Moderator: Greetings to everyone from the U.S. Department of State Media Hub of the Americas in Miami, Florida. I would like to welcome our participants who have dialed in from the United States and across the region. This is an on-the-record press briefing with NSC Senior Director for the Western Hemisphere Juan Gonzalez and Assistant Secretary of State for the Bureau of Western Hemisphere Affairs Brian Nichols.
Senior Director Gonzalez and Assistant Secretary Nichols will discuss the upcoming 9th Summit of the Americas. They each will give opening remarks and take questions from participating journalists.
And with that, I’ll turn it over to NSC Senior Director Juan Gonzalez.
Mr. Gonzalez: Good afternoon, everybody, and it’s always a privilege to share a stage with our senior diplomat for the Western Hemisphere, Brian Nichols, who has been a partner through and through. I would like to start by, I think, first welcoming you all to the call and for your patience as we head toward what we know will be an incredible Summit of the Americas next week. You know that the President, as you know, incredibly values personal engagement and looks forward to speaking with and engaging with the leaders and other representatives that will be attending. The President is very much looking to hosting the 9th summit representatives from government, civil society, and the private sector to advance our common goals and find common ground.
The President specifically really sees an opportunity for leaders and key stakeholders to come together to address some of the core challenging challenges facing the people of the hemisphere, including economic prosperity, climate change, the migration crisis, and the COVID-19 pandemic. No other part of the world impacts the security and prosperity of the United States more directly than the Western Hemisphere, and that is why the President has consistently said that he sees the objective of U.S. policy to advance a vision of a region that is secure, middle class, and democratic as something that is fundamentally in the national security interest of the United States. But of course, we are joined with the hemisphere not just by geography but our economic ties, democratic principles, cultural connections, and familial bonds.
First, look, there’s 28 years have passed since the United States has hosted the 1st Summit of the Americas, and we’re obviously living in very different times. Today we have the – we’re meeting against the backdrop of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, a region that is still reeling from the impact of the pandemic, the lasting socioeconomic impacts of the pandemic and obviously the inflationary impacts of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. And in a time when even before the pandemic there were ongoing protests by populations throughout the hemisphere that were really starting to question the value of democracy.
So against that backdrop, the President has really challenged the U.S. Government and engaged with partners to try to develop an ambitious agenda for the summit. And the United States will announce some key actions that we intend to accomplish along five specific areas for the summit. Without going into too much detail or getting out ahead of the President, I’ll go through them very quickly.
The first is our economic agenda, recognizing the connection between the region’s success and that of our own. As I had mentioned, the President will use the summit to align regional leaders, the private sector, and civil society behind a new and ambitious economic agenda that builds upon our existing free trade agreements in the hemisphere to really help address some of the dislocations of trade, but addressing issues of equity and equality, supporting the global energy transition, the adoption of technology. Health and health security systems are going to be fundamental, I think, that taking very concrete steps at the summit to make sure that we’re moving forward to build upon our existing free trade agreements.
Also developing – we’re updating tools that we’ve had. We have, obviously, a multilateral system that was developed decades ago, and we need new tools to really help a predominantly middle-income region address some – a once-in-a-century economic crisis that has been the pandemic. So that’s something that I think we’re very much looking forward to the President announcing.
The other is health, as a top national security priority for this administration to ensure that millions don’t continue to die from the COVID-19 pandemic. That is why the United States has donated now nearly 70 million vaccines to the hemisphere without any strings attached, and at the summit the President will also launch an effort to promote health systems and health security in the region to prepare for future pandemics, strengthen the region’s health systems, and bolster health security supply chains.
The President will also announce a new partnership on climate and energy with Caribbean nations and will ask the Vice President to lead this effort just as he did as vice president with the Caribbean Energy Security Initiative in 2013. The focus is on responding to the increasing climate energy challenges facing our Caribbean partners.
And we have also on food security and its effects on vulnerable populations. This is a regional priority and directly linked to our cooperative efforts on migration and ensuring an equitable and sustainable-driven economic pandemic recovery in the hemisphere. We have invested in key social safety nets to help reduce poverty and food shocks in the region through Feed the Future and other agricultural programs. The United States is proud to contribute more funding for migration and food security needs that will improve the quality of life for people across the region.
And of course, closely tied to the economic agenda and everything else that I mentioned is really addressing the historic migration crisis in a way that is unprecedented for the United States and for the region, recognizing that migration is a symptom of a much broader challenge brought on by the economic and security challenges that the hemisphere has been facing for the last couple years.
