Monday, May 15, 2017
Remarks for the Council of the Americas Conference: Americas Outlook
U.S. State Department
Good afternoon. Thank you
so much to Susan and Eric and the rest of the Council for this opportunity. It is a privilege to be with you today for the
47th Washington Conference of the Americas.
For the nearly 50 years you have held this conference, the Council has underscored what we also know
to be true: the Western Hemisphere is and always will be a top priority for the United States.
Strong Bonds, Shared Vision
Beyond a priority, it is a privilege to work in this Hemisphere. Here, we practice foreign policy alongside partners
whose interests are directly tied to ours.
With few exceptions, we are a democratic hemisphere today. Our cooperation reflects the ties between
our institutions, our economies, our families, and our cultures.
More than 50 million Americans of Hispanic descent or Caribbean heritage
live in the United States.
There are now more Spanish speakers in the United States than in Spain.
And, as you know well, the Americas are home to some of
the most important markets for our companies.
Strong and healthy regional economies are good for both the United States and for our hemisphere.
That’s why this Administration
is committed to expanding security and fostering economic growth in the region.
Together, with our partners, we are pursuing a shared
vision: a secure, democratic, and free Hemisphere - a region with law and order along our borders, where transnational criminal
networks and pathways for illicit activity are shut down – and a region where terrorism cannot take root.
This region can be known for
its peace and prosperity – one that can and will face global challenges together.
A Key U.S. Export Market
The State Department welcomes your partnership as we continue to engage in this Hemisphere – the private sector
is a critical voice and force in helping us reach our goals.
The Americas represent a key market for U.S. exports. Fortunately for
us, the United States is the preferred business partner for most countries in the Western Hemisphere.
Nearly half of all goods and services
exported from the United States – $669 billion worth – go north and south. That’s three times more than
what we export to China, Japan, and India combined.
With the hemisphere, we are supporting the President’s four trade priorities:
promoting U.S. sovereignty; enforcing U.S. trade laws; leveraging U.S. economic strength to expand our goods and services
exports; and protecting U.S. intellectual property rights.
We are reviewing existing trade agreements and negotiating new bilateral ones to ensure
the benefits to the United States are clear.
But, our work together expands beyond trade agreements.
We are also supporting entrepreneurs;
fostering innovation; and supporting education.
We are broadening opportunities for women in business. For example, President Trump
and Prime Minister Trudeau inaugurated the Canada-United States Council for Advancement of Women Entrepreneurs and Business
Leaders just last February.
We are promoting energy diversification. Regulatory frameworks must be friendly to investors. This is what will drive
development and create new opportunities for globally-competitive U.S. energy firms.
Many of you have probably worked with our dedicated officers
at embassies and consulates in the region. They have helped countless companies, maybe even some of you, to promote U.S. business
interests through commercial advocacy and policy engagement.
We understand that for you to do business, we must work to facilitate
legitimate trade and travel between the U.S. and the Hemisphere.
There is nothing more important
to us than the safety and security of the United States.
Our vision is a hemisphere home to a legal, safe, and orderly movement of goods and
people. To do this, we are fighting transnational criminal networks and preventing terrorists from entering the United States.
Again, this is a shared goal
with our partners. We are not – we cannot – do this alone. Together, we are working to deter criminal activity,
strengthen law enforcement and rule of law, and provide alternatives to delinquency and gangs.
I know many of you in this room have watched the hemisphere
closely for years, and others do business here every day.
I would like to outline some specific priority areas to illustrate how we are working
to further our shared goals.
We have seen events in this hemisphere over the last year
that many would not have thought possible in their lifetimes, such as the historic peace deal in Colombia which ended the
region’s longest-running armed conflict.
We are supporting Colombia as it implements the peace agreement with the FARC.
President Santos is coming
to Washington next week - May 17 to 19. We will talk about our work with Colombia to build a robust counternarcotics efforts
and how to address the spike in coca production of the last few years.
This effort will require creating opportunities in the licit economy
and confronting the conflict’s root causes.
One way in which we pursue this strategy is by supporting landmine removal in previous
conflict zones through the Global Demining Initiative for Colombia.
Mexico and Canada are vital
partners for us.
Despite what you may hear, the relationships we have are quite good.
Mexico and Canada understand we have to refresh some of the agreements
that have governed our relationship. Both countries are ready to engage in a good-faith effort with us.
Mexico was Secretary Tillerson’s
first overseas trip. He has met with his Mexican counterpart several times since assuming his position.
So have our cabinet secretaries
in many areas of government, from Commerce to Treasury to Agriculture to Homeland Security to our Attorney General.
This reflects the cooperation
that has been the hallmark of our relationship with Mexico for the last two decades.
We work with our colleagues in the Mexican government
on priority issues – such as ensuring the smooth management of our almost 2,000-mile border and our half-trillion-dollar
Together, we are fighting the transnational criminal organizations that smuggle drugs and exploit vulnerable Central
American migrants in their dangerous journey north.
While we have some differences as we update our trade and security relationships, we
manage them as friends and allies – openly, transparently, and with mutual respect.
Our strategic interest lies in our broad partnership.
The next step in these conversations
will come on May 18, when Secretary Tillerson will host a meeting with Mexico on combatting organized crime.
