October 5, 2011
QUESTION: We’re in Santo Domingo. You’ve had the Prosperity meeting on the same week that President Obama has sent trade agreements with Colombia, with Panama, and South Korea to Congress. How important are these two last treaties, Colombia and Panama? Many say, well, these are small economies; this isn’t really relevant for the U.S. How – what – how important is this treaty?
SECRETARY CLINTON: Oh, I think it’s critically important, and it’s one of the reasons why the President waited until all the agreements were ready to go at the same time. As you might recall, the Korean Free Trade Agreement was ready before Colombia and Panama were, but we were absolutely committed for all three of them going because each is important. There may be differences in the size of economies, but there is no difference in the significance of these relationships to the United States.
QUESTION: You have the Summit of the Americas in Cartagena next year. How important will trade be in the agenda and in the conversation with the region?
SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, trade will be very important as part of the larger economic emphasis, because we know that trade is significant. So is investment, so is growing the base of one’s own economy. We’ll also talk about citizen security, safe neighborhoods. We’ll talk about including health and education and strengthening democratic governance. These all go together. You can have one without the other, but you will not have the kind of stable growth that will be more inclusive, which is what we are seeking. So we’re very supportive of the theme that the Colombians have chosen, focusing on prosperity, and we’re going to work closely with our neighbors in the region to have a very positive summit.
QUESTION: Many of the governments in the region are on the same line with the U.S., Colombia, Mexico, Chile; others aren’t, such as Venezuela, Bolivia, Ecuador. How do you work with them?
SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, we think that it’s important to continue to try to work with all of our neighbors in the region. And we regret that some of the countries are not following the example of their neighbors. If you look at what has been accomplished in Chile and Brazil and Peru and Colombia and Mexico, the kind of growth that we’ve seen, and not only growth, but lifting people out of poverty, we see the trends going in the opposite directions in the countries that you mentioned.
We want the entire region to prosper. So we are constantly encouraging every country to follow a pathway that has proven to be successful. We now have evidence about what works, and we encourage governments, businesses, citizens to look at what works in their own neighborhood and then follow that example.
QUESTION: How would you define the U.S.-Venezuela relationship? At this moment, there is no ambassador in each –in either country. President Chavez has health issues. How closely are you following that, and how would you define the relationship?
SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, we certainly wish President Chavez good health and a good recovery from his illness. We have differences. There is no denying that. Everyone knows it. But on a people-to-people level, we are always looking for ways to work with the Venezuelan people, and we would like to see the Government of Venezuela be more open and cooperative in seeking a better economic future for their own people and working with their neighbors on mutual problems, like drug trafficking and criminal cartels and the environment. So we think there is opportunity for everyone to work together on common goals.
QUESTION: You probably recognize the U.S.’s responsibility in the drug trade, consumption by Americans. But President Calderon of Mexico keeps on insisting on this same issue. Is there something the U.S. could do – is there more that you can do when Central America feels that not enough is being there and that that crisis is being overlooked?
SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, Carlos, I think that the relationship that we have forged between the United States and Mexico is unprecedented. We are working closely together at all levels, and we strongly support the policies of the Calderon administration to try to end the violence, free the people of Mexico from the drug scourge, but also, at the same time, invest in people so that there’s not an open door to the appeal of the money from the drug traffickers, where children are in school instead of on the streets selling drugs or getting involved in gangs. So it’s a very important commitment that we’ve made through the Merida Initiative.
And then we are working with Mexico and Colombia to help our friends in Central America, because both Colombia and Mexico have resources and assets and experiences that they can help their Central American neighbors learn how better to protect themselves. We are all in this together. And you’re right; when I first went to Mexico early in my term as Secretary of State, I said, “Look, we share in the responsibility for what is happening in Mexico along our border.” So we have to do more, and we have do better, and we’re trying to do that.
QUESTION: Final question: How does this law recently implemented in Alabama, HB 56 in illegal immigration, affect the effectiveness of American diplomacy in the region and the perception of the United States in the region?
SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, we do not believe that they have the right to try to determine immigration policy from the state. We think that is a federal responsibility. And we’ve had other states, like Arizona, where we objected to and filed legal action against certain provisions in those laws that were passed at the state level. It doesn’t reflect the laws nor does it reflect the attitudes of the vast majority of Americans. Now, we do have to do something about illegal immigration; everybody knows that. And we will continue to look for a way to achieve comprehensive immigration reform.
But one of the reasons why we are excited about programs like Pathways – and you heard some of the panelists that we were speaking to earlier today – like Alicia Barcena from ECLAC and others – say, “Look, what we’re trying to do is improve the economies in the entire region.” People don’t want to leave their homes; they want to stay and raise their families. So we need to be working on changing our own immigration laws, and we need to be working on improving the economies in our neighbors to the south. That’s the best long -term solution.
QUESTION: (In Spanish.)
SECRETARY CLINTON: Thank you very much for talking with me today.
QUESTION: And I forgot to ask you something you haven’t been asked before. Are you running for President? (Laughter.)
SECRETARY CLINTON: Oh, yes. Well, I’ve been asked, and the answer is always the same: No.
QUESTION: You haven’t reconsidered?
SECRETARY CLINTON: No.
QUESTION: Muchas gracias.
SECRETARY CLINTON: Thank you very much.