Remarks With Mexican Foreign Secretary Jose Antonio Meade

Press Availability
John Kerry
Secretary of State
Secretariat of Foreign Affairs
Mexico City, Mexico
May 21, 2014

MODERATOR: (In progress, via interpreter) – couple of questions for both secretaries.

FOREIGN SECRETARY MEADE: (Via interpreter) Good morning. I would like to take this opportunity to welcome the Secretary of State of the United States, John Kerry. It is a great pleasure for us to receive him in our country, in this first official visit that he has had in our country. We have beyond a strong relationship; we have a very close dialogue, a dialogue that has a lot of actually (inaudible) different subjects which are important for both countries.

This time, we had a look at the progress of the different dialogue spaces. Is it working? Is the translation working?

SECRETARY KERRY: The translation’s working, but it cuts in and out.

FOREIGN SECRETARY MEADE: (Via interpreter) Well, so again, I welcome Mr. Kerry for – and I want to thank him for being here.

As I was saying, we have beyond a strong relationship and we have had a very good dialogue in this process. And this time, we have had a look at the progress of the different dialogue spaces that we have had in this program fostered by both administrations. The purpose is to follow up on the commitments made last year. We had the opportunity to look at the progress made in terms of the high-level economic dialogue and the progress being made in the national – in the U.S.-Mexican council for fostering innovation.

The idea is to foster companies – small and medium-sized companies – and to empower women. We started the Bilateral Forum on Higher Education, Innovation, and Research, a space that brings different institutions together – all of those in charge of developing public policies in order to make of education a key element.

As a result of this, a first group of Mexicans has left to improve their English, and this really shows the pace that we want to achieve, the type of mechanisms that we want to implement together. In Mexico, we want to exchange wellbeing opportunities for citizens in both countries, for Mexican communities in the United States. These communities have played an important role in terms of culture and economy, and they represent the future of our region.

We’re taking advantage of our network of consulate officers, always paying attention to the rights of citizens. In Mexico, we are trying to improve our economy, knowing that this joint venture will make of North America the most competitive region in the world. Again, I want to thank Mr. Kerry for his time, for his willingness to have this open dialogue, and be welcome.

SECRETARY KERRY: Good afternoon, everybody. Buenas tardes. I am very happy to be here. I want to thank my friend, Pepe, for his welcome here. He’s been a great partner. We have talked many times. And as I commented earlier, the education/innovation/research bilateral discussion, I think, (inaudible) my first or second point that I made when I first became Secretary of State. We’ve had an excellent cooperative relationship. President Obama was here in March. That’s his fifth trip. Vice President Biden here last September. So we will continue to be growing the strength of this relationship with high-level visits, and most importantly, with a cooperative agenda.

We’ve had a very constructive and very in-depth discussion this morning with the – you okay?


SECRETARY KERRY: Is the translation working?


SECRETARY KERRY: No, I can tell it’s not. (Inaudible.) (Laughter.) Should we test it? One, two, three, four, five, testing. One, two, three, four, five.

PARTICIPANT: Yeah, it’s working now.

SECRETARY KERRY: So I was saying that we had a very comprehensive and very constructive working lunch, and I’m now looking forward to an afternoon meeting with President Pena Nieto and also a meeting with major businessmen and women from Mexico.

There are really few countries with whom the United States enjoys as dynamic and as close a relationship as the one that we enjoy with Mexico. Our interests are obviously intertwined in many ways. We are neighbors, but we also have a common set of objectives, a common set of goals and aspirations. And because of our histories, our people are connected as closely as any two peoples on Earth.

As I said in January when Foreign Secretary Meade visited the State Department, when one of us prospers, both of us prosper; when one of us succeeds, we all succeed. And as North America itself becomes increasingly competitive as a continent, then our futures are going to be linked even more closely together.

Foreign Secretary Meade and I covered a lot of ground today. And the fact is that more than a billion dollars a day passes between us in bilateral trade. That literally translates into thousands of jobs, from Baja to Yucatan, from Boston all the way to Los Angeles. We all benefit from that economic relationship. When Presidents Obama and Pena Nieto met last year, they agreed to create a new high-level economic dialogue in order to foster more trade and more jobs and to spur even greater economic development, and most importantly, better opportunity for the citizens of both of our countries.

