Sunday, September 9, 2012
Clinton pushes maritime code, trade at APEC summit in Russia
VLADIVOSTOK, Russia — Secretary of State Hillary Clinton will urge cooperation on resolving regional maritime skirmishes that have escalated over the past year during a visit to Russia for an Asia-Pacific summit.
As President Barack Obama's representative at the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation Summit in Vladivostok, Clinton met Saturday and today with the leaders of Japan, South Korea and Russia, all of whom have competing territorial claims with China or each other.
The top U.S. diplomat is wrapping up a six-nation, 11-day tour that garnered mixed results in pressing China and Southeast Asia countries to adopt a framework for negotiations on territorial claims in a region rich in oil and gas. The United States is seeking to diffuse conflict in the South China Sea, through which half of the world's commercial cargo moves.
Clinton today meets Russian President Vladimir Putin and earlier met Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov to press for tougher international pressure against Syrian leader Bashar al-Assad. Russia is resisting Western efforts to oust Assad as a means to ending a civil war that has killed more than 23,000 people in 18 months, according to the U.K.-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights.
Clinton and Chinese Foreign Minister Yang Jiechi met in Beijing on Sept. 5 and pledged to build closer ties while disagreeing over both the situation in Syria and the best way to solve the maritime disagreements.
In her meetings with Russian leaders, including a short audience at dinner with Putin, Clinton is seeking to discuss economic opportunities and trade, following Russia's accession to the World Trade Organization. She will also discuss efforts to prevent Iran from acquiring a nuclear weapon, U.S. officials told reporters traveling with her.
Clinton and Lavrov signed agreements today on scientific and environmental cooperation in the Antarctic region; promoting commercial and governmental ties at local and regional levels, and linking national parks in Alaska and Eastern Siberia. They also announced an agreement to ease visa access to facilitate business travel, tourism and bilateral investment.
Clinton praised the initiatives as signs of “deepened cooperation” between the U.S. and Russia over the last three and a half years, since the Obama administration announced a so-called reset in relations.
The agreement to boost commercial cooperation at the regional level is intended to help U.S. agricultural exports and promote job growth in the U.S. Pacific Northwest and the Russian Far East, where Exxon Mobil has invested on Sakhalin Island, the State Department said in a statement.
Speaking at the APEC CEO Summit, Clinton advocated reducing barriers, ensuring a level playing field for expanding trade and investment, and increasing cooperation on issues including intellectual property protection and food security.
“To unleash this region's full potential, we all need to take concrete steps — especially regarding protectionist policies that distort markets and discriminate against some companies but not others,” she said.
She urged business leaders to push their governments to support “high-standard trade agreements like the Trans-Pacific Partnership and to drop harmful protectionist policies.”
During an earlier photo opportunity before a meeting today, Singapore Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong asked Clinton if she had been following the Democratic Convention during her trip. She replied jokingly that she had been “banished” for the duration of the gathering of the party faithful that just ended in Charlotte, N.C. Clinton delayed her departures from her last two stops in East Timor and Brunei to watch her convention speeches by her husband, former president Bill Clinton, and President Barack Obama.