SECRETARY KERRY: Good morning. Buenos Dias. Bonjour. Nice to be here with everybody, and I’m particularly delighted to welcome my friends and North American counterparts, Secretary Meade and Minister Baird. We’re happy to have them in Washington here today.
I have had a chance to meet bilaterally a number of times with both the secretary and the minister, but this is the first time that we’ve been able to meet all three of us, trilaterally, since I became Secretary of State, and I’m very grateful to both of them for making the trip here. And I hope, as I said to them today, to visit their countries, both of them, very, very soon.
During my years in the Senate and certainly since becoming Secretary, I’ve often found myself in absolute awe about how extraordinary this continent really is. While we often wind up traveling to trouble spots in the world, the truth is that North America is a remarkable, remarkable unity of three very important and powerful countries that share values and interests, and are operating on those values and interests every single day. We are three nations separated by peaceful borders. We are neighbors. We’re partners. And we come together to confront the full range of challenges that we face, and believe me, this is something that is not everyday everywhere in the world today.
Together, our North American nations are promoting democracy and our shared values at home and around the globe. We’re encouraging daily our cooperation on matters of international peace and security. We work together on nonproliferation, on Syria, on Middle East peace, on a host of different challenges to our security. And we’re also collaborating to address all of them more effectively than any of us could do alone. And that’s the power of North America and this relationship.
Through initiatives like the North America-Central America Security Dialogue, we’re also working to improve citizen security throughout the Western Hemisphere and beyond. And we’re reducing the impact of national disasters. We’re providing assistance in the face of health, humanitarian challenges. We’ve launched trilateral initiatives like the North American Plan for Animal and Pandemic Influenza, which was critical during the H1N1 outbreak of 2009, and remains intact today in order to help us address similar challenges, should they arise at any moment.
We’re also taking steps to support economic growth that is inclusive, shared. Just a few weeks ago, we marked the 20th anniversary of NAFTA. And I think we have learned a couple of important lessons that can help inform the vision of NAFTA. The first lesson is free trade works. In a world where economic policy is foreign policy, free trade is a key ingredient for shared prosperity, for shared growth, and shared security. Every single day, the United States does more than $3.4 billion of trade in our NAFTA partnership. And that is about a third of all the trading that we do. It is done between this partnership. More than $1 trillion of trade a year, more than $100 billion of trade a month – that is more trade that we engage in with Brazil annually, and each month we do more trade than we engage with with India annually, just to give you a sense of the vitality of this partnership.
Over the past 20 years, we have opened up a new North American marketplace. We have integrated supply chains and re-imagined entire industries, from agriculture to aerospace. Today, North America is far more than the sum of three economies. It’s the collective output of what has become a fully integrated manufacturing center. If you buy a car in Mexico, it may well have been assembled in Canada and contained Made-in-America parts. There are workers in Wichita, Kansas putting the finishing touches on aircraft that contain fuselages assembled in Mexico and engines built in Canada. This kind of economic integration is benefiting all three of our nations economically, and has also improved living standards and working conditions across the board.
I will tell you, because I was involved in the NAFTA debate in the United States Senate, I remember how intense that debate was. It divided America. And we could never really have envisioned, even in the best arguments, what has happened in those 20 years.
The second lesson that we can learn from the past couple of decades is that globalization isn’t slowing down any time soon. And no matter how much there is some dislocation, and we acknowledge there can be, the fact is that no political leader, no country can put that genie back in the bottle. When I joined my fellow senators in supporting and ultimately passing NAFTA, we didn’t do it because it was easy. We did it because we believed it was a risk worth taking, and it has proven true. NAFTA was at the vanguard of the wholly interconnected world that we face today. And as I always say, nobody has any way of transforming the realities of this desire of people everywhere to have better jobs, more jobs, more education, more opportunity that comes with that opening up.
So yes, globalization can be a challenge. But it really has meant that our countries have to be more dynamic. We have to be more competitive. We have to be more innovative. That’s not always easy. But globalization is an enormous opportunity, and if we can take advantage of it as we build on this strong partnership, we believe that it will help all of us to provide better opportunity and more security to our citizens.
If we want to compete, we actually have to make it even easier to trade, easier for people to invest in our countries. We talked about that this morning. We talked about how we can improve the trans-border movement of both goods and of people. We talked about how the Trans-Pacific Partnership could particularly have an impact on the global economy and also be enormously beneficial to each of our economies. And if our nations want to compete, the United States, Canada, and Mexico are best approaching these challenges as partners, not as competitors.
That includes on the subject of energy. I look forward to discussing with my counterparts the opportunities for energy cooperation, and we talked about that today – ways in which we can address the enormous challenge of climate change, which we all agree in our nations must be addressed, but also how we address the question of taking advantage of the vast resources we have on this continent, bring greater energy opportunity to our citizens, but do so in ways that are environmentally sustainable and responsible.
