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The Australia-US alliance: PM at the Brookings Institution
In the space of one week, the Prime Minister has delivered two important speeches giving his government's view of Australia's place in the world. In his first speech (an address to the East Asia Forum) Mr Rudd returned middle-power diplomacy to the forefront. In the second speech, to the Brookings Institution in Washington DC, published below, Mr Rudd set out his government's stance on Australia-US relations with particular reference to Asia and the Pacific. My apologies for the length of this piece – but Mr Howard’s Irving Kristol address was also long, so I feel that the interests of balance have been satisfied. I thought it worth including the question-and-answer session, and look forward to reading Webdiarists’ comments on the address.
Update 4:47 pm, 5 April 2008: In view of the interesting use of language pointed out by Craig Rowley and Basil Smith, I went to the Prime Minister's website and have amended this piece by using the version of the speech to be found there. The introductory remarks and the question-and-answer session remain as they appear on the Brookings Institution website, the transcript having been made by Anderson Court Reporting of Alexandria, VA.
Australia, the United States and the Asia Pacific region
JOHN L. THORNTON (Chairman of the Board, The Brookings Institution): I first met the Prime Minister a few years ago in Cambodia, of all places, when we were together at a small seminar. I was immediately struck by his very vigorous intellect, his charm, sense of humor, but most importantly for me was his profound knowledge of China, because that's my own personal obsession.
And I want to make a particular note of that because you all have read about his manner and speaking ability. But more importantly is his profound knowledge of the culture and the country. And I believe this is incredibly important in the beginning of the 21st century, that a major western power has as its leader someone who really understands China. And I think this will accrue not just for the benefit of Australia and Australians, but to other western countries trying to grapple with the rise of China. So against that background, it won't surprise you to know that just about a year ago exactly, the Prime Minister was here at the time, Leader of the Opposition, and gave a major speech on the rise of China and its implications on Australia and American relations.
If you haven't read that speech, I encourage you to get your hands on it. That same 21st century orientation and that same orientation about the interdependence of people surfaced right away when he came into office. And the very first act as Prime Minister was to ratify the Kyoto protocol, which had been sitting dormant for too long. And the first act of the government and parliament was to offer a formal apology to the indigenous people of Australia for the so called stolen generation, another thing that had been too long in the making.
So that orientation has been present and I think very impressive, and the people of Australia have awarded it. I noticed in the polls last month that he was pulling higher approval ratings than any prime minister in the history of the country, saying to me that you give strong forward looking leadership and people appreciate it. And I'm hoping that in our own country we get the same thing out of the elections coming up this fall. Finally, I had a chance to read a speech he gave just a few days ago in which he talked about Australia having under his leadership an engaged and creative, what he referred to as middle power diplomacy, and I thought to myself that we're middle power, I thought that may be accurate, but under his leadership, it will be middle power boxing well above its weight.
So without further comment from me, please join me in giving a warm welcome to the 26th Prime Minister of Australia, the Honorable Kevin Rudd.
MR. PRIME MINISTER: Thanks very much, John. Actually, I just remembered when we did the first -- at an Asia Society conference in Cambodia, and we were touring the Great Temple, of course, of Angkor Wat with Norm Ornstein, another friend here from D.C., and I remember climbing the Temple with John and with Norm and up, and up, and up, and up we went, and there we saw this impeccable sight of a young saffron robed Buddhist Monk sitting out on a precipice at the edge of this extraordinary Temple.
And we got to the same level that the monk was on, and he looked at us, a bunch of foreign tourists, and he was there in an appropriate mediative posture, and we respectively greeted him, and he beckoned me out. It was a bit on a ledge, and I'm not really keen on heights, but Norm and John said you go first, which is a reflection of our relationship, and so off I went and edged closer, and I said in a very tentative briefing how honored I was to be with him in such a holy place, I said this very, very slowly and deliberately, and asked how long he had been here, and was he meditating, and he said, no, mate, I'm from Sydney, I'm just up here because mom and dad sent me.
It was his time to do his two months in a Buddhist monastery, I thought that was wonderful. There you go, that's Australian, that's the world, and it's a great time to be alive.
It is a great pleasure to be back at Brookings.
It is always a pleasure to be at one of Washington’s oldest and most distinguished think-tanks.
I would like to acknowledge John Thornton, Chairman of Brookings and Strobe Talbot, President of Brookings.
