October 18, 2018
Panama City, Panama
QUESTION: (In Spanish)
Welcome to this interview.
SECRETARY POMPEO: Thank you.
QUESTION: Mr. Secretary, what is the purpose of this sudden visit to Panama?
SECRETARY POMPEO: So I came here to do a couple things. First, to thank the Panamanian people for being such good partners with the United States for so many years, also to meet with President Varela to talk about the important strategic issues in which our two countries are engaged. I was hoping to get here in time to see the Comfort, but I missed it by a few hours. It was doing such good work for the region helping take good medical care of so many people. But I wanted to get here. We have important issues in front of us in the region and for Panama, and I wanted to get here to see President Varela to discuss them with him.
QUESTION: You just met with President Varela and Vice President Saint Malo. Can you speak about the scope of the conversation?
SECRETARY POMPEO: We talked about many things. We talked about the great work we do together on security issues. We talked about investment between our two countries. We spoke about some regional issues as well, the challenges in Venezuela and Nicaragua, and many more topics too. I’ve known President Varela for a while, and it was great to catch up with him on such a broad range of subjects.
QUESTION: Last month the State Department called Charge Cabral for consultations along with the ambassadors of El Salvador and the Dominican Republic. The main issue discussed was China’s growing influence in the region. Do you have any message you wish to deliver in this regard?
SECRETARY POMPEO: So America wants good things for the people of Panama and for the region, and so we want to make sure when there are countries that invest, China included, that they’re done in a way that is consistent with international law and they’re good for the Panamanian people. And we’ve seen times when that was the case, but other times where China has not behaved that way. And so we very much want good things for the country and want to make sure that everybody has eyes wide open when it comes to China’s investments in their country and in this region.
QUESTION: How would you characterize the state of U.S.-Panama relations at this time?
SECRETARY POMPEO: They’re really good. We do fantastic work together. The counternarcotics work that our two countries do together is important. It’s important to the United States, but it’s important to Panama and the region as well. We work so closely on so many issues that are of importance to the people of the United States and of Panama. I have to say our relationship is in fantastic shape, and I hope, as a result of today, just a little bit better as well.
QUESTION: Besides the crisis in Nicaragua and Venezuela mentioned in the press statement, are there any additional issues you wish to bring to the fore?
SECRETARY POMPEO: I always think the recognition of how closely we are tied together, the United States, Central America, Panama, South America. We are one region. There’s so much good that we can do when we work together. We can build our economies, create jobs and wealth in both of our countries and in all – all across the region. If there was one message, it would be our continued economic cooperation in ways that benefit each of our two countries.
QUESTION: You just mentioned that to negotiate with China you have to have the eyes wide open. Can you elaborate more about that?
SECRETARY POMPEO: Well, it’s simply the case that in parts of the world China has invested in ways that have left countries worse off, and that should never be the case. Anytime there is investment that comes from outside of a country, it certainly should be a good investment for the investor, but it has to be something that’s good for the country that hosts that investment and well – as well. And we just want to make sure that when China invests, wherever it chooses, that it does so in a way that benefits the people of the country in which that investment is made.
QUESTION: Thank you. And do you anticipate any changes in the future relations between our countries?
SECRETARY POMPEO: Nothing particularly concrete. We’re in such a good place today. I hope we can continue to benefit from the goodwill of the Panamanian people; and in exactly the reverse way, I hope that Panama can continue to benefit from the goodwill of the American people as well.
QUESTION: Thank you.
SECRETARY POMPEO: Thank you very much.
QUESTION: Thank you very much for this opportunity.
SECRETARY POMPEO: It’s wonderful to be with you, Sabrina. Thank you.
QUESTION: (In Spanish)