MODERATOR: Great. Thanks very much. Good afternoon, everyone, and thank you very much for joining us today for this on background call related to the upcoming U.S.-Mexico High-Level Economic Dialogue and High-Level Security Dialogue.
Again, this call is on background and attributable to senior administration officials, but I am very pleased to introduce to you, for the purpose of your own background, our speakers today. We have with us [Senior Administration Official One]. We also have [Senior Administration Official Two] who will both give opening remarks. And then for your awareness, we are also joined by [Senior Administrator Three] as well as [Senior Administration Four], who are both available to answer questions related to their agencies’ role in these two dialogues as well.
This call is embargoed until tomorrow, which is Friday, September 29th at 9:00 a.m., so please do keep that in mind in your reporting. And we will repeat those instructions at the end as well. So with that, let me please turn over to [Senior Administration Official One] for opening comments.
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL ONE: Thank you, [Moderator]. Good afternoon to everyone. Over the next week, the United States and Mexico will affirm our broad and deep cooperation, as well as our commitment to building a more prosperous and secure future for the people of North America in a series of important high-level engagements.
Tomorrow, the Department of State, the Department of Commerce, and the Office of the United States Trade Representative will co-host the U.S.-Mexico High-Level Economic Dialogue also known as the HLED here at the Harry S. Truman Building. Six days later, on October 5, the Government of Mexico will host Secretary Blinken, Attorney General Garland, Secretary Mayorkas, White House Homeland Security Advisor Liz Sherwood-Randall, and other senior U.S. officials in Mexico City for the third meeting of the U.S.-Mexico High-Level Security Dialogue or HLSD in shorthand.
These dialogues are really the scaffolding for our economic and security cooperation with Mexico. In our annual meetings, we assess our progress and drive strategic priorities for the coming year. I’d like to take a moment to frame the immense importance and potential of our economic relationship with Mexico before handing it over to [Senior Administration Official Two] to share her perspective on the security dialogue.
The United States and Mexico share the objective of making North America the most dynamic, competitive, and prosperous economic region in the world. Mexico is the United States largest trading partner. Goods and services trade surpassed $860 billion in 2022, an all-time high. Over the last two years, we’ve witnessed massive shifts in global supply chains. The increasing impacts of climate change, competition with China, and the Russian invasion of Ukraine create new economic challenges on top of pandemic recovery. At the same time, the availability of clean energy technologies and advances in AI also create opportunities.
The United States and Mexico have a once-in-a-generation opportunity to capitalize on these defining economic trends of our time to boost North American prosperity, all while meeting our respective national goals to combat the climate crisis.
The HLED is an opportunity to advance our affirmative economic agenda for the United States and Mexico and to define our economic trajectory for the 21st century. Economies built on emerging industries, including electric vehicle battery production and critical minerals; economies bound together by safe, efficient, and orderly borders; and economies that provide high paying jobs that scale up clean energy.
We’ve worked hard this year under the HLED pillars and have made important progress, particularly on supply chain integration, border infrastructure cooperation, economic development in southern Mexico and northern Central America, and workforce development. We look forward to the HLED tomorrow to discussing how we can seize development to create high-paying jobs, increase bilateral integration and economic competitiveness, and provide greater prosperity, stability, and security to North America, all while mitigating and adapting to the increasingly evident effects of climate change.
As then Vice President Biden said during the first HLED ten years ago, the relationship with our North American neighbors is “grounded in a common border, a common culture, common values, common dreams, and common potential.” Through the strong institutional architecture we’ve built with our Mexican partners, including the HLED and the HLSD, we expect to continue to have meaningful and clear-eyed discussions about our shared challenges, and we expect to build on our successes as we create a more secure, stable, and prosperous hemisphere.
With that, I will hand it over to [Senior Administration Official Two] to help frame next week’s High-Level Security Dialogue.
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL TWO: Thank you, [Senior Administration Official Two], and good afternoon to everyone. The third High-Level Security Dialogue with Mexico will take place on October 5th, and representatives from the State Department, working with the White House, Homeland Security, and Department of Justice will address three issues. Our joint efforts with Mexico under the Bicentennial Framework, focus on protecting our people, preventing transborder crime, and pursuing criminal networks. These efforts are rooted in mutual trust and respect for each country’s sovereignty and independence.
