FOREIGN MINISTER URREJOLA: (Through interpreter) Well — I’m not sure if it’s good afternoon or good morning, but thank you for being here with us today. I would like to make a statement first, and then Secretary Antony Blinken will have some comments. Then we’ll move on to questions and answers.
It was truly wonderful to welcome my colleague here at the Department of State, Antony Blinken, on his first visit to Chile as United States Secretary of State. As the first activity on our agenda, we had a meeting with His Excellency the President Gabriel Boric. We discussed topics and global challenges for Chile and the United States. We were then able to talk about a variety of regional, multilateral topics in a larger meeting with our teams from the Department of Foreign Affairs and Under Secretary Ximena Fuentes.
As allies and friendly countries, we shared our views directly and openly. We have seen that we have areas of agreement and areas where we can make significant progress to help our citizens. We talked about the priority of our hemisphere, which is the protection of the environment and the oceans – a pillar of Chile’s foreign policy, according to the declaration signed in America for the protection of the oceans during the ninth Summit of the Americas in Los Angeles, California.
Bilaterally, we talked about the opportunity that will be the next celebration of 200 years of diplomatic relations in 2023 and how we can review our links and learn from the lessons of the past, some of which have been very harsh. We can also talk about the future of a productive bilateral relationship based on our shared values.
I would like to emphasize that gender equality issues are a priority for both countries. We will therefore seek mechanisms where we can share good practices and integrate gender and inclusion into the wide range of issues that make up our rich and wide-ranging bilateral relationship. The US government is doing a lot of work on this issue at the domestic level and we are very interested in that experience.
Based on its external principles, Chile has worked on multilateral issues and international law, viewing the OAD as a relevant institution for the future of our region and a necessary space for dialogue on hemispheric issues. Therefore, we must not forget that from tomorrow we are both preparing to participate in the 52nd General Assembly of the OAS, which will be held in Lima.
Due to the health measures and the efforts to overcome the pandemic, we are again looking forward to high-level visits to Chile. This basis for dialogue allows us to tackle the challenges and difficult topics on which we must work collectively and in concert to emerge stronger after the pandemic.
We are experiencing economic issues that affect us all, such as the war in Ukraine, food security, climate change and other pressing issues. The theme of the OAS General Assembly is “Together Against Inequality and Discrimination”, which represents part of the values that Chile constantly promotes in the international arena. We would like to reiterate Chile’s commitment to the importance of regional issues, with an emphasis on inclusion, intersectionality, which always includes gender, diversity, indigenous peoples, Afro-descendants and other minorities who have been seriously affected by the many problems we are currently facing.
I will conclude my remarks with this.
SECRETARY BLINKEN: Good morning everyone; and let me first say how nice it is to be back in Santiago. And to Foreign Minister Urrejola, Antonia, thank you very much for this morning, for the very good talks we had. I am grateful to President Borič for his time, for the high-quality exchange we had. And we are very grateful for the warm welcome we have received from our friends and partners here in Chile.
I also want to thank Ambassador Meehan. You have no idea how happy I am to be able to say “Ambassador” Meehan. But it’s really exciting to see you here in this new role. And as the President knows, as the Secretary of State knows, there is no stronger partner than Ambassador Meehan.
We have a relationship that is fundamentally linked by common interests and shared values, and next year we will truly celebrate 200 years of partnership. This partnership spans the things that matter most to our people – from economic and security issues where we have long-standing ties, to new areas of cooperation in climate, energy, health and even space.
And as I said, this relationship is based first and foremost on deeply shared values - a commitment to stand up for democracy and human rights in our countries, in this region and indeed around the world.
The strength and vitality of Chilean democracy can be seen in the peaceful and inclusive process in which the country is involved in the creation of a new constitution. It is seen in Chile’s leadership in regional organizations dedicated to the promotion of democracy and human rights, such as co-chairing the OAD Working Group on Nicaragua and the recent presidency of the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights. We see this in the position this government has taken to hold countries – left, right, liberal, conservative – to the same standards in terms of human rights and democracy. There should be no ideological blocs when it comes to defending the principles we have all agreed to in the UN and its Charter, in the Organization of American States, in the Inter-American Democratic Charter. That is why we call them universal rights and we must resist them wherever they are threatened.
We are also grateful for Chile’s clear voice in regional and multilateral organizations such as the OAS, where we will go tomorrow, and the United Nations, where it has consistently condemned – among others – Russia’s unjustified war of aggression against Ukraine.
