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Diplomacy in Action

Interview With Zeinab Badawi of BBC's HARDtalk


Interview
John Kerry
Secretary of State
Washington, DC
August 5, 2014

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QUESTION: Secretary of State John Kerry, welcome to HARDtalk.

SECRETARY KERRY: Pleasure to be with you.

QUESTION: Scott Eisner from the U.S. Chamber of Commerce has said that he and others have been pressing the Obama Administration for years to hold this kind of summit. To quote, he says, “If you want CEOs to pay attention, you’re going to need the commander-in-chief to take charge.” What took President Obama so long?

SECRETARY KERRY: Well, actually, this is something the President has wanted to do for a long period of time, and I think we’ve been working up to it. The President announced Power Africa early on in his Administration to help provide electricity to all of Africa over the next years. The President announced a major food security initiative, Feed the Future. He’s been working on that. The President has grown our ability to be able to do what we’ve been doing in the health sector. So he’s been building up to this.

But I think there was a sense of ripeness that brought this moment about, and I’ve been engaged in this for a long period of time. In fact, I – the minute I became Secretary of State – appointed a special envoy, the leading expert of the United States Senate, Russ Feingold, to become our special envoy to go to the Great Lakes in order to try to work with M23, the Democratic Republic of Congo. I personally went to Sudan.

So I don’t think we’re late. I think what we’re doing is --

QUESTION: It’s just President Obama himself is the son of a Kenyan and it took him quite a quite a while to really tour Africa, for instance, and hold the summit.

SECRETARY KERRY: If you look – yeah, but I think if you look at what the President first confronted when he became president, we had a meltdown of our financial system. People have forgotten that. When he came in, job number one was providing jobs for Americans and getting our own economy moving. Now it’s moving and we’re growing, and I think the President is looking outwards.

QUESTION: Okay. The Deputy National Security Advisor in the White House Ben Rhodes has said as far as this Africa-U.S. Summit is concerned, the U.S. brings something unique to the table. What is it that the United States can offer in terms of African policy that other nations cannot?

SECRETARY KERRY: Well, first of all, I think there is no country that is as entrepreneurial and that combines science and technology and innovation in the way that we do. Our companies, I believe, are really unique in that regard, and we have many of them already involved in Africa. I mean, we have a company like General Electric for years that’s been doing business in Africa. We have Dow Chemical for years has been doing in Africa. I mean, they have a huge number of projects going. So we have experience and we don’t come into a place, as some countries do, with a simple deal and simple finance and bring our workers in or something else.

QUESTION: Which countries – which country is that you’re thinking in particular?

SECRETARY KERRY: You can play with all of that.

QUESTION: Is that China in brackets?

SECRETARY KERRY: No. What I’m saying is we come in, I think, with a willingness to work in ways that train employees, build something. And increasingly, people are looking at the downstream investment impacts for the long term here. I mean look, these things evolve. Nothing happens overnight. But over the course of time, I think the U.S. brings a remarkable set of disciplines and of capacity and technology for transfer that is critical to Africa at this point.

QUESTION: But you know critics like Jennifer Cooke, who heads the Africa program at the Brookings Institution, says that there are other global competitors. And of course, China, for instance – I’ll just state one statistic – has 150 commercial attaches across sub-Saharan Africa. Do you know how many the United States has? Eight.

SECRETARY KERRY: Yeah. We’re not – I think there’s a difference in the approaches between China and the United States. We’re still the biggest investor in Africa, and I am convinced that out of this conference will come even more significant investment. We had a dinner last night with four presidents of various – four heads of government, presidents of various countries, all of whom were extremely excited by what they heard about the kind of partnership that is offered by the United States, where it is not just extractive and selling one particular kind of deal, but it is really structured and built around the needs of a particular country and has much greater ability to be able to train workers, provide workers with ongoing skills and the longer-term employment capacity, which is very different from what other countries and other companies do.

QUESTION: You say that the United States, unlike other countries, does not rely on natural resources like oil and salt to build up its imports --

SECRETARY KERRY: No, we also do that. Of course we do.

QUESTION: -- because you do.

SECRETARY KERRY: No, we do that but we’re not only --

QUESTION: Yeah, you do. You do. So what’s the difference?

SECRETARY KERRY: No, no, no, we’re looking much beyond that. Of course we do. We also have extractive, and much of the relationship until recently was defined by that. Our desire is to move it well beyond that, and partly because --

QUESTION: And what are the reasons for that, Secretary of State?

