Remarks With Mexican Secretary of Foreign Relations Patricia Espinosa Cantellano and Canadian Foreign Minister Lawrence Cannon After the North American Trilateral Ministerial Meeting

Hillary Rodham Clinton
Secretary of State
Benjamin Franklin Room
Washington, DC
July 16, 2009

Date: 07/16/2009 Location: Washington, DC Description: Secretary Clinton hosted a North American Trilateral Ministerial Meeting in the Benjamin Franklin of the Department of State.  She is joined by Mexican Foreign Relations Secretary Patricia Espinosa Cantellano and Canadian Foreign Minister Lawrence Cannon. © State Dept Image by Michael Gross SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, good afternoon, and I’m delighted to be here alongside my counterparts and colleagues from our neighbors to the north and the south, Canadian Foreign Minister Lawrence Cannon, Mexican Foreign Secretary Patricia Espinosa. Each of them have hosted me in their countries, and I am so pleased that they could be here today for this important trilateral consultation.

This is an example of what I was speaking about yesterday in my speech, the kind of partnership that the United States is very committed to not only building, but in this case, really deepening and broadening. The partnership between our nations and our entire North American region has such enormous potential to enhance safety and opportunity for our citizens as well as health and prosperity. And we are focused upon our shared assets and values, particularly our dynamic economies and our creative hardworking citizens, to make North America the most prosperous, safest, and competitive region in the world.

We had an excellent series of discussions that each of us, in turn, led. And we really focused on concrete ways we can work together to capitalize on our strengths and address our common concerns. We discussed the upcoming North American Leaders’ Summit that will be hosted in Mexico by President Calderon. President Obama plans to attend. And Foreign Minister Espinosa can share with you some very specific details in a moment.

We discussed a range of global issues that affect us as well as closer to home; particularly the political crisis in Honduras. We reaffirmed our commitment to restore constitutional and democratic order, and underscored our support for the dialogue process that was started by President Arias. We support a peaceful, negotiated resolution and urge other countries to play a positive role in achieving that outcome, and to refrain from any actions that could lead to violence.

We reviewed our joint response to this spring’s H1N1 outbreak, and I want to commend publicly the Government of Mexico, as I said in our private meetings. Mexico’s leadership in the face of the H1N1 crisis, its openness and transparency, its sharing of information set a real model. It also was part of a prior agreement that had been entered into by our three countries where we did agree to work together in the face of such a challenge. We believe that our cross-government, cross-border communication were instrumental in minimizing the spread of the illness. Now we understand that the flu is seasonal. It’s likely to come back this fall in North America. And we want to enhance our vigilance and collaboration and build on the strong relationships already established.

This meeting was extremely successful from my perspective because the more we can coordinate, the more we can present a united front in world venues like the G-20 or APEC, other places where we have membership, the more we can do for our individual countries and for our mutual future.

So with that, let me turn to Secretary Espinosa and invite her to make some remarks.


(Via interpreter) Friends from the media, ladies and gentlemen, it is a pleasure to be here with you today for this very fruitful meeting that was held today between the foreign ministries of the U.S., Canada, and Mexico. First of all, I would like to thank Secretary Clinton for her hospitality and her willingness to hold this meeting, which is a very important event for our three countries.

This event, as Secretary Clinton has pointed out, focused on addressing the issues that affect the three countries in our region, North America. This is very important in order to make progress in terms of preparing for the upcoming leaders’ summit that, as I was saying this morning, will take place in Guadalajara in Mexico on the 9th and 10th of August. We, the Mexican people, are very honored and very fortunate to be hosts for that important meeting.

During our conversations, I expressed my agreement with Secretary Clinton as well as Minister Lawrence Cannon from Canada. We agreed on the importance of continuing to push forward in our region with mechanisms for cooperation that respond to a very clear mandate from our leaders. We should make use of our positive experience in trilateral cooperation. We should have a more strategic approach, a deeper approach, and also an approach that allows us to truly have results for families in the U.S., Canada, and Mexico so that they may benefit from our relationship.

I feel that it is very important that this meeting between the foreign ministers has allowed us to expand on the regional and global agenda. This is a definitive moment internationally. So consultations between the three countries of North America are extremely important so that we can be more influential and so that we can promote the values that we share, as Secretary Clinton has stated. We have agreed to push forward with this engagement, to have a systematic approach to this engagement, so that we can contribute in a more significant fashion toward building a world that is more fair, that is cleaner, and that is more balanced.