Today, I will meet with business leaders, this evening, and we’re going to talk about how we can use that dialogue in order to advance our interests and to ensure that our citizens have an even greater amount of opportunity and benefit from the growth that takes place between our countries.

Frankly, it is our citizens who ultimately define the relationship between us. And to make sure that that continues, we have invested time and energy in strengthening the education, research and innovation ties between our nations. Today, we had former Secretary of Homeland Security Janet Napolitano, former Cabinet member and now president of the University of California; we had the president of Arizona State University; we had other education leaders here working with your secretary, the secretary of education of Mexico, and other education leaders in Mexico – not just to talk, but to define between us a real agenda, a real set of objectives that will see more students from America study here in Mexico, and more Mexicans study in America, that will see us have more research and innovation projects where we create the jobs and the opportunities of the future. And I am convinced that this is the way that we’re going to strengthen our ties as well as, ultimately, our security and our economies.

Part of the cooperation that we’re focused on comes in the form of these educational exchanges. Already, there are 14,000 Mexicans studying in the United States every year, and 4,000 Americans studying here in Mexico. We want both numbers to grow. President Obama has set a target of 100,000 students going each way between the United States and Mexico, Central America, Latin America. We believe that that is achievable, and we’re ready to do more in order to achieve it.

Part of the reason that I’m also excited about the scientific and the research and innovation exchange is because of the essential role that that plays in clean energy, in dealing with the problem of climate change, and in helping especially with the clean technology initiative, the challenge which I’ll address later today. We have an opportunity to be able to create more jobs that are sustainable and that speak to the future of both of our countries. Clean energy is the mother of all markets. It’s the biggest market in the world. And all of us can benefit by moving in that kind of direction.

Finally, Foreign Secretary Meade and I discussed our cooperation on security and immigration – always issues of concern, but issues on which we are making significant progress. We reaffirmed our commitment to meeting our shared challenges in the spirit of a shared responsibility and mutual respect that characterizes – and must characterize – our bilateral relationship.

The world saw the seriousness of Mexico’s commitment to security with the remarkable capture of El Chapo, and we applaud our neighbors for all of their efforts in that initiative. We will continue to work together to respond to threats of transnational criminal organizations and to recognize that they pose a threat not to one country or the other but to both countries simultaneously.

I also reaffirmed to Foreign Secretary Meade that President Obama is determined to reform our immigration system, a goal that a majority of the American people support. It is the right thing to do. Reform, done the right way, will not only benefit our security and our economy, but it will provide for long-overdue relief to immigrant families that include many Mexican-Americans. So that is a very fundamental commitment by the President and myself and the Administration that we’re going to everything in our power to move. The Senate, as you know, has passed legislation; the House of Representatives has the bill in front of it. We’ hope that we can get that bill taken up. This is a matter of fundamental justice, fundamental relationship between countries. It needs to be done, it’s long overdue, and we hope we can make it happen.

So Foreign Secretary Meade, thank you for your always very generous welcome. Thank you for your partnership, and we look forward to continuing to work together, and I look forward to answering the questions with you.

MS. HARF: Great. Well, our first question comes from Tricia – excuse me – Tricia Zengerle of Reuters. Go ahead.

QUESTION: Thank you, sirs. For Secretary Kerry: The dialogue between President Maduro and the opposition has broken down and there’s growing unrest in Venezuela. There’s concern that time’s running out. What are the United States and Mexico prepared to do to address the crisis? And more importantly, what can the two governments do? Is the United States finally prepared to impose sanctions? And lastly, for Mr. Secretary: Has President Putin outmaneuvered the United States by signing an energy deal with China?

And for Foreign Minister Meade: What are your concerns about the direction of the crisis in Venezuela, and what is your assessment – what is Mexico’s assessment – about what can be done and what should be done?

Thank you very much.

SECRETARY KERRY: Well, with respect to Venezuela, substantial effort has been made by the Unasur Group, personal engagement by the foreign ministers of Brazil, Colombia, and Ecuador, along with the papal nuncio. And we have had high hopes that this effort to mediate was going to produce a product that would put Venezuela on the route to recovery – recovery in terms of its economy and recovery in terms of the politics, the relationship of the government with the people.