Next month, President Pena Nieto will host President Obama and Prime Minister Harper in Mexico for the North American Leaders meeting. And the lessons of the past will be at the forefront of our minds, but our focus fundamentally needs to be on the future, and that’s where it will be – on the growth of our markets, the strength of our partnership, the health and well-being of our people, and the security of our continent for years to come.
FOREIGN SECRETARY MEADE: Thank you and good morning to all. Thank you, Secretary Kerry. Thank you, Minister Baird. This has been, I think, a very good meeting for Mexico. It has allowed us the opportunity to talk about issues that are very relevant to the region. Just at the outset, I would like to recognize from Mexico the very long hours, the very long days of Secretary Kerry, the risks that he has taken in order to construct a better world. And I think that many of those risks have paid off, and Mexico recognizes that hard work. We had a very good meeting this morning in addressing many regional interests.
I would like to thank the members of the press.
(Via interpreter) I would also like to thank Mexican and Hispanic correspondents for their attendance.
(Inaudible) of common interest to our governments. As Secretary Kerry said, the North American (inaudible) drive the vision of 21st century North America. We will work towards becoming the most competitive and dynamic region in the world. We will be honored to host President Obama and Prime Minister Harper in Toluca in February. Today’s meeting focused on ensuring that we are on track to deliver our commitments. We discussed many topics, on how to make – how to work towards increasing our shared prosperity, our leadership, on the opportunities of international engagement, and the security of citizens in the North American region.
President Pena Nieto has said repeatedly that he believes that a 21st century North America is called on to become the most competitive and dynamic region in the world. We know that this is something that President Obama and Prime Minister Harper also share. We have many things that will support our work to make North America competitive and dynamic. As Secretary Kerry said, and I know Minister Baird believes, we have shared values, we have shared goals, we have a working partnership that has worked to the benefit of our people.
But we also are a region that enjoys an important number of competitive advantages going forward. We have as a region very competitive labor costs, we have huge transportation and logistical advantages, we have qualified and hard-working human capital, we are enjoying a new energy paradigm that people would not have envisioned some years back, we have great economies of scale due to the size and interrelation of our urban areas, and we have had a framework that has worked and that has worked well.
As we mark the NAFTA 20th anniversary, it’s important and interesting to see the size of the results. As this press conference is going on, more than $2 million of good are being traded every minute within our three economies. And behind that trade, there has been job creation and prosperity for the region. Mexico really looks forward to partaking in an effort to advance prosperity in the region that is both shared and inclusive. We know that we must seize new areas of opportunities that lie before us. We need to collaborate more on education, on science, on technology, and innovation. We have the opportunity to work together in addressing regional concerns of better engaging with Central America, the Caribbean, and the Latin American regions. We know that by working together, we can achieve more. We think that we have the regional institutions, the political framework, and the political will now in place to implement the decisions that we have taken.
The North American idea is a very good friend of Mexico and of North America because of what Pastor says – it’s stronger than ever. Mexico, the U.S., and Canada are working together to further our regional community, and that commitment was reaffirmed amongst all of us earlier this morning.
Again, thank you, Secretary Kerry. Thank you, Minister Baird, for your partnership in this endeavor.
SECRETARY KERRY: Thank you very much, Secretary Meade. Minister Baird.
FOREIGN MINISTER BAIRD: Thank you very much, John.
(Via interpreter) It’s a great pleasure for me to be here today and to celebrate the good partnership and the good relations between our two countries.
(Inaudible) for your hospitality, John. We had great discussions today celebrating 20 years of NAFTA and the huge and significant economic growth in trade that we’ve seen between our three countries. We also have seen the growth of our political relations with the trilateral relationship to look what we can do to work together to see more jobs, more hope, and more opportunity, what we can do to make our economies more competitive, what we can do to boost incomes, boost job creation in all three of our countries. NAFTA has been an unqualified success, and one of the great side effects is the strengthened political relationship between all three countries where, on issue after issue after issue, there is a strengthened partnership where not only are we working together, but rowing together and getting a lot farther a lot faster than any of us could have ever have hoped 20 years ago.
We had an opportunity to discuss security, border management, infrastructure. We had the opportunity to talk about regulatory cooperation, all things that can help boost job creation. And this remains a significant priority for Canada, and we look forward to the continued preparations for a successful summit. We appreciate the significant leadership from President Pena Nieto. The scale and the speed of the reforms which have taken place in his first year in office are remarkable. And we had a strong relationship with the Calderon administration and we’re very pleased with the first year of our relationship with the new administration.
