Full Text Obama Presidency February 19, 2014: North American Leaders Summit Roundup

POLITICAL TRANSCRIPTS


OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 113TH CONGRESS:

North American Leaders Summit Roundup

President Barack Obama delivers remarks alongside of President Enrique Peña Nieto and Prime Minister Stephen Harper during the North American Business, Civil Society and Education leaders during the North American Leaders Summit in Toluca, Mexico.President Barack Obama delivers remarks alongside President Enrique Peña Nieto and Prime Minister Stephen Harper to North American business, civil society, and education leaders during the North American Leaders’ Summit in Toluca, Mexico, Feb. 19, 2014. (Official White House Photo by Amanda Lucidon)

Full Text Obama Presidency February 19, 2014: President Obama, President Peña Nieto, and Prime Minister Harper’s Press Conference at Three Amigos Summit

POLITICAL TRANSCRIPTS

OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 113TH CONGRESS:

Press Conference by President Obama, President Peña Nieto, and Prime Minister Harper

Source: WH, 2-19-14

President Barack Obama delivers remarks alongside of President Enrique Peña Nieto and Prime Minister Stephen Harper during the North American Business, Civil Society and Education leaders during the North American Leaders Summit in Toluca, Mexico.President Barack Obama delivers remarks alongside President Enrique Peña Nieto and Prime Minister Stephen Harper to North American business, civil society, and education leaders during the North American Leaders’ Summit in Toluca, Mexico, Feb. 19, 2014. (Official White House Photo by Amanda Lucidon)

Patio Central
Palacio de Gobierno
Toluca, Mexico

7:25 P.M. CST

PRESIDENT PEÑA NIETO:  (As interpreted.)  Ladies and gentlemen, good evening.  Members of the media.  Your Excellency, President of the United States of America Barack Obama; Prime Minister of Canada Stephen Harper.  Once again, I would like to welcome you to our country.

It is a great honor to have hosted you for the North American Leaders Summit here in the State of Mexico, and Toluca, its capital city — a state that I had the great honor of being the governor of before I took office with the greatest honor in the world of politics, and that is to lead the course of my country.

That is why I am very glad that we have had the opportunity of having this meeting.  And I’d like to congratulate myself for creating a space where we have had dialogues, where we have outreach to our countries, and where we have strengthened our friendship.  I can be certain that the warm space where we have met is very different from what the teams of men and women representing Mexico in Sochi are having in Russia.  They are in very cold weather and fighting hard to win a medal.  So be welcome to this very warm weather.

I would like to summarize for the media and for your delegations the scope of our meetings.  I would like to share with you that we have two highlights in our meetings.  First we had a bilateral with President Barack Obama and with his delegation and their counterparts from Mexico to address the following, and I would like to share this with you.

First of all, we assessed the breakthroughs related to the agreements made during President Obama’s past visit in May to our country, and now during his fifth visit — and I must note that Mexico ranks top of the list of the most visited countries by President Obama during his term.  And we were able to identify the level of progress of the agreements made back then; how much we have advanced the exchange between high level officials to precisely boost the trade and commercial relationship that Mexico and the U.S. have.

We have also analyzed the possibility of setting forward new mechanisms to build and fund strategic projects.  We have agreed to work on a proposal that would help us find different mechanisms to fund projects so that we can give a new life to our infrastructure, to have more agile and have safer commercial transactions between our countries.

Specifically, we talked about education.  We have set the task to have more academic exchanges so that more Mexican students can study in the United States and, reciprocally, students from the United States come to Mexico to study.  The number of students so far is somehow low, considering the potential that we have.  And out of the 14,000 students from Mexico that go to the United States to study, we have set a goal and that is to increase year by year this figure and reach 100,000 students a year that visit the United States, and 50,000 students from the U.S. coming to Mexico to study.

We have revised our security agenda and we have agreed to maintain a strategic dialogue, to coordinate efforts so we can face a common issue — security in both of our countries and, specifically, security at the border.

On the other hand, I would like to refer to the outcome of the North American Leaders Summit.  Therefore, I would like to share with you highlights in terms of the agreements reached in this framework.  We have worked on four main topics.  The first one is to foster shared and inclusive prosperity.  We have agreed to work on a plan to boost competitiveness.  We also have agreed to work on a North America transport plan which would give us better infrastructure in our three countries to make the commerce that happens between our three nations thrive.

We also agreed to standardize and expedite all the procedures that take place in our customhouses.  We have also agreed to enable the movement of individuals, and by this have Trusted Travelers Programs.  We have, each one, a program of this nature with a purpose in mind that all the travelers that are part of the Trusted Travelers registers in our countries are considered as a vetted traveler in North America.

Additionally, in terms of the second topic, we have addressed areas of opportunity.  And I must insist, in terms of our binational agenda with the United States, we have added up Canada to work on a program to train professionals by increasing our academic exchanges and ensuring mobility of students between our three countries.

We have also agreed to foster sustainable development, working towards the mitigation of the effects of climate change. And in the area of sustainability, we have also agreed to work on the preservation of the Monarch butterfly.  It is a landmark species in North America.  This is a species present in our three countries, and we have agreed to work a taskforce with a presentation from our three countries to preserve the Monarch butterfly.

Then, another topic is citizen security and regional topics. We have agreed to give privilege to the exchange of information, and we have also privilege to coordinate efforts between law enforcement authorities.  We will reinforce the measures aimed to fight money laundering and illicit financial flows.  And for that purpose we need to integrate our financial systems further.

We have also restated our commitment to support and cooperate with the Central America region as well as the Caribbean because they are partners in this hemisphere.  We have committed to foster development, economic growth and citizen security as well.

Basically, I have summarized the commitments made during the summit.  And fourthly, we have committed, the three of us, to give follow-up to all the agreements made.  Besides making agreements, we have committed to give follow-up to each one of those agreements and we have committed to make them happen.

Finally, I would like to share with you that in order to reach our goals we need to identify that North America is quite valuable.  The Free Trade Agreement executed 20 years ago and the intense dialogue that we have between our three countries in the North American region is very valuable and every exchange is based on trust.  And we share a very good relationship between all of us who lead our countries.

This North America Leaders Summit has been a very good opportunity to specify what our commitments will be and what are the tasks for the future.  And it has also served as a space to restate our friendship, the good relationship that we have and the respect that we pay to each other.  And we have committed to work hard to make a significant contribution, to make North America a more competitive region — I would dare to say the most competitive region in the world.  And this is a region that has a true call for prosperity.  And we will work to provide better well-being to the citizens of our countries.

We have made great strides.  We create plenty of jobs due to the economic relationship that we have managed to achieve, but we want more.  We want more development.  We are aware of the potential that we find in North America.  And I make a pledge so that the seventh summit of leaders of North America serves its purpose.

Once again, we welcome, and I would like to say that I hope you have had a very pleasant stay in Toluca and I hope that this visit has been very fruitful.  And I hope that we have been able to build an even stronger relationship.

Thank you.  (Applause.)

PRESIDENT OBAMA:  Buenas noches to President Peña Nieto.  To the people of Toluca and the people of Mexico, thank you so much for your extraordinary hospitality.  Thank you again, Enrique, for welcoming us to your hometown and home state, which — like the beautiful surroundings tonight — reflects Mexico’s proud history as well as the economic dynamism of today’s Mexico.

I want to thank President Peña Nieto and Prime Minister Harper for their partnership in deepening the extraordinary ties between our countries — especially the trade that supports good jobs for our people.  For the United States, Canada and Mexico are two of our largest trading partners with trade that supports millions of American jobs.  Thanks in part to our efforts to boost U.S. exports, American exports to Canada and Mexico continue to grow faster than our exports to the rest of the world.

Together, our countries have strengths that give North America a tremendous competitive advantage — the skills of our workers, manufacturing that’s growing, and new sources of energy. So we have to take advantage of these competitive advantages, and we need to do it together.  All of this positions us to be a powerhouse in the global economy.  And that’s why we’re here, to make sure that we’re doing everything we can to be more competitive and create more jobs in Canada, in Mexico, and in the United States.

First, we’re focused on making it easier to trade.  Earlier today, I signed a new executive order to make it easier for companies that want to export and import.  Instead of dealing with dozens of different federal agencies and long paper forms, we’re going to create a one-stop shop online, so companies can submit all their information in one place and save themselves time and money.  We’re going to keep investing in infrastructure — like roads, bridges, border crossings — so our goods are getting to market faster.  We’ve agreed to keep working to make it easier for our businesspeople and tourists to trade and travel.  And we’re going to step up our efforts to streamline and eliminate regulations or the red tape that can sometimes stifle trade and job creation.

We’ve agreed to keep working to complete negotiations on the Trans-Pacific Partnership, including strong protections for our workers and the environment, so that we can compete in the fast-growing markets of the Asia Pacific.  And because it will grow the U.S. economy and make the United States more attractive to investment — and because we have to do right by our families and our values — I’ve reiterated that immigration reform remains one of my highest priorities.

I’m also very pleased that we’ve agreed to keep expanding educational partnerships, as Enrique mentioned, so our young people develop the skills they need to succeed in the global economy.  And this builds on my initiative that we call 100,000 Strong in the Americas.  We want more students from the United States studying throughout the hemisphere, and we want more students from places like Mexico and Canada studying in the United States — so that they’re developing familiarity and partnerships and friendships that will serve them and serve our countries well for decades to come.

Second, we continue to deepen our clean-energy partnerships, which create jobs and combat climate change.  Yesterday, I announced that the United States will develop new fuel economy standards for heavy-duty trucks — standards that reduce carbon pollution.  And today, all three of our nations have agreed to work together to meet high fuel standards for these heavy-duty trucks.

And more broadly, we agreed to join with our Central American and Caribbean partners on a regional energy strategy.   And this builds on the commitment I made in Central America last year to help our partners across the region reduce their energy costs and become more competitive.  On a global level, we agreed to keep standing together as we push for an international agreement to phase down the production and consumption of dangerous hydrofluorocarbons.

Number three, we know that realizing our full potential as individual countries and as a region means confronting the criminals and narcotraffickers who unleashed so much violence on our citizens.  Here in Mexico, the security forces and the Mexican people continue to make enormous sacrifices in that fight, and our three nations are united against this threat.  In the United States, we continue to be committed to reduce the demand for illegal drugs and we’ll continue our unprecedented efforts to combat the southbound flow of illegal guns and cash.

And, finally, given our shared commitment to democratic values and human rights, I want to take this opportunity to address the situation in Venezuela and Ukraine, and the unacceptable violence in those two countries, which the United States strongly condemns.

In Venezuela, rather than trying to distract from its own failings by making up false accusations against diplomats from the United States, the government ought to focus on addressing the legitimate grievances of the Venezuelan people.  So, along with the Organization of American States, we call on the Venezuelan government to release protestors that it’s detained and engage in real dialogue.  And all parties have an obligation to work together to restrain violence and restore calm.

With regard to Ukraine, along with our European partners, we will continue to engage all sides.  And we continue to stress to President Yanukovych and the Ukrainian government that they have the primary responsibility to prevent the kind of terrible violence that we’ve seen, to withdraw riot police, to work with the opposition to restore security and human dignity and move the country forward.  And this includes progress towards a multiparty technical government that can work with the international community on a support package and adopt reforms necessary for free and fair elections next year.

Ukrainians are a proud and resilient people who’ve overcome extraordinary challenges in their history, and that’s a pride and strength that I hope they draw on now.  Meanwhile, I’ve urged the military in Ukraine to show restraint and to let civilians pursue the dialogue necessary for progress.  We’ve obviously seen reports of a truce between the government and the opposition.  If the truce is implemented, it could provide space for the sides to resolve their disagreements peacefully.

And going forward, we’ll continue to do whatever we can to support Ukrainians as they seek a peaceful resolution and respond to the aspirations of the Ukrainian people for a strong, unified democracy that’s fully integrated into the international community.

So, again, I want to thank Enrique and the people of Mexico, and the people of Toluca, for their wonderful hospitality.  If we stay focused on our shared vision — a North America that’s more integrated and more competitive — then progress in each of our countries will mean more prosperity and opportunity for everyone.

Thank you very much.  (Applause.)

PRIME MINISTER HARPER:  (As interpreted.)  Allow me to start out by thanking President Peña Nieto for his generous hospitality.  We have had a wonderful stay in this wonderful country, in Mexico, and we are eager to come back soon.

Today, I had fruitful meetings and dialogues with my commercial partners from Mexico in regard to services, information, and also shared and fundamental values and, of course, a democratic and peaceful world.

Today, we celebrate the 20th anniversary of NAFTA.  As time can tell us, this treaty was successful, and it started guaranteeing prosperity from one extreme to the other of the hemisphere.  The volume of exchanges is fourfold now, and is over $30 billion.  And we have now seen exponential growth and can hope for exponential growth in years to go.

We are in agreement to say that we can still grow the success of NAFTA, to implement new ways, for instance, in regard to the Trans-Pacific alliance.  And so these negotiations should be for the best.  We need to create employment.  This is the key to revitalize the economy and to foster prosperity not only for the Canadian populations, but for our populations at large.

That’s why our government will keep on working and expanding the free trade and commerce with our main partners in North America, as well as with Asia Pacific region and worldwide, since we want to have access on the other side of the Atlantic, since we have subscribed to the free exchange agreement with Europe.

Today, President Obama, President Peña Nieto and myself have discussed and have delved into many topics, especially the state of the world economy at a local, regional level, and competiveness — North American competitiveness.  We are truly enthusiastic to collaborate, with this idea of collaborating together.  We shall keep on working together with my homologues [counterparts] and to take a profit of all the occasions for the well-being of our populations.  And we will host the forthcoming population of the summit in Canada.

And I would like to add a word in regard to the situation in Ukraine.  There’s been a truce, but it is essential that we take action.  And at the end of the day, the Ukrainian government has to be held responsible for settling this situation.  The Ukrainian government took actions — actions that were not only unpopular, but actions that put at risk nature and the aspirations of becoming an independent nation.

(In English.)  My sincere thanks to President Peña Nieto and the Mexican people for their generous hospitality.  We’ve had a wonderful time here in beautiful Mexico, and I look forward to returning again soon.

Today we had productive meetings with Canada’s closest friends and trading partners — partners with whom we share goods, services and information, and also fundamental values and a vision for a democratic and peaceful world.

This year we mark the 20th anniversary of the North American Free Trade Agreement.  And as only time can reveal, the agreement — statistics alone — has been overwhelmingly successful and is responsible for creating prosperity from the bottom to the top of the continent.  There has been a fourfold growth in trilateral trade over the last 20 years that now exceeds a trillion dollars. And it is estimated that the NAFTA marketplace will continue to expand exponentially in the decades to come.

We all agree that there is enormous potential to build on the success of NAFTA in new ways, for example, most notably through the Trans-Pacific Partnership.  We’re therefore focused on bringing those negotiations to a successful conclusion.

Developing trade is one of the keys to job creation.  It is a key to economic vitality, and it is a key to long-term prosperity not just for the Canadian people, but for all of our peoples.  That’s why our government will continue to work to expand trade with our two core trading partners in North America, in the Asia Pacific region more generally, and around the world  — just as we did last year, when we expanded our access across the Atlantic through the conclusion of the Canada-European Union Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement.

In our meetings today, Presidents Peña Nieto, Obama and I discussed a range of topics as have already been detailed by my colleagues, including the state of the global economy, international regional security, and North American competitiveness.  We share a genuine enthusiasm for closer collaboration.

The Presidents and I will continue to work together to address the challenges of the 21st century and to seize the many promising opportunities that the future holds for our peoples.  And I do look forward to hosting the next North American Leaders Summit in Canada.

And I’d also just like to conclude with a word on the situation in Ukraine.  We obviously are encouraged to hear the news of a truce.  While this is good news, this kind of news, these kinds of words are only meaningful if they are put into action.  And ultimately, it is the regime that is responsible for resolving the current situation.  It is the regime that created this situation — not by taking decisions that were merely unpopular, but by undertaking decisions that went against the very nature and aspirations of Ukraine as an independent state.  And for that reason, we hold the government responsible and urge them to take all the steps necessary to resolve the situation and to put Ukraine back on the democratic and Euro-Atlantic path that the Ukrainian people desire.  (Applause.)

MODERATOR:  (As interpreted.)  We will have a round of questions.  Jason McDonald will introduce the Canadian journalist asking the question.

MR. MCDONALD:  Omar Sachedina from CTV News.

Q    Mr. President, good evening to you.  Canada has offered to work with the United States on joint rules to reduce greenhouse gas emissions in the oil and gas sector.  You’ve said the Keystone XL pipeline won’t be approved if it significantly worsens climate change.  The State Department report has concluded that Keystone will not have a significant effect on climate change.  So my question to you is, what more needs to be done on both sides of the border for this project to go ahead?

And, Prime Minister, I’d love for you to be able to weigh on this as well.  Et en français aussi, s’il vous plaît.

THE PRESIDENT:  Well, as I’ve stated previously, there is a process that has been gone through, and I know it’s been extensive, and at times I’m sure Stephen feels a little too laborious.  But these are how we make these decisions about something that could potentially have a significant impact on America’s national economy and our national interests.

So the State Department has gone through its review.  There is now a comment period in which other agencies weigh in.  That will be evaluated by Secretary of State Kerry, and we’ll make a decision at that point.

