SECRETARY BLINKEN: Hello and good morning, everyone. Buenos días a todos y todas. It’s very good to be with you today and it’s especially good to be with our colleagues Secretary Bárcena, Secretary Buenrostro, and my good friends as well and colleagues Secretary Raimondo and, of course, Trade Representative Tai.
I’m also looking forward, I must say, to – Alicia, to seeing you next week in Mexico to pursue our security dialogue.
Before I get into what we we’re – what we’ve been doing today, let me just take a moment to express deep condolences on the passing of Senator Dianne Feinstein. I had the privilege of serving in the Senate when Senator Feinstein was there. I had an opportunity to travel with her, including to the Middle East. She was a trailblazer in American politics, an influential voice for strengthening U.S. national security, and making it more inclusive, including through her leadership on the intelligence committee. And she was a strong advocate, as everyone here knows, for closer ties with Mexico, just over the border from the state that she loved and served so admirably for decades.
We’re meeting at a moment of unprecedented momentum for the relationship between the United States and Mexico. If you look at last year, our bilateral trade hit a record $860 billion. Earlier this year, Mexico became the United States’ largest trading partner.
Our two countries have a shared vision for our economic future, one that’s defined by fair competition, openness, transparency, measuring prosperity not only by how much countries grow but by how many people share in that growth.
As we discussed this morning, by creating the right incentives in business environments and harnessing our two nations’ respective strengths, we have a tremendous opportunity to make North America the most competitive, the most productive, the most dynamic region in the world. That’s what this dialogue is fundamentally about.
We’ll continue to strengthen, to expand, and diversify supply chains in emerging industries like electric vehicles and semiconductors. Today, in fact, we’re launching a joint semiconductor action plan to accelerate our integration, to scale our efforts to attract new investment. Under President Biden’s leadership, we’re building regional clean energy technologies and semiconductor supply chains through the Inflation Reduction Act and the bipartisan CHIPS and Science Act that will drive our economies through this century.
Mexico’s overhauled one-stop shop website is providing prospective investors the tax and regulatory information that they need to take advantage of this landmark legislation.
And we’re taking steps to improve and strengthen even more our border coordination, like piloting a model port to streamline inspections and finding ways to reduce wait times, making it easier for people and goods to cross legally while strengthening our capacity to deal with fentanyl and other illegal narcotics.
We’re also addressing the root causes of irregular migration by boosting economic opportunity. In southern Mexico, in northern Central America, our development agencies – USAID and AMEXCID – are supporting five – excuse me, 50,000 students, farmers, and others with jobs, with training, with access to markets and capital.
When people can make a living, when they have confidence in their economic security, when they can put food on the table for their kids, when they can build a future at home, that’s exactly what they’ll choose to do. And they’re less likely to undertake the very dangerous and hazardous journey north.
We’re collaborating to ensure that workers on both sides of the border are prepared to succeed in the industries of the future. That includes partnerships like the one between Arizona State University and the National Technological Institute of Mexico, offering Mexican students an eight-week English for the semiconductor industry course. This work on workforce development, on skills, is essential to our economic partnership, and again, to strengthening our joint competitiveness.
When then-Vice President Biden launched this dialogue a decade ago, he said that the relationship between our countries and people, and I quote, “was grounded in a common border, a common culture, common values, common dreams, common potential.” That’s why we launched this dialogue in 2021, or really relaunched it. And by further deepening our economic integration, I am confident that we’ll continue to realize the extraordinary common potential that President Biden and then-Vice President Biden pointed to.
With that, Alicia, the floor is yours.
FOREIGN SECRETARY BARCENA: Thank you. (Via interpreter) Good afternoon. All right, a very good afternoon to you, everyone.
Dear members of the press corps, thank you for being with us for this third High-Level Economic Dialogue Mexico-United States. It’s one of the mechanisms created between both countries to become more efficient in our dialogue, and especially to have channels of communication in different areas. Obviously, we have others. Of course, the USMCA, and the dialogue that we will have next week on security, migration, synthetic drugs, weapons. This will be held next week in Mexico.