As far as world and hemispheric issues, I would like to comment on the issue of Honduras. We all agree on the importance of the fact that the constitutional order was broken. We have all condemned and completely rejected that fracture of constitutional order. It is important to reach a negotiated solution that is based on dialogue. And in that sense, we firmly support the efforts to mediate by President Arias of Costa Rica, and we have expressed our interest and our desire in having a process that allows for a return to democracy in Honduras without any blood being spilled, without any type of violence.

The three countries of this region, we all face common problems, and we have common solutions. Moreover, the challenges of our time demand coordinated action with our neighbors, our partners and our friends. As a proof of our need to work together, to work jointly, we have the health emergency that took place in North America caused by the H1N1 epidemic. And I would like to thank the words of Secretary Clinton for her recognition of President Calderon’s decisions.

And at the same time, I would like to say that we saw this as a shared problem, and our agencies acted in a coordinated fashion and we were able to confirm that in order to address a crisis like that, we need to work together, as is the case with the international economic crisis, where Mexico, the United States, and Canada have achieved an important consultation process on that topic.

As a region, we have been able to promote our position and we have been able to show that the way out of this crisis that affects everyone is by acting together. We have worked in this joint fashion in order to consolidate the region as a space for trade and economic exchange that is of benefit to all.

We reviewed some general topics within the agenda that will be addressed in Guadalajara by President Barack Obama and President Calderon, as well as Prime Minister Stephen Harper. We looked at the issue of regional competitiveness. We also need to – looked at the way we need to improve the way in which we produce certified transport and market our products, looking toward being more efficient, and with greater security. That is key so that the products of our region can be the most affordable and the ones that are most beneficial to the families of this part of the world, and so that we can compete with other regions of the world.

We have also discussed clean energy, the environment. We discussed actions to take given climate change. These will be the trademarks of the dialogue between the leaders of North America. And we have also expressed that we want this region to become a model for other regions of the world, a model of cooperation on these topics. We should recognize that – we should realize that the threats that our hemisphere faces are threats that go beyond our borders, and that is why our conversation had a significant focus on issues of security.

We have put together a broader concept of security, a concept that goes beyond our already growing cooperation to combat organized crime and other threats that can affect our region. We have looked at a security focus. That means we need to be better prepared for epidemics, for natural disasters. We need to work jointly in a cooperative manner in order to offer all of our communities a place where their peace of mind is ensured.

As you know, Guadalajara will be the first trilateral meeting for president – between President Obama, Prime Minister Harper and President Calderon. We are very pleased with the dynamics of this engagement. Clearly, its objective is to have a greater impetus for our region. That is why the summit at Guadalajara, I am sure, will offer a valuable opportunity for a political dialogue at the highest level under conditions that are propitious to give North America greater influence on world topics.

Once again then, I would like to thank you for your hospitality. I would like to reiterate also the great satisfaction from the Mexican people and government for being host of this important meeting in August.

FOREIGN MINISTER CANNON: It – I certainly, at the outset, want to thank Secretary Clinton for hosting this event. It certainly was a pleasure to participate alongside Secretary – with Secretary Espinosa in this meeting, which, of course, provides a timely opportunity to discuss mutual interests and concerns to us as neighbors and advance, of course, the cause of the North American issues that our leaders will take up. (Speaking in French.)

(Via interpreter) Mexico, the United States, and Canada share the same continent, our population, our economies, our environment, and the same challenges. All this is intimately linked.

(In English) Today, Secretary Espinosa and I discussed some of these challenges, as well as the opportunities available to us in an effort to ensure that North America’s economy remains prosperous and that our citizens be safe and reach, of course, their full potential. The many areas that were discussed are grounded in the common interests of all North Americans, with distinct voices and a diversity of ideas. We spoke of the future of our continent and its role in the world.

(Via interpreter) The recent arrival of H1N1 confirms the importance to work together, to take the necessary measures in order to be prepared for such challenges.

(In English) We focused on four priority areas for strengthening cooperation: The economy, since the global financial crisis and the recession have significantly affected the economies of our three countries; clean energy, climate change, given our highly integrated continental energy market and shared environment, and the latest commitments made at L'Aquila during the last G-8 meeting; security and citizen safety, given not only the successful trilateral cooperation on H1N1, as I mentioned before, and the lessons learned from it, but as well the growing challenges of transnational organizations and – I’m sorry, transnational organized crime on our continent.

