Hi, all. Today's report features:
• Thursday Schedule: State of the Union Q & A: Where to submit questions and watch responses.
• Winning the future with renewable energy: The President's remarks on job creation with clean energy technology at Orion Energy Systems in Wisconsin.
• Plan for electric vehicles: The Vice President announces plan for electric vehicle manufacturing and adoption and visits a battery maker in Indiana.
• Health care: The Affordable Care Act gives tax credits to small businesses that offer employees health insurance; how ACA helps lower health care costs.
• Open for Questions: SOTU 2011: Administration officials take questions; Kalpen Modi hosts.
• USDA and green energy: Farmers, ranchers and rural communities can produce renewable energy, especially biofuels. Secretary Vilsack discusses how the USDA is promoting a green energy economy.
• State news: Ambassador Rice speaks on violence in Sudan; Secretary Clinton delivers remarks with the Spanish Foreign Minister.
• THURSDAY SCHEDULE: STATE OF THE UNION Q & A •
White House Blog, Jan. 26, 2011:
Posted by Sarah Bernard
• 11:30 a.m. EST: Economy Roundtable with Austan Goolsbee, Chairman of the Council of Economic Advisers.
• 1:00 p.m. EST: Foreign Policy Roundtable Denis McDonough, Deputy National Security Advisor.
• 2:30 p.m. EST: Live YouTube interview with President Barack Obama.
Submit your questions or vote for your favorite questions at YouTube.com/AskObama. Tune in to WhiteHouse.gov/live to watch the live event.
• 3:15 p.m. EST: Education Roundtable with Secretary of Education Arne Duncan.
Submit your questions on mtvU, GOOD, BabyCenter, and PBS Teachers. Tune in to WhiteHouse.gov/live to watch the live event.
• 4:30 p.m. EST: Health Care Roundtable with Secretary of Health and Human Services Kathleen Sebelius.
• Yahoo! Interview with Vice President Joe Biden.
Yahoo will be sitting down with Vice President Biden asking him your questions on Thursday afternoon. Go to Yahoo! to submit your question and check back again to see his answers.
• WINNING THE FUTURE WITH RENEWABLE ENERGY •
White House, Jan. 26, 2011:
Winning the Future with Renewable Energy
President Obama speaks about how innovation and investment in clean energy technology can help create new American jobs and grow the economy as he visits Orion Energy Systems in Manitowoc, WI.
Office of the Press Secretary, Jan. 26, 2011:
THE PRESIDENT: .... Now, last night, I gave this little speech that I have to do once in a while. (Laughter.) And what I said was, in this new and challenging time, when America is facing tougher competition from countries around the world than ever before, we’ve got to up our game. We’re going to need to go all in. We’re going to need to get serious about winning the future.
Now, the words of the man that the Super Bowl trophy is named after has something to say about winning. He said, "There is no room for second place. There is only one place in my game, and that’s first place."
That’s the kind of determination to win that America needs to show right now. That’s what we need to show. (Applause.) We need to win the future.
And that means making sure that all of our kids are getting the best education possible -– not only because we need to give every child a chance to fulfill her God-given potential, but because we need to make sure American workers can go to head-to-head with workers in any country on Earth. We’ve got to be more productive, more capable, more skilled than any workers on Earth.
It means making sure our infrastructure can meet the demands of the 21st century, rebuilding our crumbling roads and bridges, connecting America and the American people with high-speed rail and Internet.
It means doing what we try to do in our own lives -- by taking responsibility for our deficits, by cutting wasteful, excessive spending wherever we find it. And it means reforming the way our government does business so it’s efficient and responsive to the needs of Americans instead of being responsive to the needs of lobbyists.
Now, as important as these urgent priorities are, we’ve also got to make sure that the breakthroughs, the technological breakthroughs, that come to define the 21st century, that they take root right here in America. We’ve got to lead the world in innovation. I spent a lot of time talking about this last night. That’s how we’ll create the jobs of the future. That’s how we’re going to build the industries of the future, because we make smarter products using better technology than anybody else. That’s how we’ll win the future in the 21st century. (Applause.)
