Remarks by Vice President Joe Biden After a Bilateral Meeting Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull
Commonwealth Government Office
3:39 P.M. (Local)
PRIME MINISTER TURNBULL: Good afternoon. And, Mr. Vice President, it’s been great to talk with you and discuss so many important issues, strategic issues, economic issues. But above all, welcome to Australia.
VICE PRESIDENT BIDEN: Thank you.
PRIME MINISTER TURNBULL: Foreign Minister Julie Bishop and I are delighted to be hosting you today.
We spoke at the outset of our meeting about the values that bind Australia and the United States. We talked about a hundred years of shared service of our servicemen and women fighting alongside each other in freedom’s cause. But we talked above all at the outset, the way in which our two countries define their national identities by a commitment to shared political values -- to freedom, democracy, and the rule of law. We don't define what is an Australian, who is an Australian, who is an American by reference to religion or race or ethnic background or cultural background; it is that shared passion of our two nations that the people of Australia and the people of the United States to freedom, the rule of law, democracy and the right of every person to be able to aspire to realize their dreams -- every single one of us, born equal entitled to the same protection of a free country governed by its own laws.
So we have no stronger alliance, no stronger friendship across every sector, the economy, foreign policy, defense. And we work closely together in freedom’s cause around the world.
The Vice President and I, with the Foreign Minister and our advisers, talked about the need to ensure the rule of law is supported everywhere -- in the Middle East, where the Vice President has particular expertise. And I’ll touch on that in a moment.
We talked about the important of the rule of law in our region, in the South China Sea where neither of our countries being claimants to any features in the South China Sea, but each of us encourage all parties to resolve such differences as there are in accordance with international law, in accordance with peaceful negotiation.
The rules-based international order, which, Mr. Vice President, the United States has underpinned for so many decades has enabled the development of so much prosperity, so many millions -- hundreds of millions of people have been lifted out of poverty because of the peace that a rules-based international order in our region has enable. And we stand for that today, as we always have.
We discussed the recent military progress against ISIL in the Iraq and Syrian theaters. As the Vice President acknowledged, Australia is one of the largest contributors to that allied effort.
We talked about the concerns that we see with the spread of fast developing terrorist activity, rapid radicalization, as seen in recent attacks in Nice and Orlando, as well as in Indonesia, Malaysia, and many other countries. We have the strongest and most intimate collaboration in intelligence and security. And it becomes stronger all the time. The threat of terror is a global one. It is absolutely international. And every even is connected one with the other. And so our collaboration is more important than ever.
And in regard to Iraq, which I hope the Vice President will speak about in his remarks, where you visited 28 times, Mr. Vice President.
VICE PRESIDENT BIDEN: A lot.
PRIME MINISTER TURNBULL: Yes, a lot. I can announce that we will expand the training mandate of our Building Partner Capacity Mission in Iraq to include the training of Iraqi federal law enforcement agencies and local police.
At the moment, our training mandate is restricted to training the Iraqi army. And as we discussed, one of the most important objectives now in Iraq is to ensure that the Iraqi police forces, their gendarmerie forces are able to maintain the peace in areas that have been liberated from Daesh or ISIL as the Iraq Security Forces and counterterrorism forces progress.
We talked also about the Trans-Pacific Partnership. This is a great free trade agreement, 40 percent of the global economy. The United States and Australia are partners in that. We await the approval of the U.S. Congress to it. And we know that while there are political obstacles, the eloquence of the Vice President and the President, all of the wiles he’s developed over so many years in the Congress, all of that political capital is going to be brought to bear to bring the TPP home in the Congress. We know that the Biden touch will deliver the TPP, and that will be very important for economic growth in our region.
So, Mr. Vice President, you've come here for the first time but with a great family connection, of which you spoke. You've come here with your characteristic warmth and eloquence, with your passion about finding a cure for cancer, your commitment to that. You come here demonstrating your commitment to the alliance, talking to our servicemen and women, sharing their stories, visiting Australians at every walk of life. But what you deliver most of all, Mr. Vice President, is yourself. You deliver your warmth and your passion for those values of freedom that bind our two nations together. And we are delighted to have you here as our guest in Australia with your family. We're delighted.
VICE PRESIDENT BIDEN: Thank you very much. It’s not hard when you believe it.
Well, good afternoon, everyone. It’s a delight to be here, and it’s a real pleasure to be in Australia. And I mean that seriously.