I think today, though, we have been able to understand the progress that we have made in strengthening our economic ties and social ties and trade ties, I would say, between both countries. I would truly like to thank you especially, Secretary Blinken, Gina Raimondo, Ambassador Tai. It has been an honor for me, because this is my first meeting as secretary of foreign affairs, and I am very well – I am in very good company with Secretary Buenrostro, who manages all coordination of this High-Level Economic Dialogue.
I am only going to mention a few issues. Of course, we have become the first trading partner of the United States, and that means many things. It means that there are responsibilities, commitments, and I would also say that there is a shared vision to create one of the most powerful areas economically and socially speaking. Therefore, during this meeting, we discussed how we can build back together, how to promote social and economic development – especially, in our case, in southern Mexico, Central America, South America. Because we know that we are receiving a large number of people at our borders, but we also need to find tools for future prosperity, and we need to invest in our people.
I think one of the most interesting topics that we discussed today was specifically supply chains in our region and especially semiconductors and conductors with a very clear strategy: for this region to become the most powerful region in production of semiconductors and conductors in the world. And therefore, investments should be redirected towards these areas, as our secretary will discuss.
But one issue that we discussed here as well is how to strengthen our border infrastructure, and that is a huge issue. Why? Because when it comes to land trade between the U.S. and Mexico, we have lines of communications that are extremely important for the transportation of merchandise and people and many other issues that I am going to discuss briefly. We have 60 ports of entry on our shared border – 23 land crossings and 37 river crossings. We have made progress at this meeting. We have shown progress and talked about the infrastructure on both sides to discuss how we can bring our infrastructure up to speed so that we have better outcomes.
Mexico is ready to complete Otay II, for example, in 2024; Mexicali I, Calexico, Rio Colorado, Agua Prieta, and San Jerónimo. These are areas that are very important because it is truly where most of the goods and merchandise and people are coming in and out of both of our countries. Our national customs agency, for example, is supporting 1.7 million monthly operations between imports and exports and there are over 20 million operations per year supporting 84,000 importers and 817 border – customs agents.
And the issue is modernization. We need to make sure that 100 percent of our cargo that crosses the border is automated, and that is where we are working very closely in order to ease crossings. Because if we are able to – according to the Atlantic Council, if we shave 10 minutes off border crossing times, that would bring in 3,000 additional jobs on six border states: Baja California, Sonora, Chihuahua, Coahuila, Nuevo León, and Tamaulipas. And this would also facilitate the entrance of $25 million of merchandise to the United States. I think that this modernization program on the border is extremely important. And there, we are investing in Mexico this year. We have a budget approved of 15 million pesos – $880 million – which will allow to do, among other things, increase our capacity to detect weapons and synthetic drugs.
We know that this is, I would say, a very deep-seated issue. and that it is resonating very much in the U.S. community. And I’d like to assure you, Secretary Blinken and through you, President Biden, that we have instructions from President López Obrador to do everything in our power to control the flow of illegal drugs and the supply chain from the beginning – precursors, entry into Mexico, border crossings. We want to say and reaffirm our decisiveness and commitment so that – to controlling synthetic drugs – weapons, which is a very important issue to us, as well. And I think that that infrastructure will create great benefits for us, because what we want in the end is a safe – a secure border, a border that provides assurances to people that we are doing things well.
And with what you said – and I’m going to close with this because this is – because as far as the economy, the most important part will be discussed by Secretary Buenrostro, migration. Migration is an issue with strong social and economic roots and that is why we have agreed to look at these structural causes of migration. But also, we have seen that the problem on our border – the U.S.-Mexico border, it doesn’t begin there. Really, people are coming from the south. So, we need to have a hemispheric regional perspective to include Ecuador, Colombia, Panama, Venezuela, Haiti, Honduras, Guatemala, Costa Rica. And that is why our president is assuming great leadership in this regard.
And here, Secretary Blinken, we have discussed this. I think that yesterday, in addition to this meeting here with you, we were able to meet with Secretary Mayorkas, with presidential advisor Liz Sherwood, and with a few – we met with a few representatives from these countries to talk specifically about joint actions we can take to control these migratory flows, offer development opportunities, and approve safe and legal pathways. This is essential because we have had a crisis that affected us at our trade crossings as well. So, we need to be very well prepared for this.