Now, for the last couple of months the President has and the Secretary of State and Secretary of Homeland Security, the Vice President, and others have been all-hands-on-deck to mobilize leaders around a bold new plan centered on responsibility sharing and economic support for countries that have been most impacted by refugee and migration flows. On the margins of the summit, the President will join other heads of state to sign a migration declaration, sending a strong signal of unity and resolve to bring the regional migration crisis under control.
While, again, I’m not going to get into the specifics of the deliverables that you can expect from the President, what I can tell you is that we’re looking forward to having you all join us and learn from him directly at the summit. I’d just like to note that the five action areas I just talked about are different than the five political commitments, which have been a function of the Summit Implementation Review Group process that are also going to be at the core of what comes out of the summit. And there’s also an overlap here significantly with what the President’s announcing with the political commitments, particularly in areas of democracy, governance, climate, energy, health, and digitalization.
And that concludes, I think, the main points. I will now pass the conversation to my colleague, Assistant Secretary of State for the Western Hemisphere Brian Nichols, who will speak to the collaborative work that the region’s governments will commit to and which are currently being finalized at the Summit Implementation Review Group. Thanks.
Assistant Secretary Nichols: Thanks so much, Juan, and it’s a great pleasure to work with you on this, and so your energy, creativity, and drive to help our hemisphere. I’d also like to recognize the great work that our senior advisors Chris Dodd and Debbie Mucarsel-Powell have been working on as well as our summit coordinator Kevin O’Reilly, who is in L.A. now working on the final negotiations for the Summit Implementation Review Group.
Before I take your questions, I’d like to briefly preview what you can expect in terms of the political commitments from the 9th Summit of the Americas, as Juan said. The United States is hosting the summit one week from today in Los Angeles, California, and we’re focusing on how we’ll deliver for average people in our region. Juan talked about the action that our President is taking in five key areas. Some of those are similar to the political commitments that I will discuss, but the difference is that those actions are the U.S. priorities for the region and things that President Biden is specifically going to deliver.
From June 8th to 10th, the heads of state and government from across the Americas will come together to adopt five leader-level political commitments which will set forth our mandate for building a sustainable, resilient, and equitable future by proposing and implementing actions under the summit’s five political commitments: democratic governance, health and resilience, the clean energy transition, our green future, and digital transformation. Our region’s leaders and stakeholders can improve the lives of the people of our hemisphere in a demonstrable and meaningful way.
First, on democratic governance, the United States knows we all have to work – we all have work to do on building strong and inclusive democracies in the hemisphere, including here at home. At the summit, our collective action can demonstrate our commitment to enhancing transparent and accountable governments that deliver democracy to the people of the Americas.
To this end, we will adopt a Plan of Action that calls for reaffirming our commitment to the Inter-American Democratic Charter, including establishing mechanisms to address new challenges to democracy; supporting the work of electoral observation missions, following up on our commitment at the 8th Summit of the Americas to promote transparency, accountability, and combat corruption; enhancing protections of human rights defenders, environmental defenders, members of the press, and whistleblowers; increasing the participation of civil society, private sector, and new stakeholders in democratic processes and decision-making. These are just a few of the ways in which we’re working to bolster democratic governance as a region and build on the commitment we made 20 years ago when we adopted the Inter-American Democratic Charter.
Second, on health and pandemic resilience, the United States will propose that the hemisphere’s leaders take a whole-of-government approach to address systemic health issues by agreeing to draft an action plan on health and resilience to be implemented by 10th summit. Components of the action plan will include: expanding quality people- and community-centered health services, strengthening of educational and training programs in the field of medicine, public health, nutrition, and biomedical science research; and examining financial systems to more efficiently, effectively, sustainably, equitably, and transparently improve public financing related to health systems.
Third, on the clean energy transition, we will discuss implementation of renewable energy goals and ways that the hemisphere can share technical knowledge and best practices to put the Americas at the forefront of the global clean energy transition. These include: collaborating with the private sector and other stakeholders to identify opportunities for manufacture or trade in clean energy goods and services; fostering the enabling conditions for the scale-up of renewable energy; and advancing sustainable, attainable, and responsible mining sector principles and securing the integration of mineral supply chains in our hemisphere.
Fourth, on climate change, our hemisphere will build our longstanding commitments on climate resilience and sustainability to strengthen the hemisphere’s resilience and adaptive capacity to withstand the impacts of climate change and extreme weather events. Our regional political commitment on our green future will include measures such as: advancing the Glasgow Leaders Declaration on Forest and Land Use to halt and reverse deforestation; decreasing the amount of carbon emitted from land use activities and increasing carbon storage; harnessing the role of oceans and other bodies of water to mitigate climate change, as well as combatting ocean plastic pollution; accelerating climate change adaption and resilience by implementing national adaption plans or strategies.