Mr. Prime Minister, thank you for the incredible welcome and the undeserved words of praise that you have shown me, the welcome, and what you've said.
The warmth and the hospitality of the Australian people these past few days have been overwhelming. My whole staff -- some have been here before -- feel it. You can smell it. You can taste it. It really is -- it is welcoming.
And let me start, Mr. Prime Minister, by congratulating you on your recent victory. And I’m proud to have this opportunity to celebrate and strengthen the relationship which is incredibly important not just to me and the President, but to all the American people.
Those of you in the press who have been to the United States, I doubt whether any of you will say anything contrary to what I’m about to acknowledge, and that is if you find an American who isn’t welcoming of an Australian, I’d like to know where it is. There is an overwhelming sense of -- it’s almost unreal of camaraderie and connectedness to Australia, even though it’s a world away, as they say.
And so it’s not just that we have fought side by side for the past hundred years in every major encounter, and for the last 65 years we've had a formal military alliance, but it’s the daily touches of family, of relationships, of friendships, of partnerships, of shared values. And I really mean it when I say shared values. We're both nations of immigrants. We are both nations who are fiercely independent. And we defend fiercely -- to use the word twice -- the right of everyone to be treated with dignity and with respect.
I don't know any place where there’s a greater comfort zone that we feel than being here among all of you, and I hope you feel the same way when you're in the States.
And ultimately, I think there’s a simple reason our country works so well together, across the board, our values are the same. We have a line in our Constitution say: “In order for form a more perfect union.” We are constantly trying to improve. We don't always succeed. We're constantly trying to improve on our country’s success, but on how we deal with one another and deal with the world, to make a more perfect union.
And I believe to our core that we share the view that freedom and equality are about what we're about.
Now that sounds almost corny. It’s phrases you’d expect public officials, elected officials to say, but you guys feel it in your bones: We hold these truths self-evident that all men are created equal, endowed by their Creator with certain inalienable rights, the right to life, liberty, pursuit of happiness. It’s in your DNA. You feel it. It’s real. And that's why you're so respected by Americans.
Over the past few days, Mr. Prime Minister, I met with many business leaders and entrepreneurs discussing how our two nations can continue to grow and drive innovation and economic growth in the 21st century. And I toured the Victorian Comprehensive Cancer Centre, in Melbourne, where you've must made a billion dollar investment, providing the best possible care and treatment and analysis that is a quality that's equal to any in the world. And I met with Australian researchers, doctors, scientists, oncologists who are on the leading edge of cancer research, particularly in proteogenomics, which is -- as I used a metaphor -- it’s like the genes are the full roster of a basketball team. The proteins are the team you're going to play against and the five that you put on the court. And you’re on the leading edge in what is going to be part of a breakthrough to change and alter cancer, as we know it.
And I’m pleased to say, Mr. Prime Minister, that we've signed three memorandums of understanding between our two nations to do more together, to share data, to accelerate our progress to end cancer.
And look, and I’ll make you a prediction, Mr. Prime Minister, that the MOU that we signed is going to become the model -- literally the model -- for sharing data and information around the world, which is not happening now. The more rapidly it happens, the more quickly we’ll be able to get to the causes of and the cures for.
And I predict that you're going to see this repeated around the world. It’s a great honor, as well, that I had to meet with Australian veterans. Your Foreign Minister was with me, or I was with her more accurately at the stadium. And it included a World War II vet that was head of the organization. And we were part of the Return and Service League of Australia. And he was a gentleman who acted like he was in his 50s, but he was a World War II vet.
And the fact is that I got an opportunity to return a refurbished 48 Stars and Stripes, an American flag which had been taken ashore on Guadalcanal, a very costly battle which we prevailed in -- all of us -- and which for 60 years has found a home in Melbourne with the RSL.
And today I was aboard the HMAS Adelaide in Sydney Harbor. And I got a real sense of how our alliance, and quite frankly, the genuine brotherhood that exists between our people. Not only did I speak to the crew, but to my left were assembled roughly 30 veterans of Iraq and Afghanistan fighting side by side with my son and others like my son who spent time in both of those theaters.
And it’s a genuine camaraderie. It’s a genuine sense of knowing, as my son said in Iraq, that you know there’s an Aussie with you, they always have your back. I mean that sincerely.