The security threats we face are multidimensional and neither country can overcome these threats alone. We are jointly pursuing solutions that include respect for the rule of law, protection and defense of human rights, and countering corruption.
Most importantly, synthetic drugs are the number one killer of Americans aged 18 to 49; nearly 110,000 Americans died last year by drug overdose and two-thirds of those deaths involved synthetic opioids. Synthetic drugs increasingly affect all countries as the Secretary said in promoting the Global Coalition to Address Synthetic Drug Threats, no one country can contain this problem. The High-Level Security Dialogue presents an opportunity for the United States and Mexico to continue working together as leaders in this effort.
We will continue exploring ways to cooperate on law enforcement efforts, information sharing, private sector engagement, and training to combat the synthetic drug threat and the diversion of precursor chemicals used in production of synthetic drugs. We’ll also be working to expand public awareness campaigns on the risks of fentanyl through the Bicentennial Framework’s binational public affairs – public panel of experts on mental health, substance use, and addiction.
We’ll also use the opportunity to expand cooperation on building capacity in Mexico to dismantle transnational criminal organizations’ financial networks, target human smuggling operations, and expand prosecution for arms trafficking. The High-Level Security Dialogue presents further opportunities to discuss investing more in justice and security sector institutions to reduce impunity for high impact crimes and including those against Americans living or traveling in Mexico.
We also anticipate discussing how we can further coordinate on multiple operations to increase firearms trafficking investigations and seizures. Finally, we will discuss ongoing efforts to disrupt the finances of transnational criminal organizations, along with their ability to profit from cybercrime.
Of course, there – these are just a few highlights of what we anticipate will be a robust and fruitful discussion on dozens of security issues. Thank you.
MODERATOR: Great. Thank you, both, very much. Operator, could you please inform the new participants of instructions for asking a question?
OPERATOR: Certainly. Thank you. Ladies and gentlemen, if you do wish to ask a question, please press 1 and then 0 on your telephone keypad. You can withdraw your question at any time by repeating the 1, 0 command. And if you’re using a speakerphone, please pick up the handset before pressing those numbers. Again, it’s 1, 0 at this time. And one moment.
MODERATOR: Great. Let’s first go the line of Tracy Wilkinson from LA Times.
OPERATOR: Tracy, your line is open.
You may be muted.
I think they may have accidentally removed themselves from queue.
MODERATOR: I see. Okay. Let’s please go to the line of Jose Diaz from Reforma.
QUESTION: Yes, this is Jose. Thank you for taking my question. The Mexican military has become a very important actor in the Mexican economy. These days the Mexican military controls customs, several airports, trains, and other areas of the Mexican economy. Is the U.S. concerned at all about this phenomenon, and the little transparency that the Mexican military has for – and that could affect economic competitivity?
And a quick second one: What are the metrics for success in the fight against fentanyl? Is that extraditions? What exactly is the metric of success? Thank you.
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL TWO: [Senior Administration Official One], if you want to address the first question, I can take on the second part of the question.
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL ONE: I just realized I was on mute. This is [Senior Administration Official One]; apologies for that.
Taking the first question, the United States has a strong and deep relationship and partnership with the Mexican Government and greatly appreciates the opportunity to have, as I said, an open and clear-eyed discussion that’s quite meaningful on our cooperation, both within the High-Level Economic Dialogue and the High-Level Security Dialogue. We are heartened that the conversation in those dialogues with the Mexican Government includes all relevant agencies on both sides of the government to ensure strong cooperation.
[Senior Administration Official Two], I’ll leave the second part of the question to you.
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL TWO: Thank you. Well, I welcome the question on what is happening on fentanyl. Diplomatic engagement to prioritize fentanyl and mobilize coordinated action from governments and industry will spur urgent action on a number of things: first of all, dedicating resources to disrupt fentanyl production and supply; targeting clandestine labs wherever they may be and the chemists and companies involved in synthetic drug production and chemical diversion; enacting stronger chemical control and accountability structures – importantly, that’s with private industry participation, in order to reduce the diversion of controlled and dual-use chemicals to illicit productions – and also increase investigation and prosecution of key organized crime figures involved in the synthesis and trafficking of fentanyl. And I call your attention to the eight individuals – Mexican individuals who were sanctioned by the United States this week for involvement in fentanyl trafficking.
