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USA

The United States Applauds the OAS Resolution Condemning the Undemocratic Electoral Process and Repression in Nicaragua (US Department of State)

This week’s resounding vote at the Organization of American States (OAS) underscores that member states emphatically condemn President Ortega and Vice President Murillo’s undemocratic electoral process and ongoing repression.  With 26 countries voting in favor and zero votes against, this latest OAS action demonstrates that the Ortega-Murillo government stands isolated without supporters in a region committed to democratic principles.

The Nicaraguan government, along with other governments in the Americas, made a democratic commitment to its citizens, as laid out in the Inter-American Democratic Charter.  Nicaragua joined the Charter twenty years ago, resolving that its citizens have a right to democracy, and the Nicaraguan government has an obligation to promote and defend that right.  President Ortega and Vice President Murillo have failed to honor this commitment by preparing a sham election devoid of credibility, by silencing and arresting opponents, and, ultimately, by attempting to establish an authoritarian dynasty unaccountable to the Nicaraguan people.

This OAS resolution reflects the region’s resounding commitment to democracy and respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms in the Americas.  The United States continues to work with partners in the region and across the world to promote accountability for those who support Ortega and Murillo’s anti-democratic actions, just as we continue to press the Nicaraguan government to restore civil and political rights and immediately and unconditionally release political prisoners.

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USA

Secretary Antony J. Blinken Remarks to Mission Colombia Staff (US Department of State)

SECRETARY BLINKEN:  Hello, Mission Bogotá.  It is great to see all of you, and so good to see folks here together.  Again, to the band, it really does a sound a lot better than the last time I heard it.  (Laughter.)  Amazing.  Thank you.

Phil, Ambassador Goldberg, could have sworn he was here somewhere, thank you so much for your leadership of this mission and our Venezuelan mission that is housed here.  To everyone at Mission Colombia, whether you’re here in person, whether you’re joining us on the screen – great to see all of you as well – thank you so much.  I know from experience how much work goes into one of these visits.  We get to see the fruits of all that labor, and it looks smooth and incredibly well done, without a hitch.  I know that it’s not as simple as that.  I’m incredibly grateful to you for making this visit as productive and successful as it’s been, and I wish I could join you for the wheels-up party that I know will follow soon.  (Laughter.)

A couple things I wanted to share with you while we’re all together.  We were in – as you know, in Ecuador yesterday, came to Colombia.  And one of the things that’s been a thread through both of these visits is the work that we’re trying to do to renew our democracies and to make sure that they’re delivering for our people, for our fellow citizens.  And as the ambassador said, this trip to Colombia is a powerful reminder of that fact and what we’re trying to accomplish.  We did have very productive meetings, thanks to a lot of good work that you put into this, with President Duque, with the Vice President and Foreign Minister Ramírez, plus the ministerial meeting that brought together colleagues from across the hemisphere on migration, trying to deal with the urgent challenge that that poses, but also looking at ways to deal with it in a lasting way.

We had, as well, some very inspiring events with civil society here in Colombia – and I thank the team that worked on putting that together – including young people, environmental leaders.  We were over at, as well, the botanical gardens, making the connection that we have to the work that we’re doing to help us support Colombia as it protects its environmental heritage and as it shows leadership in dealing with climate change.  We’ll do some interviews after this with the media, but in a nutshell that’s kind of what a vibrant democracy is all about.  All of these different groups and constituencies hopefully working together, and a responsive government, an engaged civil society, a free press.

Not too long ago, that was not the case here in Colombia.  And a stable future, much less a democratic one, was hardly guaranteed.  As recently as a couple decades ago, we watched as the security situation actually got worse, the economy plunged, and cartels thrived.  Colombia looked on the verge of potentially becoming a failed state.  But people demanded peace, democracy delivered – not through violence, but through compromise.  And now, despite many ongoing challenges that many of you are working on, we see the thriving country Colombia has become.

And I’m very proud of the way this mission over the years, including now, has supported the peace process here.  You’ve helped implement a new counter-narcotics strategy, provided support for economic development in rural parts of the country, helped establish institutions like the disappeared persons search unit, and so much else.  So I hope that you occasionally take a minute to be proud of that record of success, even as you keep working to help push it forward.

There are so many other things that we are doing together with Colombia.  The ambassador referenced a few of them, but I think if you look at the record of these last couple of days, building on work that you’ve all been doing for a long time, you can see the breadth and depth of the relationship impacting some of the most important issues to us and our people, and to the Colombian people.

Let me just say a word as well about something we’ve all – you’ve all been living with now for a long time, and that’s COVID-19.  We know, in mission after mission around the world, including at this one, that this has been a difficult journey.  Some of you have lost loved ones.  Some of you have gotten sick or have family members who have gotten sick – I know we lost a locally employed staff member here – and you’ve gone through one of the strictest lockdowns in the world.  But what I see, what I’ve heard, what I know is that through it all you kept going.  You kept moving forward.  You kept getting the job done on behalf of our country and on behalf of our citizens.

In particular, let me just recognize a few people, a few things.  Again, Mr. Ambassador, you, for your leadership during a tumultuous time; the consular team here, continuing to work in-person all throughout COVID, and everyone who helped in the extraordinary effort to medevac sick Americans out of the country; those of you involved in the effort to deliver vaccines here in Colombia, some 6 million of them, which has made a real difference and I think is powerful evidence of the friendship and partnership that we have with Colombia.  And I very much want to thank folks in the Med Unit who worked to make sure that everyone on our team was as safe as possible as quickly as possible.

We actually hit a milestone today more broadly.  The United States has now delivered more than 200 million doses of safe and effective vaccine around the world in more than a hundred countries, including again, the more than 6 million here in Colombia, free of cost, with no political strings attached.  And that’s a story that will continue to be told.  We are committed over the next six to nine months to delivering over a billion vaccines, primarily through COVAX, to countries around the world.

Another thing that we spent some time on, as we’ve already mentioned: migration and the unprecedented challenge that we’re facing in this hemisphere.  You’ve not only been a partner to Colombians, you’ve also been a partner to those who come from beyond Colombia’s borders and who benefitted from the extraordinary generosity from the Colombian people.  And again, I want to recognize here the work of the Venezuela Affairs Unit led by Ambassador Story.  You responded to the humanitarian crisis with humanity, connecting Venezuelan migrants and refugees with host communities across the country.  And because of your work literally thousands of families have been able to remain together, and that’s a powerful human story.

Finally, there’s something I wanted to really put a note of thanks to as well.  Many of you – many of you dropped everything you were doing to help people halfway around the world in Afghanistan during our evacuation and relocation effort.  Colombia volunteered to host 4,000 Afghan refugees and with hardly any notice (inaudible).  Ultimately, we didn’t need (inaudible).

That’s our plane, so – (laughter).

Ultimately, this capacity wasn’t needed, but again, it’s amazing how you were able to come together so quickly to give us that possibility if we needed it.  One team can indeed make it happen.

What strikes me, and I’ve found this in the various missions that I’ve visited over the last nine months around the world – I think it’s a common denominator of this department, the people who make up this department, and all of the many agencies and departments working with us – that you simply persist in your work, in the mission, no matter what the situation is, with integrity and with compassion.

I’ve heard about the care that you’ve shown to each other, plus to your families, and to Colombians across the country during this period.  I’ve heard about the care packages to new staff and the virtual flower arrangements and cooking classes during lockdowns.  And that really gets to something that is important to me and I know important to the ambassador, and that is we come together.  We come together as a team; we come together as a community; we come together as a family to look out for each other.  We have each other’s backs, especially in difficult times.  And I’m so grateful to you for doing just that.