We are strengthening our economic ties. Since Chile and the United States signed a free trade agreement in 2003, trade between our two countries has more than quadrupled, reaching more than $38 billion last year, supporting tens of thousands of jobs in both of our countries. The United States is the largest source of foreign direct investment in Chile, investing more than $25 billion in high-growth areas such as Chile’s renewable energy sector. And we intend to build these ties, which we talked about today.
For example, the United States has invested $760 million and provided technical assistance to five solar power projects in Chile, several of which are already powering homes and businesses across the country. Chile’s renewable energy sector already provides 45 percent of the country’s electricity supply and is helping to achieve Chile’s ambitious clean energy goals, including carbon neutrality by 2050 – something else we’ve talked about today, especially as we head together to COP 27, in a little over a while. monthly time.
Although Chile’s economy has grown over the years, so has inequality—here in Chile, but also more widely in our hemisphere. This has been exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic, the climate crisis, rising energy and food costs, and exacerbated again by Russian aggression in Ukraine.
But what we see across the board – across all of these fields is that the people who can least afford it are the most affected. Under President Biden, the United States is committed to partnering with Chile and other countries in the region to provide solutions to challenges that directly affect the lives of our people. This is a fundamental part of proving that democracies like ours can deliver concrete results for our people: addressing their needs and promoting their aspirations.
That’s one of the reasons we founded the American Partnership for Economic Prosperity. We did that at the Summit of the Americas a few months ago. It is focused on laying the foundations for bottom-up and middle-out economic growth by expanding digital connectivity, making our supply chains more resilient, including here in the hemisphere; creating clean energy jobs as we decarbonise; and get regional economic institutions to mobilize more investment and lending, including in middle-income countries. We look forward to working with Chile on this initiative.
We are also expanding support for those across the region who lack access to essential services such as health and education. This is the idea behind our commitment to train and equip 500,000 local health workers across the hemisphere in five years together with our partners. If this initiative is fully realized, it will greatly change the lives of millions of people in our hemisphere.
We also discussed our growing cooperation on migration, and I expressed my appreciation for Chile’s leadership on this issue, including hosting some half a million Venezuelan migrants and refugees and 180,000 Haitians.
At the June Summit of the Americas, Chile joined 21 other countries in the hemisphere in supporting the Los Angeles Declaration. This declaration is an important moment because it recognizes our shared responsibility in addressing the challenge of migration; and it does so in a way that enhances stability, creates opportunities for safe and orderly migration, and supports communities that host migrants, while holding criminals and traffickers accountable.
But for all the ties between our nations that we discussed today – and we covered a lot, we really probably ran out of time; we could discuss a dozen more topics. For all the bonds we’ve talked about today, perhaps none are as deep as the bonds between our people.
A little later today, I will be meeting with alumni of the Young Leaders of the Americas initiative. This is an exchange program that has brought together more than a thousand young entrepreneurs and business and social leaders across our hemisphere.
Ultimately, it is these kinds of ties, especially the ties that bind the rising generation of Chileans and Americans, that give me the most hope for the future of our relationship and our democracies. And they are another reason why we are committed to further strengthening the partnership between our governments.
Once again, Antonia, Foreign Minister, thank you very much. It is very good to be here today with all of you.
(Through interpreter) First question – Michael Crowley, New York Times.
QUESTION: Thank you very much, Mr. Secretary, Madam Foreign Minister. I didn’t expect to be the first, so I apologize that my questions aren’t as regionally focused as some that will follow, but thank you for your understanding.
Secretary Blinken, as you probably know, OPEC just agreed to cut oil production by 2 million barrels per day. You joined President Biden on a recent somewhat controversial trip to Saudi Arabia, which the president justified in part by working with the Saudis to control oil costs. What is your reaction to this decision and are you disappointed with the Saudis in particular?
In addition, Russia has set Brittney Griner’s appeal hearing for October 25. Could this change the status of negotiations regarding Griner and Paul Whelan?
And Madam Secretary, President Biden’s policy toward Venezuela essentially left unchanged the Trump administration’s policy toward the Maduro regime, including very tough economic sanctions. Do you think this is the right approach for the United States towards Venezuela? Thanks to both of you.
SECRETARY BLINKEN: Michael, thank you very much. Regarding energy, it was first clear that the need for energy supply is to meet demand. That’s what we’ve been working on across the board and we’ve done our part. US oil production rose by more than 500,000 barrels per day. As you know, we have also used strategic oil reserves to ensure that energy is in the market and also as a way to stabilize prices. In fact, energy prices have fallen because of our efforts.
