Full transcript source: Mexico’s president meets with Biden on border policy 7/12/22 Transcript
Editorial note: Some grammar and spelling were corrected by Grammarly software for clarity.
President Joe Biden speaks
Mr. President, my friend, my partner, it’s good to have you back in the White House.
Over the last year and a half, we’ve devoted our teams to holding a government effort focused on rebuilding a solid framework of US-Mexican relations.
As I told you from the beginning, and I mean this, I see, we see Mexico as an equal partner. Our nations share close ties and family and friendship, and we’re united through our values and our history. And for me and my administration, the US-Mexico relationship is vital to achieving our goals of everything from the fight against COVID-19 to continuing to grow our economies, strengthening our partnerships, and addressing migration as a shared hemispheric challenge.
Addressing migration is a hemispheric challenge, a commitment captured in the Los Angeles Declaration adopted by the Summit of Americas. And Mr. President, this is a relationship that directly impacts the daily lives of our people. And despite the overhyped headlines that we sometimes see, you and I have a strong, productive relationship. And I would argue, a partnership. Today, we’re going to be discussing the shared challenges we face, and commitments on some of the major issues that we’re taking on together. One of those is migration, at historic levels throughout our hemisphere.
Like us, Mexico has become a top destination for migrants. And here’s what we’re going to do to address it together. My administration is leading the way in creating work opportunities through legal pathways. And last year, my administration set a record, issuing more than 300,000 H-2 visas for Mexican workers. We also reached a five-year high in the visas we issued to Central Americans, and we’re on pace to double this in this fiscal year for Central America.
And I want to thank you, Mr. President, for also stepping up and increasing worker visas in Mexico for Central Americans. This is a proven strategy that fuels economic growth, as well as reduces irregular migration. And it doesn’t get much attention, but we’re also making historic investments in infrastructure modernization across our 2,000-mile border with Mexico.
My bipartisan infrastructure law, here in America, is delivering $3.4 billion to major construction projects at the ports of entry between our two countries, to make our border safer and more efficient for people, trade, and commerce. And the American people should know, Mr. President, that you’re also making a significant investment on your side of the border to improve infrastructure, to meet the needs of our times and the future.
And a very important point, another critical example, is we are accelerating our efforts to disrupt the trafficking of fentanyl and other drugs that are literally killing people. Fentanyl kills people. We’ve had a major anti-smuggling operation underway since April, targeting human smugglers, who traffic in people, drugs, and weapons. Toward this effort, we’ve deployed 1,300 additional personnel and conducted 20,000 disruption operations. And we’ve made over 3,000 arrests, all since April. And we’ve been conducting myriad disruption operations along our shared border with our Mexican partners. But as you know, Mr. President, we need every country in the region to join us in tracking this multi-billion dollar smuggling industry that’s preying on our most vulnerable, including the 53 souls who died in a tractor-trailer in San Antonio last month.
President Obrador and I will also be talking about enhanced enforcement measures, including reparation efforts. And today, we’ll agree on our next steps together on all these fronts, because we know we have to meet these challenges together. Mr. President, again, welcome, and I look forward to our discussions after this introductory meeting.
President Andrés Manuel López Obrador speaks
We’re so happy, President Biden, to be here at the White House once more. And I send my greetings to the good, hardworking, defined, and very progressive people of the United States, my greetings. This is the second meeting in just eight months. The second meeting we are holding with you, President Biden, here at the White House.
Yes, but as you have already expressed, President Biden, these existing circumstances are demanding so many more things from us. For instance, having closer relationships, closer ties of friendship, and cooperation. So that we can act together, vis a vis the major challenges our two countries face.
And these are truly difficult times, no question about it.
First of all, we have the pandemic, the COVID-19 pandemic, with the sequels of death, suffering, hardships and damage, and damage to the productive activities of our countries. And now we have the war in Ukraine, and as we know, it has not only constituted grief and destruction, but it made the economic crisis even worse. Yes, and this has resulted in the inflationary spiral that the entire world is suffering.
Therefore, President Biden, I have come to see you, to express on behalf of the Mexican people our disposal, and our willingness to work together for the wellbeing of our nations. This will not be the first nor the last location at which we close ranks to help each other win. In spite of our differences and also in spite of our grievances that are not really easy to forget with time or with good wishes, they’re not easy to forget. However, on many occasions, we’ve been able to coincide and we’ve been able to work together as good friends and true allies.
