Well, I’ve been introduced in lots of ways, but the Pope has never been (inaudible). (Laughter.) I am so grateful to be here with all of you and to have this chance to thank you in person for what you do every single day.
And Jeff, I want to really, in front of part of your team, thank you for the extraordinary energy, creativity, intelligence, determination that you’ve brought to your work as our Ambassador. It’s really made a difference. We’ve seen the results, and we have, thanks to you and this amazing team, built such a strong foundation for this critical relationship. Aleisha, thank you for your service. The Ambassador was bragging about you when we were driving in because of the way that you have demonstrated leadership and extraordinary commitment here in Perth. Jeff and Becky have been great ambassadors for our entire country, and it’s a big country that you came to, so you’re representing one big country to another big country. And you have been everywhere and, from my observation, so well appreciated by the people of this country as well as the leaders.
It’s great to be in Perth. I was kidding Stephen Smith, who of course reminded me every 10 seconds that he represented the constituency we were in. (Laughter.) I said, “My goodness, Minister, you have a lot of Perth-sistance. You do. ” (Laughter.) But then, of course, I was in the Premier’s district just now. So all politics is local. (Laughter.)
But it’s great being in a country with so much dynamism and vitality. We have a deep relationship. It’s about our great military alliance; it’s about our wonderful and growing commercial relationship; but most of all it’s about the people, the personal connections that really are the core of everything that we do and can do.
We had an excellent AUSMIN today and last night, covered all the bilateral, regional, and global issues. It’s wonderful now that Australia will be on the Security Council, where its voice will be even more prominent in the debates of today.
It’s also exciting, as Jeff reminded all of us, that this mission has done so much to take advantage of the growing market for U.S. exports. I have these factoids here that exports to Australia have jumped more than 40 percent between 2009 and 2011. And in just the first nine months of this year, it’s up another 20 percent. As you know, President Obama has set the goal of doubling U.S. exports within five years, and I think Australia is going to get most of it done for us. (Laughter.)
But it’s not just about trade statistics. What you’re doing by helping to promote exports is really important on a personal level – the farmer in Washington state who starts sending part of his cherry harvest to a merchant in western Australia; inviting members of this community to the cherry pie bakeoff – (laughter) – showing that the United States is a good friend and the consulate a good neighbor; finding ways to illustrate, dramatize even, what more we can do together. Your one team, one mission approach has really worked, and it’s something that I hope more missions worldwide will consider adopting.
And I know you face some challenges. Five weeks of renovation here in Perth, 19 months of construction in Canberra, haven’t stopped you from getting the job done.
I want to thank all of our Foreign Service families who are here, working on behalf of the importance of this mission. And I particularly want to thank our local staff. Will all of our Australian employees raise your hands so that we can give you all a round of applause? (Applause.) Consuls general and ambassadors and certainly secretaries come and go, but you’re here year after year, providing continuity and kind of that nerve center and memory bank that makes such a difference.
And I know that whenever somebody like me shows up, when two of us show up, two Cabinet secretaries at the same time, that’s double the work at least, so I especially appreciate everything you’ve done for the success of this visit. And I just hope that I’ll be able to come back as a private citizen and see more of this beautiful country sometime in the future. But I’ll be coming back as a very proud American and someone who highly values the relationship that we have built with Australia and hoping that it goes from strength to strength.
So again, Ambassador, thanks to you. Thanks to this great team that has done such a bang-up job, the envy of others, who I shall not name. (Laughter.) But people are watching, and they know what you’ve done. And let me now take a moment to thank as many of you in person as I can.
Thank you. (Applause.)