White House officials preview Indonesia speech
November 9th, 2010
10:50 AM ET

White House officials preview Indonesia speech

Delivered via conference call in Jakarta, Indonesia by Deputy National Security Adviser for Strategic Communication Ben Rhodes and Assistant Press Secretary Josh Earnest

MR. EARNEST: Good evening, everybody. We're under a little tight deadline here so we're going to move quickly. Ben Rhodes is joining us on the phone to give you a little preview of what to expect in the speech tomorrow. The ground rules for this is we're going to do this on the record and you can use it right away as needed.
One logistical point - we are working to - Ben is working to get you an embargoed text of the speech tonight so that you can prepare in advance, so - that's not going to come any time soon, but hopefully it will come tonight.

So with logistics out of the way, Ben, do you want to give a quick preview and we'll open it up to questions?

MR. RHODES: Yes, sure. Thanks, Josh. I'll just give a quick preview of how the President is approaching the speech, and then to your questions. I think the first point is that Indonesia is a country that’s very important to the President. It’s a country that he spent several years in as a child growing up. He has a great affection for Indonesia and for its people. And so that's one way in which he was approaching the speech.

And the second way is that Indonesia is also an increasingly important country to the United States and to the world. It’s a very strategic country as an emerging economy and member of the G20; as one of the most inspiring emerging democracies of recent years, undertaking a democratic transformation in the ‘90s and the beginning of this decade; as the preeminent power and leader in Southeast Asia and incoming leader of ASEAN, a regional organization that we've spent a lot of time engaging; as well as the largest Muslim-majority country in the world and a country with a history of pluralism and tolerance that accompanies that status.

So those are kind of the two frames within which we're looking at this. I think tonight you’ll hear the President speak in his press conference to kind of the policy deliverables and issues on the agenda as it relates to our bilateral relationship. So a lot of that will be tonight and you’ll be hearing that shortly.

I think the speech will be - have a good degree of personal reflection from the President on his time in Indonesia and what that was like for him and why it was important to him and what he learned from Indonesia, as well as, of course, the tremendous transformation that has taken place in the time since the President lived in Indonesia. Obviously, there’s been very rapid development, democratization.

Secondly, I think he’ll obviously touch upon the important Indonesia-U.S. relationship, building on the comprehensive partnership that he’ll be talking about tonight with President Yudhoyono. But then I think he’ll focus on several broad themes as it relates to the U.S.-Indonesia relationship and Indonesia’s example in the world. And I think this is an important point to underscore, that Indonesia has the ability to set a very positive example in the world.

(Inaudible) - development and Indonesia’s efforts to grow its economy and, again, to play a larger role on the world stage through the G20, which is something that, again, present opportunities for us. As you heard us say throughout this trip, Indonesia is one of those emerging markets in Asia, but we believe trade between the United States and Asia could be higher.

But I think he’ll be discussing development both more broadly within the context of Indonesia to include clean energy and education and other areas where we’re partnering with the Indonesians.

I think democracy will be a very important theme of the speech. Again, Indonesia is an emerging democracy. It’s an emerging democracy in Southeast Asia that has demonstrated that development and democracy go hand in hand, that they need not - one not come at the expense of the other; that Indonesia can be a positive model in the region and in the world for a developing country, embracing democracy and serving as both an example and a supporter for human rights in this part of the world.

And then, lastly, religion. Again, the President will I think revisit some of the themes that he’s hit upon, obviously specifically related to the fact that the world’s largest Muslim population is in Indonesia. So given that fact, I think you’ll see the President revisit some of the types of themes that he discussed in Cairo.

But I think another point to underscore is Indonesia is a pluralistic country, it’s a tolerant country, so this is not simply through the vein of one religion but rather, again, holding up the way in which Indonesia sets a very positive example through its pluralism.

So I think, just to wrap it, there’s a personal component and then there’s the combination of Indonesia’s efforts and example on the areas of development, democracy and religion - and America’s partnership with Indonesia in each of those areas. I think that pretty much sums up the frame for the speech.

And with that, I’d be happy to take a couple of questions.

Q Thanks for having the call, guys. Ben, could you give us any insight as to trade issues? Could you - will we hear the President talk about some kind of framework at least for moving forward on future trade agreements of some kind?

MR. RHODES: I think - I’d just say a number of things about that. AS it relates to kind of bilateral trade, that's something they're discussing tonight and I think will be speaking to around the press conference. We want to increase our trade relationship with Indonesia. We want to pursue - there are several contracts we're pursuing in areas such as infrastructure and we also just want to - (drop in call) - and at the G20, he'll also be visiting with President Lee to discuss progress in outstanding issues related, of course. And then I think we're looking to do something on the margins on the impact with the Trans-Pacific Partnership, which, again, is one of our signature initiatives in terms of trying to integrate the trade relationship and this part of the world.

But again, I think the last thing I'd say is that Indonesia is taking the leadership of ASEAN - ASEAN does have a rapidly integrating trade relationship within that framework. And - (inaudible) - the regional grouping is one of our most important trading partners as well.

So those are the types of issues we're looking at - the bilateral trade relationship, the engagement between the United States and the ASEAN countries, and then the partnership more generally. And these are issues that will come up throughout the President’s visit in the next several days, though not necessarily a lot of treatment in the speech tomorrow.

