Roundtable With Chilean MediaR. Nicholas Burns, Under Secretary for Political Affairs
July 10, 2007
UNDER SECRETARY BURNS: Morning. It’s nice to see all of you. It’s nice to be here. I apologize I can’t do this in Spanish, but it would be impossible. I do not speak Spanish. Unfortunately, it’s one of my great failings in life having never served in this region. So thank you for agreeing to do this in English.
I want to thank first Ambassador Craig Kelly. He has been a great ambassador here from our perspective and I hope from yours as well. He’s going to be leaving in about a months time to come back to a very senior position in Washington, so I want to thank him for what he has done for the United States and for Chile and to bring our two countries close together.
I just thought I’d start with a few remarks. Very brief, don’t worry, no speech. Just to get things started and then I’m happy to answer any question about our relationship with Chile, about the hemisphere, about what we are doing globally.
We had a good day yesterday. We are very grateful for the meetings we had, particularly with the President and the Foreign Minister. They were excellent meetings. I think we have with Chile from an American perspective one of our strongest relationships in the Americas. We have a relationship with very few differences of opinion on major issues. We have worked extraordinarily well together. The Free Trade Agreement has exceeded our expectations. We have had 154% increase in two-way trade in the last three and a half years since the FTA began. That’s extraordinary. It shows that these free trade agreements are important for real people. They are important for producing growth, for alleviating poverty, and you have made tremendous advances in Chile in that regard. So the start from there is a good base for the relationship and I do think it benefits both countries.
We have our future agenda that is going to be built around the knowledge economy and the type of modern economy that we hope to have in our country and I know you hope to have in yours. With the Minister of Energy yesterday we talked a lot about our respective energy situations in this global market. It is quite difficult for countries that are not producers, and I know Chile is not a major producer.
So we talked about the need to combat global climate change, which we want to do together. That is a major priority for our country and I know it is for yours. We talked about the research and development that we are trying to do in hydrogen technologies, in clean coal technology, in renewable energies – solar and wind and biomass. We talked about biofuels. I hope to discuss our biofuels agreement with Brazil, the one that President Lula and President Bush unveiled in February. We are very open to having biofuels cooperation with Chile. We are a major producer, in fact, I think we are the world’s leading producer of ethanol --corn ethanol. -- In the United States, we have a lot of scientific research being done to seek methods to try to increase the efficiency of biofuels. So we would be very happy to work with the Chilean government on that and we are very happy to see the Minister of Energy come to the United States – I have invited him to come to the United States. I think further collaboration between us in energy is something we want to do.
Also, we are very grateful -- I told President Bachelet yesterday -- that we are very grateful to Chile for the role it is playing in the region. Chile, along with Argentina and Brazil and other countries, of course, is very much present in Haiti in the MINUSTAH. Haiti is the poorest country in the hemisphere. Haiti needs the help of the United Nations and so we are grateful to Chile for playing that role and grateful for Chile’s involvement in Bosnia, in the Balkans, which is little noted, but is very important.
The most interesting part of the discussions yesterday -- in all of them -- was that they tend to gravitate to the global. Our bilateral relationship is good, we work together well in the region. But what is really interesting about our perspective is that both of us are global countries. We are both Pacific countries. President Bachelet and President Bush will be together in Sydney at the APEC Summit in the first days of September. That’s an important summit for us. We are trying to modernize APEC, make it stronger. We are trying to increase our trade with the rising economies of South East Asia, of China and of course with India. India is not a member of APEC, but India is an important force in the Asia Pacific region.
I think, as we look towards the future and look towards what the future relationship between Chile and the United States will be about, it’s going to be about our global cooperation in agriculture, in science and technology, in energy and high tech. And that is going to be grounded in the fact that we are both parts of not just the Americas, but that we are part of the Pacific as well. If you look at the great opportunities that we have as democracies and free market economies to trade with the free trade market economies of the Pacific, this for us -- the United States of America --is probably one of our most important ambitions. I think we share that with Chile. We had lunch with Secretary General Carlos Portales, who is my counterpart, and he had lots of different officials from the foreign ministry there and the conversation gravitated towards that issue, which I found to be very interesting. We also talked about the Middle East. We talked about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. We talked about Iraq a little bit, we talked about Iran to some considerable extent. So it was a wide range in conversation.
