Title: Transcript: Sec.
Powell Reviews Progress at Bilateral Meeting in Mexico (Bilateral,
regional, global issues addressed during BNC meeting)
Source: Department of State
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
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
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
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
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:
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
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
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
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
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
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 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.
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
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
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.
(Distributed by the Office of International Information Programs, U.S.
Department of State. Web site: http://usinfo.state.gov) NNNN
Product Name: WASHINGTON FILE
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
Originating Team: 02112704.GAR