PRESIDENT ALI: On behalf of the government and people of Guyana, I bid Secretary Mike Pompeo a warm welcome to Guyana. This historic visit sends a powerful signal that Guyana is regarded as a responsible member of the hemispheric and international communities – as a sovereign nation firmly rooted in democratic principles, the rule of law, respect for human rights, and the pursuit of sustainable and equitable development. My government is grateful to the United States Government and in particular to Secretary Pompeo for their unwavering support for democracy and constitutional order in Guyana. (Applause.)
During the recent political and electoral crisis in our country, Secretary Pompeo’s visit serves to remind us that the U.S. will continue to be a steadfast partner as we work with all stakeholders to consolidate our democracy, strengthen our institutions, and pursue a path of unprecedented economic growth and development. Secretary Pompeo’s visit, moreover, solidifies the bilateral relationship between Guyana and the U.S. and sets the stage for expanding and deepening U.S. cooperation with Guyana.
I am therefore pleased to announce the signing this morning of a framework agreement between the U.S. Government and the Government of Guyana to strengthen energy and infrastructure finance and market building cooperation in the context of the Growth in Americas initiatives. This agreement will stimulate the enhancement of the business environment for U.S. private sector investment in Guyana, particularly in the fields of energy, both unrenewable and renewables, and infrastructure.
The agreement will also pave the way for the U.S. private sector to expand their investment portfolio and partner with the Guyanese private sector. This partnership will help to meet our broader infrastructure and downstream development needs and, by extension, drive economic growth and development as well as job creation.
Notably, more opportunities will be available for firms that explore investment opportunities in tourism and the hospitality sector, ICT, food production, among others.
I am pleased to announce that Guyana and the U.S. will deepen cooperation in the area of security with specific attention to maritime security and joint patrols to interdict narcotics trafficking. This will also allow us to improve our technical and human capabilities in monitoring Guyana’s exclusive economic zone. This augurs well for stronger collaboration and broader technical assistance to help combat both domestic and transnational organized criminal networks.
We also look forward to continued and enhanced assistant – assistance in the fields of border control, anti-terrorism, cybersecurity, technology transfer, and anticorruption measures. I discussed with Secretary Pompeo the two main challenges currently besetting our country: combatting the COVID-19 pandemic and lifting the economy out of the economic downturn. I am grateful for the U.S. support to Guyana in helping us to fight the pandemic. I am confident that there will be more targeted assistance for our health sector as well as support for our traditional emerging and new economic opportunities.
The Republic of Guyana is mindful also that the largest bulk of its diaspora resides in the United States. My government remains committed towards leveraging the skills and investment potential of our diaspora. I raised with Secretary Pompeo the need to revisit the current export restriction on wild-caught catfish, a product which is of great demand in the Guyanese diaspora. This market is very important, not only for our export (inaudible), but also for the sustenance and the livelihood of the fishing communities.
I reiterated that Guyana remains committed to the principles that guide our involvement in the Lima Group, particularly our concern about the ongoing and protracted humanitarian crisis in Venezuela. We support and respect the need for free and fair elections in our hemisphere. With urgency, we believe the democratic values and principles should be respected in Venezuela as well.
I conveyed my appreciation to the United States, and the Secretary reiterated his support and that of the United States for Guyana’s territorial integrity and sovereignty and its call for a timely resolution to the controversy with Venezuela and respect for the 1899 Arbitral Award.
I thanked Secretary Pompeo for his visit and for reaffirming his commitment and that of the United States of our friendship and the fundamental values shared by the two countries, as well as the U.S. unwavering support to consolidate the democratic process and prosperity of Guyana. I assured him that his visit ushers in a new chapter in our bilateral relations. I thank you. (Applause.)
MODERATOR: Thank you, Mr. President. I will now invite His Excellency State Secretary Michael Pompeo to make his remarks.
SECRETARY POMPEO: Thank you. Thank you, Mr. President. What a great day. What a great day to be here in Guyana. Good morning, everyone. You’ve been great hosts. First I want to thank President Ali and his staff for taking such good care of our team. The president and I had a wonderful dinner last night and a great meeting.