In the meantime, Stephen and I, during a break after lunch, discussed a shared interest in working together around dealing with greenhouse gas emissions.  And this is something that we have to deal with.  I said previously that how Keystone impacted greenhouse gas emissions would affect our decision, but, frankly, it has to affect all of our decisions at this stage, because the science is irrefutable.  We’re already seeing severe weather patterns increase.  That has consequences for our businesses, for our jobs, for our families, for safety and security.  It has the potential of displacing people in ways that we cannot currently fully anticipate, and will be extraordinarily costly.

So I welcome the work that we can do together with Canada.  One of the wonderful things about North America is we have this amazing bounty of traditional fossil fuels, and we also have extraordinary businesses that are able to extract them in very efficient ways.  And that’s something that we should welcome because it helps to promote economic growth.  But we only have one planet, and so I believe that ultimately we can both promote economic development and growth, recognizing that we’re not going to immediately transition off of fossil fuels, but that we do have to point to the future and show leadership so that other countries who will be the main emitters fairly soon — China, India, other emerging markets — so that they can look at what we’re doing and we have leverage over them in terms of them improving their practices as well.

So this will be a joint effort.  I’m very eager to consult with Stephen around those issues.  And Keystone will proceed along the path that’s already been set forth.

PRIME MINISTER HARPER:  Let me just say a couple of things. First of all, obviously, President Obama and I had an exchange on this.  My views in favor of the project are very well known.  His views on the process are also equally well known.  And we had that discussion and will continue on that discussion.

I would just say two things about the process.  First, on the issue of climate change, which is a shared concern, Canada and the United States have similar targets at the international level.  We already cooperate in several sectors in terms of emissions reductions.  But in terms of climate change, I think the State Department report already was pretty definitive on that particular issue.

The other thing I’d just draw attention to, just because I think it’s useful to point out the benefits to Canada, is the reform that we had done of environmental review and assessments of projects in Canada.  As you know, a couple years ago we moved to reform our system so that we have a single review wherever possible — a single review, a multi-dimensional review that happens over a fixed timeline.  And I think that is a process that is tremendously useful in giving investors greater certainty in terms of the kind of plans they may have in the Canadian economy.

(As interpreted.)  And now I shall repeat my comments in French.  (Speaks in French.)

MODERATOR:  From the traveling U.S. press, goes to Jim Kuhnhenn of the Associated Press.

Q    Señor Presidente, muchas gracias.  Ha sido un placer.  Prime Minister — do you worry that longstanding opposition to trade deals in the U.S. from both the President’s party and some Republicans pose a threat to the Trans-Pacific Partnership?  And do you — in your mind, is it essential that Congress approve it, or at least give the President fast track authority this year, or can it wait until after the U.S. elections in November?

Mr. President, if you’d like to chime in on that as well — you mentioned parochial interest today; I’d be interested in how you intend to bring your Democrats along.  But I had a question for you on something else that you raised.

PRESIDENT OBAMA:  How many questions do you got, Jim?

Q    Just one, sir.

PRESIDENT OBAMA:  Okay.  (Laughter.)  Because you know I’ve got to answer that one, too, right?  That was a pretty slick move.  (Laughter.)

Q    The common denominator in the strife in Ukraine and Syria is the support that those two governments get from Russia, and I’m wondering, sir, if you believe that President Putin bears some responsibility for the intransigence of those two regimes.  And to some degree, has this gone beyond just those two countries, and has it become a tug of war between two world powers?

PRESIDENT OBAMA:  Let me answer very briefly on the trade issue.  It’s not accurate, Jim, to say that my party opposes this trade deal.  There are elements of my party that oppose this trade deal, there are elements of my party that oppose the South Korea free trade agreement, the Colombia free trade agreement and the Panama free trade agreement — all of which we passed with Democratic votes.

So what I’ve said to President Peña Nieto and Prime Minister Harper is we’ll get this passed if it’s a good agreement.  And the key at this point is to make sure that our countries, which hold ourselves up as champions of free trade, resolve our legitimate national interests in these negotiations so that we can present a united front against a number of the other participants in the TPP negotiations who don’t have as much of a tradition of free trade.  And that is to our advantage, precisely because North America has this amazing competitive advantage, and we are already relatively open markets.

And part of our goal here is to make sure that the Asia Pacific region — which is growing faster than anyplace else in the world, has a larger population than anyplace else in the world — that they have a model of trade that is free and fair and open and allows our businesses to compete and allows our workers to make goods and deliver services that those markets are purchasing.  And we can only do that if we raise the bar in terms of what our trade models look like.

And I’ve said this to some of my own constituents who are opposed to trade:  Those who are concerned about losing jobs or outsourcing need to understand some of the old agreements put us at a disadvantage.  That’s exactly why we’ve got to have stronger agreements that protect our intellectual property, that open up markets to our agricultural products; that make sure that when it comes to government procurement or sovereign wealth funds in these other countries, that they’re not taking advantage of our businesses and preventing us from competing there.  That’s exactly why we’ve got to get this done.  And I’m very appreciative of the shared vision and commitment that Prime Minister Harper and President Enrique Peña Nieto have on this issue.

Now, with respect to Syria and the Ukraine, I do think it is worth noting that you have in this situation one country that has clearly been a client state of Russia, another whose government is currently — been supported by Russia; where the people obviously have a very different view and vision for their country.  And we’ve now seen a great deal of turmoil there that arose organically from within those countries.

I don’t think there’s a competition between the United States and Russia.  I think this is an expression of the hopes and aspirations of people inside of Syria and people inside of the Ukraine who recognize that basic freedoms — freedom of speech, freedom of assembly, fair and free elections, the ability to run a business without paying a bribe, to not be discriminated against because of your religion or your beliefs — that those are fundamental rights that everybody wants to enjoy.

Now, Mr. Putin has a different view on many of those issues, and I don’t think that there’s any secret on that.  And our approach as the United States is not to see these as some Cold War chessboard in which we’re in competition with Russia.  Our goal is to make sure that the people of Ukraine are able to make decisions for themselves about their future, that the people of Syria are able to make decisions without having bombs going off and killing women and children, or chemical weapons, or towns being starved because a despot wants to cling to power.

Those express our values and our national interests, and we will continue to express those national interests.  There are times, I hope, where Russia will recognize that over the long term they should be on board with those values and interests as well.  Right now, there are times where we have strong disagreements.  And when I speak to Mr. Putin, I’m very candid about those disagreements, even as we will continue to pursue cooperation with Russia on areas where we had shared concerns.

But I want to emphasize this:  The situation that happened in Ukraine has to do with whether or not the people of Ukraine can determine their own destiny.  And my government and Vice President Biden, and I personally, have expressed to President Yanukovych the need for him to recognize the spirit of the Ukrainian people and work with that, as opposed to trying to repress it.  And so we’ll continue to stand on the side of the people.

My hope is, at this point, that a truce may hold, but Stephen is exactly right — ultimately, the government is responsible for making sure that we shift towards some sort of unity government, even if it’s temporary, that allows us to move to fair and free elections so that the will of the Ukrainian people can be rightly expressed without the kinds of chaos we’ve seen on the streets and without the bloodshed that all of us I think strongly condemn.

PRIME MINISTER HARPER:  On the issue of the Trans-Pacific Partnership, as I said, we are wanting to see and committed to seeing a good, comprehensive Trans-Pacific Partnership trade agreement.  I think it’s in all of our interest for the reasons that have already been laid out.  That said, the government of Canada’s position is always clear in these matters that we will only come to an agreement when we are convinced the agreement is in the best interest of Canada.  And we will stay at the table as long as it takes to get to that particular situation.

And I think we have the track record to prove it.  Our government, the current government of Canada, has signed more trade agreements than all previous Canadian governments combined. What I would say is this — I’m not going to comment on the process in Congress.  What I would say is this — the reason I said what I said about working until we get an agreement that is in the interest of Canada is we will have to have an agreement that can be sold to the Canadian Parliament and ultimately to the Canadian people.  And that’s what we’re aiming for.

(The Prime Minister repeats his remarks in French.)

PRESIDENT PEÑA NIETO:  (As interpreted.)  The Mexican stand has been very clear, and specifically our take on the TPP have always stated it, it is of the interest of Mexico.  We have been part of the negotiation rounds to eventually reach an agreement of this important opportunity that the TPP offers.  We can expand the potential of North America into the Asia Pacific region.  Mexico would do its best for the sake of Mexico to be on the side of the solution.  We will overcome disagreements and eventual roadblocks that the negotiation rounds present.  And we hope that it is this spirit that we reach the agreement.

Mexico has made a commitment and has shown political will to be part of the Trans-Pacific Partnership.  We hope that the deal happens.  That is the Mexican stand, and we will work to the best of our ability to reach this goal.

Now, on behalf of Mexico, Miguel Reyes Razo, from the Mexican Editorial Organization, will ask a question.

Q    (As interpreted.)  Good evening, everyone.  By virtue of the fact that we celebrate the 20th anniversary of the efforts made by Mexico, the United States and Canada, we have NAFTA for 20 years.  I would like to ask Enrique Peña Nieto, the President of my country, what is the outlook of the northern part of this continent in terms of development?  And at the same time, Mr. President Peña Nieto, I would like to know, what are the challenges for the development that we have hoped for, that we are expecting?

And I would like to ask the President of the United States of America, Mr. Obama, and Mr. Harper, the Prime Minister of Canada — what is the engagement that we should expect from you? What is your actual commitment to make this region, North America, thrive in economical terms?  Now, we have 13 months and a half of your administration, Mr. Enrique Peña Nieto.  And you, Canada and the United States, partners and neighbors of this country, what is your take?  What is your take on this 13 months and a half of the Mexican President?  Thank you very much for your reply.

PRESIDENT PEÑA NIETO:  (As interpreted.)  Mr. Miguel, I believe that we have been very candid in terms of the huge strength that we see in North America after 20 years of the free trade agreement.  Our trade has been able to thrive.  We have more commercial exchanges.  We have more investment in the region.

And today we have integrated added value chains between our three countries.  That means that we are adding value to products that are offered in this great market.  We are fully aware of the economic growth since, so far, we are fully aware of the creation of jobs in North America.  That is why we have committed in this summit to take on actions that would help us strengthen our economic ties even further.  We have committed to enable trade, to have better infrastructure, to have safer exchanges, and to make our trade be easier.  So these are the agreements that we have made today.

And we have also acknowledged the enormous potential.  And the future that we see in the horizon would be based on the strengths that we have built upon over the course of the last 20 years.  And let us acknowledge that we are three countries that we are like-minded in terms of our values.  We are three democratic countries.  We are three countries who believe in free trade.  And our countries have found in this instrument a space to create jobs and to have more development in our nations.

PRESIDENT OBAMA:  Well, as we’ve said I think throughout our meetings today, America’s success, Mexico’s success, Canadian success are all bound together.  I think that if you just look at the facts, Mexico has made enormous strides over the last several decades.  And, in part, that is because we’ve seen a greater integration of Mexico in the world economy.  I think the United States and Canada have played constructive roles in that.  Our ability to trade and engage in commerce with Mexico obviously has created jobs and opportunities in our country, as well.  And so it has been a mutually beneficial partnership — based on self-interest, but also as Enrique said, based on common values.

We’ve seen a consolidation of democracy here in Mexico, and I think the kinds of reforms that Enrique has initiated over the last 13 months are ones that will put Mexico in an even stronger competitive footing in the world economy in the years to come.

And I recognize there are still implementation issues that will be involved, and there will be a healthy debate here in Mexico, but I’m confident, given the talent of the Mexican people, given the resources of the Mexican people, given the growing capacity of Mexican businesses, and given the fact that we, as a North American entity, constitutes a huge trading bloc and economic powerhouse around the world, that we should anticipate Mexico’s growth to continue, standards of living to continue, jobs and opportunities to continue.  And that’s what we hope for all our countries.

I’m confident that the partnership that we’ve developed is good for the United States, creates jobs in the United States, helps businesses in the United States.  And if we continue to cooperate and try to reduce some of the barriers that have in the past slowed down our commercial exchanges, as well as educational exchanges and scientific exchanges, then we’re going to be successful.

PRIME MINISTER HARPER:  (As interpreted.)  Allow me, this is our perspective.  While Canada has seen great success, but the development of Mexico throughout this time period that is 20 years has been unbelievable, socially, economically, politically. And Mexico is becoming a world of power.  And we see this accelerating process with the support of President Peña Nieto.

You have made comments on the challenges to meet.  I think that the greatest one is the need to keep on increasing the flow of goods and services and information across our borders at a time where risks and threats to security are also increased across the borders.  And that will be the greatest challenge to meet.

(In English.)  Look, I think the NAFTA relationship, as I’ve said before, has been tremendously successful for all of us. But I think, looking back 20 years, the development of Mexico on all levels — economic, social, political — over the period has been incredible.  It’s a process that is accelerating under President Peña Nieto’s very bold vision for the future, and Mexico is increasingly becoming a global economic player.

You asked about challenges.  I think the biggest single challenge is in an era where we are seeing and need to see even greater movement of goods, services, people, investments, information flows across our borders, that at the same time, the risks and the threats to security across those borders continue to rise.  So the big challenge will be how we continue to grow that human and trade flow, while at the same time minimizing the risks.

MODERATOR:  (As interpreted) President Peña Nieto, would you like to take the floor so you can officially close this meeting?

PRESIDENT PEÑA NIETO:  (As interpreted.)  Yes, I will.  Thank you very much.

Once again, I would like to congratulate myself for this summit.  We have built a climate that is based on trust, respect, and we have worked towards a relationship that it’s very clear in terms of the responsibilities of each one of the heads of state. And I am certain that this relationship will result in a greater integration, a stronger friendship, and whatever we do for the sake of North America will benefit our peoples.

I would like to bear testimony of how grateful I am towards the authorities of the state, the Governor of the State of Mexico, Eruviel Ávila.  I’d like to thank you for enabling the summit to take place here.  I would like to thank the Chief Justice of the State of Mexico.  They provided us with their facilities.

And I would like to thank the inhabitants of the capital city of the State of Mexico, Toluca, for their hospitality.  I thank them.  And I’d like to thank all of them for the inconveniences and all the preparation work and all the security operations needed for the summit.  I’m very grateful towards them.  And I’m very grateful for the hospitality given to the President of the United States, Barack Obama; and the Prime Minister of Canada, Stephen Harper.

Thank you very much and have a safe trip home.  Thank you very much.  (Applause.)

END
8:20 P.M. CST

Full Text Obama Presidency February 19, 2014: President Obama, President Peña Nieto, and Prime Minister Harper’s Speech to North American Business, Civil Society and Education Leaders at Three Amigos Summit

POLITICAL TRANSCRIPTS

OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 113TH CONGRESS:

President Obama Travels to Mexico for the North American Leaders’ Summit

Source: WH, 2-19-14

President Barack Obama delivers remarks alongside of President Enrique Peña Nieto and Prime Minister Stephen Harper during the North American Business, Civil Society and Education leaders during the North American Leaders Summit in Toluca, Mexico.President Barack Obama delivers remarks alongside President Enrique Peña Nieto and Prime Minister Stephen Harper to North American business, civil society, and education leaders during the North American Leaders’ Summit in Toluca, Mexico, Feb. 19, 2014. (Official White House Photo by Amanda Lucidon)

Today, the President traveled to Toluca, Mexico for this year’s North American Leaders’ Summit, along with Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto and Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper….READ MORE

Remarks by President Obama, President Peña Nieto, and Prime Minister Harper to North American Business, Civil Society and Education Leaders

Source: WH, 2-19-14 

Salon del Pueblo
Palacio de Gobierno
Toluca, Mexico

5:03 P.M. CST

PRESIDENT PEÑA NIETO:  (As interpreted.)  Your Excellency, Barack Obama, President of the United States of America; Your Excellency, Stephen Harper, Prime Minister of Canada; ladies and gentlemen, distinguished guests:  We are here gathered with representatives from the public, the private, and the social sectors.  All of you have walked along with us in the construction road to a more competitive North America.  And by this, we will have a higher level of development for our peoples.

Members of the media, Mexico welcomes you with open arms to celebrate the North America Leaders Summit, Toluca 2014.  Besides being Toluca, my hometown, this is the place where I was entrusted by the citizens to serve as the governor of this state, the state of Mexico.  The state of Mexico is a clear symbol of the productive integration of North America due to its geographic location and its connectivity.  Here we have seen the settlement of advanced automobile facilities and very important logistic hubs.  Both are a true example of value chains, global value chains that make North America excel.

That is why, from Toluca, the three leaders of North America confirm today our commitment to position our region as one of the most dynamic and competitive of the whole world.

I celebrate the fact that we have gathered here with prominent representatives from the academia, from the private sector, and from the civil society from North America.  Your contribution has been vital to bring Canada, the U.S. and Mexico closer.  With a clear vision in mind, all of you pushed from the onset the great idea that gathers us today — an integrated North America with goals and shared efforts.

(Drop in audio feed.)

Once, the Free Trade Agreement area was the largest free trade area with an unprecedented push of trade exchanges, regional investment, and the creation of millions of jobs.  With the same innovative spirit, two decades after, we are bound to go beyond and enhance all together the progress that each one of our countries has made, because individually all our countries have moved forward as well.

Therefore, the principal topics of this seventh summit are very clear:  First, inclusive and shared prosperity.  Number two, new opportunity areas.  Number three, citizen security.  And fourth, regional and global topics.  It is upon these four topics today we will work together to boost the economic growth of our countries and a generation of quality jobs, and by this, increase the wellbeing of our societies.

