Remarks by the Vice President at Pratt & Whitney in Singapore
THE VICE PRESIDENT: Well, Bill, thank you. Thank you very, very much. I had a terrific tour. I don't know whether or not -- I kind of thought you'd all be in the air by now, because I just powered an A-330. They let me actually do it, put my hand on the throttle as they tested it. That was worth the trip.
Ladies and gentlemen, it's -- this is -- this week, I've literally -- I'm on my way to go round the world in nine days, not 80 days, and from Washington to India to Singapore to Hawaii and back home. And I'm traveling with my wife, Jill, my daughter, Ashley, my son-in-law, as well as my team on Air Force Two. And now I want you to know how powerful the image of Pratt & Whitney is. My staff was so certain that Air Force Two was powered by your engine, they wanted me to say at this point, Pratt & Whitney engines keep us in the sky. But it turns out it's not a Pratt & Whitney engine, but I'm going to make a recommendation when I get back. (Laughter and applause.)
What's happening here is about more than aircraft engines, more than a strong partnership between the United States and Singapore, as important as those things are. Seeing the remarkable things that are happening here in this factory is a reminder of what's at stake for the United States and the region -- expanding economic opportunity for all people, especially, in our case, the American people, maintaining peace and security that make this prosperity possible.
And today, I want to take a step back with you and talk about a pair of challenges that the leaders in this region are confronting, and they're confronting around the world. First is, how do we continue this economic growth? And second, how do we manage the tensions in the South China Sea that are emerging?
This is an important moment in the development of the global economy. When President Obama and I took office, it was a time of significant economic crisis, requiring us to take aggressive measures to stabilize the United States economy, which was in the midst of the worst economic downturn since the Great Depression. We also inherited two wars, one which we've ended and one which we are responsibly ending. Our economy has come back from the brink and is growing again. Over the past four years, we've made significant progress: 40 straight months of job growth; we've gone from losing over 800,000 jobs a month when we were sworn in to creating on an average of 200,000 jobs a month in 2013. More to do, more to do. But we've created 500,000 manufacturing jobs. You need not tell anybody in this facility why manufacturing jobs are necessary to maintain a strong and growing middle class -- a job you can raise a family on; a job that you can own a home on; a job that you can provide for your family on.
The fastest growth in manufacturing in America since the '90s, and manufacturing -- particularly high-tech manufacturing companies are returning from China, from other parts of the world to the United States of America. The $17 trillion in household income that was lost as the consequence of the Great Recession, prior to us taking office, it has all been restored. We have regained over $17 trillion in household wealth since we took office. Retirement funds and 401(k)'s are back. And there's significant growth in housing in America. And those of you who know -- and you do know -- that for a vast majority of Americans, the house they own and the equity in that house is the measure of their wealth in large part.
So Americans are feeling again that they are acquiring wealth. And as a consequence, what's happening is consumer confidence is returning as well.
The long and short of this all -- there's more to do -- America is back. The world understands America is back. And they understand what I said in Beijing two years ago: It's never, never, never, ever a good bet to bet against America. It has never been a good bet, and it is not now. (Applause.)
There's more to do. That's why President Obama and I are staying focused on economic growth and continuing to rebuild the economy. But we view the way to build the economy is the old-fashioned way -- from the middle out. There's also a need to focus on the global economy, though. Growth has slowed in Europe and the Pacific. Now, unlike five years ago, the issue isn't so much a crisis. The issue now, in this part of the world and in Europe, which I visit often, is whether or not there's the potential for drift in our economies, a potential that we lose sight of what we need to finish.
The world's leading economies simply can't allow the drift to be sustained. As I've traveled this region -- and I'll be back again in the fall in China and Japan -- but as I've traveled this region, it's clear to me that all the nations involved understand what they need to do to regenerate growth at the pace it existed the past decade. And what is most required is a political will -- a political will. They know what needs to be done.
