Vice President Biden’s Remarks to the Opening Session of the U.S.-China Strategic and Economic Dialogue
THE VICE PRESIDENT: Good morning. Thank you. Thank you, all. It’s an honor to welcome back to Washington for the third meeting of the Strategic and Economic Dialogue between the United States and China, two good friends.
Let me acknowledge the co-chairs at the outset here. Vice Premier Wang and State Counselor Dai, welcome back. I got an opportunity to spend some time with you — not as much as my colleagues have — but your trip with President Hu was a great visit, and we got a chance to spend some time together.
The United States co-chairs are our A-Team, our superstars: Secretary Clinton and Secretary Geithner, two of the best America has to offer, so we expect great things to happen. We expect great things to happen with the four of you.
Ladies and gentlemen, we each have a number of important tasks in the days ahead and all designed to continue to guide our relationship to an even better place than it’s already moved.
I also would like to recognize, by the way, Secretary Gary Locke, the President’s choice to be our next ambassador to China. Gary has served with distinction in the Cabinet, as well as before that serving as the governor of the state of Washington. And I know that once the Senate confirms Gary, and I expect that to be quickly, he’ll do an outstanding job in Beijing. (Applause.) There he is.
And I’m not going to mention the Trade Representative sitting next to you because I told him if he was able to deliver a deal on — with Korea, I would nominate him for the Nobel Peace Prize. (Laughter.) He did and I have to. (Laughter.)
Any rate, I’ve made my — I hate to acknowledge this, gentlemen, but I made my first trip to China as a young man, meeting with Deng Xiaoping in 1979, in April of ’79. I was privileged to be with what I guess I’m now part of, a group of very senior senators at that time. I think we were the first delegation to meet after normalization — with senators like Jacob Javits of New York, and Frank Church, and a number of other very prominent members.
And on that trip when we met with then Vice Premier Deng and witnessed the changes that were being initiated, beginning to spark China’s remarkable — absolutely remarkable transformation, even back then it was clear that there was — that great things were happening. And there was also a debate — there was a debate here in the United States and quite frankly throughout most of the West as whether a rising China was in the interest of the United States and the wider world. As a young member of a Foreign Relations Committee, I wrote and I said and I believed then what I believe now: That a rising China is a positive, positive development, not only for China but for America and the world writ large.
When President Obama and I took office in January of 2009 we understood — we understood absolutely clearly that our relationship with China would be a key priority. The President and I were determined — determined to set the relationship on a stable course that could be sustained for decades. Our two countries, now the world’s two largest economies, were bound by ever-growing ties of commerce and investment. We, the United States, we always talk about what we import; we, the United States, exported $110 billion in American goods and services to China last year.
But we’re bound my much more than commerce. Over the last three decades, our people have become increasingly linked through education, through work and through travel. Last year, 130,000 Chinese were studying in the United States. They’re really good. We’re going to try to keep some of them. I’m only joking. I’m only joking. (Laughter.) But they are. (Laughter.)
We cannot claim the same number of Americans in China, but our 100,000 Strong Initiative will dramatically increase the number of young Americans living and studying in China. As a matter of fact, my niece who — excuse me, as we say in the Senate, a point a personal privilege — who graduated from Harvard not too long ago, works for Secretary Geithner, she did exactly what we hope another 100,000 will do: She studied Chinese and went and lived in China and is now devoted to making sure the relationship gets better and better and better.
And we’re linked by our shared global responsibilities. We both serve as permanent members of the United Nations Security Council. We’re both Pacific powers. And for many of the world’s pressing challenges, it’s a simple fact, that when the United States and China are not at the table, the solution to the problem is less possible than when we are at the table. It’s no exaggeration to say that our relationship and how we manage it will help shape the 21st century.
Our commitment starts at the top. Our Presidents have met face-to-face nine times in two and a half years. Nine times. President Hu, as I mentioned, was just here in January for what all would acknowledge was a very successful state visit. I’ll go back to China this summer at the invitation of Vice President Xi, and I’m looking forward to hosting the Vice President for a reciprocal visit later this year.
Even these frequent visits and summits, though, as you all know, are not enough on their own to sustain and build a relationship across our entire government, across all agencies. That’s why we’re here. It’s not merely, merely our mil-to-mil or economic issues. We want to build a relationship across the entire spectrum of our governments. That’s why we’ve asked all of you to come together for these dialogues.