SECRETARY KERRY: Because we’ve listened to people in Africa.

QUESTION: Is that the reason why, or is it --

SECRETARY KERRY: And because we hear from people in Africa that they want more than just that. They don’t want a relationship in which they’re simply exporting oil or gas or minerals of one kind or another. They want to build their countries --

QUESTION: Is that the reason --

SECRETARY KERRY: -- and we respect that and understand that because it is critical to building civil society, to respecting human rights, to developing democracy, and ultimately to being able to provide stability. And that’s part of what we want to do.

QUESTION: May I venture that there’s another reason why perhaps you’re changing tack is that because of the oil shale revolution in the United States --

SECRETARY KERRY: No.

QUESTION: -- it means you no longer need Africa’s oil. If you just look at the figures, Secretary of State, 2008 $100 billion of oil imports came from Africa into the United States.

SECRETARY KERRY: Sure.

QUESTION: If the current trend this year continues, it will be just 15 --

SECRETARY KERRY: Well, if your theory were correct, then we wouldn’t need to do anything. We could just sit back and say hey, terrific, let’s go do what we’re doing. No, it doesn’t work. If all we wanted was the extraction and now we don’t need it, then why aren’t we turning away and going somewhere else? Because we have long had an engagement in Africa that is, in fact, different from other people. We are the country that put together PEPFAR. We are the country that did the --

QUESTION: That was George Bush’s aid, sir.

SECRETARY KERRY: It actually came from the United States Senate from legislation that I wrote with Bill Frist --

QUESTION: Sure, but it was signed --

SECRETARY KERRY: -- and President Bush took it, yes. And we’re proud of it and President Bush should be proud of it and we’re all proud of it. We also – the idea of Power Africa, that’s an important effort that will help change lives in Africa.

QUESTION: But if you look at --

SECRETARY KERRY: And I don’t think any country has tried to do as much as we do to help people build their own indigenous abilities to be able to fight terrorism and to build their future.

QUESTION: I’ll give you another example. The African Growth and Opportunity Act signed by President Bill Clinton --

SECRETARY KERRY: Correct, absolutely.

QUESTION: -- and that allows --

SECRETARY KERRY: -- which I am proud that we helped write in the United States Senate.

QUESTION: Sure. And it allows African goods to come into – duty-free to come into the United States.

SECRETARY KERRY: Correct.

QUESTION: But you know what? Eighty six percent of those products that are coming to the U.S. are petroleum products. So I just use it as an example to say that actually the United States is not madly different from other countries when you say --

SECRETARY KERRY: Well, let me give you an example. I don’t want to spend this valuable time having a debate with you about how different we are. Let me give you an example. Ford Motor Company invested $300 million in South Africa and it can export those engines from skilled workers in South Africa who now have jobs to other parts of the world. And as a result, 800 jobs were also created, I think in Kansas where they have a plant. So there’s a symmetry in all of this that’s not just extractive. And increasingly – last night we had a health – a big health care company, Merck, a pharmaceutical company that wants to be able to bring lower-cost medicines and vaccines and other things to Africa, which will improve the quality of life. That’s not extractive.

QUESTION: Okay, for sure you do invest. You do invest.

SECRETARY KERRY: There are lots of things we do.

QUESTION: You do invest in Africa. Let me just tell you what Aly-Khan Satchu, chief executive of Rich Management in Nairobi, that’s been approved by the Nairobi securities exchange as an advisory service – he says, “Look at Kenya. America is already heavily invested. We issued a euro bond in Kenya where we borrowed $2 billion. Sixty-six percent of that was bought by North America.” And just in that, you see that North America is putting the capital down, as you say, that Africa is then using to build infrastructure. The irony is that most of this stuff is being built by Chinese contractors and not the Americans. You’re putting the investment in, but somebody else perhaps is benefited?

SECRETARY KERRY: Well, that’s life. It also shows that we’re not in it just to have our own contractors come over. We are doing this because we think it’s the right thing for Africa. And indeed, other countries and other companies will benefit. More power to them. Ultimately, this is good for Africa and it’s good for these countries to have the stability and the capacity as they build. We will all benefit that – from that on a global basis. There will be less Boko Harams, less Al-Shabaabs. There will be less cause for people to have their minds filled with extremist ideology, rather than to engage in the broader benefits of society. And we’re interested in that, and I’m glad we are as a country.

