U.S. To Focus on Trade, Global Security at Asia-Pacific Meetings

By Carrie Loewenthal
Washington File Special Correspondent

Washington - President Bush’s trip to Vietnam for the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) Leaders' Meeting will include stops in Singapore and Indonesia, according to National Security Advisor Stephen Hadley.

At the meeting, scheduled for November 18 and 19 in Hanoi, Vietnam, Bush plans to work with other world leaders to “advance the core APEC goals of economic growth, trade liberalization and trade-related security,” Hadley told reporters at a November 9 press briefing.

Over the course of the two-day event, Bush plans to hold bilateral discussions with South Korean President Roh Moo-hyun, Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and Chinese President Hu Jintao, according to Hadley.

The first day of the APEC Leaders' Meeting will concentrate on “advancing trade and investment in a changing global context,” he said.  Bush also will participate in the leaders’ dialogue with the APEC Business Advisory Council, during which he will highlight the U.S. private sector’s contributions to APEC.

Hadley said the second day of meetings will focus on “human security, economic and technical cooperation, [and] APEC reform,” among other issues.

In a separate interview with the Vietnam News Agency November 8, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said she hopes “the message that will come out of APEC is the importance of … living up to the rules of the free trading system, like intellectual property rights protection.”  Rice is scheduled to attend the APEC Ministerial Meeting November 15-16.

APEC's 21 member economies include Australia, Brunei Darussalam, Canada, Chile, China, Hong Kong, Indonesia, Japan, South Korea, Malaysia, Mexico, New Zealand, Papua New Guinea, Peru, the Philippines, Russia, Singapore, Chinese Taipei (Taiwan), Thailand, the United States and Vietnam.


During his trip, Bush also is scheduled to meet with leaders of seven member countries of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) to discuss progress on the U.S.-ASEAN Enhanced Partnership Initiative, which was announced at APEC in 2005. (See related article.)

“The Enhanced Partnership is a framework agreement for increasing cooperation with ASEAN in several areas, including health, education, disaster management and counter-narcotics,” Hadley said.

The ASEAN countries include Brunei Darussalam, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Burma, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam.  Cambodia, Laos and Burma are not members of APEC and will not be represented in Hanoi.

Describing Southeast Asia as a place of “dynamic and transforming economies, ranging from the financial and high-tech hub of Singapore to the reforming and literally booming Vietnam,” Hadley also cited global efforts to control the region’s al-Qaida-linked terrorist presence and health challenges such as avian flu.  (See Bird Flu (Avian Influenza).)

“The trip to Asia will allow the president to advance the interests of the American people by both partnering with Asian nations to tackle challenges that face us, like terrorism and disease, and by ensuring that American workers and businesses are able to reap the benefits of one of the world's most economically vibrant regions,” Hadley said.

He added that Bush also plans to “communicate his vision for smart development based on the Millennium Challenge principles of good governance, investment in people, and economic freedom.”  The Millennium Challenge Account (MCA), a Bush initiative established in 2003, aims to reduce poverty by significantly increasing economic growth in recipient countries through a variety of targeted investments. Mali is the most recent beneficiary of MCA funding. (See related article.)


In addition to his stay in Hanoi, Bush will travel to other parts of Vietnam, Indonesia and Singapore during this trip to a region that is “of great importance to the United States,” Hadley said.

Following the APEC meetings, Bush will go to Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam, where he will host a roundtable with business leaders to discuss economic reform and the thriving Vietnamese business climate.  He will then tour the Pasteur Medical Research Institute and hear about the Institute’s work in preventing HIV/AIDS and avian flu.  Vietnam, with U.S. assistance, “has succeeded in preventing a human case of avian influenza for over a year,” Hadley said.

Upon leaving Vietnam, Bush will travel to Indonesia, where he will meet with President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, who is the country’s “first directly elected democratic leader,” and “is leading Indonesia on a path of stability, prosperity and reform,” said Hadley.  The presidents will attend an event hosted by the first ladies of both countries to highlight Bush’s $150 million Indonesia Education Initiative.

Hadley said that initiative has three goals: “to help local governments, communities, and parents effectively manage education; to enhance teaching and learning to improve student performance, and to provide relevant work-life skills - computers, English - to prepare youth to transition to work and to position Indonesia to compete in the global economy.”

Bush will conclude his visit with a meeting with Indonesian civic leaders, with whom he will address health and education, and “how to ensure that the moderate majority in Indonesia is not overshadowed by a vocal extremist minority,” said Hadley.

In Singapore, the president will meet with Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong, to whom he will reiterate his appreciation for Singapore’s continued strong partnership with the United States.  Later, President Bush will deliver remarks at the National University of Singapore, where he will discuss “the ways in which the United States and Asian nations are partnering together to face the challenges of poverty, disease, terrorism, and energy security,” said Hadley.

This trip will mark Bush’s second visit to both Singapore and Indonesia, and his first to Vietnam.

Secretary Rice called Bush’s extended Vietnam visit an “extremely important” demonstration of the developing, “very broad relationship” between the United States and Vietnam.

U.S.-Vietnamese diplomatic ties range from a progressing economic relationship to continuing “dialogue about the process of democratization and human rights,” Rice said in the Vietnam News Agency interview.

Rice highlighted the significance of Vietnam’s pending membership in the World Trade Organization (WTO).  The WTO approved Vietnam's terms of accession November 7, and the country will become a member 30 days after it formally accepts the WTO accession agreement.

Vietnam’s WTO membership “is going to be of tremendous benefit to both Vietnam and to the United States in terms of job growth, in terms of making the markets open for products,” Rice said.  "And yet, when we go to Vietnam we will be sitting across from another member of the World Trade Organization talking not just about how to increase our own bilateral trade relationships, but how to make those trade relationships benefit an entire region."

A transcript of Rice's interview with the Vietnam News Agency is available on the State Department Web site.

A transcript of the Hadley briefing is available on the White House Web site.

A November 7 press release on the WTO's approval of Vietnam's accession is available on the USTR Web site.

For additional information on U.S. policy, see Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) and USA and the WTO.