And when it comes to OPEC, we have made our views clear to OPEC members. We have several interests in relation to Saudi Arabia. And I think the president brought them up during his trip and they include everything from regional relations, including improving relations between Arab countries and Israel; Yemen, where we are working very closely with Saudi Arabia to try to continue the ceasefire; and many other questions that were reflected in the visit. However, we do our best every day to ensure that the supply of energy from anywhere actually meets the demand, to ensure that energy is in the market and prices are low.
When it comes to Brittney Griner and Paul Whelan, I can’t speculate on what the different court dates may or may not mean. I can tell you this: This is what I dedicate myself to. And as I’ve said before, number one on my list of priorities around the world is to do everything we can to bring home every American who is arbitrarily or wrongfully detained. And that’s certainly true of Brittney Griner and Paul Whelan. As you know, we are constantly discussing this with the Russian authorities. A few months ago, we put a comprehensive proposal on the table, and we call on Moscow to accept this proposal so that we can at least resolve this issue. But our imperative is to secure their release. And I don’t want to weigh in on the details of where we are. All I can tell you is that we are focused on that every day.
FOREIGN MINISTER URREJOLA: If it suits you, I will answer you in Spanish.
(Through interpreter) When it comes to Venezuela, that was an issue that Secretary Blinken and I discussed in our meeting. Our position is that we hope that the first contact group that is in Mexico – we hope that the dialogue will start again with the Maduro government and also with the Venezuelan opposition, which is what we want as a country. And again we agree with the US and other countries in the region and other European countries that the dialogue should be restarted so that free democratic elections can be held in Venezuela in 2024.
MODERATOR: (Through interpreter) And then for the Chilean press, Francisco Valenzuela, Channel 13.
QUESTION: (through interpreter) Good morning, Secretary of State, Madam Minister. I want to thank both of you for being here because there were some issues that we discussed during — your initial introduction, your remarks, so I thank you again for your understanding.
I would like you to elaborate on the meeting that Secretary Blinken had with President Borić. What issues did you discuss? Did you talk about the US vote for Chile in terms of its candidacy for the Human Rights Council and the role of Chile? As you mentioned, you talked about the negotiations on Venezuela and what the US vision is when it comes to leftist governments, whose governments have historically been critical of the US, and the relationship that your country, Secretary Blinken, has with Latin America. Thank you.
SECRETARY BLINKEN: Thank you very much for the question. I don’t want to put any words in President Borič’s mouth. That would not be appropriate. But let me say two things in general. I think the Secretary of State covered most of the issues that we discussed, and we also had a conversation about our shared approach and shared priorities that reflect what President Biden is trying to do at home in the United States, as well as more broadly. , and I believe that President Boric is working here in Chile.
And that goes for building more just and inclusive economies. It’s about addressing the issues that are at the heart of our people’s lives, whether it’s security or combating the effects of climate change, addressing health issues, including COVID, and working in ways that meet the needs and wants of our people. And I think we agreed that the goals that we share and indeed many of the approaches that we pursue are very similar.
When it comes to these questions of left, right and center, I think the following is important: The political context in each country is different across our hemisphere, but there is a common task to see that, as we said, we actually deliver our democracies for our people, to create concrete results. And I myself feel that voters in all our countries are motivated by the desire to see their governments actually address their concerns and achieve concrete results. And if governments don’t do that, chances are they’ll be voted out, someone else will be voted out.
We have – I think a shared responsibility, but also an opportunity to work closely together to do exactly that to deliver results for our people. And one of the things that I shared with President Boric – something that I think he and President Biden also discussed when they met at the Summit of the Americas – is the belief of the United States that for almost any challenge that our people have them, we simply cannot be effective in solving them alone. We need partnerships. We need cooperation. We need cooperation. And that starts with our closest partners like Chile. This is how we see the world. It’s the way we try to make progress for our people, but also for people across the hemisphere, and I think that’s something that was very much reflected in the conversation that I had with President Borić that I’m very, very happy and grateful for today .
QUESTION: Human Rights Council?
SECRETARY BLINKEN: That’s not – it hasn’t come to light.
FOREIGN MINISTER URREJOLA: No.
MODERATOR: (through interpreter) Leon Bruneau of Agence France-Presse.
QUESTION: Hello. Thank you for this press conference. I wanted to ask a question – well, actually to both of them, but on this – it’s my understanding that Chile has a special visa exemption, the US visa waiver; and I think Chile is the only country in South America that has that, and that seems to be under threat from what I understand, or it’s fragile. And so I would like to ask the minister whether that has been discussed and whether you have given the United States and the department any assurances about that.
