Ambassador Stephens, thank you so much for that warm welcome. And it is such a pleasure to see Vice Foreign Minister Lee again, albeit virtually.
Thank you also to the Korea Economic Institute of America for hosting this event, and to the Republic of Korea’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs for co-sponsoring this with the Department of State.
It is also great to see all of you here today, as well as the panelists you will hear from later. This promises to be a very interesting—and important—discussion. It is vital for all of us in the government, academia, and the private sector to be actively thinking about how the United States and Republic of Korea [ROK] can cooperate to advance our shared goals and ideals.
Back in May, we celebrated the 140th anniversary of diplomatic relations between the Republic of Korea and the United States. The foundation we laid in 1882 grew into a military alliance after the Korean war, which will mark its 70th anniversary next year. As President Biden said in May, our alliance has never been stronger, more vibrant, or more vital.
Our two countries share a commitment to advancing freedom, peace, and prosperity in the Indo-Pacific region, and a commitment to promoting democracy and a rules-based international order, fighting corruption, and advancing human rights.
The ROK has become a leading exporter of advanced technologies, including semiconductors and automobiles. The ROK is also a regional and global digital hub, and a cutting-edge innovator in emerging technologies with companies like Samsung, Naver, SK hynix, and LG.
I appreciated Foreign Minister Park Jin’s words, when he met Secretary Blinken in Washington in June, and said, when describing Korea’s role on the global stage: “The 21st century U.S.-ROK alliance is about more than the security terms . . . it is now an economic security alliance and a tech alliance. Korea, as a global pivotal state, stands ready to assume a more active role in advancing freedom, peace, and democracy around the globe.”
As partners, our cooperation spans a broad range of our agencies and ministries. I’ll have the opportunity to build on this cooperation when I host our 7th Senior Economic Dialogue with Vice Foreign Minister Lee in December, and follow that up with a trip to Seoul in January.
As two of the world’s 10 biggest economies, we have much to discuss. Given that we represent some of the world’s most innovative economies, with some of the most recognized global brands pushing the limits in cutting edge technologies such as semiconductor chips and clean energy. I intend for the Senior Economic Dialogue to deepen our bilateral relationship and to focus on ensuring that our most advanced technologies are used to address pressing global challenges like climate change, energy, and food security.
Our agenda will tackle issues of supply chain resilience; science, health, and technology cooperation; development and infrastructure cooperation, among other issues. We are truly excited.
Let me list some of the key areas of collaboration and discussion. I would be remiss if I do not address one topic that has been in our recent discussions: the Inflation Reduction Act.
The Inflation Reduction Act represents the single largest investment in clean energy supply chains in U.S. history. It will accelerate adoption of clean energy technologies, reduce carbon pollution, advance environmental justice, bolster climate adaptation, and enhance the conservation of forests and farmlands. It is projected to deliver more than 10 times the climate impact of any other piece of legislation signed by any U.S. president in history.
But we can’t do this alone. We need our partners to achieve the goals outlined in the Inflation Reduction Act – partners like the ROK, known for its strong automotive and battery production industry. We know there are concerns in the ROK regarding the Inflation Reduction Act, and we are committed to continued dialogue with the ROK throughout the implementation process. I am glad to say the United States and Korea maintain these open and frank lines of communication. In fact, I just spoke with Ambassador Cho last week. I also know there has been ongoing high-level and working-level conversations with the White House. We are united in our objective: we want to solidify the U.S. and South Korean clean energy partnership and make sure we are in the position to lead among trusted clean energy partners.
We have many other pressing topics to discuss with the ROK. One critical element of our global cooperation is that responsible countries like the United States and ROK act together in the face of malign actors, and ensure that our economies are prepared to overcome any malicious actions.
Together we face unprecedented threats from authoritarian states, like the People’s Republic of China [PRC] and Russia. The challenges posed by actors like the PRC only serve to highlight new areas—like protecting sensitive technologies—where we should cooperate with other responsible economies, to reduce vulnerabilities and defend the rules-based international order.
And so, we are redefining and reinforcing the future of our shared security with joint initiatives that are modern, forward-looking, and inclusive. This includes protecting peace and stability, lawful unimpeded commerce, and respect for international law, including the freedom of navigation and overflight.
We work together on global health, including helping the world recover from the COVID-19 pandemic through the COVID-19 Global Action Plan, as well as three important global forums held—or soon to be held—in Korea: the first World Bio Summit that took place on October 25; the Global Health Security Agenda Ministerial at the end of November; and the Vaccine Cooperation Forum in the Indo-Pacific on December 7.
We both joined the Green Shipping Challenge at COP27, and we look forward to further collaboration with Korea to combat climate change. Together, we are clearing marine debris and funding climate resilient cities in Southeast Asia.
In international fora from the G20 to ASEAN, to APEC and other multilateral organizations, we advocate together on global issues. We are also working together to create a new high-quality trade arrangement in the Indo-Pacific through the Indo-Pacific Economic Framework. And in fora like the Minerals Security Partnership, we are ensuring that supply chains supporting critical industries are diverse and resilient.
Finally, we are working together to empower women in the economy. For example, we are providing women-owned micro, small, and medium enterprises in the Mekong region with training in financial literacy and other skills to help grow their businesses. This work is elaborated in our joint Women’s Economic Empowerment Action Plan.
With our governments and entire economies cooperating closely, Korea is a linchpin in our relationship with the Indo-Pacific.
I look forward to working together to shape a prosperous future for our countries and for the broader Indo-Pacific region.
Thank you again for inviting me here.