|Secretary of State Madeleine K. Albright
Remarks to the American Chamber of Commerce
Manila, Philippines, July 29, 1998
As released by the Office of the Spokesman
U.S. Department of State
Thank you very much for that wonderful introduction and I'm very pleased to be here this morning with the President of the American Chamber, and Mr. Sears, and Ambassador and Mrs. Hubbard, friends of my daughter, college classmates, and it's really a pleasure to be with all of you. And thank you for all the fine work that you have done and for your invitation to address you.
One thing that I promise you that I will not do this morning and that is sing. I only do that at formal diplomatic dinners. Although if the past is any guide I'll have to at least speak in rhyme in order to make sure that the press quotes me. I make it a point to speak to American chambers of commerce whenever I can on my travels, and it is one of the really good events I think that I'm able to participate in, because it gives me a chance to meet with those who are involved in day to day activities of business and relationships with the United States. And I do this also because I have no more important job as Secretary of State than standing up for the interests of American businesses and workers -- and no higher priority than promoting healthy economic ties between our nation and its closest friends.
It is also because I admire the work that our chambers do to promote the values Americans share with people of good will all over the world.
In this respect, I want to congratulate you for your efforts to make business codes of conduct more effective. Yesterday, I had a chance to meet a small group of Philippine women business, labor and NGO leaders. The message they conveyed to me, with passion and conviction based on experience, is that human rights in the work place is simply good business. And I am proud that the American chamber has taken such a leading role in advancing that just and sensible cause.
But today, I want to speak with you a bit more broadly about what’s on my mind following this week’s ASEAN meetings, not to mention this year’s extraordinary events in Southeast Asia. And I want to talk about how the U.S.-Philippine partnership fits in with our larger goals in this region.
Of course at the top of the agenda with ASEAN was the Asian financial crisis, which is both an urgent economic concern and a threat to our interest in the stability of this region.
America’s policy toward the crisis is clear. We urge reform, but we will also do all we can to help the countries that are being hurt by the crisis and that are committed to reform.
We take this approach because Asia includes not only some of our closest allies and friends, but also some of the best customers for our products and services. More than one third of our exports go to this part of the world. Our companies have over $130 billion of investment at stake in this region.
I don't need to tell you that the crisis has already caused a slowdown in our exports and an increase in our trade deficit. The risk the crisis will spread and cause long term harm to the global economy cannot be ignored.
Official assistance can help countries get through the worst days of the crisis. And that's why the United States has provided significant resources to the IMF, the World Bank and the Asian Development Bank to help Asian economies recover, and why we're working with these institutions to help strengthen the social safety net, and why we are providing hundreds of millions of dollars in humanitarian aid to the people of this region.
But we also have to recognize that this crisis is not going to be resolved by aid alone.
One thing aid cannot do is make up for the billions of dollars in new private investment Asian economies are losing.
Foreign direct investment will be essential to getting this region back on track. It provides more jobs with higher wages; it makes possible advances in technology and productivity. It spurs exports. It makes economies more stable -- after all, people who own factories don't usually abandon their investments and fly home at the first sign of trouble.
The United States is ready to work with its partners in this region to encourage renewed investment. And we hope that they will do what is necessary to improve investor confidence.
In our meetings this week, I stressed what experience has taught us is necessary: that it is vital to apply democratic principles and the rule of law to the marketplace. That competition must be encouraged. That foreign investors should be treated like domestic investors. That corruption must be frankly discussed and vigorously fought.
In some countries, the medicine of economic reform will be bitter. It requires that old ways of doing business must change. The consequences for workers and families caught in the middle can be difficult and unfair.
But this doesn't change the fact that reform is medicine. If refused, the illness grows worse. If taken, recovery becomes only a matter of time. What is more, economies powered by open and sound financial policies will be better able to adjust to the global market than economies that are closed and hobbled by financial favoritism.
There is no question that this region will recover from the economic difficulties that are consuming our attention today. The real question is whether it will emerge stronger, more open, more democratic, more integrated, and better equipped to meet the new challenges.
Whether this happens or not will depend in large part on the leadership of countries such as the Philippines.
The potential for Philippine leadership rests in part on the power of this country’s example and the inspiring message sent by its recent history.
Just over a decade ago, the people of the Philippines won back the right to shape their destiny with a show of courage, tolerance and faith that the world will never forget. In our performance last night, I had a great time singing out that "Asian value of the hour is people power." I wanted to say that this nation showed the way; and now others are following.
Under President Aquino, the Philippines rebuilt its democratic institutions and established the rule of law. Under President Ramos, the Philippines consolidated democracy and revitalized its economy. I hope that under President Estrada, the Philippines will build on these gains by playing a bigger role in this region and the world -- a principled, purposeful role in keeping with your values and traditions.
Last Friday, at the start of the ASEAN Ministerial Meeting, President Estrada gave a speech in which he outlined the basic goals he thinks we should all be pursuing in Asia and the world today. I could probably spend the rest of my time with you simply agreeing with what he said. In fact, I think that is precisely what I am going to do.