We will also co-host a conference
in Miami, along with the Department of Homeland Security and the Mexican government, on Central American Prosperity and Security.
Our companies also have deep ties with Canada, our close ally and partner.
Every day, approximately 380,000 people cross this border,
as does approximately $2 billion in trade.
Prime Minister Trudeau was one of the first foreign leaders to visit President Trump when he traveled
to Washington on February 13. The two leaders have spoken several times since then and have a close and respectful relationship.
On energy, Canada is a key
partner as we work together to strengthen North American energy security and competitiveness.
Canada is one of the largest importers of U.S. energy,
including electricity and natural gas. In 2015, Canada was our largest supplier of crude oil imports.
Just as we are in touch with Mexico,
we are also in regular contact with Canada as we seek to update NAFTA through renegotiation to the benefit of all three countries.
Looking south, another priority for us is addressing the root drivers of migration originating in Central America.
To secure the U.S. southern
border and protect American citizens, we must address the security, governance, and economic drivers of irregular migration
and illicit trafficking.
Our efforts in these areas complement the many reform initiatives in the region, including the Northern Triangle’s
own Alliance for Prosperity.
The Lourdes-Colón area of El Salvador, for instance, used to be one of the most dangerous areas in the country.
In the last eight years, we
have trained more than 900 police officers – to help them conduct better investigations, to interact better with their
communities. We also launched a police athletic league program that has benefitted more than 1,000 at-risk youth.
The aim? To reduce homicides
And we did it. Compared to 2009 when the program started, there has been a 61 percent drop in homicides.
Last year, in 2016, while homicides
in El Salvador spiked, Lourdes-Colón recorded a month with zero homicides. We are working to replicate this place-based
model throughout communities in the Northern Triangle.
Looking further south down
the hemisphere, there has really been a remarkable political shift.
We have a renewed commitment to U.S.-Argentine relations. President
Trump hosted a very successful visit by President Macri last month.
The relationship with Peru has also strengthened. President Kuczynski
was the first Latin American leader to meet with President Trump, and our countries enjoy a close relationship based on the
shared values of democracy, security, and human rights.
The United States also enjoys a robust partnership with Brazil, with our leaders pursuing
an economic growth agenda to create jobs and investment in both countries.
Together with Brazil and Switzerland, the U.S. launched a joint investigation
into the region’s biggest corruption scandal, which surrounds Brazil’s Odebrecht.
This shows a shared, regional commitment to the democratic
processes and good governance. It also underscores the value of strong law enforcement cooperation.
In the Caribbean, we also have strong ties. The United States is the primary trading partner for this region. We had
a $4.6 billion trading surplus for the United States in 2016.
However, there are also risks – rising crime and endemic corruption
threaten the stability of governments and deprive citizens of their basic rights to security and good governance.
In the Eastern Caribbean, we
are focused on dismantling transnational criminal organizations and bolstering police professionalization.
We also promote U.S. exports
and support opportunities for the private sector to invest
We focus, for example, on increasing the use of reliable, low-cost sources of energy
to help spur economic development and create new opportunities for U.S. companies.
me turn now to Venezuela, which is experiencing a political and economic crisis.
The people of Venezuela are suffering due to their government’s
authoritarian repression and poor economic management
Three-quarters of Venezuelans have lost weight in the past year because of food scarcity.
We are concerned that the government
of President Maduro is violating Venezuela’s own constitution and is not allowing the opposition to have their voices
heard, nor allowing them to organize in a way that expresses the views of the Venezuelan people.
Our hemisphere has come together, particularly through
the Organization of American States in defense of democracy and human rights in the region. We have taken formal steps to
address the situation in Venezuela by calling a minister-level meeting.
Even as the Venezuelan regime has announced its intent to withdraw
from the OAS and to rewrite the Venezuelan constitution to remain in power, we know the solution to Venezuela’s problems
is not less democracy, but more democracy.
Leaving the OAS will not solve Venezuela’s problems. And an autocratic, top-down authoritarian
exercise dressed up as a constituent assembly, now, having already lost legitimacy at home and abroad, will not help either.
The regime remains on a collision
course with its people, and with the region, as long as it refuses to listen to the voices of the Venezuelan people.
We call upon the Government
of Venezuela to fulfill the commitments it has made to hold prompt elections, respect the constitution and the National Assembly,
provide for the immediate and unconditional release of all political prisoners, and tend to the humanitarian needs of the
Our hemisphere is not immune to external, global threats either –
whether it be terrorism or cyber-attacks.
But, we are fortunate enough that we can face them together. We can leverage our partnerships to advance
and Canada, for example, are active members of the Global Coalition to Defeat ISIS.
We recently announced the creation of a cyber policy working
group with Argentina, which will focus on cybersecurity issues.
In a world with more fluid borders, it is imperative we stand together
to defend against these threats.
Conclusion and Thanks
We have a busy schedule ahead of us in the Hemisphere.
The United States is committed
to engaging with the region based on shared priorities that are vital to the interests of our respective countries.
As business leaders and government
officials who follow this Hemisphere, I thank you for your continued partnership and look forward to pressing ahead alongside
Transcript: Francisco Palmieri,
Acting Assistant Secretary, Bureau of Western Hemisphere Affairs, U.S. Department of State, May 9, 2017