The last thing I’d say is this. My final point. I’m here with Charles Shapiro, who is our number two official in our western hemisphere bureau -- he used to work here in this embassy so you might remember him. He worked here a decade ago so we started our trip here. I’m going on to Montevideo in Uruguay, I’ll meet Tom Shannon there -- our Assistant Secretary-- and we’ll see President Vazquez, and the Foreign Minister and lots of other people there and then we go to Brasilia to meet Foreign Minister (Celso) Amorim and many of his colleagues and to participate in an Innovation Summit. I think that the future of the Americas will be to take our democratic market economies and try to orient them towards being competitive on a global basis. That is what this Innovation Summit in Brasilia is about. I also think that as we look at our own hemisphere, we’ve got to be concerned with making democracy work. President Bachelet made this point to us yesterday. She said, “Democracies need to work for people.” And I said to her I very much agree. My government very much agrees.
We had a conference in Washington yesterday -- a White House conference on Latin America, which was not about people like me, or Ambassador Kelly, or our Chilean counterparts. It was about NGOs, aid organizations, businesses. There are both government to government ties, but there are also more important private sector, NGO ties, and so the conference yesterday focused on that. When Secretary Rice spoke, nearly her entire remarks focused on the issue of social justice, that we democracies need to make sure that whatever we do -- whether its free trade, agriculture, energy cooperation
-- we make sure that the poorest people in the hemisphere in my country, in your country, in Haiti, have access to education, have access to a job, have access to health care. And this is the theme that President Bush talked a lot about when he was in South America in March, and it’s one that we feel is very important for the future of our policies. So I wanted to mention that, because this was the theme of yesterday’s conference in Washington. So, those are my opening remarks, I’m happy to talk about anything that is on your mind.
QUESTION: It seems that there is a new strategy towards Latin America. Your trip… (inaudible)
UNDER SECRETARY BURNS: Secretary Paulson is going to be here, our Secretary of the Treasury...(inaudible)
UNDER SECRETARY BURNS: Yes.
QUESTION: And Mr. Gates was going to come, and the conference. Is there a new strategy or is this simply an answer to the critics that you have neglected Latin America?
UNDER SECRETARY BURNS: Well, our strategy is to try to increase our engagement in Central America, the Caribbean, and South America. For us this is our hemisphere, it is yours and ours. It belongs to everyone and we have to be successful here. And the agenda in the Americas, part of my job is to follow -- I’m not responsible for events all around the world -- but I observe and try to follow them. I think our relationships with Chile, Brazil, Mexico, all the countries in this region are different than with the countries of any other region. Because they embody all the issues that real people have and are involved with – immigration, migration, drugs, terrorism, health care, economic opportunities, social justice. The issues of every day people. So we have to be engaged. Our policy is to be engaged.
So our Secretary of the Treasury is here this week, I’m here to talk about our political and foreign policy cooperation, Secretary (Robert) Gates will come back. The President was here several months ago and we had this conference yesterday. It’s all designed to say: This is an important region for us. This may be our most important region in the world in which to engage. So that’s the strategy.
Sometimes you don’t go to countries that are friends just when there are problems or crisis. You go sometimes just to take the temperature, just to listen, to exchange views. There is no crisis between the United States and Chile. There is no major, major problem. Chile is a friend, a good friend, and so you want to keep in touch. That’s why I came.
QUESTION: I’m sorry, but the common citizen in the street says, if we are so important for the United States, why do we feel like we are not? Maybe the answer for the common citizen -- I have to be honest -- is because we don’t have oil. Maybe today we are more important now because (Hugo) Chavez is in the region. So for balance, we will become more important for the United Sates. But the common citizen feels Chile and South America are not truly important for the United States.
UNDER SECRETARY BURNS: I’d say two things. This has nothing to do with Chavez. We have a positive agenda in our foreign policy toward South America, Central America, and the Caribbean. You know, he is going to do what he has to do. His policies, I think, are backward looking. They are the failed policies of the past. He is not with the global wave of innovation, of focusing on science and technology, of market economy which is what is happening in China and Japan, South East Asia, what is happening in Eastern Europe, what is happening in some of the African countries. He’s behind that wave. So we are not going to measure ourselves against him. He is not that big an issue in Washington. You come to Washington, D.C., pick up The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, The Washington Post, he’s not in the news very much. What is in the news is we have an ethanol agreement, a biofuel agreement with Brazil. That’s in the news. The immigration debate that is in my country about what kind of immigration policy we should have towards Mexico, that’s in the news. The fact that we have an opportunity to stabilize Haiti, that’s more often in the news. So, we don’t measure ourselves against him.
