Guide Rebalance to Asia: What Does it Mean for Democracy, Good Governance and Human Rights?

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At the same time, we are managing the real and complex differences between us—in areas such as cyber, market access, maritime security, and human rights— with candor and resolve.

The Rebalance to Asia: Why South Asia Matters - Carnegie Endowment for International Peace

China cannot effectively wield influence while selectively opting out of international norms. Our top priority is to secure ratification of TPP and move swiftly toward implementation of the agreement. TPP is a critical step toward our strategic goal of revitalizing the open, rules-based economic system that the United States has led since World War II.

We will use U. Government resources and technical expertise to ensure that our TPP partners implement and effectively enforce the obligations of the agreement, including through capacity-building assistance. To complement TPP, we are pressing forward the work of Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation APEC in promoting regional economic integration, through programming on trade facilitation, customs modernization, and standards harmonization.

We are working through APEC to reduce applied tariffs on environmental goods, advocate for more open services markets, identify barriers to digital trade and alternatives to localization policies, and develop best practices for trade secrets protection. Bilaterally, we will continue to negotiate investment treaties with key regional countries, and intensify our support to the U.

Through multilateral fora such as the G, the IMF, the Financial Stability Board, the World Bank, and the Asian Development Bank, and various bilateral dialogues, we are encouraging and incentivizing Asian economies to implement economic reforms that bolster domestic demand-led, sustained, and inclusive growth; undertake financial sector reforms that result in more resilient financial systems; and adopt high standards of transparency, economic governance and financial regulation that encourage cross-border investment and the free flow of private capital while promoting compliance with international labor and environmental standards.

Regional institutions are important to facilitating cooperation and collective action, and to promoting international norms. Effective and accountable governance, strong democratic institutions and the rule of law, and respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms provide the foundation for political stability and sustainable economic growth and development. We will continue to defend and advocate for universal values across the region through various mechanisms, including the TPP.

Working with our allies and partners, we are helping to build capable and accountable institutions while also promoting democratic practices, access to information, transparent and responsive governance, and more inclusive participation by marginalized groups in politics and government.

Human Rights in Asia and the West

In particular, building on the historic election in Burma this month and the support we have provided to ensure the legitimacy of the electoral process, we will continue our partnership with the Burmese people and work with the government to encourage a peaceful, inclusive and irreversible democratic transition. We will also continue to explore and support ways of addressing the particularly egregious human rights situation in North Korea.


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We will continue to encourage regional responses to migration and refugees, smuggling, and trafficking. All countries in Asia and the Pacific rely on free and open access to the maritime domain. The United States will continue to fly, sail, and operate wherever international law allows, and we support the right of all countries to do the same. In close cooperation with our allies, we are working to build the capacity of regional partners to address potential threats in their waters, through enhanced maritime capability and maritime domain awareness.

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During the trip, the President will continue to urge all claimants in the South China Sea to halt further land reclamation, construction of new facilities, and militarization of features they occupy, in order to reduce tensions and create diplomatic space for lasting, lawful, and peaceful solutions to emerge. We seek to strengthen the cybersecurity of our allies and partners and to promote opportunities for all people to enjoy the benefits of a free and open Internet. In the meetings in Asia and at the G, the United States will underscore the applicability of international law to cyberspace and the importance of the voluntary adoption of additional norms of responsible state behavior in peacetime, and the development of cyber confidence building measures.

Terrorism represents a serious threat to many countries in Asia and the Pacific. Together with our most capable partners, the United States will increase cooperation with vulnerable countries in the region to improve their ability to: deter, detect, and interdict the transit of foreign fighters and weapons; capture, prosecute, incarcerate, and reintegrate offenders according to the rule of law; degrade terrorists' financial resources; and counter radicalization to violence and reduce terrorist recruitment.

A top near-term priority in this effort is strengthening border control and security, by improving interagency information sharing and coordination among countries in the region. Our longer-term objective is assisting partner governments and societies to address the drivers of radicalization and recruitment. Our priorities are: to work with regional partners to achieve the verifiable denuclearization of North Korea; to discourage, detect, and interdict North Korean proliferation activities; and to ensure all countries enforce UN Security Council resolutions related to North Korea.

To address the broader risk of nuclear terrorism, we will institutionalize the successes of the Nuclear Security Summit process, including working with regional partners to reduce stockpiles of sensitive nuclear material, and enhance the security of such materials in storage, use and transport. Our partners in Asia have much to contribute to addressing global challenges.

We will seek to expand on our robust record of cooperation on key issues, such as:. Securing ambitious emissions reductions commitments from these countries is critical to the success of the upcoming Conference of Parties in Paris. To this end, we will continue to strengthen our cooperation with China, including on clean energy research, development, and deployment.

We will continue to work with APEC to promote efforts to reduce the energy intensity of regional economies, bolster the use of renewable energy and eliminate inefficient fossil fuel subsides. Bilaterally, we will foster the innovation and use of clean and renewable energy, and increase exports of U. Leveraging the financial and technical resources of the region, we will promote a range of climate mitigation, adaptation, and resilience activities.

Health capacity and the capability to counter biologic threats varies widely among countries in Asia and the Pacific. Given recent outbreaks and the rise in drug-resistant malaria and tuberculosis, we will strengthen national and regional capacity to prevent, detect and rapidly respond to infectious disease threats, whether or not naturally occurring.

