MR PATEL: Good afternoon, everybody, and Happy Friday. Welcome to this press call to preview Secretary Blinken’s upcoming travel to Mexico on Monday, September 12th for the 2022 U.S.-Mexico High-Level Economic Dialogue. Joining us today is Assistant Secretary of State for Western Hemisphere Affairs Brian Nichols. This call is on the record but it is embargoed until the conclusion of this call. We will have some limited time for questions at the end. The assistant secretary does have a hard stop, but we’ll try to get a couple in. But with that, I will turn it over to Assistant Secretary Nichols to kick us off.
ASSISTANT SECRETARY NICHOLS: Thank you, and thank you all for joining us today in this preview of Secretary of State Antony J. Blinken’s travel to Mexico City, Mexico on September 12th to co-chair the 2022 U.S.-Mexico High-Level Economic Dialogue, also known as the HLED. Secretary Blinken, U.S. Secretary of Commerce Gina Raimondo, Deputy U.S. Trade Representative Jayme White, along with other senior U.S. Government officials will join their Mexican counterparts for a bilateral dialogue and stakeholder engagement. Under Secretary of State for Economic Growth, Energy, and the Environment Jose Fernandez and I will accompany Secretary Blinken on this trip.
Through this strategic and flexible platform, the United States and Mexico advance shared economic, commercial, and social priorities. In September 2021, Vice President Kamala Harris relaunched the annual Cabinet-level U.S.-Mexico High-Level Economic Dialogue, and Cabinet‑level leaders from the United States and Mexico met in Washington, D.C. This year, the United States and Mexico will meet for the second annual HLED in Mexico City, Mexico.
The U.S. co-chairs include the State Department, the U.S. Department of Commerce, and the Office of the United States Trade Representative, with the goal of fostering economic development and growth, job creation, global competitiveness, and reduction of poverty and inequality. The HLED is organized around four central pillars: building back better together, promoting sustainable economic and social development in southern Mexico and Central America, securing the tools for future prosperity, and investing in our people.
Over the last year, we have seen the progress made towards our shared goals as a result of the commitment made at the 2021 HLED. Last year, we pledged to build back (inaudible) together, and we subsequently launched the U.S.-Mexico Supply Chain Working Group to promote competitiveness, attract investment, and reduce vulnerabilities in critical sectors. We pledged to promote sustainable economic development in southern Mexico and Central America, and in December 2021, we followed through on that pledge by launching Sembrando Oportunidades, a joint initiative between USAID and the Mexican Agency for International Development Cooperation, MEXID, to increase technical cooperation and address the root causes of irregular migration. We pledged to secure the tools for future economic prosperity, and today we are coordinating to strengthen global supply chain and tackle challenges through continued ICT infrastructure development.
And finally, we pledged to invest in our people. Both of our governments are investing in entrepreneurs supporting small and medium-sized enterprises, and enhancing access to opportunities for women, youth, indigenous persons, and members of the LGBTQI+ community. Our governments are exchanging information on apprenticeships and career technical education to inform efforts to generate jobs, reduce poverty, and promote North American competitiveness.
Parallel to our bilateral work, the HLED has benefited from the input of stakeholders in the private sector, labor, the academy, sub-national actors, and civil society, who have participated since 2021 in over 20 engagements to reform and support the HLED. We’re proud of our joint successes over the past year, and we know that opportunity abounds in our shared future. We can only achieve tomorrow’s full potential by working together today.
Secretary Blinken, Secretary of Commerce Gina Raimondo, and Deputy U.S. Trade Representative Jayme White will travel together on September 12th to fulfill that commitment to achieve greater progress to the benefit of the people of the United States and the people of Mexico.
We’ll be taking a strategic look at some of the opportunities and challenges that await us in the year ahead, and specific initiatives we can undertake together to best position ourselves for success. We’ll discuss specific proposals presented by the United States and Mexico for areas of cooperation in line with the four central pillars of the dialogue. We will also discuss opportunities for North America that will result from the passage of the CHIPS and Science Act and the Inflation Reduction Act, both of which provide incentives to drive rapid technological innovation and further integrate our supply chain and enhance North American (inaudible). Cabinet-level officials from both governments will also meet with stakeholders again to inform our discussions.