John’s thoughtful contribution on China in recent editions of Foreign Affairs magazine, his direct support for the China Centre here at Brookings and his role as Visiting Professor at Qinghua University in Beijing all fall within the best traditions of contributing to American public policy debate.
Strobe Talbot of course is synonymous with scholarship on the Soviet Union of the past and the Russian Federation of the future.
Substantively speaking, these guys cover the ground between them from Petersburg to Peking – standing as a colossus astride the great Eurasian landmass in the great tradition of Brookingsonian expansionism!
Brookings has also been kind to me over the years in opening its doors to its rich array of scholars, researchers and public policy professionals for which I thank you.
The Australia-US Alliance
One hundred years ago this year, President Teddy Roosevelt’s Great White Fleet arrived in Sydney.
Thousands stood on the harbour foreshores to catch a glimpse of 384,000 tons of white-painted steel gliding through Sydney Heads.
The American Fleet was, of course, given a warm welcome – not least because we Australians are always up for a party.
The British, the truth be told, were not entirely happy about this level of interest, on the part of their recently federated colonies in Australia, towards this visit by the blue water navy of their former rebellious colonies in America.
Less than a century before, of course, the British had left their own particular calling card on the city-scape of Washington in the war of 1812.
We Australians always also spot an opportunity when one comes along.
First, the Australian Government set about leveraging the Great White Fleet’s visit to sway the Australian parliament to fund the building of our own Australian fleet.
And second, we then rejected London’s suggestion that our fleet merely be incorporated as a squadron within the British Imperial Fleet.
And so was born the Royal Australian Navy.
And so I thank Teddy Roosevelt, the hero of San Juan Hill, for his contribution to the birth of our own Australian navy which soon will celebrate its own centenary.
US naval visits to Australia have continued ever since, in peace and in war, and your navy has always been welcome.
Our troops were soon to fight side-by-side for the first time in a World War.
In the Battle of Hamel on 4 July 1918 – ninety years ago – American troops first took to the field in battle in the First World War.
And they did so under an Australian commander, General John Monash.
The foundation of our alliance came into being in 1941/1942.
When Australia faced the real threat of foreign invasion, in the words of our Prime Minister John Curtin, Australia looked “to America, free of any pangs as to our traditional links or kinship with the United Kingdom.”
In the darkest days of World War Two, Australia and the United States stood together, fought together and died together to restore peace to the Pacific.
This was a critical turning point in Australian strategic thinking.
The next step was our formal alliance.
Signed in 1951, the ANZUS Treaty remains the bedrock of Australia’s strategic policy.
Since then, our alliance has been supported by 12 US Presidents – Republican and Democrat – and 13 Australian Prime Ministers – Labor and Liberal.
Our alliance is based on our common values.
We are robust democracies.
We are prepared when necessary to fight to defend the values for which we stand.
Our alliance is also based on our common strategic interests.
For Australia and the United States, strategic stability in the Asia-Pacific is of crucial importance – both now and for the future.
We are both committed to market economies in an open global economic order.
Our alliance is steeped in history.
But it is also part of our framework for meeting the challenges of the future.
The purpose of my remarks today is to reflect on the continued importance of US global leadership; to reflect on the new Australian Government’s foreign policy framework and to make some observations on how we both might engage China in the future and how we might shape together China’s engagement with the global and regional architecture of the future.
US Global Leadership
My view of the United States’ role in international affairs in the future is simple – I believe the United States is an overwhelming force for good in the world.
The US has used its political, military and economic power to provide the strategic ballast necessary to underpin the post-war global order.
The US vision for a post-World War Two international order began with the Atlantic Charter when Churchill and Roosevelt agreed that a new order should emerge from the ashes of war, based on the dual principles of political freedom and economic cooperation.
There then followed the San Francisco Conference that gave birth to the United Nations.
The Bretton Woods Conference that created the IMF, the World Bank and led to the GATT.
And then the Marshall Plan to save Europe.
We should not forget the importance of these institutions.
We should not forget that these institutions provided the framework under which the world has developed and prospered over the past six decades.
Nor should we forget that US global leadership gave rise to these institutions.
Half a century later, various of these institutions are under strain and are in need of reform – reform that once again must be driven by US global leadership.
In the Asia-Pacific region, this ballast has been provided in part through the US alliance system with Japan, the Republic of Korea and Australia.
This strategic stability has allowed the countries of the region to focus on economic development.
Countries have been able to focus on competing for market share rather than competing for local or regional strategic superiority.