When President Obama launched the first strategic and economic dialogue in 2009, he issued a challenge to all of us to work together to address some of the defining problems of our time. Some would say that’s somewhat presumptuous for China and the United States to decide we’re going to work on the defining problems, but as I said earlier, how we cooperate will define in significant part how we deal with the challenges that the world face in the beginning of the 21st century.
This is at the heart of our effort to build a cooperative partnership. We seek to cooperate to advance our mutual interests in not only promoting economic growth that is strong, sustainable and balanced, but trade that is free and is fair. We seek cooperation to advance our mutual interests in the prosperous future that will come from an energy supply that’s clean and secure and addresses climate change.
And we seek to cooperate to advance our mutual interests in a range of pressing global and regional security challenges. This includes continuing our work to prevent the spread of nuclear weapons and specifically to curb proliferation of those weapons and technology from both Iran and North Korea.
Where do we stand two years after the President issued his challenge that we cooperate more? Through this dialogue and the dedicated efforts of our governments and our people, I believe history will show we’ve made progress.
But there’s much more to do, and that’s why we’re here. Along with our partners in the G20, we’ve worked to sustain global economic recovery. We’ve recognized that the United States-China relations generate global economic benefit, not just to both our countries, but global benefit.
Last year our trade with China supported over 500,000 jobs here in the United States, and we made tangible progress during President Hu’s visit, especially in the areas of innovation, intellectual property, and exports, all of which we’re following up on.
Over the next two days, we need to build on this momentum and to make sure our commitments are aggressively implemented so we can continue to move.
You may have noticed that there is a debate in this nation how best to secure America’s long-term fiscal future. We know that overcoming our economic challenges begin at home. We in the United States have to restore financial stability and we need to make the investments necessary, as well, to win the future. We need to maintain our commitment to what we believe, the President believes, is the pillars of our economic future: education, innovation, and infrastructure.
I know that you’re adjusting to your economy in the world situation as well. I know that in China you’re working to rebalance your economy and make growth more sustainable, with greater reliance on domestic demand. None of this is easy. But success in re-orienting growth will be not only good for China, in our humble opinion, but it will be good for the United States and for the rest of the world.
The United States and China are the world’s largest producers and consumers of energy and we share the common challenges that flow from that. And this creates not only a problem, but great opportunity — great opportunity for common efforts to find clean energy solutions. Secretary Chu likes to say — and I love this expression — “Science is not a zero-sum game.” Science is not a zero-sum game. That amply is illustrated by the remarkable cooperation we’ve begun to forge in this area. Let me just mention one example.
Our joint Clean Energy Research Center is funding new approaches to energy efficiency, clean coal — which we both need to deal with — and clean vehicles. We need to build on and expand our efforts in this area, and I know you’ll be doing — having much discussion these next two days on that area, and it seems to me an area where there’s potential for great progress.
On global security challenges, we’ve also made progress. President Hu joined us at the Nuclear Security Summit — in January, we signed the memorandum of understanding to build a center for excellence to promote nuclear security in China. We have cooperated in stemming nuclear proliferation from both Iran and North Korea, including preventing sensitive technologies from being exported to both those countries.
The strategic dialogue is important to both our countries. Just look at the agenda that you have for the next two days. It’s a fulsome agenda. To list just a few of the topics on the agenda for the next two days — and it illustrates the sheer breadth of our relationship: Climate change; clean energy; mil-to-mil operations — our military relationships; regional issues such as Sudan and Afghanistan.
Our goal — our goal, in part, is to enhance the communication and understanding that we believe, and I believe you believe, will build trust and confidence. We have to be honest with each other. We are not going to agree on everything; we will clearly find areas where there will still be disagreement. But as we work to advance our respective national interest, we have to move on what we seek in common, find the common ground, and I would argue much of our mutual national interest will find common ground. But only by discussing a diverse range of topics, including sensitive ones, can we help mitigate the risk of misperception and miscalculation.
My father used to say the only disagreement worse than one that is intended is one that is unintended. That’s why it’s so critically important we talk to one another honestly. We should be realistic; we won’t always be able to work together. In some areas we have vigorous disagreement. In some we’ll have vigorous competition. In still others we’ll have vigorous collaboration.