Fifth and finally, on digital transformation, leaders will identify shared priorities and commit to specific actions building digital ecosystems. This first-ever regional agenda for digital transformation creates a framework for governments and stakeholders to collaboratively create the jobs and industries of the future based on interoperable, resilient, secure, and reliable telecommunications networks which will drive innovation and expand access to goods, services, and information in new ways.
These include: promoting policies to expand the internet access, particularly in historically marginalized communities, and drive digital innovation and social inclusion through increased access to digital government services; expanding digital technology’s role in promoting quality education, digital literacy, and digital citizenry; increasing a regulatory harmonization in areas like spectrum management and digital trade.
We look forward to sharing more details on these political commitments at the summit. And both Juan and I will now take your questions. Thank you.
Moderator: Thank you. We will now begin the question-and-answer portion of today’s call.
Our first question was submitted by Mark Stevenson from the Associated Press. And the question is: “Have Nicaragua, Venezuela, Mexico, or Cuba been confirmed as attending the Americas Summit, and who will they be sending?”
Mr. Gonzalez: So I’m happy to take that one. So we still have some final considerations, but we will, I think, inform people publicly soon about the final invitation list. I think what’s really important for us in terms of the summit is why we are gathering, and that is to focus on our collective responsibilities to forge a more inclusive and prosperous future for the hemisphere. So we’ve not been so focused on the – on who is and is not invited, and more really on the outcomes that we want to achieve at the summit.
Moderator: Thank you. Our next question will go to David Alandete. Operator, please open line 95. David.
Question: Yes. Can you hear me?
Moderator: Yes, please go ahead.
Question: Can you hear me now?
Moderator: Yes, go ahead.
Question: Sorry about that. So yeah, I have two questions. One of them is like besides the fact that some details are still being finalized, I wanted to ask Mr. Gonzalez if in any case the option of inviting someone from the Cuban regime is still on the table, if it’s something that is being debated. It’s something like quite important from the point of view of the whole continent.
And the second one is like the presence of Venezuela. Could you explain how Mr. Guaido is invited, and when is he going to address the other leaders if he – or what is the nature of his invitation to the summit? Thank you so much.
Mr. Gonzalez: Thanks. So I mean, again, I’m not going to enter the details, but what I’ll say is that we have just had very respectful and active conversations with Mexico and the Mexican president’s request that Cuba attend the summit. The United States and Mexico have really partnered very closely on a number of issues, and the approach that we’ve taken is to talk with the leaders of the region, talk to Mexico. But again, I’ll go back to the previous answer where I’ll just say that we’re still having some final considerations. And then as soon as we — as soon as the White House makes a final decision on final invites, that’s something that we’ll be happy to brief folks and to provide our rationale. Thanks.
Moderator: Thank you. Our next question was submitted by Jason Calderon from NTN 24. The questions is: “What does the document for the Regional Migration Pact that President Joe Biden will propose as the main objective of the Summit of the Americas include? And what is in the — what is new in this proposal?”
Mr. Gonzalez: Yes, I can – so I’ll take the first part, and then Assistant Secretary Nichols has also been engaged on this. We’ll invite him to say — to speak to this as well.
So look, while migration is, first, an important topic that’ll be discussed at the summit, it’s one of the several focus areas, all of which are important to the hemisphere. But I think the key here is – point here is that irregular migration is a regional problem that touches nearly every country in the region, and often a symptom of other challenges that I’ve mentioned facing Latin America and the Caribbean.
So what we are hoping to do is – and have been, as I mentioned, engaging on this very actively with our regional counterparts is to look at the regional challenge from the context of responsibility sharing and the need to provide economic support to countries to have been impacted by refugee and migration flows, but also the importance of avenues and in-country processing avenues, expanding refugee protections, and also addressing, I think, some of the core drivers of migration, which are lack of economic opportunities and insecurity.
I will say also there is just a robust initiative to combat smuggling in there as well. But at the – at its core, what this is, is something that is unprecedented in that the leaders of the region that are either source, transit, or destination countries for migration are really coming together behind a plan that recognizes that the migration challenge is not one that is – that is at the U.S. border, but it’s one that is actually impacting all the countries in the Americas, and that we need to work together to address it in a way that treats migrants with dignity, invests in creating opportunities that would dissuade migrants from leaving their homes in the first place, and provide the protections that migrants deserve.
