Press Availability Following the G20 Ministerial Meetings

Hillary Rodham Clinton
Secretary of State
Los Cabos, Mexico
February 20, 2012

SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, good afternoon. And let me begin by thanking our hosts. It was an absolute pleasure to be here, and I want to express my appreciation to President Calderon, to Secretary Espinosa, and to the entire Mexican team for putting together what has been a quite informative and important gathering. And now that I’ve seen this beautiful place for myself, I can understand why so many whales come here to visit. It is, however, less clear to me why they ever leave, but that’s up to them I suppose.

This has been, for our team coming from the U.S., a great opportunity to discuss matters of important – importance to the bilateral relationship with Mexico, but also to catch up on the full range of regional and global issues that concern us with our – with my colleagues. And I think it’s fair to say, as I made the point in the first working session yesterday, Mexico is emerging as a leader in bringing nations together to solve problems that none of us can solve on our own. And this meeting of foreign ministers from G-20 and beyond is yet another example of that.

Now more than ever, foreign policy and economic policy are inseparable. Prosperity has to be a core foreign policy goal for all of us, and economic forces virtually impact every aspect of how our nations engage. And what’s more, we are increasingly seeing strong connections between traditional G-20 financial issues and questions about economic development, the environment, and good governance. In an age when more people in more places can participate in the global economy, we have to expand the range of partners working to take on our most pressing shared challenges and to work together to take advantage of these new opportunities.

So this has been a very excellent and all too rare chance to connect informally. It was, for me, a great opportunity to kick-off yesterday’s first session on breaking deadlocks in the multilateral system. I discussed some of the challenges to open, free, fair, transparent – transparency in the system of competition that we need if we’re going to continue to expand prosperity and include everyone in it.

Today’s sessions focused on all kinds of issues of great importance. I’ll just mention a few. The role that green growth can and should play – and again, I commend President Calderon, Secretary Espinosa, and the Mexican Government, because they have been leaders in this. The work that came out of Cancun was absolutely essential to what was then the follow-on work in Durban. The very creative idea that President Calderon put on the table back in ’09 for a green growth fund was given more specificity. So across the board, whether it was talking about how we grow our economies, how we create both energy security and a market for renewable energy, how we include more women across the world as full participants in the economy, we covered a lot of important matters.

And then finally, this morning, Secretary Salazar and I were proud to represent the United States as we signed a groundbreaking agreement with Mexico regarding oil and gas reserves in the Gulf of Mexico. For too long, uncertainty in this area about the reservoirs of oil and gas has impeded our progress and created grounds for dispute instead of cooperation.

Today, the agreement we signed will remove the uncertainty. It will make exploration and production safer, more efficient, more equitable for companies in both countries. It will advance energy security in our hemisphere and help us handle our energy resources more responsibly. And for the first time, American energy firms will be able to collaborate with PEMEX, their Mexican counterpart. That’s a welcome benefit for both Mexico and the United States in these challenging economic times.

So it’s a great pleasure to be here and to renew friendships with a lot of my Mexican contacts and counterparts. I particularly appreciate working with both the president and the secretary, but what is most important is that both of us are intent upon delivering concrete, positive results for the American and Mexican people.

So with that, I’d be happy to take your questions.

MS. NULAND: We’ll take two today. First one from Indira Lakshmanan of Bloomberg.

QUESTION: Thank you, Madam Secretary. We wanted to ask, if the Arab League or others were determined that they had to arm the Syrian opposition to stop the government violence being inflicted upon the people, would the U.S. accept that?

And in Egypt, American NGO workers have been charged and a trial date has been set. Are you confident the situation can be resolved before a trial and avoid a cutoff of U.S. aid to Egypt?

SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, Indira, first with respect to Syria, I had the opportunity over the last two days to discuss Syria with a number of my colleagues. And we are all working toward the planned Friends of Syria meeting at the end of this week, which we think will give us a chance to come together and chart a way forward.

I think, like the UN General Assembly resolution that passed overwhelmingly last week, the upcoming meeting will demonstrate that Assad’s regime is increasingly isolated and that the brave Syrian people need our support and solidarity. Their suffering has to be addressed, so we have to focus on humanitarian issues and think of the best ways to deliver the necessary humanitarian aid. We have to work toward an inclusive, democratic process to lead a transition. Every group of Syrians needs to feel that they are represented, that their interests will be respected. We have to prepare for the likelihood that the Syrian regime is going to be under increasing pressure, which will create perhaps more space for all of us to push hard on a transition. And we will intensify our diplomatic outreach to those countries that are still supporting the Assad regime.