This has allowed the Asia Pacific region to lead the world in economic development over the past three decades.
The United States has been less centrally involved in the evolution of East Asian and Asia-Pacific regional architecture.
There is no US-led NATO equivalent in the region.
We have ASEAN – a home-grown body that has made a remarkable contribution to establishing stable relations between the countries of South-East Asia.
We have APEC that Australia, Japan and Korea were instrumental in developing.
In the security space, we have the ASEAN Regional Forum – still the only body in the region that brings all the major players together to focus specifically on security issues.
More recently we have seen the emergence of other ASEAN-based bodies – the 10 plus 3 mechanism that began with an informal summit in 1997 and was institutionalised in 1999.
And, most recently, we have seen the East Asia Summit that crucially brings India, Australia and New Zealand into a dialogue mechanism with the countries of East Asia.
Notably, three of these bodies exclude the United States altogether – making it more difficult therefore for the US to engage directly in the reform of these institutions although there are other opportunities for the United State to become more directly regionally engaged.
This presents some complex challenges for the future that need to be addressed.
Australian Foreign Policy
The new Australian Government is committed to building a strong, prosperous and outward-looking Australia.
Our strategic goals are to maximise global and regional stability and ensure the global economy remains open.
Through this, we believe we can enhance our economic prospects – not just for Australia, but for all nations.
We approach our task as a nation that is fully committed to global engagement.
We are the 15th-largest economy in the world.
Our stock market is valued at over one trillion US dollars – three times the size of Singapore; and around half the size of the Hang Seng (which includes of course many mainland China-based companies); and responsible for more foreign listings each year than any other Asian bourse.
Because of superannuation policy reforms we undertook in the 1990s, we have developed a world-class funds management industry that has the world’s fourth-largest pool of funds under management.
We are a major supplier of energy and resources to the major economies of North Asia – China, Japan and the ROK.
Our resources exports to India are growing and will continue to grow into the future.
Our military budget is the 11th largest in the world.
We have a sophisticated foreign policy establishment deeply enmeshed with the countries of Asia and the Pacific.
We are a country therefore with both global and regional interests.
In the prosecution of those interests, our foreign policy has three pillars: our alliance with the United States; our membership of the United Nations; and comprehensive engagement with the countries of Asia and the Pacific.
Some might argue that these are mutually exclusive propositions.
I regard them as naturally reinforcing.
To prosecute them, the Government intends to deploy what I have described as “creative middle power diplomacy” – both globally and regionally.
This means for example that you will see Australia being more active in the global efforts to meet the challenges of climate change following our ratification of the Kyoto Protocol within a week of taking office.
This means we will be doing more to work with our partners around the world to get real progress against the Millennium Development Goals – particularly among the Pacific island nations.
Last month I visited Papua New Guinea and I announced that Australia would seek to develop what I call “Pacific Partnerships for Development”.
Under these agreements, Australia and our Pacific partners will set mutually agreed development outcomes.
In return, Australia will be prepared to offer more development assistance.
The strategy is to provide better assistance targeted at real progress against measures of health, education and basic economic infrastructure.
More broadly, our foreign policy intention is to prosecute a more activist foreign policy in partnership with our allies, friends and, through the UN, the wider community of nations in areas where we believe we can make a difference.
For too long, our voice has been too quiet in the wider councils of the world.
Our Alliance with the United States
The first pillar of our foreign policy is our alliance with the United States.
I am committed to deepening our strategic engagement with the United States.
Closer engagement with the United States gives us the tools to better meet the security challenges of the future – both regional and global.
The threat from terrorism is still alive and well.
The war in Afghanistan is a crucial front in the fight against terrorism because it was from there that the insidious attacks were orchestrated against this country nearly seven years ago.
We cannot allow Afghanistan to again become an unfettered safe haven for terrorists.
This should be a concern for leaders around the world – in Europe and in Asia as much as it is here in the United States.
We have a responsibility to help the people of Afghanistan build a stable future for themselves.
Published surveys have recently shown that the people of Afghanistan strongly support the US-led action in their country to rid them of the Taliban.
That is why in Bucharest I will be arguing in close cooperation with the US Administration for a more coordinated military and civilian strategy for Afghanistan.
The Australian Government is committed to Afghanistan for the long haul.
But we must have a common strategy with credible burden-sharing if we are to prevail.
Consistent with my commitment to the Australian people, we are changing the configuration of our involvement in Iraq.