Ladies and gentlemen, Canada, the United States and Mexico share strengths that make us move forward.  We are a community of more than 450 million inhabitants where talent and creativity of our peoples excel.  Trade exchanges from the three countries are over $1 trillion; in Spanish we use billions, in English we use trillions.  We have the support and thrive of our entrepreneurs and the capabilities of technological innovation coming from our universities and large companies.

We have principles, we have institutions that make us be solid democracies.  We have natural resources, endless natural resources and new opportunities so we can take advantage of them sustainably.

All of these are factors that lay a solid groundwork for North America’s region, and this is how we will make it a more attractive and competitive region in the world for the upcoming years.  I would like to invite you, respectfully, so that each one of us from the area where you have the responsibility to act, let’s make North America a more competitive and a more prosperous region for the sake of the inhabitants of our countries.

Thank you very much.  (Applause.)

PRESIDENT OBAMA:  Good afternoon.  Buenas tardes.  Bonjour.  I want to thank Enrique for his extraordinary hospitality and for bringing us here to his beautiful home city.  I want to thank the people of Toluca and of Mexico for your great hospitality.

We’re all here on business, which means I’m not here as long as I’d like.  I have not, for example, sampled some of Toluca’s legendary chorizo.  (Laughter.)  And hopefully the next time I stop by, I’m going to be able to have some of that.

All of us — Stephen, Enrique and I — are focused on how we can deepen what are already incredible ties between our three nations.  And I appreciate that all of you are here today, because governments cannot do it alone.  The strength of the relationship between Canada, Mexico and the United States is not just a matter of government policy; it’s not just a matter of legislation.  There is an incredible richness to the relationship that comes from our people, from our businesses, from our commercial ties, from the students who are traveling back and forth, from the cultures that are shared between us.

And that strength is in some ways unique throughout the world.  If you think about North America, to have three borders this long in which we share a common set of values, a common set of principles, a commitment to democracy, a commitment to free markets, a commitment to trade where we are allies and interact peacefully, that is a precious gift.  And it’s one that I think all three of us are committed to building and nurturing for future generations.

And for me this is very personal.  Some of my closest advisors and allies and political friends are the children of Mexican immigrants who have made an extraordinary life and contribution in the United States.  My brother-in-law is Canadian, so you know I have to like Canadians — (laughter) — although I will note that I think we are going to have both the men’s hockey teams and the women’s hockey teams battling it out.  (Laughter.)  So for a very brief period of time, I may not feel as warm towards Canadians as I normally do — at least until those matches are over.

But each of you experiences these connections in very concrete ways.  Enrique already spoke about the volume of trade that takes place, and the interactions between our businesses, and the subsidiaries of companies in each country that are operating in the other.  And so much of the cross-border trade that exists is part of an integrated supply chain that allows us, all three of us as countries, to successfully sell our products and services all around the world.

And so we have every incentive to make this work.  And so a lot of our conversation has focused on how do we reduce any continuing trade frictions; how do we make sure that our borders are more efficient; how do we make sure that the educational exchanges between our young people are expanded so that our young people understand their opportunities will be brighter and expanded if in fact they’ve had the opportunity to study in Canada or to study in Mexico, if they know Spanish, if they know French.

And we use these forums to make concrete progress.  Our staffs work incredibly hard to make them successful.  But, frankly, until our leaders come around, until the three of us meet, sometimes it doesn’t all get done.  And this becomes a forcing mechanism for us to move forward on commercial progress, joint security progress, progress on educational and scientific exchanges.

But — and this is the last point I want to emphasize — there are always going to be parochial interests in each of our countries, so that’s appropriate and that will express itself politically, and we have to be responsive to our own constituencies.  If, in fact, we’re going to continue to build and strengthen the ties between our three countries, then you can’t just leave it to politicians alone.  All of you are going to have to speak out and speak up on the importance of this relationship.

We want to make sure that we’re your partners and allies in this process, but when people understand what this means in terms of job creation in the United States, job creation in Canada, job creation in Mexico, how this relationship enhances our security, how it improves our capacity to heat our homes and grow our food and make sure that young people have opportunities in the future — when they hear that from you, it’s that much more persuasive.

And so I would encourage all of you to continue to make your voices heard.  You’ll have certainly a partner in me, and I’m sure that you’ll have a partner in Stephen and Enrique as well.

I thank you for participating here today.  And once again, Enrique, thank you for the extraordinary hospitality in this beautiful state and this beautiful city.  Muchas gracias.  (Applause.)

PRIME MINISTER HARPER:  Bon après-midi.  Buenas tardes.  Good afternoon, everybody — wonderful day and we’re delighted to be here in Toluca.  And it’s easy to see why you’re so proud of your hometown.  It’s a wonderful spot here.

And, Barack, it’s always great to see you.  And I like my brothers-in-law, too.  (Laughter.)  And I’ll probably like them no matter who wins the hockey game.  (Laughter.)  Anyway.

I want to also thank all of you being here, in particular, obviously, the delegation that has accompanied me from Canada.

(As interpreted.)  Today we have this opportunity to make this North American market more competitive.  You are entrepreneurs, you are job creators, employment creators all over this continent.

(In English.)  — with so many business people here, as well as academics and others, to discuss how to make North America, which is these three economies combined, which is nearly one-quarter of the world’s economy more prosperous and more competitive.

And it’s particularly fitting that it would be you as civil society and business leaders who would lead such a discussion, for although it was NAFTA and the Canada-U.S. Free Trade Agreement before it that opened up the opportunities, this is a trade alliance that, in fact, consists of very little top-down infrastructure.  It has been businesses, people on the ground, social interactions, academic interactions which have advanced relations, particularly economic relations that go well beyond trade.

Today, Canadian, American and Mexican companies do much more than sell things to each other.  You increasingly make things together through integrated supply chains.  Now, for example, we talk about the fact, in Canada obviously, that the Canadian-American trade relationship is the largest in the world — certainly, the U.S. is our largest export market.  But Canadian exports to the United States contain an average of 25 percent American content.  Likewise, Mexican exports to the United States include an average of 40 percent U.S. content.

(As interpreted.)  So this is why we want to tighten our relationships and increase the competitiveness in the region.  And we call on the entrepreneurs — of course, the Canadian and U.S. companies are grabbing occasions and opportunities in Mexico — throughout the continent to create employment seedbeds.

(In English.)  Jobs include organizations as diverse as TransCanada, the Canadian Cattlemen’s Association and Beef Canada, the Canola Council, Linamar, Scotiabank and many others that I know are represented with us here today.  And they have tremendous growth prospects in fields such as energy, in education, agri-food, information and communications technologies, banking and financial services, and many, many others, particularly when one looks at not just the rapid transformation in this country over the past 20 years, but the very aggressive reforms that are being undertaken by President Peña Nieto’s administration.

(As interpreted.)  And having said this, the world, the entire world is not what it used to be in 1994.

(In English.)  Different realities from 20 years ago are realities we must adapt to today.  They include obviously the ongoing uncertainty, market uncertainty that remains from the global recession and also from a global economy that is much more competitive from many other regions.

(As interpreted.)  We must work together to be able to break barriers and for the benefit of our populations.

(In English.)  And so, as Canadians, Mexicans and Americans, we need to look for ways to work together and to look forward.

Thank you for being here.  (Applause.)

END                5:21 P.M. CST

Full Text Obama Presidency February 19, 2014: President Barack Obama’s Speech before Bilateral Meeting on North American Leaders Summit and Condemning Ukrainian Violence

POLITICAL TRANSCRIPTS

OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 113TH CONGRESS:

Remarks by President Obama before Restricted Bilateral Meeting

Source: WH, 2-19-14 

Governor’s Office
Palacio De Gobierno Del Estado De Mexico
Toluca, Mexico

1:00 P.M. CST

PRESIDENT OBAMA:  Well, let me thank President Peña Nieto for his wonderful hospitality in hosting us here today.  And it’s a special treat to be able to visit his home town of Toluca.

This is my fifth visit to Mexico, and I think it underscores the incredible importance of the relationship between the United States and Mexico, not only on commercial issues and security issues, but because of the intimate person-to-person relations that exist between our two countries.

I want to congratulate President Peña Nieto on the outstanding efforts that he’s made during the course of this year on a whole range of reforms that promise to make Mexico more competitive and increase opportunity for the people of Mexico.  And I’m also very interested in hearing President Peña Nieto’s strategies as he embarks on dealing with some of the reforms in the criminal justice system and around security issues, which I know are very pressing on his mind and where we have some excellent cooperation between the United States and Mexico.

More broadly, the North American Leaders Summit gives us an opportunity to build on the enormous progress that we’ve already made in making sure that North America is the most competitive region in the world and that we are able not only to continue to integrate our economies effectively to create jobs both in the United States, Mexico and Canada, but that we’re able to project American and Mexican and Canadian goods and services around the world toward the benefit of our people.

And the cooperation ranges from how do we make our borders more efficient to moving forward on the Trans-Pacific Partnership that offers the opportunity to open up new markets in the fastest, most populous region of the world, the Asia Pacific region.

We’ll also have the opportunity to discuss how we can work together more closely on scientific and educational exchanges.  We’re particularly interested in making sure that young people in Mexico and the United States and Canada are able to study and travel in each country, and we’re trying to expand those kinds of exchanges.

So this is a wonderful opportunity for us to build on the work that we’ve already done over the last year.

With the President’s indulgence, let me say one last thing, and that is about the situation in Ukraine, which obviously has captured the attention of the entire world.

The United States condemns in strongest terms the violence that’s taking place there.  And we have been deeply engaged with our European partners as well as both the Ukrainian government and the opposition to try to assure that that violence ends.

But we hold the Ukrainian government primarily responsible for making sure that it is dealing with peaceful protesters in an appropriate way; that the Ukrainian people are able to assemble and speak freely about their interests without fear of repression.

And I want to be very clear that as we work through these next several days in Ukraine that we are going to be watching very carefully and we expect the Ukrainian government to show restraint, to not resort to violence in dealing with peaceful protesters.  We’ve said that we also expect peaceful protesters to remain peaceful.  And we’ll be monitoring very carefully the situation, recognizing, along with our European partners and the international community, there will be consequences if people step over the line.  And that includes making sure that the Ukrainian military does not step into what should be a set of issues that can be resolved by civilians.

So the United States will continue to engage with all sides in the dispute in Ukraine, and ultimately our interest is to make sure that the Ukrainian people can express their own desires.  And we believe that a large majority of Ukrainians are interested in an integration with Europe, and the commerce and cultural exchanges that are possible for them to expand opportunity and prosperity.

But regardless of how the Ukrainian people determine their own future, it is important that it is the people themselves that make those decisions.  And that’s what the United States will continue to strive to achieve.

And I do think there is still the possibility of a peaceful transition within Ukraine, but it’s going to require the government, in particular, to actively seek that peaceful transition, and it requires the opposition and those on the streets to recognize that violence is not going to be the path by which this issue will be resolved.

Thank you very much.

END
1:10 P.M. CST

Obama Presidency May 4, 2013: President Barack Obama’s Visit to Costa Rica

POLITICAL TRANSCRIPTS

OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 113TH CONGRESS:

President Obama’s Visit to Costa Rica

Source: WH, 5-4-13

President Barack Obama and President Laura Chinchilla of Costa Rica participate in a cultural event with Costa Rican youth at Casa Amarilla, San Jose, Costa Rica, May 3, 2013. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)

This week, President Obama traveled to Mexico and Costa Rica to reinforce the deep cultural, familial, and economic ties that so many Americans share with Mexico and Central America.

President Barack Obama arrives in Costa RicaPresident Barack Obama arrives aboard Air Force One at Juan Santamaria International Airport, San Jose, Costa Rica. May 3, 2013. (Official White House Photo by Lawrence Jackson)

President Obama arrived in Costa Rica on Friday — his first visit to the country — and participated in a bilateral meeting and joint press conference with Costa Rican President Chinchilla’s, as well as a working dinner. During the press conference, the President spoke about the friendship and economic ties between our two countries:

Costa Rica shows the benefits of trade that is free and fair. Over the last few years, under the Central America Free Trade Agreement, our trade with Costa Rica has doubled, creating more jobs for people in both of our countries. Our partnerships are creating more opportunities for small businesses and entrepreneurs, including young people and women. As I told President Chinchilla, the United States will continue to be your partner as Costa Rica modernizes its economy so that you’re attracting more investment and creating even more trade and more jobs.

President Obama participates in a bilateral meeting with President Chinchilla President Barack Obama participates in a restricted bilateral meeting with President Laura Chinchilla of Costa Rica at Casa Amarilla, San Jose, Costa Rica. May 3, 2013. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)

President Obama participates in a press conference with President Chinchilla President Barack Obama participates in a press conference with President Laura Chinchilla of Costa Rica at the CENAC (National Center for Art and Culture), San Jose, Costa Rica. May 3, 2013. (Official White House Photo by Lawrence Jackson)

President Obama participates in a press conference with President Chinchilla President Barack Obama participates in a press conference with President Laura Chinchilla of Costa Rica at the CENAC (National Center for Art and Culture), San Jose, Costa Rica. May 3, 2013. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)

President Obama today attended a forum on Inclusive Economic Growth and Development at the Old Customs House in San Jose. Speaking with business leaders, the President addressed the issues of security and economic growth before taking questions:

I’ve been interviewed several times during the course of my travels both in Mexico and Central America, and I’ve emphasized that although I understand why there’s been a great focus over the last several years on security issues — security is important.  It’s very hard to create a strong economy when people are personally feeling insecure. There’s been a lot of emphasis on immigration, and I understand why that is.  Obviously it’s of great importance to this region and to the United States.  We shouldn’t lose sight of the critical importance of trade and commerce and business to the prospects both for Costa Rica, the United States, and the entire hemisphere.

The United States considers our trading relationships with CAFTA countries, with Mexico, to be of enormous importance. When you look at the scale of business that’s being done currently, it’s creating jobs in the United States, it’s creating jobs here. And what we want to do is to find ways that we can continue to enhance that relationship, how we can get ideas from this region and find ways in which we can improve and foster small business development, medium-sized business development, make this entire region more competitive.

For more information:

Full Text Obama Presidency May 3, 2013: President Barack Obama & Costa Rica President Laura Chinchilla’s Remarks in a Joint Press Conference

POLITICAL TRANSCRIPTS


OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 113TH CONGRESS:

Remarks by President Obama and President Chinchilla of Costa Rica in a Joint Press Conference

Source: WH, 5-3-13

President Obama participates in a press conference with President Chinchilla President Barack Obama participates in a press conference with President Laura Chinchilla of Costa Rica at the CENAC (National Center for Art and Culture), San Jose, Costa Rica. May 3, 2013. (Official White House Photo by Lawrence Jackson)

National Center for Art and Culture San Jose, Costa Rica

4:55 P.M. CST

PRESIDENT CHINCHILLA:  (As interpreted.)  Good afternoon.  Good afternoon, dear friends.  Dear friends, international journalists and for American and SICA.  Thank you very much.  Thank you for being here with us this afternoon.

In the first place and before we get any deeper concerning the results of the meetings that we just had recently, in the first place, what I would like to do is to reiterate our warmest welcome on behalf of all the Costa Rican people to President Barack Obama and his delegation.  And also I would like to reiterate on behalf of our Costa Ricans the feelings that we feel towards the United States of America.

And I also wanted to thank you very much for the way so cordial and constructive in which we have been able to develop this afternoon’s issues, Mr. President, because I think that we have had very successful conversations in the bilateral meeting. It was my pleasure to report that precisely thanks to this open process of conversations that we have had, it is that we can explore new horizons, always trying to strengthen these traditions based on the essential values that have characterized the relationship between the United States and Costa Rica.

Particularly speaking, I’m talking about values of peace, freedom, democracy, respect to the human rights and the human development.  These are the values that we share.  And these are the values on which we aspire to continue to develop the relationship between our two nations.

The conversations that we have had have been very useful and they have basically focused on six fundamental issues that reflect this rich diversity that characterizes the relationship between the two nations.  We talked about institutional strengthening.  We talked about issues of international policy and the involvement, in particular to which Costa Rica aspires in the international economic scenario.

We also talked about the use of fundamental instruments in the relationship of the two nations, like CAFTA, for instance.  We talked about an issue that is important but it is not the one that defines our relationship, which is security.  And we also talked about a fundamental issue that undoubtedly is going to define the progress and the joint development not only between the United States of America and Costa Rica, but also between the United States and the Central American region, which is the area of energy.

And finally, of course, in our Costa Rican agenda, we included issues having to do with education, entrepreneurship and innovation.

Please allow me to briefly walk you through these six issues so that you can get to know which has been the central element in each of them.

In the area of institutional strengthening, as you know, the government of the United States is promoting what is called the Alliance of Open Government, that basically seeks to strengthen practices that are much more transparent and integral in everything that has to do with the exercise of institutions of public function.

Costa Rica has been an enthusiastic participant in this initiative.  We have already proposed our action plan, and we expect to continue to share initiatives, practices, exchanges of experiences on this issue.

In the area of involvement of Costa Rica in the economic global scenario and some of the issues of international policy, we are taking into account — we have used this session to talk about the involvement of the United States in the area of fire weapons — and that together they have been able to get the approval in the recent meeting of the United Nations.

Thank you very much, Mr. President, for having sponsored one of the — that is going to contribute the most to the peace in the world.  In addition, I would like to recognize in particular the efforts of President Obama in his own country in order to raise awareness concerning the regulation of fire weapons.