(Via interpreter) We have also discussed regional challenges and what is at stake in all three countries, and we are working together to find solutions. Our discussion was very productive and pragmatic.

(In English) Many of the challenges – of these challenges require a North American solution. So we laid the ground for our three leaders to have a fruitful discussion in the month of August. We are looking forward to President Obama and President Calderon’s crucial contributions at the North American Leaders’ Summit that Prime Minister Harper will attend.

Merci. Thank you very much.

SECRETARY CLINTON: Thank you. We’d be glad to take your questions.

MODERATOR: Our first question goes to Jill Dougherty of CNN.

QUESTION: Thank you very much, Madame Secretary. Over the past few days, Madame Secretary, we’ve been hearing some very strong frustration coming from you about the vetting process. And then also, at the same time, there has been a spate, which I’m sure you’ve seen, of reports about your allegedly being sidelined by the White House.

And I would ask you, if you could, to set us straight on this. Is the White House actually making it more difficult for you to put the team that you want in place? And then also, how would you describe the impact that you, as the Secretary of State, are having directly on the formation of U.S. foreign policy?

SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, first let me say that I don’t think there’s anyone who’s ever served in government who is not frustrated by the system that our country has. Most governments after they’re elected are up and going in a relatively short period of time. We are now six months into our new Administration, and it’s not only here, but across the government, we don’t have critical positions filled. I think it’s pretty obvious that the process has gotten much more complicated, cumbersome, and lengthy, and that is something that I hear from everyone. And it is a matter that I think we’re going to have to address. And it’s not just this Administration; it’s gotten increasingly more difficult.

But it’s hard to explain in my position to our foreign counterparts that we don’t yet have positions filled that would be the natural interlocutors for their counterparts in other countries. But that’s something that we’re all frustrated by; it’s not in any way limited to myself or even to the State Department or USAID.

I don’t really pay a lot of attention to what is said. I really stay focused on the work that I do. I broke my elbow, not my larynx. (Laughter.) I have been consistently involved in the shaping and implementation of our foreign policy. And I’m off to India and Thailand tonight. I will be back to co-lead the Strategic and Economic Dialogue with China. I will be meeting with Prime Minister Maliki as we continue to support the transition of Iraq to a better future, and then I will be off to Africa. So I think that I’m just going to do the work and make the contribution. I feel very honored and positive about my working relationship with the White House and in my personal relationship with President Obama.

MR. KELLY: The next question to Hugues Poulin, Radio Canada.

QUESTION: I would like to ask you about Guantanamo. Canada has one citizen in Guantanamo. He was arrested in Afghanistan many years ago. He’s been six years or more now in Guantanamo. He’s facing serious charges. But many organizations consider him as a child soldier. They want him back to Canada. Even the judge asked government – Canadian Government to bring him back to Canada. But until now, the Government of Canada refused to do that, even challenged the judge decision, and appeal.

So are you going to ask Canadian Government to bring back Omar Khadr, or are you going to judge him in Guantanamo? I would like to know what’s the story now.

SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, as you know, President Obama, immediately upon taking office, recommitted our country to our basic values – prohibiting torture and setting in motion the closure of Guantanamo. There is an extremely rigorous process that is underway that is evaluating each and every one of the detainees. Some have already been released and transferred to either their home countries or other receiving countries. We’re going through this in a very thoughtful and diligent manner, so I don’t want to comment on any particular case.

But the President and certainly I and our entire Administration are 100 percent committed to the closure of Guantanamo, and to proceeding with the transfer of those who can be transferred, the trial of those who should be tried, and the continuing detention of those who pose a grave threat to not only our country, but people everywhere.

QUESTION: Omar Khadr will be trialed in Guantanamo?

SECRETARY CLINTON: I’m not – no, I’m not commenting on any individual case.

QUESTION: Thank you.

MR. KELLY: The next question is Jose Diaz, Reforma.

QUESTION: Hi, good afternoon. This is a question for Foreign Minister Cannon. As you know, the decision by Canadian authorities to require a visa for Mexican citizens willing to travel to Canada is causing an uproar in Mexico that even many people say goes against the spirit of these kind of meetings. There are thousands of businessmen and students in Mexico currently that one week ago didn’t need a visa, and now, they are required to produce a medical exam and a proof of not having a criminal record.

How are you going to solve this crisis? And when was exact date that you notified the Mexican foreign ministry about this decision?

