Remarks to The Press by Vice President Joe Biden and Mexican President Enrique Pena Nieto

PRESIDENT PEÑA NIETO: (As interpreted.) Mr. Vice President of the United States of America, Mr. Joseph Biden; distinguished members of the delegation accompanying him; distinguished members of the official delegation of Mexico; ladies and gentlemen. First of all, Mr. Vice President, as I was able to tell you personally, I would like to reiterate the warmest of welcomes to this country as well as to the delegation that unaccompanied you. Undoubtedly, it was a very important effort and a mechanism that we agreed to with the President of the United States to build this High Level Economic Dialogue, and that you lead in representation of the government of the United States of America.

I believe that this speaks to its shared vision of two governments that we believe in the complementary nature of our economies; that we believe in shared development and prosperity that should exist in this region of the Americas, and that we are determined to undertake coordinated teamwork amongst both of our governments within the framework of fraternity, cordiality, trust, and mutual respect.

I believe that within such a framework is where one can find the meeting that we held today — the third High Level Economic Dialogue meeting that you led the U.S. government — and I did on behalf of the government of Mexico, together with my delegation. If you allow me to, sir, I will repeat that this is part of our vision to, together, build the work that recognizes the integration of two economies — the economy of the United States of America and of Mexico — that are integrated and that interact and that have huge potential, a great opportunity, windows of opportunity forward that imply the development and growth of both societies. There are those who have a view of closing doors — I would even say — I daresay, Mr. Vice President, of building walls.

But that is to become isolated, to stand alone. One could have a view of wanting to close the doors, closing doors, but another would be to be isolated and to stand truly alone when Mexico has been a promoter, as is the case of this government, of a relationship of good neighbors and of fraternal, friendly relations with our northern neighbor; and a relationship of a strategic ally with the United States.

And I think that this is the vision of the United States and of Mexico, and that’s the vision we’re working on. And in specific terms, by your leave, I would like to refer to some of the topics that we’ve dealt with today in the meeting that was held. First, I sent to the senate of Mexico for ratification the bilateral agreement for air services that will bring our societies closer together by broadening the number of flights and destinations, making them more efficient and accessible. We also referred to border infrastructure, works that bring us closer together — an airport, pedestrian crosswalk at Tijuana-San Diego, a rail bridge built at Matamoros-Brownsville that took 100 years, and recently, the recently opened bridge at Guadalupe-Tornillo.

We’ve launched joint cargo pre-inspection programs, that is to say the review that inspect the cargo from Mexico into the U.S., and from the U.S. into Mexico in this entrance trade that has undertaken between both of our nations, which will enable us to reduce costs and wait times for our business persons. We are also working on greater cooperation in telecommunications and energy, which are fundamental sectors for the economic future of our nations. We also agreed to continue to foster the bilateral forum on higher education, innovation and research that enables us to have greater academic exchanges of students from both nations, so that those students can study in either of the two countries. The number of students has increased from 15,000 students from Mexico that are studying in the U.S. on a yearly basis, 2015; to 35,000 students were enrolled. And we have set a goal for ourselves of exceeding 50,000 students or more for 2016. I would close, Mr. Vice President, by saying that undoubtedly your visit today to our country reasserts the friendship that exists between the United States of America and Mexico.

This vision that I repeat is shared by the U.S. and Mexican administrations to forge a team to undertake coordinated work vis-à-vis common problems, vis-à-vis opportunities that we also share. We have gone from having a relationship that is very focused on security issues, almost monothematic, to broaden our agendas, and to work on different mechanisms that enable us to see North America become a more productive, more competitive region, all of which contributes to our goal — that is to say to generate prosperity and wellbeing for both of our societies. Welcome to Mexico, Mr. Vice President, and to your delegation. Thank you ever so much. (Applause.)

VICE PRESIDENT BIDEN: Thank you very much, Mr. President. This is my — I’ve been here many times since being a young senator back in 1973, but this is my fourth time with you. And it’s been — every time, the hospitality has been incredible, and one time has exceeded the next. Mr. President, over the past several years — presumptuous of me as a mere Vice President to say this — but we’ve gotten to know one another and our families. And I want to take this opportunity to thank you — thank you and to tell you that I admire your leadership and I admire your commitment to reform. You came to office making commitments to reform that — reform the system that’s been in place for decades and decades.