Whatever your role here at the embassy, whether you’re Foreign Service, whether you’re Civil Service, whether you’re locally employed staff, whether you work for the State Department or one of the many other agencies represented here at Mission Colombia, thank you.  Thank you for all you’re doing to contribute to the partnership between the United States and Colombia.  Thank you for all the work you’re doing that in ways that most of our fellow citizens will probably never really know, but the work that you’re doing in ways big and small to make life just a little bit better for them, a little bit safer, a little bit healthier, a little bit more prosperous, a little bit more full of possibility.  Thank you very much.

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USA

Secretary Antony J. Blinken Remarks at a Climate/Sustainable Products Event (US Department of State)

SECRETARY BLINKEN: Well, again, thank you. Thank you all. And it’s very wonderful to be here today. It’s always wonderful to be outside or almost outside. But let me just start by, Mr. Minister, thanking you for your partnership today and in the important months ahead. And Madame Mayor, to you as well.

I think there’s a very powerful thing represented right here, which is a country at a national level showing remarkable leadership on climate and on preserving our planet, and a city doing the same thing. And the two together – the leadership of cities, municipalities, urban areas, and national leadership shown by President Duque – that’s a very powerful combination. And I think it’s going to be on evidence at COP26 when Team Colombia is very much present. So I thank you so much for that.

And I really do want to thank President Duque for his leadership, for his vision, congratulate him as well for receiving the International Conservation Award this year from the International Conservation Caucus Foundation – further evidence of the very good work that he and Colombia are doing.

And then finally, thank you again to everyone here, including our terrific speakers, for everything that you showed me, you showed the colleagues traveling with us, for all that you’re each doing to help build a sustainable future.

Places like this Botanical Garden remind us of the extraordinary natural beauty of our world. And again, in an extraordinary country like Colombia – but where, nonetheless, I think 75 percent of the population is in urban settings – it’s so important to connect those of us living in urban environments to rural environments, but especially to the natural habitat that we share and that we all have a responsibility to preserve.

This is a gift to our people; it’s a gift to the world. It’s a gift that’s been given to us by previous generations, and we have a responsibility to care for it and to pass it on. And again, Colombia’s leaders and citizens take this responsibility seriously. We see this in the new environmental crimes law, Mr. Minister, in the recent decision to strengthen and to show remarkable leadership with the goals that Colombia set going into COP26, in Colombia’s leadership in the Renewable Energy for Latin America and the Caribbean initiative. In these and so many other ways, Colombia is helping to show the way.

We also know that the climate crisis is a national security issue. It’s about the safety and well-being of our people. It’s about building a global economy that is genuinely inclusive and sustainable. And it’s about equity. We know that communities and countries who are most negatively impacted by the climate crisis are rarely those who did the most to cause it.

One of the reasons that I wanted to come here today is because the United States is deeply committed to rising to the challenge of the climate crisis, and we want to do so in partnership with Colombia. There’s one area in particular that stands out – the minister mentioned – and that is conserving the Amazon and other important ecosystems. As you know, deforestation is a key contributor to the climate crisis because the Amazon and other forests are carbon sinks, absorbing a massive amount of carbon dioxide, while at the same time deforestation itself produces more CO2 emissions. Deforestation in Colombia increased by about 8 percent last year, most of it in the Amazon. And in fact, about 75 percent of Colombia’s climate emissions come from deforestation and unsustainable agricultural production practices like clearing land to expand beef and dairy production.

By conserving Colombia’s forests, promoting more sustainable agriculture, we can make major strides in dealing with the climate crisis as well. In the coming days we’re going to expand these efforts as we work to develop a new regional partnership specifically focused on addressing commodity-driven deforestation in the Amazon. Together we’ll help provide actionable information to companies so that they can reduce their reliance on deforestation. We’ll give much-needed financial assistance to help manage protected areas and indigenous territories, and we’ll help scale up low-carbon agricultural practices to farmers throughout the Amazon.

This new regional partnership will help prevent up to 19 million metric tons of carbon dioxide from entering the atmosphere while capturing another 52,000 metric tons of carbon, and we estimate it will save – save – more than 45,000 hectares of forest.

We know these programs can work. Take, just for example, the Amazon Alive partnership which we recently launched. We’re working with the Colombian Government to tackle environmental and conservation crimes and protect areas that are important for biodiversity. Or take the Paramos and Forests program, another collaboration between Colombia and the United States. Through that program we’re working with 19 Afro-Colombian indigenous communities to protect 500,000 hectares of Colombian forest, and that collaboration has already significantly reduced deforestation. It’s generated about 6.2 million tons of carbon offsets.

And it’s done – and this is critical and we heard this as well – while supporting local business, local community leaders, in their economic endeavors, including a couple that we just heard about. (Inaudible) experiences prove that we do not have to choose between conserving the environment and earning a living; we can do both. And that’s what tackling the climate crisis is all about, and that’s what it will take – partnership between governments, private sectors, civil society activists working together in new ways with a shared focus on and commitment to protect our climate and to preserve a better future for our children.

Again, I’m very honored that the United States is able to be a partner in this. I’m especially grateful for the work of our colleagues at the U.S. Agency for International Development who are doing remarkable work every single day to make this partnership real. So I thank you. I’m grateful to our Colombian colleagues. We have a partnership. We’re building it, we’re strengthening it, and I think it will be to the benefit of all of our citizens. Thank you very much.

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Hong Kong

On the Continued Erosion of Freedoms in Hong Kong (US Department of State)

The United States remains seriously concerned at the continued erosion of human rights and fundamental freedoms, including political participation, in Hong Kong. We note in particular the increase in politically-motivated prosecutions, including through the National Security Law, targeting Hong Kong’s teachers, labor unions, lawyers, journalists, health care workers, student unions, and individual citizens.  We again call on the Beijing and Hong Kong authorities to release those unjustly detained and cease their crackdown on peaceful civil society organizations.  We once more urge Beijing to abide by its treaty obligations in the Sino-British Joint Declaration.

Hong Kong authorities continue to disqualify scores of pro-democracy district councilors, who received their public mandate from free and fair elections in 2019.  These retroactive and targeted disqualifications, based on the Hong Kong authorities’ arbitrary determination that these district councilors’ loyalty oaths are invalid, prevent people in Hong Kong from participating meaningfully in their own governance.

People in Hong Kong and its vibrant civil society have been the city’s greatest resource and the cornerstone of Hong Kong’s success as an international hub of business and exchange.  We will continue to support people in Hong Kong and their rights and freedoms.

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Europe USA

Joint U.S.-EU Statement on the Global Methane Pledge (US Department of State)

At the Major Economies Forum on Energy and Climate (MEF) on September 17, 2021, President Biden and European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen announced , with support from seven additional countries, the Global Methane Pledge—an initiative to be launched at the World Leaders Summit at the 26th UN Climate Change Conference (COP-26) this November in Glasgow, United Kingdom.

Today, Special Presidential Envoy for Climate John Kerry and European Commission Executive Vice President Frans Timmermans who leads international negotiations on climate

hosted a virtual ministerial to mobilize further support for the Global Methane Pledge. The co-convenors and Executive Director of the United Nations Environment Programme Inger Andersen affirmed the critical importance of rapidly reducing methane emissions as the single most effective strategy to reduce near-term global warming to keep the goal of limiting warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius within reach.

More than 20 philanthropies announced  combined commitments of over $200 million to support implementation of the Global Methane Pledge. Following initial announcement of support by Argentina, Ghana, Indonesia, Iraq, Italy, Mexico and the United Kingdom at the MEF, 24 new countries announced that they will join the Global Methane Pledge. With these new commitments, 9 of the top 20 methane emitters are now participating in the Pledge, representing about 30% of global methane emissions and 60% of the global economy.

