Remarks at High Level Partnership Dialogue With Colombia

James B. Steinberg
Deputy Secretary of State
Bogota, Colombia
October 25, 2010

It’s a real pleasure to be here, at a moment when we mark not just how far the U.S.-Colombia partnership has come, but also the immense and wide-ranging potential it holds for the future. This is the beginning of a new chapter in a relationship that is already among the strongest and most vital the United States has. And I think the sessions today will make clear just how much more this relationship can accomplish – for our two countries, for our region, and for the rest of the world.

Let me first thank President Santos, Foreign Minister Holguin, and their colleagues for hosting us here in Colombia. In a few short months, President Santos has accomplished an astounding amount in an ambitious and wide-ranging agenda that builds o the successes of President Uribe and prior administrations. Today’s dialogue is the realization of a mutual commitment President Santos and President Obama made on the margins of the United Nations General Assembly in September. And that commitment has been taken up by an extraordinary range of representatives from our two governments.

On the U.S. side, I am joined not just by many distinguished colleagues from the State Department, but also by Deputy Secretary of Energy Poneman and his team, and representatives of the U.S. Agency for International Development, the White House, and others – a sign of how multi-dimensional our partnership has become.

During the last decade, our governments have cooperated to stem the flow of illegal drugs, combat terrorism, promote trade and economic development, and improve respect for human rights. The expansion of this cooperation is a remarkable story, as is Colombia’s own success in overcoming internal security threats and shaping itself into a model of democratic development.

That success does not diminish the importance of our partnership; if anything, it makes Colombia an ever-more vital strategic partner for the United States. And in the very productive meeting I just completed with President Santos and Foreign Minister Holguin, we discussed how we can broaden and deepen this partnership going forward.

This dialogue establishes a political and economic framework for that process – one based on reciprocity, mutual respect, and our recognition of Colombia’s growing leadership role.

Colombia was one of the first countries in the hemisphere to provide assistance in the aftermath of the earthquake in Haiti, and it did so again after the earthquake in Chile. It was recently elected to a seat on the UN Security Council by a record margin and has shown a willingness and capacity to advance global goals from combating climate change to bolstering global security. And President Santos has proved successful in forging a foreign policy that has repaired regional relations and, in the process, protected Colombia’s critical national interests and our common interest in regional peace and stability.

The three preliminary working groups Foreign Minister Holguin and I are launching today reflect areas of shared interest, shared potential, and shared priority.

First, our bilateral relationship is founded on a shared commitment to human rights and democratic governance. We have seen some important concrete steps already in President Santos’ first months in office, and our first working group will help deepen our dialogue on this important topic.

Second, energy cooperation is crucial to the economic wellbeing of both our countries. We have a record of strong cooperation on projects like the biomass energy initiative, and the energy working group will build on recent successes, as we jointly develop new ideas to promote energy efficiency and renewable energy and collaborate Colombian-led projects such as the Regional Inter-Connected Initiative.

Third, as President Santos has emphasized, scientific innovation is a key driver of economic development and job creation in both of our countries. The science and technology working group – charged with implementing the Science and Technology Agreement signed when Secretary Clinton was here in June – will promote joint scientific innovation and technology transfer.

This first dialogue is only the beginning. As our partnership continues to advance in the coming years, I hope we will incorporate other issues by mutual consent. But there’s plenty to be done today. So let me conclude by once again thanking President Santos and his administration for their hospitality, their friendship, and their profound commitment to this relationship. We look forward to reciprocating in the day-to-day work of this partnership and when we host the next round in Washington next year. Thank you.