But I believe on balance we have much more to agree on than to disagree on, and so does the President believe that. A healthy competition, in our view, is good for both of us. Competition is not bad. Competition that’s healthy is good.
This is the reason why I’ve held the view for so many years and continue to hold the view that a rising China is a positive development. As you might expect, it’s my — I have overwhelming confidence in the capabilities of the American people. And those capabilities are enhanced when there’s genuine competition from equally capable people. I welcome this healthy and fair competition because I believe we’ll see it will spur us both to innovate and both will benefit from it.
As I’ve said earlier, it’s important to be straightforward with one another. There is one area where we have vigorous disagreement. And I know and I understand that disagreement, when we voice it, is upsetting or rankles — I don’t know how that translates into Chinese — but how it concerns some of our friends in China. We have vigorous disagreement in the area of human rights.
We’ve noted our concerns about the recent crackdown in China, including attacks, arrests and the disappearance of journalists, lawyers, bloggers and artists. And again, no relationship that’s real can be built on a false foundation. Where we disagree, it’s important to state it. We’ll continue to express our views in these issues, as we did in the Human Rights Dialogue in Beijing two weeks ago.
Now, look, as I said, I recognize that some in China see our advocacy as — human rights as an intrusion and Lord only knows what else. But President Obama and I believe strongly, as does the Secretary, that protecting fundamental rights and freedoms such as those enshrined in China’s international commitments, as well as in China’s own constitution, is the best way to promote long-term stability and prosperity of any society.
The transformation of China’s economy and society since my first trip as a young man in 1979 has truly been breathtaking. I doubt whether it’s occurred at any other period in world history — it’s been so significant and so rapid. The immense talent of the Chinese people, the incredible hard work and perseverance of the Chinese people and their leaders have literally lifted tens of millions of people out of poverty and built an economy that now helps fuel the world’s prosperity. It’s remarkable.
During this same period, the relationship between the United States and China has also seen a remarkable transformation — again, through the talent, hard work and respected political leaders who have governed our countries over the last three decades.
The bonds between our country — our countries come about through — have come about through intense engagement from the moment of normalization — events like this one. We’ve already done much to make our relationship positive, cooperative, and comprehensive. And I’m absolutely confident that we can do more for ourselves and for generations of Americans and Chinese as well.
And as I said, presumptuous of me to say this, if that occurs and continues to occur, it will benefit the whole world. So now it’s time to get to work.
Again, welcome, gentlemen; welcome to your delegations. And I thank you all for the honor of being able to address you. Thank you very much. (Applause.)
Readout of Vice President Biden’s Meeting with Members of the African Union High-Level Implementation Panel for Sudan
Vice President Biden today met at the White House with former South African President Thabo Mbeki, Chairman of the African Union (AU) High-Level Implementation Panel for Sudan, along with fellow panel members, former President of Nigeria Abdulsalami Abubakar, and former President of Burundi Pierre Buyoya.
The Vice President and the delegation committed to continue their work together with the parties to resolve outstanding Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA) issues by July 2011, particularly the issue of Abyei. The Vice President expressed appreciation for the Panel’s role in brokering the recent commitment by Sudanese leaders to withdraw Northern and Southern forces from Abyei and underscored the commitment of the United States to coordinate our efforts regarding Sudan with the African Union.
On the critical issue of Darfur, the Vice President expressed great concern that security conditions on the ground continue to deteriorate and are further aggravated by restrictions on peacekeepers’ and humanitarian workers’ access to vulnerable populations. The Vice President underscored the importance of ensuring the establishment of two viable states in Sudan after the South’s independence in July and stressed that a resolution to the situation in Darfur must be part of that process.
Both sides committed to working together to galvanize international support for addressing our shared interests in the coming months. The meeting builds on Vice President Biden’s trip to Kenya, Egypt, and South Africa last June that helped to build regional cooperation on CPA implementation.
To view a photograph of the Vice President’s meeting, click HERE.
The White House
Office of the Vice President
Opera House Square
2:15 P.M. (Local)
THE VICE PRESIDENT: Mr. Prime Minister, Mrs. Filat, and most importantly, Tina, your daughter who is sitting there with my granddaughter Finnegan. They’re 12-years-old each. I’m not sure if Finnegan is going to come home with me. This is so beautiful.