So I came here to Manitowoc to glimpse that future. It was right here, almost 50 years ago -- I couldn’t have made this up. It wasn’t until I was on my way here that I found out that a chunk of metal came crashing down to the Earth right here. I promise you, we did not plan this originally. Press won’t believe me. It turns out that it was part of a satellite called Sputnik that landed right here, and that set the Space Race into motion. So I want to say to you today that it is here, more than 50 years later, that the race for the 21st century will be won. (Applause.)
This is a place that’s been doing what America has always done throughout its history -– you’ve reinvented yourself. Back in 2003, one of the largest employers around, Mirro, moved their operations abroad. And that must have been a really tough time for this town and this community. Jobs were lost. Families were hurting. Community was shaken up. And I know from Illinois, my home state, when a town loses its major employer it is hard to bounce back. A lot of the young people started moving away, looking for opportunities someplace else.
But you fast-forward to 2011, and new manufacturing plants -– and new hope –- are now taking root, part of the reason the unemployment rate here is four points lower than it was at the beginning of last year. That’s good news. (Applause.)
So you have plants like Tower Tech, one of the largest wind tower manufacturers in North America -– a company that’s grown by several hundred workers in recent years; plants like Skana Aluminum that’s hired more than 70 workers since it took over another part of the old Mirro plant and has plans to reach 100 workers by the end of this year. I’m looking forward to visiting those folks -- paying a visit to them later today.
But first I wanted to come to Orion -– that’s where I wanted to come. (Applause.) That’s right. I wanted to come to Orion. (Applause.)
Orion is a leader in solar power and energy-efficient technology, plus the plant is just very cool. (Laughter.)
So I just took a tour with Neal and got a feel for what you’re doing. I saw where the metal is cut, where the paint is applied, where the products are assembled. I met some of the outstanding workers like so many of you who’ve made this company the success that it’s become.
Now, in 2004, when Orion moved its manufacturing operations here, I’m told that you just had one employee to oversee the development of the manufacturing floor -- one employee. Today, you’ve got more than 250, and I understand you’re hoping to have more than 300 by the end of this year. That’s good news right here at Orion. (Applause.)
And these aren’t just good jobs that can help you pay the bills and support your families. These jobs are good for all of us because they make everybody’s energy bills cheaper; they make the planet safer. What you do is sharpening America’s competitive edge all around the world.
The jobs you’re creating here, the growth you’ve achieved have come I know through hard work and ingenuity and a single-minded focus on being the best at what you do. But I think it’s important because this is part of what I talked about last night when I said that all of us as a country -- that America, that our government has to invest in innovation. It’s important to remember that this plant, this company has also been supported over the years not just by the Department of Agriculture and the Small Business Administration, but by tax credits and awards we created to give a leg up to renewable energy companies. (Applause.)
So it’s one thing to have a good idea, but as Neal and I were talking, a lot of times Wall Street doesn’t necessarily want to take a chance on a good idea until they’ve seen it proven. Sometimes the research that’s required, nobody wants to pay for it. And that’s where we have to step in.
America needs to get behind entrepreneurs like Neal. (Applause.) We need to get behind clean energy companies like Orion. We need to get behind innovation. That’s how we’ll meet the goal I set last night and make sure 80 percent of America’s electricity comes from clean energy sources by 2035. That is a goal that we can meet. (Applause.) That is a goal we must meet. (Applause. That’s how we’ll make America the first country to have 1 million electric vehicles on the road by 2015. (Applause.) In five years, a million electric cars on the road. That’s how America will lead the world in clean energy. And as I’ve said before, the nation that leads the world in clean energy will lead the global economy in the 21st century.
This is something -- this is not something that I’m making up just to fill up time in a speech. China is making these investments. They have already captured a big chunk of the solar market partly because we fell down on the job. We weren’t moving as fast as we should have. Those are jobs that could be created right here that are getting shipped overseas.
But Orion tells a different story. This is the model for the future. I’m told the story of Orion begins a few decades ago. Neal was switching jobs. He decided to try his hand at clean energy. Clean energy seemed pretty far-fetched to a lot of people back then, but Neal figured there might be something to it. So he bought a couple of solar panel distributors. Both of them went under. But Neal didn’t give up. He kept at it, he started Orion, a company that would not only distribute but also manufacture its own lights.