The other thing I’d say is, look, this is a tough time for us in the Middle East. And so the attention of the United States, that percentage of time that we spend on Iraq, Iran, the Israeli and Palestinian crisis, that’s very high. But that’s because the Middle East is in crisis. That’s because there are wars there. Fortunately, South America is not in that condition. You have growing economies and in Chile you have a great economy. You are lifting people out of poverty, you have a stable democracy. So when we come down here there is no crisis. We don’t have to have major negotiations, because there is no crisis. But we are friends. Isn’t that a better situation than the one we find ourselves in the Middle East? I think it is. So maybe, if we have a calm relationship that is not always in the headlines, maybe that’s a very good thing. I feel it is, as someone who observers world events.
QUESTION: No news is good news… (laughter)
UNDER SECRETARY BURNS: Well, hopefully the reason I am doing this press briefing is so that we have a little bit of news. We’d like to have a little bit of news, but maybe it’s positive rather than negative.
QUESTION: The United States has been very reluctant in dealing with global warming. It hasn’t signed Kyoto Protocol, and up to now the position of the White House has been of bad science in terms of the research done on global warming. So, this concern, and the fact that you are raising this in a bilateral way, when the European Union approach is that this has to be addressed through United Nations and that there should be a global agreement for a global problem and the fact that the United States has refused to sign any kind of agreement committing to reducing emissions…. (inaudible)
UNDER SECRETARY BURNS: Yes. I can tell you this. Global climate change is a major global problem. I believe that. Our President believes it and I think the great majority of American people believe it. One of the interesting things about our country, I find as a citizen, is I think that environmental issue are becoming for the average American, United States citizen very important.
So the country is greening a little bit. Our governors across the country are concerned about it, President Bush articulated a new proposal on climate change in early June before the G-8 summit. I think that at Sydney, at APEC, global climate change will be a major issue. At the United Nations in the third week of September, Ban Ki Moon has called a meeting on climate change, and then we have called a meeting in Washington for November with the largest emitters of greenhouse gases. Our view is that we do need a global solution. I agree with you on that. China and India -- China now the largest emitter of carbon gases and India an increasingly large emitter -- need to be part of a global solution.
And, you know, I’m not here to criticize Kyoto as a professional diplomat. It’s true that we did not agree -- we are not part of it, our Senate did not ratify that agreement although the Clinton Administration supported it. Our problem with Kyoto has been: It does not include the major economies that have the majority of responsibility for the problem and so any -- as President Bush said -- any future agreement has to capture China and India, and the United States, and Europe, and the countries of Latin America, and the rest of the world. So we have to have some kind of effort that all of us can agree on. Kyoto was one way. Kyoto is not going to resolve the problem. It won’t. So we have to devise a successor regime that will.
But we are very sincere in believing that there is a problem. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, those 1,200 scientists have spoken. Who is to argue with them if there is a problem? We now need to devise a solution that makes sense. And we talked about this with President Bachelet yesterday, with the Energy Minister, Mr. Tokman, with the Foreign Minister. This is a major issue, it is high on the international agenda and high on the America agenda. We are concerned about it. And we know that Americans have a responsibility to be part of the solution.
QUESTION: I want to talk about Mr. Chavez, President of Venezuela. Considering your career in Russia during the Clinton government, I would want to talk about Chavez’ latest trip and the relations with Vladimir Putin. What do you think about it?
UNDER SECRETARY BURNS: I guess I would say that it is not our responsibility or interest to comment on Russia’s relationship with Venezuela. That is between the two of them. I’ll comment about America’s relationship with Venezuela. We don’t have a good one. We don’t think that Chavez is as committed to democratic rule as all of us should be here in the hemisphere. We think his economic policies of nationalizing industries of denying the virtues of a competitive economy, unfortunately, are not going to work. They are the policies of thirty years ago, not the policies of 21st Century. But we don’t worry too much about him. He does not have a real impact on the United States. He does not have much influence in the United States, so we don’t think of him very much. Frankly, we don’t. You know, we are more interested in positive relationships with Brazil, with Chile, Uruguay, Panama, Peru, Mexico, the Central American countries, Colombia, Ecuador. You know we have opened up the doors to Evo Morales, to President Correa, we are trying to have a relationship with Daniel Ortega. We are reaching out to the left…
QUESTION: (Interrupting) You are not worried about Chavez?
UNDER SECRETARY BURNS: We are reaching out to the center, we are reaching out to the center-right in South America. But Chavez is just not that much of an issue for us in the United States. We don’t think his policies are right.
QUESTION: It doesn’t seem like that.