Hello, Chisinau. (Applause.) And hello to everyone across the street. (Applause.) I want to thank you all on behalf of me and Jill, my wife, and our granddaughter for according us such a great honor on such a beautiful day.
And I’d like to also thank all the people of Moldova for hosting this visit. I have heard about your hospitality, but what I heard does not do justice to the hospitality I’ve received. Again, thank you very, very much. (Applause.)
On behalf of President Obama, I want to say that this is truly a special privilege — a privilege to be here at this transformative moment in your history, and quite frankly the history of the world. There is much, much that is changing not only here in Central and Eastern Europe, but in North Africa, in the Middle East and throughout the world. Freedom is in the air. (Applause.) And democracy is emerging in countries that for generations have known nothing but authoritarian rule.
In Tunisia and Egypt, people stood up for their rights, and they’re now taking their first tentative steps toward democracy. In Libya, people are fighting for those same rights in the face of violence from their own government. And here — here in this region, it has been over 20 years since the collapse of the Soviet Union and the United States has worked with you for a Europe that is whole, free and at peace. (Applause.)
We’re not quite there yet, but let me tell you this we will stand-by-side with you as we finish this job. (Applause.) I come to Moldova from Moscow. Russia and America are partners on a wide range of global challenges. And over the past two years, we have reset our relations and produced real benefits — not only for the Russian people and the American people, but I believe for the people of this region and the world, as well.
When I was in Russia, I spoke with the leaders of the Russian government as well as the political opposition, leaders of business as well as civil society. I spoke with them straightforwardly about the need to fight corruption, the need to strengthen democratic institutions, the need for a judicial system that is both trusted and fair.
In Georgia, we support the emergence of a strong democracy and free markets, and the integrity of Georgia’s territory. We also are working with both parties — Russians and Georgians — to reduce the threat of renewed conflict. In Ukraine, the world welcomed the Orange Revolution, but there is much hard work remaining to be done to sustain its success. The Ukrainian people want a future that is democratic and European, and we intend to help them see it through.
The people of Belarus have demanded and they deserve basic rights. We have condemned the government of Belarus for the repression of its own citizens. We’ve joined the European Union in imposing sanctions against that government, and we call for the immediate release of all political prisoners. (Applause.)
I am here today to congratulate you, not only on the 20th anniversary of your independence, but for the powerful — (Applause.) Yes, you can clap for yourselves. (Applause.) But also for the powerful message your journey toward democracy has sent to millions of people beyond your border.
You should be proud — proud of what you have done. Your experience here in Moldova proves that political transition can be peaceful, that free and fair elections and a genuine commitment to reform can turn democratic values into reality, and that around the world — people around the world yearn for basic rights and freedom, no matter what language they use to demand them.
You know from your own experience that achieving democracy is not easy, but you also know it is worth the struggle. (Applause.) President Obama and I along with the American people have watched that struggle and celebrated your successes, and we are determined to help you build on your achievements. We strongly support your commitment to political and economic reforms and taking on hard issues.
While we applaud your progress, let me be clear, there can be no democracy without a transparent legal system, without a commitment to fight corruption and an end to human trafficking. (Applause.)
On Transnistria, America has supported and will continue to support a settlement — not any settlement, but a settlement that preserves Moldova’s sovereignty and territorial integrity — (applause) — within — within your internationally recognized borders.
Formal negotiations with a real agenda should resume as soon as possible. Transnistria’s future lies inside Moldova — (applause) — within — within the community of Europe. The people of Moldova deserve an end to a dispute that has divided this great country for far too long. (Applause.)
Folks, political change is hard. Economic reform can be even harder, especially when unemployment is high and prices are rising. People everywhere, including in my own country, America, worry about jobs and prices, as well. But as you reform your economy, more foreign investment will flow into Moldova, more of Moldova’s businesses will enter foreign markets. And that will add up to higher paying jobs and more jobs.
As you continue on this journey, I promise you, America will be your partner. Over five years, the United States — over the next five years, the United States will provide a quarter of a billion dollars — $262 million to support your agricultural industry. (Applause.) This assistance, God willing, will improve your roads to help your farmers get their goods to market, will make it easier for your farmers to secure the loans they need to buy better equipment. We will work with the Moldovan government on economic policies to grow your economy to attract foreign investment, train civil society to become more effective advocates and help improve Moldova’s schools.
