Remarks With Canadian Foreign Minister John Baird and Mexican Foreign Secretary Jose Antonio Meade

Press Availability
John Kerry
Secretary of State
Faneuil Hall
Boston, Massachusetts
January 31, 2015


SECRETARY KERRY: Good afternoon, everybody. I tell you what, you know it’s cold when the foreign minister of Canada says it’s really cold out there. (Laughter.)

I am really delighted today to be able to welcome my friends from North America, my counterparts from Canada and Mexico. It is a real pleasure to have John and Pepe here, and I personally am really delighted to be able to welcome them to the great City of Boston. This is a special city, and not just because it is my hometown, obviously, and certainly not just because it will be represented in a certain athletic competition tomorrow. But from the time of the original patriots, I had the pleasure earlier today of giving a little bit of the history of Faneuil Hall and the Revolution. We just ate over at the Union Oyster House where there’s a panoply of panels that reflect the journey of the revolution, so we’ve been able to not just share a great meal but to share a little bit of history.

And from the time of the original patriots, to the rise of the movement to abolish slavery, to the more recent days of “Boston Strong,” to the swearing-in of new citizens right here in this hall this coming week, Boston is a city that has always stood for honor, for courage, and freedom. And those are the exact same values that bind the United States, Canada, and Mexico.

On that note, I want to take a moment to express my condolences publicly, as I did privately to Foreign Minister Meade, our condolences to the Mexican people for the tragic explosion in a maternity hospital outside of Mexico City on Thursday morning. As I told Foreign Secretary Meade, we are willing to help in any way that we can, and already we know that one of the victims has been flown to Texas for treatment. And we’re happy to try to provide any assistance that we can, Pepe.

I also want to thank our neighbors to the north as we recover across Massachusetts and beyond from a record-breaking storm. Canadian crews very quickly answered the call to assist in the cleanup efforts, and we’re very grateful to them.

As we struggle to respond to these events, it’s more than fair to say that we are neighbors who act like neighbors should. And we are three nations not separated, but in fact brought together by peaceful borders and close family ties. And we’re working as partners to build a safe, sustainable, and prosperous North America and inter-American community, and combine our strengths in order to deal with a host of global challenges.

One such challenge which we discussed this morning is, of course, violent extremism. The United States grieved for Canada after the terrorist attacks in Ottawa and Quebec last fall. And we, of course, are seared by our memory of our own painful experiences, and Mexico has too often seen brutal violence within its borders. All three governments are determined to protect our citizens through vigilance, the sharing of information, and the support that we provide to partners overseas in order to fight this violence at its roots.

We want to be clear: There are no grounds of history, religion, ideology, politics, or economic disadvantage that justify terrorism. And so this afternoon, John and Pepe and I discussed the range of efforts that are underway to defeat violent extremism wherever and whenever it occurs. We took note of the important success of our anti-ISIL coalition that we had in Kobani, where today Daesh was forced to acknowledge its own defeat. We have a long way to go in the overall campaign, but Daesh – ISIL, as some know it – has said all along that Kobani was a real symbolic and strategic objective. They said so themselves; they defined it as such. So pushing them out of there is a big deal. And make no mistake: We will also use the same tools that we used to get there – the tools of cooperation and support – to defeat violent transnational criminal organizations and ensure that the rule of law thrives for all of our people.

Together we’re also taking steps to grow our economies in ways that are both inclusive and sustainable. Every single day, the United States does more than $3 billion in trade with our North American partners. Commerce between Canada and the City of Boston tops 7 billion annually. Boston’s trade with Mexico is another 4.5 billion. Canada and Mexico have invested more than 300 billion in the United States, and I’m looking forward to visiting one of those investments this evening when the three of us head for the Canadian-owned TD Bank Center to watch the Bruins beat the LA Kings. (Laughter.)

The fact is that if any of us want to compete in the global marketplace today, we have to make it easier for trade and investment to take place across our borders. Exports to our NAFTA partners support nearly 3 million American jobs. To create more, we need to do more. And new trade agreements like the Trans-Pacific Partnership, which would bring more growth and wider prosperity to all nations that participate, are the centerpiece of those efforts. TPP is a state-of-the-art agreement that would connect more than 40 percent of global GDP and one-third of global trade. But more than that, it will also raise standards; it will create a race to the top, not a race to the bottom. And that’s true whether we’re talking about agriculture, manufacturing, intellectual property, or ensuring that state-owned enterprises compete fairly with private companies.

