Mexico City, July 2, 2015 – My wife Pamela and I are very happy that you are with us tonight to celebrate the 239th anniversary of our nation’s declaration of independence which began our country’s journey to create a better democratic form of government. We continue that journey today as we work to strengthen and defend our democracy.
Some of you have asked how long I will stay in Mexico and when my successor will arrive. I will be leaving Mexico at the end of this month. The timing of the arrival of my successor is being determined by the U.S. Senate in their constitutional duty to provide advice and consent to President Obama’s nomination of Roberta Jacobson to become the next U.S. Ambassador to Mexico.
Assistant Secretary Jacobson is an excellent choice. Many of you already know her. She is one of the foremost experts on Latin American affairs in the U.S. government, and she has worked extensively on Mexico over her 30 year career.
During the period of time between my departure and my successor’s arrival, there will be a Chargé d’affaires who will lead the U.S. Mission to Mexico. It is my great pleasure to introduce to you the man who will fulfill this role: William Duncan. William has replaced Laura Dogu as our embassy’s Deputy Chief of Mission. William has had a very distinguished career working in and on Mexican and Latin American issues. William has recently transferred from Washington, where he led the office of Andean Affairs at the State Department. He has represented the United States in six countries, and this is his third time serving in Mexico. I know you will find William to be a very strong and capable partner in continuing the forward progress of U.S.-Mexico relations. Please, let’s welcome William. Thank you, William. I know you will do an outstanding job as Chargé after my departure.
I have been very fortunate for the past four years to lead the U.S. government’s efforts to strengthen our relationship with Mexico and with Mexicans. Together – Mexicans and Americans – we have accomplished a great deal.
We have been and are continuing to constructively address so many of our most important issues in a collaborative, win-win manner. We are working more closely to take advantage of opportunities to benefit both countries and to find solutions together to difficult problems. This effort is reflected in close and more active government-to-government collaboration and in partnerships with the private sector, academia and civil society. By working simultaneously across a wide range of issues, we are promoting a better appreciation of the importance of our massive and complex relationship, and we help assure that our differences are not blown out of proportion.
This joint work by our two governments and by both of our societies is very clear when we look at economic cooperation. Our shared goal is that both countries prosper in a more productive and more globally competitive North America.
Due to the hard work of our business leaders and workers – including many of tonight’s sponsors – the U.S. and Mexico trade well over half a trillion dollars a year in goods and services: a million dollars a minute. The U.S., as Mexico’s largest trading partner and neighbor, is very interested in Mexico’s economic success and prosperity. And our trade and investment ties have grown impressively in each of the last four years.
Business is also one of the drivers of our increased visa workload, an increase of forty-five percent in the past ten years. Tourism is another vital part of that growing demand for visas. 17 million Mexican travelers visited the U.S. last year, with a projected 5% increase in that number for this year. There were over 25 million U.S. visitors to Mexico in 2014 – an increase of almost 22% over 2013.
We are forever grateful to the Mexican government for its strong efforts to help many American citizens – mostly tourists – who were stranded when Hurricane Odile hit last fall. We are grateful for the government to government cooperation that lets us work together to help the citizens of both our countries when they are in need. We are grateful for our cooperation with the Mexican government and civil society organization who are helping to ensure that U.S.-born migrant children have access to education and other basic services in Mexico.
I want to highlight that our two governments are tackling many of the most important issues between us head-on, and we are doing it by creating and strengthening bilateral institutions and mechanisms that will allow this enhanced Mexico-U.S. cooperation to survive any single group of individuals.
- We’ve created the Cabinet-level High Level Economic Dialogue chaired by the U.S. Vice President and Mexico’s Finance Minister. Our teams work intensely week to week on a long, substantive agenda to make our two economies more connected and prosperous.
- We are promoting academic exchange and joint research and innovation between our countries through the Bilateral Forum on Higher Education, Research and Innovation or FOBESII. In 2014, working together, we doubled the number of Mexicans studying and doing research in the United States.
