Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton
And Liberian President Sirleaf
At the U.S.-Liberia Partnership Dialogue Signing Ceremony
SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, welcome to the Treaty Room. I am delighted to have this occasion, once again, to host President Sirleaf, a very good partner over many years, and especially, I would say, over the last four years it has been a great personal pleasure for me to work with her to strengthen that partnership between the United States and Liberia. And I also am grateful, as well, for her personal friendship.
Today, we are taking another important step to deepen the partnership between our nations and to support Liberia as it continues down the path of democratic and economic reform. The partnership dialogue we are about to sign will expand the cooperation between our countries and ensure high-level engagement for years to come.
This agreement establishes working groups in three key areas - first, agriculture and food security; helping Liberia's farmers use their land more effectively and get their crops to markets more efficiently will be critical to improving the health and prosperity of people throughout Liberia. This working group will review progress under the Feed the Future Initiative, look for new opportunities to attract private investment in the agriculture sector, and recommend policies to promote food security and better nutrition.
Second, energy and power infrastructure. We know that access to affordable, reliable energy is essential to creating jobs and sparking growth that helps to build a strong economy. So we will take stock of outstanding needs for the generation, transmission, and distribution of energy, promote a regulatory environment that's friendly to new investments in energy, and look for ways to accelerate the development of a well-governed and inclusive energy sector.
And finally, we want to look at human development with a real emphasis on creating more economic opportunity for the people of Liberia to expand access to education and employment so that many more Liberians have a chance to not only better themselves and their families, but make a contribution to their nation.
I think it is more than fair to say that this last decade has been a success story for Liberia. The people of Liberia have emerged from a time of violence and lawlessness and have made tremendous commitments to both economic and political reform. The United States has stood by Liberia during this challenging process, but I think it is also more than fair to say it was aided considerably by the leadership, the determination of a woman who understood in every fiber of her being what was at stake. And so, Madame President, let me, on behalf of the United States, thank you for the great progress under your leadership, pledge our continuing support and partnership and friendship to you and to the people of your country. (Applause.)
PRESIDENT SIRLEAF: Secretary of State Clinton, members of the Administration, ladies and gentlemen, I am honored to be here today for several reasons. First, I feel privileged to have been invited to the State Department this week, one of the last weeks that you, Madame Secretary, will be in office, to say thank you for all that you have done for Liberia and the Liberian people, to say thank you for always being there for Liberia.
Second, for me personally, it was important to be here today to see that you have fully recovered - (laughter) - from your recent illness, to embrace you, and to let you know that all of Liberia prayed for your speedy recovery.
Third, I have always seen Liberia's progress as underpinned by its special relationship with the United States. The launching today of the U.S.-Liberia Partnership Dialogue is an historic achievement, one that will cement the strategic cooperation between our two countries for generations to come regardless of the occupants of the White House or the Executive Mansion. Dear friends, today for us marks an historic day for the Government and people of Liberia, the fulfillment of a wish first articulated last June for the institutionalization of the longstanding bilateral relationship between Liberia and the United States of America.
Just seven months ago, we made the rounds among congressional and U.S. Government officials. We put forward proposals on how the United States could work with Liberia as a partner to consolidate its gains. One proposal called for the establishment of a joint United States-Liberia bi-national commission established (inaudible) in the 1960s, which aimed to ensure that the partnership would endure for 50 years or more.
I recall vividly when I made the case to you, Madame Secretary, your support was instantaneous. You assured me that you would figure out how to embed such a relationship in our governments and countries, and here we are today for the signing of the statement of intent, Liberia's chance with the United States as a reliable partner in the region. The U.S.-Liberia Partnership Dialogue would allow our two countries to look at our relationship strategically with a view towards the long term and focus on those areas that encourage broad-based economic growth, including agriculture and food security, energy and power infrastructure, and human development.
We look forward to carrying out the first meeting of the U.S.-Liberia Partnership Dialogue under the leadership of Secretary of State designate, Senator John Kerry, who also has been an essential supporter of Liberia during his long service on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, including his time as chairman. We recognize that this will not just be a job for our two governments, but also for the business communities of both countries and other stakeholders in Liberia.
Madame Secretary, I'm especially pleased that we were recently declared eligible for compact status by the Millennium Challenge Corporation. Coming just two years after being awarded a threshold program and seven years after the reestablishment of democracy in Liberia, this is one of Liberia's proudest achievements. I would like to recognize the presence here of MCC President Daniel Yohannes and to promise you that we will deliver a compact program that will be comprehensive and resulting.
I take this opportunity to thank Assistant Secretary of State Johnnie Carson for his steadfast leadership on Africa policy over the past four years. Ambassador Carson, we wish for you the best and hope you will continue to find a way to stay engaged with us in Liberia. We also congratulate President Barack Obama on his forthcoming inauguration to a second term of office. We trust that we can count on him and on Africa's continued support under his leadership to Liberia and to Africa.
Madam Secretary, Hillary - (laughter) - you've been a true friend of Liberia and to me personally. We are pleased that in the history of our bilateral relationship, which spans more than a century and a half, you made two trips to Liberia while in office as Secretary of State. You have supported our country's progress, championed our political process, and pushed to settle Liberia's external debt. As we bid you farewell, I remain convinced that in this era of economic challenge, history will show that your support and the investment of the U.S. Government and the American people in Liberia will return significant dividends.
We'll continue to guard the peace, promote reconciliation, build strong democratic institutions, and show good governance and transparency, and encourage broad-based economic development. We will continue to strive to be a post-conflict success story. For that, Madam Secretary, is America's success also. Thank you. (Applause.)
MODERATOR: Secretary Clinton and President Sirleaf are signing a statement of intent between the United States and the Republic of Liberia to establish a partnership dialogue. The U.S.-Liberia Partnership Dialogue will ensure sustained high-level bilateral engagement on issues of mutual interest.
(The document was signed.) (Applause.)
SECRETARY CLINTON: Thanks to everyone who helped work on this. I see a lot of the faces from across the State Department. Let's get a picture with everybody coming up behind us, perhaps.