Our ground combat troops will be withdrawn but our air and naval elements are remaining and we are significantly increasing our civilian aid program.
I also want to see greater practical cooperation between our militaries.
Importantly, this means making it easier for trade in defence goods between us.
I hope that the Defence Trade Cooperation Treaty will be able to pass the Senate here in Washington soon.
My vision for a closer relationship between our two countries extends beyond the realm of strategic cooperation.
We also need to expand our economic relationship.
We already have the Free Trade Agreement that provides a framework for further development of the trade relationship – especially in services.
I was pleased on Saturday to announce with Christopher Cox, Chairman of the SEC, that Australia and the United States would commit to developing a pilot program for mutual recognition between Australian and US securities regulatory regimes to enhance capital flows between the two economies – a global first for both the SEC and its Australian equivalent ASIC.
In the current climate of global financial instability, it also crucial that Australia and the United States (and our other partners around the globe) work closely together to coordinate responses.
That is occurring through both multilateral and plurilateral mechanisms like the Financial Stability Forum (FSF); the G20 and the IMF.
In my meetings on Friday with the President, the Chairman of the Federal Reserve and the Secretary of the Treasury, responding to the financial crisis was a central focus of our discussions.
We agree that the global nature of the problem demands a global response – based on greater global transparency.
The great thing about the Australia-US relationship is also the depth of the personal ties.
More Australians visit the United States every year than anywhere else other than New Zealand.
Nearly half a million people make the trip each year.
And about the same number visit Australia from the United States.
Later today I will be witnessing the signature of an “Open Skies” Agreement between Australia and the United States.
It is a new era in the aviation links between us that began in 1928 when Sir Charles Kingsford Smith and Charles Ulm made the first aerial crossing of the Pacific from the United States to Australia.
Its aim is to make it easier and cheaper for even more people to make the air journey across the Pacific to add more strands to our ties.
Membership of the United Nations
A second pillar of our foreign policy is our membership of the United Nations.
The Government is also committed to increasing our engagement with the United Nations.
The United Nations and the UN Charter are central to a global rules-based order.
Australia is a foundation member of the UN. We are proud of the role we played in its establishment.
Particularly the part we played in the drafting committee for the UN charter.
We are also proud of the part we have played in UN Peacekeeping Operations over the years.
Today we have people serving in UN-led or UN approved peacekeeping operations around the world in Sudan, Sinai, Solomon Islands and East Timor.
We are currently the 12th-largest financial contributor to the UN’s peacekeeping operations.
On Saturday in New York I met the UN Secretary-General, Ban Ki-moon.
I told him that Australia was committed to reinvigorating its engagement with the United Nations.
I also told him that Australia would, in 2012, be seeking a seat on the UN Security Council for the 2013-2014 term.
I also discussed with the Secretary-General the situation in Darfur.
I said that we wanted to see Darfur again raised in the Security Council.
The Government in Khartoum has been less than helpful to the UN and we need to do more to get an effective response underway.
A response that provides real security to the people of Darfur.
I said that Australia was committed to providing further humanitarian assistance and was considering whether we could make a modest military contribution to Darfur to supplement the police and military personnel serving already under the UN Mission in Sudan.
The world cannot simply stand idly by while the people of Darfur continue to suffer.
I also informed the Secretary-General that Australia would be increasing its official development assistance budget to a level of 0.5 per cent of GNI by 2015.
A particular focus will be working to get real progress against the Millennium Development Goals.
We are already at the half-way point on the time line established in 2000 for the MDGs.
Progress has been mixed at best.
We need to make sure that all our efforts are delivering results.
We want to be part of the global solution on poverty.
We do not want to just be intelligent and well-informed descriptors of the problems.
We want to work at a practical level with our global and regional partners to deliver real progress against these goals on which we all solemnly agreed back in 2000.
I said to the Secretary-General that Australia was ready to make a strong contribution to reforming the United Nations to make it more effective.
In this, the role of the United States is also critical.
Just as the United States drove the establishment of key international organisations, reforming those same institutions will require active US engagement.
It is the same for the WTO.
US leadership will be crucial to getting a breakthrough so that we can get an ambitious outcome to the Doha Round of talks this year.
Other institutions also have to meet new challenges.
The IMF has a real opportunity to play a leading role in the response to the current financial crisis.
The World Bank, like the United Nations, would benefit from reform and I support the reform proposals currently being advanced by Bob Zoellick.