Europe has struggled with an existential crisis as to whether or not the European Union would survive. They've made progress. They have stabilized the situation. Now they need to focus on growth as well as their budgets. Japan, after decades of stagnation and deflation, the Japanese government has taken significant steps to breathe new life into their economy. But as I discussed yesterday with Prime Minister Abe, as I did when he was in Washington some months ago, some of the most difficult steps remain for Japan, especially on the structural reforms like reforming their labor market.
In China, where I've spent a great deal of time, after years of rapid expansion, growth is slowing. And it's clear that the Chinese government understands that there are internal reforms that they need -- not that we are suggesting, but they have acknowledged and published. But implementing them will be difficult. Stakeholders are involved in all these changes in every country. China understands the need to -- for a swift shift to a consumption-driven economy. They know there's a need to create a market-based, well-regulated financial system, supplanting what exists now, and to liberalize exchange rates. But it will be difficult. They are tough political decisions that need to be made.
I've recently come back from visiting Brazil, and as of two days ago, India -- two countries that have been part of the engine of economic growth in the last decade. But their growth, as well, has slowed. And they understand they faced renewed questions as how to regain and reignite growth, to build infrastructure, maintain public services, generate innovation and investment. It's my impression, as I meet with the heads of state of all these countries, that most emerging markets understand they have to transition away from protectionist policies and open their economies to a more fair and level field of competition.
But that path, although difficult, is quite clear. And the best way to unleash the talents of your people and generate economic opportunity is through greater integration; a level playing field where private enterprise, foreign and domestic, can compete with state-owned enterprise; where there are fewer barriers at and behind the borders; where intellectual property is protected; where domestic content requirements are diminished; where there's a court system that adjudicates disputes fairly.
I was asked not long ago, in speaking with Lee Kuan Yew, which was a great honor as he is getting older but his mind is as sharp as it's ever been. He said what the rest of the world is trying to do is trying to figure out what that black box is in America that allows you to reinvent yourself constantly.
And it's clear what it is. To paraphrase the founder of Apple, who's passed away, when asked at Stanford University, what do I have to be to be more like you? He said, Think different. You can only think different where you can breathe free, where you can challenge orthodoxy, where there's a certitude about the rule of law and a court system that is not corrupt and where you can adjudicate your differences. This is the path to growth in the 21st century.
But it is difficult. It is difficult. It requires some patience, but there's a need for incremental movement in that direction. That's why the United States is working with partners like Singapore to make a global trading system for the 21st century that is more competitive and fair.
There's an Irish poet who wrote about his Ireland in the year 1916 after the first Rising, as we Irish say, against Britain in the 20th century. And there's a line in that poem that he used that better describes the state of the world we face today. He said, "All's changed; changed utterly. A terrible beauty has been born."
The world of the 21st century is fundamentally different than the world of the 20th century, requiring new rules of the road as we needed after World War II with Bretton Woods and other institutional changes we made; and that includes trade.
Because we believe -- we believe -- that if, in fact, we move in that direction, that the case Pratt & Whitney and other American corporations can compete anywhere in the world with anybody at any time on condition it is open, transparent and free.
Toward that end, we're working to establish new rules of the road for economic growth and expansion, which will benefit all people. It's overwhelmingly in America's interest that China's economy continue to grow; that India's economy expand; that Brazil reaches its potential.
We're negotiating now a transatlantic investment partnership with Europe. We already have -- if you count everything going back and forth -- over a trillion dollars in commerce and trade. But that partnership needs to be reinvigorated, a partnership which will bring more growth on both sides of the Atlantic.
In December at Bali, the World Trade Organization will be meeting. Our goal there is to streamline global trade. With regard to China and India, we're working on bilateral investment treaties that will give investors greater certainty and productivity and generate greater economic growth.
The President kids me because I keep using the phrase: Reality has a way of intruding eventually. Reality has a way of intruding. And reality has intruded on the models that heretofore have generated the growth in those countries.
