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Q Good evening, Mr. President. I speak in Indonesian because Mr. President has been in Jakarta. Lately, Mr. President, the region of Asia Pacific is developing and the development is extraordinary. There’s initiative, cooperation, and there is always promotion to a strategic partnership. What do you think is the role of the U.S. in the configuration of Asia Pacific in the future? Thank you very much, Mr. President.
PRESIDENT OBAMA: Well, this is something that President Yudhoyono and I spent a lot of time discussing. Asia is the fastest-growing part of the world. It’s the fastest growing in terms of population. It’s the fastest growing set of economies. And so there’s enormous potential and enormous promise – but only if countries are cooperating, if they are observing basic rules of the road, if potential conflicts are resolved in a peaceful fashion.
And so it’s very important I think to make sure that we have the kinds of multilateral institutions and architecture that can maximize the potential and minimize the challenges of a rapidly changing region.�
I think Indonesia is going to be a critical partner in that, a critical leader in that, primarily because it is a country that has figured out how to create a genuine democracy despite great diversity, and so I think can promote the kinds of values that will help people all across this region maximize their potential.
What I’d like to see is that even as we continue to work through APEC on economic issues – it’s primarily an economic organization – that the East Asia Summit becomes a premier organizational structure to work on political and security issues. And I think under President Yudhoyono’s leadership next year, there’s enormous potential for us to start looking at some specific areas of common interest.
One example that I mentioned in our bilateral meeting was the issue of the South China Sea and how various maritime issues, conflicts, can get resolved in a peaceful fashion. I think that’s something that everybody has an interest in, everybody has a concern in. But there may be a whole host of other issues like that in which the East Asia Summit is probably the ideal venue.
Regardless of whether we’re talking about APEC or East Asia Summit, or for that matter the G20, Indonesia is going to have a seat at the table. And its leadership is going to be absolutely critical and the United States wants to make sure that we’re coordinating closely on all these issues of critical concern.
Carol Lee of Politico. Where is Carol? There you go.
Q Thank you, Mr. President. How would you assess your outreach to the Muslim world at this point in your presidency, particularly in light of some of the controversies back home? And if you could, give us some of your thoughts on what it’s like to return here as President of the United States.
PRESIDENT OBAMA: Well –
Q And may I, President Yudhoyono? Obviously President Obama spent some time here as a child and I wonder what your thoughts are and what special insights that gives him into the region. Thanks very much.
PRESIDENT OBAMA: Well, I’ll take the second question first. I think it’s wonderful to be here – although I have to tell you that when you visit a place that you spent time in as a child, as President it’s a little disorienting. First of all, as I said before, the landscape has changed completely. When I first came here it was in 1967 and people were on becaks – which for those of you who aren’t familiar, is sort of a bicycle rickshaw thing. And if they weren’t on becaks, they were on bemos, which were – (laughter) – they were sort of like little taxis but you stood in the back and it was very crowded.
And now as President, I can’t even see any traffic because they block off all the streets – (laughter) – although my understanding is that Jakarta traffic is pretty tough. But I feel great affection for the people here. And obviously I have a sister who’s half Indonesian. My mother lived and worked here for a long time. And so the sights and the sounds and the memories all feel very familiar. And it’s wonderful to be able to come back as President and hopefully contribute to further understanding between the United States and Indonesia.
One of the things that’s striking is because it’s almost on the exact opposite side of the world, I think not enough Americans know about this great country. And hopefully my visit here will help to promote additional interest and understanding. People have heard of Bali and they’ve heard of Java, but they don’t always know how to locate it on a map back home. And I think that increasing awareness of Indonesia is something I’m very much looking forward to doing.
Obviously this is a short visit. It’s a shorter visit than I would like. My hope is, is that we’re going to be able to come back and maybe bring the kids and visit some places outside of Jakarta. When you go to – inland, further into Java, there are just incredible places like Yogya, old ancient temples, and places that I have very fond memories of visiting when I was a kid. I’d love to do that.
With respect to outreach to the Muslim world, I think that our efforts have been earnest, sustained. We don’t expect that we are going to completely eliminate some of the misunderstandings and mistrust that have developed over a long period of time. But we do think that we’re on the right path.