I want to thank you as well, John, for the significant American leadership that we have seen from you, particularly with respect to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. I look forward to visiting Israel later today – tomorrow when I will leave, and to doing all we can to support your noble efforts to seek a resolution to one of, if not the most, intractable issue in the world. Obviously, your leadership as well, with respect to trying to bring a political solution and an end to the violence and the war by Assad against his own people, is remarkable and we will be there in Geneva to support you in those common values and efforts that we strongly support. Thank you very much. Merci beaucoup.
SECRETARY KERRY: Thank you very much, John. I think we’re – Jen will manage the questions.
MS. PSAKI: The first question will be from Michael Gordon of The New York Times.
QUESTION: A question for Secretary Kerry. Sir, after you became Secretary of State, you made the point repeatedly that it was important to change Bashar al-Assad’s calculation in order to achieve a political solution at Geneva II. Now almost a year later, it’s clear that the Assad regime believes its position is stronger than ever. In his letter to the United Nations, the Syria foreign minister, who will be leading the delegation to Geneva II, suggests that the purpose of going to Geneva is to fight terrorism, not discuss a political transition. In fact, he says some point in the invitation the Syrian Government received from the UN are “in conflict with the legal and political position of the state of Syria.”
Sir, my question is: How can you expect to make progress toward a political transition at Geneva II if the Assad government does even accept the purpose of the conference, which is what its own letter suggests. Have you been in contact with the Syrian Government over the past 24 hours to obtain an assurance that it accepts the purpose of the meeting? And doesn’t the Syrian foreign minister’s letter mean that more pressure needs to be brought to bear on the Assad government in order to make political headway? Thank you.
SECRETARY KERRY: Thank you very much, Michael. Yesterday I addressed directly the revisionism of the Syrian regime in its effort to try to divert the purpose, which will not be successful. More than 30 nations are going to assemble, all of whom, thus far, and if there are more, will be and must be committed to the Geneva I communique. Now, you were with me in Paris the other day when Foreign Minister Lavrov stood up and reiterated that the purpose of this conference is the implementation of the Geneva I communique.
Nobody would have believed that Assad would have given up his chemical weapons. But he did. And the reason he did is that his patrons came to understand that he had to. And I believe, as we begin to get to Geneva, and begin to get into this process, that it will become clear that there is no political solution whatsoever if Assad is not discussing a transition and if he thinks he’s going to be part of that future. It’s not going to happen. The people who are the opponents of this regime will never, ever stop. There will be a low-grade insurgency at least, and worse, potentially even a civil war if it continues, because they will not stop.
Now we also are not out of options with respect to what we may be able to do to increase the pressure and further change the calculation. And I think we’ve made that clear to the Russian foreign minister and others, and nor are other players short of an ability to be able to have an impact here.
So I think they can bluster, they can protest, they can put out distortions. The bottom line is: We are going to Geneva to implement Geneva I. And if Assad doesn’t do that, he will invite greater response in various ways from various people over a period of time. So I’m not particularly surprised that he is trying to divert this. He’s been doing this for months, trying to make himself the protector of Syria against extremists, when he himself has even been funding some of those extremists – even purposely ceding some territory to them in order to make them more of a problem so he can make the argument that he is somehow the protector against them. Nobody is going to be fooled. We’re not going to be fooled by this process.
So Foreign Minister Lavrov has stated: They are supporting the Geneva I communique and the government has to come and negotiate around the communique. And since Russia is one of the primary benefactors of the Assad regime, we believe the Russians have a high stake in helping to make certain that Assad understands exactly what the parameters of this negotiation are.
MODERATOR: Second question is for (inaudible) from (inaudible) de Mexico.
QUESTION: Thank you. Secretary Kerry, you mentioned that you discussed how to improve the transit of goods and people here in North America. Many people here in the U.S. have been asking the three governments to update NAFTA to take into account the new reality, for example, of the recently passed energy reform in Mexico. So I’d like to get a sense of the three of you whether your governments will be willing to update NAFTA or even reopen it formally.
And Secretary Kerry --
SECRETARY KERRY: To open what?
QUESTION: Reopen NAFTA formally to include some new recent issues such as energy reform. And Secretary Kerry, especially for you, what are your response to those who believe that at some point the U.S. should include Canada and Mexico in the TTIP negotiations, if only to avoid future conflicts between the NAFTA rules and whatever you end up agreeing with the Europeans.
SECRETARY KERRY: Well, let me speak first, and I’d like each of our – my guests to address this also. Over the last 20 years, as I mentioned, we’ve developed this incredible network of trade agreements in the Western hemisphere. And we have long-wanted to open up those benefits. I think that stepping up, all of us, to the TPP, is a very critical component of sort of moving to the next tier, post-NAFTA. So I don’t think you have to open up NAFTA, per se, in order to achieve what we’re trying to achieve. There are plenty of ways for us in cooperative, and we discussed a lot of them this morning with respect to borders, with respect to regulations, with respect to energy cooperation, technology, innovation, investment – there are a host of things that we can move forward on that will take us to the next level without having to sort of go back and kind of reopen it. I think we’re well-engaged and looking forward to a much more robust relationship.