I think that here in Washington it has been such a pleasure for me to be here because I’ve been able to meet with representatives from your Senate and House of Representatives to talk about our bilateral relationship and to have a shared vision from the executive, the legislative branches where we can talk about security, migration, development, trade, weapons trafficking, the trafficking of synthetic drugs, fentanyl; and to tell you that both governments are working very hard to attack root causes. AMEXCID and USAID are joining together to invest. We’re investing in Guatemala, Honduras, El Salvador – $150 million. This is benefiting 54,000 families. This is progress. These 54,000 families will think about it several times before they make the decision to leave.
Thank you very much, Secretary Blinken. I am sure that these meetings that we are holding between the U.S. and Mexico are meetings of friends, partners, and therefore we will create and build an American community. Thank you very much.
SECRETARY BLINKEN: Secretary Buenrostro.
ECONOMY SECRETARY BUENROSTRO: (Via interpreter) Can you hear me? Good afternoon, everyone. Undoubtedly, this high-level dialogue was very fruitful, very cordial, and we have lots of expectations vis-à-vis the future.
We were saying that this is the best time in the economic relationship between both countries. Our trade has reached the highest levels in our history. We are the main trade partner of the U.S. In Mexico, we have greater investment; also, foreign direct investments, and most of these investments come from the U.S. and we are also seeing greater integration of supply chains. This means strengthening an integration of these governments, but this has been done also with efforts on the side of the private sector. Yesterday, we also met with the private sector, stakeholders both from Mexico and the U.S. It is the first time a high-level economic dialogue of this nature, with also the private sector, takes place. This is going to provide very positive results for all of us.
We are working together to turn North America into a – the most important place for the integration of supply chains pertaining to several strategic sectors, so as to guarantee that supply is – supply chains are not disrupted. Amongst these, we have what has to do with electric vehicles, medical supplies, and one of the main elements: the issue of semiconductors.
Regarding semiconductors, Mexico, and the U.S., we are working to see how we can complement each other on this technology to have the strongest supply chain on semiconductors, taking advantage of different ICT markets. For Mexico, this is a significant opportunity. It allows us to have better paying jobs. These – as you know, Mexico has a higher number of graduates in engineering than Germany and Brazil. And our engineers are amongst the best trained in the world. We are strengthening this even more, working jointly with American universities and the industry, so as to create a bigger link to the new technological areas.
Undoubtedly, today, we are celebrating the shared vision of Presidents López Obrador and Biden. The most important thing is the people. All of this well-being and economic development will take place, keeping our peoples in the center of what we’re doing.
SECRETARY BLINKEN: Secretary Raimondo.
SECRETARY RAIMONDO: Thank you. Thank you and good afternoon, a special thank you to Secretary Blinken for hosting us for an excellent and important session. It’s an honor to be here. And a big warm welcome to Secretaries Buenrostro and Bárcena for joining us here in the United States.
I also want to add my note of sadness and gratitude to Senator Feinstein. Not only was she a strong advocate for immigrants, but was a pioneer and somebody that many of us women in politics and public service looked up to for many years. She paved the way for the rest of us, and it is in fact a very, very great loss for our country.
As has been said, the U.S. and Mexico have an incredibly important, significant, and growing trade relationships – one of the largest in the world. And the relationship, though, isn’t just limited to trade, as important and as large as that is. The relationship includes strong historical, familial, and cultural ties. And I think we have to remember that. As we celebrate 200 years of bilateral relationships – of our bilateral relationship, yes, let’s lean into trade, and, yes, let’s expand that trade. But let’s continue to work together as neighbors and as longstanding partners.
Two years ago, our governments reconvened the High-Level Economic Dialogue, and I – it has been a very positive and productive engagement in that time. Our goal in this dialogue is to make it easier for our countries to trade, to invest, and to innovate. And by building regional prosperity, as has been said, we will help to develop diverse, high-skilled workforces and spur the next wave of economic growth and do it in a way that is inclusive, so that all of the peoples of both of our countries have an opportunity to participate in the economic prosperity which we, together, will create.