Costa Rica, as some of you already know, is trying to play a more protagonistic role, especially in the area of global development.  Costa Rica is a small economy, but it’s a very open economy.  It’s a model of success.  The accession of global value changes with more and more competitive in the attraction based on high technology.  And being a middle-income country, we are a country that is not seeking to get more aid.  We basically want to have more opportunities to export what our people are producing.

As we have said in the past, we either export our products the people are able to produce or generate, or we’re going to end up exporting our own people.  And Costa Rica will continue to keep Costa Ricans in Costa Rica with better opportunities of economic growth and with better opportunities of welfare.

And that is that the aspirations of Costa Rica include to be able to insert itself in the different fora where we will continue to widen the opportunities of trade, investment, and as a consequence, the opportunities to continue to generate employment and welfare in our country.

To this extent, we have talked to President Obama about two important fora where Costa Rica aspires to be present.  One is the Trans-Pacific Alliance, the TPP, where the government of the United States and especially the Obama administration is paying an important leadership to the effect of hosting this negotiation.  And we would hope that Costa Rica will continue to be the center of attention of the pioneer countries to be able to insert ourselves in the same initiative.

And the other important forum where we have given our best efforts is the forum for the cooperation and development.  Costa Rica wants to be there precisely because we want to continue to adopt the best possible practices in matters of development of public policy.

In the area of the using of the CAFTA platform, as you know, this is going to be an issue — an issue of regional scope.  But it has become a bilateral issue to the extent that Costa Rica is one of the economies that has taken advantage of the opportunity provided by the American market.  We have become in the SICA framework the most important partner with the United States. Thanks to CAFTA, the countries in our region have increased by 70 percent the international trade.  And what we basically seek is to be able to promote initiatives in the area of facilitation of trade.

Concerning the area of security, this, as I mentioned before, is an obligated issue.  As you know, Costa Rica considers this a fundamental issue — has been considering this issue a fundamental one in recent years.  We have been able to do well facing common crime.  We have been able to reduce the homicide rates significantly.  We have been able to reduce the rates of violent crime, thanks to an integral approach in the area of prevention and sanction, as well as the issues having to do with control.  But we also have to admit that the issue of organized crime continues to be important on the institution of stability and the integrity of our nations.

Thus, we talked about this issue.  We had a conversation about it.  We reiterated the importance of keeping the levels of cooperation that we have had so far.  But very particularly, we made the point on the efforts that are being displayed by the SICA countries as well as the United States government with the purpose of approaching the issue of organized crime and drug smuggling from a much more integral approach, a much more diverse approach — not only through the instruments of war, thinking that we’re going to be able to overcome this evil.  A country like Costa Rica cannot go, of course, to war, but we have to take very seriously the strengthening of those mechanisms and those policies that would allow to prevent the entity of organized crime in our country.

And in that sense, we are deliberating the efforts that we might be able to continue on doing in the matter of prevention of consumption with the matter of more opportunities for the younger community of our country on the subject of strengthening the law, of judicial independence, of free press that might be able to carry out the necessary investigations and the accusations without having on them any effect or threat.

The fifth point of the agenda was a subject regarding energy.  It is well-known also for Costa Rica the energy subject has been a value from the point of view of its sustainable development.  Ninety percent of the energy that we consume comes from renewable sources.  Nevertheless, Costa Rica, as well as the rest of Central America, have a very big challenge ahead of them from the point of view of the cost of this energy.  If we do not solve this in the short, midterm, this will have a tremendous weight on the level of competivity [sic] of our region.

Therefore, we have explored with President Obama the possibilities of using the platform of CAFTA so that in the future and once the government of the United States resolves  some of the internal discussions that it might have, to be able to enjoy some preferences in regard to the import of natural gas, natural liquefied gas, a source of energy to which the government of President Obama has put a lot of emphasis on.

We have also commented about the efforts that we are developing here in Costa Rica with the purpose of promoting a group of new energies, especially the energies based on hydrogen, and the initiatives that have already been working on by the private enterprises both in North America and Costa Rica with the cooperation of the public sector of Costa Rica, to take them into consideration as part of the initiatives that he has promoted in the framework of the Alliance of the Americas for the energy and for the climate change.

And I finish by talking about the subject of the partnership of innovation and of the education that has such elements of further development.  For Costa Rica, education has been a constant in its historical development.  As I was telling President Obama, we were born as one of the poorest provinces of the colony, and we have become little by little a nation with great opportunities in the subject of economic development and of well-being for the people, and a fundamental factor, an essential factor has been precisely education.

Much before many other nations of the world, Costa Rica decreed the free and mandatory access to education.  And now we dedicate 7 percent of our GDP to finance the public education, and we need, above all, to face the challenge of the reallocation of this education to the demands of the new economy to which we are aspiring to move our country.

In that sense, we have called upon the attention in regard to the possibility of using with greater intensity the very beautiful program that has been characterized by the international policy of the United States, which is the Peace Corps, so that through them, we might be able to improve even more.  They have programs of bilingualism that Costa Rica, for 15 or 20 years we have already been introducing in our public education.

We believe that through Peace Corps we can achieve training programs with our teachers, with our professors, our English professors, so that that English is a more proficient English, more competitive, with greater quality and bound precisely through the aspirations of attracting investments and generation of employment that we are working on.

Finally, also we have called President Obama’s attention to the fact that there is nothing more valuable, that there is nothing more important than anybody to get to know a society from the inside.  I am a true example precisely of the benefits of scholarship programs that the United States in the past have offered the Central American region.  As a matter of fact, that is why we have — so that we can continue on promoting those scholarship programs and intensify them so that the youth of the Central American region and, of course, of my country can continue on also knowing or competing not only for knowledge of the best universities, of the quality of education of the United States, but also the values that have characterized this great nation.

So thank you very much.  President Obama.  (Applause.)

PRESIDENT OBAMA:  Buenas tardes.  Thank you so much, President Chinchilla, for your kind words and for welcoming me here today.  This is my first visit to Costa Rica.  And even though it is a brief one, I can already tell the incredible spirit of the people, the natural beauty of the country.  I understand that the official slogan for those who are thinking about visiting Costa Rica is “un pais sin ingredientes artificiales.”  So there’s nothing artificial about Costa Rica.  Everything is genuine.  And that’s certainly true about the friendship between our two countries.

And President Chinchilla has been so gracious in her hospitality.  We are very grateful to her.  I want to thank publicly the wonderful schoolchildren who sang for us.  And I noticed that, Madam President, you and I didn’t sing.  We didn’t trust our voices.  (Laughter.)  But we certainly enjoyed the spirit that those children delivered.

In the United States, we are so grateful for the contributions that Costa Ricans make to our country every day.  You welcome many Americans as tourists, eco-tourists, and many others who have chosen to make Costa Rica a new home.  This year we’re also marking the 50th anniversary of the Peace Corps here, including President John F. Kennedy’s visit to Costa Rica and his vision for partnerships that advance development and democracy in the Americas.

I had actually a chance during the bilateral meeting to see a photograph of President Kennedy at the same table that we were meeting at — it had been specially commissioned.  And so it shows the longstanding ties between our two countries.

And I’m here because Costa Rica is a great partner not just regionally, but globally.  Given Costa Rica’s proud democratic traditions, we stand up together for democracy and justice and human rights in Central America and across the hemisphere.  And I want to commend Costa Rica for your landmark law against the scourge of human trafficking.  I’m proud to be here as you host World Press Freedom Day.  So everybody from the American press corps, you should thank the people of Costa Rica for celebrating free speech and an independent press as essential pillars of our democracy.

Costa Rica shows the benefits of trade that is free and fair.  Over the last few years, under the Central America Free Trade Agreement, our trade with Costa Rica has doubled, creating more jobs for people in both of our countries.  Our partnerships are creating more opportunities for small businesses and entrepreneurs, including young people and women.  As I told President Chinchilla, the United States will continue to be your partner as Costa Rica modernizes its economy so that you’re attracting more investment and creating even more trade and more jobs.

Costa Rica, of course, has long been a leader in sustainable development that protects the environment.  The President and I agreed to continue deepening our clean energy partnerships.  For example, we’re moving ahead with our regional effort to ensure universal access to clean, affordable, sustainable electricity for the people of the Americas, including Costa Ricans.  And this is also another way that we can meet our shared commitments to address climate change.

The President and I reaffirmed our determination to confront the growing security concerns that have affected many Costa Rican families and communities.  And under the Central America Regional Security Initiative, the United States has committed nearly half a billion dollars to helping Costa Rica and its neighbors in this fight.  We’re disrupting drug cartels and gangs.  We’re working to strengthen law enforcement and the judicial system.  And we’re addressing the underlying forces that fuel criminality — with prevention programs for at-risk youth and with economic development that gives young people hope and opportunity.

Meanwhile, as I said in Mexico yesterday, the United States recognizes that we’ve got responsibilities; that much of the violence in the region is fueled by demand for illegal drugs, including in the United States.  So we’re going to keep on pursuing a comprehensive approach not only through law enforcement, but also through education and prevention and treatment that can reduce demand.

And finally, I updated the President on our efforts in the United States to pass comprehensive immigration reform.  I know this is of great interest to the entire region, especially those with families in our country.  And I’m optimistic that we’re going to achieve reform that reflects our heritage as both a nation of laws and a nation of immigrants — men and women and children who need to be treated with full dignity and respect.

So, President Chinchilla, thank you so much for your partnership.  Thank you and the people of Costa Rica for your hospitality.

I’m told there’s a well-known quote here in Costa Rica — “Where there is a Costa Rican, wherever it is, there’s liberty.” And in the United States, we’re thankful for the many Costa Ricans who contribute to our prosperity and our liberty.  And we’re grateful for Costa Rica’s leadership in this region, as we’ll see again when President Chinchilla hosts tonight’s SICA meeting.

I’d note that our presence at tonight’s meeting with the leaders of Central America and the Dominican Republic is a sign of the importance that the United States places on this region, as well as our commitment to being a steady and strong and reliable partner — because we believe that no matter where you live, the people of this region deserve security and opportunity and dignity.

So let me, again, say thank you — and in my best tican — pura vida.  (Laughter and applause.)

So I think we’re going to go Costa Rican press first and then I’ll call on someone?

Q    Good afternoon.  Welcome, President Obama.  The policy of the United States for Central America on drug smuggling and organized crime — don’t you think, for both Presidents, that the time has come to improve our relationships and go on to an agenda that apart from security, we have the social aspects of education and health?

And my second question would be if we’re going to be  supporting Costa Rica in subjects that were presented today for the SICA?   So, thank you, and welcome.

PRESIDENT OBAMA:  Well, thank you very much.  First of all, I completely agree with you, and I’ve tried to emphasize this throughout my trip:  So much of the focus ends up being on security.  And we understand that in the absence of security, it’s very hard to develop.  But we also have to recognize that problems like narco-trafficking arise in part when a country is vulnerable because of poverty, because of institutions that are not working for the people, because young people don’t see a brighter future ahead.

And so what President Chinchilla and I spoke extensively about are initiatives like education, institution-building and capacity, trying to create greater economic opportunity, because the stronger the economies and the institutions for legitimate — for individuals who are seeking legitimate careers, the more those are there, then the less powerful these narco-trafficking operations are going to be.

And so not only are we interested in promoting trade and highlighting the already extensive trade that we’re doing, but we also want to see how can we build on the successes to improve education even in our strategies to fight narco-trafficking.  We, for example, helped to finance youth centers that can give young people a different vision for their futures.  We consider that to be part of our overall effort.  So it can’t just be law enforcement.  It also has to be human development, inclusive economic development.  We’ve got to make sure that everybody feels opportunity.

Now, even if a country is doing well, the scourge of drugs and drug trafficking will still be there, and there still needs to be a strong law enforcement component.  But we can do better than we’re currently doing.  And I know that President Chinchilla is taking a great interest here in Costa Rica around these human development issues.

As far as the issues that you mentioned around international organizations, as I indicated earlier, Costa Rica has shown itself to be a world leader and model around free trade, freedom of the press, democracy, respect for human rights, and that makes it an outstanding candidate for membership in the OECD, for example.  And so we will expect that we’ll continue to support Costa Rica in expanding its influence.

We enjoy a great partnership on, for example, regional human rights councils, as well as international human rights efforts.  Costa Rica has been a real leader, and we appreciate that.  And there’s something very effective when large countries like the United States, smaller countries like Costa Rica share values.  We come in together.  And I think it’s a great way to make the point that regardless of the country’s size, regardless of the language that it speaks, the idea of certain universal rights that are observed for all people is important.  And that’s why we value this partnership so much.

PRESIDENT CHINCHILLA:  I’m just going to add a couple of comments.  And I think that it seems to me that I should start by thanking President Obama for his expressed support to the aspirations of Costa Rica for being a member of OECD.  We know that there are tests that we have to comply with, and we know that we will be able to comply with them.

Also, let me add something more precisely — a comment in regard to the subject of narco traffic, organized crime.  We believe that there is not a single doubt that President Obama’s administration — since his coming to Mexico, and now his visit here in Central America — brings along an agenda that is trying to redefine those relationships based on a greater diversity.

As has been said, our countries are more than just security and violence and narco traffic.  That doesn’t mean that it is not an important problem, but I would like to basically finally add the following.  What some other countries for a few years now, with the purpose of trying to review some strategies that fall under the fight against drugs, are based basically on the fact that some of the most immediate experiences we have seen in region are experiences that have had to call upon the extreme fight of the war on drugs.  Costa Rica doesn’t have an army.  And since we don’t want to found an army, we do not want to allow ourselves to come to war scenarios to face drug smuggling or organized crime.

Many times the generals ask me, how has Costa Rica done to face such a big threat when you don’t have an army and precisely the countries next to you do have an army?  But curiously enough, Costa Rica has demonstrated that we have been more effective and more successful in fighting against these threats precisely without having an army.  And where am I going through with this? That what we’re looking for, for a while now, is precisely the signals that the Obama administration is sending in the sense that an effective policy for the fight against drugs and narco traffic goes through the strengthening of the institutions — through prevention, through an open society, a more transparent society, and through a citizenship that is much more aware of the problem.

It seems to me that advancing that direction is precisely advancing in the correct direction.

PRESIDENT OBAMA:  All right, Mark Felsenthal, of Reuters.

Q    Thank you, Mr. President.  Madam President.  Mr. President, on Syria, you said yesterday that anything the United States does should make the situation better, not worse.  How long are you prepared to wait to determine whether chemical weapons were used?  What happens when you make your determination?  And will you take your case to the United Nations?  And have you ruled out putting U.S. troops on the ground in Syria?

PRESIDENT OBAMA:  Well, first all, I emphasized yesterday, so let me re-emphasize — we’re not waiting.  We’re not standing by.  We are currently the largest humanitarian donor to deal with the crisis in Syria.  We are the largest contributor of nonlethal aid to the opposition.  We’ve mobilized 80 countries to support the opposition.  We are working to apply every pressure point that we can on Syria, working with our international partners.

And so we are actively engaged on a day-to-day basis to try to deal with this crisis and to restore a Syria that is respectful of the rights and aspirations of the Syrian people.

Now, as I’ve said before, if, in fact, we see strong evidence that we can present and that allows us to say that the Syrian military and the Syrian government is using chemical weapons, then that is a game-changer for us because not only is there the prospect of widespread use of chemical weapons inside of Syria, but there’s the possibility that it lands in the hands of organizations like Hezbollah.

We have evidence that chemical weapons have been used.  We don’t know when, where, or how they were used.  We are initiating on our own to investigate and get a better handle on the facts inside of Syria.  We’re also working with the international community and our partners to try to get a better handle on what’s happening, and we’ve already gone to the United Nations to say we want a full-blown investigation inside of Syria — so far, for unsurprising reasons, President Assad has resisted.

We will stay on this.  Now, if, in fact, there’s the kind of systematic use of chemical weapons inside of Syria, we expect that we’re going to get additional further evidence.  And at that point, absolutely we will present that to the international community, because I think this is, again, not just an American problem; this is a world problem.  There are international rules and protocols and norms and ethics.  And when it comes to using chemical weapons, the entire world should be concerned.

Now, in terms of what that means in terms of American action, keep in mind we’re already taking a whole range of actions.  We’re going to continue to take a whole range of actions.  Separate and apart from the chemical weapon use, we got tens of thousands of people who are being killed inside of Syria and we want to see that stopped — for humanitarian reasons but also for strategic reasons.

But in terms of any additional steps that we take, it’s going to be based on, number one, the facts on the ground.  Number two, it’s going to be based on what’s in the interest of the American people and our national security.  And as President of the United States, I’m going to make those decisions based on the best evidence and after careful consultation — because when we rush into things, when we leap before we look, then not only do we pay a price, but oftentimes we see unintended consequences on the ground.  So it’s important for us to do it right.  And that’s exactly what we’re doing right now.

Q    Good afternoon, President Obama.  Good afternoon, Madam President.  President Obama, 10 years ago you were about to come to the Senate.  Well, 10 years have gone and Central America has lost more than 130,000 lives caused by drugs traffic.  This has been the sacrifice that the region has had because of this problem.  What is the sacrifice that in your four years of government you intend to undertake for this business that feeds on the profit that are produced especially by the consumption in your country?  And if the United States also believes that the best option is to use warships to be able to survey or keep a watch on the seas on the joint anti-narcotic drug war?

