Washington, DC–(ENEWSPF)–April 19, 2013.
SECRETARY KERRY: Good morning, everybody. Before we begin (cough) – excuse me, allergy season. Before we begin, I just want to say that, as a father and a grandfather, my thoughts are, of course, in my hometown right now, Boston, where events are still unfolding and the entire city is on lockdown. We’re continuing to learn more every moment about the terror attack on Monday and the pursuit of justice that is following it. I think it’s fair to say that for this entire week, we’ve been in a pretty direct confrontation with evil, and I want to congratulate and thank all the law enforcement authorities for the extraordinary job that they have been doing on behalf of our citizens. In the past few days, we’ve seen the best and we’ve seen the worst of human behavior, and it’s the best that all of us really want to focus on. Like everyone, we’re going to keep watching, and we’ll await word from the law enforcement officers before commenting further.
It’s a huge pleasure for me and an important moment to welcome one of our most important partners, our close neighbor, and our friend. And I want to welcome my friend, the Foreign Secretary. One of the first phone calls I made when I became Secretary of State was to Jose, and I’m really honored to see him here today. We share an alma mater together. He was a graduate student, and I was an undergraduate, and so whatever we don’t say right today, you can blame it on him. (laughter)
We obviously share much, much more than an alma mater. Both of us are privileged to represent our extraordinary countries, and we share a remarkable friendship and a very, very strong partnership that is growing stronger all the time. For generations, we’ve lived side by side as families and neighbors sharing geography and sharing common interests and sharing hopes and dreams. The Foreign Secretary and I share a firm commitment to the unique components of our relationship, and we share a common vision for what we can achieve through even greater cooperation and partnership.
We share a friendship and an open line of communication starting with, as I said, the earliest conversations that I had when I assumed this office. So we intend to remain in close contact with each other. We talked about that today. We have a lot of things to continue to cooperate on. We want to increase the economic growth of both of our countries. We want to expand economic opportunity for our people, and we want to provide greater security for the people of the United States and of Mexico.
Our countries share one of the most successful and interconnected economic partnerships in the world, and it’s based on mutual respect and shared responsibility. Bilateral trade amounted to nearly $500 billion last year. That’s more than four times what it was only 20 years ago. High-level economic delegations have already been meeting in the course of this year, and we are exploring ways to strengthen our existing partnership, avenues for increased economic cooperation. I’m convinced we’re going to find them.
The people of the United States at this moment are also intently focused on the immigration debate. So let me note that the two countries have made significant progress in building and strengthening our security over the course of the last 10 years. Almost one million people legally cross the U.S.-Mexico border every single day, and more than 1.25 billion in trade passes between our two countries every single day. And you can’t do that without major cooperation, but also without providing major opportunities for both of our countries.
The Foreign Secretary and I agree that if we’re going to sustain these gains, we have to expand the educational opportunities for our young people. Already thousands of Mexicans and American students study in each other’s countries every single year, and we are developing cross-cultural understanding and 21st century skills that make North America’s platform for innovation and economic growth stand out from countries all around the world. President Obama’s 100,000 Strong in the Americas Initiative will create even more opportunity for students over the course of the next years.
And finally, we know we have a responsibility to continue to address our security challenges. We’re going to continue to effect close security cooperation, ensuring respect for human and civil rights, and I think we all understand those are both deeply enshrined in both U.S. and Mexican constitutions. We know that citizen security is critical to the people of both of our countries.
So Mr. Secretary, it’s really good to welcome you here to Washington. I look forward to our conversation. I know President Obama is very much looking forward to his trip to Mexico in May and meeting with President Peña Nieto. I think there we will be able to solidify some of the things we’re talking about here today, so welcome to Washington, and thank you very, very much for the extraordinary partnership that we share.
FOREIGN SECRETARY MEADE: Thank you. Thank you, sir. Well, good morning, ladies and gentlemen. Allow me first to express once again the solidarity of the people and Government of Mexico with the United States for the horrific incidents that took place last Monday in Boston. We stand beside you. We have you in our hearts and in our prayers. I also want once again to (inaudible) our condolences to those affected by the explosion at a fertilizer plant in the town of West in Texas. I want to take this opportunity today this morning to commend the FBI, the law enforcement community, the Boston police for their outstanding work in facing with this issue in, as you have said, a very heroic fashion.
Secretary Kerry and myself have just concluded a very productive meeting. We identified priorities for our work in the coming weeks and months on many of the key components of a broad bilateral agenda. We touched upon education, investment, infrastructure, border security. We talked about the importance of security cooperation. We talked and identified and welcomed many of the issues that are now being discussed in the U.S. Congress. We welcomed the introduction of the immigration reform bill in the U.S. Senate. We welcomed the fact that that concept be debated seriously and something constructively could at some point be achieved. That’s an issue that’s relevant for Mexico as well.