The new supporters include:

  • Canada
  • Central African Republic
  • Congo-Brazzaville
  • Costa Rica
  • Cote d’Ivoire
  • Democratic Republic of the Congo
  • Federated States of Micronesia
  • France
  • Germany
  • Guatemala
  • Guinea
  • Israel
  • Japan
  • Jordan
  • Kyrgyz Republic
  • Liberia
  • Malta
  • Morocco
  • Nigeria
  • Pakistan
  • Philippines
  • Rwanda
  • Sweden
  • Togo

Methane is a potent greenhouse gas and, according to the latest report by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, accounts for about half of the 1.0 degree Celsius net rise in global average temperature since the pre-industrial era, making methane action an essential complement to energy sector decarbonization.

Countries joining the Global Methane Pledge commit to a collective goal of reducing global methane emissions by at least 30 percent from 2020 levels by 2030 and moving towards using highest tier IPCC good practice inventory methodologies to quantify methane emissions, with a particular focus on high emission sources. Successful implementation of the Pledge would reduce warming by at least 0.2 degrees Celsius by 2050.

The United States, the European Union, and other early supporters will continue to enlist additional countries to join the Global Methane Pledge pending its formal launch at COP 26.

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Mexico USA

Secretary Antony J. Blinken And Mexican Foreign Secretary Marcelo Ebrard At a Joint Press Availability (US Department of State)

FOREIGN SECRETARY EBRARD:  (Via interpreter) Thank you.  We are here today wrapping up a process that has gone on for several months and that allows us to first affirm that we are leaving the Merida Initiative behind, and that starting today, we start with the Bicentennial Agreement.  Why bicentennial?  Because we will be celebrating 200 years of relations between Mexico and the United States.  As you know, they were the first country that recognized us, so that is why we have given it this name.

What is this agreement based on?  You will have a declaration with the details; however, it is based on the incorporation of the visions of President Biden as well as President Lopez Obrador’s and having a more comprehensive approach regarding security, health, and safe communities.

This morning, the President Lopez Obrador was saying that we are inspired and that we coincide in terms of the concepts of freedoms and liberties of President Roosevelt.  So there is an ideological and political affinity between both our presidents, Biden and Lopez Obrador.  What you will see in this document is the translation in terms of security, public health, and safe communities of those points that we agree on, which are crucial.

The second thing I need to say is that we have found from the Secretary of State, the Attorney General, and from the Secretary on all representatives of the U.S. Government that we have a relation in which Mexico’s priorities are the same – have the same level of priority as the ones from the United States.  Today is something – this is something that we can say, something that we did not have before.

For Mexico, we must prioritize violence, homicides, providing opportunity for development for young people.  We are addressing the root causes of all of the issues that we are facing, and these priorities have been taken into account.  In this document, we see a translation of a system, an institutional system, to follow up on this agreement.  This agreement is not a declaration; it’s a path to be taken that is verifiable and that will provide results.

We have to present on December 1st our yearly plan – what are we going to do from December 1st, 2021 to December 1st, 2022.  At the end of January by next year, we have to lay down on paper – write down on paper what we’re going to do in the next three years, so verifiable, transparent towards our citizens.

To summarize, this is not a limited cooperation; this is a partnership that is superior, qualitatively speaking, a partnership with people that you trust and respect.  Partnerships cannot be done otherwise.  So respect, co-responsibility, and reciprocity – these are the basis for this partnership between Mexico and the United States in matters of security, public health, and safe communities.

You will see that there are three broad objectives to protect our people, to prevent crime in the border region, to dismantle criminal organizations, to create immediate memorandums, MOUs to reduce addiction to drugs and the harm related to them.  This is the first time that we do something like this in our history.  An MOU to launch the program for control for control of port containers, a binational working group on chemical precursors, joint work in terms of supporting what Mexico is doing in forensics to locate people who have disappeared.

So this is an agreement that will be memorable due to its content and due to the fact that it translates for our peoples, for our societies, the coincidences that both administrations, both governments have.  Thank you so much to the U.S. delegation, and especially the Secretary of State, Mr. Anthony Blinken, who will now have the floor.

SECRETARY BLINKEN:  Gracias, Marcelo, y buenas tardes a todas y a todos.  It’s a pleasure to be here with you and with your entire delegation and ours.  I think the spirit of collaboration, of teamwork and partnership was as strong as I’ve ever felt it in working with the United States and Mexico.  And it’s wonderful for me to be back in Mexico.  My last visit was actually a virtual one – one of the first visits I did when we first took office.  But I think even a brief time here is a demonstration that there is no substitute for being together in person.

Our two countries, Mexico and the United States, share so much more than a border.  We share a history, parts of which I had the opportunity to see this morning in the incredibly evocative murals of Diego Rivera at the Palacio Nacional.  And I had something I will never forget, which was a personal commentary on the murals and on the history of Mexico by President López Obrador.  It was for me a truly extraordinary moment.  I am so grateful to him for taking the time and sharing so much about his knowledge of Mexico’s history and the history that unites our countries – cultural, economic ties, deep bonds, of course, between our communities and families.

The relationship between our governments is wide-ranging and complex.  Every single day, we are working together on an incredibly broad range of issues, from Congress to climate, from public health to public education, tourism, to regional diplomacy; maintaining that relationship, and strengthening it demands constant, candid dialogue at every level.  It requires seizing opportunities and adapting to new challenges, and that’s exactly what we did today with high-level dialogue.

And I am tempted to say I agree with everything Marcelo said, because I do.  It was a very accurate and important description of what we – of the work we did today.  And I have to say the relationship that we demonstrated today, the trust that is there between us, I’d like to say if I can, Marcelo, I think that’s the kind of relationship we have been able to build these past nine months and for which I am really, really grateful.

So as you all know, this morning, together with Attorney General Garland, Secretary of Homeland Security Mayorkas, Deputy Treasury Secretary Adeyemo, and other senior officials from our administration, we started the day with the chance to meet with President López Obrador.  We touched on, again, a very broad range of issues that are so crucial to our relationship, including security, including migration, the economy, COVID-19, the climate crisis.  And after that, with Foreign Secretary Ebrard and our colleagues, we had a very productive first meeting at the High-Level Security Dialogue, where we launched the U.S.-Mexico Bicentennial Framework on Security, Public Health, and [Safe] Communities.

Now, that might sound like a mouthful, and it is, but it is rooted in the idea that we have a shared responsibility, as neighbors and as partners, to improve security for the people of our nations.  That is what it boils down to.  And it marks the beginning of a new chapter in Mexico-U.S. security cooperation, one that will see us working as equal partners in defining and tackling shared priorities, one that seeks to address the root causes of the security challenges that we face, including inequity, corruption, impunity, and one that does that not only by modernizing law enforcement, but also strengthening public health, the rule of law, and broader-based economic opportunity.

There are three pillars to this framework which I just want to very briefly describe.  The first is protecting the health and safety of the people of our nations.  Often in the past, we tried to do this by relying too much on security forces and too little on other tools in our kit.  Of course, law enforcement has a critical role to play in reducing homicides and other serious crimes.  But its efforts have to be matched by investments in growing economic opportunity, particularly for underserved communities and regions.  That happens to be a central focus of the high-level economic dialogue that we launched a few weeks ago in Washington, and it is crucial to giving Mexican and American workers the tools they need to compete in the 21st century economy.

Our efforts also have to include substance abuse prevention, treatment, recovery support to help those struggling with addiction, to reduce the profound harm that illicit drugs inflict on our communities, and to reduce demand.  And our governments agreed that protecting our people means protecting human rights.