Regrettably, there has just been a total failure by the Government of Venezuela to demonstrate good-faith actions to implement those things that they agreed to do approximately a month ago. And so we believe that what is important for the Venezuelan Government now to honor the dialogue process and to restore the civil liberties of opposition leaders who have been unjustly imprisoned and to protect the human rights of those who were simply trying to exercise their democratic right to express dissent.

The power is in the hands of the government, and the government has to exercise that power in a responsible way in order to make the choices to create stability and a way forward in Venezuela. All of this region will benefit if they will honor the agreements that have been made.

So we are witnessing an impatience that is growing in the neighborhood, and we consider ourselves to part of the neighborhood. We have great concern about the instability that is created as a result of what is happening in Venezuela. And again and again, we have said to Venezuela: We’re prepared to have a normal relationship. We are not engaged in any activities in Venezuela, except – in fact, we’ve purposely tried to encourage others: the foreign ministers I named and the papal nuncio. I personally visited in Rome with the secretary of state, His Eminence Cardinal Parolin, and we discussed the possibility of the Vatican being engaged as a mediator.

This is important for all of us. Our interest is for a stable, peaceful, democratic Venezuela that respects the interests of its people. And so our hope is that sanctions will not be necessary. Our hope is that we can move in the direction of reconciliation and a political path forward. But Congress clearly – the Congress of the United States is discussing those sanctions now. They have already passed some legislation reflecting that attitude; they’re moving it. And our hope is that the leaders, that President Maduro and others will make decisions that will make it unnecessary for them to be implemented. But all options remain on the table at this time, with the hopes that we can move the process forward.

With respect to President Putin and China, we don’t see any relationship whatsoever to an agreement with respect to gas and an energy supply between Russia and China that they’ve been working on for 10 years – for 10 years. This isn’t new. This isn’t a sudden response to what’s been going on. And if the world benefits as a result of that, it’s fine. That’s not what’s at stake here.

What’s at stake here is whether or not Russia is going to decide to respect the right of Ukrainians to be able to decide their future. And I don’t personally think that Russia signing a deal with China for gas that they’ve been working on for 10 years has any impact on what is about to happen in Ukraine, which is the people hopefully are going to have a chance to have an election.

And we welcome President Putin’s statement two days ago that he has instructed the troops that have been bivouacked on the border of Ukraine to move back to their home bases, to move away from there. If that happens – and we’re watching carefully – that’s extremely constructive. It’s positive. And we hope that – and the president has also – President Putin made other statements with respect to the separatist process going forward.

So it is possible with cooperative effort by everybody engaged here – the Europeans who have been involved in – most recently in some of the efforts to create a dialogue; working with the UN, with us, and with others; the efforts of the government of Kyiv; the interim government in Kyiv; and the efforts, obviously, of some leaders particularly in the east, recently, who have demonstrated courage in standing up for law and order and for a restoration of the process that will free people from this conflict.

So hopefully, we, in fact, are in a good moment – not a moment of one party outwitting another, but at a constructive moment where there’s a possibility of the people of Ukraine being able to determine their future, and all of us trying to find a way to further de-escalate this crisis. That’s our goal and that’s what we’re focused on.

FOREIGN SECRETARY MEADE: Secretary Kerry, thank you. Mexico has always believed that the way through conflict is dialogue. We have been very supportive of the dialogue process in Venezuela, but believe – we believe that this dialogue has to have some characteristics for it to be successful. We believe that the dialogue first has to be respectful; the dialogue has to – of course, to be inclusive; and the dialogue should bring about refocus.

In order for that dialogue to be meaningful, it should be held in an environment which is clearly respectful of human rights. We have stated that here. We have stated that in Venezuela when I went for my unofficial visit, but we have also stated that of which – for that process and that dialogue process to be very respectful of our democratic institutions. Latin America has worked very hard to generate the conditions for democracy to be born. So we think that the dialogue should have all of these characteristics, but at the same time it should be held within the context of the democratic institutions that we have constructed and with so much effort within the Latin American region.

MODERATOR: (In Spanish.)

QUESTION: (Via interpreter) This is a question for Secretary Kerry. When President Pena came into office, the level that he would have with the United States was questionable, especially in terms of unity. After one year and a half, what do you think about the relationship of this administration with the United States?