And then, about 10 years ago, Neal had an idea. He calls it his epiphany. Probably since you guys work here you’ve all heard this story, but I’m going to tell it for everybody else. (Laughter.) It was around 2:30 in the morning, but Neal hopped in his car and drove to the factory in Plymouth. It was one of those moments when the future couldn’t wait until the morning. And he grabbed whatever tools he could find –- a couple two-by-fours and broom handles. Is this really true, Neal, the broom handles part? (Laughter.) Is it? He says it’s true. So he started tinkering around until an engineer showed up.
And what Neal had come up with was one of Orion’s signature innovations –- a new lighting fixture that produced twice the light with half the energy. And it was only then that the real work began, because Neal then had to work to apply for loans, find investors, find customers who would believe his improbable pitch.
And doing all of that took time and patience, and most of all, it took persistence. It took determination to succeed. And fortunately that’s not something that Neal has a shortage of: determination. As he said himself, the difference between Orion and other companies is –- and I’m quoting Neal now –- "the difference between playing to win and playing not to lose." And he says, "At Orion, we play to win." (Applause.) "We play to win." (Applause.)
So that’s what sets Neal apart. That’s what sets Orion apart. But that’s also what sets America apart. That’s what sets America apart. Here in America, we play to win. We don’t play not to lose. And part of what I wanted to communicate last night is, having gone through a tough time, having gone through a recession, having seen so many jobs lost, having seen the financial markets take a swoon, you get a sense that a lot of folks have been feeling like, well, we’ve just got to play not to lose.
We can’t take that attitude. If we’re on defense, if we’re playing not to lose, somebody else is going to lap us, because there are a lot of hungry folks out there, a lot of countries that are gunning for us. So we’ve got to play to win. We’ve got to play to win the future.
And if entrepreneurs like Neal keep sticking with it, and small businesses like Orion keep breaking new ground; and if we, as a country, continue to invest in you, the American people, then I’m absolutely confident America will win the future in this century as we did in the last. (Applause.) So keep it up, Orion. Keep it up, Neal. We’re proud of you.
Thank you, God bless you, and God bless the United States of America. Thank you. (Applause.)
• PLAN FOR ELECTRIC VEHICLES •
WTIU, Jan. 26, 2011:
Biden Visits Greenfield Battery Maker
WTIU's Deanna Allbrittin reports on Vice President Joe Biden's visit to Greenfield, Indiana.
The White House Blog, Jan. 26, 2011:
Posted by Brian Levin, Deputy Domestic Policy Advisor to the Vice President
Last night, President Obama set a goal of making the United States the first country in the world to put one million advanced technology vehicles on the road. This goal is part of the President’s plan to rebuild our economy by investing in innovation to create the jobs and industries of the future.
Today, Vice President Biden visited Ener1, Inc., a manufacturer of advanced batteries for electric vehicles, in Greenfield, Indiana to announce our plan to reach this one million vehicle goal by 2015. The facility that the Vice President visited would not exist if not for a $118.5 million grant from the Department of Energy, which was part of a $2.4 billion Recovery Act investment in electric vehicles. Ener1 added 120 jobs across the company in 2010 and the future looks bright. They expect to expand the manufacturing and assembly operation in Greenfield from 80 workers today to over a thousand by the start of 2013.
The Vice President got a first-hand look at Ener1’s assembly line and had a chance to chat with several workers. The Vice President was introduced by Wendy Howard, a mother of three, who joined Ener1 after being laid off from her previous job. Wendy proudly said that she now makes "hi-tech batteries for electric cars that don’t disturb the environment and don’t drink up oil that we don’t have."
Wendy and her co-workers at Ener1 will surely benefit from the three-part plan that Vice President Biden announced today, which will support electric vehicle manufacturing and adoption in the United States through generous new consumer rebates, investments in research and development, and a new competitive program to encourage communities to knock down regulatory barriers and invest in electric vehicle infrastructure, like public charging stations. You can learn more about the plan here.
As the Vice President said today, Ener1 and other companies like it are "building a brighter, cleaner, and more prosperous American future."