And that means establishing effective mechanisms to ensure that abusers are held accountable, which is critical to earning the trust of communities, shoring up again the rule of law, and giving victims the justice they deserve.  As Marcelo noted, we are expanding through our partnership efforts for resolving tens of thousands of cases of disappearances and missing persons in Mexico.  That is one example of how we can work toward this broader goal together.  It could help bring closure to families as they search for their loved ones and end impunity for offenders.

The second pillar is on preventing trafficking across borders.  We know that reducing arms trafficking is a priority for Mexico, as many of the illicit weapons in this country come from the United States.  And we’re committed to deepening our collaboration on arms tracing, on investigations, on prosecutions to disrupt the supply.  We’re also collaborating on fighting human smuggling and trafficking organizations as well as drug trafficking organizations, which perpetuate cycles of violence and human suffering.

Finally, the third pillar of the framework focuses on pursuing transnational criminal networks.  We will deepen our collaboration to combat money laundering and other forms of corruption.  Particularly as these illicit organizations are growing more nimble in exploiting financial systems, we’ll be making our justice systems more effective at investigating and prosecuting organized crime and increasing cooperation on extraditions.

We agreed to build better metrics as well so that we can track all of these goals and hold ourselves accountable to them.  The delegation that represented the United States Government in today’s High-Level Dialogue, including the Attorney General, the Secretary of Homeland Security, the Deputy Secretary of the Treasury, in and of itself reflects how seriously we take our shared responsibility to deliver security for our people and the comprehensive tools that we are bringing to bear to do that.

But crucial as this new framework is, we want the Mexico-U.S. relationship to be about more, much more, than migration and security.  Instead, it has to reflect the full range of issues where we share interests and we share values, including the environment, agriculture, technology, energy, trade, supply chains, and the innovative ideas that we came up with at the first High-Level Economic Dialogue.

The next months and years could be transformational in realizing the full potential of the Mexico-U.S. relationship and delivering in concrete ways for our people.  We’re committed to working with our Mexican partners to make that happen.

Thank you very, very much.

MODERATOR:  (Via interpreter) We have time for two questions from members of the Mexican press and two from the U.S. press.

Sarahí Méndez from Televisa.

QUESTION:  (Via interpreter) Secretary Blinken, as a part of this bicentennial understanding, I wanted to know if border security will be reinforced on behalf of the United States, if it will be harder for migrants and criminal organizations to cross over.  Will more resources be sent to Central America to apply in programs such as Jóvenes Construyendo el Futuro, Youth Building the Future, from a program of López Obrador?  And will the MPP program be applied in Mexico?

For Secretary Ebrard, we know that for Mexico arms trafficking is very important.  Secretary Blinken has talked about this issue.  Have you foreseen this topic on tracing weapons in Mexico that came from the United States?

SECRETARY BLINKEN:  Thank you, I’m happy to start.  We are determined to have a border that is vibrant, that is a connector between our countries, between our people, commerce – a truly living thing – because these connections are so important to both of us.  But it also has to be safe, orderly, humane in terms of the way we deal with illegal migration.

We’re doing a lot of things together and also on our part to move more effectively in that direction, including working to strengthen our own asylum system so that we can deal much more effectively, rapidly, and humanely with those who have – are putting forward asylum claims.  We’re also working to expand legal pathways which are so critical to migration, and of course, we will uphold the rule of law.

So much of what we’ve been doing as well has been in collaboration and cooperation with Mexico, and I have to tell you how grateful we are for that, because we face a challenge that in many ways is, I think, unique with tremendous pressure from illegal migratory flows coming in different ways, different parts of the hemisphere, irregular migration, again, for very – for understandable reasons, which I’ll come to in a minute.  We see not only in the Northern Triangle but also, of course, recently Haiti, countries in the region that have had large Haitian-origin populations, Venezuela, and potentially other challenges to come, so much of this driven by economic challenges which have been exacerbated by COVID-19 as well as security challenges and other challenges.

I think as we’ve been working so closely together on this, one of the understandings that we have that we share – two things.  Even as we’re making sure that we have an approach that ensures that it’s safe, it’s orderly, it’s humane, that we uphold the law, we have to do two things.  And this is what the United States and Mexico are working on together.

One, we have to tackle the root causes of irregular migration.  Even as we’re dealing with the immediate challenges, ultimately the only solution is to deal with the root causes, because, again, it is not as if most people from wherever they are wake up one morning and say, “Wouldn’t it be a great thing to leave everything I know behind – my family, my community, my culture, my language, everything – and make this incredibly hazardous journey and come to – try to come to the United States, and also, by the way, not be able to get there.”  There are very powerful drivers that give people a sense that they have no choice.  We have to be able to address that.

I think fundamentally it’s about economic opportunity and demonstrating to people that they can have a livelihood, that they can have the possibility of providing for themselves, for their families, for their futures at home.  And we are working on that together.

The second thing I’ll say is that I think Mexico and the United States also believe strongly that we have to have a stronger regional approach to this challenge, that there has to be a greater sense and a greater practical application of the notion of shared responsibility.  And there too, our countries are working together to do that.

FOREIGN SECRETARY EBRARD:  (Via interpreter) As we have commented, President Lopez Obrador during our breakfast mentioned the importance of launching an immediate employment program in Central America that has the shape of Sowing Lives or Youth Building the Future.  The president mentioned that part of this was done by President Roosevelt with the so-called New Deal.

And so there is a great impact that the pandemic has had in Central America and in countries and in other regions, and as Secretary Blinken pointed out, there are critical situations going on around the world, such as in Haiti, for example.  And we believe that short-term we could carry out joint action, especially in Central America, inspired on employment opportunities.  That could be the most relevant kind of response.

Mexico is doing so to the best of our abilities.  We could have possibly in these three countries 40,000 people working by the month of January.  And we think it’s a good path to take, and we hope to do so with the United States as well.  They have been very receptive to this proposal, and hopefully we would soon be stating what steps we will be taking and how far they range.

Regarding arms trafficking, tracking – when you talk about these weapons – means that you can know the serial number, know where that weapon was sold, know the manufacturer.  It doesn’t refer to us tracking physically these weapons on behalf of the United States.  It means that among both countries we decide to track where it was sold, how it was transported into Mexico, et cetera, and how it was used.  That is what we’re going to do, and that is what we’re going to work on as a priority because, for us, reducing the number of weapons in Mexico implies reducing the level of violence.  You cannot reduce one without reducing the other.  It’s like a rule of thumb.

So we have found that they have been receptive.  There is interest within the delegation.  Today the Attorney General was here, CBP, and representatives from several authorities in DHS that have to do with these matters.  And on December 1st when we present the plan, you will see clearly the actions that will be taken.  Because there is a common denominator here: to reduce the arms trafficking as much as possible and as soon as possible.

QUESTION:  (Off-mike.)

INTERPRETER:  The interpreter apologizes; that microphone was not used.

FOREIGN SECRETARY EBRARD:  (Via interpreter) Today we did not deal with this topic, or we have not fixed a date for that.  We will inform on that as soon as we can.

MODERATOR:  The next question comes from Courtney McBride of The Wall Street Journal.

QUESTION:  Thank you.  A question for each secretary.

To Secretary Ebrard, what is your government seeking from the United States in exchange for the resumption of the MPP or the “Remain in Mexico” policy?  And you described this agreement, the bicentennial agreement, as a path to be taken, and you said it shared visions for the future of the relationship.  What specifically is Mexico seeking from the United States as part of this framework?

And to Secretary Blinken, how does the Biden administration expect migrants to remain in Mexico when the Mexican Government is issuing fewer visas to migrants, leaving a mass of people with nowhere to go?  And if you could also share what the U.S. Government’s key asks are of Mexico as part of the framework, I would appreciate it.

