We had a whirlwind tour through the Asia Pacific region. As you might know, President Obama and I were together at the APEC leaders meeting in Honolulu. Then, of course, President Obama went to Australia, I went to the Philippines and Thailand, and now here we are in beautiful Bali. And I am excited that – (applause) – President Obama will be the first American President ever to attend the East Asia Summit, and that is a big tribute to you. (Applause.)
Now we, I think, each recognize that economic policy is foreign policy, and foreign policy is economic policy. And by strengthening the diplomacy and presence abroad, we can strengthen our economies back home, and actually, vice versa. And the United States recognizes that, so we are making a pivot, a pivot toward the Asia Pacific region, where we intend to be a diplomatic, economic, and strategic force for the 21st century.
And it is especially important that we work toward the integration of the Asia-Pacific region, because the potential here matters more than ever, first and foremost to the people who live here, but indeed to those living across the globe. This region has the world’s fastest rising economies, with GDP growth at an average of better than 6.5 percent a year despite the global slowdown. And with natural resources, untapped markets, a massive consumer base, and unlimited human potential, we expect that to continue to grow.
But we still have more work to do between the United States and ASEAN countries. Trade between the United States and Southeast Asia has tripled over the past 20 years, but it is still just 6 percent of our global trade. And even though American investments in ASEAN countries more than doubled last year, we know we can do better.
How do we grow together to maximize broad, inclusive, sustainable growth that provides real benefits for all of our people? Well, we have to start by insisting on economic competition that is open, free, transparent, and fair. That means taking on rules that prevent foreign investors from competing with local businesses to produce better goods and services. It means lowering trade barriers that stop the flow of ideas, information, products, and capital across borders. It means letting outside investors compete under the same rules as the inside players. And it makes it absolutely imperative that everyone knows what the rules are. When any of these principles are ignored, when people no longer believe they can trade, invest, create jobs, or improve their lives on an even playing field, then the absence of fairness undermines economic growth.
Now let me describe briefly four ways that we want to work with you: first, by lowering trade barriers; second, by strengthening the investment climate; third, by pursuing commercial diplomacy; and fourth, by supporting entrepreneurs. We’re excited about the innovative trade agreement called the Trans-Pacific Partnership, or TPP. That would bring economies from across the Pacific, developed and developing alike, into a single trading community, not only to create more growth, but better growth. Not just to lower tariffs, but raise standards on the environment, protections for workers, intellectual property, and innovation. We want to create a cutting-edge trading community that promotes the free flow of information technology and the spread of green technology that helps us harmonize our regulations and build more efficient supply chains together.
We are also working to ensure that the TPP is the first trade pact designed specifically to reduce barriers for small and medium-sized enterprises, and that all companies are treated fairly, regardless of their size, or whether their owners sit in boardrooms or government ministries.
But lowering barriers is not enough, and that’s why we share ASEAN’s vision for strengthening the roads, rails, ports, power stations, and other infrastructure required for the efficient flow of goods and services. When it – this was, I have to say, very surprising to me, just one of many examples that I was given, but this one I chose because we’re in Indonesia – when it is cheaper and easier for an Indonesian shipping company to send its cargo almost a thousand miles away to Singapore than to one of its own islands which has inadequate ports and facilities, that is a breakdown of connectivity. So we are very pleased that the Government of Indonesia has unveiled its plan to improve transportation links among its 17,000 islands, and to other points around the region. And we encourage other ASEAN nations. Through the U.S.-ASEAN connectivity cooperation initiative, we are supporting project designs to build infrastructure that can support economies and create jobs.
The second element is investment. Improvements in Indonesia’s investment climate have encouraged American companies like Caterpillar to build new plants here. We think that is a benefit for both sides. Indonesian entrepreneurs who participated in the regional entrepreneurship summit that I addressed last July recently went to Silicon Valley to talk with their counterparts about venture capital. And companies in ASEAN continue to look for new opportunities in the U.S. as they become more global in their operations.
Third is commercial diplomacy. We have to advocate for businesses, and make sure that they do compete on a level playing field. It is somewhat strange that when a young hawker of goods on the streets of Manila can sell a bootleg copy of a major Hollywood movie on the very day of its release, then we have to stand up for intellectual property.
And when governments impose unfair terms on our companies just to enter or expand into a new market, we need to push back. For example, a remanufacturing plant that American Caterpillar recently opened in Singapore would not have gone forward without a year of negotiations and support from our Embassy officers there.
And we were very pleased that the kind of advocacy to make sure that people are getting a fair shake recently led to some positive outcomes for American companies. For example, Boeing finalized the sale of aircraft worth more than $3 billion to Thai Airways. And just this week, we have these developments: Boeing and Lion Air, here in Indonesia, have agreed on a $21.7 billion deal for a supply of 240 new model 737 aircraft. GE Aviation is signing a $1.3 billion contract with Garuda Airlines for the supply and maintenance of new aircraft engines. And GE and Indonesian rail company PT Kereta Api has just announced an agreement to supply 100 trains to Java. Now that’s win-win for both sides. And we also are looking not just out for our big companies, but also our small and medium-sized ones as well.
Fourth, we must support entrepreneurship. That’s in America’s DNA. It’s part of what defines us. And we are very excited about entrepreneurship emphasis in the Obama Administration. And certainly as we look across the Asia Pacific, there are so many young people who are so tech-savvy, they have the potential to become one of the biggest drivers of prosperity in the world.
But too often we don’t see entrepreneurs and small businesses getting the same kind of help that they need. We have to be very careful about that in our own country. That’s why we created something called the Small Business Administration, because we know that large companies very often will get the door open and get through it before small companies even know there is a contract to be had. And we think governments need to be very self-conscious about not giving so many preferences to large companies.
So that’s one of the reasons we established the Global Entrepreneurship Program, another initiative called Partnerships for a New Beginning, because we want to advocate not only for our own small businesses, but for small businesses elsewhere, because after all, small businesses provide employment for far more people than all the big businesses in the world combined. So we, as governments, have to pay more attention to small businesses and entrepreneurs. So there is a lot of work ahead of us. The Global Partnership Initiative, which works to connect governments and the private sector, is another way that we’re trying to break through red tape and bureaucracy and just get connected, people to people.
You can tell from my remarks we are very excited about the future of this region, and also the future of the partnership between the United States and ASEAN. I was privileged, in my very first month of office, to go to Indonesia, to go to Jakarta, to go to ASEAN headquarters, and to sign the Treaty of Amity and Cooperation, because I knew how important it was for the United States to be all in, totally committed to ASEAN. This is a network, an organization of countries that we have good relations with on many levels, but we know there is so much more to be done.
So let’s use our resources, our networks, and renew our commitment to the kind of growth that will really benefit the vast majority of people. I’m sure you have followed in the news a lot of what’s going on in our country on the 99 percent versus the 1 percent. Well, I think that is a feeling much more broadly felt than just in the United States. I think people – especially young people – they are impatient, they are demanding, and they are totally connected up. They know what is happening. I couldn’t say that about my generation, or generations before, because we didn’t have the internet. We didn’t know, living in Jakarta, what was going on in New York, or, living in LA, what was going on in Bangkok or Manila or anywhere else.
So it is time for those of us in positions of responsibility, in both the public and the private sector, to realize that it’s not only smart economics to create broad-based prosperity that includes everyone, men and women, big companies, medium-sized and small, older and younger, everyone – break down the barriers, open the doors, and watch what happens. And I don’t think any region in the world will be more benefited than right here in the countries that comprise ASEAN.
Thank you very much. (Applause.)