USA: Remarks at Combating Wildlife Trafficking Event
ADMINISTRATOR ZHAO: (Via translator) Vice Premier Liu Yandong, State Councilor Yang Jiechi, Secretary John Kerry, distinguished guests, ladies and gentlemen, we are very glad to have with you here on this U.S.-China event combating wildlife trafficking, which is aimed at raising the awareness of the international community and the general public to participate in and to support the fight against illegal wildlife trafficking, and to protect wildlife resources. Let us express our warm welcome and sincere thanks to Vice Premier Liu, State Councilor Yang, and Secretary Kerry. (Applause.)
Now, I first give the floor to State Councilor Yang Jiechi. (Applause.)
STATE COUNCILOR YANG: (Via translator) Vice Premier Liu, Secretary Kerry, distinguished guests, ladies and gentlemen, friends, I am glad to attend this event combating wildlife trafficking.
The planet Earth is a common home to the mankind and to the nature. To protect wildlife is an effort to protect our partners and neighbors on this planet Earth, and that we should not allow the human being to become the only and lonely residents of this planet Earth. The Chinese Government attaches great importance to the protection of wildlife. We are promoting ecological civilization. We very much cherish the nature, as were – as our traditions.
To protect wildlife is imperative to Chinese effort to promote ecological civilization and promote long-term sustainable development of the economy and the society. China will continue to (inaudible) legislations, promote ecological civilization, save endangered species, and at the same time, will fulfill international obligations in engaging more international cooperation to fight against wildlife trafficking, in particular those cross-border ones.
China and the United States are working to protect wildlife as part of our efforts to implement the agreement between our two presidents, and to promote a new type of major country relations. In 1985, China and U.S. signed a protocol on nature protection, and in 2013 wildlife protection has become an agenda item on the China-U.S. strategic dialogue.
During this round of dialogue our respective agencies have had productive consultation on combating wildlife trafficking, which laid down a new foundation for all future efforts to expand the cooperation and coordinate actions. In the future, China will continue to resolutely fight against the illegal trading of ivory and related products. We will strictly prohibit the sales of ivory from unknown sources and their products, and the illegal purchase of ivory will be regarded as a criminal act and will be severely punished. We will play a more active role in curbing the illegal trade of ivory, as well as the poaching of African elephant.
The protection of wildlife is a global project, and all countries need to work consistently and make joint efforts. China is ready to work closely with the United States, as well as other members of the international community, to make greater contribution to the improvement of the ecological system throughout the world, and a sustainable development of the mankind. Thank you. (Applause.)
ADMINISTRATOR ZHAO: Thank you, State Councilor Yang Jiechi, for your remarks. Now I will give the floor to Secretary Kerry. (Applause.)
SECRETARY KERRY: Well, thank you very much. It is a great privilege for me to be here with Vice Premier Yandong. Thank you very much for being here. And also, State Councilor Yang. Thank you, State Councilor, for your very powerful statement a moment ago underscoring the importance of what we are trying to achieve here, underscoring the strong commitment of China to combating wildlife trafficking, and particularly enforcing ivory trade controls. Wildlife trafficking does not exist in a vacuum. It is connected with many of the other 21st century challenges that we face, including terrorism. And it demands a common response.
I am very, very delighted that Yao Ming could be here with us today. He is the small guy sitting up here in front. (Applause.) We are very delighted that he could be here today. He is a terrific model of how an athlete can harness his celebrity and capture the public’s attention on an issue. And I think all of us in this room are particularly grateful for his personal commitment, and for the very direct truth, the candor that he brings to this cause. Yao has personally seen the ravages of this particular crime. He has visited Africa, he has seen, particularly, the bodies of dead elephants. And he knows that reducing demand and ramping up law enforcement are the two key essential ingredients of any strategy to try and meet this kind of challenge.
Combating wildlife trafficking is a responsibility for every single person. Everybody can become a law enforcement person. In the social media age, everybody has an ability to hold people accountable for what is happening. I remember well personally, when my wife Teresa and I visited a wildlife preserve, and we went on a safari about seven years ago. I remember being struck and saddened at the same time by the extraordinary story after story after story of animals being criminally slaughtered into near extinction. And that is why, during my last year as Chairman of the United States Senate Foreign Relations Committee, I convened the first-ever Senate wildlife trafficking hearing, in order to try and give publicity and visibility to this issue.
Last year, we held a break-out session here – not here, but it was in Washington, but as part of the S&ED, the Strategic and Economic Dialogue between the United States and China. And we held it on wildlife trafficking. And since then, our two countries have come together to take concrete action. And I am particularly grateful that, here in Beijing today, we are making this joint announcement and coming together as part of the economic dialogue in order to show how great nations can cooperate on great challenges.
Through groundbreaking efforts – enhancing law enforcement, raising public awareness, and each of us destroying about six tons of confiscated ivory stocks – we have been able to show the world that we mean business. Through a groundbreaking global law enforcement operation called Cobra II, we have launched investigations that have led to hundreds of arrests, and major wildlife seizures. And we are on track to make even greater progress by next year's dialogue.
Standing together, the United States and China are sending a simple, but a very powerful message: We need to stop the poachers and the profits that come from wildlife trafficking. And while the threat extends beyond elephants, the fact is that ivory has become today’s blood diamond. Each of us have a responsibility to combat this. It is, frankly, one of the most tragic and outrageous assaults on our shared sense of global responsibility, responsibility for the environment, responsibility for the species. And it is one of the most severe that I have witnessed in my lifetime. Unbelievable numbers of poachers, almost declaring war against innocent animals, simply for the greed.
President Obama is deeply committed to this effort, and that’s why he issued a landmark executive order last year to combat wildlife trafficking, demonstrating that the United States’ resolve to strengthen enforcement, to reduce demand, and to promote partnerships regarding wildlife trafficking is strong, firm, and it will be a commitment of duration.
In February, President Obama released a National Strategy on Wildlife Trafficking that includes a near total ban on commercial trade in ivory. And the good news is we are not in this fight alone. The United States and China, together, are building on the network of partners like Kenya, Gabon, and the Philippines, each of which has destroyed its ivory stocks in recent years. And we hope to continue our work with China at the APEC conference and in other multilateral meetings over the course of this year and next.
Make no mistake, all of us have a responsibility to do more and to do it faster. The numbers of tigers and rhinoceri – I mean, there’s just extraordinary assault on various animals around the world. And the scale and the sophistication of elephant and rhino poaching is accelerating at an alarming pace. Not only are these majestic animals disappearing before us, but the explosion in trafficking is actually undermining the security of range states, and it is imperiling those whose livelihoods depend on these great creatures to attract people to come and simply witness their beauty.
One thing is clear: Consumers also bear responsibility for the market incentives that the traffickers respond to. The grim reality is that the prices for ivory and for rhino horn are actually going up. They are skyrocketing. And that, in turn, leads to more involvement of more transnational organized criminals who are looking for bigger return on their investment. It provides more corruption, and corruption provides more collateral damage.
So, wildlife trafficking, yes, it’s a conservation problem. But it’s also an economic problem, it’s a health problem, it’s a security problem. Our governments and citizens cannot afford to stand idly by while sadistic poachers and wildlife traffickers destabilize entire regions with their activities, threaten the lives of innocent citizens of those areas, undermine economic development, and hunt elephants, rhinos, tigers, bears, sharks, or other species to the point of extinction. Leaders everywhere have a responsibility to step up and meet this challenge, and I am pleased that here in Beijing today, China and the United States are making clear that we intend to do our part. We are committed, and we ask all of us to move forward together to win this victory. Thank you. (Applause.)
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