Clinton Remarks With Foreign Minister Pham Binh Minh

Press Release – US State Department

SECRETARY CLINTON: Thank you very much, Foreign Minister Minh, for your warm welcome today. It’s wonderful being back in Vietnam, and I appreciate this opportunity to reaffirm the growing and mutually beneficial partnership between our two nations.Remarks With Foreign Minister Pham Binh Minh After Their Meeting

Remarks Hillary Rodham Clinton Secretary of State Government Guest House Hanoi, Vietnam July 10, 2012


SECRETARY CLINTON: Thank you very much, Foreign Minister Minh, for your warm welcome today. It’s wonderful being back in Vietnam, and I appreciate this opportunity to reaffirm the growing and mutually beneficial partnership between our two nations.

I fondly remember my first visit here in the year 2000, and it’s remarkable now on my third visit as Secretary of State to see all the changes and the progress that we’ve made together. We’re working on everything from maritime security and nonproliferation to public health and disaster relief to promoting trade and economic growth. And of course, as the Minister and I discussed, we continued to address legacy issues such as Agent Orange, unexploded ordnance, and accounting for those missing in action as well.

Vietnam has emerged as a leader in the lower Mekong region and in Southeast Asia, and the United States and Vietnam share important strategic interests. When the Foreign Minister and I travel to the ASEAN Regional Forum in Phnom Penh, we will have a chance to engage with our colleagues such as regional integration, the South China Sea, cyber security, North Korea, and the future of Burma.

The United States greatly appreciates Vietnam’s contributions to a collaborative, diplomatic resolution of disputes and a reduction of tensions in the South China Sea. And we look to ASEAN to make rapid progress with China toward an effective code of conduct in order to ensure that as challenges arise, they are managed and resolved peacefully through a consensual process in accordance with established principles of international law.

The Foreign Minister and I discussed these and many other issues, including our interest in deepening cultural, educational, and economic ties. We have a business delegation with us on this trip, and I will be meeting with them later.

I will also help celebrate the 20th anniversary of the return of the Fulbright Program in Vietnam. Nearly 15,000 Vietnamese students study in the United States each year. They come home and contribute to Vietnam’s continued development, and we are very much hoping to deepen our ties even further by sending Peace Corps volunteers to Vietnam in the near future.

When I visit with the American Chamber of Commerce and a number of both Vietnamese and American business leaders, we will look for ways to expand trade and investment. As the Minister and I were discussing, it has increased from practically nothing in 1995 to more than $22 billion today. In fact, in just the two years that – between now and 2010, it’s grown more than 40 percent.

So we’re working on expanding it through a far-reaching, new regional trade agreement called the Trans-Pacific Partnership, which would lower trade barriers while raising standards on everything from labor conditions to environmental protection to intellectual property. Both of our countries will benefit. And in fact, economists expect that Vietnam would be among the countries under the Trans-Pacific Partnership to benefit the most. And we hope to finalize this agreement by the end of the year.

Higher standards are important, because if Vietnam is going to continue developing and transition to an innovative entrepreneurial economy for the 21st century, there will have to be more space created for the free exchange of ideas, to strengthen the rule of law, and respect the universal rights of all workers, including the right to unionize.

I want to underscore something I said in Mongolia yesterday. I know there are some who argue that developing economies need to put economic growth first and worry about political reform and democracy later, but that is a short-sided bargain. Democracy and prosperity go hand in hand, political reform and economic growth are linked, and the United States wants to support progress in both areas.

So I also raised concerns about human rights, including the continued detention of activists, lawyers, and bloggers, for the peaceful expression of opinions and ideas. In particular, we are concerned about restrictions on free expression online and the upcoming trial of the founders of the so-called Free Journalists Club. The Foreign Minister and I agreed to keep talking candidly and to keep expanding our partnership.

So again, Minister Minh, let me thank you for your hospitality and thank you for coming back from Cambodia to meet with me. I greatly appreciate that effort that you made, and we look forward to continuing both our bilateral and regional cooperation.

MODERATOR: (In Vietnamese.)

QUESTION: (In Vietnamese.)


MODERATOR: (In Vietnamese.)

QUESTION: Thanks very much. Madam Secretary, Egypt’s highest court and its top generals rejected President Morsi’s call to reconvene parliament, and that’s setting them on a direct collision course What do you think this does to the political stability in Egypt? And do you view that as a matter of a power grab or a defense of democracy?

SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, first, I think it is important what is happening into context. There was a largely peaceful revolution, competitive elections, and now there is an elected president, the first ever in Egypt’s very long history, and the United States remains committed to working with Egypt, both the government and civil society to assist it in completing a democratic transition, in particular, dealing with a lot of the difficult economic and security issues that the new government will have to face. But I think it’s important to underscore that democracy is not just about elections. It is about creating a vibrant, inclusive political dialogue, listening to civil societies, having good relations between civilian officials and military officials where each is working to serve the interests of the citizens, and democracy really is about empowering citizens to determine the direction of their own country.

And I’m well aware that change is difficult. It’s not going to happen quickly. We’ve seen over the last few days that there’s a lot of work ahead of Egypt to keep this transition on course, and we urge that there be intensive dialogue among all of the stakeholders in order to ensure that there is a clear path for them to be following and that the Egyptian people get what they protested for and what they voted for, which is a fully elected government making the decisions for the country going forward. And the United States has been a partner with Egypt for a long time. We want to continue to work with them to promote regional stability, to prevent conflict, to try to protect our mutual interests in the region. The relationship is important to us. It’s also important to Egypt’s neighbors.

So I look forward to meeting with and talking to President Morsi and other leading Egyptian officials along with representatives from a broad cross section of Egyptian society when I’m in Egypt this weekend to hear their views. But we strongly urge dialogue and a concerted effort on the part of all to try to deal with the problems that are understandable but have to be resolved in order to avoid any kind of difficulties that could derail the transition that is going on.

MODERATOR: (In Vietnamese.)

QUESTION: (In Vietnamese.)

MODERATOR: That’s a question for you.

SECRETARY CLINTON: Is it for me? Ah. (Laughter.) I’m sorry. I didn’t realize that. As we discussed, I have worked very hard to make sure that the United States is addressing the Agent Orange issue. It is a legacy issue that we are – we remain concerned about, and we have increased our financial commitment to dealing with it. The Minister and I discussed consulting on having a long-term plan so that we can look not just from year to year, but into the future to try to determine the steps that we can both take. The Minister also mentioned the idea of getting the private sector involved in remediation efforts, and we will certainly explore that as part of this ongoing discussion.

And then with respect to missing in action accounting, the United States greatly appreciates Vietnam’s cooperation over more than two decades in our efforts to account for missing U.S. personnel. In fact, we began that effort even before we established formal diplomatic relations back in 1995. When I visited with my husband when he came as President in 2000, we went out and saw the work of the joint American-Vietnamese teams, and I was deeply moved by that. And we want to continue that work. It’s work that we believe very strongly in. Through these efforts, we’ve repatriated and identified nearly 700 Americans. But nearly 1,300 personnel remain missing, and when Secretary Panetta was here, Vietnam announced that it would open areas that had previously been restricted, and we’re very appreciative of that. And we want to do more to help Vietnam recover their missing as well. So there’s a lot for us to be doing, and we want to be as focused in the follow-up as possible.

MODERATOR: (In Vietnamese.)

QUESTION: Thank you, Madam Secretary. Brad Klapper from AP. You’ll be going as well to Israel next week and – in another effort to promote peace efforts. At the same time, the Palestinian Prime Minister has – Palestinian President has approved the exhumation of former leader Yasser Arafat amid claims that he may have been poisoned by Israel. In this kind — is this kind of atmosphere conducive to any progress on peace? And if there were any evidence uncovered to suggest or even create more suspicion regarding Arafat’s death, what would that mean for peace efforts? Thank you.

SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, Bradley, I’m not going to answer a string of hypotheticals. Nobody can predict what may or may not come of such action. I’ll be going to Israel to discuss a broad range of issues that are of deep concern to Israel, to the United States, and to the region and certainly the ongoing efforts to create a conducive environment for the peace processes among them. But it’s not the only important matter on our agenda. But I think that we are not going to be responding to the rumors or the suppositions that others are making. I will await whatever investigation is carried out. But I also look forward to continuing my dialogue with the Palestinians. As you know, I met with President Abbas in Paris a few days ago. I look forward to seeing other Palestinian leaders as well. So I think there is a broad discussion that is important for us to have without in any way prejudging the outcome of any individual issue.

MODERATOR: (In Vietnamese.)




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