Our two countries, the United States and Guyana, have been friends now for over five decades, but this is the first official visit from an American secretary of state. You have my commitment it will not be another 50 years. (Applause.)
As I said in Kingston in January in some remarks that I gave there on the United States and the Caribbean, quote, “Now is the time to move forward with even closer ties.” I meant it then and this trip, our meetings, are proof of that. And what a moment to be in Guyana. We know the Guyanese people cherish democracy, they cherish freedom, they value free, fair, and transparent elections, just as Americans do, just as all people do. I was proud to publicly support the Guyanese people in their quest to have the results of the election respected. The results certainly took longer than any of us would have wished or hoped, but it was worth fighting for. It was worth fighting to honor the people’s sovereign decision. That’s indeed – (applause) – that’s indeed what democracy is all about. Congratulations, President Ali.
Today we also had a good set of conversations on strengthening our relations for the benefit of all Guyanese and all Americans. We’re ready. The United States is ready to be your partner – your partner of choice as you face big decisions moving forward, especially on energy and future prosperity in your country. That’s how Americans will help produce local jobs and sustainable growth for the people of your country. You should know that the United States AID that works as part of the State Department is on the same page too. I’m proud to announce this morning that the agency has committed $3 million for a locally led program for citizens’ involvement in their government, and a million and a half so that the youth of Guyana will be involved in democracy as well. (Applause.)
I must say as I watch and I listen and I have been reading and preparing for this trip, the Guyanese are leading their nation’s journey to self-reliance. You should be proud of what your government is achieving for you. We just signed a new agreement – a new agreement under the Growth in the Americas initiative. Guyana is the second Caribbean nation to join that agreement. It demonstrates that the United States wants to model the private sector, not state-owned enterprises, because that model, that investment model is superior; it will deliver real, good things for the people of your country. It’ll bring both those jobs – frankly, jobs to America as well – and it’ll increase cooperation on environmental issues just like potential spill responses.
The last economic piece our governments are working on is to increase trade and foreign direct investment here. The president mentioned catfish. I used to catch catfish when I was a young man. One great – one great thing is that we’re getting the information that’s needed. We’ll work with you. We’ll put it through the U.S. regulatory process and the WTO review process, and I’m confident we can get a good outcome. (Applause.)
There’s a lot of places where we had the chance where we’ll work hand in hand. Our new security agreement to counter narcotics trafficking, something that has decimated so many nations all across the world, will enter into force on Monday. Our law enforcement, American law enforcement, cannot cooperate against traffickers at sea. This will make the entire region, and Guyana, even safer.
Finally, we talked about the need for democracy in Venezuela and an end to the illegitimate Maduro regime – the man who’s denying that very democracy that the Guyanese people so love, denying that democracy for the people of Venezuela. You’ve been a strong partner for us on this issue. You’ve supported statements through the Organization of American States and through the Lima Group. The United States has now allocated $5 million to help Venezuelans in Guyana who have had to flee from Venezuela to Guyana to escape the horrors and brutality of the Maduro regime. I trust that that cooperation will continue and I want to express my personal appreciation for Guyana’s hosting the Venezuelans that have crossed inside of your country.
I’m confident, Mr. President, we’ll keep working together and we’ll do great things alongside each other. I’m grateful to see that you share this view on the importance of our relationship. And thank you again for hosting me here today. Thank you. (Applause.)
MODERATOR: Thank you, Mr. Secretary of State, and welcome to Guyana. We’ll now take a few questions from our media corps, and we’ll take the first question from Guyana. Neil Marks, I see your hand up.
QUESTION: Good morning. Mr. President, can you talk more about the scope of the Growth in the Americas initiative? Are you interested in prioritizing particular areas at this time? And I was curious about the State Department’s briefing on this issue and it’s talked about sovereignty. Are you looking – is America going to support Guyana’s exclusive economic zone?
And Secretary Pompeo, if I could ask: The International Contact Group on Venezuela has said the circumstances are not right for EU observers to go into Venezuela. I was wanting to know: What else do you see the European Union doing on this issue? And quickly, under secretary for Economic Affairs is in Taipei and Chinese aircraft is swirling in Taiwan. I’d just like a reaction to that, please.