And what we did do today was set down a series of specific items that we will follow up on quickly, so that these can be the items that our presidents and prime minister wind up engaging on in the meeting in February. And I think today’s meeting holds out the prospect that that can be a more productive and more specific engagement as a result.
FOREIGN MINISTER BAIRD: Now listen, we believe that NAFTA’s been an unqualified success, the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade negotiations, which all three of us are in, offer us the opportunity to strengthen the trilateral partnership, and we’re keen to use that opportunity to do so.
FOREIGN SECRETARY MEADE: NAFTA has worked well on many levels. In the last 20 years, trade in the region multiplied by three, foreign direct investment in the region multiplied by eight. Mexico is now the third trading partner of both the U.S. and Canada. We’re the second and the fifth market of the U.S. and Canada, respectively. Just to put in perspective, Mexico is the first market for exports of Arizona, California, and Texas. We’re the second largest export market for other 20 states. Again, to put the numbers in perspective, exports to Mexico just from the U.S. were larger than exports to China and Japan together. They were larger than the sum of exports to Germany, France, Holland, and the UK put together. And that is a platform over which we have an opportunity to build.
I agree with what Senator – with what Secretary Kerry and what Minister Baird said. We do not think it is necessary to reopen NAFTA, but we think we have to build on it to construct and revitalize the idea of a dynamic North America. North America is the single most important economic bloc today. The three economies standing here before you today explain about a third of the world economy. We explain – we are the largest exporters of most advanced industries, and we have therefore the obligation to review how the economic process is going in such a way as to remove any obstacles for trade, investment, and economic prosperity to be a reality to the citizens of all three of our countries.
The commitment that we have reached today will allow us to help develop an agenda, to follow it through, to have mechanisms that allow for the commitments that we’ve reached to be fully implemented. In terms of the trade relationship with Europe, at some point we will have three bilateral trade agreements with the European Union. It is in the interest of Mexico that those negotiations are to the benefit of the North American region. We think that that is in the best interest of Canada and the U.S. as well, and we will work to ensure that those negotiations further increase North American competitiveness, with a view, eventually, to having a more integrated perspective from North America and the European Union, rather than just a view of three bilaterals.
MODERATOR: Thank you. A question from Alex Panetta of the Canadian Press.
QUESTION: My question’s on a bilateral matter, a Canada-U.S. issue, the Keystone Pipeline. Last February, Secretary Kerry, you said you were hoping to be in a position to offer a decision on Keystone in the near future. It’s been almost a year. Since then, the Canadian Government has said it wouldn’t take no for an answer on Keystone. This week, your Canadian interlocutor is in Washington, has repeatedly asked for a decision soon because apparently the uncertainty is becoming untenable for the oil industry. So I would ask you to answer your Canadian friend.
SECRETARY KERRY: Well, I always answer my Canadian friend, but I have to do it according to our administrative process, and the rules and regulations under which I have to operate, and I think he understands that. We are currently engaged in the Environmental Impact Statement analysis. An analysis will be made with respect to the national interests ultimately, and we’re just not at that point yet. I haven’t received it. They haven’t finished it.
There were a lot of questions that were raised in all of the public comment period, and those comments have necessitated appropriate answers. The public has a role in this. We’re all accountable to our publics. The democratic process demands that we do that. So we are doing it, and I can promise our friends in Canada that all the appropriate effort is being put into trying to get this done effectively and rapidly. And my hope is that before long, that analysis will be available, and then my work begins.
FOREIGN MINISTER BAIRD: If I could as well respond. This is obvious, John and I have had discussions about this in the past, and we’ll be meeting bilaterally later today. Obviously, this is a tremendously important project for the future of prosperity of the Canadian economy. Twenty-six months ago, Hillary Clinton called, explained the concerns that the Administration had, particularly with the aquifer in Nebraska. We’re pleased that the proponent has worked constructively with the state, realigned the pipeline, gone through the process. We hope the final State Department report is out in short order, and that the Administration will be in a position to make a positive decision. This is a great project for the future economic prosperity of Canada. It’s a great project. It’ll create a lot of jobs here in the United States. It’s a great project which will increase the energy security of our closest friend and ally, and we obviously want to see and look forward to a positive decision to energy security, and a positive decision to job creation.
MS. PSAKI: Thank you, everyone.
SECRETARY KERRY: Thank you all very much. Appreciate it.