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Remarks With Mexican Foreign Secretary Patricia Espinosa and Canadian Foreign Minister Maxime Bernier After Their Meeting

Secretary Condoleezza Rice
Loy Henderson Auditorium
Washington, DC
April 8, 2008

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SECRETARY RICE: Good morning. I am pleased to welcome my colleagues, the Foreign Minister* of Mexico, Foreign Minister* Espinosa and the Foreign Minister of Canada, Foreign Minister Bernier, to this meeting. We have had an opportunity to discuss a number of issues this morning, and we will continue over lunch to go further into our discussions. Obviously, the relationship between the United States, Canada and Mexico is one of the most critical from the point of view of American foreign policy. The President said very early on that a good foreign policy begins in the neighborhood, and we have no closer and more important neighbors than Canada and Mexico.

We meet today, in part, to prepare the work for a leaders meeting that will take place in New Orleans, which we very much look forward to. It is a meeting that will, first of all, review the progress and give direction to the Security and Prosperity Partnership. This SPP has been a very useful mechanism for organizing the multifaceted work that Canada, the United States and Mexico undertake together. It is work that bridges all of the important issues: security, trade, prosperity. It also has permitted the leaders to engage the public – the private sector and civil society through the North American Competitiveness Council. And they look forward to, again, engaging that council, because, obviously, trade and prosperity and a good life for the people of North America is not just the work of governments alone.

We have also had an opportunity to talk about the other part of the leaders agenda, which is the many regional and global issues of concern to us. We talked about the importance of free trade, the importance not just to the conclusion of the Doha round, but the importance of NAFTA, how it has benefited all of our populations. We talked also about free trade agreements that are emerging in the rest of the hemisphere, and I was able to talk a little bit about the efforts to get passage of the Colombia Free Trade Agreement, which the President sent to Congress yesterday and which he very much looks forward to working cooperatively with the Congress to get a vote and, hopefully, the passage of that agreement.

We talked about the importance of fighting the scourge of drugs and crime in our hemisphere, and particularly in North America, and about the key work that we are doing, the United States is doing with Mexico in the Merida Initiative, which President Calderon and President Bush began when the President visited Mexico last year. This is an effort to improve security and safety for the people of Mexico, for the people of the United States. And we did indeed talk about how we can better coordinate our efforts on the fighting of crime also in other parts of the hemisphere, for instance, with the Caribbean and with Central America; Central America, of course, having an element of the Merida Initiative.

Finally, we talked about some of the regional issues that are facing the Organization of American States and the Summit of the Americas. And we will continue that discussion over lunch as we look at issues as disparate as Cuba, concerns about the neighborhood, and our joint desire to see this hemisphere be one that trades in freedom, that seeks prosperity and social justice for its people and that does all of this in the framework of democracy and good neighborliness.

So thank you very much for joining me, and now I’ll turn to my colleague, Patricia Espinosa, for a few comments. And then we’ll take questions after the two ministers have spoken.

FOREIGN SECRETARY ESPINOSA: Thank you. Thank you very much, Secretary Rice. I want to say, first of all, that we are very grateful to have this opportunity today to have this exchange and prepare for our leaders’ meeting in a couple of weeks in New Orleans. As you have heard, Secretary Rice has highlighted all the issues that we have discussed this morning. I would like to stress maybe a couple of points.

First of all, the fact that there is a very clear dimension of foreign policy for the growing – of the growing interaction between the countries of North America. We need to have this exchange of opinion not only about the issues that relate to our trilateral relationship, but also about global issues, hemispheric issues, issues that affect the lives of our citizens every day. And very specifically, we have spoken about one initiative, which is to act jointly in cases of disasters in Latin America and the Caribbean. This is, in our view, a very important initiative. We will be putting our efforts together to establish a fund so that we can act together when – immediately when there is a disaster situation. And this fund may be limited, but we are also looking to other options, other areas of cooperation in order to strengthen and further that kind of cooperation, and that the three countries act together in the region.

I would like to mention, regarding the commitment to free trade, that this was also one of the important issues discussed. We are certain that the leaders will take up this particular issue. And here, I want to raise also the question that Mexico has a free trade agreement with Colombia, and we are very hopeful that the U.S. Congress will also give importance to the ratification of the free trade agreement between the U.S. and Colombia.

We have also discussed that we should strengthen and make a permanent commitment with the continuity of this high-level dialogue in North America at all levels and particularly at the level of heads of state and government. The meeting of the summit of the leaders of North America reflects then not only what Secretary Rice has already mentioned, the SPP agenda, but also an agenda that goes beyond these issues that are -- have been traditionally part of their security and prosperity agenda. And this is something that we are certain that will emerge as a result of the leaders meeting.

Thank you.

FOREIGN MINISTER BERNIER: Thank you, Secretary Rice. And I will be quick and – because we – sorry – yes, I’ll be quick. We were at the same meeting. So we discussed what is important for our countries. And as you know, we want to ensure that North America is a secure and economically dynamic region. This is important for us, but this is also important for our citizens. And yes, we discussed the agenda for the next meeting in New Orleans. Our leaders will be there and they will discuss issues that are shared concern. And also, we discussed the free trade agreement that we are having together, NAFTA, but the importance of free trade. It is important for the prosperity of our countries that we succeed in a free trade agreement. And I raised with my colleagues the negotiation that we’re having in Canada with the Colombian Government for having a free trade agreement with them.