And you’ve done it for the benefit of your people. And I want to take this opportunity to thank you for your unyielding commitment and, I might add, stewardship of the friendship between the United States and Mexico, two great nations that I think have finally come to the point where we each understand that we each benefit from the other’s success. There’s nothing the United States would like to see more than the continued growth and success of Mexico — because, to the extent that that occurs, everything internally in Mexico gets better and everything along our border and throughout North America gets better. There’s been a lot of damaging and incredibly inaccurate rhetoric, and I would argue I feel almost obliged to apologize for some of what my political colleagues have said about Mexico, about the Mexican people. It’s a heated campaign season, and I just want you to know, Mr. President, that the most heated of the rhetoric you’ve heard from some of the competitors for the nomination for President is not who we are as the American people. It is not a view that is the view of the majority of the American people. It is the exact opposite. It’s the opposite view.

And I want to remind everyone, Mr. President, and I remind people at home of this all the time that — of some simple facts that are out there, that the American people, the vast majority who, like average Mexicans, spend most of their day trying to put on — how to figure how to put three meals on the table, and pay their mortgage, and take care of their health and wellbeing of their families, but they know it intuitively in America. The United States and Mexico now do more than $1.5 billion dollars of trade per day. Six million American workers have their jobs because of trade with Mexico. The United States sells more to Mexico than we do to Brazil, Russia, India, and China combined. And 80 percent of Mexico’s exports go to the United States. We are — to use that old expression back at home, we are joined at the hip. We benefit significantly from one another. We don’t just sell to one another, we build things together. We share common values and a common vision for the future. Your people have the same dreams that my people do. And as we continue to grow and this relationship grows, we raise exponentially the possibility of them realizing those dreams. That’s why we’re both in government. That’s why we got engaged in this enterprise. And this is the first time we’re reaching the proportions and the — how can I say it? — the scale of change that is really going to be increasingly seen by the people in the streets of both our countries as being beneficial. So the relationship is a top-tier priority for President Obama and me for the entire United States of America.

No matter what else is happening in the world, no matter what other crisis demands our attention, this is a critical relationship — politically, economically, and strategically. Today the President and I discussed, as he pointed out, a wide range of vital issues — issues vital to both of our countries. As I mentioned earlier, the economic partnership with Mexico — between Mexico and the United States equals roughly $600 billion per year. And I predict to you in the not-too-distant future it was till exceed a trillion dollars a year. And I am in Mexico today, Mr. President, for the third meeting of our High Level Economic Dialogue so that we can keep growing and integrating our economies for the benefit of our citizens. Since the President — since President Obama and President Peña Nieto had this ideas, and since President Peňa Nieto and I launched the first dialogue in December of 2013, we’ve delivered many important results, some of which were mentioned by the President: making sure our borders enable safe and legal trade and between our — we always talk about the illegal transit of the border that occurs. And it does occur. But ensuring safe and legal trade and travel between our countries, so that we can do even more business together, is equally as important. Improving energy cooperation to seize the competitive advantage that our nations share -— not just in oil and gas, but opportunities in geothermal, and in solar, in wind and biomass. We’re already constructing over approaching a billion dollars’ worth of construction projects in solar and wind along the U.S.-Mexican border. Investing in our people -— more student exchanges, more university partnerships -— to help build the best-trained, best-educated workforce in the world.

My wife, who is a professor, says any country that out-educates us will out-compete us. There is no reason why that should happen. Mexico and the United States are both part of the Trans-Pacific Partnership, which will expand our access to important markets in Asia and take the free trade partnership to a new and rational level, with more protections built in for the environment and workers. And it will make up 40 percent of the world’s GDP, meaning more opportunities for workers in the United States, workers in Mexico. We’re now moving ahead to get TPP approval so that we can begin implementing the commitments that are made in that, upholding important protections for labor — labor unions, labor rights, workers’ rights; increasing protection of the environment; protecting intellectual property; making sure that that there are courts that adjudicate fairly the differences that exist. We also discussed our cooperation to address the public security challenges that confront the United States and Mexico. Our law enforcement and security forces work closely together to counter trafficking in drugs, weapons, and other illegal goods.

