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Title: Transcript: Sec. Powell Reviews Progress at Bilateral Meeting in Mexico (Bilateral, regional, global issues addressed during BNC meeting)

Source: Department of State
Date: 20021127

The November 26 meeting of the U.S.-Mexico Bi-National Commission (BNC) produced constructive discussions on bilateral, regional and international issues, according to Secretary of State Colin Powell.

Powell headed the high-level U.S. delegation to the BNC meeting in Mexico City and subsequently outlined progress made during the talks in a November 26 press conference.

The Secretary indicated that a number of important agreements were signed during the series of discussions, including a $25-million agreement to make the flow of trans-border traffic safer, faster and more secure and an agreement to improve air quality along the border.

Several memorandums of understanding were also signed, including initiatives to improve housing financing and urban development along the border and to eliminate exploitive child labor practices, the Secretary said.

He noted that the BNC also provided an opportunity for frank bilateral discussions on issues such as Mexico's water debt and migration.

Powell said that the United States is committed to upholding a 1944 bilateral water treaty and addressing the plight of south Texas farmers. He suggested that he and his Mexican counterpart would like to resolve problems surrounding Mexico's inability to meet its water treaty obligations as soon as possible.

The BNC's migration working group "affirmed our strong commitment to advancing our bilateral migration agenda," he stressed, adding that "there should be no doubt in anyone's mind that this is a priority for President Bush, just as it is a priority for [Mexican] President [Vicente] Fox."

Powell said no schedule had been established for a migration accord, but he confirmed that the United States and Mexico want to come up with a series of migration initiatives over the course of the next six months to a year.

In recognition of changes in the U.S. political climate after the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, Powell indicated that U.S. and Mexican officials would look first at those items easiest to implement, followed by more complex issues.

Beyond bilateral issues, the BNC's Foreign Policy Working Group addressed regional issues such as the crises in Venezuela and Argentina.

Powell said that he and Mexican Secretary of Foreign Relations Jorge Castaneda agreed on the importance of supporting the Secretary General of the Organization of American States in his efforts "to establish a successful dialogue to resolve [Venezuela's] political crisis."

On the subject of Argentina, Powell and Castaneda agreed on the importance of the Argentine government and the International Monetary Fund developing a sustainable economic plan for the country as soon as possible.

International issues such as Iraq were also discussed by the BNC Foreign Policy Working Group, Powell said. The United States and Mexico "reaffirmed our joint determination to see Saddam Hussein disarm -- now, fully and finally," he declared. The Secretary added that Iraq's failure to comply with a United Nations resolution regarding weapons inspections would "bring serious consequences."

Following is a transcript of the November 26 press conference:

(begin transcript)

U.S. DEPARTMENT OF STATE Office of the Spokesman (Mexico City, Mexico) November 26, 2002


Secretary Of State Colin L. Powell at the Joint Press Conference

November 26, 2002 Foreign Ministry Mexico City, Mexico

(4:00 p.m. EST)

SECRETARY POWELL: Thank you very much, Mr. Secretary, and let me just say it's been my distinct pleasure to head the U.S. delegation to this year's Bi-National Commission meeting. I speak for the entire U.S. team when I say that this has, indeed, been a very productive two days of high-level discussions -- constructive discussions, which reflect the strong determination of Presidents Bush and Fox to deepen the relationship between our two countries.

Secretary Castaneda has given you quite a bit of detail about the many items that were discussed and the conclusions that were reached, the agreements that were made and the concrete elements to those agreements that will serve both of our nations as we go forward.

In Mexico, the Bush Administration sees much more than a neighbor. We see a partner. Neighbors don't choose each other, but partners do. Proximity alone does not make a partnership. Our partnership rests on common values, on trust, on honesty, on hard work and on a shared stake in the future. And that is exactly what Mexico and the United States have in common.

The Foreign Policy Working Group which Secretary Castaneda and I co-chair is especially important, given Mexico's membership on the United Nations Security Council. We've reaffirmed our joint determination to see Saddam Hussein disarm -- now, fully and finally. Failure to comply with United Nations Resolution 1441 will bring serious consequences for the Iraqi regime.

I want to take this opportunity to express my thanks and my appreciation to Secretary Castaneda for working so closely with me and our other Security Council colleagues during the seven weeks of intense negotiation that went into producing 1441.

The Mexican contribution is extremely valuable, and I benefited from the advice and counsel that I received from my friend Jorge during that seven-week period. We also affirmed our joint desire during our deliberations to see democratic governance and sound economic policies serve as the foundation for resolving the crises which have played havoc in Argentina and Venezuela.

On Venezuela, as the Secretary has noted, we agreed on the importance of supporting the OAS Secretary General in his ongoing efforts to establish a successful dialogue to resolve that country's political crisis. We agreed on the importance of a peaceful, constitutional and electoral solution in keeping with the OAS democratic charter, signed on September 11, 2001.