Engaging the Asia-Pacific Region
A third pillar of Australia’s foreign policy is our engagement with the Asia-Pacific region.
The aim of the new Australian Government is to develop closer bilateral and regional relations with our neighbours.
Australia has an exceptionally close relationship with New Zealand.
This is based on common security concerns and common action in our immediate region in the South Pacific.
It is also based on the strength of our economic relationship reflected in our Closer Economic Relationship which has now operated for a quarter of a century.
Within the region, Australia has a long-standing and close friend and partner in Japan.
There is a strong economic strand to our relationship – Japan has been our largest export market for 40 years and Japanese investment provides many jobs in Australia, particularly in the manufacturing sector.
We also have a close and deepening strategic engagement. Bilaterally, Australia has in recent times strengthened our defence cooperation with Japan.
There is also the important trilateral element to our cooperation. The Trilateral Strategic Dialogue between Australia, Japan and the United States is an important mechanism that allows three close partners in the region to discuss the interests we share, the challenges we face and deliberate on appropriate responses to the same.
Australia also has a close relationship with the Republic of Korea.
Korea’s economic rise in the 1970s and 1980s was a remarkable achievement.
This led to a close relationship between our two countries, particularly in the supply of natural resources.
Korea’s global giant steel company, POSCO, is one of Australia’s largest single customers.
Our relationship also has a strong military component.
Under UN forces, Australian soldiers, sailors and airmen fought in defence of South Korea in the Korean War.
Security on the Korean Peninsula remains important to us today.
I look forward to working with the new Administration of President Lee on our shared economic and strategic interests.
In South East Asia, Australia has a number of vital partners.
Indonesia is our closest ASEAN neighbour – and now a fellow democracy.
It is also the world’s most populous Muslim nation.
Indonesia has achieved remarkable things in the past 10 years – it has made the transition to democracy, embarked on economic reform, and been a solid partner in the fight against terrorism. Indonesians – like Australians and Americans – know the pain of terrorist attacks on their people.
Indonesia is also a partner with us in the region.
As the biggest country in South East Asia, it plays a natural leadership role.
Bilaterally, our cooperation covers nearly every conceivable field from working against people smugglers to closer security cooperation under the recently signed Lombok Treaty.
We also work with our other friends and partners in South East Asia including Malaysia, Singapore, Thailand and the Philippines both bilaterally and the through the ASEAN mechanisms.
For us, close engagement with region, particularly in building an open inclusive regional architecture that can underwrite stability into the future is crucial.
Elsewhere in our region, we are witnessing the rise of India.
I want to see Australia and India develop closer relations at all levels.
I am committed to developing a broad-based relationship with India – political, economic as well as embracing a more substantive security dialogue.
Australia wants to see India included in regional bodies.
India’s inclusion in the East Asia Summit adds a crucial dimension to the EAS.
And we strongly support India’s membership of APEC.
This question of the adequacy of our existing regional architecture given the demands of the future is also one that will require our common efforts.
The dynamic change-drivers in the Asia-Pacific region are clear to everyone.
One of the biggest drivers of those changes is the economic emergence of China over the past 15 years.
China started its domestic reform and global opening process 30 years ago this year.
The first steps towards economic reform were measured.
There have been setbacks along the way.
But the results that have been achieved over the longer-term have been unmistakable.
The living standards of the Chinese people have been lifted dramatically.
In the process of developing itself and its people, China has made a critical contribution to global economic growth.
It has become a trading power and is now becoming an investment power.
China holds nearly 500 billion US dollars worth of US Treasury bonds – a second only to Japan’s holdings.
The economic transformation of China has seen a big shift in the personal choices available to Chinese people.
Human rights remain a real problem as demonstrated by the recent violence in Tibet – problems that require dialogue and restraint.
China’s legal system is still developing.
It has come a long way from the turmoil of the 1970s.
But in a globalised world where intellectual property needs protection, a full functioning, transparent and independent legal system is crucial for investor confidence.
We have to recognise that China’s leaders face staggering challenges domestically.
A recent Brookings research, co-authored by my friend Jeffrey Bader, note for the upcoming Presidential election noted the scale of the challenge.
China’s leaders recognise that they cannot make progress against these significant international challenges in a hostile international environment.
So China’s focus has been on stability.
In this context, the single most important element of China’s foreign relations is, of course, its relationship with the United States.
Since the Nixon visit of 1972, the United States has been actively engaging China.