And Mr. Secretary, moving on from that, I wonder if that’s your concern and that you can cancel this visa waiver — the US Visa Waiver Program. And then I’d like to ask a more general question. You mentioned a lot – ideological blocs and whatnot, and meetings in Colombia, Chile, especially in Cuba. The US kept saying you have to change your politics and what you are. Are you listening to the leaders in Latin America who are telling you that politics is going nowhere right now?
And if I may—excuse me, but this is the news of the day—I’ll ask you a question about North Korea. Apparently – North Korea launched an IRBM missile; it went over Japan. The US and South Korea responded by firing missiles during a joint exercise. Do you think this is escalating or is there a risk of escalating the process against North Korea? Thank you.
FOREIGN MINISTER URREJOLA: (Through interpreter) When it comes to the visa waiver program, we did not discuss that issue during my meeting with the Secretary of State. On that subject, I would like to say that there is a plan that has been agreed upon with the US to evaluate the visa waiver programs. This is something that the US does all the time, not only with Chile, but with other countries that they have this program with. We work in a very coordinated manner. In fact, the consular team in the US spoke with Homeland Security to discuss related issues. We are on the right track, but I would like to say again that the evaluation of the visa waiver program is not something that is done only for Chile, but is done for all countries that have visa waivers. It’s well on its way, and we didn’t talk about it when we met, but — because it’s under Homeland Security and there’s a team in the U.S. that’s talking about this issue right now.
SECRETARY BLINKEN: The minister is absolutely right, and we are working very closely together on this. Chile is the only country in Latin America that is part of the Visa Waiver Program; and we really want to maintain that, and our teams are working hard to do that, and I’m sure we’ll be able to do that.
On other issues related to the hemisphere, look, one of the things that I’m emphasizing and I want to clarify – and this is something that, again, without attributing the views to President Borić, this is my understanding as well, having listened to him so carefully. these months. We do not judge countries based on their political orientation, again, whether it is left, right, center, but simply put according to their commitment to democracy, human rights, other shared values. And it’s important for us to uphold these core values and core principles when working with countries around the world, again regardless of where a country or government may fall on the political spectrum; and, accordingly, regardless of our actual relationship with them.
Now, we can approach this issue differently depending on the country, but the basic principle is the same. And when it comes to Cuba, I think you know the longstanding positions of the United States, including this administration. We have recently taken measures, including remittances, travel, visas, to try to further assist and empower Cubans. At the same time, when the Cuban people tried to stand up for their rights again a year ago, we saw that these protests – peaceful protests – were not only violently suppressed, but people were thrown into prison, including minors, with usually excessive prison terms – 15, 20, 30 years – just because they speak their mind.
And that is why we must hold the Cuban government accountable, just like any other government, for denying the Cuban people these rights. Again, we may have different approaches to the best way to do this. And this is a very important conversation that we always have because we all make judgments and certainly no one is infallible when it comes to this, including us. And we try – we listen carefully and learn from our partners and friends, but the underlying principle is the same.
We are shifting gears, as you have done with North Korea, with the Korean Peninsula, because you have heard very clearly from us in the last 24 hours, we strongly condemn the dangerous and reckless launch of a long-range missile by the DPRK that flew over northern Japan, putting Japanese citizens at risk. I spoke to a Japanese and Korean colleague almost immediately; and I think you’ve seen that we’re working very closely, both bilaterally and trilaterally — the United States, Korea and Japan — to demonstrate and strengthen our defense and deterrence capabilities in light of the threat from North Korea.
We called on the DPRK to refrain from further provocations and engage in sustained and meaningful dialogue. This is something we suggested many months ago. Unfortunately, the DPRK’s response was to launch more missiles. But we are taking appropriate defensive and deterrent measures with our allies and partners. We have convened a meeting of the UN Security Council and are consulting with our partners on next steps.
But I also want to make it very clear that our commitment to the defense of our allies and partners, Korea and Japan, is unwavering. We believe that North Korea would be much better off not only refraining from these actions, but actually engaging in dialogue. I think we’re seeing that if they continue down this path, it’s only going to increase the condemnation, increase the isolation, and increase the steps that are taken in response to their actions.
MODERATOR: (Through interpreter) Last question from the Chilean agency, Francisco Valenzuela.
QUESTION: (In Spanish.) Can you hear me, Secretary?
SECRETARY BLINKEN: I hear you. I just can’t hear the translation.
STAFF: (through interpreter) Yes, the interpreter is waiting to receive audio.
QUESTION: I may be a little rusty, but I can try to do something like this.