- We support innovation and entrepreneurship through the Mexico United States Entrepreneurship and Innovation Council or MUSEIC. This year, for example, we launched an Innovation Corps pilot project based on a National Science Foundation program. It linked 15 teams of 60 Mexican scientists, engineers, and researchers with businesses to help them to commercialize their inventions.
- We have devised a more efficient 21st Century Border mechanism to improve infrastructure, facilitate legitimate trade and travel, and strengthen security cooperation on our common border. We plan to open several important new border facilities this year and to have in place new pilot procedures to smooth trade at the border;
- We have implemented new repatriation practices, through our creation of the Repatriation Strategy and Policy Executive Coordination Team (RESPECT), which has, among other benefits, led to information exchanges to increase protection for migrants while also helping identify wanted individuals;
- We increased border security and reduced violence via an enhanced cross-border communications system and the U.S.-Mexico Border Violence Prevention Council, which has become the most senior government leadership dialogue on use of force issues between the U.S. and Mexico;
- Our countries have also set up a high-level bilateral clean energy and climate policy taskforce to synchronize policies;
Realizing we needed a way for our leaders to better coordinate our strong and growing law enforcement and security cooperation, we set up a bilateral Security Coordination Group. Mexican and U.S. government teams coordinate our work against narcotics and human traffickers, arms smugglers, and money launderers. We are more closely working together to counter corruption and impunity, while we seek to protect human rights and freedom for the press. Through our coordinated efforts in the $2.3 billion Merida initiative, we are striving for a safer and more secure environment. We have over 90 new capacity building programs underway.
Partnering with actors outside of government is essential in all of the cooperation we have built: Whether it was counsel from the U.S.-Mexico CEO Dialogue for the HLED; the scores of university to university collaborations supporting FOBESII and MUSEIC; and the partnerships we developed with Universia, Televisa Foundation, the Mexican Bankers Association and a range of U.S. and Mexican companies to support education exchanges; the NGO’s who are helping to re-build communities wounded by violence, to create a new, more accountable justice system and to protect basic liberties; or local stakeholders improving transit in our border communities.
Thanks to all of these efforts and contributions, the Mexico-U.S. relationship is stronger and more dynamic than ever. And, I want to underscore that it’s not just the politicians and government officials working with each other. It is businessmen and women, educators, students, scientists, journalists, opinion makers and community activists. The role of non-government partners giving their input and participating in programs is vital to the success of our efforts. Real people developing real relationships that improve lives, as we in government are developing institutions and mechanisms with which we can solve problems and foster opportunities.
In spite of our successes, serious challenges remain. We are hampered on our path by crime, corruption and impunity. These rule of law issues impact all of our citizens. These scourges prevent our people from realizing their full potential and rob us of our future. Fighting them requires constant vigilance that demands a concerted effort from all of us working together –governments, companies, civil society groups, the press, and our citizens. Essentially, it is a shared responsibility by all of us here tonight to help each other succeed, and we have a better chance of success if we all pull together.
Our relationship has matured and continues to do so. There are and will be unhelpful and critical voices from both sides of the border, and there will be “bumps in the roads.” But our successes far outnumber our “bumps,” and the resolve of our officials and citizens on both sides of the border to create a better life by working together is stronger than ever.
By improving how we discuss and attempt to resolve our differences, we have created pathways for respectful disagreement, which more often than not turns into shared avenues of progress. I hope my time here has helped lay the groundwork for much progress in the years ahead.
I thank you for your contributions and achievements in strengthening U.S.-Mexican relations and for your support and your counsel. I feel privileged and honored to have been part of this journey. I have deeply enjoyed my time here in Mexico, working with you and getting to know you, and I will miss you when I leave.
Thank you for coming tonight and thank you for being friends, neighbors and partners. Please enjoy the evening.