Full Text Political Transcripts June 29, 2016: President Barack Obama’s Address to the Parliament of Canada

POLITICAL TRANSCRIPTS

OBAMA PRESIDENCY & 114TH CONGRESS:

Remarks by President Obama in Address to the Parliament of Canada

Source: WH, 6-29-16

House of Commons Chamber
Parliament of Canada
Ottawa, Canada

6:03 P.M. EDT

PRESIDENT OBAMA:  Thank you so much.  Thank you.  (Applause.)  Thank you, everybody.  (Applause.)  Thank you so much.  Thank you.  Please, everyone have a seat.  Thank you.  (Applause.)  Thank you so much.

Good evening.  Bonjour.  Mr. Prime Minister, Mr. Speaker,  members of the House, members of the Senate, distinguished guests, people of Canada — thank you for this extraordinary welcome, which temps me to just shut up and leave.  (Laughter.)  Because it can’t get any better than this.  (Laughter.)  Obviously I’m grateful for the warm welcome.  I’m extraordinarily grateful for the close working relationship and friendship with your outstanding Prime Minister, Justin Trudeau, and his extraordinary wife, Sophie.

But I think it’s fair to say that much of this greeting is simply a reflection of the extraordinary alliance and deep friendship between Canadians and Americans.

Justin, thank you for your very kind words, and for the new energy and hope that your leadership has brought to your nation as well as to the alliance.  My time in office may be nearing an end, but I know that Canada — and the world — will benefit from your leadership for years to come.  (Applause.)

So Canada was the very first country that I visited as President.  It was in February.  (Laughter.)  It was colder.  (Laughter.)  I was younger.  (Laughter.)  Michelle now refers to my hair as the Great White North.  (Laughter.)  And on that visit, I strolled around the ByWard Market, tried a “beaver tail” — (laughter) — which is better than it sounds.  (Laughter.)  And I was struck then, as I am again today, by the warmth of the Canadians.  I could not be more honored to be joining you in this historic hall — this cathedral of freedom.  And we Americans can never say it enough — we could not ask for a better friend or ally than Canada.  (Applause.)  We could not.  It’s true.  It is true.  And we do not take it for granted.

That does not mean we don’t have our differences.  As I understand it, one of the reasons the Queen chose this site for Parliament was that it was a safe distance from America’s border. (Laughter.)   And I admit, in the War of 1812, American troops did some damage to Toronto.  I suspect that there were some people up here who didn’t mind when the British returned the favor and burned down the White House.  (Laughter.)

In more recent times, however, the only forces crossing our borders are the armies of tourists and businesspeople and families who are shopping and doing business and visiting loved ones.  Our only battles take place inside the hockey rink.  Even there, there’s an uneasy peace that is maintained.  As Americans, we, too, celebrate the life of Mr. Hockey himself, the late, great Gordie Howe.  (Applause.)  Just as Canadians can salute American teams for winning more Stanley Cups in the NHL.  (Laughter.)

AUDIENCE:  Ooooh —

PRESIDENT OBAMA:  I told you I should have stopped after the applause.  (Laughter.)

But in a world where too many borders are a source of conflict, our two countries are joined by the longest border of peace on Earth.  (Applause.)  And what makes our relationship so unique is not just proximity.  It’s our enduring commitment to a set of values — a spirit, alluded to by Justin, that says no matter who we are, where we come from, what our last names are, what faith we practice, here we can make of our lives what we will.

It was the grit of pioneers and prospectors who pushed West across a forbidding frontier.  The dreams of generations — immigrants, refugees — that we’ve welcomed to these shores.  The hope of run-away slaves who went north on an underground railroad.  “Deep in our history of struggle,” said Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., “Canada was the north star… The freedom road links us together.”

We’re bound as well by the service of those who’ve defended us — at Flanders Field, the beaches of Normandy, in the skies of the Balkans, and more recently, in the mountains of Afghanistan, and training bases in Iraq.  Their sacrifice is reflected in the silent rows of Arlington and in the Peace Tower above us.  Today we honor those who gave their lives for all of us.  (Applause.)
We’re linked together, as well, by the institutions that we’ve built to keep the peace:  A United Nations to advance our collective aspirations.  A NATO alliance to ensure our security. NORAD, where Americans and Canadians stand watch side by side — and track Santa on Christmas Eve.  (Laughter.)

