Remarks by Vice President Harris on the Indo-Pacific Region
Gardens by the Bay
10:44 A.M. SST
THE VICE PRESIDENT: Good morning to everyone. It is a joy and an honor to be with you today and to be here in Singapore.
And, Ambassador, you mentioned it — you ended your comments with this, and I will begin my comments. I’m speaking about Afghanistan, because I am fully aware that, as I stand here today, the eyes of many around the world are on Afghanistan. So before I begin my comments, I will talk about that.
You all know we were at war in Afghanistan for 20 long years. Many members of our military gave their lives in Afghanistan, as did many from our allies and partners.
Months ago, President Joe Biden made the courageous and right decision to end this war because we had achieved what we went there to do.
Over these past weeks, the United States has been focused on safely evacuating American citizens, international partners, Afghans who worked side by side with us, and other Afghans at risk.
We are laser-focused on the task at hand. And we are extremely grateful to our men and women in uniform and to embassy staff who are on the ground, as we speak, making this historic airlift happen in an incredibly difficult and dangerous environment.
And we are grateful to our international partners for standing with us and working with us to meet this challenge, including Singapore.
At the same time, it is also imperative that as we address developments in one region, we continue to advance our interests in other regions, including this region.
And that brings me to why I am here today in Singapore. As I have said many times over these past many months, the fact is that I believe our world is embarking on a new era — an era with new challenges, like cybersecurity, and an era with new opportunities, like clean energy.
The fact is, our world is more interconnected and interdependent. And in order, then, to embrace this new era, nations must be willing to take on challenges together and create opportunities together.
That is why our partnerships in Singapore, in Southeast Asia, and throughout the Indo-Pacific are a top priority for the United States.
The United States is a proud part of the Indo-Pacific. And this region is critically important to our nation’s security and prosperity.
Just consider: Some of our closest allies and strongest partners are here. Our exports to the region support 4 million American jobs. And in 2019, the United States conducted nearly $2 trillion of two-way trade here. All of which underscores America’s connection to the Indo-Pacific.
In this region, we have long put forward a vision of peace and stability, freedom on the seas, unimpeded commerce, advancing human rights, a commitment to the international rules-based order, and the recognition that our common interests are not zero-sum.
Now, as we face threats to that order, I am here to reaffirm our commitment to that vision — to strengthen it and to make sure it addresses the challenges of today and of tomorrow.
To do that, we will invest our time and our energy to fortify our key partnerships, including with Singapore and Vietnam. Our partnerships will be grounded in candor, openness, inclusiveness, shared interests, and mutual benefits.
The United States will pursue a free and open Indo-Pacific that promotes our interests and those of our partners and allies.
In addition to deepening close bilateral relations, we will also work multilaterally, through longstanding institutions, like ASEAN, which remains central to the region’s architecture.
We will also work with new, results-oriented groups, like the Quad and the U.S.-Mekong Partnership.
And we will always be true to our values and support those who seek a better future for all people.
I believe that when the history of the 21st century is written, much of it will be centered right here in the Indo-Pacific.
Our intention is to strengthen our partnerships and reinforce our shared vision so that the United States, with our partners, can together continue shaping that history.
In doing so, there should be no doubt: We have enduring interests in this region, and we have enduring commitments as well. Those commitments include, of course, security.
Yesterday, I visited Changi Naval Base. The U.S. Navy ship, the USS Tulsa, is docked there right now — a symbol of the deep and enduring security partnership between our nations; a statement of America’s security commitment to this region.
Our vision includes freedom of navigation, which is vital to us all. The livelihood of millions of people depend on the billions of dollars in trade that flow through these sea lanes each day.
And yet, in the South China Sea, we know that Beijing continues to coerce, to intimidate, and to make claims to the vast majority of the South China Sea. These unlawful claims have been rejected by the 2016 arbitral tribunal decision. And Beijing’s actions continue to undermine the rules-based order and threaten the sovereignty of nations.
The United States stands with our allies and partners in the face of these threats. And I must be clear: Our engagement in Southeast Asia and the Indo-Pacific is not against any one country, nor is it designed to make anyone choose between countries. Instead, our engagement is about advancing an optimistic vision that we have for our participation and partnership in this region. And our economic vision is a critical part of that.
The economy of the United States is growing faster than it has in nearly 40 years. Wages are up. Employment is up. Consumer demand is up. And we believe that our growth should not stop at the water’s edge; that it can also, and it will also, benefit our partners.
Our economy shares so much with Southeast Asia — from supply chains to a steady flow of two-way trade. Collectively, the nations of Southeast Asia represent our nation’s fourth-largest export market — a vibrant and dynamic market which will soon rank among the biggest markets in the world.
Our trade relationships in Southeast Asia support more than 600,000 American jobs. And now, with an eye toward the future, we are strengthening our economic engagement.
In fact, today, I am proud to announce that the United States is offering to host APEC in 2023. Through APEC, or the Asian-Pacific Economic Cooperation Forum, the United States has long worked with our partners in Asia and Latin America to build an interconnected region that advances our collective economic prosperity.
A vital part of our agenda is also related to addressing the climate crisis. Our vision includes investing in a clean energy future and building resilient communities.
And the relationship between the United States and Singapore, and its climate partnership that we announced yesterday, will focus on sustainable finance as just one example of the work we are committed to doing together.
The nations of Southeast Asia know the impact of the climate crisis all too well: the rising sea levels, the typhoons, the floods. These disasters have cost human life and livelihoods. And the crisis of kno- — as we know — the crisis, of course, is getting much more urgent. I’m sure many of you read and saw the report recently from the United Nations.
And in our interconnected world, this issue affects us all,
and it requires a collective vision, and it requires collective action.
And, then of course, there’s another issue that truly knows no borders: the pandemic. When President Joe Biden and I took office, we were determined not only to vaccinate our own nation, but to be an arsenal of safe and effective vaccines for our entire world.
To date, of the 110 million doses we have shipped worldwide, we have delivered more than 23 million of those to Southeast Asia. And it is important to note that these are donations, free of charge, with no strings attached — because, for us, this is about saving lives and because, of course, that is the right thing to do.
Looking forward, our vision is a world where global health security is strengthened and where we can detect and attack new viruses early on. And we are taking steps to make that future a reality.
In the same vein, I’d like to reiterate that we will continue to lead with our values. And that means respecting human rights at home and abroad.
And to that end, I must say a word about Burma. The United States remains deeply alarmed by the military coup in Burma. We condemn the campaign of violent repression. And we are committed to supporting the people there as they work to return their nation to the path of democracy. And we do hope that nations throughout the Indo-Pacific will join us in that effort.
Years from now, I hope we can all look back on this moment and say this — this — was when our region joined together to realize a better future; when we took action to improve the lives of all people.
Years from now, I hope that we will be able to point to our partnerships between the United States and Singapore, between the United States and Southeast Asia, and throughout the Indo-Pacific, as the partnerships that made this shared vision of the future possible.
Thank you all. Thank you. (Applause.)
10:59 A.M. SST