In addition to the High-Level Economic Dialogue, Secretary Blinken plans to meet with President López Obrador and Foreign Secretary Ebrard to discuss not only the HLED and our economic relationship but other shared priorities, including our joint work to address fentanyl and our ongoing cooperation and efforts to humanely address irregular migration in the Americas. Secretary Blinken will also follow up on commitments made by both governments at the Summit of the Americas and during President Biden’s July 12th meeting with President López Obrador.
We have an incredibly broad and deep relationship with Mexico, and this year we’ll celebrate 200 years of diplomatic relations. Mexico plays a key role in our work in North America to advance democracy, economic prosperity, and security. We appreciate the opportunity to meet with them at this high level to discuss our shared economic goals, and we look forward to continued cooperation in the year – this year and years ahead to advance our shared prosperity. Thank you.
MR PATEL: Thanks so much, Assistant Secretary Nichols. Operator, if you could please repeat the instructions to ask a question, as we’ve got a little, little time for some Q&A.
OPERATOR: Certainly, and ladies and gentlemen, once again, if you’d like to ask a question, please press 1 then 0 on your telephone keypad. You may withdraw your question at any time by repeating the 1, 0 command. Again, if you have a question, please press 1 then 0. And if you please wait to start your question before we let your line is open. Thank you.
MR PATEL: First, let’s go to the line of Jose Diaz with Reforma.
QUESTION: Hey, thank you very much for doing this. I really appreciate it. Assistant Secretary, as you know, energy is a major concern for the U.S. Government and there are ongoing consultations between USTR and its Mexican counterparts regarding some developments in the energy industry in Mexico. What is the message? And how are these talks going that they – what’s the message that the U.S. will try to convey Mexico to avoid all the problems that the U.S. sees in the energy sector in Mexico? And just a quick question on logistics, is Secretary Blinken only going to Mexico City, or also Monterrey, as it has been reported?
ASSISTANT SECRETARY NICHOLS: Thank you so much for those questions. I’ll start with the second part first. The Secretary and our delegation will only be going to Mexico City, and with regards to your first part of your question, let me, one, stress that we have an incredibly strong and deep relationship with Mexico and that includes on climate change and energy issues. We engage Canada and Mexico both bilaterally and trilaterally on those issues, including also supply chain issues. Dispute settlement under international agreement is a normal part of trade relationships, even among the closest partners, and the United States and Mexico can address issues around energy in this dispute settlement process without disrupting our broader economic ties. We have a shared focus on fostering economic development and growth, job cooperation, global competitiveness, and addressing the global climate, the crisis, and ensuring that North America has access to clean, sustainable energy for the benefit of our peoples. And those are the things that we will be focused on.
MR PATEL: Let’s next go to the line of Jesus Garcia with El Diario.
QUESTION: Hi. Can you hear me there?
ASSISTANT SECRETARY NICHOLS: Hi. Yes. Go ahead.
QUESTION: Thank you. Thank you for doing this, Assistant Secretary Nichols. I have two quick questions. What are the first steps for the U.S. and the Mexican Government on the southern border ahead of the end of the 2022 fiscal year ahead of increase of immigrants arriving at the border? Are you planning for more security?
And my second question is: Do you have any update about the special operation against organized crime and smugglers in Latin America, as far as Los Angeles Declaration plan? Thank you.
ASSISTANT SECRETARY NICHOLS: So when we note that in addition to the HLED, we also have a High-Level Security Dialogue that will take place in October that focuses on the implementation of the Bicentennial Framework Security. And that is an opportunity for us to really have a profound discussion on our law enforcement cooperation and how we deal with things like transnational organized crime and the irregular migration as it is affected by smugglers and human traffickers. So just to note that.
With regard to the conversations that we will have certainly bilaterally between Secretary Blinken and President López Obrador and Foreign Secretary Ebrard, we will talk about a broad range of issues, including our cooperation to deal with irregular migration in all its forms. The HLED will also talk about the investments that we have in southern Mexico together, our cooperation on Sembrando Oportunidades for example, the Vice President’s Call to Action for Central America that’s mobilized over $3.2 billion in investment for Guatemala, Honduras, and El Salvador.