QUESTION: Our second question is about investments. How does your country view the constitutional process that’s going on here in Chile, and if, in your judgment, it gives — does it provide some certainty for an American presence in business in our country under the role of Chile and — do you hear me? Fine. Good. I’m going to switch back to Spanish now because I just can’t translate some of the words.
(Through interpreter) Chile’s role — you can ask me if you need me to repeat the question, Mr. Secretary, can I continue — Chile’s role in multilateral agreements such as with the European Union or the Trans-Pacific Partnership known as TPP-11, and Chile is not was a member, but – not as a member, but an observer. How do you see Chile in multilateral agreements at the global level?
And I’ll repeat the first part: If — how do you see investment when it comes to the constitutional process in Chile, but also lithium in the energy sector? Thank you very much, Mr. Secretary.
SECRETARY BLINKEN: Thank you. And I appreciate the switch to English. I apologize that my Spanish is not good enough to do this in Spanish; I wish it was. But thank you.
First, I will not talk about the content of the constitutional procedure. In fact, we admire the process itself and the way Chileans approach it in a calm and constructive way. But as for the content, that obviously depends on the Chilean people. This is not a question for the United States, but I can say the following.
First, as I mentioned earlier, we have already seen a significant increase in trade between us in the last few decades since our free trade agreement was signed. Now it’s about $32, almost $33 billion a year. And the United States is the leading provider of foreign direct investment in Chile. So the relationship is already strong, both on the trade side and the investment side.
However, we are convinced that it can be further strengthened and that our countries are natural partners in this, and our hemisphere should be even more natural partners together. And I think you’re going to see that play out in a number of ways that we’ve discussed today and that I’ve alluded to.
First, through the partnership that we presented at the Summit of the Americas for Prosperity in the Hemisphere, there are a number of areas where, through cooperation, I think we can significantly increase trade and investment, including Chile. For example, the partnership we’re building together focuses on things like building strong supply chains in the Western Hemisphere. We all saw what happened when we had challenges with our supply chains during the COVID disease. We have to make sure it doesn’t happen again. But there is also an exceptional opportunity for business, for investments.
Similarly, because of Chile’s climate leadership, we see a future together where we work together and invest together, even here in Chile, in clean technology and jobs in the green economy. These are the jobs of the future, and Chile, in my opinion, is in a very, very good position to create a lot of these jobs. We talked about that today, and I think we’re looking at ways to generate more American investment. As we discussed, we have already done a lot in the field of solar energy. But much more needs to be done.
At the same time, reviving and reorienting the international financial institutions, including the multilateral development banks here in our hemisphere, in ways that actually address people’s needs and invest and lend and put money into projects that will actually make a difference in their lives – that too something we are focusing on together and I think can create even more opportunities here in Chile.
So I think we have a strong foundation in all areas, but we can do a lot more. And we bring the same perspective to it, which is the need to do it in a way that’s inclusive and that really tries to create growth for all—not just some, but all. This is the common direction of both our governments and it drives what we will do together in the coming years. Thank you.
FOREIGN MINISTER URREJOLA: (Through interpreter) For the first question, I’d like to go back to the last thing that Secretary Blinken said about how we work with the United States on various topics related to investment, but especially from the point of view of combating climate change and the importance of renewable energy sources. This is something on our agenda with the United States, but also with European countries and other countries – globally, in the UN. This is a consistent question. I have discussed the President’s bipartisan agenda with a number of foreign ministers. There is interest in many countries to invest in renewable energy sources, and as Secretary Blinken said, supply chains, lithium, are important topics for us as well. We share the view that we need to review and shift the work to multilateral banks.
I would also like to remind you of the president’s visit to Canada, when he met with the Minister of Economy, with Canadian companies, and they talked specifically about Canadian investments. It is a very important partner for Chile. And as you mentioned, I think there’s been a very important conversation on that, and we’re working hand-in-hand with Canadian companies. It is the same with the United States in the context of the Summit of the Americas. The minister and president also met with American companies. The same thing happened at the UN with Mario Marcelo, the Council of the Americas.
That is why we work very closely with various companies. I was in Spain, I met with Spanish companies. There is an open agenda when it comes to investment. I think we are on the right track. I would also like to say that we have negotiating teams this week looking at the modernization agreement with the EU. As the president said, the idea is that they could be completed by the end of the year. We are on the right track. And both what I’m saying and what Secretary Blinken said shows that we’re working very hard on these issues.
MODERATOR: (Through interpreter) Thank you for coming to this press conference. We demand that the national press allow our American colleagues to leave because they must join the Secretary’s delegation. Thank you very much.