• HEALTH CARE •
White House Blog, Jan. 26, 2011:
Posted by Stephanie Cutter is Assistant to the President for Special Projects
Editor’s Note: This post is part of a serieswhere readers can meet average Americans already benefiting from the health reform law, the Affordable Care Act.
Janine Marie Vaughn owns a vintage lighting restoration, manufacturing, and retail shop in Spokane, Washington. As a small business owner, she believes providing health insurance is "vital for the health of our business and the health of our employees." And she’s committed to keeping her employees healthy. As Janine said, "We’re a small business. We care about everybody that works here."
Janine has been in business for more than a decade and has seen her health insurance costs rise dramatically each year. She also spends a significant amount of time combing through various insurance plans to secure the best possible option for her employees, trying to compare the plans.
The Affordable Care Act is already providing immediate relief to business owners like Janine. Today, small businesses pay 18 percent more for health insurance premiums than large businesses. The Affordable Care Act changes that by providing tax credits for small businesses that offer employees health insurance. Up to 4 million small businesses could be eligible for relief from high health insurance premiums and, according to the independent Congressional Budget Office, the tax credit will save small businesses $40 billion by 2019. And small business owners like Janine are benefiting from the tax credit today.
Janine says that the Affordable Care Act has given her more peace of mind. Before it was signed into law in March 2010, she had to think hard about whether she was going to be able to even offer insurance to her employees in the future, but now, the tax credits remove that worry.
And Janine likes how the law helps consumers compare "apples to apples" when searching for insurance plans. You can see more about how the law does this on HealthCare.gov, which includes an Insurance Finder that compares details about private plans.
Listen to her story:
The White House Blog, Jan. 26, 2011:
Posted by Stephanie Cutter, Assistant to the President for Special Projects
Today, the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) Actuary testified before the House Budget Committee and reiterated his views about the Affordable Care Act. His testimony reaffirmed that millions of previously uninsured Americans will gain coverage, Medicare will be stronger, and the rate of health care spending will decrease. But as we’ve noted on the blog in the past, we disagree with some of the Actuary’s other conclusions. Here’s why:
In previous analyses of the Affordable Care Act, the Actuary discounts proposals that other independent experts credit with getting at the root causes of health care cost growth. The Affordable Care Act, for example:
• Creates new, competitive state-based insurance Exchanges. Exchanges will enable individuals and small businesses to pool together and use their market strength to buy coverage at a lower cost, the same way large employers do today.
• Establishes ways for Medicare to adopt cutting-edge payment reforms, such as the new Innovation Center. These benefits will spill over to the private sector.
• Creates Accountable Care Organizations and other ways to promote value – so that patients are getting better care not just expensive care. The plan gives health care providers incentives to coordinate care to improve the quality of care as well as efficiency.
These policies will bring down health care costs, but they are undervalued by the Actuary.
The Actuary has also raised concerns that implementing these cost control measures may not be possible. Once again, we disagree. History shows that it is possible to implement measures that will save money for Medicare and the federal government. For example, both the Office of the Actuary and the Congressional Budget Office substantially underestimated the savings that were achieved by the Balanced Budget Act.
These are just some of the reasons why we are confident the Affordable Care Act will help bring down health care costs. And we’re not alone. Health policy experts and economists who have studied the bill agree that the new law utilizes almost all the possible tools to reduce health care costs. Just yesterday, nearly 250 leaders, including two Nobel laureates, for former Council of Economic Advisors members, one former Congressional Budget Office chief, high ranking economists and budget experts signed a letter saying, "The Affordable Care Act contains essentially every cost-containment provision policy analysts have considered effective in reducing the rate of medical spending."
Our Administration is committed to bringing down health care costs. That’s why we’re moving quickly and carefully to implement the Affordable Care Act and deliver the benefits of reform to the American people.
• OPEN FOR QUESTIONS: SOTU 2011 •
White House, Jan. 26, 2011:
Open for Questions: State of the Union 2011
Senior Administration officials take questions from a live audience, Facebook and Twitter about the President's State of the Union Address.