And, Madam President, you have also expressed the values that the government of Costa Rica has with the government of the United States and your point of view with President Obama, for example, on the subject of the international create of weapons — fire weapons.  You say that President Obama said the time has come to recognize the rights for the homosexual couples of the United States.  When is the time going to come for that in Costa Rica?

PRESIDENT OBAMA:  Well, I think all of us recognize the pain and hardship that’s been caused by drug trafficking and transnational drug cartels here in Central America.  There’s a cost obviously in the United States as well.  It’s not as if we don’t have tragic drug problems throughout the United States.  And when you look at poor communities inside of the United States, including communities in my hometown of Chicago, there are young people who are killed every day as part of the drug trade.

So this is not a situation where we do not feel the effects. There are common effects, and there are common responsibilities, which is why it’s so important that we work on this on a regional basis.

Now, since I’ve been President, we’ve put our money where our mouth is.  I’ve spent — my administration has spent approximately $30 billion in reducing drug demand in the United States over the last several years.  And we’re actually seeing an impact in terms of reduced demand.  But the United States is a big country and a big market, and so progress sometimes is slower than we’d like it to be.

There is obviously a role for law enforcement.  I’m not interested in militarizing the struggle against drug trafficking. This is a law enforcement problem.  And if we have effective law enforcement cooperation and coordination, and if we build up capacity for countries in Central America, then we can continue to make progress.

But the important thing that I’ve tried to emphasize throughout is that this is a common problem.  This is one where we’ll only solve it when we’re working together.  It has adverse effects in all of our countries.  But — last point I’d make — I think it’s very important to make sure that our bilateral relationship and the United States relationship with the region as a whole is not solely defined by this problem.  Because when it is, we’re missing all the opportunities that exist out there.

When I got off the plane I was greeted by Dr. Chang, obviously a well-known scientist here who worked at NASA and is working now on developing a whole new vision for clean energy, and he brought along four young people — these incredibly talented young people who are in their last year of high school here.  And all of four of them, thanks to some of the good work of our Ambassador and others, will be attending universities in the United States next fall.

And when you talk to those young people, there’s incredible hope and incredible promise and incredible optimism.  And I don’t want every story to be about drug traffickers and nobody is writing a story about those four young people and what they represent in terms of the future of Costa Rica and the future of this region.

PRESIDENT CHINCHILLA:  Every nation or every society has its own way of evolving towards to the responses that have to be provided to the different demands of the social groups and of the different collectiveness that a country might have.

And when we analyze the evolution of the different nations, we see how some of them have advance a little more accelerated — to subjects maybe of commitment towards the environment, in subjects, for example, for the control of some important aspects in the subject of protection of human life, like for example, the the subject of the control of fire weapons.  And others are advancing furthermore in the recognition of certain rights, among them like the one that you have mentioned, the rights of couples of the same sex.

The important thing, Alvarro, is that we cannot simply pass on or go beyond the rhythm or the evolution of the debates from one nation to another.  Each one of the nations has its own rhythm.  The important thing here I believe — and what’s it’s worth here — is that in Costa Rica the framework precisely of democracy that has characterized us, the debate has to be an open debate, a live debate, an active debate — a debate like the one that I have in qualifying it that has to take place with the greatest of respect without putting a stigma on the different positions that are brought to the debates that take place in a democracy.

And only the mature, ripened, seasoned debate will end up giving the result that will have to be given where it has to be given, which is inside the parliament.  So it seems to me that that is what is important, that the debate in Costa Rica is an open debate, a free debate that has to continue as a debate without restrictions.

That is why I have advocated and restated opportunities in my recent report to the nation that this is a dialogue that has been faced sometimes inconveniently on some positions that take sides.  And as long as this is faced in this way, I think that the advancement is going to be very slow.  I hope and I trust that the debate might really be a much more balanced, much more mature dialogue without putting stigmas on it, and that this might eventually generate a decision in the Congress of the Republic.

PRESIDENT OBAMA:  Okay, last question, Lisa –

Q    Thank you, Mr. President.  Senator Leahy is pushing for a bill on recognizing same-sex couples as part of the immigration bill.  Are you concerned at all that that undermines the success of the package?  And given that you made a point throughout your presidency to make clear that you don’t think LGTB Americans should be treated any differently, will you sign a bill that will do exactly that?

And for you, Madam President, is there any concern that the more — that by creating more stringent immigration standards could hamper the ability of Costa Ricans to emigrate to the U.S.? Thanks.

PRESIDENT OBAMA:  Lisa, I hope you don’t mind, before I answer your question I want to get back to Mark because I realize there was one clause in your question — sometimes you guys have a lot of clauses in your question — (laughter) — that I didn’t specifically answer, and I didn’t want anybody to extrapolate from that.

You asked about boots on the ground and whether we’ve ruled boots out on the ground in Syria.  As a general rule, I don’t rule things out as Commander-in-Chief because circumstances change and you want to make sure that I always have the full power of the United States at our disposal to meet American national security interests.

Having said that, I do not foresee a scenario in which boots on the ground in Syria, American boots on the ground in Syria would not only be good for America, but also would be good for Syria.  And by the way, when I consult with leaders in the region who are very much interested in seeing President Assad leave office and stabilizing the situation in Syria, they agree with that assessment.

So I just wanted to make sure that my omission there did not turn into a story.

To your question, Lisa, as I’ve indicated, I’ve got four broad criteria for immigration reform.  I want to make sure that our border is secure and well regulated, in part so that we can get down to the business of smoothing trade and commerce across our borders and creating jobs in the United States, but also making sure that negative actors aren’t able to penetrate the United States.

Number two, cracking down on employers who are breaking the law.  Number three, making sure we’ve got a legal immigration system that works better, smarter, and so what we can continue to attract the best and the brightest to the United States.

And by the way, when it comes to legal immigration, the issue here is not going to be stringency, per se.  The issue is do we make the system more rational, more effective, better.  If there are smart engineers and young people and scientists and students who are looking to emigrate to the United States from Costa Rica, then we want them to know that we’re a nation of immigrants.  But we want to make sure that the legal process is in place so that it’s easier and simpler, but also more effective in managing the legal immigration process.

And finally, that we’ve got a pathway so that the 11 million or so undocumented workers inside the United States are able to pursue a tough, long, difficult, but fair path to legal status and citizenship.

So those are my broad-based criteria.  Now, the provision that you’ve discussed that Senator Leahy has talked about is one that I support, and I’ve said in the past that the LGBT community should be treated like everybody else.  That’s, to me, the essential, core principle behind our founding documents, the idea that we’re all created equal and that we’re equal before the law, and it’s applied fairly to everybody.

And so Senator Leahy may present this provision in committee.  It may be presented on the floor.  It will be one of many amendments and provisions that are presented, some of which I’ll support, some of which I’ll think are really bad ideas.  And I think that the general principle for me is are we advancing, are we improving the immigration system — because ultimately this is an immigration bill.

And we’ll evaluate the end-product.  I think it’s premature for me to start talking about what I will or will not do before I get a final product since the road is going to be long and bumpy before I finally see an actual bill on my desk.  But I can tell you I think that the provision is the right thing to do.

I can also tell you that I’m not going to get everything I want in this bill.  Republicans are not going to get everything that they want in this bill.  But if we keep focused on what our main aim is here — which is creating a smart, effective immigration system that allows us to be a nation of laws and a nation of immigrants — then we’re going to be in a position to not only improve our economy and what’s happening inside the United States, we’re going to I think have a much stronger relationship with the region and that’s going to help enhance our economy and jobs and our growth over the long term.

And, last point I’ll make, as is true with every bill, if there are things that end up being left out in this bill, or things that I want to take out of a bill, but if it’s meeting those core criteria around a comprehensive immigration bill that I’m looking for, then we go back at it and we fix what’s not there and we continually improve what’s been presented.

I think that this comprehensive immigration bill has the opportunity to do something historic that we have not done in decades.  But I don’t expect that, after we’re finished with it, that people are going to say, there’s not a single problem that we have with our immigration system, any more than is true after any piece of legislation that we pass.

Well, thank you very much everybody.  Muchas gracias.

PRESIDENT CHINCHILLA:  Thank you very much.  Thank you very much.  (Applause.)

END                     5:45 P.M. CST

Full Text Obama Presidency May 3, 2013: President Barack Obama’s Speech at a Working Dinner with SICA Leaders at the National Theater Foyer, San Jose, Costa Rica

POLITICAL TRANSCRIPTS

OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 113TH CONGRESS:

Remarks by President Obama at a Working Dinner with SICA Leaders

Source: WH, 5-3-13 

National Theater Foyer
San Jose, Costa Rica

6:40 P.M. CST

PRESIDENT OBAMA:  (In progress) during this visit.  And I want to thank you for your thoughtful presentation about some of the agenda items that we need to address.

We last met as a group during the Summit of the Americas in 2009.  And I was mentioning that at that time I had less gray hair than you see today.  I know that the United States is technically here in our observer status and sometimes that means that you observe but don’t speak, so that I know that you’re all indulging me by allowing to say a few words.  But I am here more than anything to listen and hear the concerns that all of you have not only individually but collectively as a region.

This is a region that has more than 40 million people.  Every day they work to give their families and children a better life, and we’re grateful for the strong bonds between the United States and the people who trace their origins to the countries that are represented at this table.

As governments, our job is to make sure that we’re doing everything we can to provide security and opportunity and ladders for success and prosperity for our people.  Economic growth that creates jobs, security for people so that they can be safe in their own neighborhoods, and development that allows people to live in dignity.  And so that’s why we’re here.

The agenda is a broad-based, socially inclusive agenda that ensures that our entire region and hemisphere are prospering.  And in pursuit of that, I think some of the issues that President Chinchilla mentioned are going to be vital.

Number one, we need to think about investments in our infrastructure — roads, bridges, border crossings, customs, electricity grids; all of which can allow for more trade, more growth, more jobs.  As I mentioned as we were walking in, this is a very competitive global environment.  And it’s important for us to recognize that if the hemisphere is working effectively together, all of us benefit.  And if we’re not, then we will lose in that competition to other regions.  And we know that trade and investment flows to areas where there are strong public institutions, where there’s accountability and transparency and effective governance.  And I think one of the things that we need to talk about is how we can work together to help each other in those areas.

The second area that has been mentioned is energy.  Costa Rica has shown great leadership in clean energy.  And as somebody who believes in the challenges of climate change — and I think that everybody in Central America has to be concerned about that given the history of natural disasters and the severe costs that take place here.  We want to continue to pursue a whole range of energy strategies for the future — solar, wind, hydropower.  It is true that the United States has been making great progress in oil and natural gas development due to new technologies.  And I know that’s something that’s of interest to you, so that’s an area that we can discuss.

But the bottom line is my concern is helping every country at this table reduce its energy costs, making its economy more efficient because when you have high power costs, that’s not only a tax on your citizens effectively, but it’s also a situation that impedes growth over the long term.  And so that’s an area where we’re very interested in helping.

Investing in people:  In this knowledge-based economy, if we don’t have the best workers in the world, the most highly skilled and trained workers in the world, then we’re going to lose.  And it’s important to recognize that we need high-skilled labor throughout the hemisphere because our economies have become more integrated.  And if you look at that global value chain, we want to be not at the bottom, but we want to be nearer to the top because that means more prosperity for our people.  So everything we can do to train our young people in math, science, technology, and everything we can do pool our resources to help achieve those goals I think will end up benefiting everybody.

And by the way, I think it’s very important — those countries that are succeeding are investing in the development of their young people, not just some young people, but women and girls, indigenous communities.  It’s important that we don’t go onto the field with just half our team.  We’ve got to make sure that the entire team is on the field.  That’s how we’re going to succeed.

And then finally the issue of citizen security:  Obviously, that’s something that’s important.  During this trip I’ve tried to make the point that we are interested in cooperating with every country around issues of citizen security.  We know what a major toll it’s taken.  We are obviously deeply concerned about narcotrafficking and the drug trade.

I was asked a question about this in a press conference that President Chinchilla and I were doing, and the questioner suggested given all the violence that is taking place in Central America, how does America feel about that.  And I had to remind people that we have violence in the United States.  If you go to my hometown of Chicago, and you go to some neighborhoods, they’re just as violence, if not more violent than some of the countries at this table — in part because of the pernicious influence of the drug trade.

But what I also believe is that we can’t just have a law-enforcement-only approach.  We also have to have a prevention approach.  We have to have an education approach.  We have to think creatively because obviously some of the things that we’re doing have worked, but some things haven’t worked.  We’ve got to think about institution building and capacity in our law enforcement and our judicial systems.  Those are all going to be very important, and I know that the work that we’ve done together has made some progress, but I’m interested in learning more about other things that we can do.

So I’ve spoken long enough considering I’m an observer, but I just want to again say thank you to all of you for taking the time to come meet with me.  I know that all of you are extraordinarily busy and have great demands on your time.  So for you to come in is something that I’m very grateful for, and I’m looking forward to a good discussion.

END
6:47 P.M. CST

Obama Presidency May 3, 2013: President Barack Obama Reaffirms the United States-Mexico Relationship During Trip

POLITICAL TRANSCRIPTS

OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 113TH CONGRESS:

President Obama Reaffirms the United States-Mexico Relationship

Source: WH, 5-3-13

 

President Barack Obama and President Enrique Peña Nieto of Mexico share a toast prior to a working dinner at Los Pinos, Mexico City, Mexico, May 2, 2013. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)

President Barack Obama greets President Peña Nieto of Mexico at the Palacio NacionalPresident Barack Obama greets President Enrique Peña Nieto of Mexico at the Palacio Nacional, Mexico City, Mexico, May 2, 2013. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)

On the first day of his trip to Mexico and Costa Rica, President Obama was in Mexico City for meetings and a joint press conference with President Peña Nieto.

The two leaders, who first met in Washington, DC last November, discussed the broad range of issues that bind our nations and affect the daily lives of citizens in both countries, and renewed their commitment to a strong relationship between the United States and Mexico.

President Barack Obama participates in a press conference with President Enrique Peña Nieto of Mexico President Barack Obama participates in a press conference with President Enrique Peña Nieto of Mexico at the Palacio Nacional, Mexico City, Mexico, May 2, 2013. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)

While working together to confront urgent challenges like security, “we can’t lose sight of the larger relationship between our peoples, including the promise of Mexico’s economic progress,” President Obama said. “I believe we’ve got a historic opportunity to foster even more cooperation, more trade, more jobs on both sides of the border, and that’s the focus of my visit.”

The United States and Mexico have one of the largest economic relationships in the world. Our annual trade has now surpassed $500 billion — more than $1 billion every day. We are your largest customer, buying the vast majority of Mexican exports.  Mexico is the second largest market for U.S. exports. So every day, our companies and our workers -— with their integrated supply chains —- are building products together. And this is the strong foundation that we can build on.

President Barack Obama delivers remarks at the Anthropology Museum in Mexico CityPresident Barack Obama delivers remarks at the Anthropology Museum in Mexico City, Mexico, May 3, 2013. (Official White House Photo by Lawrence Jackson)

Before continuing on to Costa Rica, President Obama spoke to the people of Mexico at the National Anthropology Musuem about the “impressive progress of today’s Mexico,” which includes the country’s deepinging democracy and strengthening economy.

And because of all the dynamic progress that’s taking place here in Mexico, Mexico is also taking its rightful place in the world, on the world stage. Mexico is standing up for democracy not just here in Mexico but throughout the hemisphere.  Mexico is sharing expertise with neighbors across the Americas. When they face earthquakes or threats to their citizens, or go to the polls to cast their votes, Mexico is there, helping its neighbors. Mexico has joined the ranks of the world’s largest economies.  It became the first Latin American nation to host the G20.

“Just as Mexico is being transformed, so are the ties between our two countries,” President Obama said.

As President, I’ve been guided by a basic proposition — in this relationship there’s no senior partner or junior partner; we are two equal partners, two sovereign nations. We must work together in mutual interest and mutual respect.  And if we do that both Mexico and the United States will prosper.

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Full Text Obama Presidency May 3, 2013: President Barack Obama’s Speech to the People of Mexico at National Anthropology Museum in Mexico City, Mexico

POLITICAL TRANSCRIPTS

OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 113TH CONGRESS:

Remarks by the President to the People of Mexico

Source: WH, 5-3-13 

Mandel Ngan/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

President Obama spoke at the National Anthropology Museum in Mexico City on Friday.

Anthropology Museum
Mexico City, Mexico

9:29 A.M. CDT

THE PRESIDENT:  Hola!  (Applause.)  Buenos dias!  Please, please, everybody have a seat.  It is wonderful to be back in México — lindo y querido.  (Applause.)  I bring with me the greetings and friendship of the people of the United States, including tens of millions of proud Mexican Americans.  (Applause.)

This is my fourth visit to Mexico as President.  This is my second visit to this museum.  And each time that I’ve come I’ve been inspired by your culture and by the beauty of this land, and most of all, by the Mexican people.  You’ve been so kind and gracious to me.  You’ve welcomed my wife, Michelle, here.  (Applause.)  You’ve welcomed our daughter, Malia, and her classmates to Oaxaca.  And as a proud father, I have to say that Malia’s Spanish is getting very good.  It helps that she’s smarter than I am.

And it’s an honor to be back in Mexico City — one of the world’s great cities.  Es un placer estar entre amigos.  (Applause.)

