or escalate disputes and affect peace and stability.”

However, these problematic activities are not well defined. We are urging China and the other claimants to have a conversation about what activities are acceptable to each of them – both to help reduce tensions now, and manage differences in the long run.

We have called for claimant states to define and voluntarily freeze problematic activities. The exact elements of a freeze would be decided by consensus among the claimants, and would not prejudice the competing claims.

We’ve offered these ideas, in greater detail, both in public and in private. And we plan on advancing this important discussion at the upcoming ASEAN Regional Forum meeting in Burma.

Over time, strong institutions can influence the conduct of all their members, helping to avoid conflict and incentivize peaceful resolution of disputes. We see beneficial outcomes of positive peer pressure with environmental issues, in trade, and human rights. It doesn’t work every time, but it’s responsible for enormous progress.

The Asia-Pacific region has almost limitless potential, if it can avoid the pitfalls ahead. Strong institutions are key – not just to avoid and resolve disputes, but also to lower barriers to trade, and protect human rights and fundamental freedoms.

The U.S., as a resident Pacific power and participant in many of the region’s institutions, will do all we can to strengthen those institutions even further.

We do this through our alliances and our security partnerships–and through our growing business and people-to-people ties, in which California plays an incredibly large role. And together, the American people and our government will continue to help provide a foundation of peace and stability on which the region can grow.

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