• USDA AND GREEN ENERGY •
The White House Blog, Jan. 25, 2011:
Posted by Tom Vilsack, Secretary of Agriculture
At President Obama’s direction, the U.S Department of Agriculture (USDA) is working hard to unleash the power of America’s innovators and entrepreneurs to build a green energy economy. By producing renewable energy – especially biofuels – America’s farmers, ranchers and rural communities have incredible potential to help ensure our nation’s energy security, environmental security, and economic security. Here are just some of the ways USDA is involved in helping create green energy jobs for the 21st century:
Creating Jobs and Improving the Economy in Rural America
Over the past two years, the Obama Administration and USDA have worked to build a foundation for sustainable economic growth in rural America. At the center of our vision is an effort to increase domestic production and use of renewable energy. Someone has to build these plants. Someone has to produce the parts for these plants. Someone has to maintain these plants. Someone has to run these plants. Someone has to transport the fuel. That can all happen in rural communities. This week, I announced USDA support to help private companies create hundreds of jobs building three new refineries producing advanced biofuels.
A Nationwide Biofuels Industry and Market
It is critical to develop a biofuel industry powered by feedstocks produced in every corner of the country, in addition to the Midwest. That is why USDA has established five regional research centers working on science necessary to ensure profitable biofuels can be produced from a diverse range of feedstocks. And this week, USDA announced funding for feasibility studies into bioenergy projects in every corner of the country.
Developing a Sustainable Biofuels Industry and Market
USDA developed a Biofuels Roadmap to determine the next steps in growing an advanced biofuels economy. And in 2010 alone, USDA invested over $ 1 billion in improving the entire supply chain of biofuels and bioenergy, from research and development, to production and commercialization.
• Support for Producers: We implemented incentives to help encourage producers to grow new feed stocks – finalizing the Biomass Crop Assistance Program, which has already provided $240 million to help producers who are joining this energy revolution defray the cost of production, storage and transportation.
• Commercialization: In addition to our support for biorefineries, we are working to expand the number of convenient locations where consumers can obtain higher blends of biofuels.
• Partnerships with Government and Private Industry: We are capitalizing on federal and commercial partners who see the potential for biofuels to reduce their energy costs and bolster strategic goals. We have partnered with the Department of the Navy as it embraces a biofuel future to help build a green fleet, and with the Federal Aviation Administration to help them and the commercial airline industry move towards using biofuels to power jets.
Promoting Energy Efficiency and Reducing Energy Costs for Farmers and Small Businesses
Through investments in energy efficiency and renewable energy sources, farms and rural small businesses across the country can reduce their energy consumption and energy expenses. In two years, USDA has helped nearly 4,000 rural small businesses, farmers and ranchers save energy and improve their bottom line by installing renewable energy systems and energy efficiency solutions that will save a projected 4.3 billion in kWh – enough energy to power 390,000 American homes for a year.
• STATE NEWS •
Department of State, Jan. 26, 2011:
Ambassador Rice Speaks on the Continued Violence in Sudan
U.S. Permanent Representative to the United Nations Susan Rice speaks at the United Nations in New York, New York, on the continued violence in Sudan due to the lack of access by UNAMID (United Nations/African Union Hybrid Mission in Darfur) on January 26, 2011.
USUN.state.gov, Jan. 26, 201:
Ambassador Rice: Good afternoon. We’ve spent the morning, as you know, discussing the circumstances in Sudan. In particular, UNAMID and the deteriorating security situation, the various reports of fighting, of kidnappings, of denial of access. And so, we had a very in-depth discussion, particularly on the consultations, about both the circumstances on the ground and UNAMID’s recent efforts to, as you heard from Joint Special Representative Gambari, to make their posture more robust on the ground—which is something we have strenuously advocated. So we had a discussion about how that’s playing out.
And, as you know, Sudan is a very regular fixture on our agenda. We’ll have an opportunity in early February to come back, particularly to the issue of the referendum and its results. That was discussed a bit in the Council, but the focus really today was on Darfur. So I’m happy to take a few questions....
Reporter: You mentioned here the need for UNAMID to be more robust. What exactly can UNAMID do, and is Mr. Gambari proving to be an effective head of UNAMID? Might it be better to get someone more progressive, proactive?
