Hi there. Good afternoon. Great of you all to be here on a Friday afternoon, and I can even remember what it’s like to be a student on a Friday afternoon. So thank you all.
Thank you, Victoria, for that introduction. My thanks as well to President Burwell, a very dear friend and colleague, for welcoming us to American University and to Dr. Hader for hosting us at the School of International Service.
Before I returned to government, as Victoria pointed out, I was teaching at the Harvard Kennedy School. And whenever I visit a college campus, I can feel my inner professor coming out. Don’t worry – I won’t be assigning homework. But I do believe that there is no more energizing way to end a long week than right here with students, our future leaders.
I was saying to colleagues I had the privilege of being at the State Dinner last night, so I had very little sleep. About this time of day, you start to lag, but my team knows when I start to talk to students and hear from students my energy increases. And there is no better place to dig into the biggest issues of foreign affairs than an academic setting, a place where questions and curiosity and big ideas are simply part of the curriculum.
So when it’s time to ask questions, don’t be shy, particularly you women here. Raise your hands even if you don’t know what you’re going to ask—that’s what the guys do. Secretary General Sannino and I want to hear what’s on your minds. We want to help connect what you’re learning in class to what’s happening at the State Department and the European Union.
Over the past two days, Secretary General Sannino and our teams have engaged in what’s called the U.S.-EU Dialogue on China and Indo-Pacific Consultations.
That’s a somewhat bureaucratic way of describing what might look like a high-stakes study session in international relations: we sat down with our partners. We examined the big issues. We talked through different approaches to the significant tests ahead of us and devised strategies to make the grade.
After this latest round – the fourth since President Biden took office – I think it’s safe to say that the U.S. and the EU have never been more aligned on our approach to the Indo-Pacific as a whole and to the People’s Republic of China. This could not be more critical – because how we do on this assignment not only impacts on us today but sets the stage for all of you in the decades ahead.
The Indo-Pacific is home to more than half the world’s population and two-thirds of the global economy. It is a region that houses seven of the top fifteen destinations for American goods…where we did nearly $2 trillion in trade last year…where we confront issues that are shared across borders and oceans – like climate and workers’ rights and food security and more.
So how we, the United States and European Union, and our partners in the Indo-Pacific, approach today’s challenges in the region is vital.
We all have a stake in forging a free, open, prosperous, secure, and resilient Indo-Pacific.
We all have to answer the challenge posed by the PRC…the only country with the capacity to advance a different vision of the international system and the intent to see it through.
We all have to consider what kind of future we wish to build, hand-in-hand with our friends in the region – the future you will inhabit and you will lead. Because ultimately, that is what these discussions are about: who will write the next chapter of international affairs.
Will you and your peers in the Indo-Pacific take the pen? Or will you cede authorship to those who defy principles of democracy…who violate human rights, labor standards, and freedom of navigation?
Indeed, what’s on the table is the type of leadership we seek for ourselves and for our counterparts everywhere.
For decades, the U.S. and Europe have provided that kind of leadership, as have allies and partners throughout the Indo-Pacific and beyond…in pursuit of a planet that’s more fair and secure for all.
We are, as Secretary Blinken likes to say, “partners of first resort.” And our partnership is a source of strength on nearly every issue under the sun – in the face of Russia’s aggression in Ukraine, in confronting climate change, addressing food and energy insecurity, tackling humanitarian crises, and more.
That relationship extends to our unified action in the Indo-Pacific.
As discussed this week, the U.S. and the EU are supporting our Indo-Pacific partners to ensure their maritime security, counter disinformation, and develop high-quality sustainable infrastructure.
We are building resilience in areas at the heart of the Indo-Pacific’s future – in technology, economic development, human rights, democratic governance, supply chains, and more.
We are coordinating our efforts through multilateral forums. To give you one example of how that looks: at the G20 summit last month, the U.S., Japan, the EU, G7 countries, and others launched a groundbreaking program to accelerate Indonesia’s energy transition.
Together, with Indonesian officials, we were able to garner more than $20 billion in public and private investment to help the nation and its people move away from coal-fired plants that pollute the air and plague public health – and move toward the clean energy future that will create jobs and save lives.
Our pledge does not stop at dollar figures. We will work with Indonesia to make this program a reality in the years ahead – to help its leaders become a leading green economy where all its citizens benefit and where vulnerable communities can capitalize on new opportunities.
This is the kind of model we need across the region – a way to demonstrate how our diplomacy leads to action—how our relationships across the Indo-Pacific can deliver real results for citizens worldwide.
Ultimately, that is the measure of our diplomacy: collaborating side-by-side with our partners to create that prosperity, a system rooted in longstanding global norms and rules.
That is a different vision from the one advanced by the PRC. Just over two weeks ago, President Biden met with President Xi and made it abundantly clear that we will always defend American interests, promote universal human rights, and work in lockstep with the European Union and other allies and partners.
We bear no illusions about the PRC. But we will do our part to ensure that any competition never veers into conflict…that we maintain open lines of communication with our PRC counterparts…and that we work together where we can to solve big challenges that require collective action.
Put another way, we will keep engaging with the PRC, so we understand each other clearly. But we will not stay silent when the PRC behaves provocatively in the South and East China Sea; when it violates the rights of ethnic and religious minorities in Tibet and Xinjiang; when it engages in economic coercion; or when it takes threatening steps in the Taiwan Strait.
These actions upend the peace and security of the Indo-Pacific and undermine the very system that enabled China’s rise in the first place…the system that the United States, Europe, and many other partners helped build…the system that will soon rest in your hands to sustain, strengthen, and grow.
As we look toward the years and decades ahead, we see the seeds of hope, because we believe in you.
We see a story of promise and possibility – one you will craft alongside your peers across the Atlantic and the Pacific. We see a U.S.-EU partnership still strong…even more engaged in the Indo-Pacific…still leading the world.
For now, we will keep at it, Stefano and I, while you hit the books. I expect to see you at the leadership table before too long, though it probably won’t be with me with my silver hair, and I look forward to our discussion today. Thank you so much for being here… and over to my dear, dear friend Stefano Sannino.