We’re linked by a vast web of commerce that carries goods from one end of this continent to another.  And we’re linked by the ties of friendship and family — in my case, an outstanding brother-in-law in Burlington.  (Applause.)  Had to give Burlington a shout out.  (Applause.)  Our relationship is so remarkable precisely because it seems so unremarkable — which is why Americans often are surprised when our favorite American actor or singer turns out to be Canadian!  (Applause.)  The point is we see ourselves in each other, and our lives are richer for it.

As President, I’ve deepened the ties between our countries. And because of the progress we’ve made in recent years, I can stand before you and say that the enduring partnership between Canada and the United States is as strong as it has ever been, and we are more closely aligned than ever before.  (Applause.)

And yet, we meet at a pivotal moment for our nations and for the globe.  From this vibrant capital, we can look upon a world that has benefited enormously from the international order that we helped to build together’ but we can see that same order increasingly strained by the accelerating forces of change.  The world is by most every measure less violent than ever before; but it remains riven by old divisions and fresh hatreds.  The world is more connected than ever before; but even as it spreads knowledge and the possibility of greater understanding between peoples, it also empowers terrorists who spread hatred and death — most recently in Orlando and Istanbul.

The world is more prosperous than ever before, but alongside globalization and technological wonders we also see a rise in inequality and wage stagnation across the advanced economies, leaving too many workers and communities fearful of diminishing prospects, not just for themselves, but more importantly, for their children.

And in the face of such rising uncertainty, it is not enough to look at aggregate growth rates, or stock prices, or the pace of digital innovation.  If the benefits of globalization accrue only to those at the very top, if our democracies seem incapable of assuring broad-based growth and opportunity for everyone, then people will push back, out of anger or out of fear.  And politicians — some sincere, and some entirely cynical — will tap that anger and fear, harkening back to bygone days of order and predictability and national glory, arguing that we must rebuild walls and disengage from a chaotic world, or rid ourselves of the supposed ills brought on by immigrants — all in order to regain control of our lives.

We saw some of these currents at work this past week in the United Kingdom’s referendum to leave the European Union.  Despite some of the initial reactions, I am confident that the process can be managed in a prudent, orderly way.  I expect that our friends on both sides of the Channel will develop a workable plan for how to move forward.  And I’m equally confident that the Transatlantic values that we all share as liberal, market-based democracies are deeper and stronger than any single event.

But while the circumstances of Brexit may be unique to the United Kingdom, the frustrations people felt are not.  The short-term fallout of Brexit can be sensibly managed, but the long-term trends of inequality and dislocation and the resulting social division — those can’t be ignored.  How we respond to the forces of globalization and technological change will determine the durability of an international order that ensures security and prosperity for future generations.

And fortunately, the partnership between the United States and Canada shows the path we need to travel.  For our history and our work together speak to a common set of values to build on –proven values, values that your Prime Minister spoke of in his introduction — values of pluralism and tolerance, rule of law, openness; global engagement and commerce and cooperation, coupled with equal opportunity and an investment in our people at home.  As Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau once said, “A country, after all, is not something you build as the pharaohs build the pyramids, and then leave standing there to defy eternity.  A country is something that is built every day out of certain basic shared values.”  What is true of countries is true of the world. And that’s what I want to talk about today — how to strengthen our institutions to advance these commitments in a rapidly changing world.

Let me start with our shared economic vision.  In all we do, our commitment to opportunity for all of our people has to be at the centerpiece of our work.  We are so fortunate because both of our countries are so well-positioned to succeed in the 21st century.  Our two nations know firsthand the awesome power of free markets and innovation.  Canadians help run some of Silicon Valley’s most innovative companies.  Our students study at each other’s world-class universities.  We invest in research and development, and make decisions based on science and evidence.  And it works.  It’s what’s created these extraordinary economies of ours.

