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September 29, 2022

As Delivered Remarks by Ambassador Jonathan Kaplan at the Milken Institute Asia Summit Reception

September 29, 2022 

Morning. Thank you, Laura, and the Milken team for inviting me to attend this important dialogue. I’d also like to extend a warm welcome to my colleagues and friends, especially those who have traveled from around the world to be here this week. And it finally feels like we’re getting back to a pre-pandemic world. We have Formula One this weekend and it’s exciting once again to be able to spend time together face-to-face.  

I’m honored to be serving my country and feel fortunate to be doing so here in Singapore. This is a remarkable place. I hope each of you are able to find some time to really see this country. Get out and experience its local food, diverse culture. And natural beauty. It’s all around us. It’s truly a special place.  

The theme for this session is “A World Transformed”, so relevant, so timely, a world transformed. Let me take this opportunity to look back at what the world has been able to achieve over the last several decades, while also looking forward to the future with all of our global possibilities. It has been nearly eight decades since the close of World War Two, when nations came together to establish a rules-based order that has been providing stability and peace for all of us. And I think it is extremely important that we never take for granted what we’ve been able to accomplish so far.  

The average life expectancy has gone from below 50 years to well over 70. Infant mortality rates have dropped dramatically all throughout the world. More than a billion people have been lifted out of extreme poverty, and the global economy has evolved and become more concentrated and more interconnected. Open markets and free trade have given away to historically unprecedented achievements. We design in one location, we assemble in another and yet we sell in a third – remarkable progress.  

Most recently, we saw our countries come together to fight the global pandemic. Pulling collective knowledge and resources to develop, manufacture and distribute lifesaving vaccines and therapeutics to hundreds of millions of people around the world and with an almost unimaginable development cycle.  

However, after several generations, I wonder if many have forgotten what it took for us to get to a stable world order. Wars of immeasurable human cost. Sacrifices from people and from Governments. Economic miracles, grit and determination. For almost 80 years the United States together with our friends, allies and our partners have been the proud sponsors of a post-World War Two international order.  

And I need to take a minute to talk about the U.S.-Singapore relationship safeguarded by decades of close partnership across the defense and security spectrum, strengthened by robust trading and investment and underpinned by our extensive people-to-people ties. The U.S.-Singapore relationship is strong, and it’s growing stronger.  

We all watched famously, Singapore transform itself from a third world to a first world country in barely a generation. Just extraordinary. However, this transformation, like those of other nations, has been continually challenged, and at times, profoundly threatened.  

So, what will a world transformed look like? The challenges are more difficult, and we have much more to lose. Russia’s war of choice against Ukraine and the Ukrainian people has sought to redefine what sovereignty means. And European security is at risk. State sponsored actors are spreading disinformation and citizens are being nationalized against the forces of globalization. Our World Order is quickly becoming uncertain.  

Now more than ever, we need to safeguard what we have built by facing our challenges together and looking at the opportunities that define the 21st century.  

Now more than ever we need to protect the rule of law, national sovereignty, territorial integrity, and free and fair trade.  

Now more than ever, we need to reject authoritarians who disregard the will of their nations who blatantly ignore basic human rights and who often engage in coercive and unfair trade practices.  

Now more than ever, we must redefine the global trade strategy and develop a sustainable Indo Pacific economic framework to address the complex challenges of the region and capitalize on the tremendous opportunities that lie ahead.  

Now more than ever we must fight disinformation to manage the truth. Expect the facts. Peace will not be ubiquitous.  

It will not be cost free.  

We will have to adapt our international system to minimize the cost to our world to expand the games that globalization has helped us to foster and to ensure that we continue to serve the interests and aspirations of our next generation.  

To paraphrase President Biden, we’re writing the new rules for the 21st century that are going to help all of our countries grow faster and fair. And I’m personally confident that our partnership here in Singapore and across the entire Indo Pacific will provide a solid foundation for a fair, peaceful and prosperous world transformed.  

Thank you and I hope you have a great conference.