You said that the United States doesn’t have any interest in Venezuela, only to foster dialogue. But how can you explain that in Mexico, we learned some time ago that U.S. operatives was spying the candidate Pena Nieto. And recently, we found out that many of the telephone calls are wired. How can you explain this to the Mexican population in terms of migration? Is it true that President Obama has – it is true that President Obama has been fostering the reform, but it seems that he’s going into history as the president that has deported the most migrants. I know that this is something related to Congress, but I don’t know what is the position of President Obama and how he wants to go into history.

SECRETARY KERRY: Well, I believe President Obama will go down in history as the president who has held himself and his Administration accountable to the highest standards of transparency and accountability. The President has personally committed his Administration, which it has accomplished, to take an in-depth analysis of precisely what was happening, which everybody here knows President Obama didn’t order because he was in the Senate – and not even in the Senate – when much of this was put in place. And President Obama

And President Obama has ordered a process of accountability and transparency, and has been willing to lay it out for the world to see and understand that process of accountability. He gave a speech recently in which he set up new standards by which he believed the United States ought to behave, and I will tell you, because I was the author in the United States Senate with Senator John McCain of privacy with respect to the Internet and other uses, that we both believe very, very powerfully in the right of people to privacy (inaudible).

Now at the same time, the President of the United States has a fundamental responsibility to protect our people and to help protect people in the rest of the world who are potentially targeted by vicious extremists, terrorists in various parts of the world. The fact is that we have, because of our capable intelligence-gathering, been able to thwart many plots which would’ve resulted in the loss of civilian lives in one attack or another. There’s a delicate balance, and President Obama has worked very, very hard to achieve that balance. No President, I think, in our history has laid open as willingly for everybody to judge what we are doing as a guideline or as a standard by which we are going to try to balance this equity between security and protection and prevention versus privacy and respect for the rights of all of our citizens. And I think the President will actually be measured as having taken the most extraordinary steps of any president in our history in order to try to put that relationship back in balance.

Now, with respect to the relationship with President Pena Nieto and Mexico, I am convinced that our relationship is as strong and as vital as it has been. It is as productive on cross-border issues, on immigration issues, extradition issues, deportation issues; on our mutual interests in the economy; on our mutual interests of innovation, research, education that we’ve just been talking about – I don’t think we’ve ever had as in-depth and as repeated a series of meetings in an effort to make sure we’re on track. Now, does everything change overnight? No. I wish it did in lots of respects. But we are on track, with the agenda that we have set and the relationship that has been created, to deal with any bumps in the road, to work through difficulties of border police or policing or military, other kinds of things.

We’re working cooperatively. That’s what’s important. And we have made tremendous gains in the actual cooperation day to day in those endeavors. So I think the people of the United States and the people of Mexico should be pleased with the direction that we’re moving in. It’s open, it’s transparent, it’s accountable, and it’s productive. And I think we’re headed in the right direction.

FOREIGN SECRETARY MEADE: (Via interpreter) I’ll make further comments. This meeting has given us the opportunity to open a dialogue about different topics. At the beginning, President Pena Nieto had two objectives. He was convinced that Latin America could be very dynamic, even competitive. He thought that Latin America could be the most dynamic and economic region. He’s convinced that in order to have a good dialogue with the United States, it was necessary to find different spaces for different topics.

As the Secretary Kerry was saying, we have a million (inaudible) every year, and we have had benefits of this exchange. But we want to have a more structured dialogue so we can talk about migration, security in a framework of the right of migrants. That’s something that Mexico has always fostered, and we agree with President Obama. Security is a shared responsibility.

Apart from those two important subjects, Mexico and the United States are investing in education. We are investing capital – human capital – to increase the number of students going to the other country. We are talking about entrepreneurship; we are talking about empowering women; we are talking about giving people the power to manage their own businesses; we are talking about climate; we are talking about multilateral dialogues. And these have been achieved. We have the commitment of Obama’s Administration, and with the help of Secretary Kerry we have achieved a very well-balanced dialogue that will bring us together, that will bring us closer to this objective of making Latin America a very competitive region.

So the relationship between the two countries can be seen in terms of respect, with the necessary spaces to talk about very important topics. Today we are talking about education, the Bilateral Forum on Higher Education, Innovation, and Research. This type of initiatives will make sure that Latin America will be a point of the spear in order to achieve the competitiveness that we want to achieve. Thank you very much.