But if the financial crisis and recent recession taught us anything, it’s that economies do better when everyone has a chance to succeed.  For a long time, it was thought that countries had to choose between economic growth or economic inclusion.  But it turns out that’s a false choice.  If a CEO makes more in a day than a typical employee makes in a year, that kind of inequality is not just bad for morale in the company, it turns out it’s bad for the economy — that worker is not a very good customer for business.  (Applause.)

If a young man in Ohio can’t pay his student loans, or a young woman in Ontario can’t pay her bills, that has ramifications for our economy.  It tamps down the possibilities of growth.  So we need growth that is broad and that lifts everybody up — including tax policies that do right by working families, and robust safety nets for those who fall on hard times.  As John Kenneth Galbraith once said, “the common denominator of progress” is our people.  It’s not numbers, it’s not abstractions, it’s how are our people doing.

Of course, many who share this progressive, inclusive vision can be heard now arguing that investments in our people, protection for our workers, fair tax policies, these things are not enough.  For them, globalization is inherently rigged towards the top one percent, and therefore, what’s needed is an end to trade agreements and various international institutions and arrangements that integrate national economies.

And I understand that vision.  I know why it’s tempting.  It seems as if we draw a line around our borders that it will give us more control, particularly when the benefits of trade and economic integration are sometimes hard to see or easy to take for granted, and very specific dislocations are obvious and real.

There’s just one problem:  Restricting trade or giving in to protectionism in this 21st century economy will not work.  (Applause.)  It will not work.  Even if we wanted to, we can’t seal ourselves off from the rest of the world.  The day after Brexit, people looked around and said, oh!  (Laughter.)  How is this going to work?  The drag that economic weakness in Europe and China and other countries is having on our own economies right now speaks to the degree to which we depend — our economies depend, our jobs, our businesses depend — on selling goods and services around the world.

Very few of our domestic industries can sever what is now truly a global supply chain.  And so, for those of us who truly believe that our economies have to work for everybody, the answer is not to try and pull back from our interconnected world; it is rather to engage with the rest of the world, to shape the rules so they’re good for our workers and good for our businesses.

And the experience between our two nations points the way.  The United States and Canada have the largest bilateral trade and investment relationship in the world — and we are stronger for it.  (Applause.)  It means a company in Quebec can create jobs in North Carolina.  And a start-up in Toronto can attract investment from Texas.  Now, the problem is that some economies in many of the fastest-growing regions of the world — particularly the Asia Pacific region — don’t always abide by the same rules.  They impose unfair tariffs; or they suppress workers’ rights; or they maintain low environmental standards that make it hard for our businesses to compete fairly.

With the Trans-Pacific Partnership, we have the ability to not only open up these markets to U.S. and Canadian products and eliminate thousands of these unfair tariffs — which, by the way, we need to do because they’re already selling here under existing rules, but we’re not selling as much as we should over there — but it also affords us the opportunity to increase protections for workers and the environment, and promote human rights, including strong prohibitions against human trafficking and child labor.  And that way our workers are competing on a level playing field, and our businesses are less prone to pursue a race to the bottom.  And when combined with increased investments in our own people’s education, and skills and training, and infrastructure and research and development and connectivity, then we can spur the kind of sustained growth that makes all of us better off.  (Applause.)  All of us.

The point is we need to look forward, not look backward.  And more trade and more people-to-people ties can also help break down old divides.  I thank Canada for its indispensable role in hosting our negotiations with the Cuban government, and supporting our efforts to set aside half a century of failed policies to begin a new chapter with the Cuban people.  (Applause.)  I know a lot of Canadians like going to Cuba — (laughter) — maybe because there haven’t been Americans crowding the streets and the beaches.  But that’s changing.  (Laughter.)  And as more Americans engage with the Cuban people, it will mean more economic opportunity and more hope for ordinary Cubans.

We also agree, us Americans and Canadians, that wealthy countries like ours cannot reach our full potential while others remain mired in poverty.  That, too, is not going to change in this interconnected world; that if there is poverty and disease and conflict in other parts of the world, it spills over, as much as we’d like to pretend that we can block it out.

