Speaking to a crowd of over 200 during the national conference of the World Affairs Councils of America in Washington, D.C. this morning, Deputy Secretary Bill Burns focused on the U.S. strategic pivot towards Asia and the tremendous opportunities the United States is working to seize in the broader Pacific region -- spanning from India to the western coast of the Americas. He highlighted how, in many respects, the Asia-Pacific will be the most significant part of the world for American interests for many decades to come. He challenged the audience "to think of those increasingly interconnected regions as an integrated whole... with commonalities beyond geographic proximity."
Drawing on his recent visits to Japan, China, Mexico, and South America, Burns observed that mutually reinforcing strategic and economic relationships with partners in Asia and the Americas will be central to our future success, highlighting that "these are places with booming middle classes where U.S. businesses can tap new markets and reach new consumers to drive the U.S. economic recovery forward."
In addition to Asia's well-known economic transformation, Burns highlighted the remarkable progress Latin America has made in consolidating democracy, lifting citizens out of poverty, and growing as a global commercial and energy marketplace.
He observed that our partnerships in the Western Hemisphere "are vital to our economic recovery and competitiveness; vital to our ability to solve the transnational challenges that no country can solve on its own; and vital to our efforts to promote and consolidate democracy and human rights globally."
Burns looked to the APEC leaders' meeting and North American Leaders Summit in Hawaii next week, as well as President Obama's participation in the East Asia Summit and the ASEAN Regional Forum later this month, as key opportunities to drive our agenda forward and strengthen the trans-Pacific architecture. He noted that our challenge is not to contain rising powers in Asia and Latin America but to lead them and in doing so ensure "that the Pacific century ahead will also be an American century."
Burns closed by stressing the importance of investing in U.S. leadership, noting that "any attempt to cut that small investment will not make a dent in our deficit, but will certainly make a dent in our leadership. And that is what we cannot afford."
You can read a transcript of the Deputy's remarks here.