President Estrada said that we need to strengthen and normalize our bilateral security arrangements. And he reaffirmed the importance of the security relationship between the United States and the Philippines. I appreciate that a great deal for we are not only friends, but solemn treaty allies.
Our Visiting Forces Agreement establishes a basis for keeping our alliance strong and for working together to keep this region stable and at peace. I know it must be ratified by the Philippine Senate, and I hope that that can happen soon.
In his speech, President Estrada also stressed what I think is the single, overriding threat to our security today: the spread of nuclear, chemical and biological weapons. He urged India and Pakistan to stop the dangerous arms race they have begun. And of course, he is right. There is no message worth sending, no interest worth securing that can possibly justify the risk these countries have taken.
President Estrada spoke as well about the need to meet the challenge posed by environmental degradation.
We simply cannot allow the financial crisis to divert our attention from this problem. For unless we think our people can hold their breath until growth resumes, we have to act together to protect our forests and keep our air clean. America will continue to work with ASEAN to discourage the policies and practices that caused this region’s devastating forest fires. And we count on the participation of the Philippines and its neighbors in the effort to reverse global climate change.
Another transnational challenge the President raised is the need to combat the trafficking of women and girls.
The people of the Philippines are among the victims of this appalling practice, but wherever it exists, from Burma to Ukraine to America, the stories of suffering are just heartbreaking. There have been many girls as young as eleven or twelve lured into conditions that can only be described as slavery, in places where they cannot seek help or even speak the language. In some countries, most will get AIDS; many will die before they even have a chance to grow up.
Addressing this problem will require changing attitudes and perceptions, which is something governments cannot do alone. But governments do have a responsibility to police their borders, enforce their laws, and help citizens who are making a difference. And that's why, in conjunction with ASEAN and the United Nations, the United States has agreed to help law enforcement officials in this region fight trafficking, and why we are supporting NGOs that come to the rescue of the victims.
Of course, President Estrada also addressed the economic crisis in his remarks to the ASEAN ministers.
Among other things, he called on the United States to fulfill our responsibilities to the international financial institutions. President Clinton and I agree completely, and we have called on our Congress to do what is both right and smart by meeting our commitment to the IMF.
Equally important, President Estrada pointed to the connection between the region’s recovery on the one hand, and its commitment to good governance and transparency on the other. In doing so, he raised a subject that has been a part of every serious discussion about Asia’s future in the last year. And he touched on a lesson that is at the heart of both the American and Filipino experience.
I hope we are now seeing an end to the chicken and egg debate about whether democracy or development must come first in the life of nations. Obviously, both are needed. Obviously, both reinforce one another. And clearly, no one has a right to tell the people of any country that they must experience one before they can enjoy the other. For history does not support such a claim and justice does not permit it.
In fact, our experience in the last year teaches a very different lesson: democracies are better able to adjust to change than regimes which are autocratic.
What is more, a democratic society is more likely to provide business with a climate where contracts are respected, where information flows freely, and where corruption can be exposed by a free media and punished by independent courts.
I know that this country has experienced hard times in the last year. But the Philippines has not been hurt by the economic crisis as severely as other nations in the region. Indeed, the Philippines graduated from three decades of IMF programs just as some of its neighbors were starting new programs.
This is one result of the Philippines’ commitment to economic reform through policies developed in a democratic manner by leaders accountable to their people.
For all these reasons, promoting democratic accountability and the rule of law is a pillar of American policy in this region. It is also an interest we share with the Philippines.
We agree on the need for the democratic process to continue in Cambodia. We agree that the military leaders of Burma must enter into a dialogue with the opposition movement that so clearly represents the people.
Let me say that I admire Foreign Secretary Siazon’s efforts to ensure that ASEAN’s engagement with Burma is truly constructive. He understands that we cannot make problems go away by pretending they don't exist, that this region will only move forward if it confronts the hard issues head on.
In all the ways that I have mentioned, shared values and shared interests are bringing the United States and the Philippines together in a partnership that has a potential not only to help us, but to help this region meet the challenges it is facing.
This may be a time of crisis, but if the right choices are made it could also be a time of a new beginning.
Not far from here, for example, Indonesia is going through a wrenching period of change. But there is a chance -- a good chance -- that this nation of 200 million people will emerge not only as strong and prosperous as ever, but with a commitment to democracy that can help keep it strong and prosperous for good.
And from Thailand to Malaysia to the Philippines, hundreds of millions of people are demanding greater accountability of their leaders, and taking greater responsibility for the future of their communities.
President Estrada ended his remarks on Friday by challenging ASEAN not to lose sight of "bigger dreams": including, "one market, one currency, and one community." Of course, these are dreams only the people of this region can realize. It is not our place to do it for them.
But I can say that the more Southeast Asia does come together around basic principles of political freedom, open markets, law and a commitment to peace, the deeper and broader America’s partnership with its nations and people will become.
And to that end, I dedicate my best efforts and that of the United States, and I respectfully request yours.
Thank you very, very much for a wonderful greeting.
[End of Document]
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