Now, this isn’t just a technical trade agreement. It’s a huge strategic opportunity, and that’s the way we defined it here today in our discussions. The United States, Canada, and Mexico are determined to seize this opportunity together.

Ultimately, the true test for our economies is not just whether we grow, but it is how we grow. With an eye towards preserving and sustaining our planet – and that means dealing with the issues of climate change and the environment in the Arctic – so we continued our trilateral conversations today on clean energy, which is essential to mitigating the harmful effects of global climate change. This is a battle that we can and must win. Secretary Baird was very eloquent in the – Minister Baird was eloquent in his statements about the impact of climate change.

And here in Massachusetts we have a perfect case study of what clean energy in the economy can mean, thanks to smart investments and a regulatory environment that sends a strong and reliable, responsible signal. The business community here, the clean tech community is already a $10 billion part of the economy of this state, and it’s still expanding. And what is working here, I promise you, is working elsewhere. The United States, Canada, and Mexico have a shared responsibility that transcends any one particular project, and we all agreed today we have a great opportunity to join together in a North American energy partnership that can actually lead the way towards a clean energy future.

This is not a tradeoff between our environment and our economies. Quite the opposite; getting this right is a major, major economic opportunity for those who are smart enough to seize it. And that means strong mitigation targets, strong domestic climate policies, strong commitment to working together to achieve a new global agreement on climate change this December in Paris is good for all of our economies, and we agreed 100 percent on how important it is.

Finally, our discussions today also faced up squarely to our responsibility to stand up for and fight for our shared commitment to democratic values and human rights, the strengthening of the OAS and the inter-American system, and the importance of preparing for a successful Summit of the Americas in Panama in April. We are determined to make that gathering a meaningful one by focusing on practical solutions to tough problems and by supporting improved governance, the active role of an independent civil society, and solidarity in the face of such threats as organized crime. I note that Cuba will be a participant at this summit. Our new approach to Cuba will empower the Cuban people to determine their own future, and we look forward to working with Mexico, Canada, and the inter-American community to advance respect for human rights in Cuba.

In closing, let me just repeat my words of welcome to my colleagues who genuinely have become good friends. We have worked together now for two years on so many different issues, and we’ve gotten to know each other, respect each other, like each other, and really enjoy the process of trying to put good policy in place. So it’s great to have you here. I know that Bostonians are delighted that you could come, proud to have you here as our guests. We recognize good neighbors when we see them and work with them, and we very much hope that despite the cold you enjoy your stay. Thank you.

FOREIGN MINISTER BAIRD: Thank you very much, John. It’s a great pleasure for me to be here in Boston with Canada’s North American neighbors. I’d especially like to thank you, John, for your warm hospitality and inviting us here and having us in your home yesterday. You know we knew the meeting was over last night when you said, “Get out of my house.” (Laughter.) But seriously, this has been an important opportunity for us to take some time to really dig into a number of key regional and global issues.

(Via interpreter) The United States, Mexico, and Canada are allies and partners in North America, but also throughout the world. Everybody is a winner when we work together. I am therefore delighted that we have found time to discuss together of all these issues.

John and Pepe and I have had very useful discussions focused on economic competitiveness, on job creation, on energy, and regional and security cooperation. Canada is actively seeking to expand even further our trade and investment ties across North America. This means jobs and it means growth for all of us. By strengthening the foundations here at home in North America, we can make sure our peoples enjoy sustainable prosperity for years to come. Of course, a huge part of that will involve the energy sector, and energy is at the leading edge of the North American cooperation. We are blessed with huge natural resources. With determination and Mexico’s historic reforms to its energy sector, we could make this a North American decade, as David Petraeus has put it.

And as you know, in the spirit of North American cooperation, Canada is very keen to make sure that we don’t delay in building the important infrastructure that we need. Where there is a need for North American energy imports, they should be filled with North American resources.

And finally on security issues, I believe that terrorism is the great struggle of our generation, and no nation is somehow immune to that. Sadly, this great city knows the impact of terrorism far too well, as does my hometown of Ottawa. I was truly grateful that John came up to Ottawa within days of the October attacks to show his solidarity with the Canadian people and to pay his respects. We all have to do what we can to stop the cancer of terrorism.

On the home front, yesterday Prime Minister Stephen Harper announced new anti-terror laws to give our security agencies the tools they need to keep Canadians safe. On the global level, we reiterate here today that the dangerous cult, the death cult that is ISIL, or Daesh, is an outrageous affront to our values and an outrageous affront to basic humanity.