We will encourage our most capable regional partners, including Australia, Japan, and the ROK, to lead in partnering with countries in Southeast Asia. We will continue to urge other key partners to prioritize implementation of the Global Health Security Agenda. In addition to infectious disease threats, we will work to reduce the disparities among countries in the region in maternal child health, immunization coverage, and nutrition status. We will work with countries in the region to advance sustainable development globally, in support of the Agenda for Sustainable Development adopted by the UN General Assembly in September We will continue our efforts in areas such as health, education, agriculture and food security, democracy and civil society, natural resource management, and climate change resilience, as well as humanitarian and disaster relief.

We will work closely with other regional economies to advance our shared global development objectives. Given this context, America has maintained its power and credibility in East Asia largely due to its contributions to regional security and economic affairs. Regional governments and elites have often denigrated U. According to this view, attention to individual rights and popular democracy in an Asian context is an invitation to instability and division if not chaos.

Over the past 30 years, the region has enjoyed a rush of democratic change and advancement of human rights accompanied by relative stability and dynamic economic growth. When presented the opportunity, the people of East Asia like others around the world have demanded that their voices be heard and respected, and that they have the right to hold their governments accountable.

Progress has been hardly linear, without setbacks, or shared among all nations in the region. But those who claim Asia as a whole is uniquely immune to the yearning for individual rights, personal freedoms, and accountable democratic governance have had to reassess. It is of course not uncommon for autocrats anywhere to assert that democracy and civil liberty must be restricted in their country, that suppression of political and social rights is necessary for national security, stability, and economic development.

But citizens have a different idea, and it is to them that the United States looks when promoting principles of human rights and democracy. That reputation and commitment to liberal values and principles has been a critical source of American power and influence around the world. We forego that advantage at our peril. Touting the nobility of U. The United States should also consider engaging business in the effort.

While some U. Foreign Corrupt Practices Act and other regulations on its global activity, their existence and U. The Trans-Pacific Partnership TPP agreement was a landmark achievement to promote labor rights and good governance in countries where such rights and practices have historically been weak.


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While recognizing the need to take account of effects of trade agreements here at home, foregoing the TPP frankly damaged both our credibility and our values in Asia. The U. Providing opportunities for U.

Human Rights in Asia and the West

Demonstrating the benefits of connecting countries to the United States, and to its norms and values, has long-lasting strategic value if only to prevent nations from aligning with the values and norms of others with less interest in contributing to the general welfare. Time and patience are required in the realm of human rights and democracy promotion. In very few instances is measurable progress achieved quickly or completely. Steps back are inevitable, with realization of our fondest hopes a work in progress in virtually all cases including here at home. Imperfect outcomes are the natural outcome of imperfect systems and the imperfection of human beings.

Likewise, many countries may seek democratic change in the belief that doing so will inevitably and quickly lead to economic development and national power like the United States. Expectations there too must be managed. Transitions are difficult and protracted, with setbacks normal. Disappointment and disillusion are the common result when outcomes do not match expectations, leading often to reaction and regression.

The United States thus must not only be patient with the course of change, but also should counsel other countries on the difficulties that come with reform. We ourselves must not succumb to the notion, for instance, that successful elections mark the end of the process, but remember that developing new institutions, processes and mindsets are the most essential components to fortify and sustain a free society over time.

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Nonetheless, as noted above, democratic transitions in East Asia over the past generation have affirmed that people throughout the region, regardless of culture, ethnicity, religion, etc. It is no coincidence that the U. They demonstrate the positive impact of U. They remain essential partners of the United States and core contributors to global development and stability.

In each case, the United States has profound regional security interests in maintaining stable bilateral relations. We must not sacrifice all that we have built with such historic friends. Nonetheless, as a matter of principle and interest, it is appropriate that the United States not conduct business as usual even with such long-time allies to demonstrate our support for upholding the most basic tenets of human rights, due process and accountable governance and as a warning to others considering a similar path.

While not involving an ally, the United States should also not ignore national elections in Cambodia in Meanwhile, Prime Minister Hun Sen has suggested he intends to hold onto power past through any means necessary. The situation requires close watching - and international engagement - to ensure democratic processes are safeguarded, human rights protected, and the popular will respected so Cambodia does not fall further back.

In Southeast Asia more broadly, despite traditional sensitivity toward issues of national sovereignty, nations are beginning to pay more attention to the effect of internal affairs of neighbors on their interests. Abuses against the Rohingya elsewhere in the region, including within Muslim-majority nations, get rather less attention from local populations. Outside of Burma, other ethnically and religiously diverse nations of Southeast Asia increasingly struggle to balance majoritarian nationalist attitudes and minority rights.

Hate speech disseminated through social media afflicts the region as elsewhere in the world, and in many cases has inflamed sectarian tension. In majority-Muslim Indonesia, the ethnic Chinese Christian former governor of Jakarta not only lost his re-election bid but also faces extended jail time over a political comment considered blasphemous towards Islam.

The majority-Catholic Republic of the Philippines has struggled for decades as did Americans before them with unrest in its Muslim-dominated southern islands. Nonetheless, given overriding interests of American national security, attention to human rights in both countries has receded in both cases. That is unfortunate and need not continue, even if it cannot override the urgent priorities of national security.