Well, thank you, Foreign Minister Carr and Defense Minister Smith for welcoming us and our delegation for this AUSMIN meeting here in Perth. We are delighted to have this opportunity once again in this setting to exchange views on a broad range of issues.
Let me begin by congratulating Australia on your election to the United Nations Security Council. That achievement opens the door to even closer cooperation between us and lends an additional dimension to our AUSMIN agenda.
We will be speaking, of course, about bilateral issues, but also on matters where Australia’s voice has been important, but now Australia’s membership on the Security Council will be essential, for example on Iran, where the international community remains firm and united in our efforts to prevent Tehran from acquiring nuclear weapons, and on Syria, where we need to stand together now to increase pressure on the Assad regime and expand humanitarian assistance to people in need.
We will, of course, be discussing the important work we do together in Afghanistan. After great sacrifices, ISAF is on track to transition responsibility for security to the Afghan Government in 2014 and bring our combat mission to a close. But that will not mark the end of our commitment to the people of Afghanistan, because we will be discussing ways in the next months that the United States and Australia will have to work closely together with international partners to support Afghanistan’s continued progress so that it never again becomes a staging ground for international terrorism.
Now, all of our work together, whether it’s on the world stage or here in the Asia Pacific or the Indo Pacific, is driven by the values and the vision we share. You can see that in Prime Minister Gillard’s recent white paper. And we recognize that stability and security increasingly depend on balanced and vibrant economies. We’re also committed to working hand in hand with Australia to build a more mature and effective multilateral architecture for the region that can help settle disputes peacefully, promote universal rights, spur greater trade and commerce within an economic system that is open, free, transparent, and fair.
That means finalizing the Trans-Pacific Partnership, which will lower trade barriers, raise labor and environmental standards, and drive growth across the region. And it includes, of course, working closely together at the upcoming East Asia Summit to advance a shared agenda.
Now, there is much that we will be discussing that concerns the region and the world, but certainly bilaterally we are very pleased at the close cooperation between us. And I applaud the approval by your parliament of the new U.S.-Australian Defense Trade Cooperation Treaty. We can now move forward together implementing it and it will make it easier for our militaries to work together and further boost the two-way commerce that has soared since our Free Trade Agreement was signed seven years ago.
We also are eager to implement, in a continuing fashion, the agreements reached by President Obama and Prime Minister Gillard last November, which are helping the United States move to a more geographically distributed, operationally resilient, and politically sustainable force posture in the region.
So we have a very busy agenda, but that’s what the AUSMIN Ministerial is all about. It’s why I think we started 27 years ago with then Minister now Ambassador Beazley in the lead, and it’s why we value so greatly the partnership we have every day, but especially at this annual gathering, where we can really take stock of where we are and the way forward.
So again, thank you for having us here.
# # #