This is a challenging process, but mostly for the people of Syria, who every day are living with the results of this brutal crackdown that they are suffering under. So I don’t want to get ahead of the meeting that will be a very large gathering that will demonstrate, once again, the international unity in the face of the Assad regime. We’ll send a clear message to Russia, China, and others, who are still unsure about how to handle the increasing violence, but are, up until now, unfortunately, making the wrong choices. And I think we’ll have more to say as we go through this week and after the meeting.

With respect to Egypt and the NGO situation, I’m not going to speculate on the next steps based on press reports. I want you to understand clearly that we are not only deeply concerned about the situation as it affects not only Americans who are working in NGOs in Egypt, but other nationalities and even Egyptians who have been charged in this case. We’ve had a senior team in Cairo in recent days trying to work through the issues so that they can be resolved as soon as possible. And I think it’s probably better just to continue the hard work of our engagement and hope that we’ll see a resolution soon.

MS. NULAND: Last question, Silva Garduno of Reforma.



QUESTION: Good afternoon. My questions are related to organized crime. How do you think a forum like this, like G-20, should address transnational organized crime? In this sense, well, last week President Calderon sent a very graphic message about stopping the traffic of arms from the U.S. The sign actually read, “No more weapons in the border.” What is your answer to that message?

And finally, and very briefly, what do you think about organized crime infiltrating the highest levels of government in Mexico? And by this, I mean Mexican former governors of border states with the U.S. currently being investigated. Thank you.

SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, those are very important questions. And I want to begin by underscoring our support for the courage that President Calderon, the Mexican Government, law enforcement officials, and others have shown in their struggle against these criminal cartels. This is an important struggle, and we are doing all we can to support the Mexican Government as they, slowly but surely, gain ground against transnational crime.

We also believe strongly that transnational crime is a global threat. It’s not just a threat in Mexico or – name any other country. These gangs certainly operate across national boundaries. They pose a serious danger to law-abiding people and governments everywhere. So we are determined to assist the Mexican Government in their very courageous struggle against the cartels. And that means helping to stop the flow of illegal drugs and weapons to and from the cartels that fuel the violence here and elsewhere.

We’ve certainly increased our cooperation, and I would argue we’ve improved our assistance to be responsive to what Mexican Government officials tell us is needed. We are in much more close contact and really following the lead of our Mexican counterparts. We have an aggressive pursuit of illegal gunrunners who operate in the United States. Our goal is to end all illegal movement of guns across our border.

And in fact, President Obama has placed and increased emphasis on stemming the outbound flows of weapons and the flow of criminal proceeds from both weapons and, more significantly, the drug trade. Specials Customs – special Customs and Border Protection teams at the U.S. border are screening outbound rail and vehicle traffic for weapons and bulk currency. We are using cutting-edge technology to screen 100 percent of rail traffic headed into Mexico, and we’ve placed Border Enforcement Security teams along the border to investigate the organizations that are involved in cross-border smuggling.

The United States and Mexico share responsibility for our common border. Most of the times, it’s a border that a billion dollars a day in trade passes across, literally millions of contacts between people, and we want to keep it a vibrant, dynamic border while we work continuously to eliminate the threats that pass back and forth into both of our countries.

So I think we’ve made a lot of progress, but we have a long way to go, because these are violent, vicious gangs. It’s heartbreaking what they are willing to do to fellow human beings. There has been a lot of progress because of the Mexican Government’s leadership in bringing down a lot of the leadership of these gangs.

But we have no illusions about the necessity for the United States to be a strong partner with Mexico. And that includes, certainly on our side of the border, seeking out and arresting corrupt officials and supporting Mexican officials to do the same. Because it is just totally unacceptable that any officials would be profiting from this kind of violence and the terrible results that it has had for so many people in Mexico.

But I just want to end by saying that I think – I have a lot of confidence in the Mexican people and I have no reason to doubt that, as we’ve seen in other countries, Mexico will be successful.

MS. NULAND: Thank you very much.

PRN: 2012/T60-02