And by the way, Moldova has made its own contributions — significant contributions to American society and to American culture. Let me give you two recent examples. A fellow named Rahm Emmanuel, President Obama’s former chief of staff, who is the newly elected mayor of Chicago in Illinois, America’s third largest city, he says that he has inherited his legendary toughness from his Moldovan grandfather. (Applause.) I’m serious. Who became a labor leader in America after emigrating to the United States.
And someone we appreciate even more, Natalie Portman, who last month won an Academy Award for best actress in America, I don’t know whether you know this, but she told us she carries in her wallet a picture, a photograph of her Moldovan grandmother. (Applause.)
And I know this is not on the teleprompter, but she’s a heck of a lot better looking than Rahm Emmanuel. (laughter.)
Look, folks, what Moldovans — what all of you want for your future America supports, as well: a democratic and prosperous European state, a better life for you and your families.
America will walk with you on this journey you’ve undertaken for a simple reason: because a successful Moldova will benefit this region; it will benefit Europe; and it will benefit the United States of America. You’re small. You’re a small country, but you are tackling large consequential issues head-on. I believe you and your leaders are up to that challenge. A better future is within your reach.
Take a look around you. Think about your families. Think about your children. Think about what you left 20 years ago. Think about freedom, democracy and prosperity — what it will mean to your families and your children. When you do that, I assure you no matter how tough the road, it will never be too hard.
And I’m proud — I’m proud to have had the opportunity to stand with you today to offer my country’s congratulations and support on your 20th anniversary of independence and your continued — your continued move toward democratic institutions and becoming part of Europe.
Thank you. May God bless America and may God bless Moldova. Thank you. (Applause.)
Vice President Biden met today in Nairobi with a delegation from Southern Sudan, led by the President of Southern Sudan and First Vice President of the Government of National Unity, Salva Kiir Mayardit. In the meeting, the Vice President reaffirmed the strong U.S. commitment to seeing the referendum on Southern self-determination occur on time and in a manner that credibly reflects the will of the Southern Sudanese people. The Vice President recognized the many challenges faced in referendum preparations and underscored the need for Southern leadership and international mobilization in ensuring that all necessary measures are in place for a peaceful outcome that is internationally recognized, and offered U.S. political, financial, and technical support to that end.
The Vice President recognized the great strides that have been made in the South to establish state institutions and responsible governance since the signing of the 2005 Comprehensive Peace Agreement, but emphasized that more needed to be done to increase the capacity, efficiency, and transparency of those institutions, irrespective of the outcome of the referendum.
The Vice President encouraged Southerners to immediately begin negotiations on post-referendum arrangements with Khartoum, noting that there is insufficient time before the South’s potential independence to wait before tackling the many complex and unresolved issues, including: border demarcation, revenue sharing, and citizenship rights.
The Vice President pledged continued U.S. assistance to the professionalization of the Sudan People’s Liberation Army in recognition of the serious threats to security faced by the South.
The Vice President then met with the United Nations Special Representative of the Secretary General for Somalia Ahmedou Ould Abdallah and a delegation that included the Special Representative of the Chairperson of the African Union Boubacar Gaoussou Diarra, AU Mission in Somalia (AMISOM) Force Commander Nathan Mugisha, and Ugandan Minister of Defense Crispus Kiyonga to discuss the steps needed to help the Somali people achieve stability. He discussed the challenges facing AMISOM and the urgent need for greater political inclusivity and stability in the Transitional Federal Government. The Vice President also commended AMISOM for their peacekeeping efforts in Somalia and discussed steps to bolster its capacity.
The Vice President today spoke by phone with Egyptian Vice President Omar Soliman, reiterating President Obama’s condemnation of the recent violence in Egypt and calling for restraint by all sides. He also restated the President’s support for universal rights, including the right to peaceful assembly, association, and speech. Vice President Biden urged that credible, inclusive negotiations begin immediately in order for Egypt to transition to a democratic government that addresses the aspirations of the Egyptian people. He stressed that the Egyptian government is responsible for ensuring that peaceful demonstrations don’t lead to violence and intimidation and for allowing journalists and human rights advocates to conduct their important work, including immediately releasing those who have been detained.