So, with our commitment to new Sustainable Development Goals, we have the chance to end the outrage of extreme poverty. (Applause.)  We can bring more electricity to Africa, so that students can study at night and businesses can stay open.  We can banish the scourge of malaria and Zika.  We can realize our goal of the first AIDS-free generation.  (Applause.)  We can do that. It’s within our grasp.  And we can help those who are working to replace corruption with transparent, accountable institutions that serve their people.

As leaders in global development, the United States and Canada understand that development is not charity — it’s an investment in our future prosperity.  (Applause.)  Because not only do such investments and policies help poor countries, they’re going to create billions of customers for U.S. and Canadian products, and they’ll make less likely the spread of deadly epidemics to our shores, and they’ll stabilize parts of the word that threaten the security of our people.

In fact, both the United States and Canada believe our own security — and not just prosperity — is enhanced when we stand up for the rights of all nations and peoples to live in security and peace.  (Applause.)  and even as there are times when unilateral action is necessary to defend our people, we believe that in a world where wars between great powers are far less likely but transnational threats like terrorism know no boundaries, our security is best advanced when nations work together.  We believe that disputes that do arise between nations should be, wherever possible, resolved peacefully, with diplomacy; that international organizations should be supported; that multilateralism is not a dirty word.  (Applause.)

And certainly, we’re more secure when we stand united against terrorist networks and ideologies that have reached to the very doorstep of this hall.  We honor all those taken from us by violent extremists, including Canadians John Ridsdel and Robert Hall.  (Applause.)  With Canada’s additional contributions, including training Iraqi forces, our coalition is on the offensive across Iraq, across Syria.  And we will destroy the terrorist group ISIL.  (Applause.)  We will destroy them.

We’ll continue helping local forces and sharing intelligence, from Afghanistan to the Philippines, so that we’re pushing back comprehensively against terrorist networks.  And in contrast to the hatred and the nihilism of terrorists, we’ll work with partners around the world, including, particularly, Muslim communities, to offer a better vision and a path of development, and opportunity, and tolerance.  (Applause.)  Because they are, and must be, our partners in this effort.  (Applause.)

Meanwhile, when nations violate international rules and norms — such as Russia’s aggression against Ukraine — the United States and Canada stand united, along with our allies, in defense of our collective security.  (Applause.)  Doing so requires a range of tools, like economic sanctions, but it also requires that we keep our forces ready for 21st century missions, and invest in new capabilities.  As your ally and as your friend, let me say that we’ll be more secure when every NATO member, including Canada, contributes its full share to our common security.  (Applause.)  Because the Canadian armed forces are really good — (applause) — and if I can borrow a phrase, the world needs more Canada.  NATO needs more Canada.  (Applause.)  We need you.  We need you.

Just as we join together in our common defense, so must we work together diplomatically, particularly to avert war.  Diplomacy results are rarely quick, but it turns out even the most intractable conflicts can be resolved.  Here in our own hemisphere, just in the last few weeks, after half a century of war, Colombia is poised to achieve an historic peace.  (Applause.)  And the nations of North America will be an important partner to Colombia going forward, including working to remove landmines.

Around the world, Canadian and American diplomats working together can make a difference.  Even in Syria, where the agony and the suffering of the Syrian people tears at our hearts, our two nations continue to be leaders in humanitarian aid to the Syrian people.  And although a true resolution of this conflict so far has eluded us, we know that the only solution to this civil war is a political solution, so that the Syrian people can reclaim their country and live in peace.  And Canadians and Americans are going to work as hard as we can to make that happen.  (Applause.)  I should add that here in the nation of Lester Pearson, we reaffirm our commitment to keep strengthening the peacekeeping that saves lives around the world.

There is one threat, however, that we cannot solve militarily, nor can we solve alone — and that is the threat of climate change.  Now, climate change is no longer an abstraction. It’s not an issue we can put off for the future.  It is happening now.  It is happening here, in our own countries.  The United States and Canada are both Arctic nations, and last year, when I became the first U.S. President to visit the Arctic, I could see the effects myself.  Glaciers — like Canada’s Athabasca Glacier — are melting at alarming rates.  Tundra is burning.  Permafrost is thawing.  This is not a conspiracy.  It’s happening.  Within a generation, Arctic sea ice may all but disappear in the summer.