As you have heard, today was an opportunity to both review the progress that we have made over the past couple of years, but even more important, to talk about where we go from here – the progress we will make together as we go forward. And one of the areas on which I am very focused is the area of semiconductor. We at the Commerce Department are hard at work implementing the CHIPS and Science Act, which of course will supercharge the U.S. semiconductor industry, creating hundreds of thousands of high-paying semiconductor jobs here in the United States.
But there is a huge opportunity for Mexico to also participate in the economic benefits of the supply chain. And so, we are looking to use the HLED to figure out ways of better coordinating so that we realize the significant economic opportunities for Mexican workers and Mexican businesses, including small- and medium-sized Mexican businesses. It just creates an opportunity for Mexico to be part of our efforts and incorporate it into the efforts of building more resilient supply chains through partnering with our allies and with our neighbor.
So, in the weeks and months ahead, we will continue our engagement with the private sector, with labor, civil society, academic institutions – all of whom are essential to our success. And I think I can speak for all of us that we have high hopes for the High-Level Economic Dialogue and the role that it will play in achieving this vision. And together, we will build a secure and prosperous North America that stands ready to tackle the challenges of the 21st century. So, thank you, and thank you for hosting us.
SECRETARY BLINKEN: Thank you, Gina. Katherine.
AMBASSADOR TAI: Thank you. (inaudible) is there a trick? Is this on?
AMBASSADOR TAI: Okay. Thank you. I wasn’t paying attention.
Hello, everyone. Thanks so much for being here with us. As my colleagues noted, our relationship with Mexico is special and important. We share more than just a border. The sheer volume of our bilateral trade in goods and services really does speak for itself – more than $2 billion per day. Mexico is now our top trading partner, and we have an important trade agreement, the U.S.-Mexico-Canada Agreement that has further deepened our ties.
I also want to take a moment, along with my colleagues, to pay homage to the great Senator Dianne Feinstein, who was an enormous supporter and champion of the U.S.-Mexico-Canada Agreement. And I also want to note that this has been a hard week for all of us, as another great champion of our efforts in renewing our trade ties and bringing a new approach to trade, Tom Conway, the president of the United Steelworkers union, passed away earlier this week. So, it’s been a hard week, but a good week to remind ourselves of our champions and to carry on their legacies.
Our people have a shared history and culture going back centuries. Last year, we celebrated 200 years of bilateral relations, and it is this human connection that distinguishes and reinforces our relationship. And this is why President Biden relaunched this dialogue in 2021, to work together so that our people enjoy greater prosperity and a greater quality of life. Trade plays such an important role in our pursuit of this vision. Investing in our people and our workers is a top priority for our administration and a key pillar of our worker-centered trade policy.
This new approach is especially important as both of our countries continue to navigate an ever-changing global economy marked by a worsening climate crisis, geopolitical tensions that are rising, food insecurity, and growing inequality. And together with Mexico, we are working to mitigate the risk of future supply chain disruptions. For example, we’re standing up a mechanism under the USMCA to ensure cooperation during trade flow disruptions that happen during crises and emergencies. And we are leveraging our trade relationship to lift up all workers and to drive a race to the top in North America, in line with our vision under Pillar Four of this dialogue – “Investing in our People.”
Separately through the USMCA, USTR is working closely with the Government of Mexico to ensure that the rights of workers to freedom of association and collective bargaining are being upheld. Just over the past year, we’ve secured wins for workers at several different facilities in Mexico – new collective bargaining agreements, major salary increases, safer working conditions. This is having a real impact on working people’s lives on both sides of the border.
Our agreement is working in so many other ways too. We’re collaborating on workforce development to equip our people – especially our women, our youth, and underserved communities, to boost their success in a new era. We’re working together on important environmental issues, and we’re empowering small businesses and entrepreneurs to fully benefit from the USMCA. Just last week, we joined our partners in Mexico City for the second USMCA Small Business Dialogue.
At the same time, there is a lot more we know that we must and can do together.
I want to close on the importance of stakeholder engagement. The success of our work under the dialogue will depend on who gets a seat at the table, because policies and initiatives should not be carried out in a vacuum or reflect the views of only a select group. So, I’m going to conclude my remarks where I started them, with a focus on our people.