So whether it’s our more active communications to press in Muslim countries, or exchange programs in which we’re having U.S. scientists and other educators visit Muslim countries, or that entrepreneurship summit that we had in Washington in which we invited young business leaders from Muslim countries all across – all around the world – what we’re trying to do is to make sure that we are building bridges and expanding our interactions with Muslim countries so that they’re not solely focused on security issues.
Because you come to a place like Indonesia, which is the largest Muslim population in the world, but people here have a lot of other interests, other than security – that security is important, but I want to make sure that we are interacting with a wide range of people on a wide range of issues. And I think by broadening the relationship, it strengthens it, it builds trust, creates more people-to-people contact. That will be good for our security but it will also be good for the larger cause of understanding between the United States and the Muslim world.
So I think it’s an incomplete project. We’ve got a lot more work to do. And it’s not going to eliminate some – or replace some tough dialogue around concrete policy issues. Those are going to continue. There are going to be some policy differences that we can’t avoid. But I do think it’s helping.
PRESIDENT YUDHOYONO: Could you repeat your questions to me?
Q Thank you. I wanted to ask you – obviously, President Obama spent some time here as a child. And I wonder what your thoughts are, and how that gives him special insight into the region. Thank you.
PRESIDENT YUDHOYONO: I a few times having met with President Barack Obama, up to now one thing that I felt during our meetings, the understanding of the situation in developing countries, an understanding on the issues faced by a country like Indonesia that is often very complex. That makes it possible for President Barack Obama to see in a more clear situation what are the true challenges faced by the developing world. And therefore, the cooperation that we build between Indonesia and the United States, for example, is more precise. He understands more the challenges, the situation and obstacles that is faced by countries like Indonesia.
That’s what I really felt when I met with him. And now I, too, can feel more easy to convey to him the issues that we are faced, the challenges faced by Indonesia, and therefore the agenda that we discuss together, including Comprehensive Partnership that we have discussed will be more precise and accurate for the benefit not only for Indonesia, but also for the people of the United States.
Q Good evening, President Obama, and President Yudhoyono. My question is one, and it is to President Obama, regarding to the global economic crisis that still has impacts on the economy of the world today. The President of the United States, you have created a lot of unemployment in this region, East Asia. Do you think this affects the economic cooperation between Indonesia and the United States?
And in the context of the G20, how do you see the effectiveness of the G20 to improving or the recovery efforts in the global economy? Because we still see many challenges faced by countries, especially in the area of currency.
PRESIDENT OBAMA: Well, I think that overall the G20 has been very successful in stabilizing the world economy. When you think about where we were when I first entered office and attended my first G20 meeting in April of 2009, at that point, there was great uncertainty as to whether the financial system was going to be melting down around the world.
The economies of a lot of countries, including the United States, were contracting at a severe pace. I think our economy contracted in that first question by 6 percent. World trade had drastically contracted. And in part because of the effective coordination between the G20 countries – making sure that countries weren’t resorting to protectionism, coordinating a package of recovery programs that increased world demand, effectively intervening in the banking system and stabilizing it – because of all those actions, what we’ve seen is that countries for the most part around the world are back on a growth pattern.
Now, you’re absolutely right that we still have a lot of work to do. And I’m going to be joining President Yudhoyono in Seoul, South Korea, to discuss the next steps that have to be taken.
One of the key steps is putting in place additional tools to encourage balanced and sustainable growth. One of the reasons that the crisis was so severe was there were huge imbalances when it comes to surpluses and deficits; our trading patterns were such where there was a lot of money floating around engaged in a lot of speculative activity.
And what we agreed to in previous meetings of the G20 is, is that we need to establish a framework for more balanced growth. We have not yet achieved that balanced growth. You’re seeing some countries run up very big surpluses and intervening significantly in the currency markets to maintain their advantage when it comes to their currency. We’ve got other countries that are in deficit. Both surplus and deficit countries would benefit if there was a more balanced program in which the surplus countries were focused on internal demand, there was a more market-based approach to the currencies, and the deficit countries thereby were able to export more – and that would also make it easier for them to deal with their unemployment issues.