We share deep concerns about Russian-sponsored violence in Ukraine which has resulted in the deaths of another 15 Ukrainian soldiers in just the past 24 hours. We also had a session on cyber security, which is something we’re all grappling with more and more. So I think it’s been a genuinely productive couple of days, and I look forward to broadening discussions when we meet with our hemispheric neighbors at the Summit of the Americas in Panama.

We want to acknowledge the truly historic change in American policy with respect to Cuba. We are a country who believes that the more Americans, American values, American capitalism that permeates Cuba, the freer the Cuban people will be. And not only was it about time, but it actually was at the perfect time that this important reform and this change in policy was made.

This evening, I’m looking forward to see the Bruins take on the Kings. With your recent weather and a hockey game, I want to tell you, John, I feel right at home. Thank you very much. Merci beaucoup.

FOREIGN SECRETARY MEADE: Thank you. Good afternoon. We are very, very grateful to our great host, Secretary Kerry, for having us visit his beautiful hometown. He has been a host and has shared with us his love for this city, for this state, for this community, and it’s a love that’s really contagious.

The first thing that we agreed in this trilateral is that subsequent winter meetings will be held further down south. (Laughter.) So we will continue to visit when the climate is probably better. But I think it’s fair to say that holding these trilaterals in Mexico during the winter might be a preferable alternative in the near future.

(Via interpreter) We arrived at this summit with very clear ideas that North America is a part of us. And in our agenda we realize that behind each of the topics, there is the idea of North America and the advantage that we face all this with this perspective.

It’s also clear that in the case of commerce there are many advantages that we have to face the world with our trade. In the specific example of TPP, Mexico has participated in negotiations. The fact that we’re together with our commercial and trade partners in North America so that we can push from this point of view a trade agreement before which we are truly committed.

We believe that climate change offers great advantages if it’s presented as a North American topic, and if North America presents itself to the world with a region – as a region that has public policies that will help us face climate change.

Likewise in the field of health, we identify that the fact that North America has faced these pandemics and has given us lessons so that we can make sure that our coordination is even wider. We want to make sure that we strengthen our capacities before such threats as Ebola.

We spoke about cyber security and the logic that it’s an additional dimension on which we have to coordinate ourselves so that North America becomes a cyber-safe region.

And Mexico wants to take advantage of this opportunity to dialogue, to recognize, and thank the decisions in terms of immigration have been taken by President Obama. We will be very sure to be providing information to our population and to our communities so that nobody is – doesn’t understand the benefits this new policy change.

Like Canada, Mexico wants to recognize what has been done in our space, and the change – but in the terms of the dialogue that has begun between the United States and Cuba. This doesn’t mean that we’re renouncing anything. We’re not renouncing our principles, our values. On the contrary, we know that dialogue is the best pathway to find a future full of prosperity and peace. We spoke about that and this new encounter, this new enthusiasm in the North American region with the United States and Central America. I’m sure that all the resources will help to make sure that there is a greater prosperity in that region, peace inclusion both in Mexico as well as North America. We also spoke about the importance of many other elements.

But we depart this meeting convinced that Mexico, Canada, and the United States can benefit from the idea of North America. We come away convinced that looking at things from a North America way, with a North American lens, with a North American perspective, we can present ourselves as a united front in the global economy and on global issues. We believe, Mexico believes, that our strength comes from working together, and we are convinced that as any good neighbors, we have much to benefit from each other with the conviction that it is together that we will prosper.

So thank you again, Secretary Kerry. It’s been a pleasure, Secretary Baird. Last time we spoke, we said that NAFTA had done a lot of things well, except for soccer in Canada and hockey in Mexico. So today, they’re going to teach me lessons in hockey to see whether we can implement some cooperation programs there. Thank you.

MODERATOR: (Inaudible) questions. The first is from Tracee Herbaugh, the Associated Press. Go ahead.

QUESTION: Secretary Kerry – is this on? Okay. The House and the Senate have both spoken. They would like the Keystone pipeline built. President Obama has threatened to veto it. Do you think it should be built? Were there any discussions about the Keystone pipeline this weekend?

And then the second question is that certain news outlets are reporting that a U.S. official and – or, sorry, a U.S. official has confirmed that the CIA worked together with Mossad to kill a senior Hizballah militant. Is this true? And if so, what are the implications of this disclosure for the Iran nuclear talks and any Middle East peace efforts?

SECRETARY KERRY: Well, first of all, with respect to Keystone, it’ll come as no surprise to you that the President has been very clear about where things stand with respect to the pipeline process, consistent with all of our past practices. The pipeline is under review at this moment by the State Department in order to determine whether or not the project serves our national interest. And that’s the proper approach in making a determination whether or not it goes forward.