We must hear directly from them, especially those from historically-underserved and underrepresented communities in Mexico and in the United States. Not only must they have a seat at the table, their voices must help shape our work going forward. And I’ll quote President Biden from the United Nations earlier this month when he said that we must “live up to the promises we have made to ourselves, to each other, [and] to the most vulnerable, and to all those who will inherit the world we create.”
I look forward to our continued work with all of my colleagues here and with our stakeholders. Thank you very much.
MR MILLER: Thank you. (Inaudible) question today goes to James Longman with ABC News.
QUESTION: Thank you very much. The State Department has already said, Secretary Blinken, that the shutdown threatens to – threatens the United States reputation around the world. My question is, would you accept a deal which did not include aid for Ukraine?
And a second question. The United States provides hundreds of millions of dollars in aid to Uganda, and this is a country that has just passed one of the harshest anti-gay laws in the world. President Biden has already condemned it; you’ve put sanctions on various individuals on their ability to travel, but I’m wondering what material response the administration is planning and when we can expect that.
SECRETARY BLINKEN: Great. Thanks very much. Let me take the second part first. We have, as you know, consistently expressed very deep concerns about the Anti-Homosexuality Act that was signed into law earlier this year. It infringes very clearly on the human rights of Ugandan citizens, of journalists – excuse me, of its citizens. It jeopardizes progress in the fight against HIV/AIDS. Uganda has been, for so many years, an excellent partner in that very fight. Jeopardizing it makes no sense. We’re concerned, of course, that the community itself could be further marginalized and decades of gains could be lost. And that would be, in and of itself, a human tragedy.
When the law passed, going back to May, President Biden directed the government to evaluate all aspects of our engagement with Uganda, including our foreign assistance, including our investments, including the application of sanctions. That process is ongoing, and when I have any news for you on that front, we, of course, will share it.
When it comes to a possible government shutdown, I would just say this: First, we hope it doesn’t happen. From the perspective of the State Department, we’re very focused on making sure that, no matter what happens, we can focus our resources on advancing and protecting the national security and, of course, making sure that we can carry out the functions necessary to do that – to protect human life, property, and security.
Our work would clearly be affected by this. It would make it harder to do everything that we do to try to advance national security. So, we urge Congress not to take this step. I’m not going to comment on the specifics of possible legislative arrangements. That is up to members of Congress. But I can just say as a general proposition that the shutdown shouldn’t happen, but if it does, we will take every possible step to make sure that at the very least we’re carrying out our functions to protect national security.
MR MILLER: For the next question, Ariel Moutsatsos with Televisa.
QUESTION: Thank you, Matt. Good morning. I have a question for Secretary Blinken and also for the Minister Alicia Bárcena.
Secretary Blinken, Attorney General Garland said recently that there are diplomatic talks with Mexico regarding the extradition of the other three Chapitos, the brothers of Ovidio Guzman. How are those talks going? Has their extradition been formally requested? And what are your expectations regarding a timeline for that since they are not yet under arrest?
And then my question for Foreign Minister Alicia Bárcena, in Spanish, if you don’t mind. (Via interpreter) The State Department, Madam Secretary, made it public a few days ago that the U.S. is going to radically expand its operations in Mexico against fentanyl, and restructure its staff, including new agents. Is this something that the U.S. and Mexico talked about and agreed upon already? And if so, then has adding new agents been approved and how many? Thank you very much.
SECRETARY BLINKEN: Thank you very much for your question. I’m afraid, though, I’m going to disappoint you because I have to refer you to the Department of Justice when it comes to extradition matters.
FOREIGN SECRETARY BARCENA: (Via interpreter) Yes, thank you for your question. Generally speaking, foreign security agents are authorized by the High-Level Security Group that was created in the national security law. These are joint decisions that are made based on respect for sovereignty and reciprocity. These issues specifically are discussed in our security cabinet, coordinated by Rosa Icela Rodriguez, who would be the right person to give you a specific answer to your question.
MR MILLER: (Off-mike.)
QUESTION: Thank you. Thank you very much. Secretary Blinken, I would like to ask if in yesterday meetings with the foreign minister from India you raised concerns about this crisis with Canada, and if you – you urge India to collaborate with Canada in the investigation of this assassination.
