I want to begin this morning by saying a word about the terrible earthquake and tsunami that struck Japan overnight. As President Obama said early this morning, the American people send our deepest condolences to the people of Japan. We stand ready to help the Japanese people in any way we can. Our thoughts are also with those in the path of the tsunamis caused by the earthquake, which includes most of the economies around this table.
This tragedy, like the recent earthquakes in New Zealand and China and similar events in recent years in Indonesia, Chile, and elsewhere in the region, reminds us how the nations and people of the Pacific Rim share not only a common geography but a common destiny. We are monitoring the situation closely and will provide any updates as we receive them this morning.
* * * * *
I would like to welcome everyone to Washington, DC, and to the first Senior Officials Meeting of APEC 2011. As President Obama said last November in Yokohama, and Secretary Clinton reiterated earlier this week, the United States sees 2011 as an important year to reaffirm and strengthen our ongoing commitment to the Asia-Pacific – in particular, our economic engagement with economies throughout the region. We see our participation in and hosting of APEC as vital to this effort.
In 2010, under the strong leadership of our Japanese colleagues, APEC Leaders set forth a comprehensive, forward-looking framework for achieving growth and prosperity in the Asia-Pacific region in the 21st century:
In 2011, we want to work with all of you to realize this vision, in pursuit of APEC’s central mission of promoting trade and investment. We want to build towards the goal of a “seamless regional economy” that produces economic growth, employment, and prosperity across the Asia-Pacific region. To that end, we have identified three specific priority areas for 2011:
I am pleased to hear that in discussions so far this week, there appears to be strong support for these themes, and I look forward to our discussions of how we can move forward on them today.
Also in 2011, we also want to intensify efforts to streamline and strengthen the way APEC does business. All activities, from high-level to technical-level events, should focus on solving problems and achieving clear, meaningful progress towards APEC goals. In addition, we would like to work with you to better integrate the input of the private sector into APEC's work.
Throughout 2011, we plan to hold multiple private sector-led activities on topics ranging from energy and transportation to innovation and trade, food security, and women’s entrepreneurship that will allow APEC officials to draw upon recommendations from industry and other stakeholders when developing initiatives and outcomes.
These are all big issues that present real challenges to our economies and to the future of this organization. If we are going to be successful in addressing them, we will all need to work together, to think outside the box, and to push ourselves to truly “get stuff done” in 2011.