UNDER SECRETARY BURNS: Well we don’t talk. When President Bush came to South America I don’t believe he ever mentioned him.
QUESTION: That could be, but that is not important.
UNDER SECRETARY BURNS: Our relationship, you know we had a great ambassador in Caracas, Bill Brownfield. One of our best ambassadors.
QUESTION: He’s leaving.
UNDER SECRETARY BURNS: He’s leaving, his tour is up. His three years are up. The Venezuelan government could have dealt with a really fine ambassador. They kind of did not want to work with him in a serious way. That is their choice. They make their own choices, they live by their choices. The agenda in the Americas is to focus all of us on global competitiveness, on science and technology, on the future. This is what the world market is going to be like. He is not part of that solution. Chile is, Brazil is, Colombia is, Panama is. So we are going to focus on those countries.
UNDER SECRETARY BURNS: Of course (laughter), I just named a couple, of course Peru. One more thing. I also talked yesterday to President Bachelet and the Foreign Minister and the others about the importance of these free trade agreements. We have proposed them with Colombia, with Panama, and with Peru, and we are going to work very, very hard to convince the United States Senate and the Democratic majority in our Senate that these are worthy of support and they should be fully agreed by the Congress as well as the Administration. That is important, I think that is the real answer to Chavez: The future is not building walls around your country, denying free trade, artificial intervention in the economy, nationalizing competitive industries. The future is trade, competitiveness.
What has happened to Chile? You had this enormous growth in your economy, you had a lot of people leave the ranks of the poor and enter the middle class. The same thing has happened in India. India is a country of a billion people. There are now 300 million people in the middle class. Did they get there by nationalizing industries? No, the economic reforms of 1991 in India, which opened India up to a competitive global environment launched the high-tech revolution in India. Same in China. So if you look at the truly successful economies in the world, China, India, Estonia and Eastern Europe, Ireland in the Atlantic and Western Europe, these are all economies, Chile in South America, who have said “We are willing to compete in the global marketplace, we are willing to put our people on the line and to compete,” and you have prospered. The economies that are largely failing are the ones that build walls around their countries and try to implement policies that we tried in the 1960s and the 1970s. So that would be my answer about what is important in this hemisphere.
QUESTION: Yeah, but one last question about the same thing? I think the visit of President Bush is a reaction to the action of Hugo Chavez.
UNDER SECRETARY BURNS: No. I must say no. President Bush has made eleven trips in the Americas, North, Central, and South, since he came into office. We are engaged in this hemisphere. Most of our cabinet secretaries are visiting this year. We are engaged because it is in our interest to be engaged, because our economic interests our on the line, because we need to work well with the countries of Latin America. That is why he went to, that is why President Bush made his trip.
QUESTION: Mr. Burns, regarding what you were talking about the FTAs. You don’t have the support of the fast track right now. So what is your position to negotiate with Colombia and South Korea, which are known for being the problematic agreements, and to go to the APEC meeting to talk about the Doha Round without the fast track support?
UNDER SECRETARY BURNS: Well, we are still a country that is interested in free trade as much as we can do that, and so these trade agreements are very important. They are a very important symbol of the commitment of the United States to this region, of our ability to be competitive and to have good relations with countries, and to try to help countries address the real problems of poverty and lack of social justice, and all the other problems that poor people have, particularly in the Andes, with the indigenous people in the Andes.
And so that’s why Peru, and Colombia, as well as Panama, of course, are so important these free, and we are going to argue for them. The President and Secretary Rice and the other officials of our government will argue very strongly with Congress. This is an important moment. And if you want to focus on Chavez, and I guess you all do (laughter) -- I understand, because you are writing newspaper articles -- I understand. This is the answer to Chavez: That we in the Americas build our economies, all of us, on free trade, on competitiveness. That’s the answer, that’s why we have to come through in our country with these free trade agreements.
QUESTION: But how are you going to convince the Democratic majority that terrorism in Colombia is not a problem for a Free Trade Agreement?
UNDER SECRETARY BURNS: Well, I think that we have. Many members the Democratic Party are supporting them, but they, you know, some of them Congress had asked for environmental and labor standards. We have tried to accommodate that desire by our negotiations with the Colombian government and the others, and there is also a concern about the demobilization of some of the militia in Colombia, and we have tried to deal with that as well. So it is a dialogue. Some of the members will be traveling, of Congress, to these countries, and we want to work with them over the course of the summer to see if we can all agree to ratify these trade agreements.