In Argentina we agreed on the importance of early development by the Government of Argentina and the International Monetary Fund of a sustainable economic plan.

In the Border Affairs Group, we held frank discussions on the water debt issue. Secretary Castaneda and I want to see the problem resolved as soon as possible. My government is committed to addressing the serious plight of South Texas farmers. We are also committed to upholding our water treaty obligations. We have reached agreement on an innovative initiative to assist local governments in improving air quality along the U.S.-Mexico border.

As was noted, the Secretary and I have signed an agreement detailing how $25 million will be spent on implementing the U.S.-Mexico Border Partnership, which will help make traffic flow across our borders more secure and more efficient. We want it to be more secure, more efficient, and we want traffic to move quicker.

I visited a visa-issuing section earlier today, saw the dedicated people who are hard at work there, and I go back with a renewed commitment to do everything we can to make that process as dignified, as efficient as possible and as fast as possible so time is not lost either there or on all the crossing points between Mexico and the United States.

We greatly value the enhanced cooperation on border security that the Government of Mexico has afforded in the wake of the September 11th terrorist attacks. Even as we work under the shadow of September 11th to improve border security, the Migration Group affirmed our strong commitment to advancing our bilateral migration agenda.

We realize the profound importance of migration issues to the well-being of the people and economy of both of our countries.

The Law Enforcement and Counternarcotics Group registered an extraordinary level of cooperation since Presidents Fox and Bush entered office. Our Departments of Labor have signed an understanding on bilateral cooperation to eliminate child exploitation. Also, our Departments of Housing signed an understanding to improve housing financing and urban development, especially along the border.

I also want to take this opportunity to applaud the efforts of U.S. and Mexican government and business leaders who have given such life and vitality to the new Partnership for Prosperity that was launched during President Fox's state visit to Washington last fall. The Partnership for Prosperity encourages investment in areas which have not yet benefited from the North American Free Trade Agreement.

And I know that I speak for all members of the delegation when I say that we will return home with a renewed sense of momentum and enthusiasm for an even closer relationship with Mexico.

And Jorge, in conclusion, let me once again thank you for the hospitality that has been extended to me and the members of my delegation.

Muchas Gracias.

QUESTION: Secretary Powell, with your indulgence, please, a question on Saudi Arabia. Do you have evidence that Saudi Arabia is aiding or harboring terrorists and if so, what type of response are you giving to the Saudis?

SECRETARY POWELL: I believe that the Government of Saudi Arabia has the same commitments as the United States Government and the Government of Mexico to eliminate the scourge of terrorism wherever it is found.

We have a good relationship with Saudi Arabia, we cooperate with Saudi Arabia at many different levels -- law enforcement, intelligence exchange, picking up people who have been involved or are suspected to be involved in terrorist activity, in sharing information with the law enforcement activities and intelligence agencies of both governments -- and I have no reason to believe that Saudi Arabia is not committed to the campaign against terrorism.

There were some reports in the papers yesterday in the United States suggesting that somehow the United States found it now necessary to issue ultimatums to Saudi Arabia as a result of their lack of cooperation on particular individuals, and that we might even take unilateral action with respect to such individuals. There is no substance to those reports. I have no knowledge of any such study which resulted in conclusions that we should issue these sorts of ultimatums or take unilateral action.

We are in close touch with the Saudi Government at every level. The President has a fine relationship with the Crown Prince, and I'm in touch with my colleague Foreign Minister Saud, and I can speak with other cabinet officials of the United States Government with respect to their contacts in relationship with the Saudis.

The Saudis understand that there's a concern in the United States because so many of the terrorists of 9/11 came from Saudi Arabia, were able to get into our country through Saudi Arabia, and they are concerned about this as we are concerned about it. But we should not -- in our concern and in our desire to protect ourselves -- we should not go to the point where we rupture relations with a country that has been a good friend to the United States for many, many years and is a strategic partner.

QUESTION: I have a question for each one of you. One for Mr. Castaneda -- could you tell us the details of the Border 2012 Plan, and if it includes a time-frame to regularize Mexican migrants? And for Mr. Powell, back to Saudi Arabia, are you aware of the 12 names included in the list of Saudi prominent businessmen accused of continuing to funnel millions to Osama bin Laden?

SECRETARY CASTANEDA: On the first question, (answer in Spanish).

SECRETARY POWELL: No, also. (Laughter.)

QUESTION: So you mean there's no 2012 Border Plan?

SECRETARY CASTANEDA: (Answer in Spanish.)

QUESTION: Mr. Secretary, if the Saudis don't do more to cooperate on stopping the flow of money to terrorists, should the U.S. consider sanctions? And if not, why not? Do you think we're going easy, you know, on them because they have been such an important ally?

SECRETARY POWELL: We have many ways of working with the Saudi Government. We have found them to be cooperative. When we find new areas that we want to explore with them, we raise those areas with the Saudi Government, and we expect them to cooperate; and they have been cooperative.