MODERATOR: Thank you.
PRESIDENT ALI: Do you want me to go first?
MODERATOR: Yes, Mr. President.
SECRETARY POMPEO: Please.
PRESIDENT ALI: Okay. Thank you very much for those questions. First of all, the framework agreement, as I would have said, gives an excellent opportunity not only for the mobilization of capital, U.S. capital, and the mobilization of the U.S. private sector to participate in the wide-ranging economic opportunities and infrastructure transformation that will take place here in Guyana. But more importantly, it has to deal also with the transfer of knowledge, the transfer of technology, cooperation, building capacity between the U.S. private sector and the local private sector, and taking the partnership beyond the two governments to the private sector so that you will have greater integration of the private sector and greater participation. And that is what we want.
We have a large task group in the U.S., we have great opportunities here, and we want to see more investment. We have said this before. We want to see more investment and more private sector interest from the U.S. So I think this agreement not only sends the right signal, but set the foundation for that collaboration, cooperation, transfer of technology, and more importantly, building of local capacity here in our local private sector.
In relation to our Exclusive Economic Zone, it is not only from a maritime perspective, because we would have raised also with the Secretary radar coverage of our Exclusive Economic Zone, which is critical at this time. We have had various difficulties and I think we welcome any help that would enhance our security, that would enhance our ability to protect our borders, and importantly, enhance our capability and ability to ensure that we go after criminal elements. And this allows us to do that. It strengthens our capacity and it builds that partnership and gives us that additional capacity that is so needed. Thank you.
MODERATOR: Thank you, Mr. President. Mr. Secretary of State, would you like to respond?
SECRETARY POMPEO: Yeah. So I’m happy to answer questions, but I want to echo something President Ali said. The two agreements we signed this morning are not disconnected, right? Greater security, greater capacity, to understand your border space, what’s happening inside your Exclusive Economic Zone – those are all things that give Guyana sovereignty, the capacity to control its space and the rule of law, property rights, the things that you all value in democracy, those – these things are connected.
I will say this too, that there was lots of conversation about how there might be foreign direct investment from the United States. Sometimes I hear, “Oh, we don’t want foreign direct investment. We’re concerned about our sovereignty.” I would posit this for everyone watching today: The United States model is to build out on the best things of your country. We’ll show up, we’ll bring capital, we’ll bring resources, we’ll often bring technological capabilities that are much needed to develop resources, develop infrastructure for your country, but we don’t do so with political strings tied to them. We don’t operate the way other regimes do who might show up with money and then demand political retribution, or worse yet, engage in activity that is corrupt.
That’s not how American foreign direct investment operates. It comes in. We have private sector leaders. You’ll see, they’re disconnected – they’re not connected to our government. These aren’t state-owned enterprises that come and invest here in Guyana. These are private sector companies looking to make life better for the Guyanese people and to do a good turn for their company as well. And so it’s very encouraging to see the request for more foreign direct investment not just in the energy sector, but across a broad range of opportunities that are going to be presented to the people of Guyana as they make their way through consolidating their democratic election.
Second, you asked about the Contact Group and Venezuela. We know two things: We know that the Maduro regime has decimated the people of Venezuela and that Maduro himself is an indicted narcotics trafficker. This means he has to leave. For the people of Venezuela to have the democracy that they need, the Cuban security forces must go and Maduro must leave. And so the efforts to do that, to put diplomatic pressure and to support the Venezuelan people who desperately want that same objective, are the aims of the Contact Group of the EU, the Lima Group, the OAS, the United States, dozens of countries that have made clear that Juan Guaido is the duly-elected leader of Venezuela. This is the objective: We want democracy and freedom and the rule of law. Just in the same way we fought for you all to achieve that for yourselves, we want to fight for that to be achieved by the people of Venezuela as well.
And then your final point was about Taiwan. We sent the delegation to a funeral and the Chinese have apparently responded by military blustering. I’ll leave it at that.
MODERATOR: Thank you very much, Mr. Secretary, and I invite my colleague.
MR BROWN: Yeah, for our next question let’s go to Shaun Tandon, please.