QUESTION: Mr. Burns, you said that the United States has very good relations with Chile, Brazil, Argentina, and that Venezuela is not an issue for Washington…
UNDER SECRETARY BURNS: Not a big issue.
QUESTION: …(inaudible) and, my question is, what happened with the relationship between the United States and the friends of Mr. Chavez in countries like Bolivia, Ecuador and Nicaragua?
UNDER SECRETARY BURNS: Well, when President Evo Morales was elected, when President Correa was elected, when President Daniel Ortega was elected, President Bush called them, and we sent delegations to their inaugurations. Secretary Rice met with President Morales here in Santiago a couple of years ago. So we have tried to be very respectful of them, they won democratic elections, we want to give them a chance to work well with us, and I think in some cases we have been able to do that. Not in all. And we will have our doors open to good cooperation with Nicaragua as well as Bolivia, of course as well with Ecuador, and there is a lot that we can do to help each other.
And I think that, you know, we realize that in the Americas you have governments of all types. You have left governments, you have center governments, you have right governments, we should be dealing with all of them, all of them, and we should be trying our best to see if we can. It is the job of us in government not just to argue with each other all the time, but to actually try to produce policies that help people in my country and in your country, and so that is what we try to do. We succeed in some cases better than in others, you know, some relationships are closer, our relationship with Chile is closer than our relationship with some other countries because we have more in common with Chile in terms of how we think about government, how we think about the world. Chile and the United States are two of the outward looking countries. It was really interesting that the conversation here in Santiago was different than in other capitals that I go to. It was more about APEC, more about the East, far East, the Pacific, the Middle East, than in other countries, because that’s where your economy and your attention is going.
QUESTION: That’s the case that Chile is so much focused on the economy, and Chile, in many aspects its foreign policy is an economic policy, but that is not the case for the rest of Latin America. The main conflicts in Latin America, as you might well know, are the indigenous populations and to say to those people, “open to free trade,” if you see the case of the Zapatistas in Chiapas, or in Ecuador, or in Bolivia, those people will be seriously affected and I think one of the problems with the Washington Consensus is that it didn’t solve the problems of large numbers of people in Brazil, people with no land, and so on. So there is not one formula, and you seem to be putting forward free trade as the solution to everything.
UNDER SECRETARY BURNS: No. I think a democracy is also part of that. We believe in democracy and free trade in our country, but we are not the only ones to believe in that. India is the largest democracy in the world, it’s soon to be the largest country in the world by population. It now, for sixteen years, has been embarked on free trade. India is the fastest growing major economy in the world. India has done more for its poor people than any other country in the world. As I said, 300 million people in the middle class, that is as many people as live in my own country, and that has all happened over the last 25 or 30 years, of those Indians have climbed out of poverty. Why has it happened, because of access to education. Because of government policies that try to build a base of support for people, and because of trade. India is now a high-tech competitor as well as collaborator with the United States.
QUESTION: But now Latin America…(inaudible)
UNDER SECRETARY BURNS: Why should Latin America be different? Chile has proven that you can be competitive globally because of the intelligence of your people and a knowledge economy, and the world is becoming a knowledge economy. And so why can’t the people of the Andes have that chance, why can’t the people of Peru and Colombia have the same chance that the people of Chile or my country have had. They should. I’m not saying, we are not saying that free trade is a panacea, it doesn’t resolve all problems in the world. We still have many problems in our own country. We have poor people in our country, we have environmental problems in our country, sometimes we have problems with justice in the United States. We are not perfect. So our free trade democratic system has not resolved all problems, but we are a better country because of that, because we have adopted these principles and stood by them and, I think, the majority of countries in this Hemisphere are on this line. It’s really the minority Cuba, Venezuela, that are going in completely different direction, frankly against the tide that most of the world believes is the best way to help the poor people that you talk about and that’s important. So that’s how I’d answer your question.
QUESTION: But put people in Bolivia, for instance, who need education and not the policy of eradication of coca, for instance. That has been a problem for the relationship between Bolivia and Washington. What do you think about that? How can Washington help Bolivia in that way?
UNDER SECRETARY BURNS: You can’t, we can’t focus on one problem. There are many problems that you have to deal with in any relationship and, obviously, trade can do certain things, access to education, and a knowledge economy can do certain things to help people. And it is not in the long-term interest of the people of Bolivia or Colombia, or the United States, or Peru, to have trafficking of cocaine from Latin America to our country. It’s not in our country’s interest and it’s not productive, it’s not a long-term productive investment for the people of that region.
QUESTION: I don’t think that way.