FOREIGN SECRETARY EBRARD:  (Via interpreter) Today we did not discuss the MPP or Title 42.  It was not a meeting about the border.  It was a meeting about a common vision that implies many topics.  We do have direct contact with CBP, DHS, et cetera with regards to – I’ll repeat so that you can hear the interpretation.  Is it working?

Once again, I was saying that today’s meeting did not include a session on Title 42 or the MPP.  It was not done this way.  We have direct contact with DHS on this issue.  When it comes to migration, let’s say that this has its own space for discussions with the United States.  And border security includes, of course, people smuggling, but today we did not meet to that end.  The U.S. will communicate what they’re going to propose in their own time.  We work every day because when it comes to Title 42, we have thousands of people repatriated, and we have been able to work jointly along these last few months.  So whenever we have something to inform, I’ll be able to comment on that specific question regarding MPP.

SECRETARY BLINKEN:  Thank you, Marcelo.  And I don’t have much to add because, as Marcelo said, this is not something that came up today.  I would just simply say that U.S. immigration law, of course, remains in effect.  We continue to work very closely with Mexico to promote a safe, orderly, and humane process along the shared border and to address the myriad challenges of irregular migration.  DHS will have more on the specifics, but as I said earlier, just broadly speaking, I think the collaboration we have on working this incredibly challenging issue together – at least in my experience – has never been stronger.

But we both recognize that even as we’re dealing with the immediate challenge and pressures, which we’re in almost daily contact across our governments to do that, we also have to focus on some of the – again, the long-term drivers and – more to come on this – fostering greater regional collaboration and cooperation.  And that’s what – that is what we talked a little bit about today.

MODERATOR:  Gracias.  (Via interpreter) Arturo Páramo from Grupo Imagen.

QUESTION:  (Via interpreter) Thank you, and good afternoon, everyone.  Secretary Ebrard, I would like to ask if there is already a set date or a schedule for this investment project for development in Central America and southern Mexico.  You talk about measuring, things being able to be quantifiable.  Does this project have a chronogram that has been established?  And has some investment been made, given the fact that during the Trump administration an amount had been offered but nothing became concrete?  For this time around, do we have the commitment of the Government of the United States for that kind of investment?

And on the other hand, what differences are there?  We’re talking about ending the Merida Initiative and a new era in our bilateral relations.  In this sense, how can we see the difference between both agreements, meaning on behalf of the U.S. Government, will there no longer be ease of access to weapons, or will there be further exchange between agencies, between our countries to work in one country or another?  Is this modified?  Is this going to continue?  Are there going to be new rules?  How has the situation changed?

And you said that you did not talk about reopening the border or dates for anything about – regarding reopening the borders between Mexico and the United States.

FOREIGN SECRETARY EBRARD:  (Via interpreter) I would say the following:  The border is an everyday topic.  I – when I gave the floor to Secretary Mayorkas, I called him Alejandro because he has been here twice or thrice already, and I think that we speak every day about this.  Secretary Blinken and I only speak on Sundays.  (Laughter.)

And so I think it’s very clear that for Mexico, it is a priority to reopen activities at the border.  We had the health issue regarding the Delta variant at some point in the United States and in Mexico as well, and that’s why it was delayed.  As soon as the United States makes its decision, they will communicate that to us.  They know it’s a priority.  It was already mentioned this morning.  However, it was not the objective of today’s meeting.

What would be the difference with the Merida Initiative?  Now, let me explain:  The first substantial difference would be that the Merida Initiative was based, from the Mexican perspective, on the fact that we had to capture drug lords and with that it would be enough.  That was the essence of it saying, “Please, the United States, send helicopters, send equipment.  Please, provide assistance so that I can detain these drug lords and solve these issue.”  In the essence, that’s what Mexico thought at that time.

Today, what we have on our hands is a joint strategy which is much more complex.  We know that it’s not going to be enough to just detain or capture some drug lords.  We have to be concerned with addiction, with providing youths with employment opportunities, because if not they resort to crime activities.  We want to avoid the proliferation of consumption of cheaper drugs that is on the rise in both our nations.

So we have agreed on a joint strategy with the three components that we have already explained in which Mexico’s and the U.S.’s priorities are established.  It’s much more complex.  It’s broader.  It’s not only about just one straightforward action.  The success of this agreement is not going to be measured by how many drug lords we put in jail and how many press conferences we hold.  It will be seen through the reduction of the homicide rates in Mexico and the reduction of drug consumption. And there is also reciprocity and co-responsibility, so it’s more egalitarian, it’s more balanced.  That is, in essence, what we mean.  It’s not little.  It’s very much – it’s a lot, because we had not had something like this.

Regarding investments in Central America, you might ask, “Why don’t we have that yet?”  Because the U.S. is going through their budgetary process.  I think I’m answering something that – maybe I am stealing that answer.  But that question that you made, we posed that same question to our colleagues from the United States, and they said, “We’re in the middle of decision-making processes when it comes to our budgets.”  So the United States cannot but wait until that process is over to determine what they can invest so that we can achieve the objectives that we are proposing.

And we are also going through budgetary processes, but we were talking about the U.S.’s participation.  So when they are done with that, we will know.  Remember that it’s different, because on that occasion we talked about private sector investment, and here we’re talking about a more – an investment of a more social nature with government resources.

SECRETARY BLINKEN:  And just to add very, very quickly, first, Marcelo is right.  I know that when the phone rings in his house on a Sunday, he thinks, “Oh, it must be Tony,” because we have a track record for some reason of speaking on Sundays.

And yes, to your – to your point or question, Marcel is exactly right:  We’re in our budgetary process.  But just to be very clear, President Biden has made a commitment to budget significant assistance for Central America, and in particular for Honduras and El Salvador and Guatemala, in order to address the drivers of irregular migration and to hopefully have an impact on people’s lives so that they feel that they can remain in their own countries.  And we have talked about investing $4 billion over the four years of our administration, and the budget proposals that we are making reflect that commitment.

MODERATOR:  The last question from Nike Ching of Voice of America.

QUESTION:  Good afternoon.  Secretary Blinken.  Several U.S. senators today wrote you a letter to express disappointment over the inhumane treatment of Haitian migrants at the U.S.-Mexico border.  If I may, a question for you:  Is the U.S. providing Mexico assistance to fly those migrants back to their homeland?  What specific assurances has the Government of Mexico has given you that they are treating those Haitian migrants humanely, as you have asked?  And – or have they – will they help to facilitate Haiti’s long-term stability?

Good afternoon, Mr. Foreign Secretary.  What assurances are you giving the Haitian migrants in Mexico that they are – they will be treated humanely?  And how is Mexico working with the U.S. to discourage people from heading to the border?  And if they do make it to the border, should they expect the same treatment that sparked criticism worldwide?  Thank you very much, both gentlemen.

SECRETARY BLINKEN:  Thank you.  We are determined that as we enforce our laws, we do so fully respecting the human rights and the dignity of all people, including those who may be seeking to enter the United States as irregular migrants.  That is the fundamental basis upon which we’re proceeding, and we are determined to do that.  We’re in very close daily contact with our colleagues in Mexico on the question of the irregular Haitian migration, some of which is coming from Haiti itself, some of which is coming from other countries in our hemisphere where Haitians have resided for some time and now seek to come to the United States.

We also are trying to be very clear that if they seek to make that journey in an irregular manner, they put themselves at tremendous risk along the entire route, and they will not be able to enter the United States.  So we’re working to make sure that we’re communicating that effectively. Unfortunately, one of the things that’s happened is various groups are spreading false information about what possibilities exist for those coming to the United States irregularly, and trying to misinform people that they will be able to enter the United States.  The danger – the journey is profoundly dangerous and it will not succeed, and we are working to make sure that people understand that.