FOREIGN MINISTER CANNON: Well, thank you for that question. First, let me be very clear in terms of our relations with Mexico. Canada enjoys a very strong and productive relationship with the Mexican Government. I have been to see Secretary Espinosa on a couple of occasions. We’ve discussed numerous issues. We’ve strengthened our trade relations over the course of numerous years, the tourism industry. We’ve been able to look at ways of expanding education and increasing, of course, our trade numbers with Mexico.

This issue, in terms of the visas – as you know, Canada had looked at the visa issue. We’ve looked at it for some time. Those people who are seeking refugee status are unduly high. We are in a position where we need to look at and find solutions. We will be working with the – with my Mexican counterpart, and my counterpart will also engage her colleague in immigration as well as Minister Kenney back in Canada to work this, work the solutions, and find the ways to be able to eventually lift the visa requirement.

But from now until such time as that occurs, we have to be able to straighten the situation out. And once again, I want to make this perfectly clear, the relations between Canada and Mexico far supersede the elements of visa requirements. It’s a very important relation that we want to continue to nourish and develop.

QUESTION: (Inaudible) by the notification to the foreign minister of Mexico, please?

FOREIGN MINISTER CANNON: Well, maybe my colleague can answer that.

FOREIGN MINISTER ESPINOSA: (Via interpreter) I wanted to say – is that first of all, I wanted to talk about the importance and the complexity and the size of the relationship that exists between Mexico and Canada, and how much we appreciate that relationship which has been so beneficial for our two countries and both of our societies.

Now having said that, I would also like to say that from the very first moment that we were notified that the intent was there of the Government of Canada to require visas for Mexican nationals traveling to that country, we stated, with a great deal of respect but also very firmly, that we were in disagreement with this measure, that it was our opinion that this is not something that is going to help to resolve the problem that Canada’s trying to solve, and also our willingness to work on an urgent basis and very intensely to achieve, as Minister Cannon said, in understanding ways that would allow us to correct this decision which has already been taken and that has been implemented by Canadian officials.

You asked me when? Monday. Monday was the day that we were formally notified. We had talked. We had been talking, of course, about this intent that this decision was coming, but when exactly we were – the decision was taken, when we were told, okay, we’re going to do this from now on, it was Monday. Later on – and I thank Minister Cannon for letting me have a bilateral space with him so that we can talk more broadly about the practical issues that have been coming up with respect to the implementation of this decision. Minister Cannon, thank you very much for that willingness, and we will continue to work in this constructive spirit, in the certainty that we will be able to solve these issues and go back to the way the situation was before.

QUESTION: Madame Secretary, I have (inaudible) Iran. Iran has announced today that the head of the Atomic agency, Mr. Aqazadeh, has resigned. He was vice president of the Islamic Republic and also a close ally of Mousavi. And tomorrow, Mousavi and Rafsanjani are going to participate in a big demonstration against the regime in Tehran. So I wanted to know what you make of the situation in Iran right now.

SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, as you may know, I talked about that yesterday in my speech. I don’t have anything to add to what I said before. Clearly, the decisions about what happens inside Iran regarding its future government makeup and other matters that are within the control of the Iranian people are ones that we watch with great interest, but know that it is up to Iran to determine the kind of future that it wants.

I would just underscore what I said yesterday, that we continue to believe that it would be in the long-term interests of Iran to begin to make different choices. It has a very stark choice as to whether or not it will make some changes that apparently many people in Iran want from the inside, and certainly, the international community is hoping to see in its external relations. But that is going to be up to the Iranians.

MR. KELLY: The next question, Sheldon Alberts, Canwest.

QUESTION: Hi, this is to Foreign Secretary Espinosa and to Minister Cannon. I’m wondering if you – if the Mexican Government is considering any sort of reciprocal action on Canadian citizens or if it would consider if there’s no satisfactory result in terms of Canadian – the Canadian Government lifting the visa requirement at some point. So I’m wondering, first of all, if there’s any retaliation planned.

Minister Cannon, I’m also wondering whether the Canadian Government may have underestimated the reaction to this. The European Union is saying that they may be requiring visas on Canadian travelers if it’s not satisfied that the action taken against the Czech Republic was appropriate.