UNDER SECRETARY BURNS: I respectfully disagree. I don’t think that you can build a successful long-term economy on that and you certainly can’t build long-term successful relationships, so we don’t focus just on one issue. We have to focus on a number of issues in our relations with these countries.
But I do think the trends, if you watch the trends, the trends are very positive for those countries in our hemisphere, and Chile and the United States are maybe the best examples that if you have accountable democratic government, if you are willing to trust people to determine the economic future of the country and not trying to direct everything from the capital, and if you pay attention to health care, education, and to justice, then you can build successful societies, and successful economies. So this is a high, you live in a very, from a foreigner’s perspective you are a very successful country, you have one of the most successful countries in the region. I would think that would be something good to celebrate. That’s how we feel in coming here as foreigners.
QUESTION: The United States has been very criticized for Guantanamo Bay. What is you opinion about it and two or three weeks ago the international press said that President Bush is studying to close Guantanamo. Is that right?
UNDER SECRETARY BURNS: President Bush has spoken in the past about his wish to close Guantanamo in the future. That’s been an aspiration of ours, you know we have a very difficult problem, we fought in Afghanistan and many of the people in Guantanamo come from the battlefields in Afghanistan. We fought there in 2001 against people who were pledged to destroy us and so in a modern warfare we are not fighting against states, we are fighting against small groups of terrorists and lots of different ones. And, in modern warfare it has been difficult to handle this question of what do you do with people when you have captured them in a battlefield, do you just release them so that they can fight you again? Do you incarcerate them and take them off the battlefield, how do you try them? And now our Supreme Court has become involved in actually overturning some of the decisions of our government about what kind of trials those people should have access to.
So in our country it has become a domestic debate, it has become a debate about the rule of law, it has become a debate between the different branches of the government, the Supreme Court and the Executive branch, in our case, and we are trying our best to handle a very difficult situation there in Guantanamo. We have opened it up to international access, …. has been there, the European Union just sent an observer group from the European Parliament of Strasbourg to Guantanamo to report on the conditions there. We try to treat people humanely in terms of their access to food and to water, and obviously to the basic conditions of a confined imprisonment, and we try to make sure that we are doing the right thing in finding the way to handle this problem eventually in a way that will be to the benefit of our country, but also do the right thing in terms of international law.
QUESTION: Another reason for criticizing the United States normally is to say that your government, this government, normally uses foreign threat in order to put together all your citizens as a one and to gather more support for the government, and not necessarily because that threat is real. Do you know what I mean?
UNDER SECRETARY BURNS: Yes, I understand what you mean.
QUESTION: What do you think about this?
UNDER SECRETARY BURNS: I think that’s a fair question. Let me talk about…
QUESTION: From a non conservative…
UNDER SECRETARY BURNS: Okay, let’s take South America as an example. I think it has in the best interest of my government to be positive and inspirational, to have positive goals. We are not trying, when we talk to the American people or the American Congress about Chile, about Brazil, about Colombia, we try not to talk in terms of fear, but in terms of hope. We have an opportunity to have the people of the Americas live under democracies, live in market free economies, to trade, to be competitive in a global competitive market place. We have an opportunity to overcome problems. We can try to help the people, the indigenous people of the Andes. We can try to help people to come out of poverty in our country and yours. These are positives goals and the way to motivate the American people about the Americas is to say we have a lot in common with the people of the Americas, we are part of this hemisphere. So you asked a question about global climate change, we have to all help, and we are responsible as you are responsible for that problem.
I think, this isn’t the politics of fearing and division, it is the politics of hope and progress. And in the Americas, I think we have that largely positive agenda. It’s different in the Middle East. In the Middle East we have been attacked, we have terrorist groups, we have war, we have civil war, we have lack of peace, it is a different agenda.
But, in the Americas it’s more of a positive agenda and that is the way we try to build our policy. When Secretary Rice spoke yesterday in Washington at the Conference of the Americas (http://www.whitehouse.gov/ConferenceAmericas) it was all about hope. She said that, you know, we fought a struggle for social justice in the United States, she did, when she was a young kid, for the rights of African Americans, she said, well that struggle is occurring in parts of Latin America. We should be supporting that struggle, the right of Afro-Latinos, the rights of indigenous people, and the need for social justice, she said this. Her whole speech was about this yesterday. It is quite remarkable, quite remarkable. That is not always how the United States has talked about the Americas.