And I hope that we’ll be successful in a couple of months to have the final agreement. It is important for Colombia, it is important for Canadians, and we want to be sure that entrepreneurs from Colombia will be able to sell their goods to Canadians and vice versa, that Canadians will be able to buy goods from Colombia. And I don’t see the – a government interfere in that. We believe in free trade and economic freedom. So if it’s good for Canadians, it is good at the end for Colombians also. And our free trade agreement that we signed a couple of years ago, it’s an example of a success of a free trade agreement and economic freedom that can bring prosperity and -- to our citizen. So I hope that as a country, we’ll be able in Canada to have a free trade agreement with Colombia as soon as possible.

And also we, as you know, discussed the security, like Secretary Espinosa just said. And it is important to have economic freedom between our three countries, but also to have a security partnership together. So at the end, it is important to have this kind of meeting because we’re neighbors and we must discuss the things that we want to discuss together. And I’m very pleased to have this meeting. And as you know, we will have our meetings because we have a lot of issues together and we share the same values that, in our foreign policy, it is important for our country to promote human rights and economic freedom. And we want to do that when we have other meetings at the international level, like OAS and other kind of meetings.

So I'm very pleased for the invitation. I want to thank you, Secretary Rice for this invitation, and we'll see each other in the near future and our leaders will be in New Orleans to discuss issues that are important for our countries. So thank you very much.

(In French.) (Via interpreter.) In French I would like to add and say that we had a very productive meeting. I'm very happy with this meeting. We have talked about the relations among our three countries, mostly about our economic relations, the partnership for security and prosperity that we talked about and also our own free trade agreement. And I also said that Canada wants to sign a free trade agreement with Colombia. This is very important for our citizens, for the economic prosperity of our country, but also for the economic prosperity of Colombia.

We have also launched the basis for our leaders, who are going to meet at the end of this month in New Orleans, so that they will be in a position to discuss the issues that we share and also talk about other issues that have an impact on our countries. These meetings are always important because they allow for a discussion among ourselves about our priorities. So we talked about the agenda of our leaders meeting at the end of the month, and I can tell you that this meeting will be very productive for our leaders as the meeting today was very profitable to the three of us.

Thank you.

QUESTION: Secretary Rice, Assistant Secretary Hill today in Singapore, said that he and Kim Kye-gwan had addressed all the issues that needed to be addressed. Do you believe that you are now close to getting from the North Koreans a complete and correct declaration that addresses uranium enrichment and your proliferation concerns?

And on Iran, President Ahmadi-Nejad is quoted today as saying that Iran is going to install 6,000 new centrifuges at Natanz. Given that statement, is the United States at all disposed to improve the June 2006 offer made by the P-5+1 and that I gather will be discussed by the political directors coming up?

And then -- forgive me, a last one -- (laughter) -- that I think has to be dealt with. Can you -- I wonder why you haven't made a sort of a Shermanesque denial about this speculation that you might want to run for -- that you might run vice president? Can you just put -- lay that to rest for all of us?

SECRETARY RICE: All right. Of the three questions that you asked, Arshad, let me say that on the North Korea issue, I've received only a preliminary report from Chris Hill. I've not yet had an opportunity to talk with him, although I plan to do that in the next few hours.

I think that we have a lot of work to do with North Korea. If there has been some progress, that's a good thing. But I think we will have to assess what it is we have -- what it is that is remaining to do.

The importance here is to complete the phase two obligations of the two sides so that we can move back -- of the six parties -- so that we can move back to the schedule for trying to deal with the denuclearization of the North Korean Peninsula -- of the Korean Peninsula. But I don't yet have a full report from Chris Hill and we'll see what remains to be done.

As to Iran, I can't substantiate the claims, and there are always multiple claims coming out of Iran about progress on this or progress on that. I don't think that the underlining situation has changed, which is that Iran faces three separate Security Council resolutions. Iran faces the continued isolation in the international community because it will not take a reasonable offer from the international community to have another way. And the six parties have put forward, I think, a very generous set of incentives should Iran agree to live up to the obligations that any state has when a Security Council resolution is passed. So I can't verify the claims, but I don't think the underlying situation has changed here.

And finally, let me just say, first of all, that Senator McCain is an extraordinary American, a really outstanding leader, and obviously, a great patriot. That said, I'm going back to Stanford or back to California, west of the Mississippi. I very much look forward to watching this campaign and voting as a voter. I have a lot of work to do. Just this morning – you’ve just asked me a question about trying to complete the denuclearization of North Korea. I was on the phone with Abu Mazen this morning about his meetings yesterday with Prime Minister Olmert. I was on the phone this morning with the new Pakistani Foreign Minister, with Ban Ki-moon about issues concerning Darfur and issues concerning Kosovo. This is obviously a very busy agenda, and here I sit with my Mexican and Canadian counterparts on hemispheric issues. So I have a lot of work to do, and then I’ll happily go back to Stanford.