FOREIGN MINISTER ESPINOSA: (Via interpreter) With respect to this issue, first of all, I’d like to repeat what we just said, how much we value our relationship with Canada; and, in that respect, to underline that in Mexico, every year, we get about 1,300,000 travelers from Canada. It’s one of the countries that brings an important number of tourists to Mexico. In fact, there are many Canadian citizens who have made second homes in Mexico, that have retired in Mexico, that spend some months in Mexico and some months in Canada.

We would not like to in any way damage this flow of people that so much benefits our country as well as Canadians, and it is for that reason that we do not expect to impose a visa requirement on Canadian tourists. However, because of the Canadian Government’s decision in the sense that visas are applied to every Mexican citizen, we have decided – and this was today communicated to the Canadian Government – that we are going to suspend the agreement to not use visas in official and diplomatic passports.

FOREIGN MINISTER CANNON: (Inaudible) that what needs to be said here clearly is that we’re not looking for – we’re not looking for difficulties with our allies. What we have noted, though, is that there has been an increase in the number of immigrants coming to Canada seeking refugee status, which was, as Minister Kenney pointed out, way beyond the levels that are acceptable. And so we need to be able to address this issue, engage this issue. We have done so through our domestic policy, and we will be doing so as well, seeking solutions and working cooperatively with our colleagues, both in Mexico as well as in the Czech Republic, to be able to find the ways to move forward.

Nothing in this situation would lead to believe that there is a permanency in all of this. We have to be able to find ways to move forward and to find solutions to it. But this having been said, we were, and we reached an unacceptable level. And therefore, we had to intervene and we had to act. And this is precisely what we did. Advance notice had been forwarded and given to the parties involved, and Canada acted according to what it needs to do.

QUESTION: (Inaudible.)

FOREIGN MINISTER CANNON: (Via interpreter) What I just said is that in both cases, we realized that it was an unacceptable level of people who were seeking asylum and seeking the status of refugee in Canada. This number was totally abnormal, and therefore, my colleague, the immigration minister, decided to take the measures that needed to be taken. Well, this being said, this doesn’t prevent us from going on and keep on working and finding with our colleagues from Mexico and with our colleagues from the Czech Republic the elements that will allow us to face this problem.

And I conclude in saying that my colleague, Minister Kenney, said that in Canada, we needed to reform our system. And therefore, it is a task that he’s going to work on in the next few weeks and few months.

But in conclusion, I want to repeat and underline the importance of our relations both with the European Union, with whom we are negotiating a wider economic space, but also with Mexico, which is a privileged partner in North America. And in many multilateral fora, we are working hand-in-hand to realize different things. They are our fifth commercial partner in importance.

MR. KELLY: Jesus Esquivel, Proceso.

QUESTION: Good afternoon. It’s for Madame Secretary Clinton, my question. In a few days, you’re going to present a report to the U.S. Congress in reference to the human rights situations in Mexico in the fight against drugs. We understand that you already take the decision, and it’s going to be not to withhold the money in the Merida Initiative for the Mexican case.

Lately, it has been a lot of reports in terms of the Mexican military are committing torture and horrible human rights violations in the fight against drugs. My question to you is: Do you believe, with this reported favor of Mexico, don’t you think the U.S. would lose moral authority in the human rights situation in terms of violations committed by the U.S. forces, like in Iraq, Afghanistan? And you are – in other words, in – you know, there are few human rights violations in Mexico. But anyway, we have to support the government of Felipe Calderon.

SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, let me say that I know that President Calderon is concerned about these matters. He has made very clear that one of his goals is to make sure that the police forces and the military forces in Mexico are well trained and certainly conduct themselves in a manner that meets all expectations and standards.

So what we see here is an administration under President Calderon locked in a very difficult battle with the most ruthless drug traffickers and criminal cartels anywhere on the planet. And we have worked very closely with his administration to provide additional support for police training, and it is our assessment that the steps taken and the commitment demonstrated by the Calderon administration is deserving of confidence.

Now does that mean that there are not violations or actions that we would find unacceptable? Of course not; that happens in any society. And certainly, we see it in big city police departments, we see it in military actions, and it’s not confined to any one country. But what we are evaluating is the level of commitment by the Calderon administration to deal with the challenges that it faces in putting together a police force that is under tremendous pressure – 16 police officers killed in the last several days. So of course, there has to be constant reminding of people on the front lines whose families are at risk, whose children are kidnapped, whose lives are endangered, that they must comply with certain standards, and we’re absolutely confident that that is the message being delivered by the Calderon administration.

Thank you very much.

MR. KELLY: Thank you very much.

PRN: 2009/743