Assistant Secretary Nichols: Yeah, I’ll just add to that that this builds on Secretary Blinken’s participation in co-hosting of ministerial-level meetings in Colombia and Panama to talk about this unprecedented challenge globally. There are more than 94 million people on the move as migrants. This poses a challenge to nations around the world, but particularly in our own hemisphere.
And this declaration is going to allow us to focus on promoting stabilization in communities that are hosting migrants; helping those communities and the migrants that they are hosting; ensuring things like access to legal documentation and public services; promoting pathways for legal, orderly migration when appropriate; to ensure ethical recruitment for employment, for example; promoting humane migration management; and a shared approach to mitigating and managing irregular migration.
Those are some of the things that we’re focusing on. And it builds on not only the ministerial meetings that have taken place, but the many agreements that have come both within our region and around the world to promote safe, orderly, humane migration.
Moderator: Thank you. Our next question, we’ll go to Rafael Mathus from La Nacion. Operator, please open line 30.
Question: Thank you very much for doing this call and for taking my question. About the invitations for Cuba, Nicaragua, Venezuela, and so on, Juan, can you specifically say what are the final considerations of the government on this topic, because it has been discussed for several months now? And what are your thoughts on the damage these issues are creating on both the summit and the agenda of the summit? Thanks.
Mr. Gonzalez: Well, look, I mean, I’m not going to get into the specifics of the considerations because I think fundamentally what this administration has done, whether it’s on this topic or on any topic, is treated the countries of the region as our partners that – whose views we have to take into serious account. And certainly with Mexico and with others that have expressed a view, we have tried to engage in a conversation and been very respectful of the different perspectives. And ultimately, it’s something that as the host’s prerogative we’ll make the final decision, and we’ll announce that once the decision has been made.
Is it a distraction from the summit itself? Look, I don’t think so. It’s hard to, I think, confirm anything until it actually happens. But we are really confident that the summit will be well-attended, that our relationship with Mexico is – remains and will continue to remain positive. We very much want President Lopez Obrador there. The President of the United States very personally wants the President of Mexico there. And that I think once folks see what is announced at the summit we’ll see that we’re really actually addressing, I think, what are rising to the challenge that is – that are many of the different economic, pandemic-related, and other challenges that the region is facing. So I think we’ll let the results speak for themselves.
Assistant Secretary Nichols: Yeah, I’d just like to add that we’re very much focused on addressing the issues that affect people in their daily lives in our hemisphere. We will have attendance from leaders throughout our hemisphere, but we’re also going to have attendance from private sector leaders and CEOs, from members of civil society, from youth from across the hemisphere. They are coming together in an unprecedented way, literally thousands of people, to talk about the issues of concern that affect people in their daily lives.
Can they get access to health care? Can their kids get a good education? Do they have the economic opportunities they need? Are they able to benefit from broadband internet technology? What are we doing to mitigate the shock caused by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and ensure people have reliable, affordable access to food? And what are we doing to reorient supply chains to make sure that the disruptions that we’ve seen over the past few years are not repeated? I think that’s what average people care about, and that’s what we’re focused on.
Moderator: Thank you. We will now go to Raquel Krahenbul from TV Globo. Operator, please open line 7.
Question: Yes, hello. I am with Raquel. She is just out of the room for one minute. Can you please call on her in just another minute?
Moderator: Sure. Operator, thank you. We will now go to Priscilla Alvarez from CNN. We go to line 61, please.
Question: Hi. Can you hear me?
Moderator: Yes. Please go ahead.
Question: Thank you for doing this. You mention throughout the call that this is about creating regional partnership to address issues systemic to the hemisphere. But if you are missing key partners like Mexico or Guatemala, Honduras, El Salvador, how do you – do you anticipate success or an outcome from this? I mean, those are key partners.
And then also you mentioned earlier, and I just want to clarify, the Mexican president’s request that Cuba attend the summit. Is that currently the state of play with those discussions, whether Cuba attends, and no longer a discussion about Nicaragua and Venezuela? Thank you.
Mr. Gonzalez: Sure. I mean, I’ll be brief, and then Brian will have his views.
Look, I mean, with Mexico and those others, we have made very clear that participation won’t impact cooperation or even a level of ambition certainly before – well before the summit. On the issue of migration, we’ve had very close cooperation with Mexico, and that will continue to be the case. And just again on the invitations, we’re just – we’re still looking through – it’s continuing to engage in conversations with different countries. And once we make a final decision, we’ll make an announcement.
Assistant Secretary Nichols: I’ll just add that countries throughout our hemisphere have been playing an active role in the Summit Implementation Review Group negotiation of the five political commitments that will be approved at the summit, and that includes Mexico. The engagement across many levels, from ambassadors and department representatives to the Organization of American States to senior ministry officials to foreign ministers, around the goals for this summit has been active and intense and very constructive. And I think we’re going to leave this summit with an incredibly strong mandate from this hemisphere to work on the issues that matter to people.