QUESTION: Okay. Just looking at this infrastructure point. When you say you’re not just in it for construction projects and so on, and the Chinese, of course, have been doing a great deal of that, because now, of course, since 2009 they have overtaken the United States as the biggest single country to trade in total with Africa. It’s now $200 billion in total trade.

SECRETARY KERRY: Trade, but not invest.

QUESTION: Yes, not investment.

SECRETARY KERRY: We are the biggest investor.

QUESTION: I accept that, but in terms of trade, China’s is way out there.

SECRETARY KERRY: What does that tell you? That tells you something, doesn’t it?

QUESTION: Well, what does it tell you then? That the Chinese perhaps are just interested – but infrastructure’s important, Secretary of State, for Africa. You have Don Kaberuka, president of the African Development Bank --

SECRETARY KERRY: And how many of their own employees – and how many Chinese come over to do the work?

QUESTION: They’re beginning to understand that there has been a bit of a backlash. But take one example: The Africa Union headquarters in Addis Ababa, built to the tune of more than $200 million by the Chinese as a gift to the Africans. It’s not just constructive diplomacy, it’s construction diplomacy.

SECRETARY KERRY: And more, and terrific. And we welcome the rise of China. I’ve said this a hundred thousand times. It’s not a zero-sum game. People need to understand that. There will be many countries investing. Many people will be engaged in this, and that’s the nature of the competitive, globalized world that we live in today. The important thing is to try to help make sure that Africa develops in ways that don’t make some of the mistakes that we did – and I’m speaking specifically about energy and climate change and so forth. There are things we can do to help, and other countries too, all of which will benefit Africa, which is long overdue for these kinds of benefits and inputs from the rest of the world. So it’s to everybody’s benefit, frankly.

QUESTION: Okay. So you and also the U.S. Trade Representative Michael Froman has also said you wish to emphasize production in Africa, as you’ve just been saying. Obviously, there’s a huge pool of young people who could provide a labor force. Does the United States see Africa as the kind of factory of the world for the future to replace China?

SECRETARY KERRY: Well, not at the expense of, quote, “cheap labor” and lack of rights and lack of working conditions and other things that are important that they raise the standards. But again, I think that is something the United States has helped to drive in many parts of the world. I mean, I’ve been to Vietnam, I’ve been to China, I’ve been to places – into American plants in those places, and if you didn’t know you were in China or in Vietnam, you’d think you’d walked into a plant in Michigan or somewhere else in America. It was clean, people were working, there’s a structure to it. I think those are the kinds of benefits that flow out of this kind of investment initiative and relationship. But I think it’s to the benefit of the people who work there.

QUESTION: So create jobs in Africa, and to the detriment of the United States. President Obama says I’m President of the United States, not of Africa. How’s that going to go down with people here?

SECRETARY KERRY: We’re not just creating – when Ford Motor Company invests $300 million in South Africa and you have 800 employees in the United States who get jobs because of that, because of the downstream supply structure, that’s to our benefit. We’re living in a different world today. No country can survive as an island. You can’t just shut yourself off and have your own production and sales routine to yourself and believe that you’re going to grow or get better or provide higher income to your people. You can’t do it. We need to move to various parts of the world where people are desperately wanting modernity, where they want electricity in their home, they want better food, they want clothing, they want themselves to buy and share, they want to become middle class, and then hopefully perhaps go on and make a lot of money themselves. But that’s what we’re trying to engage in here, is a global growth from which everybody benefits, and I think what we’re doing is, frankly, good diplomacy as well as good economics.

QUESTION: The Malawi Ambassador to Washington Steve Matenje says this Africa Summit with the U.S. gives Obama an opportunity at the end of his term for people to see a clearly-defined legacy. What will that be?

SECRETARY KERRY: Well, I think, look, the legacy clearly will be this remarkable growth and development that takes place in Africa and that begins to benefit the world, and begins to bring people together and offers an alternative to some of the poverty and extremism that fills the vacuum. That is one thing. But beyond that, the President’s legacy is not going to be defined by one specific initiative abroad or elsewhere. This is the President who’s passed health care for all Americans, the President who saved the economy at a time that it was in crisis, who has created – I mean, there are a whole series of things in counterterrorism --

QUESTION: So not just Africa. Okay.

SECRETARY KERRY: -- and other things, not defined by one thing, but I think it will add to that, sure. That’s a powerful addition.

