Remarks at the Rockefeller Center for Latin American Studies

Thank you, I am delighted to be here. I want to begin by thanking our hosts, our friends from the Rockefeller Center, for their kind hospitality. I would also like to congratulate and commend United States Ambassador Mike Hammer, who is one of my country’s top diplomats and leads one of our finest and hardest-working embassy teams.

As Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs, my job is to oversee all of the regional bureaus within the Department of State. In this capacity, I am delighted to work closely with our Assistant Secretary for Western Hemisphere Affairs, Roberta Jacobson, who knows the region intimately and is a valued adviser to Secretary Kerry.

I welcome the chance this week to come to Santiago and help launch a new and exciting initiative: the high-level economic and political dialogue between Chile and the United States. This is a great opportunity to deepen the close ties that already exist between our two countries. Last week, U.S. Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel was here to discuss bilateral military cooperation. And Ambassador Cathy Russell, my country’s leader on global women’s issues, is also in Santiago now.

In fact, there is an increasing amount of travel between the United States and Chile, involving not only government officials, but also businesspeople, tourists, researchers, athletes, and students. I fully expect this trend to continue – because when people from my country visit your country, they return home with accounts of a dynamic economy, a rich and diverse culture, glorious scenery, and recipes for curanto and piscola. One thing is for sure – Chileans know how to make friends.

This is appropriate because the focus of my remarks this afternoon is the U.S. partnership with Chile, including its bilateral, regional and global dimensions.

The bond between our nations extends back 190 years, to when the first U.S. diplomat arrived in Santiago. Like any relationship over that long a period, some moments have been better than others, but our two countries today have much in common, including a strong commitment to democratic practices, mutually beneficial economic connections, membership on the UN Security Council, and experience working in collaboration with a range of partners both within our hemisphere and across the Pacific.

We also have in common populations that are occasionally reluctant to think too much about what goes on in distant lands. Both in the United States and in Chile, our families care deeply about what happens in our own communities and our countries – about whether our workers can find good jobs, about the quality of schools and the availability of health care, and about whether our favorite sports teams like “La Roja” or Team USA are doing well. All this is natural; it should not be surprising that our own neighborhoods are at the forefront of our thoughts.

But most of us have also come to realize that, in the 21st century, the globe shrinks as it spins, bringing us all closer together. Neither long distances nor vast oceans can shield us from danger or from threats to our prosperity, health, or environment. The molecules of climate change move around the globe. This presents all of us with a choice: we can try to hide from change – or we can accept the need to look beyond our borders and strive to shape a better and more equitable and just world.

Under the leadership of Presidents Barack Obama and Michelle Bachelet, our countries are embracing that responsibility. In so doing, we recognize that progress today builds on itself, with democratic reforms spurring economic gains which reinforce political stability and smooth the path toward social justice. Meanwhile, breakthroughs in one part of the world make it easier to move forward in others. A quarter of a century after the end of the Cold War, we are hard at work creating new foundations for prosperity, security, liberty and peace. In that effort, every hand can help and every hour –properly spent – can bring us closer to our goals.

One avenue for building new foundations is the Summit of the Americas process that began in 1994 but gained real momentum four years later in Santiago and that will convene again in Panama next April. These gatherings reflect our shared belief that the building blocks of prosperity include good governance, a free and fair system of trade, the innovative use of technology, and putting people first.

That conviction has helped the Western Hemisphere develop into a thriving market of nearly a billion men, women and children. In the next five years, the region’s economy is set to expand by one-third. Our own two countries have become strong financial and commercial partners, with our ten-year-old Free Trade Agreement facilitating exports and imports in the annual range of $30 billion.

But in order to remain competitive, our economies must continue to integrate, to identify new opportunities for investment, and to create shared platforms for success by looking both North-South and East-West. Completing negotiations for the ambitious Trans-Pacific Partnership would open the door to further business among countries representing forty percent of global GDP – including five states from this hemisphere. That will be good for manufacturers, entrepreneurs, ranchers, and workers from Shanghai and Sydney to Alaska and Antofagasta. The TPP talks are now in a critical stage, but President Obama is determined, and hopefully Chile too, to vault the remaining hurdles and move this promising pact across the finish line.