MODERATOR: Great, thank you both. Let’s go back to the line of Tracy Wilkinson from the LA Times.
QUESTION: Okay, thank you. Thank you. Sorry about that earlier; I’m not used to being called on first, and I was caught off guard.
You’ve answered a bit of my question, which I was curious about who your interlocutors are going to be, especially next week, and you said a lot of the counterparts in the various agencies. And I ask that because Mexico – I mean, how do you deal with a country where the president denied many of these problems even exist, or exist at the level that a lot of us think, from killings and disappearances to the fentanyl crisis, et cetera? I assume it’s that you have to deal with the lower levels of people who are really more active in this and less political.
And then the other question, I wanted to sort of follow up a little bit on what Pepe was I think getting at, is the role of the military, which has taken on so much political and law enforcement powers under this government. How does that sort of color the way you deal with Mexico on all of these issues? Thanks.
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL ONE: Thanks very much for the question. In terms of the High-Level Economic Dialogue, I’m very pleased to note that we will have Special Presidential Envoy Kerry participating in the conversation tomorrow here at the department. Because our hope is that we will be able to have a very good conversation among all of us about the four pillars within the High-Level Economic Dialogue, but really also focused on some of the key aspects about how we move forward our cooperation in the area of clean energy transition. And Special Presidential Envoy Kerry has made multiple trips to Mexico, and so we look forward to that part of that conversation. The Mexican delegation, as we understand it, will have all relevant agencies at the table for that conversation.
For the High-Level Security Dialogue, as you well note, we will have all relevant agencies, as I had previously mentioned, from both sides of the government participating in both of the dialogues. And I think one of the hallmarks of our cooperation with the Government of Mexico is the ability for all agencies and all of those at all levels to roll up our sleeves and get work done, which I appreciate greatly in terms of that bilateral relationship.
[Senior Administration Official Two], I’ll leave it to you for anything further you’d like to add on the security dialogue.
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL TWO: Thank you. In speaking with our Mexican counterparts from various secretariats at all levels, we have excellent cooperation and we agree that regardless of where fentanyl may be manufactured, we are – we have good cooperation. We see the need to work together in a variety of areas. And our INL programs that work with prosecutors, that work with investigators, that fund experts from the Department of Justice – all of those are very well received by people at the working level and above in the Mexican Government. Thanks.
MODERATOR: Great, thank you. Let’s next get to the line of Eduard Ribas from EFE.
QUESTION: Hi, thank you for doing this. Could you provide us some more details on this trip to Mexico? Is a meeting between Secretary Blinken and President López Obrador expected?
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL ONE: Thanks very much for the question. I have nothing to confirm at this time on the Secretary’s calendar while he’s in Mexico City other than the High-Level Security Dialogue. But on the High-Level Security Dialogue, I will say that the Secretary looks very forward to a broad agenda while in Mexico City to discuss the range of our shared security challenges.
MODERATOR: Great, thank you. Let’s please go to Kylie Madry from Reuters.
QUESTION: Hi there. Can you hear me?
MODERATOR: We sure can.
QUESTION: Okay, perfect. Hi, guys. I did kind of want to emphasize or ask again about some of these outstanding questions about – I guess the U.S.’s concern about either military operations or just the state of aviation and customs in Mexico. We’ve seen recently – I guess from a commercial perspective, there has been a tie-up between Mexican airline Viva Aerobus and U.S. airline Allegiant put on hold because of the U.S.’s questions about these flight moves from the Mexico City International Airport to the state-run AIFA. And we’ve also seen – I had the Mexico director of the – of UPS tell me last week that Ambassador Salazar had actually met with airlines affected by the cargo flight moves.
I’m just curious if – one, what exactly are the U.S.’s concerns from both an economic and security standpoint? And will these things be on the agenda in these upcoming meetings? Thanks.
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL ONE: Thanks very much for the question. In terms of civil aviation matters, I will note that the United States and Mexico do continue to consult on those matters under the 2015 Air Transport Agreement. They will not be part of the High-Level Economic Dialogue tomorrow.