On Friday, in my discussions with President Bush, I commended the Administration’s handling of the China relationship.
The wide range of new senior dialogue mechanisms gives Washington and Beijing channels to deal with emerging challenges before they become problems.
An important development in US policy towards China was in 2005 when then Deputy Secretary of State Bob Zoellick outlined his concept of China as a responsible global stakeholder.
His argument was that China has benefited from the current global international order – in both economic and security terms.
And, as a growing power, China should be more than just a passive member of the international order, it should work actively to sustain the system that has enabled its success.
Bob Zoellick’s logic is powerful.
It points to the interests that China shares with other members of the international community.
China’s own approach is to publicly emphasise its focus on its economic development and the priority it therefore places on a stable global order.
China has variously articulated its approach as one of “peaceful rise”, “peaceful development” or more recently that of a “harmonious world”.
The idea of “harmony” is not new in the Chinese body politic.
In the early 1900s the Chinese thinker Kang Youwei wrote about “the great unity” or “the great harmony” and proposed a future utopian world free of political boundaries.
It is worthwhile thinking through how we might try and draw these differing concepts of “responsible stakeholder” and a “harmonious world” together.
The idea of a “harmonious world” depends on China being a participant in the world order and, along with others, acting in accordance with the rules of that order.
Otherwise, “harmony” is impossible to achieve.
Therefore, there is on the face of it a natural complementarity between the two philosophical approaches.
And a complementarity that could be developed further in the direction of some form of conceptual synthesis.
In a political and foreign policy system as large and as complex as China’s, this provides a potentially useful framework to start bringing together these world-views.
Differences of course will continue – but common ground, where found, should be consolidated, developed and if possible built upon.
What we should consider, then, is a course of practical action that may assist in building on the complementarities already inherent in the two approaches.
In short, we look to China to make a strong contribution to strengthening the global and regional rules-based order.
There is no simple one line answer to the question of how we should seek to engage China.
It is a huge country, with complex global, domestic and historical currents that influence its policy decisions.
But one key is to encourage China’s active participation in efforts to maintain, develop and become integrally engaged in global and regional institutions, structures and norms.
At the same time, we have to also recognise that China is rapidly increasing its military spending.
China is developing its inter-continental ballistic missile force and other shorter-range rocket forces.
China’s maritime capability is also expanding.
We should not at one level be surprised that a more affluent China seeks to spend more on its military.
But China also needs to be aware that its modernisation drive does have an impact on the region.
It is in part a question of transparency.
It is also in part a question of uncertainties concerning long-term strategic purpose.
We must remain vigilant to changing strategic terrain.
But strategic vigilance must not be allowed of itself to become a self-fulfilling prophecy.
There is nothing pre-determined about US-China conflict in the future.
We decide the future by our actions today.
And we need to give ourselves the best chance to choose the best future.
We need to have:
For Australia, the single core question of whether ours will be a Pacific century rests on the long-term management of this most critical relationship.
Our predecessors in 1944/45 faced great challenges in building an international order out of the ruins of the last global war.
But out of their actions arose a stable international order built on the United Nations, Bretton Woods institutions and the continued strategic ballast provided by the United States.
That order has delivered remarkable prosperity and stability for more than half a century.
Our mission for the century ahead must be to enhance that stability and prosperity by meeting the challenges that lie now ahead head on. Rather than pretending these challenges might go away.
Australia stands ready to assist in dealing with these great challenges of the future.
MR. BADER: I'd like to thank you, Mister Prime Minister, for those insightful, enlightening, and comprehensive remarks. I have to get used to calling you Mister Prime Minister. I know how formal you Australians are and I have to stop calling you by the name I'm used to.
I'm Jeffrey Bader, by the way. I'm Director of the John L. Thornton China Center at the Brookings Institution, so we have the prime minister sandwiched in between John Thornton and his eponymous center.
The speech today recalled another speech that I think was alluded to earlier. Many of us read the prime minister's speech February 13 to the Australia Parliament about treatment of aboriginal people. We have had a lot of great speeches in the U.S. campaign this year. If you'll forgive me this brief intrusion into Australian internal affairs, for those of you who haven't had the pleasure of reading that speech, you really must. You can find it on the web, and it brought tears to the eyes of many of us.