Without question, growth helps families to lift their standards of living and gives young people a better chance to start their careers. But growth alone does not automatically translate into a successful national economy. Every country must do more to broaden prosperity’s reach, so that societies are strengthened by an expanding and vibrant middle class. One way to do that is through President Obama’s Small Business Network of the Americas, recently launched here in Chile by Ambassador Hammer and Minister Cespedes. Our purpose is to support the creation of 50 Business Development Centers that will help more companies secure a foothold in the global marketplace. Today, relatively few small businesses are engaged in exporting their products and services. This is because they lack the resources needed to identify and take advantage of the opportunities that exist. Modest-sized businesses already excel at creating jobs, but they will do even better when they are able to connect with customers overseas.

We have also learned that the healthiest economies are inclusive and, most particularly, when women are able to participate to the full extent of their talents and skills. There is always room for further progress, but in the past quarter century, Chile has been a true leader in expanding opportunities for women – and now ranks first in Latin America in most measures of gender equity. Unlike some countries I could name, Chile has also chosen to entrust its top job to a woman – not once, but twice. Perhaps the United States might learn something. Both in her current position and as head of the UN Women program, President Bachelet has provided a stirring example of effective leadership; she is living proof that no job should be off limits simply because of gender.

So a strong economy is a fair economy – it must also be a clean and sustainable one.

It’s no secret that the global market for energy is growing rapidly as once dormant economies industrialize. We owe it to our children to guide this expansion along lines that will curb climate change and thereby preserve the health and well-being of our planet. For that to happen, nations everywhere need to work together. Leading by example, President Bachelet has approved more than 75 renewable energy projects in just the past seven months and set a goal that by 2025, 20 percent of Chile’s energy will come from renewable sources; and President Obama recently announced a new Action Plan to reduce carbon pollution from U.S. power plants by 30 percent compared to a decade ago.

We are also striving to help people who generate renewable energy to sell it to those who need it, regardless of how distant those customers may be. That is why the United States initiated a program aimed at connecting electrical grids throughout the region and to work toward accessible, affordable, reliable electricity for every family in the hemisphere.

Of the many ties linking Chile and the United States, concern for our natural environment is among the most prominent. It helps that the people of both nations have a love affair with the sea. Last June, Secretary Kerry — who I am convinced has salt water flowing through his veins — convened a worldwide “Our Ocean Conference” to mobilize action on such vital topics as sea level rise, sustainable fisheries, and marine pollution. The government of Chile was an active participant in that gathering and I am delighted that the next meeting will be held next year in Valparaiso.

I mentioned earlier the need for new foundations. I think you’ll agree that nothing is more indispensable to any society’s future than education. Knowledge is the key to good jobs, innovative thinking, and strong communities. And in this era, the best education is an international one. Students who are able to spend time learning in other countries have an important advantage, for they return home equipped with greater confidence, new skills, the ability to speak a foreign language, and contacts and friends who will last a lifetime.

Three years ago during his visit here to Santiago, President Obama proposed the “One Hundred Thousand Strong in the Americas” initiative, a plan to increase to 100,000 the quantity of students studying in the Caribbean and Latin America and to raise to a comparable level the number from the region studying in the United States. This goal represents a challenge to the private sector to help by supporting exchange programs, financing scholarships, offering internships, and mentoring students. Chile has been at the forefront in seizing this opportunity. Among the first competitive grants awarded under the program were to universities in this country.

Learning is the starting point for every individual who hopes to compete in the global economy. It is vital for nations as well. In the twenty-first century, there is no place to hide from the march of events or from external dangers, whether old ones or new ones. We all have a duty to address problems that affect us all. Some countries try to evade that reality. The Republic of Chile has stepped forward and embraced it.

Most unforgettably, a quarter century ago, Chile showed the world how to restore democracy by democratic means. Your history of overcoming repression and building sturdy democratic institutions has enabled your country to become one of the globe’s most credible and influential voices in support of human rights, civil society, and the rule of law. In this, we admire you, because people everywhere will benefit from what you have to say about the costs of dictatorship, the need for accountability, and the importance of respecting the dignity of every human being.