Vice President Biden spoke today to Egyptian Vice President Omar Soliman to reiterate the United States’ support for an orderly transition in Egypt that is prompt, meaningful, peaceful, and legitimate. Vice President Biden urged that the transition produce immediate, irreversible progress that responds to the aspirations of the Egyptian people.
The Vice President reaffirmed that the future of Egypt will be determined by the Egyptian people. The Vice President took note of steps the government of Egypt has pledged to take in response to the opposition and urged the government to take immediate action to follow through on its commitments.
Based on our nation’s fundamental belief in the importance of universal rights and representative governments, as well as on consultations with Egypt’s opposition and a broad cross section of civil society, Vice President Biden and Vice President Soliman discussed additional steps that the United States supports, including:
Restraining the Ministry of Interior’s conduct by immediately ending the arrests, harassment, beating, and detention of journalists, and political and civil society activists, and by allowing freedom of assembly and expression;
immediately rescinding the emergency law;
broadening participation in the national dialogue to include a wide range of opposition members; and
inviting the opposition as a partner in jointly developing a roadmap and timetable for transition.
These steps, and a clear policy of no reprisals, are what the broad opposition is calling for and what the government is saying it is prepared to accept. Vice President Biden expressed the belief that the demands of the broad opposition can be met through meaningful negotiations with the government.
The Vice President spoke by phone today with Egyptian Vice President Omar Soliman. Vice President Biden asked about progress in beginning credible, inclusive negotiations for Egypt’s transition to a democratic government to address the aspirations of the Egyptian people. He stressed the need for a concrete reform agenda, a clear timeline, and immediate steps that demonstrate to the public and the opposition that the Egyptian government is committed to reform. Vice President Biden expressed concern about continued raids on civil society and called for the immediate release of journalists, activists, and human rights advocates who have been detained without cause.
Sharm el-Sheikh, Egypt — Vice President Joe Biden issued the following statement today after his meeting with Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak:
“I am grateful to President Mubarak for his hospitality, and for the opportunity to discuss a broad range of issues. Egypt and the United States are partners in a shared desire to see peace and economic prosperity in the Middle East, North Africa, and Sudan. I thank Egypt for the leadership role it has played in supporting these priorities.
“Today, President Mubarak and I reiterated our commitment to reaching a comprehensive peace in the region. The United States recognizes and appreciates Egypt’s leadership in support for these efforts. The status quo is unsustainable for all sides. It is vital to make progress in the proximity talks between Israelis and Palestinians to enable the parties to move to direct negotiations as soon as possible that will result in an end to the occupation that began in 1967 and to a two-state solution to the conflict with Israel and a Palestinian state living in peace and security. In addition, we are consulting closely with Egypt, as well as our other partners, on new ways to address the humanitarian, economic, security, and political aspects of the situation in Gaza.
“In addition to the pressing priority of reaching comprehensive peace, we also discussed other areas of regional concern. We appreciate the vital role Egypt is playing in Afghanistan and its support for a strong, independent, unified and democratic Iraq.
“We discussed our serious concerns about Iran’s nuclear program. The international community continues to witness Iran’s non-compliance with its obligations to the United Nations Security Council and the International Agency for Atomic Energy, as well as Iran’s unwillingness to engage seriously with the P5+1 on its nuclear program. The United States remains committed to a diplomatic resolution to these serious issues, but we will continue to hold Iran accountable for its continued violations of its international responsibilities, in accordance with our dual-track policy. We expect to see developments in the United Nations Security Council to hold Iran accountable very soon. In addition to concerns about Iran’s nuclear program, we remain concerned about its destabilizing activities throughout the region, including with regard to its support for Hizballah and Hamas.
“We reaffirmed our commitment to supporting stability in Sudan, including Darfur, and the full implementation of Sudan’s Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA) and preparing for the referendum on southern self-determination in 2011.
“The United States looks forward to a continuing dialogue with Egypt on a broad range of interests, including Egypt’s ongoing political and economic reform. Elements such as respect for human rights and the need to continue working for a vibrant civil society and more open political competition are vital for Egypt to remain strong and serve as a model to the region. Egypt has made commitments as part of the United Nations Human Rights Council’s Universal Periodic Review, including accepting some of the Council’s recommendations. These commitments are important and I encourage Egypt to move ahead swiftly to implement fully those commitments and build upon that agenda.”