Ambassador Rice: UNAMID is a Chapter 7 mission, with a robust protection of civilians mandate. And the United States view and the view of many members of the Council, as expressed today and on numerous previous occasions, is that we expect UNAMID, as one of the UN’s largest and most costly operations, with one of the most robust mandates passed by this Council, to be very active and, when necessary, aggressive, in fulfilling its mandate to protect civilians. And we have been frustrated and dismayed by repeated instances of UNAMID being denied access in its freedom of movement restricted. And we have been pressing for months for UNAMID to fulfill the letter and spirit of its mandate, by ensuring that it is not finding itself negotiating questions of access, but ensuring that the access that it is due, as a Chapter 7 mission, it actually has.
Now, we welcome the fact that, in the last few weeks, beginning this month, early this month, UNAMID has very consciously and we think constructively, informed the government and the rebels, and the regional governors, that it is going to insist upon access to areas that it needs to fulfill its mandate. We support that. To be candid, there have been many instances, thankfully in which that has been the case and succeeded, and there have been some instances where it has not. And I made the point, as did others in the Council that this has to be consistent, it has to be uniform. It’s not subject to negotiation.
And while we are very mindful of the risk to peacekeepers, and we are extremely grateful for the sacrifices that have been made by UNAMID peacekeepers, there is an inherent risk to a protection of civilians mandate that has a Chapter 7 construction. And we look to the leadership of UNAMID, very ably led by the Force Commander, and as well we look to Joint Special Representative Gambari to ensure that this robust posture is pursued, is consistent, and enables UNAMID to do its utmost to protect civilians.
You had another. Sudan. Let’s keep with—Sudan.
Reporter: Since you’ve learned (inaudible) since the referendum has been set up, do you (inaudible)?
Ambassador Rice: The deteriorating security situation in Darfur is not something that began just in the last couple of weeks. It’s something that’s extended over much of last year, and including last fall, and into this year. And it’s a function of both government actions and rebel actions. So I wouldn’t want to go so far as to make that explicit linkage.
Reporter: Have you asked in any way for UNAMID to specify who’s denying them, where, which rebel group, when the government does it? Because it seems we hear about it in its statements.
Ambassador Rice: Well, its report. The UNAMID report that we were just discussing, if I’m not mistaken you guys can read it as well as I can. But if I’m not mistaken, it talked about in the last 90 days, 26 instances in which UNAMID’s access had been blocked or restricted. It attributed 23 of those 26 instances to government action, I believe two to rebel action and I’m not sure if it specified which rebel groups, and one to sort of civilian mobs....
Reporter: Should they not be announcing this as the government denies them access, so the Council can step in rather than 90 days later?
Ambassador Rice: I don’t think that the Council needs to step in every time there’s an issue of access. The government has an obligation, and in fact it’s made a commitment to allow freedom of movement. This is something that the UN and many concerned governments repeatedly discuss with the Government of Sudan. And, I think the point here is not to have a talk shop every time there’s an incident, but to ensure that UNAMID is acting in such a fashion where we will have fewer and fewer such instances. And the government, too, and the rebels, are doing their part to ensure that freedom of access is ensured.
Reporter: The general prosecutor of the ICC, Ocampo, when interviewed on Al-Arabiya yesterday, told us that he is contemplating more indictments in Darfur if the killing doesn’t stop, that he informed the Security Council of this, that he will come in June and inform of his decision of more indictments.
Ambassador Rice: That he will?
Reporter: That he will, yes. How does the United States view more indictments? Would that serve the purpose of accountability and justice? I mean, there have been indictments, three indictments, and the situation did not improve so far.
Ambassador Rice: Well, we would leave that in the hands of the prosecutor to make a judgment based on the facts and the findings. There is not a quota system. There are facts and realities, and our commitment is to justice and accountability. We feel that’s vitally important for long-term peace and stability in Sudan. And we will assume that we will be taken where the facts and the evidence necessitate.
Reporter: So how worried about the situation in Lebanon? And what do you expect from the newly-nominated prime minister? And do you consider that Syria has interfered – or Iran –interfered enough in Lebanon to influence a new, bringing to this position, a prime minister like Mikati?