I think there is a change in the way we see things and there is certainly a change in what we say. And that’s important, rhetoric is important. So I agree with you. We don’t need the politics of fear. And this is, frankly, why Hugo Chavez is such a kind of backward looking leader. Because, what does he do? He criticizes the United States, he criticizes Yankee imperialism, it is politics of divisiveness and negativism, and fear. We are trying to be more positive. Isn’t that a better way to be? I think it is.
QUESTION: Yeah, but…
UNDER SECRETARY BURNS: Do you agree?
QUESTION: I agree in part of it.
UNDER SECRETARY BURNS: Do you agree that we should be positive, not negative?
QUESTION: Yes, I agree. But the point is that my question I wasn’t if you need negative goals, but because its obvious that you don’t. The point is if you use the foreign threats in order to bring together your citizens and to have support. I remember the documentary from Michael Moore and….
UNDER SECRETARY BURNS: Michael Moore.
QUESTION: Yeah. I know that you don’t love him but…
UNDER SECRETARY BURNS: Who said? I happen to like some of his films.
QUESTION: Maybe, but the point is that you use the foreign threats….
UNDER SECRETARY BURNS: I liked his films about automobiles. I haven’t seen the rest.
QUESTION: … Not only about Michael Moore. I have read a lot of experts, not Michael Moore, serious people who say you use the....
UNDER SECRETARY BURNS: That we do Americans, the American government?
QUESTION: The American government uses normally the foreign threat in order to put together...(inaudible)
UNDER SECRETARY BURNS: I’ll try to give you a really serious answer. I tried to give you a serious one before (laughter), another serious answer. I’d say it is a combination of things. Government has a responsibility to protect its people. And so in the modern world there are a lot of dangers out there, and so part of what we have to say to the American people is look we have to spend a lot of money on defense, on arms, to protect ourselves from these horrible threats: Osama bin Laden and Al Qaeda is a mortal threat, they killed a lot of people in our country already. They killed some of my friends in Nairobi, on August 8, 1998, in the bombings in East Africa.
So, we have to be strong, and so part of what we say to the American people is, look, we live in a dangerous world. There is terrorism, there are chemical weapons, biological weapons, there is the nuclear suitcase bomb; You can read in the Internet how to make one, there is global climate change, there is trafficking in women, there is drug trafficking, there are criminal cartels. These are all negative. And so we say to the American people, we need to spend money to confront these dangers. But the other part of government is to try to inspire people and say, you know, we can overcome racial discrimination, as we have largely done in our country over 50 years. We can overcome poverty, as the Indians are trying top do, as you are trying to do. So part of it has to be positive too, governments have to do both.
But in the Americas I do see, and I’m not a Latin American expert, I have not lived here, I have not studied here. Charles (Shapiro) is a Latin America Expert, Craig (Kelly) is a Latin America expert, they can answer this question better than I can. But I see, if I compare our agenda with the Middle East, or our agenda with South Asia, Pakistan, Afghanistan, India, versus our agenda with the Americas, I think our agenda here is much more positive and aspirational, and is hopeful. It’s your agenda too, by the way, its not just the American government’s agenda, it’s Chile’s, it’s Brazil’s, it’s Lula’s. I think Lula has made a great contribution. He reminds people that government exists to help poor people, not just rich people. And frankly, that’s a good thing for a good leader remind other leaders about in other countries about. So we try to follow that example by saying, okay, we need to be concerned with social justice, in United Sates, in Latin America. That is positive. So I take your question, its a very good question. How does government talk to its own people, but I think I will give you that answer.
QUESTION: You have spent a lot of money and a lot of your budget on defense and in the war in Iraq.
UNDER SECRETARY BURNS: Yes.
QUESTION: But, a survey released today says that only 29 percent of the American people agree with war. Is that a failure for your government?
UNDER SECRETARY BURNS: You know, I think its important, I don’t think its possible to take a snap shot one day – what is today, July 10th, 2007 and say, well it is a success or a failure? It is an ongoing process. We went into Iraq 4 years ago. You may agree with that, you may disagree with that. In my world, the world of diplomacy, when I talk to the Sunni Arab States, the neighbors of Iraq, they tell us “don’t leave”. We talk to the government of Iraq and it says to us, “please don’t leave”. So the battle now is not the battle of four years ago, were we right or not to go in -- our government thought it was the correct thing to do -- obviously, the battle now is can we help a new government trying to build a democracy with various power centers? Can the Shia and Sunni combine forces to take back the country? There is terrible terrorism in the streets, the streets are not safe in Bagdad. They are having trouble controlling the borders, the Syrian border, the Iranian border. So, our obligation is to say okay, what is the right thing for us to do now? It would be very easy to say, “Well, it’s too hard, we are just going to go home.” But that wouldn’t be very responsible, in my judgment. I think the more responsible thing is to say well, let us try to figure out the best strategy to help us succeed and help the Iraqis succeed. So I don’t know if we would know the end of the story, maybe, for many years.