And so skeptics and cynics can insist on denying what’s right in front of our eyes.  But the Alaska Natives that I met, whose ancestral villages are sliding into the sea — they don’t have that luxury.  They know climate change is real.  They know it is not a hoax.  And from Bangladesh to the Pacific islands, rising seas are swallowing land and forcing people from their homes.  Around the world, stronger storms and more intense droughts will create humanitarian crises and risk more conflict. This is not just a moral issue, not just a economic issue, it is also an urgent matter of our national security.

And for too long, we’ve heard that confronting climate change means destroying our own economies.  But let me just say, carbon emissions in the United States are back to where they were two decades ago, even as we’ve grown our economy dramatically over the same period.  Alberta, the oil country of Canada, is working hard to reduce emissions while still promoting growth.  (Applause.)

So if Canada can do it, and the United States can do it, the whole world can unleash economic growth and protect our planet.  We can do this.  (Applause.)  We can do it.  We can do this.  We can help lead the world to meet this threat.

Already, together in Paris, we achieved the most ambitious agreement in history to fight climate change.  Now let’s bring it into force this year.  (Applause.)  With our agreement with Mexico that we announced today, let’s generate half the electricity on this continent from clean energy sources within a decade.  That’s achievable.  (Applause.)  Let’s partner in the Arctic to help give its people the opportunity they deserve, while conserving the only home they know.  And building on the idea that began in Montreal three decades ago, let’s finally phase down dangerous HFC greenhouse gases.  This is the only planet we’ve got.  And this may be the last shot we’ve got to save it.  And America and Canada are going to need to lead the way.  (Applause.)  We’re going to have to lead the way.

Just as we are joined in our commitment to protecting the planet, we are also joined in our commitment to the dignity of every human being.  We believe in the right of all people to participate in society.  We believe in the right of all people to be treated equally, to have an equal shot at success.  That is in our DNA, the basic premise of our democracies.

I think we can all agree that our democracies are far from perfect.  They can be messy, and they can be slow, and they can leave all sides of a debate unsatisfied.  Justin is just getting started.  (Laughter.)  So in case you hadn’t figured that out, that’s where this gray hair comes from.  (Laughter.)  But more than any other system of government, democracy allows our most precious rights to find their fullest expression, enabling us, through the hard, painstaking work of citizenship, to continually make our countries better.  To solve new challenges.  To right past wrongs.

And, Prime Minister, what a powerful message of reconciliation it was — here and around the world — when your government pledged a new relationship with Canada’s First Nations.  (Applause.)

Democracy is not easy.  It’s hard.  Living up to our ideals can be difficult even in the best of times.  And it can be harder when the future seems uncertain, or when, in response to legitimate fears and frustrations, there are those who offer a politics of “us” versus “them,” a politics that scapegoats others — the immigrant, the refugee, someone who seems different than us.  We have to call this mentality what it is — a threat to the values that we profess, the values we seek to defend.

It’s because we respect all people that the world looks to us as an example.  The colors of the rainbow flag have flown on Parliament Hill.  They have lit up the White House.  That is a testament to our progress, but also the work that remains to ensure true equality for our fellow citizens who are lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender.  (Applause.)

Our Muslim friends and neighbors who run businesses, and serve in our governments and in our armed forces, and are friends with our children, play on our sports teams — we’ve got to stand up against the slander and the hate leveled against those who look or worship differently.  That’s our obligation.  That’s who we are.  That’s what makes America special.  That’s what makes Canada special.  (Applause.)  Here.  Here in Canada.  (Applause.)
Here in Canada, a woman has already risen to the highest office in the land.  In America, for the first time, a woman is the presumptive nominee of a major party and perhaps President.  (Applause.)  I have a bias on these issues — (laughter) — but our work won’t be finished until all women in our country are truly equal — paid equally, treated equally, given the same opportunities as men, when our girls have the same opportunities as our boys.  (Applause.)  That’s who we need to be.  (Applause.)
And let me say this — because I don’t feel particularly politically correct on this issue — I don’t believe that these are American values or Canadian values or Western values.  I believe, and Justin believes, and I hope all of you believe, these are universal values.  And we must be bold in their defense, at home and around the world.  (Applause.)  And not shy away from speaking up on behalf of these values of pluralism and tolerance and equality.  (Applause.)