Secondly, for Ambassador Tai and Secretaria Buenrostro, did you address the trade dispute over the Mexican corn? When do you expect the issue to be resolved? And when – (via interpreter) and finally, if the Minister of Foreign Affairs will allow me, we saw yesterday that the few Republicans would like to condition funds to Mexico on the fight against fentanyl. Is this a concern for you? Are you worried that, in some way, cooperation between both countries might become complicated during the campaign? Thank you.
SECRETARY BLINKEN: (Inaudible) very much. As I’ve said before and other colleagues have said before, we’re very concerned about the allegations that have been raised by Canada by Prime Minister Trudeau. We have been in close contact with Canada about that, and at the same time we have engaged with the Indian Government and urged them to work with Canada on an investigation. And I had the opportunity to do so again in my meeting yesterday with Foreign Minister Jaishankar. Those responsible need to be held accountable, and we hope that our friends in both Canada and India will work together to resolve this matter. Katherine?
AMBASSADOR TAI: Yes. On the corn issue, Secretary Buenrostro and I had a bilateral yesterday where we covered many issues. We did not cover corn, however, and that’s not because it’s not important, but it’s because we’re at the point in our conversations where we’ve handed the issue over to our lawyers. So, in terms of timing, you can take a look at the USMCA procedures. I think it will be a number of months before we expect a response. But there are a clear set of procedures that are set out and our teams are participating on both sides.
ECONOMY SECRETARY BUENROSTRO: (Via interpreter) As Secretary Tai was saying, to resolve one of those kinds of disputes, there are mechanisms, terms. This begins with the creation of a panel; it ends with the final resolution. At this point the panel is being established, and by March we believe we could have a final solution. Right now, the panel members and the lawyers are working to – they get the final result.
With regards to your question, we have been following the debate on this topic. We know some Republicans have said that. We do not think it will happen. But what we are interested in conveying to the American people is that Mexico is committed to supporting the fight against synthetic drugs, mostly fentanyl. This is something I want to convey. We want to cooperate. We want to help and do everything at our disposal to control the productive chain, illicit productive chain of illicits and fentanyl.
MR MILLER: Jesus Esquivel with Proceso.
QUESTION: (Via interpreter) Thank you. Secretary Blinken, I will pose my question in Spanish. Certain Mexican states are suffering great violence, violence minimized by the Mexican Government. And I am talking about Chiapas, Zacatecas, Guerrero. Youth have been murdered, and the Mexican president has said simply it was a difficulty. I am wondering what you can tell us about the high-level dialogue meeting, if the U.S. has, with its co-shared responsibility, given the high levels of fentanyl consumption here and what has to do with the guns that come into our country. Are you willing to provide greater support? Are you going to introduce initiatives to that effect? Taking into account the high levels of violence in the country, and which you recognize through the alerts of the U.S. embassy in Mexico.
And my question for Secretary Bárcena has to do with migration. News agencies in the U.S. have reported a new agreement, which has not been clarified by either government. It is said that one of the agreed-upon points is that Mexico will undertake immediate deportations of migrants to third countries. Could you give us some clarity on this? Could you say yes or no about whether you will undertake immediate deportations?
And then you were talking about USAID’s program. President López Obrador has always talked about this as a tool for American intervention. Do you see this differently? Why are you celebrating this?
SECRETARY BLINKEN: Thank you very much for the question. This is a shared challenge and a shared responsibility for the United States and Mexico. Fentanyl coming into the United States is the number one killer of Americans aged 18 to 49, so it is for us a national priority. But it’s a priority across the entire spectrum of action that we need to take, and that starts with working to reduce demand, working to increase treatment, making sure that people can get help when they need it. And we’re making very massive efforts to do that in this country, including with public information campaigns and including with actions that are taking place at a community level, at a state level, and at a national level.
But we also have to be acting across, as I said, the entire spectrum. That includes at our border, that includes with our close partner Mexico, and it includes with countries around the world because this is a global challenge. Many of the chemical precursors that go into fentanyl are manufactured halfway around the world, then come close to us in Mexico, fabricated into fentanyl, sent across the border. So, we also have to deal with that part of the chain.