We're pursuing a Trans-Pacific Partnership with countries as diverse as Vietnam, Chile, New Zealand, Mexico, Japan, at which point the group -- that group will account for 40 percent of the world's GDP.
The TPP has the potential to set new standards for a collective commitment to fair competition on state-owned companies, investment, labor, environment, open markets, automobiles and other industries. This will create a strong incentive when we complete this for other nations to raise their standards so they can join.
It is true the TPP is ambitious, and it should be. But it is also doable, and we're working hard to get it done this year. The TPP is part of our policy of rebalancing both strategically and economically. As we got the economy from -- moved back from the brink, and we ended the war in Iraq, and ending the war in Afghanistan, where we spent over a trillion dollars, we are once again able to refocus on where are the priorities for the United States. Where should we be focusing and reinvesting?
And in terms of economics, the Asia-Pacific region stretching from India to the Pacific nations of the Americas is home of a middle class that's more than a billion people, some of the fastest growing rates in the world, an emerging market whose choices will shape the character of the entire world economy for the next several decades.
But economic growth rests upon a foundation of stability and security. And the Pacific is home of some of the world's busiest sea lanes and shipping routes. And despite*(sic - disputes) that, if left unaddressed, could become fault lines for future conflict.
The increase of maritime incidents and assertive actions we've seen lately in the South China Sea represent a threat to the security of the Asia-Pacific region. And the President and I are concerned by what we're seeing. We're concerned that tensions are growing, not declining. We know that as parties operate in close proximity in this region, the risk of mistake and miscalculation increase.
My dad, God love him, used to have an expression. He said, the only conflict worse than one that is intended is one that is unintended. And the prospect for miscalculation is real. It would not take much of an incident to escalate intention to turn into conflict.
The only way to effectively manage and resolve those tensions, those territorial disputes is through peaceful diplomatic process that respects the rights of all claimants and is rooted in the foundations of international law. That means no intimidation, no coercion, no aggression, no bellicose rhetoric. Any and all peaceful means for resolving these disputes should be available, including arbitration.
Short of a long-term resolution, we want to see the mechanisms to manage these disputes in a more stable and predictable circumstance. That's why we support a meaningful code of conduct. We welcome ASEAN's efforts to advance talks on a code of conduct, and we're pleased by the recent moves to begin those consultations in the region.
But we can't be in a position year after year of merely talking about a code of conduct while tensions continue to increase. Delay only raises risks. So as we look ahead to the East Asia summit this year, all parties involved should be looking for a way to move quickly toward a substantive code.
The United States has a deep stake in these issues. We are, we will remain a resident Pacific power. Let me say that again, we are and we will remain a resident Pacific power. And it's in the interest of all nations, especially Pacific nations, that we be there.
Ladies and gentlemen, freedom of navigation, unimpeded lawful commerce, respect for international laws and norms, the peaceful resolution of territorial disputes -- all of these, our interest in these issues is not new. It's been consistent for over 60 years. America by admission of everyone, including the Chinese -- America has helped create the conditions for security and stability that allow -- has allowed the Asian-Pacific nations to turn their talents and intentions to the economic miracle that we witnessed the previous 60 years.
As I said at the outset, a trip to a factory like this is a reminder of what's at stake: the livelihoods of good and decent people, decent paying jobs. From Southeast Asia to my home country, they cannot afford for their governments to be complacent about peace and economic prosperity. And we are not. America is all in here in Asia, and we will keep working to help create a peaceful region, a stable and growing global economy for all people. This will not only be good for Asia, but it's good for America and good for the world. That's why -- that's why we've rebalanced our focus in the world on Asia. We are not leaving anywhere, but we are rebalancing here. It's in our interest. It's in Asia's interest. It's in the world's interest. It's good for the world.
Thank you all very much for the great work you do. Thank you for giving me the opportunity to speak to you. May God bless you all and may God protect our troops.
Thank you very much. (Applause.)
Joseph R. Biden, Remarks by the Vice President at Pratt & Whitney in Singapore Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project https://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/node/320979