QUESTION: Inevitably – Secretary of State, inevitably our focus has been on this Africa-U.S. Summit, but you’ve also committed a little bit of time to talk about the situation in Gaza. If you look at the situation there now, close on 2,000 Palestinians have been killed; around 70 Israelis, just a handful of them civilians but most of them soldiers. You’ve got 8,000 injured people, houses reduced to rubble – 40,000 homes reduced to rubble, damage of about $6 billion. There’s a great deal of outrage amongst political and international public opinion. Your own State Department has described one attack as appalling and disgraceful.

The question is this: Does Washington fully support Israel in its offensive in Gaza? Fully support?

SECRETARY KERRY: We fully support Israel’s right to defend itself and the fact that it was under attack by rockets, by tunnels, and it had to take action against Hamas. Hamas has behaved in the most unbelievably shocking manner of engaging in this activity. And yes, there has been horrible collateral damage as a result of that, which is why the United States worked very, very hard with our partners in the region, with Israel, with Egyptians, with the Palestinian Authority, with President Abbas, to try to move towards a ceasefire.

Finally now, that ceasefire is hopefully in place in a way that can allow parties to come to the table and be able to not only deal with the question of how do you do a sustainable ceasefire, but the more critical, underlying, longer-term issues of how are we going to make peace? How are we going to eliminate these rockets? How are we going to demilitarize, move toward a different future? And that’s really our goal. And this is an important beginning with the ceasefire, and hopefully the talks to get there.

QUESTION: You say demilitarize Gaza, which is the Israeli demand. But also the Palestinians – all of them, not just Hamas but Mahmoud Abbas, the president of the Palestinian Authority, says also you’ve got to lift the blockade, the siege that’s --

SECRETARY KERRY: Clearly --

QUESTION: -- been on Gaza. Do you back that request?

SECRETARY KERRY: We clearly back, as part of an overall solution, there has to be a giving on both sides with respect to these issues. Obviously, you have to begin to make life better for the Palestinians. We made that very, very clear in the ceasefire announcement that we had a few days ago. It didn’t hold unfortunately. Now we hope this can hold. Perhaps because Israel is drawing down and pulling people out and it’s finished its tunnel work, there will be a greater space here.

QUESTION: So you do back it?

SECRETARY KERRY: What we want to do is support the Palestinians and their desire to improve their lives and to be able to open crossings and get food in and reconstruct and have greater freedom. But that has to come with a greater responsibility towards Israel, which means giving up rockets, moving into a different plane*.

Now, where will that finally come together? It’ll finally come together when you have a bigger, broader approach to the solution of the underlying issues of two states, of people who will be able to have rights protected because they will be respected in the context of those two states, which have security for Israel, guarantees for a better life and for greater freedoms for the Palestinians. That’s the formula.

QUESTION: But you must see the outrage internationally. You know obviously the United States --

SECRETARY KERRY: Well, I understand that --

QUESTION: -- provides Israel with $3 billion annually in military expenditure. Iron Dome is also funded by the United States. And there are critics who say, look, this is the United States somehow facilitating the collateral damage that you mentioned, i.e. *there may be 2,000 civilians dead.*

SECRETARY KERRY: The United States stands behind Israel’s right to defend itself, and we do not believe that it is appropriate for any group, particularly in the circumstances that we’ve seen in this terrorist group, Hamas, to be flying rockets against civilians randomly into the country, tunnels coming underneath the kibbutz, with people that we’ve seen discovered with handcuffs and tranquilizer drugs ready to capture people in the midst of their daily lives. No country can live with that condition, and the United States stands squarely behind Israel’s right to defend itself in those circumstances, period.

QUESTION: Are you disappointed that there hasn’t been, after so many years, any kind of real settlement?

SECRETARY KERRY: We’re going to keep working at it. I believe in the possibilities of that, and I even believe that this situation now that has evolved perhaps will concentrate people’s minds on the need to get back to the broader negotiations and try to resolve the issues of the two states. And the United States remains deeply committed to helping to make that happen. It has to happen. But it’s not going to happen through terrorism. It’s going to happen through negotiation. It’s going to happen through the appropriate leadership of President Abbas and through the willingness of others to sit at the table and negotiate it.

QUESTION: Secretary of State John Kerry, thank you very much indeed.

SECRETARY KERRY: Appreciate it.



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