So we think it’s important that this review be conducted in – consistent with practices, with process. The process needs to be honored, not circumvented, and that means that there has to be the thorough sort of process of determination. So we’re continuing to conduct the rigorous, and, I might add, transparent objective review. I think I am due all of the input on that by Monday or so, right around the corner now. All the agencies have to report back to us. And at that point, it’s in our hands for me to make a recommendation to send to the President, the President to make a decision at some point in the future. I think by this Monday, all the relevant agencies, per the President’s executive order, have to report in, and then we will analyze and address that information as appropriate. That’s what I intend to do.

With respect to the report, I don’t have any comment at all on a report – first of all, I haven’t seen it, and secondly, I don’t know what all the facts are. And thirdly, we don’t comment – certainly, the State Department doesn’t comment on any matter of intelligence or intelligence allegation. And so I can’t say anything further. Thanks.

FOREIGN MINISTER BAIRD: I might just add Canada has listed Hizballah as a terrorist organization. Just this past week, it’s killed two IDF soldiers in northern Israel.

MODERATOR: We’ll take the second question from Jim Finkle from Reuters.

QUESTION: Good afternoon. Can you tell us what came of the discussions that you had on U.S. and Cuba restoring diplomatic ties and when you expect – for Secretary Kerry – the next round of talks with Cuba to take place?

Also, Secretary Kerry, do you plan to meet with the Iranian foreign minister next week in Munich?

And then on the issue of cyber security, which you said you brought up, could you tell us if there are any new measures planned and how seriously you take the threat from extremist groups? What do you think their capabilities are at this point? Have they advanced recently?

SECRETARY KERRY: What was the last part of that? I couldn’t hear you.

QUESTION: Oh, I’m sorry. The cyber capabilities of extremist groups – how serious is the threat today and has this changed recently?

SECRETARY KERRY: So let me deal with those 1-2-3. With respect to Foreign Minister Zarif, I am prepared to meet with him, but we don’t yet have a definitive meeting set up at this point in time. It’s an open question whether or not we will. We’ll have to wait and see as things develop. But certainly, it’s a possibility and I would leave it at that.

With respect to Cuba, we did indeed discuss Cuba. Everybody here has an enormous interest in hemispheric relations, obviously. As President Obama said, if you’ve been trying something for 50 years and it isn’t working, let’s try something new. And so that’s what we’re doing with a clear commitment in our policy that this is an effort, we believe, that offers the best opportunity for the people of Cuba, ultimately, to improve their lives and to take part in the choices about their lives. We will continue to talk about the importance of civil society, the importance of human rights protections, the importance of democracy, and that will be part of the topic that takes place when we go to the Summit of the Americas.

But we look forward to completing the process. Assistant Secretary of State Roberta Jacobson, who is here, had meetings in Cuba, I think about 10 days, two weeks ago now. And we will have another meeting to follow up on that before anything else takes place, and then we’ll determine what the diplomatic schedule will be based on those initial meetings. But our hope is to be able to move forward effectively and as soon as is practicable.

With respect to cyber and terrorist groups, the answer is different groups have different capabilities. Certainly, a number of groups have grown quite proficient in exploiting the social media, using cyberspace as a recruitment tool, as a propaganda tool. And we’re answering that, and we’re engaged in a full-fledged effort now to organize on a global basis to be able to make sure that their lies and their distortions, that their mythology is shown up to be exactly that – mythology, lies, and distortion.

And increasingly, we are joined in that effort by people all across the world who have an enormous stake in this. I’m talking about Muslims, the Muslim community. There are countries all around the world that are now gearing up to make it clear that Daesh has absolutely nothing to do with legitimate religion, nothing to do with Islam, that it is an aberration, a distortion, a hijacking of a great faith. And so we will see this contest play out in the days to come.

But obviously, there are bad actors in a number of different venues who are honing their skills in exploiting cyberspace. So we talked today about our cyber concerns. We have a working group going forward that will be focused on this. This will be a serious topic of consideration at almost every international meeting now. And we are very much seized of the importance of protecting that space for its appropriate uses, even as we also struggle, as we do, to protect privacy and to protect people’s individual rights which are important to us. So it’s a delicate balancing act, and we’re working very, very hard to find the right way to thread the needle.

I don’t know if you want to say anything about any of that, John.

FOREIGN MINISTER BAIRD: I’d just add, obviously, we want to seek a counter-narrative on the message that extremist groups put out there. There’s some impressive work going on at the State Department, and we’re certainly keen to develop a more broader counter-narrative.