In terms of your general question in terms of cooperation on the range of issues and the actors who were involved on the Mexican side as opposed to our side, I would stress that again, in addition to the High-Level Economic Dialogue and in addition to the High-Level Security Dialogue, we have a number of ongoing mechanisms that have been longstanding to coordinate with the Mexican Government, sometimes on a daily basis. And those include some longstanding mechanisms we have on the border. We have a binational bridges and border crossings group that meets multiple times in a year to discuss a range of issues, including border infrastructure but customs cooperation as well on the border. We also have an executive steering committee that meets on border management. And so that allows us to get to the heart of making sure that we’re coordinating in terms of that daily movement of goods and services and people, and all of those flow across the border on a regular basis.
MODERATOR: Thanks very much. Let’s next go to the line of Jim Costa from La Jornada.
QUESTION: Thanks very much, and thanks for doing the call today. I wanted to ask about the migration accord signed last week in Ciudad Juarez. There’s been a lot of reporting about it, but we haven’t actually seen the details. I don’t know if you’re going to release the details. But specifically for those folks on the call today, what is new in the accord? It looks like a ratification of a lot of stuff that was already happening, so I wonder if someone could point that out.
And more specifically, is the U.S. providing additional financing to Mexico to make – take these actions? And do you have an agreement from Mexico to take additional actions to deport migrants who are in Mexico who have been returned to Mexico from the United States? Thank you.
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL ONE: Thanks very much for the question. This is [Senior Administration Official One]. I’ll start by saying we continue on a daily basis to work very closely with the Government of Mexico to address the increased number of encounters at our southwest border. I’d really have to refer you to DHS, who I believe is on the line, regarding engagement over the weekend and last week with the Government of Mexico.
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL THREE: Yes. Thanks, [Senior Administration Official One], and thanks for the question as well. To echo [Senior Administration Official One]’s points, we discuss migration matters with Mexican officials on an almost daily basis here at the department, and certainly out of our embassy in Mexico City and all along the border. Let me get back to you on your specific question, though, on the latest agreement. I want to confirm some things with my leadership here, and then we’ll release what we can as far as any specific agreements with the Mexicans.
MODERATOR: Thanks very much. And we have time for one final question, and that will be for Doug Palmer from Politico.
QUESTION: Hi, thanks for taking my question. It’s kind of a dumb one, but I just wanted to verify. This is a ministerial-level meeting, meaning it’s taking place with – I mean, is Ambassador Tai and Secretary Raimondo and their equivalents from other agencies that are participating, both on the U.S. and the Mexican side?
And then secondly, there’s a number of disputes right now between the U.S. and Mexico. One that’s been percolating for a while has to do with Mexico’s energy policy. Would you expect any resolution of energy issues out of this meeting tomorrow? And if not, would that just (inaudible) for the U.S. to ask for a dispute settlement panel in that case?
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL ONE: Thanks very much for the question. This is [Senior Administration Official One] again. You are correct. Tomorrow, Secretary Blinken will co-host the HLED with U.S. Secretary of Commerce Gina Raimondo and U.S. Trade Representative Ambassador Katherine Tai, and Special Presidential Envoy Kerry does intend to join the conversation as well. In addition, our two ambassadors – that would be United States Ambassador Ken Salazar and Mexican Ambassador Moctezuma – will also join the conversation, along with a range of other senior officials. In addition, in Mexico City next week, the High-Level Security Dialogue will also be a cabinet-level meeting.
In terms of your question about consultations under the United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement, I’ll defer to my USTR colleague who’s on the line.
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL FOUR: Thanks, [Senior Administration Official One]. So this is [Senior Administration Official Four]. I’m the [title] here at USTR. And thanks for the question, Doug.
So we did request consultations with Mexico under the USMCA in July of last year on four sets of energy measures of Mexico that favor CFE and PEMEX, Mexico’s two SOEs in this sector. Those consultations are ongoing, and they won’t be subject to the discussions tomorrow in the High-Level Economic Dialogue. I will say that these are important discussions for Ambassador Tai; she engages regularly with her counterpart, Secretary Buenrostro, as part of those consultations.
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL ONE: May I also add, just in terms of participation at the High-Level Economic Dialogue on the Mexican side, the attendees will include Foreign Secretary Alicia Bárcena as well as Mexican Secretary of the Economy Raquel Buenrostro. Over.
MODERATOR: Great. Thank you all very much. Thanks again to everyone for joining us. Just to remind, this call is on background, attributable to senior administration officials, and is embargoed until tomorrow morning, Friday, September 29th, at 9:00 a.m. Thanks again for joining us today.