We have made it clear to them that there are some practices that exist within Saudi Arabia with respect to financing of charitable organizations that may, in turn, send funds to individuals who we would not like to see such funds go to, and those funds could get misused. And where we have this information, we make it available to the Saudis.

The issue of sanctions has not come up because we are receiving a good level of cooperation. And it is not just because they have been a strategic partner in the past, but because they are a partner now and because we have a good relationship with Saudi Arabia and we can raise these issues with them and, I believe, work our way through them without issuing ultimatums or threats.

QUESTION: This would be a question for Secretary Powell. I would like to know what, specifically, did you discuss about the migratory deal, and I would like you to tell me if you consider viable a final negotiation on this deal before the administration of President Bush reaches an end?

SECRETARY POWELL: We didn't talk about a specific deal. We took note of the fact that our two Presidents, at their first meeting in the beginning of 2001 Guanajuato Summit, committed themselves to working on all of the issues associated with migration. We are just as committed today as we were then. What the Secretary and I discussed today were the changes in the political situation caused by 9/11, by new elections, by new Department of Homeland Security, by, really, a new Congress coming in with different leadership.

And we said that what we have to do is put new energy into our dialogue. I have a new Assistant Secretary for Consular Affairs, Ambassador Maura Harty, who is here with me today. And we want to come up with an agenda of items that we can pursue over the next six months to a year and look first at those items that have the highest probability of achieving success and then slowly, but surely, work our way into the items that are more difficult to resolve.

There is no time-line, as the Secretary said before. It's not something we have to finish before or after anyone's administration. It is something that is part of the regular dialogue between our two countries. But there should be no doubt in anyone's mind that this is a priority for President Bush, just as it is a priority for President Fox, and we remain committed to doing everything we can to move forward -- but we have to be realistic about the changes that have occurred over the last 14 months.

I just want to reassure the Mexican people that it has not gone off our agenda. We want Mexicans to travel to the United States, in some cases to make a new home, in other cases to find employment, in other cases to visit relatives. We want them to bring skills back. We want them to come back to their homes and share whatever wealth they have obtained in the United States through their efforts. They make a significant contribution to the American economy. They make a significant contribution to the nature of America, to what America is all about. And we want to find a way to regularize that migration back and forth in a way that brings dignity to the process, safety to the process, is based on trust, and we also realize that we have a large number of Mexicans living in the United States who are undocumented -- and this is a problem that will also have to be dealt with in due course for the same reason.

But these things will take time. These are not simple issues. They are difficult issues. If we could both snap our fingers and make all the problems go away, we would do so this moment. But it is not that easy. But we are committed to moving forward.

QUESTION: (Spanish.)

SECRETARY POWELL: Terrorism is a problem that affects not only the United States, but Mexico as well. It affects every civilized nation. You can look at what happened on 9/11. You can also look at what happened in Bali and Indonesia. You can look at what happened in a Moscow theater where innocent people were trying to enjoy a performance just a few weeks ago. You can go to Tunisia. You can go to the Middle East. You can go to so many places in the world where terrorists are hard at work.

We know that there are al-Qaida cells and other terrorist organizations that are trying to find places in the world where they can be safe and where they can continue their terrible, terrible work. It is important for us to protect ourselves -- for the United States to protect itself from terrorists coming in either from the north or the south, the east or the west -- and it's important for Mexico to protect itself from those who might wish to do harm to innocent Mexican civilians. So we have to work hard on border security so that we both know who's coming into our country, what purpose are they coming into the country for, and are we integrating all of our intelligence and law enforcement databases so we can check these individuals rapidly and then let them come into the country with dignity, and happily come into the country knowing that they are welcome.

The United States does not want to put in place border-control systems that make us an unwelcoming country. We encourage people to come to the United States -- to perhaps find a new home, to work, to visit our attractions, to go to our medical facilities, to go to our schools and universities -- and we encourage Americans to do the same thing in reverse.

So we are looking for a balance in this post-9/11 period between securing ourselves and securing Mexico and making sure that we never lose that image of America as an open, welcoming country. We are a country of countries. We touch every country in the world and every country in the world touches us. And if we ever lost that image, if we ever lost that way of thinking about ourselves, we would no longer be America. And we do not intend to let that happen.

Thank you.

(end transcript)

(Distributed by the Office of International Information Programs, U.S. Department of State. Web site: NNNN

Document Type: Transcript; Policy
Keywords: Powell, Colin/Speaker; US-MEXICO BI-NATIONAL COMMISSION (BNC); Border Areas; Argentina; Venezuela; North America Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA); Sustainable Development; Immigration; Migration/Policy; Water/Policy; Press Conferences; Iraq; Terrorism; 1E; 8A; SM/LM
Thematic Codes: 8A; 1E
Languages: English
Originating Team: 02112704.GAR