So this is going to be something that we’re going to be discussing extensively in Seoul. I’m confident we can make progress on it. It’s not going to happen all at once. But I’m very much focused on creating a win-win situation in which everybody is invested in expanding world trade, everybody is invested in increased prosperity, but we’re doing so in a way in which everybody is benefitting and not just some.
Last question on our side is Stephen Collinson of AFP.
Q Thank you, Mr. President. As the President mentioned, events in the Middle East are watched very closely here. Does Israel’s advanced planning for more than a thousand new homes in Jerusalem undermine trust between the parties and undermine your peace efforts?
And if I may just ask President Yudhoyono, is ASEAN ready for the more advanced role in world affairs the U.S. would like to see it play, and should the U.S. engagement – renewed engagement be seen in any way as a counterbalance to a rising China?
PRESIDENT OBAMA: I have not – I’ve been out of town, so I’m just seeing the press reports. I have not had a full briefing on Israel’s intentions and what they’ve communicated to our administration. But this kind of activity is never helpful when it comes to peace negotiations. And I’m concerned that we’re not seeing each side made the extra effort involved to get a breakthrough that could finally create a framework for a secure Israel living side and side – side by side in peace with a sovereign Palestine.
We’re going to keep on working on it, though, because it is in the world’s interest, it is in the interest of the people of Israel, and it is in the interest of the Palestinian people to achieve that settlement, to achieve that agreement. But each of these incremental steps can end up breaking down trust between the parties.
Even though it wasn’t directed to me, I do want to just chime in briefly on the issue of China. We want China to succeed and prosper. It’s good for the United States if China continues on the path of development that it’s on.
That means that, first of all, just from a humanitarian point of view, lifting millions of people out of poverty is a good thing. It is also a huge expanding market where America then can sell goods and services and so we think China being prosperous and secure is a positive. And we’re not interested in containing that process. We want China to continue to achieve its development goals.
We do want to make sure that everybody is operating within an international framework and sets of rules in which countries recognize their responsibilities to each other. That’s true for the United States. That’s true for China. That’s true for Indonesia. It’s true for all of us. And the more that we have international mechanisms in which people say we have rights, we also have responsibilities, we’re going to abide by them, we’re going to hold each other accountable, the better off we’ll all be.
PRESIDENT YUDHOYONO: Yes, the views that I have of the future of our region, the region of Asia, including East Asia and Southeast Asia, all wish to have a region that is experiencing development, including economic development. This region should continue to be a region that is stable, a region that is peaceful and a region that is safe.
In this regard, the community that is built upon an Asia, an East Asia also, and also a framework now through the East Asia Summit framework, we have the responsibility to – in one area, to ensure that the cooperation in the region, especially in the area of economic cooperation, can contribute significantly to the development of the global economy that will bring benefit for all humanity.
On the other spot of the coin, we also have the responsibility to ensure stability and security in our region. I am not using any theory or the theory of one power to counterbalance the other powers. But I do have the view that there must be some form of dynamic equilibrium in Asia Pacific, in East and Southeast Asia. And the formation of such regional cooperation such that is East Asia Summit, where there are 10 countries from ASEAN and there is also China, Republic of Korea, Japan, India, Australia, New Zealand, and now Russia and the United States, therefore, I have faith that it will be more effective to ensure peace, stability and order in this region.
And in this regard, with such a condition, such cooperation in the area of economic will go effectively and it is Indonesia’s hope that China and the U.S. relations will continue to flow well because if something happens between those two states, it will have severe impacts to not only countries in the region, in Asia, but also to the world.
For that reason, I hope that the economic relations between the U.S. and China will continue to proceed well, despite the geopolitical developments. We also hope to contribute to creating a region in East Asia, in Southeast Asia, and especially in Asia Pacific, to become a region that is stable and productive.
That is my views in general on the regional architecture issues and the future cooperation in our region.
Thank you very much.
MODERATOR: Ladies and gentlemen, that concludes the joint press conference. Thank you very much.