I say all of this because we put together a coalition of countries this summer – more than a hundred countries now – with Mexico and the United States playing a very important lead role to make sure that we’re acting cooperatively and collectively against the challenge of synthetic opioids. This is a challenge that is not simply one for the United States or Mexico. We are seeing this spring up around the world. We’re seeing Captagon, we’re seeing methamphetamines, we’re seeing other synthetic opioids that are wreaking havoc in various parts of the world. And fentanyl itself – while we’ve been the canary in the coal mine in the United States, we’re now seeing fentanyl use and distribution go up in various parts of the world as these criminal cartels are trying to make markets elsewhere because our market, tragically, has become so saturated.
But in terms of what the United States and Mexico are doing together – and Alicia talked about the importance that we both attach to this – I think it’s very important to note that not only do we have a responsibility on the demand side, we also have a responsibility when it comes to guns that are getting into Mexico, and that are helping to fuel the violence that goes along with the cartels that are engaged in the drug enterprise and violence more broadly. We feel a deep sense of responsibility. Last year, we made it for the first time a federal crime to be engaged in the trafficking of guns. That’s a very important new tool and new element. We’re working in ever closer collaboration to get at the guns before they get into Mexico, and working collaboratively with Mexico law enforcement.
At the same time, we’re seeing very important collaboration in Mexico, with Mexican authorities, on dealing with fentanyl, the fabrication, the labs, et cetera, in Mexico. We have dismantled synthetic drug labs, we’ve pursued criminal networks and their finances, we’ve reduced the amount of illicit firearms, cash, and other illicit goods that are crossing our border. And we strongly support Mexico in its efforts to counter production and trafficking. We’re providing assistance on seizing and investigating these clandestine drug labs. We’re preventing the diversion of chemical precursors. We’re increasing information-sharing on synthetic drugs and precursors. We’re enhancing security at our ports of entry.
It’s worth noting that of the synthetic opioids, of the fentanyl coming into the United States via Mexico, of the fentanyl that we seized, 95 percent is coming through legal ports of entry. So, the efforts that we’re making to strengthen even more our capacity to detect and stop this flow – that’s a very important element.
So, it’s a very long way of saying this is a matter of shared responsibility for us, shared obligation, shared concern. But it goes beyond the United States and Mexico. It’s a global challenge, a global problem, and our two countries together are now working with, as I said, more than a hundred other countries to get at it in new and effective ways.
ECONOMY SECRETARY BUENROSTRO: (Via interpreter) I’d like to respond saying that Mexico does not minimize the issue of violence in the states you mentioned. The president has addressed this directly. Every day, Monday through Friday, there is a cabinet meeting where carefully, between 6:00 and 7:00 every single day, the problems the country faces are analyzed. And we analyze carefully the states you have mentioned – Zacatecas, Guerrero, Chiapas – and, of course, we are paying lots of attention. And President López Obrador, together with the secretary of defense, the secretary of citizen security, the secretary of the navy, and the intelligence agency, have looked at this issue every single day.
Undoubtedly, drug smuggling is one of the critical issues, and we’re working with the United States. And I am so grateful that we are talking about this as a shared responsibility because at the end of the day, this is the case. We are neighbors and we will be neighbors for many years, I hope. And this will – this makes it clear that we need to help each other. The guns coming to Mexico are about 200,000 guns a year. What we are doing, and this is very important, is that the secretary of defense – and I hope you’ll be able to have a chat with them directly – they are doing a very careful traceability of these guns to see how they are going to the different states in the country. And if you wish to have this information, we can share it with you.
Regarding assisted retorna, in this case, Mexico is conducting these kind of assisted retorna with Guatemala, Honduras, and we are considering programs with Venezuela and Colombia. We have six weekly flights in the case of Guatemala, Honduras, El Salvador – Central American countries – and I believe it is very important for the tone of our conversation to be constructive and with evidence at hand. Thank you.
MR MILLER: Thank you all.
FOREIGN SECRETARY BARCENA: (Via interpreter) Right, USAID. USAID really is a U.S. cooperation agency, just as our – we have a Mexican cooperation agency. What we’re doing right now is bringing together our efforts to work together in Central America, and that is working out, as long – and what we want is to show results in communities that need it. As Secretary Buenrostro said, the main focus of the high-level dialogues – economic, security, drugs, migration, weapons – the goal is to benefit people.
 Ambassador Tai [back to transcript]