printable banner

U.S. Department of State - Great Seal

U.S. Department of State

Diplomacy in Action

Review of Vice President Biden's Travel to Latin America and Preview of Secretary Kerry's Participation in the General Assembly of the Organization of American States

Roberta S. Jacobson
Assistant Secretary, Bureau of Western Hemisphere Affairs

Jacob Sullivan, National Security Advisor, Office of the Vice President
Washington, DC
June 3, 2013




3:30 P.M. EDT

THE WASHINGTON FOREIGN PRESS CENTER, WASHINGTON, D.C.

MODERATOR: Good afternoon, and welcome to the Washington Foreign Press Center. Today, we are pleased to welcome for the first time, I believe, Jake Sullivan, the National Security Advisor for the Office of Vice President, and we also welcome back Roberta Jacobson, Assistant Secretary of State for Western Hemisphere Affairs. Mr. Sullivan will review the – Vice President Biden’s recent travel to Colombia, Trinidad and Tobago, and Brazil, and Assistant Secretary Jacobson will discuss the preview of Secretary Kerry’s participation in the General Assembly of the Organization of American States that’s coming up in a few days. So they’ll both have opening remarks and then we’ll open up to question and answer.

And with that, I will turn it over to Mr. Sullivan.

MR. SULLIVAN: Thank you very much, and thanks, everybody, for coming today. I think Roberta and I want to be brief in our opening remarks so that we have the opportunity to answer your questions. We’ve both just come back from a week on the road with the Vice President, who, as you know, traveled to Bogota, to Trinidad and Tobago, and to Brazil over the course of six days last week. And that travel came in a broader context of elevated and accelerated engagement by this Administration at the start of the second term across the Americas.

President Obama obviously recently returned from a trip to Mexico and Costa Rica, and this week the President of Chile, President Pinera, was in town being hosted by the President and Secretary of State. President Humala of Peru is coming in the near term. The Vice President will be headed back out on the road for another trip to the region in the fall. And obviously, Secretary Kerry will be traveling this week down to Guatemala for the OAS General Assembly. That’s in addition to, obviously, the regular pace of engagement and activity that we have going on at every level of our government and our private sector across the hemisphere.

The Vice President, before he went on his trip, gave a speech at the Council of the Americas, where he laid out the second term agenda for the Americas on behalf of the Obama Administration. And the central vision that he was trying to set forth was to think about the possibility of achieving, in the near term, a hemisphere that is middle class, secure, and democratic from Canada to Chile and everywhere in between, building off of his long history in Europe of being focused for the last two decades on a Europe whole, free, and at peace.

He spoke about the different way in which this Administration has tried from the beginning – and with renewed vigor here in a second term – to engage with our partners across the hemisphere. And that is asking the question not what can the United States do for the countries of the Americas, but rather what can the United States do with the countries of the Americas. And between the President’s travel, the Secretary’s upcoming travel, and the Vice President’s trip, we have rolled up our sleeves and really engaged on a broad range of substantive issues, from economics and energy, to education and innovation, to democracy and democratic development, to citizen security, to the growing role of the countries of the Americas in both regional and especially now global affairs.

So without going into the details of those things, I thought I would turn it over to Roberta to say a few additional words and then really delve into the elements of that agenda and into the broader perspective of this Administration, the Vice President, the Secretary, the President on all of the issues that collectively face the countries of the Americas and the ways in which the United States is thinking about its approach to this part of the world over the course of the coming four years.

ASSISTANT SECRETARY JACOBSON: Thanks, Jake. I think one of the things that is striking in recent trips – and the Vice President talked about it at Council of the Americas and I think he was – he found that sentiment reaffirmed in his travels – is that all of these high-level engagements and these travels kind of reaffirm the fact that there have been these dramatic changes in the Americas. The Vice President talked about sort of it’s not your father’s Americas anymore. And we’ve talked about the changes in political terms very often, or in strictly macroeconomic terms – 56 million people being moved out of the – out of poverty into the middle class in the last 10 or 15 years. But I think the tenor of the conversation also reflects in each of these places how far countries have come and how their concerns are now global concerns, concerns in which they want to play a more active role in looking forward.