During President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s administration, we were able to see a policy that we believe was a very efficient and very fraternal policy. Those were other times, however, we had circumstances that were quite similar to our existing circumstances. And from those policies, we should be extracting good lessons because history is the master of life. When President Roosevelt took office on March 4th, 1933, the United States was going through one of the most profound social and economic crises of its history. That’s why with great definition, determination, and [inaudible 00:16:09], since the first 100 days of its administration, he launched a whirlpool of initiatives that changed the country and gave new hopes to its inhabitants.
Throughout his administration, he also applied. He enforced a policy, a good neighbor’s policy, and this is something that was enforced and applied throughout the American continent. The authenticity of this policy had, as its best example, respect for the sovereignty of Mexico. At that time, President Lázaro Cárdenas’ administration was also launching very deep, very important reforms. So then, in 1938, that’s when the oil expropriation took place in Mexico. However, differences were addressed and solved through dialogue and collaboration with dignity. This policy of respect for the sovereignty of our country of the nations, in general, gave us very good fruit. Yes, for instance, it created conditions that were very favorable conditions for the governments of the United States and Mexico to act as partners, as allies throughout the Second World War.
This alliance went beyond, over and beyond, mere cooperation in this [inaudible 00:18:55] effort.
When the United States went into the Second World War, thousands of Americans were recruited by the armed forces, and this meant that the agriculture field was left with a non-labor force. Farmers urgently needed a labor force. As it also happens now in restaurants, factories, the construction works, and out in the countryside as well. At that time, under those circumstances in 1943, President Roosevelt recognized reality and decided to support the Bracero Program. Through which thousands of Mexican agricultural laborers came into the United States legally to help in the production of good stuff.
Even during the construction [inaudible 00:20:43] system in the United States, 1943 through 1946, 130,000 Mexican workers, farm workers, were hired through this agreement signed by both governments. Certainly, the program was not exempt from respect, abuses, and non-compliance. However, there is no doubt that there were very good results at the projective and labor levels. It was a more secure framework with fewer human rights violations. Especially, if we compare that to current migration provisions.
Today, we’re proposing something similar to this program. It is true that the USMCA is a treaty that’s already uniting and integrating our three countries. Our three countries, are Mexico, the United States, and Canada. However, there are still margins for us to intensify our bilateral relationship. For instance, high inflationary rates have to do with misadjustments of the world economy.
Because of the pandemic and the war in Ukraine. However, we should also recognize that for some time now, we haven’t been producing what we should be producing.
In the last three decades, it was very comfortably accepted for China to become the factory of the world. And this was due to the fallacious idea that with…And this was due to the fallacious idea that with coevality, it wasn’t necessary to continue our self-sufficiency in the production of foodstuffs because we were able to produce energy and other goods. We didn’t have to do it. It wasn’t necessary, because we could always import them as we need them.
So self-sufficiency was not necessary. However, the reality we live in now, makes it necessary and indispensable for us to produce everything we consume in our countries and regions. Without reaching an extremist position of closing our economies. We should remember that the development of our nations depends fundamentally on their productive capacity. President Biden, I’m about to finish.
President Joe Biden speaks (interrupting)
Let me say one thing. I can’t get over how that lovely lady is holding that camera steady all the time. It’s amazing. Sorry for the distraction.
President Andrés Manuel López Obrador speaks
Yes, I fully coincide with what you have proposed, President Biden, and I could summarize everything we’ve been saying in five basic items of cooperation. Number one, since the energy crisis started Mexico has used 72% of its crude and fuel oil exports to United States refineries. 800000 barrels a day. Therefore, we decided that while we’re waiting for the prices of gasoline to go down in the United States … I hope that Congress approves or passes your proposal, Mr. President.
President Joe Biden speaks (interrupting)
It’s come down for [inaudible 00:27:21]. Translator: Lowering prices. Yes. That’s it.
President Andrés Manuel López Obrador speaks
In the meantime, while we’re waiting for prices to go down, we have decided that it was necessary for us to allow Americans, who live close to the border so they could go and get their gasoline on the Mexican side at lower prices. We are committed to guaranteeing twice as much supply to you. That would be considerable support. Right now a gallon of regular costs $4.78. Average, on this side of the border [in the USA]. And in our territory, $3.12.
Let me clarify something. And I also want to take advantage of this opportunity to thank you, Mr. President. Most of this gasoline, we are producing in the Pemex refinery that you’ve allowed us to buy in Deer Park, Texas. We are putting at the disposal or set at the disposal, of your administration over 1000 kilometers of gas pipelines, throughout the southern border with Mexico, to transport gas from Texas to New Mexico, Arizona, and California. For a volume that can generate up to 750 megawatts of electric energy. And supply about three million people.