Through the Merida Initiative, we’re investing in building up Mexico’s capacity to dismantle drug routes, target cartels and transnational criminal organizations. And today, we discussed the importance of protecting human rights and ending the culture of impunity for thugs who seek to enforce their own will through violence and intimidation. These are tough challenges. And we discussed how tough they are. They won’t be solved overnight. And we’re going to have to take risks, and it will take risks here to solve them. It will take a sustained commitment the part of both of us, both parties. But, Mr. President, the United States will continue to stand with Mexico — stand with you — as you take on drug traffickers; as you strengthen the rule of law; as you bolster transparent government institutions. Our bilateral cooperation also amplifies our leadership and shared vision on issues of regional and global concern. There is a much larger dimension to this relationship. There is no obvious disagreement we have on the international stage. And we have an overwhelming interest to see to it that the Caribbean and the isthmus begin to take their place in the world as nations that are free of corruption; nations that, in fact, have energy capability and can sustain their own needs. And so we’re going to work to continue to work — to build those relationships. We’re working together to support our neighbors in Central America as they strive to root out corruption and end endemic violence, to build prosperous and secure societies for citizens, so they will have an overwhelming instinct to say, stay where I have an opportunity than rather have to flee. Just yesterday, I met with the Presidents of Honduras, El Salvador, and Guatemala. It’s my third or fourth meeting. I can’t recall. We have put together a plan — the United States — for $750 million to help them improve their governance, root out corruption, provide for additional energy opportunities, to simply enable them to move in the direction that the rest of the world is moving. Imagine what value added could be if from the southern border of Mexico to Colombia, there was a growing, democratic states free of corruption.

Mr. President, they all recognize the importance of the relationship between United States and Mexico — working together to provide a shared security and prosperity for the region. As you and I talked, and I will not take the time to discuss now, but the message from each of them, will you talk to President Peňa Nieto and you guys together, can you do — and we are. The work you’re on the southern border, the gas pipeline, a whole range of things that can improve the life and circumstances of the people on your southern border. And, Mr. President, we talked about — in depth about the steps that need to be taken to discourage people from putting their lives and their children’s lives in the hands of human smugglers and attempting the dangerous journey to Mexico, through Mexico, to the United States. I want to thank you, Mr. President, for the partnership in dealing with this very difficult issue. Mexico is a vital partner, together with Canada, as we work to integrate our economies and strengthen North America’s competitiveness. Our region can — and I mean this sincerely — our region can and should be an epicenter of economic growth and opportunity in the 21st century. We are and will remain, North America, the epicenter of energy production for the better part of this century, giving us great opportunities and flexibility. And there’s no reason why we can’t seize that future.

And by working together, with all our partners, we have a chance for the first time to create a hemisphere that we want. I say to the folks in the audience, and to the press, for the first time in history, a rational person can look at the hemisphere from the Arctic Circle north of Canada to the tip of Argentina, and picture the possibility and the reality of a middle-class, secure, democratic hemisphere from top to bottom. We’re not there yet. But together with others in the hemisphere, we can get there. That’s what I mean by seizing the future. I was struck by an image of Pope Francis, who’ve I had the great honor of meeting and spending some time with, with my family on two occasions — me two occasions, my family once — when he visited the United States. When just last week where he held mass for thousands of people in Juarez, Mexico, which was also simultaneously celebrated in a stadium full of people in El Paso, Texas. I think it was a moving testament of the ties that bind us. He said, without making reference to, suggesting someone wasn’t Christian, he said, the Christian thing to do is not build walls, but build bridges. That’s what great nations have always done, build bridges. Build bridges. We’re two nations, each with their own needs and our own interest. But we’re two nations who understand that our needs and interest are enhanced by cooperation with one another.

So, Mr. President, thank you again for your leadership. Thank you again for your hospitality. This has been brief, but a very productive trip. And I look forward to seeing you in Washington as we continue our work to advance the partnership between Mexico and the United States of America — not only for the benefit of our people, but for the benefit of the region, for the global benefit. We combined our significant value-added, Mr. President. Thank you so much.