Moderator: Thank you. We will now go to Jaqueline Charles from The Miami Herald. Operator, please open line 83.
Question: Hi, thank you. In regards to Haiti, which today is undergoing multiple crises and we are seeing it playing itself out with the migration both at the land and the sea borders, what will be a specific message or focus as far as Haiti is concerned during this summit, and what can we expect as far as deliverables in regard to Haiti?
Mr. Gonzalez: Brian, do you want to take this?
Assistant Secretary Nichols: So we’re focused on a number of things that will benefit Haiti. Access to health care is one. Changes to the way that we approach our engagement on some economic issues to ensure that we’re leveraging all the tools that we can to support partner nations throughout our hemisphere, which will benefit Haiti. Obviously, migration is an area where we have to do more to support and engage Haiti, and I think we’re going to have some interesting things in that area.
And then more broadly, the commitments around democracy will benefit Haiti as it moves towards elections in the future, things like strengthening electoral oversight authorities in our hemisphere, support to candidates and political parties, respect for the role of ombudsmen and transparency-related authorities in country – all are directly applicable to Haiti. And by taking those commitments and working them both bilaterally with Haiti among the countries of our hemisphere, multilaterally through the Organization of American States, through UN bodies, I think we’re going to be able to translate this into specific and concrete further assistance for the Haitian people who need it very much.
Moderator: Thank you. We will now go to Beatriz Bulla from Estradao. Operator, please open line 63.
Question: Hi, thank you all for doing this. So I’d like to ask about the position of the Brazilian president, Jair Bolsonaro. You mention that the summit will discuss the core challenges to the people of the hemisphere, and democracy is one of them. I’ll like to ask if President Biden wants to raise concerns or express his confidence on the Brazilian electoral process, considering that President Bolsonaro has made some comments about the Brazilian electoral process, and also because last year when the NSA Jake Sullivan was here in Brazil with Bolsonaro, you – the U.S. expressed great confidence in the Brazilian institutions and society with Bolsonaro, the importance of not undermining trust in this process. So is the Brazilian electoral – is it going to be a topic during the summit or during the bilateral meeting with Biden and Bolsonaro?
Mr. Gonzalez: So I’ll say the issue of the Brazilian elections is really up for the Brazilians to decide, and the United States does have confidence in Brazil’s electoral institutions, which have proved robust. And – but the conversation with – between the President and President Bolsonaro is going to cover a wide range of topics that are bilateral and, frankly, global in nature given the importance of the U.S. relationship. So whether it’s tackling food insecurity and economic response to the pandemic, health and health security, every single priority for the summit that we have are areas where Brazil plays an incredibly important role. The topic of climate change as well is something that the President has made clear is a priority, is something that’s – so there is a very long list of issues that are going to be up for discussion between the President and President Bolsonaro.
Moderator: Thank you. We have time for one last question. The last question goes to Jorge Agobian from Voice of America. Operator, please open line 48.
Question: Thank you so much for doing this. We really appreciate it. I have a question. If the United States recognizes the government of Juan Guaido in Venezuela as the legit government of that country, why are there still additional considerations to be decided in this specific point? And why haven’t they been invited to the summit, and how should it be interpreted? Then, if they were not invited as the representative of Venezuelan government, if U.S. actually recognizes Guaido as the president?
Mr. Gonzalez: Thank you. So the United States does continue to recognize interim President Juan Guaido as the legitimately elected president of the – of the national assembly, which was the last democratically elected institution in that country. And we engage actively with him, with his ambassador and his government as well as the representatives of the unity platform and we’re actually supporting a dialogue that produces outcomes that lead to free and fair elections in the country.
I’m not going to talk about the considerations with regard to invitations except to just underscore that there are – governments have different views on some of these topics, and we engage and consult with them. And ultimately the host prerogative is important, but we also are wanting to facilitate a broad hemispheric discussion and want to make sure that we’re integrating all of the views of the members of the Organization of American States. So again, we’re – for us, it’s most important that we’re gathering together and that the focus is on our collective responsibility to forge a more inclusive and prosperous future for the hemisphere, and that includes one for the people of Venezuela.
Moderator: That concludes today’s call. I want to thank Senior Director Gonzalez and Assistant Secretary Nichols for joining us and thank all of our callers for participating. If you have any questions about today’s call, you may contact the Miami Media Hub at MiamiHub@state.gov. Thank you and have a good day.