And it’s fitting that we gather at this great museum, which celebrates Mexico’s ancient civilizations and their achievements in arts and architecture, medicine and mathematics.  In modern times, Mexico’s blend of cultures and traditions found its expression in the murals of Rivera and the paintings of Frida, and the poetry of Sor Juana and the essays of Octavio Paz.  And Paz once spoke words that capture the spirit of our gathering here today — in this place that celebrates your past, but which this morning is filled with so many young people who will shape Mexico’s future.  Octavio Paz said, “Modernity is not outside us, it is within us.  It is today and the most ancient antiquity; it is tomorrow and the beginning of the world; it is a thousand years old and yet newborn.”

And that’s why I wanted this opportunity to speak with all of you today, because you live at the intersection of history that Octavio Paz was referring to.  The young people of Mexico, you honor your heritage, thousands of years old, but you’re also part of something new, a nation that’s in the process of remaking itself.  And as our modern world changes around us, it’s the spirit of young people, your optimism and your idealism, and your willingness to discard old habits that are no longer working that will drive the world forward.

You see the difference between the world as it is and the world as it could to be; between old attitudes that stifle progress and the new thinking that allows us to connect and collaborate across cultures.  And by the way, that includes how we think about the relationship between Mexico and the United States.

Despite all the bonds and the values that we share, despite all the people who claim heritage on both sides, our attitudes sometimes are trapped in old stereotypes.  Some Americans only see the Mexico that is depicted in sensational headlines of violence and border crossings.  And let’s admit it, some Mexicans think that America disrespects Mexico, or thinks that America is trying to impose itself on Mexican sovereignty, or just wants to wall ourselves off.  And in both countries such distortions create misunderstandings that make it harder for us to move forward together.  So I’ve come to Mexico because I think it’s time for us to put the old mind-sets aside.  It’s time to recognize new realities — including the impressive progress of today’s Mexico. (Applause.)

It is true that there are Mexicans all across this country who are making courageous sacrifices for the security of your country; that in the countryside and the neighborhoods not far from here, there are those who are still struggling to give their children a better life.  But what’s also clear is that a new Mexico is emerging.

I see it in the deepening of Mexico’s democracy, citizens who are standing up and saying that violence and impunity is not acceptable; a courageous press that’s working to hold leaders accountable; a robust civil society, including brave defenders of human rights who demand dignity and rule of law.  You have political parties that are competing vigorously, but also transferring power peacefully, and forging compromise.  And that’s all a sign of the extraordinary progress that’s taken place here in Mexico.

And even though we know the work of perfecting democracy is never finished — that’s true in America, that’s true here in Mexico — you go forward knowing the truth that Benito Juarez once spoke — “democracy is the destiny of humanity.”  And we are seeing that here in Mexico.  (Applause.)  We’re seeing that here in Mexico.

We’re also seeing a Mexico that’s creating new prosperity:  Trading with the world.  Becoming a manufacturing powerhouse — from Tijuana to Monterrey to Guadalajara and across the central highlands — a global leader in automobiles and appliances and electronics, but also a center of high-tech innovation, producing the software and the hardware of our digital age.  One man in Querétaro spoke for an increasing number of Mexicans.  “There’s no reason to go abroad in search of a better life.  There are good opportunities here.”  That’s what he said, and you are an example of that.

And, in fact, I see a Mexico that’s lifted millions of people from poverty.  Because of the sacrifices of generations, a majority of Mexicans now call themselves middle class, with a quality of life that your parents and grandparents could only dream of.  This includes, by the way, opportunities for women, who are proving that when you give women a chance, they will shape our destiny just as well as men, if not better.  (Applause.)

I also see in Mexico’s youth an empowered generation because of technology.  I think I see some of you tweeting right now — (laughter) — what’s happening.  (Laughter.)  And whether it’s harnessing social media to preserve indigenous languages, or speaking up for the future that you want, you’re making it clear that you want your voice heard.

And because of all the dynamic progress that’s taking place here in Mexico, Mexico is also taking its rightful place in the world, on the world stage.  Mexico is standing up for democracy not just here in Mexico but throughout the hemisphere.  Mexico is sharing expertise with neighbors across the Americas.  When they face earthquakes or threats to their citizens, or go to the polls to cast their votes, Mexico is there, helping its neighbors.  Mexico has joined the ranks of the world’s largest economies.  It became the first Latin American nation to host the G20.

Just as Mexico is being transformed, so are the ties between our two countries.  As President, I’ve been guided by a basic proposition — in this relationship there’s no senior partner or junior partner; we are two equal partners, two sovereign nations. We must work together in mutual interest and mutual respect.  And if we do that both Mexico and the United States will prosper. (Applause.)

And just as I worked with President Calderón, I’ve reaffirmed with President Peña Nieto that the great partnership between our two countries will not simply continue, it’s going to grow stronger and become broader.  In my time with President Peña Nieto, I’ve come to see his deep commitment to Mexico and its future.  And we share the belief that as leaders our guiding mission is to improve the lives of our people.  And so we agree that the relationship between our nations must be defined not by the threats that we face but by the prosperity and the opportunity that we can create together.  (Applause.)

Now, as equal partners, both our nations must recognize our mutual responsibilities.  So here in Mexico, you’ve embarked on an ambitious reform agenda to make your economy more competitive and your institutions more accountable to you, the Mexican people.  As you pursue these reforms, I want you to know that you have strong support in the United States.  Because we believe, I believe, that people all around the world deserve the best from their government.  And whether you’re looking for basic services, or trying to start a new business, we share your belief that you should be able to make it through your day without paying a bribe.  And when talented Mexicans like you imagine your future, you should have every opportunity to succeed right here in the country you love.

And in the United States, we recognize our responsibilities.  We understand that much of the root cause of violence that’s been happening here in Mexico, for which many so Mexicans have suffered, is the demand for illegal drugs in the United States.  And so we’ve got to continue to make progress on that front.  (Applause.)

I’ve been asked, and I honestly do not believe that legalizing drugs is the answer.  But I do believe that a comprehensive approach — not just law enforcement, but education and prevention and treatment — that’s what we have to do.  And we’re going to stay at it because the lives of our children and the future of our nations depend on it.

And we also recognize that most of the guns used to commit violence here in Mexico come from the United States.  (Applause.) I think many of you know that in America, our Constitution guarantees our individual right to bear arms, and as President I swore an oath to uphold that right and I always will.  But at the same time, as I’ve said in the United States, I will continue to do everything in my power to pass common-sense reforms that keep guns out of the hands of criminals and dangerous people.  That can save lives here in Mexico and back home in the United States. It’s the right thing to do.  (Applause.)  So we’ll keep increasing the pressure on gun traffickers who bring illegal guns into Mexico.  We’ll keep putting these criminals where they belong — behind bars.

We recognize we’ve got work to do on security issues, but we also recognize our responsibility — as a nation that believes that all people are created equal — we believe it’s our responsibility to make sure that we treat one another with dignity and respect.  And this includes recognizing how the United States has been strengthened by the extraordinary contributions of immigrants from Mexico and by Americans of Mexican heritage.  (Applause.)

Mexican Americans enrich our communities, including my hometown of Chicago, where you can walk through neighborhoods like Pilsen, Little Village — La Villita — dotted with murals of Mexican patriots.  You can stop at a fonda, you can hear some mariachis, where we are inspired by the deep faith of our peoples at churches like Our Lady of Guadalupe.  We’ve got a Chicagoan in here somewhere.  (Applause.)

And we’re so grateful to Mexican Americans in every segment of our society — for teaching our children, and running our companies, and serving with honor in our military, and making breakthroughs in science, standing up for social justice.  As Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. told Cesar Chavez once, we are “brothers in the fight for equality.”  And, in fact, without the strong support of Latinos, including so many Mexican Americans, I would not be standing today as President of the United States.  (Applause.)  That’s the truth.

And so given that is Americas heritage, given that we share a border with Mexico, given ties that run back generations, it is critical that the United States recognize the need to reform our immigration system — (applause) — because we are a nation of laws, but we’re also a nation of immigrants.  Like every nation we have a responsibility to ensure that our laws are upheld.  But we also know that, as a nation of immigrants, the immigration system we have in the United States right now doesn’t reflect our values.  It separates families when we should be reuniting them. It’s led to millions of people to live in the shadows.  It deprives us of the talents of so many young people — even though we know that immigrants have always been the engine of our economy, starting some of our greatest companies and pioneering new industries.

That’s one of the reasons I acted to lift the shadow of deportation from what we call the DREAMers — young people brought to the United States as children.  (Applause.)  And that’s why I’m working with our Congress to pass common-sense immigration reform this year.  (Applause.)  I’m convinced we can get it done.   Reform that continues to strengthen border security and strengthen legal immigration, so citizens don’t have to wait years to bring their families to the United States.  Reform that holds everyone accountable — so immigrants get on the right side of the law and so immigrants are not exploited and abused.  And most of all, reform that gives millions of undocumented individuals a pathway to earn their citizenship.   And I’m optimistic that — after years of trying — we are going to get it done this year.  I’m absolutely convinced of it.  (Applause.)

Obviously, we’re going to have to work with the Mexican government to make sure that we’ve got a well-regulated border.  But I also want to work with the Mexican government because I believe that the long-term solution to the challenge of illegal immigration is a growing and prosperous Mexico that creates more jobs and opportunities for young people here.

I agree with the Mexican student who said, “I feel like we can reach the same level as anyone in the world.”  That’s absolutely true.  And so I firmly believe — juntos, podemos lograr más — together, we can achieve more.  (Applause.)  So with the remainder of my time today, I want to focus on five areas where we can do more.

Number one, let’s do more to expand trade and commerce that creates good jobs for our people.  We already buy more of your exports than any country in the world.  We sell more of our exports to Mexico than we do to Brazil, Russia, India and China combined.  (Applause.)  Mexican companies are investing more in the United States, and we’re the largest foreign investor in Mexico — because we believe in Mexico and want to be a partner in your success.

So guided by the new economic dialogue that President Peña Nieto and I announced yesterday, let’s do more to unlock the true potential of our relationship.  Let’s keep investing in our roads and our bridges and our border crossings so we can trade faster and cheaper.  Let’s help our smaller businesses, which employ most of our workers, access new markets and new capital — the big markets right across the border.  Let’s empower our young entrepreneurs as they create startup companies that can transform how we live.  (Applause.)  And let’s realize the Trans-Pacific Partnership this year, so our two nations can compete and win in the fast-growing markets of the Asia Pacific.  If the United States and Mexico are working together, we can sell a whole lot of things on the other side of the Pacific Ocean where the fastest-growing economies are taking off right now.  That’s number one.

Number two, let’s not just sell more things to each other, let’s build more things together.  With many of our companies operating in both countries, parts are now being shipped back and forth across the border as they’re assembled.  So every day, U.S. and Mexican workers are building things together — whether it’s crafts — or whether it’s cars, or aircraft, or computers, or satellites.

I think this is only the beginning.  Given the skills of our workers, it makes even more sense for companies around the world to set up shop in the United States and set up shop in Mexico.  And as Mexico reforms, we’re going to be able to do more business together and sell more goods around the world.  And the more that our companies collaborate, the more competitive they’ll be.  And the entire hemisphere will benefit because of those links and chains that have been created between our two countries.

Number three, as we secure our economic future, let’s secure our energy future, including the clean energy that we need to combat climate change.  Our nations are blessed with boundless natural beauty — from our coastlines and farmlands to your tropical forests.  But climate change is happening.  The science is undeniable.  And so is the fact that our economies must become greener.

In the United States, we’ve made historic commitments to clean and renewable energy like solar and wind power.  We’ve made a commitment to reduce the emissions of harmful carbon pollution.  And here in Mexico, you’re a leader in cutting carbon emissions and helping developing countries do the same.  So, together, let’s keep building new energy partnerships by harnessing all these new sources, and, by the way, creating the good jobs that come with these new technologies.  And let’s keep investing in green buildings and technologies that make our entire economy more efficient, but also make our planet cleaner and safer for future generations.  (Applause.)

Number four — and this is part of staying competitive — let’s do more together in education so our young people have the knowledge and skills to succeed.  (Applause.)  Here in Mexico you’ve made important progress, with more children staying in school longer, and record numbers of students like you getting a university education.  Just imagine how much the students of our two countries could do together, how much we could learn from each other.

And that’s why President Peña Nieto and I announced a new partnership in higher education — to encourage more collaboration between our universities and our university students.  (Applause.)  We’re going to focus on science and  technology, on engineering and mathematics.  And this is part of my broader initiative called 100,000 Strong in the Americas.  We want 100,000 students from the United States studying in Latin America, including Mexico.  And we want 100,000 Latin American students, including Mexican students, to come to study in the United States of America.  (Applause.)  Because when we study together, and we learn together, we work together, and we prosper together — that’s what I believe.  (Applause.)

And finally, to help spark prosperity in both out countries, let’s truly invest in innovation, and research and development together.  Here in Mexico, you’re now a global leader in graduating engineers and technicians.  One of Mexico’s leading scientists, Rafael Navarro-González, is helping analyze data from the rover that we landed on Mars.

So, together, let’s remember that every dollar, every peso that we invest in research and development returns so much more to our economies in jobs and opportunity, new products, new services.  That’s why I’m calling for us to forge new partnerships in aerospace, and IT, and nanotechnology and biotechnology and robotics.  Let’s answer the hope of a young woman — a student at the National Polytechnic Institute — who spoke for many in your generation, so eager to make your mark.  She said, “Give us jobs as creators.”  Give us jobs as creators.

Sometimes young people are known as just consumers of goods, but we want young people creating the new products, the next big thing that will change how we live our lives.  That’s the agenda that I want to pursue.

And I understand that there are those both here in Mexico and elsewhere in Latin America, but also back home in the United States, who are skeptical of your progress, who maybe doubt the  capacity for us to make the most of this moment.  There are always cynics who say, aw, this is too hard, the headwinds you face are too stiff.  They say Mexico has been here before we look like we’re making progress, we’re looking at a bright horizon, on the verge of great possibility, but then we get blown off course.
And it’s true that nothing is inevitable.  Progress and success is never guaranteed.  The future that you dream of, the Mexico you imagine — it must be built, it must be earned.  Nobody else can do it for you.  Only you can earn it.  You are the future.  As Nervo wrote in “La Raza de Bronce,” tu eres el sueño — you are the dream.  (Applause.)

For just as it was patriots who answered the call when Father Hidalgo rang the church bell two centuries ago, you — your lives, in a free Mexico — are the dream that they imagined.  And now it falls to you to keep alive those virtues for which so many generations of Mexicans struggled.

You are the dream that can stand up for justice and human rights and human dignity, here at home and around the world.  You’re the creators and the builders and the climbers and the strivers who can deliver progress and prosperity that will lift up not just the Mexican people for generations to come, but the entire world.

You’re the men and women who will push this nation upwards as Mexico assumes its rightful place, as you proudly sing: “in heaven your eternal destiny was written by the finger of God.”

You are the dream.  This is your moment.  And as you reach for the future, always remember that you have the greatest of  partners, the greatest if friends — the nation that is rooting for your success more than anybody else — your neighbor, the United States of America.  (Applause.)

Viva México!   Viva los Estados Unidos!   Que Dios los bendiga!  Thank you very much.  (Applause.)

END
9:56 A.M. CDT

Full Text Obama Presidency May 2, 2013: President Barack Obama & Mexico President Enrique Pena Nieto’s Remarks in a Joint Press Conference

POLITICAL TRANSCRIPTS


OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 113TH CONGRESS:

President Obama Reaffirms the United States-Mexico Relationship

Source: WH, 5-2-13

President Barack Obama greets President Peña Nieto of Mexico at the Palacio Nacional

President Barack Obama greets President Enrique Peña Nieto of Mexico at the Palacio Nacional, Mexico City, Mexico, May 2, 2013. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)

On the first day of his trip to Mexico and Costa Rica, President Obama was in Mexico City for meetings and a joint press conference with President Peña Nieto.

The two leaders, who first met in Washington, DC last November, discussed the broad range of issues that bind our nations and affect the daily lives of citizens in both countries, and renewed their commitment to a strong relationship between the United States and Mexico….READ MORE

Remarks by President Obama and President Pena Nieto of Mexico in a Joint Press Conference

Source: WH, 5-2-13 

Palacio Nacional
Mexico City, Mexico

4:24 P.M. CDT

PRESIDENT PEÑA NIETO:  (As interpreted.)  Ladies and gentlemen, good afternoon, everyone.  First and foremost, after the bilateral meeting, I would like to extend the warmest welcome to President Barack Obama, his team joining him.  Once again, we would like to welcome all of you with open arms, and we hope you feel at home.

We appreciate your will to have upon this meeting a relation built on mutual respect, collaboration for the benefit of our peoples.

Before we cover the areas that we have shared during our bilateral meeting, on behalf of the Mexican people, I would like to reiterate our solidarity for the regretful acts that were committed in your country — in Boston and in West, in Texas.  Unfortunately, it took the lives of American citizens.

If you allow me, I would like to share with the audience and the members of the media the areas that we have addressed with President Obama during the meeting that we just have had.

First of all, we have reached an agreement that the relation between Mexico and the United States should be broad in terms of the areas that it covers.  It should open up opportunity and collaboration spaces in different arenas, with a very clear purpose in mind to make the North American region a more productive and competitive region that will, end result, trigger the enormous potential that our peoples have, that our nations have.  And we’re well aware of the fact that we can take stock of our bilateral relation within the framework of the agreements made, we have reached a new level of understanding as our two new administrations that began roughly at the same time — the second term of President Obama and my administration.