We’ll talk about the implementation of the Los Angeles Declaration on Migration and Protection, which Mexico is a key partner on. And that will help us continue to deal with this hemispheric challenge, and really all the nations in our hemisphere are affected by irregular migration. And they’re also doing that in a context where globally there are 100 million migrants on the move, levels never before seen. So we all need to work together collectively to address those challenges, and our conversations in Mexico will be part of that effort.
MR PATEL: Thanks so much. Next let’s go to the line of Leon Bruneau with AFP.
QUESTION: Yeah, hi. Thanks for taking this – for doing this briefing. A very quick question: You confirm then that the Secretary is going to see the president, Mexican president, also? I overhead that, but I just want to make sure.
And second question is regarding the fight against inflation and the economic situation right now. Will there be – will you discuss Mexican proposals to lift or suspend tariffs, custom tariffs, to help ease the burden on consumers on both sides of the border? Thank you.
ASSISTANT SECRETARY NICHOLS: Well, the HLED is a broad opportunity to discuss a range of economic issues. The – obviously we’re eager to hear anything that our Mexican colleagues wish to put on the table. We believe that there are a number of positive steps that we are taking to deal with the economic challenges we collectively face in North America. I note, for example, that the progress we’ve already made means that we are growing at – collectively at a level – at pre-pandemic levels. And U.S.-Mexico total trade is 25 – up 25 percent year-to-date from 2019, so we are moving forward in a prosperous way.
We are making major investments in our border infrastructure that will facilitate trade further between our two countries. And the U.S. is investing over $3.5 billion in our border infrastructure, and Mexico is about $1.5 billion of investments in border infrastructure. So those are important steps forward to make sure that trade between our countries moves quickly and that the flow of visitors and tourists happens in an orderly, legal, lawful, and pleasant way between our two countries.
MR PATEL: Thanks so much. Next let’s go to Daphne with Reuters.
QUESTION: Hi. Thank you so much for doing this. If I could just clarify on an earlier question on the energy dispute. Foreign Minister Ebrard has said that energy policies are not on the agenda for the talks. Could you just clarify whether that – the energy dispute will or won’t be discussed in Mexico City?
And then, if I may, on Mexico’s aviation safety rating, which was downgraded, is there any movement on restoring Mexico’s rating to Category 1, and will that be discussed at all in these talks? Thanks.
ASSISTANT SECRETARY NICHOLS: Okay. So aviation issues are not on the agenda for this conversation, that I am aware of.
The – this – in terms of your first question about energy policies, there’s – maybe there’s a little bit of a nomenclature challenge here. So the – we continue to work with Mexico and Canada, our partners under the USMCA, as part of our efforts to promote North American energy integration, growth, address the challenges of climate change together. And the CHIPS Act and the Inflation Reduction Act provide us with important tools to help do that. The Inflation Reduction Act provides an unprecedented level of funding for the United States to address climate challenges, and we look forward to doing that in concert with our partners around the world.
The specific dispute settlement process under the USMCA is something that is handled – the United States through the U.S. Trade Representative. And again, that’s a normal process, a technical process, and it happens even among our closest partners. Those issues are in a specific USTR channel, and I refer you to USTR for any additional questions on that.
MR PATEL: I think we’ve got time for one last question today, so let’s go to the line of Jennifer Hansler with CNN.
QUESTION: Hi. Thank you for doing this. I just wanted to follow up on the meeting with the president. Was this at the request of the United States, and will the Secretary be making specific asks of AMLO during that meeting? Thank you.
ASSISTANT SECRETARY NICHOLS: So the meeting is at the invitation of President López Obrador, and I know the Secretary very much looks forward to seeing him and Foreign Secretary Ebrard for this visit, and continuing their close cooperation and warm relationship we have with Mexico’s president and foreign secretary.
MR PATEL: Thanks so much, everybody, and I really appreciate everyone joining today. As a reminder, this call was on the record and embargoed until its conclusion, which will be momentarily. Thanks again for joining, and we’ll talk to you all again very soon.