With respect to Cuba, we strongly support the Administration’s change in policy. We think it’s, again, the right policy at, frankly, exactly the right time. And John has said privately and publicly – and Canada would certainly repeat this – the importance that liberal democratic governments stand up for human rights and the rule of law, democracy, and that includes Cuba. And we certainly will continue to advocate those and we’re certainly pleased to join any American effort at the Summit of the Americas or elsewhere.

SECRETARY KERRY: Pepe.

FOREIGN SECRETARY MEADE: Just briefly on Cuba as well, that for Mexico is a huge issue. The U.S. and Cuba are physically neighbors, so it’s not just hemispheric in nature; it really is a dialogue that opens up between neighboring countries. And speaking from Mexico and from Latin America, we think that the policy change is very, very welcome. We think that the fact that the U.S. and Cuba are engaged in dialogue would be positive for the advancement of Cuba, the advancement of the region.

And I can just again reiterate that that was most welcome by the Latin American community. We thought it was a very good decision. We thought it was a very brave decision. Mexico always thinks that it is better to talk with countries and talk about countries, and we’re very sure that this very positive engagement will result in the betterment of the quality of the debate within the hemisphere and the possibilities of the neighborhood. So we think it was very positive, and it has been – it has received rave reviews in the case of Mexico and Latin America.

MODERATOR: Third question for Notimex. (In Spanish.)

QUESTION: Thank you. Maurizio Guerrero, Mexican news agency. Thank you, Secretary Kerry, for hosting this meeting.

What has been the role played so far by Mexico, and what role will you expect Mexico to play in the future in the rapprochement of the U.S. with Cuba?

And to Minister Meade, (via interpreter): We thought of the possibility of strengthening the – what Mexico and the United States are doing together in the energy field.

SECRETARY KERRY: What was the first – the very first part of the question? I heard the rest of it about the role that Mexico might play with Cuba, but the very --

QUESTION: Yeah. What was the role that Mexico has played so far.

SECRETARY KERRY: Okay, all right.

QUESTION: And do you expect that it will play in the future with regard to --

SECRETARY KERRY: Well, Mexico – thank you. As you heard from Secretary Meade, Mexico is very supportive of this policy, as is Canada, as are, I think, almost every nation in Central or Latin America, maybe with the exception of one that isn’t happy if we start to build relationships with others in the region.

But I think it’s fair to say that Mexico is a very important interlocutor because we work so closely together. And only recently Mexico has had conversations with counterparts in Cuba regarding this process. I think it’s fair to say that Mexico can be very helpful and important going forward in explaining what we are trying to do and not doing, and helping to make the process run smoothly and effectively.

And I think the more Mexico can state its interests, which it does have, it is better for Latin America if the United States and Cuba can find a way forward to reduce tensions and not be dividing nations. It allows all of us to focus on the principal challenges of the region, which are dealing with poverty, helping Central America as we have seen recently in the billion dollar plan that President Obama has put together to help lift people out of violence and poverty and so forth. Mexico is key to that because it is a partner economically and because it is a leader in the region.

So we will be proceeding forward very closely with our neighbors, with Canada, with Mexico in this effort. They are strong allies and wanting this policy to be implemented effectively, and they will continue to be helpful in their communications with the government officials of Cuba.

FOREIGN SECRETARY MEADE: (Via interpreter) The framework of cooperation that Mexico has with the United States in terms of security that is based on principles of co-responsibility and mutual respect also includes some very important flexibility elements. This allows us to have a better cooperation based on the situation as it is in Mexico. The requirements and the specific way of cooperating were very different a few years ago vis-a-vis what happens now. This is a Mexico with greater intelligence, power; a greater, stronger Mexico. Mexico is also cooperating in this transition and strengthening toward the – our law system, our judiciary system, so that we can have oral trials so that now we can start concentrating on that and we can start talking about security. This is a very wide, multi-thematic cooperation. It is something that we welcome, we’re very grateful for, because this is going to benefit Mexico, its safety, and North America.

The energy reform, in actual fact, allows us to have a better dialogue, a wider dialogue. And here we spoke about the advantages in terms of topics – energy efficiency, how to strengthen our interconnections so that there are better costs, better redundancy measures. These are all topics that we broached. And when all of this is done, there will be great benefits for Mexico and the North American region. We will have an energy paradigm that will make us the best and most efficient region in the world in this field.

Muchas gracias a todos.

MODERATOR: Great. Thank you, everyone, so much.

SECRETARY KERRY: Thank you all. Thank you very much.