Ambassador Rice: Well, first of all, we’re obviously following events very closely in Lebanon. And it will be now for the Lebanese to figure out the formation of their government. Our view is that it’s vitally important that that occur, and that decisions on the leadership occur without intimidation, without coercion, without the threat of violence. And unfortunately, that has not been the case. It has been all three of those things that Hizballah has chosen, along with Syria, to employ in recent days and weeks as we have come to this point.
We think that a government that is truly representative of all of the interests and concerns in Lebanon will be one that is committed to ending the era of impunity for murders, one that is committed to justice. And we believe that that is the right and the will of the people of Lebanon. And we reiterate our call for all concerned to respect Lebanon’s sovereignty and independence, and cease inappropriate interference in its internal affairs.
Department of State, Jan. 25, 2011:
Secretary Clinton Delivers Remarks With Spanish Foreign Minister Jimenez
U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton delivers remarks with Spanish Foreign Minister Trinidad Jimenez after their meeting at the U.S. Department of State in Washington, D.C., January 25, 2011.
Department of State, Jan. 25, 2011:
SECRETARY CLINTON: Good morning, everyone, and it is such a pleasure to welcome the minister here for her first official visit in this new capacity. I met with her in Lisbon and asked if she could come early in the year, and I’m delighted this worked out. We just had a wide-ranging and productive discussion about mutual security, economic and development goals around the world. I look forward to many more such conversations.
The enduring partnership between the United States and Spain is rooted in friendship and common values. We are not only bilateral partners, but regional and global as well, and united in a shared vision for a world that is peaceful, secure, and prosperous.
Are we going to translate as we go or are we going to do it in English?
FOREIGN MINISTER JIMENEZ: No, I can do in English.
SECRETARY CLINTON: Okay. I wish I could do it in Spanish. (Laughter.)
We discussed the evolving situation in Lebanon where Spanish soldiers have served in the peacekeeping operations of UNIFIL, the United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon, under a Spanish commander. We both share deep concerns about the influence of outside forces, and we hope to see a government emerge that will serve the interests of the people of Lebanon and sustain the independence and sovereignty of Lebanon.
As NATO allies, we have worked closely and comprehensively to support the people of Afghanistan as they rebuild their country. Spanish troops are fighting the insurgency in Badghis Province and helping Afghan forces take lead responsibility for their own security. At the same time, civilian experts from Spain are helping Afghans grow food crops, train police forces, build roads that connect the country’s far-flung rural communities.
As global partners, we are working side by side to solve some of the most pressing problems. Both our countries are committed to fighting chronic hunger. Spain was one of the founding contributors to the World Bank’s Global Agriculture and Food Security Program, which has already helped farmers boost productivity, encouraged investments in high-yield technologies, and helped improve nutrition for women and children.
With its historical and lasting ties with Spanish-speaking countries, Spain is an especially important partner in this hemisphere. We are working together to help the people and governments of Central America ensure safety and build prosperity. After the United States, Spain is the second largest donor of development assistance in the region, including its work with the Group of Friends, a consortium of governments and organizations that fosters aid donations. It is actively working in Guatemala, El Salvador, Mexico, Colombia, so many other places. And I want to thank the government and the people of Spain, especially during what I know are challenging economic conditions for all you are doing to help people get a better education, to help farmers, to help bring clean water and so much more to advance development. But I would expect no less, because Spain is a great champion for human rights not only in the Western Hemisphere but around the world.
I expressed our thanks for its work with the Catholic Church to secure the release of political prisoners and for Spain’s ongoing efforts to encourage Cuba to release Alan Gross, who has been harshly and unfairly jailed for too long. I also appreciate all the work that Spain is doing in Haiti. They have worked with a wide range of international partners donating food and medical supplies, providing doctors and nurses, and now working with us to ensure a legitimate, democratically elected government.
Now, we have both been challenged by economic circumstances over the last two years. And Spain and the Spanish Government, under the leadership of Prime Minister Zapatero, has taken decisive measures to reduce its debt, calm the markets, reassure other Eurozone partners that it’s working toward financial stability. We know how important a healthy Spanish economy is.
As we look toward the future, we see many, many challenges, but I feel much better and take great comfort in the fact that Spain and the United States will be working together....