But we’re also working closely together and working ourselves to make sure that people are treated with dignity, with decency, and that their rights are fully protected.

FOREIGN SECRETARY EBRARD:  (Via interpreter) Yes, thank you. I can tell you that we have not transported people coming in this case not from Haiti but from Brazil and Chile who started migrating up north.  We have not provided transportation of those people or origins that go to the United States back to Haiti.  That has not happened.

What are we doing?  What is Mexico doing?  First, those who – for those who it applies, we have offered refuge.  Why?  Because approximately 90 percent of those people already have that in other countries, in Brazil or in Chile.  However, those who do not, we can provide them with it.  Not all of them ask for it for many reasons.

How many people coming from Brazil, Chile, Colombia, or other countries are in Mexico right now?  Approximately 14,000.  What are we doing with these people?  Most of them even speak Spanish.  And we are trying to provide them with employment opportunities with the help of the private sector.  We have already started that; it has not been easy either.

And what have we realized?  That many people lie to them.  Usually they’re told that if they get to the U.S. in time, they can apply for TPS, which is a program designed for Haitians who live in the United States, not for people living outside the United States.  So starting August 3rd with an announcement of broadening the dates – the date limit for that program, they thought that they needed to get to the United States faster and they thought that they would be able to remain there.  That is what – the information we have gotten from those people that we have made contact with.  Obviously right now we’re getting information that we did not have before.  The National Migration Institute has now hired people who speak not only French but also Creole so that they can communicate better.

So what are we doing?  In half a year, we have received that number of people.  We estimate that there are another 14,000 at least out there in different situations within our country that have not requested refugee status.  So what is Mexico’s position?  Those are the facts.

What I find reproachable is that they are lied to.  That is a really serious situation because those people have already suffered so much.  Can you imagine coming from Brazil and Chile, and going through the entire continent, and getting to the United States thinking that you are going to get a residency just by getting there?  And that’s why this movement was generated recently.

So thank you for that question, because it allows us to clarify these things.  This doesn’t happen that easily.  The people who come to Mexico invariably will be offered the same status.  We have the – that capability.  We are a country of over 120 million people.  If 15,000 people from Haiti come to Mexico and want to work and want to remain here, it’s not a problem for Mexico.  What is a problem is to tell these people that if they get to the United States, they’re going to get a residency.  So we’re working very hard for them to get trustworthy information.

MODERATOR:  (Via interpreter) Thank you very much.  That will be all.  Thank you, Secretary Ebrard, Secretary Blinken.

Categorie
OECD USA

Secretary Antony J. Blinken and OECD Secretary-General Mathias Cormann at a Joint Press Availability (US Department of State)

MODERATOR:  Good afternoon, ladies and gentlemen – those in the room, those watching online – to this final press conference for the OECD’s Ministerial Council Meeting.  We’ll have a – we’ll hear a few remarks from the Secretary-General, followed by remarks from the Secretary of State, who chaired the meeting.  And then we will take some questions and answers.  I now hand the floor over to the Secretary-General Mathias Cormann.

SECRETARY-GENERAL CORMANN:  Thank you very much and welcome everyone.  Good evening.  Thank you to the U.S. Secretary of State, Tony Blinken, for chairing this Ministerial Council Meeting.  This has been an extremely successful MCM.  The United States leadership of this MCM has been absolutely central to its success.  Thank you also to the vice chairs, Korea and Luxembourg, particularly to Foreign Minister Chung Eui-yong and Finance Minister Pierre Gramegna.

About 70 ministers and 180 delegates joined our discussions, either in person – most of them in person here at the OECD – or some in virtual format.

(Via interpreter) Your commitment for democracy, the rule of law, gender equality, and market economy principle, and international order founded on rules and international cooperation, and equal opportunity for all to fulfill their potential – these are the values which gather us today.  In all of the OECD, the economic outlook have improved.

(In English) In our recent, interim economic outlook, we project global growth of 5.7 percent this year and 4.5 percent in 2022.  However, the recovery remains uneven, exposing both advanced and emerging markets to risks.  Slow vaccination progress in some emerging markets and especially in low-income countries are a global concern.  Renewed outbreaks of the virus, especially in countries with relatively low vaccination rates, are forcing developing countries to restrict activities, resorting in bottlenecks and adding to shortages in supply chains.

So over the past two days, the recovery and optimizing the strength and equality of the recovery from COVID-19 has been front and center in all of our discussions.  Ending the health, economic, and social crisis caused by the pandemic and optimizing the strength and the quality of that recovery is our shared key priority.  There’s strong agreement on the need to accelerate vaccine deployment across the world, including by supporting the ACT Accelerator and its COVAX facility.

Beyond the pandemic, we also had rich exchanges on key global challenges: driving and supporting global leadership on more ambitious, effective, and globally coordinated action on climate change; seizing the opportunities of the accelerating digital transformation by better managing some of the associated and growing risks, challenges, and disruptions; finalizing a multilaterally agreed approach to international taxation.  And we’re really at the pointy end of that process now, we hope, making international tax arrangements fairer and work better in the context of digitalization and globalization.  And we focused on advancing gender equality and on advancing equality of opportunity more generally on the foundation of strong, cleaner, fairer economic growth.  And as market-based democratic nations, we committed to actively supporting the crucial work of the WTO to help ensure we can have a well-functioning, open, global market underpinned by rules-based multilateral trading system in good working order.

Ministers affirmed two unique tools to help optimize the strength and equality of the post-COVID recovery: the COVID-19 recovery indicator dashboard, which provides a succinct but comprehensive set of outcome indicators that can help countries measure whether the recovery is indeed strong, inclusive, green, and resilient.  Ministers also operationalized a new OECD International Programme for Action on Climate, which offers a new steering and monitoring instrument to pursue the transition to net zero emissions by 2050.  The IPAC preliminary dashboard, composed of key climate indicators, provides an overview of country progress towards net zero emissions.

A series of other important decisions were made, which are all reflected in the statement.

Finally, at this MCM, we have also revitalized the organization’s commitment to effective multilateralism.  And the positive and active engagement of the United States in effective multilateralism is so important, and it’s been so good to have the U.S. provide leadership to this Ministerial Council Meeting in the leadup to this event, but in particular over these last few days.

We have taken an important step forward to strengthen our global reach, relevance, and impact through the new OECD global relations strategy.  The strategy, which will ensure our engagement with nonmember countries, is aligned with members’ interests, shapes our contributions to global fora, including the G20, the G7, and APEC.

In relation to the six current accession applications in front of us, I particularly thank Secretary Blinken for his statement at this MCM yesterday that the U.S. is committed to see the OECD continue to grow stronger and indicating the readiness of the U.S. to work with all our members to build consensus on the way forward so that applicant countries that share our values and meet the OECD’s high standards can pursue a path to membership.  As secretary-general, I will now seek to facilitate that consultation over coming weeks.

(Via interpreter) We are looking forward to the coming intense multilateral agenda of the coming months in order to ensure the success of COP26, of the G20 summit, and of the ministerial conference of the WTO.  When I joined the OECD four months ago, I described this place as a place where we can identify global collective solutions that we can implement at the national level.  This is a place of political innovation, a dynamic forum to facilitate knowledge sharing and inspire collaboration and action.  During this MCM, the members have fulfilled this potential, and I have the honor of heading the secretariat by supporting its work today and in the coming years.

Thank you, and I will now turn to Secretary of State Mr. Antony Blinken.

SECRETARY BLINKEN:  Thank you so much, Secretary-General.  It’s been really wonderful to be with you and the entire team and all the delegations here this week.  Let me just start by saying how terrific it always is to be back in France, to be in Paris.  And I’m particularly grateful for the very constructive discussions that we had over the last couple of days as well with the closest of partners, the oldest of allies, France, and the work we’re doing to deepen even more the relationship.