I fear sometimes that we are timid in defense of these values.  That’s why I will continue to stand up for those inalienable rights, here in our own hemisphere — in places like Cuba and Venezuela — but also in more distant lands.  For the rights of citizens in civil society to speak their mind and work for change.  For the right of journalists to report the truth.  For the right of people of all faiths to practice their religion freely.  Those things are hard, but they’re right.  They’re not always convenient, but they’re true.

In the end, it is this respect for the dignity of all people, especially the most vulnerable among us, that perhaps more than anything else binds our two countries together.  Being Canadian, being American is not about what we look like or where our families came from.  It is about our commitment to a common creed.  And that’s why, together, we must not waver in embracing our values, our best selves.  And that includes our history as a nation of immigrants, and we must continue to welcome people from around the world.  (Applause.)

The vibrancy of our economies are enhanced by the addition of new, striving immigrants.  But this is not just a matter of economics.  When refugees escape barrel bombs and torture, and migrants cross deserts and seas seeking a better life, we cannot simply look the other way.  We certainly can’t label as possible terrorists vulnerable people who are fleeing terrorists.  (Applause.)

We can insist that the process is orderly.  We can insist that our security is preserved.  Borders mean something.  But in moments like this, we are called upon to see ourselves in others, because we were all once strangers.  If you weren’t a stranger, your grandparents were strangers.  Your great-grandparents were strangers.  They didn’t all have their papers ready.  They fumbled with language faced discrimination, had cultural norms that didn’t fit.  At some point, somewhere, your family was an outsider.  So the mothers, the fathers, the children we see today — they’re us.  We can’t forsake them.

So, as Americans and Canadians, we will continue to welcome refugees, and we can ensure that we’re doing so in a way that maintains our security.  We can and we will do both.  (Applause.) We can and we will do both.

We’re increasing our support to Central America, so that fewer families and children attempt the dangerous journey north. This fall at the United Nations, we’ll host a global summit on refugees, because in the face of this crisis, more nations need to step up and meet our basic obligations to our fellow human beings.  And it will be difficult, and budgets are tight, and there are legitimate issues and not everybody is going to be helped.  But we can try.  People of goodwill and compassion show us the way.

Greek islanders pulling families to shore.  And Germans handing out sweets to migrants at railway stations.  A synagogue in Virginia inviting Syrian refugees to dinner.  And here, in Canada, the world has been inspired as Canadians across this country have opened up their hearts and their homes.  And we’ve watched citizens knitting tuques to keep refugees warm in the winter.  (Laughter.)  And we’ve seen your Prime Minister welcome new arrivals at the airport, and extend the hand of friendship and say, “You’re safe at home now.”

And we see the refugees who feel that they have a special duty to give back, and seize the opportunities of a new life.  Like the girl who fled Afghanistan by donkey and camel and jet plane, and who remembers being greeted in this country by helping hands and the sound of robins singing.  And today, she serves in this chamber, and in the cabinet, because Canada is her home.  (Applause.)

A country “is not something you build as the pharaohs built the pyramids…a country is something that is built every day out of certain basic shared values.”  How true that is.  How blessed we are to have had people before us, day by day, brick by brick, build these extraordinary countries of ours.  How fortunate, how privileged we are to have the opportunity to now, ourselves, build this world anew.  What a blessing.  And as we go forward together, on that freedom road, let’s stay true to the values that make us who we are — Canadians and Americans, allies and friends, now and forever.

Thank you very much.  Merci beaucoup.  (Applause.)  Thank you.

END
6:52 P.M. EDT

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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

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