QUESTION: (Off-mike.) This is a question for Secretary Rice (inaudible) --

SECRETARY RICE: I’m sorry. What?

QUESTION: Sorry. Yes, the question has to do with violence at the U.S.-Mexico border. The official message from Washington is usually one of confidence of -- on the Mexican Government’s ability in having the situation under control. But just last week, at the same time, your -- the U.S. Ambassador to Mexico said that you are considering already another travel advisory for your citizens while visiting Mexico. How do you reconcile these two visions?

And regarding the recent Supreme Court decision on the Medellin case, will the Administration push Congress to pass legislation so that the Avena decision could be implemented in the U.S.?

SECRETARY RICE: Well, the Supreme Court has spoken on this case and, as you know, the Administration filed in favor of what we believe to be our international obligations. We were obviously disappointed that the ruling came out as it did, but that is the way the ruling came out. And I’ve not yet had an opportunity to follow up with the Attorney General about other steps that we might take, but we take very seriously our international obligations. But obviously, we take as our primary responsibility to carry out the law of the land, as it has been determined by the Supreme Court.

As to the violence on the border, we do have confidence in the Mexican Government and we have great cooperation, which is why this Merida Initiative is so important. The Mexican Government wants to be able to discharge its responsibilities in terms of fighting crime for both the citizens of Mexico and the citizens of the United States, and that’s why we are very determined that this Merida Initiative, which will give more capability to the Mexican Government and enhance cooperation between us so that we can exercise our responsibilities for our respective citizens, is so important.

When we issue a travel advisory, it is not by any means a vote of no confidence in our partners. It tries to take the circumstances as we see them -- and by the way, these travel advisories are not even done at the level of the political level. They are done by looking at the situation on the ground. But by no means should it be taken as a vote of -- as a comment on the capacity of the Mexican Government or the commitment of the Mexican Government. But I just want to emphasize again that is why President Calderon and President Bush have structured this Merida Initiative, which we are now hoping to get fully funded in Congress.

FOREIGN SECRETARY ESPINOSA: I would like to add on these two particular issues. Of course, we have been in contact regarding the Medellin case with the State Department and we have expressed also our disappointment at the outcome of the decision of the Supreme Court. We have also expressed that the Mexican Government is going to use all the means that we have at our disposal in order to make steps to help the process of reconsideration of this decision possible. We are very much hopeful.

On the other hand, of course, the Mexican Government will continue to support those Mexicans that are on the death row, and this will mean that we are going to strengthen our program, legal program, to support these people.

On the other hand, regarding the violence in the Mexico-U.S. border, I want to mention that I was at the U.S. border, part of the Mexico-U.S. border, about two weeks ago. And there is a lot of work being done at the operational level between agents on the U.S. side and the Mexican police. This really reflects and complements what we are working at the political level. I was able to discuss very openly the different situations of aggressions against the border patrol, and also how they respond and how we can avoid these incidents.

And I want to say that, in fact, because of this cooperation, in the Tijuana-San Diego border in the last months, the incidents of violence, of this kind of violence, have really significantly decreased in about 70 percent.

QUESTION: (Off-mike.) Okay, sorry about that. A question -- a two-part question, one for Minister Espinosa. What can you tell Canadians about what’s being done to expedite or fast-track the case of Brenda Martin and when there can be a resolution in that court case?

And the second question for Minister Bernier. Omar Khadr is back in court in Guantanamo this week. Last week, you said that he was apparently unlawfully recruited by al-Qaida and that you wanted the U.S. Government to take into account the fact that he is a minor. The U.S. Government has said that it is not taking that into account. And so do you believe that he is being lawfully prosecuted in Guantanamo?

FOREIGN SECRETARY ESPINSOSA: On the Brenda Martin case, I want to say that this has been an issue that we are discussing permanently with the Canadian representatives in Mexico. The Canadian Embassy, the Canadian Consulate, has been able to see all the process that has been going on. And of course, there has been very broad access to Ms. Martin, so broad that she has been able to give press conferences from where she is in Canada.

So I want to say about this case we are also in contact with the judicial branch of the State of Jalisco. Of course, they are a separate power in Mexico, so we cannot really tell the judges exactly what they should do. But we have really encouraged them to resolve this case as fast as possible.

One of the reasons why the case has been delayed in the last months was that they issued an amparo, which is made as a result that the case was completely -- the trial could not go forward. Now, the process has resumed, and we are hoping that in the next weeks we will have a final resolution.

FOREIGN MINISTER BERNIER: Thank you. Concerning Omar Khadr, I think that you’ve read my statement, written statement, and it is very clear and I won’t comment on my statement that -- it’s all there. But what I can tell you right now, it’s, as you know, Mr. Khadr faces serious charges and it will be premature to comment about the legal process right now and appeal process because they’re still ongoing. And what we will do is we’ll do -- and I received also assurances that Mr. Khadr has been treated humanely. So we’ll see the legal procedure, and after that we’ll react, but right now I cannot comment on that. And you have my written statement that is very precise and clear about that case.

SECRETARY RICE: Thank you very much.


* Secretary

Released on April 8, 2008

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