Bloomberg News

Clinton Stresses Economic Engagement on Southeast Asia Trip

July 09, 2012

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton began a swing through Mongolia and Southeast Asia to promote democracy and greater U.S. economic engagement with the region.

“The United States is making substantially increased investments -- diplomatic, economic, strategic, and otherwise -- in this part of the world,” Clinton said today in a speech to the Women’s Leadership Forum in the Mongolian capitol of Ulan Bator. “The heart of our strategy, the piece that brings everything together, is our support for democracy and human rights.”

Clinton will give another speech today detailing plans to ease sanctions on Myanmar that will give American companies greater opportunities in the former military dictatorship. She will then travel to Vietnam, Cambodia and Laos, becoming the first U.S. secretary of state to visit that country in 57 years.

Her trip will combine events underscoring the importance of democracy to economic growth, highlighting the contrast to China’s approach. And she will stress the strong U.S. commitment to the region, despite pressing issues in the Middle East and Afghanistan.

The tour will emphasize the need to increase U.S. exports, part of a broader administration effort, according to a State Department official who wasn’t authorized to speak on the record.

Clinton met with Mongolian President Tsakhia Elbegdorj in his presidential yurt, a decorated version of the traditional circular tents. Mongolia has the fastest growth rate in the world, making it a magnet for U.S. investment.

‘Ultimately Unsustainable’

Clinton praised Mongolia for its transition from one-party communist rule to a pluralistic political system, as well as its campaign to increase women’s political participation. She also outlined the benefits and importance of democracy for economic growth, stressing that one without the other can’t last.

Such an approach is “short-sighted and ultimately unsustainable,” she said. “You can’t have economic liberalization without political liberalization eventually.”

In Cambodia, Clinton will attend a meeting of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations and discuss tensions over the oil-rich South China Sea. She will urge China and Asean nations to build upon a code of conduct adopted last year to deal with disputed territorial claims in the area and will offer specific suggestions as to what she would like to see included, the official said.

Clinton stops in Laos on July 11 to meet with its leaders on her way to Phnom Penh, Cambodia, where she will co-chair the Asean meeting and attend events for other multilateral groups, including the Lower Mekong Initiative, over two days.

Clinton arrived in Mongolia from Tokyo and will continue on to the Middle East once she leaves Asia.

To contact the reporter on this story: Nicole Gaouette in Washington at ngaouette@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: John Brinsley at jbrinsley@bloomberg.net


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