Q Thanks for doing this. There were reports from NGOs that the President and President Yudhoyono are going to be announcing some kind of major deforestation - or anti-deforestation initiative. And I'm wondering if you can confirm those and say anything about any foreign aid offered on education, clean energy, that are going to be actually on offer.

MR. RHODES: I don't have the numbers in front of me, Jonathan, but what I will say there are a couple of specific partnerships that they’ll be announcing tonight and we should have factsheets on those.

One is in the area of clean energy and climate change. And Indonesia has set some very ambitious emission reduction goals. They’ve been a leader in this area. Part of that is their effort on deforestation and preserving some of their natural resource base. And we're working on a bilateral basis with them to support a climate change center here in Indonesia that, again, could help them meet those goals and also serve as a model more generally.

There’s a specific number attached to that, but I don't think I have it in front of me. But it’s in the neighborhood I think of $135 million. But we'll get you the exact number. In fact, I think the President will be speaking very shortly.

The second one is education. We have a multiyear education partnership with the Indonesians that we're launching. I think that's in the neighborhood of $150 million. And that's focused on I think doubling the number of U.S. and Indonesian students who are studying in their respective countries. So we're getting more Indonesian students to study in the United States and more American students studying in Indonesia. There are also several American universities that are exploring increasing their presence in Indonesia - specifically I think Texas A&M, Harvard, UCLA are among those. And then in addition to that, English language instruction in Indonesia, increasing that, which, of course, will help facilitate greater ties between the U.S. and Indonesia.

So I’d just highlight clean energy and education as two areas where we have significant partnerships that we’re developing in Indonesia. And they're both areas that are forward looking, that build our kind of people-to-people connections with Indonesia, that deepen cooperation on the issue of clean energy that can have an economic basis whereby we can. It’s an area where we can have sort of both an environmental interest in having climate-change goals, but also eventually an export interest in providing technologies - but starting with this particular initiative around clean energy and climate, and deforestation, as you said.

So we’ll have the factsheet on that shortly that gives you the specific numbers. I think looking at it now actually I think education is $165 million and climate a little less than that. But we’ll have that information for you.

MR. EARNEST: We'll put those factsheets out in conjunction with the press conference. So they’ll be out in an hour or so.

MR. RHODES: Yes, and the framework for that is that we’re announcing a comprehensive partnership with Indonesia. And it’s, frankly, somewhat similar to the approach to India - not at that level, but in terms of what we want to do is broaden the issues we’re working on together.

What we have is a relationship that has a trade component, an education component, a clean energy component, a counterterrorism component. We’ve restarted some of our military-to-military ties. So that we’re cooperating across this range of issues with the Indonesians and cementing them as a kind of core partner of the United States in a very strategic part of the world, and as a country that shares both interests and values with us as a democracy.

Q I’m just wondering if you can elaborate a little bit more on the President’s plans for tomorrow? We saw in the gaggle that it looks like he’s going to have to leave here early. Does this mean the cancelation of the mosque visit? Will he able to give the speech, et cetera?

MR. RHODES: Sure, Sheryl. We’ve been looking very closely at the mottling of the plume from the volcano that's erupted recently. And I think they're - we’ll have the most up-to-date information for you tonight. But our understanding is that it might be necessary to leave a bit early, which would truncate the schedule a little bit. We obviously want to preserve as much of the schedule as we can, particularly the speech that the President is going to give. So we have not canceled any portion of the schedule yet.

We may start earlier, may have to truncate it in some fashion. But that's the latest I have. We’re still tracking towards certainly giving his speech, but we may have to leave a little bit earlier. But we should have information shortly. Part of this is we’re just trying to get the very most up-to-date read on what the weather patterns are telling us.

Q - tomorrow and who is his audience? Thanks.

MR. RHODES: I think I only caught the last part of your question, Savannah. Was it where is he giving the speech and who is the audience?

Q It was also how many - well, not where is he giving the speech. But how many do you expect tomorrow? And who is the audience? Is it students? Is it anybody who can get in - just a sense of who the audience is.

MR. RHODES: Got it. The speech is at the University of Indonesia. They moved it to an indoor site because that was the preference of the Indonesian government. I think they had a range of concerns that they can speak to - ranging from the weather and the crowd control concerns, given the interest in the President here in Indonesia.

So the venue is indoors. It’s about 6,000 I think is the crowd. So it’s still a big crowd, which is something that we wanted in terms of trying to reach as many people as we could while he was here, particularly given the fact that it’s an abbreviated schedule. And we’ve been building the crowd with the Indonesians and with our embassy so that it represents a pretty broad cross-section - that we have university students, but that we also have civil society actors and a cross-section of Indonesians.

I think the one important point to make here is that Indonesia has a very dynamic civil society in terms of political organizations, human rights supporters, students who are connected and interested in politics. And we actually have an initiative that we’re announcing - that we’re pursuing in terms of supporting partnerships between the U.S. and Indonesian civil society, to strengthen them here, but also to work through regional efforts like the Bali Democracy Forum and others, whereby Indonesian civil society and U.S. civil society can help regional partners on issues like election monitoring and transparency mechanisms.

So it’s a bit of a tangent, but the short answer is 6,000 people indoors, university students, civil society and kind of a broader cross-section of Indonesia.

MR. EARNEST: Okay, thanks a lot, everybody. We’ll have the factsheets out in about an hour and hopefully an embargoed copy of the speech later on this evening. Thanks for joining us. Thanks, Ben.

Topics: Indonesia • The Vault

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