Three, even though the USMCA has made progress in the elimination of tariffs, there are still some others that could be immediately suspended. And we could do the same with some regulations, regulatory measures, tedious procedures, or red tape. In terms of trade related to foodstuff and other products. So that we can lower prices for consumers in both our countries. Always be very careful to protect health and the environment.
Four, starting a private/public investment plan between our two countries to produce all those goods that would be strengthening our markets. So that we can avoid having importations from other regions or continents. In our country, we shall continue producing oil throughout the energy transition. With US investors we are going to be establishing gas liquefying plants, and fertilizer plants, and we shall continue promoting the creation of solar energy parks in the state of Sonora, and other border states as well.
And we are going to accomplish this with the support of thermal electric plants and also through transmission lines, to produce energy in the domestic market, as well as for exports to neighboring states in the American Union. For instance, Texas, New Mexico, Arizona, and California.
It’s also important to mention that two months ago, we took the sovereign decision of nationalizing lithium in Mexico. This is a fundamental mineral, a fundamental import to advance in our purpose not to depend on fossil fuels. And this will be available for the technological modernization of the automotive industry among our three countries, the countries of the USMCA.
Five, orderly migration flow, and allowing arrival in the United States of workers, technicians, and platforms of different disciplines. I’m talking about Mexicans and Central Americans with temporary work visas. To ensure not paralyzing the economy because of the lack of labor force. The purpose of this plan would be to support and to have the right labor force that would be demanded by the plan you proposed, and that was passed by Congress using $1 trillion for the construction of infrastructure works. It’s also indispensable that I say this is a very sincere fashion in the most respectful manner: It is indispensable for us to regularize and give certainty to migrants that have, for years, lived and worked in a very honest manner, and who are also contributing to the development of this great nation. I know that your adversaries, the conservatives, are going to be screaming all over the place, even to Heaven. They’re going to be yelling at Heaven. But without a daring, bold program of development and wellbeing, it will not be possible to solve problems. It will not be possible to get the people’s support. In the face of this crisis, the way out is not through conservatism. The way out is through transformation. We have to be bold in our actions. Transform, not maintain the status quo.
On our part, we’re acting in good faith, with all transparency, because there shouldn’t be selfishness between countries, people that are neighbors, and friends. On the other hand, integration does not signify hegemony or subjugation. President Biden, we trust you because you respect our sovereignty. We are willing to continue working with you for the benefit of our people. Count on our support. Count on our support and solidarity always. Long live the United States. Viva México lindo y querido. Long live Mexico, dear Mexico, loved and beautiful Mexico. Viva México.
President Joe Biden speaks
Well, Mr. President, you’ve had a lot of important things to say, and we have much agreement. And some of the details, we’ll have a chance to talk about where the disagreement is. But the thrust of what you’re saying, we agree with. We need to work closely together. I might note, that of all the major economies in the world, we’re the fastest growing. We, the United States, are already the fastest growing in the world. Just since I became President, we have created more jobs than any president ever has at the beginning of his administration, almost 8.5 million new jobs. Wages have risen 5.5%.
We are suffering from inflation imposed as a consequence of what’s going on in Ukraine, but we have the lowest rate of almost every major nation in the world. Even last month, we created another 357,000 new jobs. It doesn’t mean we don’t have problems. We do. And we do believe, I do believe, that working with you, we can help solve both our problems.
China is not only not going to be the factory of the world. You’re in the factory of the world, the United States.
We produce more agricultural products than anything close to what they [China] do. I’m not suggesting there are no problems. There are real problems, but they are solvable, as you pointed out. I’m anxious for us to get into some detail about the explicit five points you raised and how we can make sure we work together on all five of those points.
I hope I’ve demonstrated my whole career I have enormous respect for Mexico as an independent nation, a great nation, and I have great respect for you. We have liberals, moderates, conservatives, and extreme conservatives. I’m waiting for the Republican Party to come back to traditional conservative positions. We have to start to talk with them, with one another, in this country, with respect. I have enormous respect for you, and I’m ready to get to work. I’m going to find out how she [the camera lady] holds that [inaudible 00:45:05]. This is a journalist from Mexico. She’s exceptional. She is exceptional, just holding that camera at any rate.
Camera Woman Speaks
Thank you, Mr. President. This is a tribute, homage to all of the media here, women and men, journalists, reporters. Thank you so much.
A commentary will be forthcoming in a separate blog post.