But I really want to convey to you, Mathias, and to everyone at the OECD both thanks and congratulations for such a successful ministerial meeting.  And it was particularly good to just be in the same room with most of our colleagues and to see each other face to face or still occasionally mask to mask.  It’s also been an honor to lead the U.S. delegation.  It included senior officials from across the administration, including our Special Envoy for Climate, the U.S. Trade Representative, the Chairman of the Council of Economic Advisers, the Under Secretary of State for Economic Growth, Energy, and the Environment.  We all came to Paris because the OECD is such a valuable forum for getting important work done on behalf of our economies and on behalf of our people.

That’s been the case for the past 60 years, but I think as evidenced by what we have done over the last couple of days, that’s arguably even more the case now and going forward.  Since its founding 60 years ago, the OECD has evolved into a forward-looking institution where the world’s leading market-oriented democracies come together to identify urgent global challenges, to share best practices, to drive research, to inform policies, and to recommit to shared values, which are the foundation of everything that we’re doing.  This year, we continued that tradition by focusing on the theme of a green and inclusive future.

And that actually ties together three of the most critical challenges that our countries face today: stepping up our response to the climate crisis, shaping the global economy in a sustainable way, and addressing deep-rooted inequities that hold our democracies and our economies back.  Over the past two days, OECD member states shared strategies for investing in a green future and moving toward a net zero economy by 2050.  We agreed that the climate crisis must and will remain at the top of the OECD agenda.  The cooperation and the data-driven policy analysis that the OECD provides is also vital as we seek to repair the damage of the COVID-19 pandemic and build back better from it.

We focused as well on global corporate minimum tax rate, which many OECD member states, including the United States, support.  It would help us avoid a self-defeating race to the bottom in which our countries lower our corporate tax rates only for others to lower theirs in response.  This is a race that has gone on for decades, and no country has won it.  A shared approach on taxation will level the playing field for workers and businesses, foster greater equity within and among our nations, and it will create a strong foundation for countries around the world to fund and finance things that are vital to the lives of their citizens.  We have now nearly 140 countries, representing more than 90 percent of global GDP, that have already agreed to this effort.  So it is time to seize the moment and get it done.

We aligned on the need to spark a race to the top for quality infrastructure projects around the world to support more projects that are climate resilient, environmentally sustainable, free from corruption, and truly benefit the communities where they’re built.  Too often, what we’ve seen is infrastructure projects, especially in developing economies, that simply aren’t done that way.  They’re built with imported labor, they steamroll local communities, they leave countries in debt.  Through projects like the Blue Dot Network – which is an initiative of the United States, Japan, and Australia, in collaboration with the OECD and Build Back Better World – we will champion a different approach.

On a central issue of the future economy, we share a belief that the OECD should be a key international forum to develop the rules of the road that will guide the use of emerging technologies – like AI, cybersecurity – and help strengthen the supply chain security that is so vital to all of our countries.

We also discussed strategies for how to bridge the gender digital divide to ensure that women and girls can fully participate in the digital economy.  We simply will not achieve a strong, equitable, resilient global economy if women and girls aren’t fully included.  The same is true for LGBTI persons, for racial and ethnic minorities, anyone else excluded from full participation in the global economy.  And the OECD is doing vital work across all of those areas.

We in the OECD are united by a commitment to, as I said, the shared values that have made possible all of our progress over the last 60 years: democracy; the rule of law; human rights, including gender equality; and open, inclusive, and transparent market economies.  That’s what sets the OECD apart, and it’s especially important today at a time when these principles are challenged by authoritarian governments that argue that their model is better at meeting people’s basic needs.  Now more than ever, we must prove that our approach can make life better for our people and for people all over the world.

So we just approved the OECD 60th Anniversary Vision Statement.  It reaffirms our commitment to those ideals, and critically, to seeing them put into practice, because ultimately that’s what this is all about.  It’s taking the ideals that bring us together and putting them into practice.  I’m confident that they will continue to guide us for the next 60 years and beyond.

So Mathias, again, thank you.  It’s been great to be here with you.  But I’m especially grateful for your leadership, not just these past few days but ever since you’ve been on the job with a very, very important agenda going forward.  And thanks to all the member states of the OECD for such a productive and, I believe, principled ministerial conference.  Thanks very much.

MODERATOR:  We’ll take a first question from AFP (Inaudible)

QUESTION:  Hello, Mr. Secretary.  You met with Mr. Macron, Mr. Le Drian since you came here.  On European defense and the situation in Sahel, how – to what extent is the U.S. ready to support France and the EU?  And should we expect announcements by the end of the month?  Thank you.

SECRETARY BLINKEN:  Thank you very much.  Following the conversation between President Biden and President Macron a few weeks ago, we were directed to take what is one of the most important relationships in the world and make it even better, make it even stronger, deepen our consultations, deepen our cooperation, deepen our coordination.  And that’s exactly what we’re doing.  There’s a lot of work that goes into this, and we’ve had teams meet in a variety of ways in the last – in the last days and indeed in the last weeks.  That’s going to continue.

And as you noted, there are a number of areas where the two presidents agreed we should focus our efforts.  One is on the work that we’re already doing in the Sahel and to look for ways, practical ways to deepen that cooperation.  Another is in Euro-Atlantic security, again, working as we have for so many years now, not only within NATO as allies but also looking at ways to enhance and increase European capacity, something that the United States supports, and as well in the Indo-Pacific, where the EU has put out an important strategy.  France played a critical role in developing that strategy.

We’re about to do the same in the coming months and we’re in intensive consultations to make sure that our strategies are linked up and joined together, because it is vitally important to the United States that Europe in general, France in particular, be a strong and engaged partner in the Indo-Pacific.

So we had very good conversations this week in all three of those areas, as well as many others where France and the United States work very closely together.  This is ongoing work.  It will be continued in the days ahead, including by the National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan, who will be here in a couple of days.  And then we fully expect that President Macron and President Biden will be speaking in the weeks ahead and also meeting to continue this work.

MODERATOR:  Next question is from Kylie Atwood of CNN.

QUESTION:  Good afternoon.  Secretary Blinken, two questions for you.  First, do you believe that after this visit France and their trust in the United States has been restored?  And given the strategic security dialogue with Mexico on Friday, I wanted to ask how you would assess the U.S.-Mexico relationship right now.  And in the meetings on Friday, will you raise one issue – that is, the Mexican Government recently failing to approve visas for DEA agents who have been assigned to Mexico over the last year?  Thank you.

SECRETARY BLINKEN:  Great.  Thanks, Kylie.  Let me start with the second question first.  So we are indeed heading to Mexico in a couple of days.  We will be convening for the first time this High-Level Security Dialogue and talking about a broad range of common security issues and challenges, and that follows on the economic dialogue that brought us together just a few weeks ago in Washington.

I’ve got to say, if the security dialogue matches in quality what we experienced with the economic dialogue, that would be – and I fully expect it will – very, very positive and also productive, because I have to say we had one of the best exchanges I remember in – at least in my experience with our Mexican colleagues just a couple of weeks ago.  And I think that’s very much the spirit in which we’re approaching the security dialogue in a couple of days.

We have the Attorney General taking part.  We have the Secretary for Homeland Security taking part of this.  We will be spending time with President Lopez Obrador as well as with our counterparts and we’ve got a very broad-ranging agenda, and I think it’s evidence of the fact that the relationship, while some issues like migration understandably get a lot of headlines, is incredibly broad and deep-rooted, and so I think we’ll be covering a lot of ground.  I don’t want to spoil the fun, so we’ll have an opportunity to talk in more detail about that going forward.