QUESTION: On the Middle East, let me ask on Iran. I mean the United States is sending a third aircraft carrier; it is a huge concentration of fire power. How you see that crisis evolving?
UNDER SECRETARY BURNS: Well we are seeking a diplomatic solution to the problem, to the many problems with Iran. On the one hand, Iran is trying to build nuclear weapons capability. Nobody wants that. So China, Russia, United States and Europe are united in a group. In a meeting next Monday with all these countries in London to try to say, to say the Iranians, look we would like to help you build a civil nuclear power system in Iran, but we are not going to let you build nuclear weapons, please negotiate with us. We offered to negotiate June 1, 2006, 13 months ago, and the Iranians said no. We offered last week, and a week before, but they said no. So I think what we will have to do is sponsor a Chapter 7 sanctions resolution, the third one, and we will introduce it in a couple of weeks in New York, to try to convince the Iranians through economic pressure that they should negotiate with us and not continue to seek a nuclear weapons capability.
We have an extraordinary international coalition: China supports this, Russia supports this, all the European Union, the United States. Japan supports it, Brazil, Egypt, India, Indonesia, South Africa, have all voted for these sanctions against Iran. So we have a united world against Iran. The second thing is this: Iran is funding Hezbollah, Hamas and the Shiite militants in Iraq. So Iran is a problem, because it is funding and fueling the wars in Iraq, in the West Bank in Gaza, and in Lebanon. And so Iran is a mayor disturber of the peace. It’s not a very popular country. Take a trip to the Gulf. Go to Saudi Arabia, go to the United Arab Emirates, go to Kuwait, and ask them about Iran. They don’t think Iran is a very good neighbor. Ask the government of Iraq about Iran and you will see that there are some problems there as well. So this is our agenda, we try to seek a diplomatic solution. But to be tough minded and tell the Iranians that they need to act more responsibly and work more toward peace and not to help fuel wars in the Middle East. It is a very serious international problem, but there is a high degree of international consensus on what to do about Iran, I’m pleased to say.
And Chile is a member of the board of Governors of the International Atomic Energy Agency. And the IAEA has been trying for years to get Iran to answer basic questions, and there is an IAEA delegation today, July 10, in Teheran, saying why have you refused to answer about the Arak heavy water reactor? Why have you refused to answer about you experiments in P2 centrifuge technologies? These are the questions that the organization where Chile and the United States are in the board are asking today. So the Iranians, are very isolated , very isolated in the world, with very few friends, they need to be more honest with all of us and be more peaceful. And we are seeking a diplomatic solution, we are still on a diplomatic course.
QUESTION: So Mr. Burns do you have the name of the man that will replace Mr. Kelly?
UNDER SECRETARY BURNS: Do I have the name of the man? No, President Bush has that name, but he has not yet revealed it so we all have to wait. In our government the presidents, the President, he makes all these decisions and all these announcements, not me. It’s a hierarchical government, so it’s going to be hard to replace Craig Kelly. Craig has been a great ambassador. You know, Craig is a person with a positive agenda and I think the relations with Chile have been extraordinarily good under his leadership from the American side. So the President is looking for someone who can do that kind of a job and when the President is ready he will announce Craig’s replacement. Good try, though
UNDER SECRETARY BURNS: What else, what other questions did we miss? Anything? Did we miss a question?
QUESTION: I was wondering about the agenda of the United States in the APEC meeting. You talked about global climate change…
UNDER SECRETARY BURNS: Yes, very definitely, global climate change, trade, lowering barriers for trade, trying to deal with some of the regional problems. It is a big region the Pacific, Asia, and we feel that the American spine -- that’s not a very good word--, the American part of APEC is very important -- Canada and the United States, and Chile -- and we want to make sure that we are representing our hemisphere well when we talk to the Chinese and the Japanese and the other countries of Asia and the Pacific region. So it is, for us, APEC is the most important Pacific and Asia regional organization. So we are thinking hard about this summit. It should be a positive summit and I thank you for asking the question about climate change .I think it is, no question about it, it is one of the top issues in the world today. O.K., thank you very much.
END TRANSCRIPT *******
Released on July 10, 2007