We have a few minutes for questions. We have about 10 to 12 minutes. If I can abuse my privilege as moderator to ask the first question, Mister Prime Minister, you referred to the common values and common strategic interests between the U.S. and Australia and the alliance. I wonder if you could say something about how you see the respective roles of values and interests in the formulation of Australian foreign policy and our own foreign policy. Do you see them as competing, compatible, and how you weight them, particularly noting that your final remarks had to do with China which I guess is the greatest challenge on thinking about that issue.
PRIME MINISTER RUDD: When you're dealing with the great debate between values and interests, you're dealing with almost the axiomatic debate of foreign policy and international relations which is driven by universal values or driven by national interests and the two great schools of international relations theory, idealism and realism, proceed accordingly. So the dynamics of that debate have been around longer than I've been around.
I think however there is a tendency to believe that these approaches to the prosecution of foreign policy are so inherently contradictory that you therefore as a government must fall into either one school or the other. I don't come from that tradition. You see, at the end of the day, foreign policy cannot be disconnected from who we are as peoples, and I think that is particularly the case given the changing global reality in the last quarter century. I've said elsewhere this simple point, that there is now no longer a clinical divide between the national and the international, the foreign and the domestic, the internal, the external, as the great divide collapses. So much of what we do internationally is an extension of what we do nationally. And to be effective in what we now do domestically we have to be in parallel terms active externally. Climate change is a classic case in point, but then to go down to the great dilemma of human rights. We cannot divorce who we are as peoples domestically from our international posture as well. So that's all the reality underpinning it.
Where the rubber hits the road of course is in terms of our direct foreign relationships, and China you mentioned is always going to be a difficult challenge. If you put China in its historical context, when I first went there to work nearly 25 years ago, China was an authoritarian dictatorship and you would see the impact on people's personal liberty at the extreme end. I think any honest observer of China over the last 25 years is that people's personal liberty has improved considerably. Does that mean in some zero-sum gain that human-rights abuses do not occur today in China? Of course not, but there has been a change across that spectrum, and it would be analytically dishonest to assume that that hasn't occurred.
So the question for international engagement with China is therefore what works in enhancing that particular prosecution of what we would regard as universal values, and that is the respect of human rights. Plainly, the prosecution of the economic liberalization program in China which they've initiated domestically 30 years ago is a core part of it. Plainly also, engaging robustly with our Chinese friends when human-rights abuses occur as occurred recently in Tibet must also be part of it. These are not mutually exclusive propositions. They are actually part of an integrated policy. So I all for being robust and up front about where differences occur and engaging the Chinese accordingly and not pretending that these differences don't exist, at the same time recognizing that the underlying big drivers of change in China on this score and in other areas have come off the back of now three decades of market liberalization.
MR. BADER: Questions? And if you can wait for the microphone and identify yourself and your institution.
MR. INDYK: Martin Indyk, Director of the Saban Center for Middle East Policy at Brookings. Prime Minister, welcome to Washington and congratulations on your victory.
PRIME MINISTER RUDD: When are we going to get you back, Martin? When are we going to get you back in Australia?
MR. INDYK: Fortunately I get to ask the questions.
MR. INDYK: I was struck in your speech by the fact that you began by noting the arrival of the American fleet in Sydney Harbor. But in terms of America's role in the Asia Pacific region, you seem to confine that to the big relationship between the United States and China. And I wondered whether if this is because America has essentially been absent with its Iraq and Afghanistan and Middle East projects for the last 8 years. Do you feel the absence or has this actually created a situation which seemed to be implied in your speech where Australia together with Japan, South Korea, and others can actually fill the role that the United States used to play in the Asia Pacific region?
PRIME MINISTER RUDD: I think the thing to be said about U.S. engagement in East Asia and West Pacific, and this is a core part of what I was seeking to emphasize in the speech and elsewhere in public remarks that I've made is that it is perhaps invisible to many people that the underpinning strategy ballast which has given rise to the great economic development across the East Asian hemisphere at least since the mid 1970s, that ballast has been the United States. Were it not for that, then the region would have, I think, unfolded in a quite different direction and one which would not have made possible the extraordinary dividend to regional and global growth which has occurred. That's the first point.
The second is that the United States has not only maintained that balance by its own forward basing policies in the region, but also through its alliance structures which I referred to in my remarks before as well with Japan, the ROK, and ourselves.