Mexico and the United States have a very strong relationship. Translating Secretary Kerry’s numbers in a more dramatic fashion, we trade more than $1 million per minute. That is, I think, a number that is a testament to the health of our relationship, to the importance of that relationship. Mexico is the most important export market for 22 of the 50 United States’ states. Mexico – the U.S. exports to Mexico more than it does to China and Japan combined. The U.S. exports to Mexico more than it does to many European countries, taken as a group. And I think that the success that we can tell in terms of trade is something that should be built upon so that we can look at the relationship through a North American perspective, and through that perspective, find common answers to global problems and problems that are common to our bilateral regions.
I can think of no better partner to work with than Secretary Kerry. His personal leadership of some of the world’s best causes have long been recognized, from peace and security to climate change, democracy, immigration, human rights. As I told him a few minutes ago, our bilateral partnership projects, both regionally and global issues as well, I think are going to be in good hands, and we are very, very grateful for that relationship and for that work that we will do together.
As you all know, in a couple of weeks we will receive President Obama in Mexico. We are honored by his decision to travel to our country to meet with President Peña Nieto. This will be the second face-to-face conversation between them in just over five months, a testament to the commitment to advance our economic agenda, to deepen the ties between our societies, to ensuring the security of our citizens. They have instructed both of us, both our governments, to continue working together as responsible neighbors.
Thank you again, Secretary Kerry. Thank you all for your attention.
SECRETARY KERRY: Thank you very much Jose. I appreciate it.
MS. PSAKI: We’ll take two questions, and the first will be from Brad Klapper with the Associated Press.
QUESTION: Thank you. Mr. Secretary, what does the Boston attack say about the threat to the U.S. posed by Chechen extremists? Have you been in touch with Russia or any other country on the matter? Wouldn’t the Russians see this as a validation of their arguments on Chechnya, and maybe even Syria, regarding terrorism? And then just lastly, what role did State specifically play in the investigation into the bombings? Thank you.
SECRETARY KERRY: Well, Brad, look, at this point law enforcement officers are carrying out an ongoing investigation, and frankly they’re at some critical stages here and it would just be entirely inappropriate for me to be commenting on the tick-tock or on the larger issues outside of it. The FBI is the lead entity with respect to this investigation and they will lay out the details of contacts and information at the appropriate moment.
The important thing right now is, the President has said, we’re going to find those responsible and bring them to justice. We are part of the way there, and the President intends to finish that job.
QUESTION: And just on the question of Syria, wouldn’t an event like this, if it has any connection to Chechnya or separatists in southern Russia, wouldn’t this strengthen the Russian —
SECRETARY KERRY: Well, let’s – I’m not going to get into speculation. I’m not going to deal with a hypothetical. Let’s wait and see what the FBI details at the appropriate time. The one thing I will say is terror is terror, and this underscores the importance of all of us maintaining vigilance and cooperating together internationally. That’s part of what we’re talking about here. Terror anywhere in the world against any country is unacceptable, and we need to continue to stand up and fight against it in the way that we are. It strengthens, actually, my resolve and my sense that we’re on the right track, but there’s more we can do and we’re going to continue to do it. President Obama has made this a critical component of his foreign policy, and obviously this just emphasizes that.
MS. PSAKI: The next question will come from Jose Lopez Zamorano from Notimex.
QUESTION: Thank you. Secretary Meade, the Mexican government has expressed its interest in broadening the agenda with the U.S. beyond security issues. In that regard, and due to the upcoming visit of President Obama to Mexico, what kind of new initiatives or programs can we expect along the road?
And Secretary Kerry, after 9/11 attacks, obviously security became center stage for the U.S., but at the same time some countries in Latin America saw that the relationship with them was put in the back burner for several years. Do you anticipate that this event in Boston could derail your intent, express intent, to reach out to the region?
FOREIGN SECRETARY MEADE: We have agreed to enlarge our agenda and we are going to be talking about initiatives that have to do with high-level engagement in terms of an economic dialogue. We will be talking and we will find a mechanism to continue to talk in terms of education and research and innovation. So those issues and a structure around them will be center point in the agendas and the talks and issues discussed by President Obama and President Peña Nieto.
SECRETARY KERRY: The answer is profoundly yes, we do intend – I intend to personally. And in fact, I had intended to try to travel to the region next week, but because of the events this week and because of some other things happening, I’ve had to postpone that just temporarily. And I mean temporarily. I will be getting to the region very shortly. President Obama is traveling to the region. President Obama feels very strongly and has asked me to focus on how we can strengthen our economic partnerships in Latin America and Central America, and I intend to do that.
We talked today – I think the beginning of our conversation today, the very first thing out of my mouth was we don’t want to define this relationship with Mexico or with other countries in the context of security or counternarcotics trafficking. We want to define it much larger in the context of our citizens’ economic needs and our capacity to do more on the economic frontier. I am convinced we’re going to growth that relationship.
In terms of jobs, we talked about ways to link up perhaps ultimately with the Transatlantic Investment Trade and Partnership Program. In the long run it may be possible to find ways to strengthen both of us through those kinds of initiatives. And of course, Mexico is a partner in the Trans-Pacific Partnership. So we are already growing this relationship. We’re going to continue to grow it. I think it needs to be, frankly, the defining issue of our relationship together with our commitment to democracy and human rights.
Thank you very much. Thank you all very, very much. Appreciate it.