QUESTION:  Any details on —

SECRETARY BLINKEN:  We’ll have a chance to talk more about Mexico in Mexico.  So come on down.

And then with regard to France, as I said, look, you have to obviously ask our friends here for their views.  From my perspective, the conversations we’ve had just in the last 24 hours were very positive, very productive, and reflect a lot of important work that’s in progress, work that was tasked by President Biden and President Macron to, as I say, deepen consultations, deepen cooperation, deepen coordination across a range of issues that make a real difference for citizens of France and citizens of the United States.

We’re looking at very practical cooperation in a number of areas.  I talked about it a moment ago with our colleague, including in the Sahel, including with regard to Euro-Atlantic security, and including in the Indo-Pacific.  And I think it’s evidence of the seriousness of purpose that we have that we’ve had our teams meeting very consistently and regularly on this.  My visit is followed by, as I said, Jake Sullivan, the National Security Advisor, coming to continue to work on this.  And what we’re doing, I think, is ultimately teeing up some very practical additional initiatives that the presidents will have an opportunity to discuss in the coming weeks.

MODERATOR:  Next question from Will Horobin of Bloomberg.

QUESTION:  Hello.  A question about international tax negotiations.  There are two days to go until the Inclusive Framework meeting.  Are you confident of a deal on Friday that will include all G20 members?  And will the U.S. be able to implement such a deal if it requires changes to tax treaties?

SECRETARY BLINKEN:  Mathias, do you want to have a start at that?

SECRETARY-GENERAL CORMANN:  Well, the G20 finance ministers’ meeting in Venice in July reached a historic agreement on an international tax deal that is designed to make international tax arrangements fairer and work better.  There was more detail to be worked through and those discussions are continuing.  As I stand here before you, I’m quietly optimistic that in time for the G20 Leaders’ Summit towards – at the end of October that we’ll be in a position to finalize an agreement.  There is more work on the way and we will continue to engage in those conversations in the same positive and constructive and solutions-focused spirit that has characterized this process so far.  We are very, very close.  We obviously believe that it is very much in the world’s interest to finalize a deal.  The combined effects of globalization and digitalization have created distortions and inequities that need to be addressed, and Secretary Blinken went through some of those in his opening remarks.  And a lot of work has been done.  We’re very close.  Conversations are continuing.  As I stand here today, I’m quietly optimistic that in time for the G20 Leaders’ Summit we will be able to finalize an agreement.

Of course, the Inclusive Framework meeting on Friday is a key meeting and we’ll give it our best and we’ll see how we go.

SECRETARY BLINKEN:  And I would simply say that I share the quiet optimism.  This is a once-in-a-generation opportunity.  It’s a once-in-a-generation opportunity to make the international tax system fairer.  It’s a once-in-a-generation opportunity to help countries raise the revenue necessary to actually do things important to bettering the lives of their citizens and to building back better from COVID.  And my sense of the conversations in the last couple of days is that a broad array of countries share that view, share that perspective.  We still have some work to do but, as the Secretary-General said, I think we’ve made good progress in the last couple of days and we want to bring this over the finish line.

MODERATOR:  Great.  The final question is Simon Lewis from Reuters.

QUESTION:  Hi, thank you.  Mr. Secretary, while you’ve been here there was a readout from the Russian Foreign Ministry about a call you had with Foreign Minister Lavrov, so I wonder if you could tell us a little bit about what it is you’re discussing with the Foreign Minister on the Iran deal, and what are you hoping Russia can do to bring Iran back into that deal?  And also, on that call did you discuss the eight Russians who were expelled from NATO, which is a story that just broke today?

And just another, separate issue:  There’s been a significant increase in Chinese activity near Taiwan, and does that give you – does that give the U.S. cause to change its calculus in any way and does that contradict the agreement that – with China that the President talked about yesterday, which seemed to be a reference to the understanding between the U.S. and China that Taiwan issues should be resolved by peaceful means?  Is that something that the U.S. side is going to bring up during the talks in Zurich?

Thank you.

SECRETARY BLINKEN:  Thank you very much.  With regard to the call with Foreign Minister Lavrov, yes, we focused on the JCPOA, and the United States and Russia I think share an interest in seeing a mutual return to compliance with the JCPOA.  Russia has been an important participant in this effort, and we talked about where things stand.  We talked about the commitment of the United States to return to compliance, but the necessity of Iran being willing to do the same thing.  And I noted again to Foreign Minister Lavrov that the runway is getting shorter and shorter on that prospect and on that interest that we share because, as I’ve said before and as we’ve talked about before, given what Iran is doing with its nuclear program that is inconsistent with the obligations under the JCPOA and the constraints imposed by the JCPOA against spinning more sophisticated centrifuges, enriching uranium to 20 percent and even 60 percent, we are getting closer and closer to a point where simply returning to compliance with the JCPOA won’t recapture the benefits of the agreement.  So we had an opportunity to compare notes on where we stand and where we hope to go.

With regard to Taiwan, I have to tell you and reiterate that we are very concerned by the PRC’s provocative military activity near Taiwan.  As we’ve said, the activity is destabilizing, it risks miscalculation, and it has the potential to undermine regional peace and stability.  So we strongly urge Beijing to cease its military, diplomatic, and economic pressure and coercion directed at Taiwan.  We have – the United States has – a commitment to Taiwan that is rock solid and, over many years, has contributed to the maintenance of peace and stability across the Taiwan Strait and within the region.  And we will continue to stand with friends, with allies to advance shared prosperity, shared security, shared values, as well as continue to deepen our ties with a democratic Taiwan.

MODERATOR:  We have to close the press conference there, and I thank you all very much for your questions.  Thank you.

SECRETARY BLINKEN:  Thank you.

Categorie
Russia USA

U.S. Leads Effort to Press Russia on Chemical Weapons Use at the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons Executive Council Meeting (US Department of State)

Today in The Hague, the United States and 44 other countries submitted questions to the Russian Federation regarding the poisoning of Mr. Aleksey Navalny on Russian soil last year.  The presentation of these questions coincides with the Ninety-Eighth Session of the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) Executive Council, a 41-member policy-making body charged with promoting the effective implementation of and compliance with the Chemical Weapons Convention (CWC).  The CWC, of which both the United States and the Russian Federation are members, allows States Parties to “request clarification on any matter that causes doubt in regard to compliance.”

The United States and many in the international community have long sought clarity on Russia’s attempted assassination of Mr. Navalny with a chemical weapon on August 20, 2020, and whether it intends to cooperate with the OPCW.  Given its status as a State Party to the CWC, Russia’s continued lack of transparency and cooperation surrounding the poisoning is particularly concerning.  The questions were submitted in accordance with paragraph 2 of Article IX of the CWC, which sets forth the formal process by which a State Party can make a request to another State Party for clarification on any matter that may cause doubt about compliance.  The CWC requires Russia to provide its response within 10 days.

Any use of chemical weapons is unacceptable, and anyone who uses them should be identified and held to account.  The United States has concluded that FSB agents poisoned Mr. Navalny in Russia using an unscheduled nerve agent from a Novichok group of agents, and only Russia has researched, developed, and used such chemical weapons.  There can be no impunity for such actions.  The United States calls on Russia to answer the questions in accordance with its obligations and to make clear to the international community what it has done and is doing to ensure that there is no further use of chemical weapons from Russian territory.

For more information on the Bureau of Arms Control, Verification and Compliance, contact avc-press-dl@state.gov

Categorie
OECD USA

Secretary Antony J. Blinken at Blue Dot Network Discussion (US Department of State)

Secretary Antony J. Blinken at Blue Dot Network Discussion – United States Department of State

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