Chile has also been a leader in the critical arena of international peacekeeping, having contributed troops to missions in Haiti, Cyprus, Kashmir, Bosnia and the Middle East. This is essential because the demand for skilled international peacekeepers has been and will continue to go up not down. It is a growth industry and not a job for amateurs. To be effective, peacekeepers must be well-equipped and well-led. They must be able to cope with duties that range from routine policing to the protection of innocent civilians during sudden outbreaks of intense violence. They must observe high standards of personal behavior. And they must be knowledgeable about the culture of every society in which they are deployed. Chilean forces have not only met these tests, but through Santiago’s Joint Peacekeeping Operations Centre, they are training others to do the same. There is little wonder that Chile is looked to with respect by countries both within and beyond our hemisphere.

Chile is also relied on by the United States. As I speak, President Obama is responding to a variety of major challenges to global security. I will cite just a few.

In Europe, we are supporting Ukraine’s government as it seeks to survive a blatant effort – conceived and orchestrated by Moscow – to undermine the country’s sovereignty. We are calling for the full and immediate implementation of the Minsk ceasefire agreement, which provides for an end to fighting, the restoration of border security, and the implementation of democratic reforms.

In the Middle East, I have spent much time in the past year leading the U.S. negotiating team that is testing whether a diplomatic solution can be found to Iran’s controversial nuclear program. The multilateral talks, which have been extended through November 24, have been intense and serious. We have made progress in narrowing differences but very hard work remains to be done. The United States urges all nations to join with us in convincing Iran that now is the time to end its isolation. For that to happen, Tehran must take steps that will assure the world that its program is and will remain, as its supreme leader has said, exclusively peaceful.

Elsewhere in the region, terrible outbreaks of strife have exposed the rawness of national and confessional fault lines. With our many partners, the United States is striving to counter the threat posed by terrorists and to stop firefights in one place from igniting tinder in the next.

Foremost among the incendiary forces in the Middle East is the terrorist group known as ISIL, a lawless network intent on erasing the Syria-Iraq border and imposing extremist rule on as wide an area as possible. The United States firmly supports the territorial integrity of both Syria and Iraq and is assisting pluralist elements in each to fight back.

In Iraq, our coalition is working with a new and more inclusive government to contain ISIL in the short term and ultimately to degrade its leadership, shrink its area of control, cut off its financing, dry up its supply of recruits, and expose its hypocrisy. In Syria, we are ramping up support to the moderate opposition, so that the people of that country are not forced to choose between terrorists on one side and a ruthless dictator on the other.

Obviously, we are aware that there is a vast distance between Chile and the embattled streets of Aleppo and Ninevah. But we know that ISIL is not just another terrorist group, and that its network of foreign recruits includes gullible men and women from as many as eighty nations. We are calling on all countries to contribute to our coalition in the manner best suited to their capabilities – and we are deeply grateful for Chile’s statements of support so far.

Finally, in West Africa and beyond, the United States is helping to coordinate global action to deal with the Ebola crisis – a terrible human tragedy and an epidemic that could become far worse than it even is today. Liberia, Sierra Leone and Guinea urgently need more aid in the form of treatment units, medical equipment, trained personnel, and medevac capabilities. They also require non-medical assistance such as power generators, public communications support, and help for already-fragile economies now teetering on the brink of collapse.

Here again, every country has a stake because until the danger eases in West Africa, every country in the world is at risk. The United States has committed $258 million in addition to deploying as many as 4000 troops to help build the infrastructure required to stop the spread of the disease. And we know that Chilean health care workers and managers are in Sierra Leone, doing their best to save lives. Overall, much is being done, but much more is needed. Ebola can be defeated and it must be defeated – the sooner the better for us all. We ask every individual and government to contribute to find an end to this tragedy.

Three years ago, here in Santiago, President Obama concluded his remarks by paying tribute to “Los Treinta y Tres,” the miraculous rescue of coal miners at Camp Esperanza. With Chilean leadership and support from around the globe, seemingly impossible obstacles were overcome, fervent prayers were answered, and precious lives were saved. Today, in Chile, in the United States, in our hemisphere, across the Pacific, in the Middle East and Africa, we confront a daunting array of challenges and demands. Acting alone, none of us have the resources or the strength to respond effectively. But together, there is nothing we cannot do. As President Obama observed, in the Americas today, there are no senior partners and there are no junior partners, there are only equal partners. And as I can affirm to you this evening, the United States is proud to consider Chile not only a reliable partner, but also a trusted and deeply-cherished friend.

Thank you very much.