QUESTION: Thank you, Mr. President. Thank you, Mr. Secretary, for doing this. Could I follow up on the energy issue, asking about Exxon? Exxon, as you know, has a major oil discovery in Guyana. Did you discuss this directly? And the arrangement itself, do you feel that it’s equitable? Do you feel that it’s fair for Guyana? Is it something that you want to move forward on? Then how do you – particularly for Mr. President – how do you look at the long term consequences of having this growth in oil revenue and the risks? Therefore, as you see in some other countries, the natural resources trap, if you will, of energy growth, of energy wealth.
And Mr. Secretary, if I could follow up on one point, there’s quite a bit of news today, of course, about TikTok. I wanted to see what you thought, whether you think there could be a resolution, whether you think that TikTok will be permanently banned in the United States or if you think any current proposals that you’ve seen you think could work to safeguard American security. Thank you.
PRESIDENT ALI: Well, thank you very much for your question. First of all, we did not discuss issues surrounding Exxon, as you will realize that I did not address those issues. But I want to say that Guyana is open to investment, we’re open to investments. We’re open to – and – open to investment and investors in a transparent manner. And we have said even prior to the elections that there are issues that we’ll have to review, and as you’re aware, we have at the moment a review in terms of the Payara license that is being done, and we have subjected ourselves to professional guidance. At the end of that review the government, of course, will have to make an informed decision.
Secondly, we’ve also committed ourselves to arm’s-length relationship with the management of the sector from a political perspective. So you would not see, for example, the petroleum commission that is controlled by politicians. The management of this resource must be done by competent, qualified, technical persons who can ensure that we get the best output from our oil and gas resources. But for us, oil and gas is a great impetus for the more macro-economic vision for our country. It allows us to build, to expand, and to create an environment in which our traditional sector will become competitive, and also brings us additional resources that we can transform the country from an infrastructure perspective, but more importantly in building out the new economy that must focus heavily on knowledge, a knowledge economy, ICT, health and education as export commodities, expanding out agriculture.
We have a massive market CARICOM that we can take advantage of, but we have to become competitive. We have to have economies of scale. So the resources will help us to grow these sectors that will bring additional work, create new jobs, and expand economic opportunities for our country. That is what is important for us. So oil and gas I can assure you will be managed by technically competent people, and of course, we are now re-looking at the sovereign wealth fund to take away – there was legislation that was passed that had tremendous powers onto the minister, who was responsible. We have to remove that, remove those overwhelming power that is assigned to the minister so that we can have greater transparency and accountability in the management of this sector. But we are committed to supporting investment in this sector, and we are committed in ensuring that Guyanese benefit from these investments. That is why we’ve established a technical taskforce to look at local content and to see how we can not only support the local private sector, but how we can build a capacity and ensure that they benefit from local content. Thank you very much.
SECRETARY POMPEO: Thanks for your question. I’ll follow up on that. This is the American model. The negotiations with the Guyanese Government are between Exxon and the Guyanese Government. Look, we all – they’ve encouraged us to assist in foreign direct investments. We’ll do the things we can to help American companies be successful, have access, have opportunities to engage in fair and transparent business dealings with Guyana. And then we did speak about one piece of this which is that we want to make sure that the same things that President Ali just talked about happen. We want the wealth that is created from these opportunities that are opportunities that belong to the people of Guyana go to all of the people of Guyana, and do so in a transparent, fair way that reflects the democratic election that was just held. I know that President Ali shares this goal as well.
You asked a question about TikTok. I don’t have much to add to that this morning other than to say we’ve been focused on this for some time now. The details of the various proposals that have been presented, I can’t speak to, other than to say our goals are really very straightforward: protecting American information and data from ending up in the hands of the Chinese Communist Party. And so while we’re reviewing the proposal, trying to evaluate if it can successfully achieve those outcomes, that will be our measure if it’s the case. We will allow private sector entities to move out, to execute on a commercial transaction protecting the American people. So thanks for your question.
MODERATOR: Thank you, His Excellency Mr. President, and thank you, Mr. Secretary, for visiting Guyana. That’s all the time we have for today. Thank you for coming. (Applause.)