Among the items that we covered I can speak for how relevant trade and commerce is in Mexico-U.S. relation.  We have dimension of all the achievements made upon the free trade agreement and the benefits that our economies have received from it.  The exports made from the U.S. to its top trade partners, Mexico and Canada, this represents one-third out of each three products that are exported from the U.S. and only the relation with Mexico is higher than the one the U.S. has with European countries like the U.K., France, the Netherlands all together, or the exports sent to China and Japan together doesn’t reach the level that the U.S. has with Mexico.

I must stand out that the integration of our economies in the last years has shown to be relevant and the content of exports sent from Mexico have 40 percent of U.S. input.  Therefor I can conclude that the more growth Mexico shows and the more capacity to export, the more benefit the U.S. gets.  Jobs are created in Mexico; therefore jobs are created in the United States.

Therefore, one of the first agreements that we have made was to create a high-level dialogue that, within its framework, will foster trade and commerce with the United States.  This means that for the first time — and probably this is unprecedented — we will have the Mexican economic cabinet with their counterparts from various government agencies from the United States, as well as high-ranking officials.  And we’ve heard from the President that in this group, the Vice President of the United States will participate in order to set a dialogue that will result in arrangements in terms of how the government can support all the efforts made by the private sector in order to have stronger economic integration.

For this purpose, we have agreed that during the fall of this year, this high-level group will meet for the first time with the attendance of high-ranking officials to start working in the area of the economy.

We have also agreed to endeavor joint actions to have a safer border.  Within the framework of the agreement made, we will have a 21st century border that was about to be defined the work and action agenda that our teams have already set up.  And now, through this agenda, we will have safer borders that will enable and expedite the transit of people and goods that every day cross our borders.

We have also agreed to create a bi-national group in order to find joint actions and joint mechanisms to support entrepreneurs in both of our countries, and by this we will boost the SMEs in our countries.  We believe that this mechanism will serve as an enabler and it will see further development for these small and medium-size companies that are present in both of our countries.  And we hope that all the actions in the very near future will make the SMEs in the future becoming large enterprises.  And this action will favor specifically young entrepreneurs in both our countries.

Thirdly, to boost our economy and our potential, we have agreed to create a bilateral forum on higher education, innovation and research.  Two government agencies will work together — CONACYT and the National Science Foundation from the U.S. — and presidents from Mexico and U.S. universities will be part of this group.  And by this, more exchanges will happen between Mexico and the U.S., and students coming from the U.S. to Mexico.

We have agreed that higher education serves as a platform to boost the economic potential that we have in our nations.  In order to compete with the world, specifically the highly developed countries where science and technology have been the target of their efforts and investment, it is fundamental that we have well-prepared youngsters with the skills necessary to give our economic development a greater strength and a greater capacity.

In a different arena, we have addressed security.  We have both recognized the level of cooperation that the U.S. has shown towards the Mexican government.  And the strategy in the area of security in our country has a very clear purpose, and that is to fight organized crime in all of its forms, be it drug dealing, kidnapping for ransom, extortion, or any crime perpetrated.  We are not going to renounce that responsibility as a government and my administration.  We’re going to face crime in all of its forms.

But in our new strategy we have emphasized the fact that we will reduce violence.  Fortunately systems between Mexicans to fight organized crime and reduce violence are not objectives that contradict each other.  There is no clash between these two goals.  These are two goals that fall within the framework of one same strategy.  And President Obama’s administration has expressed his will, as we know, to cooperate on the basis of mutual respect, to be more efficient in our security strategy that we are implementing in Mexico.

I have shared with President Obama as well what Mexico has done during the first months of my administration.  I have shared with President Obama that Mexico has reached maturity in terms of its democracy.  All political forces in the country have reached political maturity, and have shown to be civil and have managed to show respect to each other and also towards the government of Mexico.  Together we have managed to set up a working agenda that, end result, will advance the reforms that will transform this structure that Mexico needs to boost its development.  I have shared with President Obama the fact that we recognize all political voices in Mexico.

Finally, I would like to share with all of you that we fully agree that our nations, our peoples must move from being neighbors to being part of a community.  We are already part of a trade integration process.  We have reached high levels of development.  But still there is potential to make of our nations, through collaboration and integration of North America we can make a more productive and a more competitive region.

I would like to conclude by quoting the words that former President Kennedy shared during his visit to Palacio Nacional 51 years ago, under former President Adolfo López Mateos — we have shared this quote with President Obama, but I would like to share it with all of you.

President Kennedy said to President López Mateos, “Geography has made us neighbors.  Tradition has made us friends.”  Let us not allow a gap to fall between what nature has united.  And that is why we vow so that this understanding, this dialogue climate that we have set up, end result, will give us more growth, more development and more opportunities for our peoples.

Once again, allow me to reiterate, President Obama, and this goes for your delegation as well, you are warmly welcomed to Mexico and I hope that your stay is fruitful and you enjoy your stay in Mexico as well.

Thank you very much.  (Applause.)

PRESIDENT OBAMA:  Muchas gracias, Señor Presidente, to President Peña Nieto for your kind words and your extraordinary hospitality.  As President-elect, you were the first leader I welcomed to the White House after our election.  It was a sign of our extraordinarily close relationship between our two countries.

During Enrique’s visit, I noted that he spent time as a student in the United States in one of our most beautiful states, the state of Maine.  I must say, though, Maine is very cold, and so when I come here on a beautiful spring day here in this beautiful city, I understand why you came back home.

I want to thank you for your hospitality.  I look forward to joining you and the First Lady, la Señora Rivera, this evening.  And I want to thank all the people of Mexico for such a warm welcome.  It’s always a pleasure to visit.

As President Peña Nieto discussed, between our two countries, we’re some 430 million people.  Ten million — tens of millions of Mexican Americans enrich our national life in the United States.  Well over 1 million Americans live here in Mexico.  Every year, millions of tourists — most of them from the United States — visit this magnificent country.  Every day, millions of workers in our countries earn a living from the jobs that are made possible by our trade, and more than 1 million people cross our shared border — businesspeople, students, educators, scientists, researchers, collaborating in every sphere of human endeavor.

In other words, Mexico and the United States have one of the largest, most dynamic relationships of any two countries on Earth.  And yet, we don’t always hear about all aspects of these extraordinary ties because too often two issues get attention:  security or immigration.

Obviously these are serious challenges, and President Peña Nieto and I discussed them in depth today.  I agreed to continue our close cooperation on security, even as the nature of that cooperation will evolve.  As I told the President, it is obviously up to the Mexican people to determine their security structures and how it engages with other nations, including the United States.  But the main point I made to the President is that we support the Mexican government’s focus on reducing violence, and we look forward to continuing our good cooperation in any way that the Mexican government deems appropriate.

I also reaffirmed our determination in the United States to meet our responsibilities — to reduce the demand for illegal drugs and to combat the southbound flow of illegal guns and cash that help to fuel violence.

Again, I want to pay tribute to the people of Mexico, who’ve made extraordinary sacrifices for their security, and display great courage and resolve every day.

But even as we continue to deal with these urgent challenges, we can’t lose sight of the larger relationship between our peoples, including the promise of Mexico’s economic progress.  I believe we’ve got a historic opportunity to foster even more cooperation, more trade, more jobs on both sides of the border, and that’s the focus of my visit.

The United States and Mexico have one of the largest economic relationships in the world.  Our annual trade has now surpassed $500 billion — more than $1 billion every day.  We are your largest customer, buying the vast majority of Mexican exports.  Mexico is the second largest market for U.S. exports.  So every day, our companies and our workers -— with their integrated supply chains —- are building products together.  And this is the strong foundation that we can build on.

I want to commend President Peña Nieto and the Mexican people for the ambitious reforms that you’ve embarked on to make your economy more competitive, to make your institutions more effective.  And I know it’s hard, but it’s also necessary.

Ultimately, only Mexicans can decide how Mexico reforms.  But let me repeat what I told the President — as Mexico works to become more competitive, you’ve got a strong partner in the United States, because our success is shared.  When one of us prospers, both of us prosper.  And that’s the context for the progress that we made today.

As the President mentioned, we’re, first of all, creating a high-level dialogue to broaden and deepen our economic relationship.  On our side, it will be led by members of my Cabinet.  Vice President Biden will participate as well.  Together with Mexico, we’ll focus on increasing the connections between our businesses and workers, promoting innovation and entrepreneurship and making our economies even more competitive.

To that end, we also reaffirmed our goal of concluding negotiations on the Trans-Pacific Partnership this year.  This would be another major step in integrating our two economies and positioning us to compete in the fastest-growing markets in the world, those in the Asia Pacific region.  We want to be able to sell more goods from Mexico and the United States.  And if we’re partnering together, we can do even better.

We agreed to continue making our shared border even more efficient — with new infrastructure and new technologies — so it’s even faster and cheaper to trade and do business together.  We reaffirmed our commitment to the clean energy partnerships that allow our two countries to enhance our energy security and combat climate change.  And I’m very pleased that we’ve agreed to expand collaborations and exchanges between our students, our schools and our universities.

Just as Enrique once studied in our country, we want more Mexicans studying in the United States, and we want more American students studying here in Mexico.  And we’re going to focus on science and technology and engineering and math to help our young people -— including our daughters -— succeed in this global economy.

And finally, I updated the President on our efforts in the United States to pass common-sense comprehensive immigration reform that lives up to our tradition as a nation of laws and a nation of immigrants, including generations of Mexican Americans.

As we do, I think it’s important for everybody to remember that our shared border is more secure than it’s been in years.  Illegal immigration attempts into the United States are near their lowest level in decades, and legal immigration continues to make both of our countries stronger and more prosperous and more competitive.

And this, in part, reflects the economic progress and greater opportunities here in Mexico.  I think this progress should help inform the debate in the United States.  And I’m optimistic that we’re finally going to get comprehensive immigration reform passed.

I’ll have much more to say about this and some other issues in my speech tomorrow.  But for now, I want to express my gratitude to the President for his hospitality and also for your leadership.  And given the progress that we’re seeing here in Mexico, I see so many opportunities to continue to deepen the extraordinary friendship and common bond that we share between our two great nations and our two great peoples.  I know we will do that.

So thank you very much.  Muchas gracias.  (Applause.)

MODERATOR:  Now, we will have a round of four questions.

Q    To the President of Mexico, we welcome gladly that the agenda is — there is no speculation on the priority topics to be included in your agendas.  Could you clarify this high-level group, please, as you have pointed out, will overcome efficiently the results of a fight that these two nations had on the issue of security?  It seems to be that trade is now a priority; no longer security is.

And for President Obama, given your expertise during this second administration, what is your take on Enrique Peña Nieto’s new administration in terms of reforms?  You have acknowledged the reforms made so far.  Is the U.S. government seeing this reform as on the part of the administration, or a pact?  Thank you.

PRESIDENT PEÑA NIETO:  Thank you very much.  We have relaunched our relationship and we have agreed on the climate in which we’re going to work.  We have defined our priorities.  We don’t want to make this relationship targeted on one single issue.  We want to grow in our relation to include different areas, and we want to specially emphasize our relation on the trade relation potential between Mexico and the U.S.

We’re also going to cover other areas.  Of course, public safety is included, and we have shared our view on that topic to work towards reducing violence by combatting efficiently organized crime.

And I must insist we have reviewed the long list of potential and opportunities that we have identified in the economic relation between the U.S. and Mexico in the area of trade and commerce.  President Obama has already put it for the U.S.  We represent a market that receives their exports — we’re the second export destination, and in our case, the United States ranks first.  We need to identify the areas where we can supplement each other’s production of goods and exports and goods from Mexico to the world, because these goods have a high content of U.S. input.

As I have stated, this means that if Mexico does well in its productive capabilities — that is to say by creating more labor and its capability to export more products — the U.S. will benefit, and vice versa.

That is why this high-level meeting foresees the participation of officials that are a part of my cabinet.  The U.S. has not a tradition of having cabinets like the ones we have, but President Obama has decided that high-ranking officials from different government agencies will participate, including the U.S. Vice President.  They will be part of this high-level group that will define specific actions.

What has been done so far in the private sector complementarity has happened.  And we have seen a good flow of trade between our countries.  There is no doubt that even when it has reached a certain level we can push it further.  We can extend its capabilities if both of our governments identify the right mechanisms, the right formula to boost economic integration.  And that is precisely the agreement that we have reached today.

PRESIDENT OBAMA:  Well, first of all, just on the security issue, I think it’s natural that a new administration here in Mexico is looking carefully at how it’s going to approach what has obviously been a serious problem.  And we are very much looking forward to cooperating in any ways that we can to battle organized crime, as President Peña Nieto stated.

And we anticipate that there’s going to be strong cooperation, that on our side of the border, we have continued work to do to reduce demand and to try to stem the flow of guns and cash from North to South.

So this is a partnership that will continue.  I think that President Peña Nieto and his team are organizing a vision about how they can most efficiently and effectively address these issues.  And we will interact with them in ways that are appropriate, respecting that ultimately Mexico has to deal with its problems internally and we have to deal with ours as well.

With respect to the President’s agenda, we had a wonderful relationship with President Calderón and the previous administration.  The bonds between our two countries go beyond party.  If a Republican president replaces me there’s still going to be great bonds between Mexico and the United States because not just the geography, but friendship and our interactions.

But what I have been impressed with is the President’s boldness in his reform agenda.  He’s tackling big issues.  And that’s what the times demand.  We live in a world that is changing rapidly, and in both the United States and in Mexico we can’t be caught flat-footed as the world advances.

We have to make sure that our young people are the best educated in the world.  And that means that some of the old ways of educating our kids may not work.  We have to make sure that we’re staying at the forefront of science and technology.  And that means we’ve got to make sure that we’re investing in those areas appropriately.  We have to make certain that our economies are competitive around the world and that, when it comes to energy, that we’re addressing issues like climate change, but also making sure that it’s done in a way that’s creating jobs and businesses on both sides of the border.

And so what I very much appreciate is the President’s willingness to take on hard issues, because sometimes I think there’s a temptation once somebody is elected to just stay elected, as opposed to trying to make sure that we use our time as well as we can to bring about the kind of changes will help move the country forward.

Q    Thank you, Mr. President.

Q    Thank you, Mr. President.  Administration officials, including Secretary Hagel, say that the U.S. is now more seriously considering sending weapons to the Syrian rebels.  How has your thinking on the effectiveness of such a step evolved as the violence in Syria has continued?  And do you now see lethal aid as the best option available for a U.S. escalation in Syria?

I also had a question on immigration that I was hoping you both could address.  Senator Rubio said today that on the immigration bill being considered on Capitol Hill it may not pass the Senate unless the border security measures are strengthened. Are you concerned that an effort to bolster those border security triggers may make a pathway to citizenship almost impossible for many people already in the U.S. illegally, including many Mexicans?

PRESIDENT OBAMA:  Well, first of all, on Syria, what Secretary Hagel said today is what I’ve been saying now for months, which is we are continually evaluating the situation on the ground, working with our international partners to find the best way to move a political transition that has Assad leaving, stabilizes the country, ends the killing, and allows the Syrian people to determine their own destiny.  And we’ve made enormous investments not just in humanitarian aid but also in helping the opposition organize itself and make sure that it has a consistent vision about how it’s operating.

And as we’ve seen evidence of further bloodshed, potential use of chemical weapons inside of Syria, what I’ve said is, is that we’re going to look at all options.  And we know that there are countries that are currently providing lethal aid to the opposition.  We also know that the Assad regime is getting not just lethal aid but also training and support from countries outside of Syria.  And we want to evaluate and make sure that every step that we take advances the day when Assad is gone and you have people inside of Syria who are able to determine their own destiny rather than engage in a long, bloody sectarian war.

And we’ll continue to evaluate that every step of the way.  But as I mentioned in my press conference back in D.C., we want to make sure that we look before we leap and that what we’re doing is actually helpful to the situation as opposed to making it more deadly or more complex.

With respect to immigration reform, I expressed to President Peña Nieto that I’m optimistic about us getting this done because it’s the right thing to do.  We’ve seen leaders from both parties indicate that now is the time to get comprehensive immigration reform done.  And part of what we discussed is the importance of getting it done precisely because we do so much business between our two countries that for us to constantly bog down on these border issues and debates instead of moving forward with a 21st century border that’s maintaining security, and that is making sure that legal immigration and legal trade and commerce is facilitated, but at the same time ensures that we’re not seeing a lot of illegal traffic, and allows us to continue to be a nation of immigrants that has contributed so much to the wealth and prosperity of our nation — if we’re going to get that done, now is the time to do it.

And the bill that Senator Rubio and others put forward I think is a great place to start.  It doesn’t contain everything I want, and I suspect that the final legislation will not contain everything I want.  It won’t contain everything that Republican leaders want either.  But if we can get a basic framework that secures our border, building on the extraordinary success we’ve already had and the cooperation we’ve had with the Mexican government, that cracks down on employers who are not taking the law seriously, that streamlines and enhances our legal immigration system — because the problems with our legal immigration system often force people into the illegal immigration system — and provides a pathway to citizenship for those who are currently living in the shadows inside of the United States — if it has those elements, then we should be able to build on that.  And we can have arguments about other elements of this as we go further, but that’s the core of what we need.