For example, one of the things that I talked about in the President’s trip, after we came back, was the way in which energy really formed a centerpiece of concern and possibility in this hemisphere in a way that had not been true in the past. I think that was true on this trip as well, that the Vice President heard in each stop about the possibilities and the potential in energy cooperation in each of these countries.

And I think the other thing that is a theme – a really positive theme – that runs through the conversations is the focus on education and the focus on youth. These are countries that have large populations of youth that have seen the need to upgrade and push education out further into the population, to sort of make that growth more inclusive. And that was clearly part of the discussion as well.

Secretary Kerry does leave tomorrow for Antigua, Guatemala, for the OAS General Assembly. I think that obviously he’s pleased to be going to the OAS General Assembly, where he can see a lot of his counterparts. He’s already met with five or six of them here in Washington, and today he did host a lunch for President Pinera of Chile as the start of his official part of his visit here in Washington. So he’s looking forward to that conversation.

This is, of course, the conversation in Guatemala that will talk about the report that was commissioned by the leaders at the Cartagena Summit last April to discuss drug policy in the hemisphere and the difficulty of confronting this problem and the different options and policy responses that countries have had to this. And the report’s been out now for a couple of weeks. It has in it so many of the issues that have been priorities for the Obama Administration that there is obviously a very strong coincidence of views, both in some of the analysis that the report presents and in the Administration’s focus on drug prevention and treatment, on ensuring that we are focusing not only on law enforcement but on law enforcement as a part of a much more comprehensive strategy, with numbers that reflect success – in particular a 50 percent cut in cocaine use in the last five years in the United States.

So there’s still a huge amount to be done, but that’s a conversation that I think will move from sort of sound bites in Cartagena without much depth to it to one that is based on this report and we hope will be the beginning of a much more substantive conversation on this problem as we all try and work harder to get at the root of the problem and try and strengthen institutions throughout the hemisphere. So he’s looking forward to that engagement with most, if not all, of his counterparts in Guatemala over the next day and a half.

So let me stop there.

MR. SULLIVAN: The one – obviously I neglected to mention in describing the enhanced pattern of engagement in the hemisphere this year, that the Vice President, when he was down in Brazil, had the opportunity to invite for the first state visit of the second term, President Rousseff of Brazil, and she accepted that, which is scheduled for late October of this fall. And part of his effort in Brazil, the time that he spent there, was laying the groundwork for intensive preparation for that summit, because we regard the state visit of President Rousseff as a real opportunity to mark what the Vice President called a new era in U.S.-Brazil relations in 2013. So there was a real focus on what can be achieved in the run-up to, at, and out of that state visit as part of the conversation in both Rio and Brasilia.

But with that, we’d be happy to take your questions.

MODERATOR: Okay. If you can just please wait for the microphone and just identify your name and media outlet. We’ll start in the front.

QUESTION: Thanks. Jordi Zamora, AFP. Two questions for Ms. Jacobson, if I may, about the region in general. One question is about a statement made by Colombian President Santos, on Saturday. He said that he was keen on signing an agreement with NATO. And on medium term, he thinks that Colombia could be part of NATO. That arose critics again – criticism from the region. Particularly, today, President Evo Morales said that that would be a provocation and he would ask for a UNASUR meeting. I would like to know if you – what are your thoughts, what are your views about that – those statements in general.

And the second question, it’s a particular one on your meeting – recent meeting with Josefina Vidal, with that high official from the Cuban Government. What are the news regarding Gross case after that meeting? Thank you.

ASSISTANT SECRETARY JACOBSON: Well, let me start off on the question of NATO and President Santos’s statements. Obviously, Colombia is a very close partner of the United States. They’re an incredibly capable partner. We’ve worked extremely well with them over the last 12 years through Plan Colombia, but not just in Colombia. I think one of the striking things about the Colombian security forces and their capability is the way in which they are now providing that expertise, that capability to other countries around the world. I think, at last count, Colombia’s training of other countries’ police and military forces was close to 40 different countries, many of them in Central America or in the Caribbean as well as Africa. And so there are a lot of people around the world looking to those very capable security forces.

