Where we focus at Department of State is that nexus between where energy really is, and energy issues writ large are, related to foreign policy issues. What we are focused on is promoting stability of global energy markets to increase investment, increase economic prosperity. This is a global phenomenon.
What this is reflective of, is bottom up—in part the remarkable transformation of societies and economies around the world and the new opportunities that are being afforded to people. And when they go, they travel, they see clean environments and they demand that, and they want that from their own governments, so we really see this happening.
The scale of it, though, is really unprecedented. This is calling on a whole new opening of new frontiers for demand, for the minerals that provide the cleaner forms of energy. A lot of the battery storage technology, renewables—they are currently minerals-intensive so we are going to see sky rocketing demand in these minerals. It’s not just the U.S. government saying it but organizations like the International Energy Agency have spoken to this issue; the World Bank; the International Renewable energy Agency also acknowledges these points.
In this context, Latin America and its tremendous mining sector is going to be one of the drivers for discussions around clean energy transition or clean energy transformation, particularly in the lithium, copper, nickel segments. We’re going to see significant new opportunities and expansion of existing ones in the region.
So it poses the question and we see the demand for these minerals opening up. It’s reflective of the demand for cleaner forms of energy. This begs the question of where are they going to be sourced—how are they going to be sourced? Are they going to be done responsibly with respect for the environment and in taking the local community conditions and concerns, considerations, into account. Is this development going to be there to help drive economic growth and empower communities and opportunity or is it going to be something else?
What we’re seeing, what we’re focusing on is to try, and this is an issue writ large. We work in partnership with governments around the world to see what is their ambition and then how can we help them to achieve it? One of the areas where we’ve been focusing a lot of time is the issue of this new demand expansion for minerals that drive clean energy technologies and helping countries to maximize their opportunities in this space, to help them develop best practices for governance, for regulation, and environmental stewardship.
The U.S. has a long history of doing this. A long history of doing this very, very well. And certainly over time lessons have been learned. But we also know that we are not the only one that has good lessons to share. So what we have done is partner with other founding countries that span four continents—the countries of Australia, Canada, Botswana and Peru—to come together and form what we call the Energy Resources Governance Initiative or ERGI. We want to help countries—give them, through these various, again, very different countries, different regulatory environments, different geographies, different histories, yet we’ve all managed to develop a robust resources sector responsibly. And why? What were the truisms for each of these?
So what we’ve done is we’ve put together through that shared experience a toolkit to help other countries level up their standards to attract the world class investment all countries demand. That toolkit we launched a PDAC, the global mining conference right before being shut down in early March [for COVID-19]. I’m very happy to see that happen, and that’s free, it’s an on-line toolkit, and we invite partners, the stakeholders to take a look and see that [www.ERGI.tools].
Through ERGI I want to create a forum for dialogue so that we can increase the investments. So that’s one suite of areas.
Another area that’s really focused on the region is the Growth in the Americas initiative, or América Crece. It’s a whole of government effort which seeks to support economic development by catalyzing private sector investment in energy and infrastructure across Latin America and the Caribbean.
Energy security is fundamental, it affects economic growth and allows a country to prosper. And I would say in the current crisis, in the COVID-19 pandemic, that this is all the more important where we see where public health really can hasten economic growth and recovery. Through Crece we’re bringing together top policymakers, energy experts, business leaders to work with countries to create those conditions that really will incent investment.
Another truism I’ve had in this role now for two years is that every foreign official, every leader, they all say they want U.S. investment and we want to help them attract that because we see the U.S. private sector as an extension of our shared values and we are confident that U.S. companies operate in the best, are best in class. So we want to promote that and we want to help countries to incent that kind of investment.
So we’re undergoing a variety of dialogues with countries to underscore the choice that they face and how they can proceed in their own development path.
I can’t underscore [enough], countries have choices, and so do companies in terms of where they want to go, so what we seek to do is to ensure that countries are doing what they can to promote that investment and also that U.S. companies are given every opportunity to get a fair shake.
But U.S. companies, they’re not just bringing the best technology, the best health, safety and environmental standards, they also respect the sovereignty of their host countries and I think that’s an important point. They’re working together in partnership.
In the region we’re focused a lot of course on underscoring the importance of stable and open democratic institutions in the Western Hemisphere. With that goal in mind, we continue to seek to advance for the democratic transition in Venezuela. It’s a consistently high priority for the administration and one of our top foreign policy objectives globally.
The United States continues to support President Juan Guaido and the National Assembly who are working to peacefully restore democracy on behalf of the Venezuelan people. The former Maduro regime unfortunately continues to undermine democratic institutions, carry out human rights abuses and engage in rampant corruption. Through the use of our targeted sanctions we’re seeking to curb the regime’s access to revenue that it has continued to use to bolster its cronyism and the U.S. will continue to put pressure on the former Maduro regime to bring about that peaceful, democratic transition.
In conclusion, energy, all forms of energy, and energy technologies are a powerful tool to spur economic development and managed properly can contribute to political and regional stability and improvement of the lives of the people of all countries.
The United States is structured, our programs are structured around this partnership-based model and we invite further partnership in all aspects through bilateral dialogues, through multilaterals, for a such as ERGI, through providing technical support and assistance to countries across the region.