And I want to speak very briefly to your additional commitment in Iraq to train -- not only continue to train their counterterrorism force, but also to train their police. Your folks are the best trainers in the world. Your special operations forces have come in, taken on the responsibility of training the guts and the core of the Iraqi National Security Force, their counterterrorism force. You are part of the reason why they succeeded in Ramadi. And you will be part of the reason why the training you're providing to the police -- and they're talking about a significant number of police needed to stay behind to reconstruct and keep safety and security in areas that have been reclaimed from ISIS, from Daesh, as they say.
And I can't tell you how much your commitment is appreciated. I spent a lot of time on the phone and in person with Prime Minister Abadi. He invited you. He invited you to do this because he knows, he understands your guys and women are the best. They're the best in the world at doing this.
So the fact is that today the Prime Minister and I spoke about a full range of issues affecting the U.S.-Australian bilateral relationship. And we discussed the regional and global issues that we both confront and confront together.
To start with, we talked about how we can continue to strengthen our robust economic ties that exist between our two countries. The trade between our two countries -- the trade agreement signed more than a decade ago has served as a foundational basis upon which to grow trade and fortify business investment between our countries.
Last year the two-way trade between our nations in goods and services topped $60 billion. And our economic partnership has never been more important. We talked about the need for our two nations to continue to set the economic rules of the road with high-standard trade agreements to protect the rights of workers, preserve the environment, and uphold intellectual property rights. That's the basis upon which the 21st century rules of the road must be based.
And Australia and the United States, as well, are both Pacific nations. I’m often asked whether I’m with President Xi in Beijing or whether I’m in Tokyo or whether I’m anywhere in this region -- we are a Pacific power. The United States is a Pacific power. We are going nowhere. We are going nowhere.
And we believe we have been part of, along with Australia, the basis for stability, regional stability that's allowed everyone to grow -- from China, to Japan, to Korea, to Australia -- across the board, allowing everyone to grow. Stability is the basis upon which economic prosperity is founded.
And we share a clear understanding of the importance of maintaining that stability throughout the Asia Pacific region.
Mr. Prime Minister and I, we reaffirmed our commitment to continue to work together to uphold the liberal international order that has served the world so well for the past 75 years, and to maintain the free flow of commerce and trade in the air and on sea, making sure the sea lanes are open and the skies are free for navigation. They are the lifeblood lines of commerce and the economic growth worldwide.
That's why last week both our nations issued strong statements urging China and the Philippines to abide by the Arbitral Tribunal’s decision with regard to the South China Sea.
We also discussed the steps that Australia and the United States are taking so our troops can train more together and increase our interoperability so that we are fully prepared to respond to any challenges in the Pacific with a united front. It’s important we stand together.
The Prime Minister and I also reinforced our shared commitment to wiping out ISIL’s evil and countering terrorism around the world. Australian and American troops are working side by side in Iraq, as I said, training local partners to lead the fight on the ground. And we are flying missions over Syria, leading the global humanitarian effort to provide aid to those stranded folks who find themselves caught in a nether land, and to provide the necessary relief for millions of refugees and innocents who are caught in the crossfire, suffering very badly in Syria.
Our alliance has been the source of incredible strength for both our countries for decades now, and I believe it will continue to be as we work together to meet the challenges of the 21st century and also, by the way, take advantages of the opportunities of the 21st century.
I’ve been doing this a long time, Mr. Prime Minister. I’ve never been more optimistic about our prospects. I really mean this, never been more optimistic about our prospects than I am today. There is no reason why we cannot in the 21st century even be more prosperous, more capable, and more forward leaning than we have been in the 20th century.
I’m speaking about more than just the sum total of our cooperation together. I’m going to speak to these issues and to our shared values tomorrow when I make a speech here in Sydney. So I won’t bore you with any more today.
But let me say in closing that, again, quoting my son, Australia and the United States, we've had each other’s back for a long time. We continue to have one another’s back. And I assure you, the United States is going nowhere. The United States is here in the Pacific to stay. We are a Pacific nation. We are a Pacific power. And we will do our part to maintain peace and stability in the region.
Everything I’ve seen over the last few days only makes me more confident, Mr. Prime Minister, that we’ll continue to write new chapters together that will not only benefit both our nations but -- it may sound presumptuous to say, but I think benefit the region and benefit the world.
So again, Mr. Prime Minister, thank you for your hospitality and may God protect our troops. Thank you.
4:00 P.M. (Local)