And frankly, we’ve put enormous resources into border security.  Don’t take my word for it; you had folks like Senator McCain and Senator Graham come down to the border and see the progress that’s been made.  There are areas where there’s still more work to be done.  Some of it, by the way, is not simply securing the United States from illegal traffic; some of it is also improving the infrastructure, which we talked about, for commerce to be able to come in smoothly, which creates jobs and helps our businesses both in the United States and in Mexico.

But what I’m not going to do is to go along with something where we’re looking for an excuse not to do it as opposed to a way to do it.  And I think we can — I think if all sides operate in good faith that can be accomplished.

PRESIDENT PENA NIETO:  On that matter, allow me to note that the Mexican government acknowledges the efforts made and the leadership made by President Barack Obama and your Congress to eventually pass an immigration bill.  Mexico understands that this is a domestic affair for the U.S. and we wish you the best push that you’re giving to immigration.

That is what I have to say in terms of the foreign press.

Q    Thank you very much.  Good afternoon.  Mr. President, good afternoon.  I would like to ask you both specifically what would be the most important outcome of President Obama’s visit to Mexico, on the one hand?  That is my question.  And I would like to ask you as well:  Have you considered the possibility to scale up the Mexico-U.S. relation and to integrate the region further? This could lead to a bi-national strategy in terms of fighting organized crime trans-nationally.  Thank you very much for your answers.

PRESIDENT PEÑA NIETO:  Thank you very much.  In order to conclude this meeting, I would like to say that we have revitalized our relation between two governments that have two new administrations — this is President Obama’s second term, and this new administration for Mexico.  The climate in which we are strengthening our relation is based on cordiality; our relation is based on respect; it’s based on cooperation and collaboration in all of those areas that we share a common interest.

We are not going to target this relation in one specific area.  We want to address multiple issues.  We want to work on an agenda that would allow us to identify all the potential areas that could help us advance our agenda.

We have emphasized trade and commerce during this visit because we have made a thorough analysis of the U.S. and Mexico trade relations — have analyzed trade flows and how our economies complement each other.  And there is potential if we truly want to become in a more productive and more competitive North America region, well, that’s what we need to do first to compete with other regions in the world.

Those are the highlights and specifically the agreements made to create a high-level dialogue, the bilateral forum to advance academic exchanges and to work towards science and innovation in both of our countries.

Also we will have a bi-national dialogue to foster SMEs.  Undoubtedly these are mechanisms that, end result, will help us project further the economic and trade relation that Mexico has with the United States.

And certainly, I must insist, let me say it very clearly, the cooperation that we already have with the U.S. in the area of security, let me tell you that under this new strategy, we’re going to order things up.  We’re going to make it institutional. The channels will be very clear.  We’re going to use one single channel in order to be more efficient, to attain better results.

And we have reached a very good understanding with the U.S. government.  They know why we’re emphasizing violence reduction in our strategy.  President Obama has expressed his respect to the strategy that Mexico’s government will define in the area of security, and they have shown to be willing to cooperate with us in order to reach the goals that we have set up to have a peaceful Mexico where there is security.

PRESIDENT OBAMA:  I think President Peña Nieto summarized it well.  Let me give you one specific example, and that is the work that our countries are doing together around the Trans-Pacific Partnership, the TPP.

Our largest trading partner is Canada.  Our second largest trading partner is Mexico.  So North America has already become far more integrated economically than it was 10 years or 20 years ago.  There are suppliers from Mexico who sell to U.S. companies that in turn sell back into Mexico or sell to Canada or sell around the world.  There are jobs that are created in Mexico, jobs that are created in the United States.  All of our economies have grown as a consequence of the work that’s taking place together.

But as I said, the world is changing.  So the fastest growing part of the world is the Asia Pacific region — huge markets.  And by us working closely together to upgrade and revamp our trade relationship we’re also in a position to project outward and start selling more goods and services around the world.  And that means more jobs and more businesses that are successful in Mexico and in the United States.

Some of that is going to be bilateral.  So finding ways that we can reduce trade frictions, improving our transportation and our infrastructure cross-border, how we can improve our clean energy cooperation — already you have a situation in which energy that is created in power plants in California sometimes is sold during nonpeak times into Mexico.  And then when it’s peak times in California, then it’s sold back into California, which makes it more efficient on both sides of the border, and that reduces the cost for consumers on both sides.  Those are the kinds of very specific areas that we can continue to refine and improve on.  And that’s what this high-level economic dialogue will accomplish.

But even as we’re improving our bilateral negotiations, what it also allows us to do, then, is to say we’re aligned in projecting both to the Pacific and to the Atlantic in saying let’s make sure that we’re taking advantage of all the economic opportunities that are taking place around the world.

When the United States prospers, Mexico does well.  And when Mexico does well, the United States does well.  And that I think is the main message of my visit here today.  That’s what I want to make sure we’re focused on, because certainly in the United States — and I know here in Mexico as well — when the economy is growing, when people have opportunity, then a lot of our other problems are solved — or at least we have the resources to solve them.  And so that is something that we really want to make sure that we’re focused on during the rest of my term in office and during President Peña Nieto’s term in office.

Q    Thank to you both.  Mr. President, I wanted to ask about a domestic issue if I could, the FDA rule on the morning-after pill that came out this week that prohibits girls under 15 from buying the morning-after pill without a prescription.  I’m wondering what your opinion on the rule is, and if it resolves some of the concerns you expressed last year when you talked about your role as a father and how that’s influenced your thinking on this, and if you believe that there’s scientific evidence to justify the 15 year-old cutoff.

And for President Peña Nieto, I wanted to ask you about gun control.  The President’s most recent attempt to pass new legislation on guns just failed in the Senate.  You’ve spoken out on this before.  I’m wondering if you talked to him about this in your meeting and if you would urge him — have urged him to try again, or if there’s more that you think the White House could do administratively, without approval from Congress, to resolve the issue.  Thank you.

PRESIDENT OBAMA:  Well, first of all, on the FDA issue, let me make a couple points clear.  Number one, this is a decision made by the FDA and the Secretary of Health and Human Services.  It’s not my decision to make.

The first time around where there were no age restrictions, Secretary Sebelius expressed concerns and I supported those concerns.  And I gave voice to them in the press room back in DC.
The rule that’s been put forward by the FDA Secretary Sebelius has reviewed; she’s comfortable with, I’m comfortable with.

The second point I want to make is I’m very supportive of contraception because I think it’s very important that women have control over their health care choices and when they are starting a family.  That’s their decision to make.  And so we want to make sure that they have access to contraception.  As you know we had a little bit of a fuss around what we’re doing with the Affordable Care Act, but I very much think that’s the right thing to do.

So the current ruling is actually — you phrased it as prohibiting — I think you could phrase it as they’re now allowing these contraceptives to be sold over the counter for 15-year-olds and older.  It has not resolved the question of girls younger than 15.

There was a court case that came up that is being appealed by the Justice Department.  That’s a Justice Department decision. My understanding is part of it has to do with the precedent and the way in which the judge handled that case.  And my suspicion is, is that the FDA may now be called upon to make further decisions about whether there’s sufficient scientific evidence for girls younger than 15.

That’s the FDA’s decision to make.  That’s Secretary Sebelius’s decision to review.  But I’m very comfortable with the decision they’ve made right now based on solid scientific evidence for girls 15 and older.

I know you didn’t direct the question to me, though, I do want to editorialize just for a second about gun control.   As I think all your Mexican counterparts understand and as I talked about with President Peña Nieto, we recognize we’ve got obligations when it comes to guns that are oftentimes being shipped down South and contributing to violence here in Mexico.

But, frankly, what I’m most moved by are the victims of gun violence not just in Mexico but back home — like the parents in Newtown.  And I said the day that the legislation that had been proposed by Senators Manchin and Toomey in the Senate — the day that that failed to get 60 votes — that that was not the end; this was the beginning.
The last time we had major gun legislation it took six, seven, eight tries to get passed.  Things happen somewhat slowly in Washington, but this is just the first round.  And when you’ve got 90 percent of the American people supporting the initiatives that we put forward around background checks and making sure that drug traffickers, for example, can’t just send in somebody with a clear record to purchase guns on their behalf with no way of tracking or stopping that, when you had common-sense legislation like that that the overwhelming majority of Americans, including gun owners, those of us who strongly support the Second Amendment, all of us supporting, I believe that eventually we’re going to get that done.  And I’m going to keep on trying.

So I didn’t mean to horn in on President Peña Nieto’s response, but I just want to be clear that we’re going to keep at this.  One thing I am is persistent.

PRESIDENT PEÑA NIETO:  In that regard, I believe that we are in agreement with President Obama’s words.  And what Mexico would like to see happening in the U.S. — that is to control better the sales of weapons — and we cannot ignore the efforts made by President Obama’s administration in order to approve the better control of weapons — if Mexico could add itself up to this important sector of the U.S. population — 90 percent in favor of gun control — we would do it.  But this is a domestic issue in the United States.

In terms of the areas that we are working in collaboration, areas that we can address is specifically to address the fact that weapons bought in the U.S. could be brought to Mexico.  Regretfully, many lives of Mexicans have been lost due to that illegal smuggling of weapons bought in the United States that have reached Mexican soil.  We have made our commitment, and we’re working on it to work together towards making our borders safer.  We are fighting illegal smuggling of weapons.

Mexico vows towards the efforts made by your government, and we’ll keep on supporting you to have better gun control in your country.  But we’re not going to wait until that happens.  We are working by using more intelligence information, and we are taking action to have safer borders so that we don’t have weapons being smuggled into Mexico that regretfully end up hurting many Mexicans.

PRESIDENT OBAMA:  Thank you very much, everybody.  Muchas gracias.  (Applause.)

END
5:15 P.M. CDT

Political Headlines May 2, 2013: In Mexico, President Barack Obama Says Immigration Reform Is Critical to Trade

POLITICAL HEADLINES

http://historymusings.files.wordpress.com/2012/06/pol_headlines.jpg?w=600

OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 113TH CONGRESS:

THE HEADLINES….

In Mexico, President Obama Says Immigration Reform Is Critical to Trade

Source: ABC News Radio, 5-2-13

Official White House Photo by Pete Souza

President Obama arrived in Mexico City Thursday, where the economy and trade were intended to top the agenda of his three-day trip to Mexico and Costa Rica.

With Congress poised to overhaul the nation’s immigration laws, however, border security and immigration reform are overshadowing much of the public discussion….READ MORE

Full Text Barack Obama Presidency November 27, 2012: President Obama and President-Elect Enrique Peña Nieto’s of Mexico Speeches Before Bilateral Meeting

POLITICAL BUZZ

OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 112TH CONGRESS:

President Obama Welcomes Mexico President-Elect Enrique Peña Nieto

Source: WH, 11-27-12

President Obama meets with President-elect Enrique Peña Nieto (November 27, 2012)President Barack Obama meets with President-elect Enrique Peña Nieto of Mexico in the Oval Office, Nov. 27, 2012. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)

This afternoon, President Obama welcomed Enrique Peña Nieto, the President-elect of Mexico, to the Oval Office.

By long-standing tradition, newly elected Mexican presidents hold early meetings with the United States, in part because it symbolizes the close relationship between our two countries.

And President-elect Peña Nieto is himself no stranger to the United States, having spent a year in Maine as a student.

“But I think that’s representative of the strength of the relationship between the United States and Mexico,” President Obama said. “It’s not just a matter of policy, but it’s a matter of people, as represented by the many U.S. citizens who travel to Mexico, who live in Mexico, and obviously the incredible contribution that Mexican Americans make to our economy, our society, and to our politics.”

President Obama noted that President-elect Peña Nieto’s reform agenda is one that Americans will watch closely — as what happens in Mexico affects our society as well.

The president-elect was also quick to draw parallels between himself and President Obama.

“We were both congressmen — legislators, as we say in Spanish — in our respective congresses in our own countries,” he said. “And this means we’re very sensitive to the needs of our peoples. And we also share a very important vision, the vision for instance of creating more jobs. We know this is very important, not only for the American people but also for the Mexican peoples, for both of our nations.”

On Saturday, Vice President Joe Biden will lead the U.S. delegation to the President-elect Peña Nieto’s inauguration.

Watch their full remarks here

Remarks of President Obama and President-Elect Peña Nieto of Mexico Before Bilateral Meeting

Oval Office

4:00 P.M. EST

PRESIDENT OBAMA: Well, it is my great pleasure to welcome President-elect Peña Nieto to the Oval Office and to the White House. This is a longstanding tradition where — almost unique I think in the relationship between countries — we meet early with the President-elect of Mexico because it symbolizes the extraordinarily close relationship we have between our two countries.

Over the last four years, I’ve been able to work with President Felipe Calderón and I think we established an excellent working relationship so I wish him all the best in his new life.

And I’m very confident that I’m going to establish a strong personal as well as professional relationship with the President-elect, who I know has an outstanding reputation for wanting to get things done.

Now, President Peña Nieto I think represents the close ties between our two countries because I understand that he lived in the United States in Maine for a year, where the winters are even worse than Chicago, my hometown. (Laughter.)

But I think that’s representative of the strength of the relationship between the United States and Mexico. It’s not just a matter of policy, but it’s a matter of people, as represented by the many U.S. citizens who travel to Mexico, who live in Mexico, and obviously the incredible contribution that Mexican Americans make to our economy, our society, and to our politics.

I know that President Peña Nieto has a very ambitious reform agenda, and we are very much looking forward to having a fruitful discussion here today about not only how we can strengthen our economic ties, our trades ties, our coordination along the border, improving our joint competitiveness, as well as common security issues. But I think what I know the President-elect is also interested in is a discussion about both regional and global issues, because Mexico has become not simply an important bilateral partner, but is today a very important multilateral, multinational leader on a whole range of issues from energy to climate change, and we look forward to working with Mexico not only on regional issues, but also on global issues.

And just as President-elect Peña Nieto’s reform agenda is of great interest to us because what happens in Mexico has an impact on our society, I know he’s interested in what we do as well on issues like comprehensive immigration reform. And I’ll be sharing with him my interest in promoting some issues that are important to the United States, but ultimately will be important to Mexico as well.

So Mr. President-elect, I want to welcome you. Congratulations on your outstanding victory. Vice President Biden will be leading our delegation to your inauguration. We only send the Vice President to inaugurations when the country is really at the top of the list in importance to us and so we just want to wish you well and I look forward to an excellent relationship in the years to come.

PRESIDENT-ELECT PEÑA NIETO: (As interpreted.) Thank you very much, President Barack Obama. It’s truly a great pleasure to be here with you. I feel so happy and thank you for your hospitality. This is of course my first visit as President-elect of Mexico and I also want to congratulate you for your victory last November 6th for your second term as President of the United States. I of course wish you great success and I know you have a great task before you, but I know, I trust that you will be doing a wonderful job.

And I also want to thank you so much, President Obama, for having Vice President Joseph Biden go to Mexico for my inaugural ceremony next Saturday, December first. I feel so pleased to be able to have Vice President Biden represent you in Mexico. And of course we’re waiting for him and your delegation with open arms.

And I find that this is an opportunity we only have every 12 years. We’re practically beginning our administration, same that you’ll be starting your next four-year term, I will be starting a six-year administration in Mexico, as you well know, and I think this is really a great opportunity for all of us to have a closer link of brotherhood, of sisterhood, of collaboration, and of course, of great accomplishments we might both have working together.

Yes, and I believe that we have very important tasks before us that are common, as a matter of fact. For instance, we have many common things. We were both congressmen — legislators, as we say in Spanish — in our respective congresses in our own countries. And this means we’re very sensitive to the needs of our peoples. And we also share a very important vision, the vision for instance of creating more jobs. We know this is very important, not only for the American people but also for the Mexican peoples, for both of our nations. These are two very important demands in our countries.

And we do have the opportunity to grow, but not only that, we also have the opportunity to integrate North America, to be participating in this part of the world. And I am so pleased that this is the situation we’re in.

And of course, as I said, to increase the integration of North America, to really take advantage of the open spaces we have for our work — and not only in this part of the world, but also with Asia, of course and just mentioning for instance the TPP, the Trans Pacific Partnership. And my government is of course very much interested in strengthening this, because we believe that this is going to be a great opportunity for all of us.

Yes, and of course in terms of security that’s another major challenge we all face. My government has set out to reduce the violence situation in our country. And for that, of course, we have set out to launch a strategy for this purpose. And I will do everything we can for this. We want to have — we have the will to have cooperation, efficient cooperation with respect, respect for our sovereign states. And of course in terms of the border, we want our border to be a safe, modern, connected border, legal border — that’s exactly what we’ve set out to accomplish.

Yes, and in terms of the reform for migration, the migration reform, we do have to tell you that we fully support your proposal, sir, for this migration reform. More than demanding what you should do or shouldn’t do, we do want to tell you that we want to contribute. We really want to participate with you. We want to contribute towards the accomplishment, so that of course we can participate in the betterment and the well-being of so many millions of people who live in your country and who are also participating. So we want to be part of this.

And I trust that we’ll be able to have a very close relationship in our work, Mr. President. And of course I want to invite you to come to Mexico, a state visit. And as you know, next year in 2013, we’re going to be holding the North American Summit, the leaders’ summit. And you’re of course invited. And we really hope to see you there. We’ll be waiting for you with open arms.

PRESIDENT OBAMA: Any excuse to go to Mexico, I’m always game. In fact, I’m jealous of Joe Biden. (Laughter.) But anyway, thank you very much. Welcome. Thank you, everybody.

END
4:17 P.M. EST

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