But there is a third element which is that of shall we say softer security policy cooperation through the region's unfolding architecture. I have long said, and going back to previous Democratic administrations as well, that this is a space in which we would like to see the United States more actively engaged. The reason is if you look at it, and I think I said in the speech as well, there is a certain fragility to this strategy theater. Therefore, there is a great opportunity through regional security architecture to build genuine confidence and security building measures. We're aware of what happened over time in Europe. There are some parallels with what could happen over time in East Asia. So what I outlined today was just one of two practical ways in which that might unfold, an extension of the Six Party Talks into something bigger and better, also using some of the existing machinery, for example, the ASEAN Regional Forum to undertake cooperation between the security forces of various regional states on humanitarian intervention and particularly on the back of national disasters.
I think it has been the absence of that which has been noted and felt, but there is still time for us collectively to act and we look forward to working very much with this administration and the subsequent administration on how that might best be done. But I think the time is now right for the emergence of that accommodating architecture and we've got some work ahead of us to do.
MR. BADER: We have time probably only for one more question.
MR. TALBOTT: Prime Minister, I think I should grab the mike in part to give you an institutional answer to your question to Martin: you can have him back from time to time is the short answer to that.
I would like to pick up on this theme that you've developed in your remarks and that Martin asked you about which has to do with institutional architecture. You talked about using existing mechanisms. About 20 years ago Gareth Evans made a proposal for an East Asian version of OSCE which has been part of an institutional architecture in that part of the world that has made it largely a zone of peace. Do you see either the desirability or the plausibility of a new mechanism of some kind or do you see your part of the world with us participating working with the existing mechanisms?
PRIME MINISTER RUDD: Coming from a farm in rural Queensland, I have a basic approach to foreign policy which is what works, and therefore for me what works is what produces the end point and the end point is, shall I say, soft and middle levels of cooperation on common security policy endeavors across the states of the region which have historically not done that with each other. That's the end point. Because that of itself produces confidence and transparency in systems. It doesn't remove all strategic problems and rivalries, of course not. There is no zero-sum gain in this either. It's one of a multiplicity of engagements.
But then you go to the second question which you right raised, Strobe, of what's the best show in town to do that. Someone wrote recently that you kind of need a navigational guide and a computer program to negotiate your way through the alphabet soup of East Asia's current architecture. There are some there I haven't heard of before either. But if you go through ASEAN, the ASEAN Regional Forum, ASEAN Plus Three, the East Asia Summit, proposals for an East Asian Community, then you move on to APEC, and I'm sure I've left some out on the way through, I begin to become concerned that we so much into design lose point of rapidly getting to an end point which is actually doing some stuff together.
So where do I come out on that? If there is political will at present with our friends and partners in the United States and in Japan and in China and elsewhere toward taking the Six Party Talks mechanism further, I say let's give that the big tick. We of course have always been helpful and believing that we've always got something to offer would like to be part of that as well. But the key thing particularly given the historical strategic cockpit that Northeast Asia has been is to get something working beyond the immediate challenge difficult as it is of the Korean Peninsula and some of those broader questions around wider Northeast Asia. And if that is unfolding as the most likely mechanism on the security policy front, then I'm pretty relaxed about that. I'm more concerned about a mechanism which works and delivers the end point.
Of course, historically leaders of Australia, Japan, and the ROK, 20 years ago had this as part of their long-term vision for APEC. APEC in the historical thinking of then Australian Labor Prime Minister Bob Hawke was to create a piece of pan-Pacific, pan-regional architecture which brought together China and the United States in a common regional body which would evolve from an economic dialogue into something which became a security dialogue. It was actually quite far-sighted. APEC hasn't reached that point, one of the complications of course arising from the particular form of its membership and the Chinese concerns over the inclusion of Taiwan. So if APEC can unfold further in terms of economic integration and be given a move substantive agenda in the future and if at the same time we have a new mechanism which can produce genuine CSBMs, confidence and security building measures, and if that comes off the back of Six Party Talks, I think that's going to help and we certainly would lend every level of support at our level of government to making sure that it was successful.
MR. BADER: The Prime Minister has a brutal schedule today. We have to keep on schedule unfortunately. Could you all please join me in expressing your appreciation for what we've heard today from the Prime Minister?MR. THORNTON (Chairman of the Board of the Brookings Institution): Good morning, everyone. And I have the wonderful job this morning of introducing our honored guest, the Prime Minister of Australia. The Prime Minister is accompanied on his trip to the states by his wife, Therese Rein, sitting right here in the front row, welcome. And also accompanied by the Ambassador from Australia to the United States, Dennis Richardson, welcome.