It is, therefore, not all that surprising, it seems to me, that the Colombians would be interested in where else they can interact with other military and security forces to both increase their own capacity and to support or to serve in other parts of the world. So the Colombians, as we understand it, have been interested in this for a while. I don’t know exactly where that’s going to go, but I think it’s a deep reflection of Colombia’s capability and its willingness to engage globally, whether it’s as a partner on the UN Security Council or seeking cooperation or coordination or work with NATO.

I can’t really comment on President Morales’s response. That’s a South American issue to concern itself with, and I’m sure that the Colombian Government will respond to that. But I think that it is a reflection of the deep capability of those forces that Colombia is interested in and others are interested in Colombia participating with NATO.

In the – on the second question, my meeting with Josefina Vidal of the Cuban Foreign Ministry – she was here for a number of days doing work within their interest section here, seeing others around town. We had a number of issues that we wanted to discuss, including operations of our interest section in Havana. But beyond that, I really am not going to say a whole lot about what were diplomatic conversations. There is not a single meeting that I have with a Cuban official in which I don’t raise the question of Alan Gross and our desire for him to be released as quickly as possible, in particular obviously my concern that he has a 91-year-old mother who has cancer and that he would very much like to see her because she’s so ill and our desire that that be facilitated. So I think I’ll leave it at that.

QUESTION: Just a follow-up. Would you support NATO membership of Colombia? Would U.S. (inaudible)?

ASSISTANT SECRETARY JACOBSON: I think ultimately that’s a decision that all of NATO will have to make. But we have certainly supported Colombia’s being more engaged with all kinds of international organizations, most recently, as you’ve seen I think only in the past week or so, the OECD. So our goal is certainly to support Colombia as being a capable and strong member of lots of different multilateral organizations, and that may well include NATO.

MODERATOR: Sure. Next question, we’ll go in the front. Just wait for the microphone.

QUESTION: Hi. Thank you. I’m Lucia Leal from EFE. I have two questions for Roberta Jacobson.

ASSISTANT SECRETARY JACOBSON: Can I just say, if you guys don’t ask Jake questions, he’s not going to come back. (Laughter.) So I’m just – I’m leaving with you that.

QUESTION: Okay. Sorry about that. I wanted to ask you about the OAS, since you’re going there. If – I wanted to know if the U.S. has a particular position it’s going to express in the debate about new strategies on drugs, because I think all the partners in the hemisphere are looking forward to that.

And also a second question. It’s possible that some countries tried to talk about the Inter-American System of Human Rights and keep that debate alive. They’ve been having some meetings outside the OAS and they want to bring it to the General Assembly. So I wanted to know if you think there’s still a consensus to keep ongoing in a debate about this. Thank you.

ASSISTANT SECRETARY JACOBSON: On the first question, on our position on drugs, obviously, as at every General Assembly, there’s always a declaration that comes out. It’s usually kind of spearheaded by the host government, but ultimately it’s a document that, if at all possible, you want to come out by consensus. The document that’s I think in final form or close to final form for Guatemala is focused on combating drugs, and I think that it contains a lot of important elements about what we all want to see happen and the way in which we want to attack this problem and how we’re going to continue working together.

So I don’t necessarily expect there to be anything really hugely dramatic, but I do expect that that declaration will certainly commend the work of the OAS and the study that it put out. And certainly our goal going into Antigua is to ensure that we can convey as clearly as possible what this Administration’s position on drugs has been, both at home and abroad. And abroad, it’s obviously been very strong partnerships in regions, sub-regions of the hemisphere, whether it’s the Merida Initiative in Mexico, or CARSI, the Central American Regional Security Initiative, CBSI, the Caribbean Basin Security Initiative, and obviously continued work with Colombia, which is really broader than just counter-narcotics, it’s on citizen security, but surely counter-narcotics is part of that.

But domestically, I think one of the things that we found is on occasion the U.S. strategy is misrepresented, quite honestly. If you look at this year’s National Drug Control Strategy put out by ONDCP, it’s very clear that the Administration is focused on a comprehensive strategy that is not solely about law enforcement. I think the President has said that you can’t incarcerate your way out of this problem. It has to be much more than that, which is why the Administration has spent $10 billion a year during the first term on prevention and treatment. And we are, as I say, beginning to see the results of that.

So it has to be focused on security and – abroad and prosecution at home, but it has to be a lot more than that, on prevention, on drug treatment, overseas on institution building, on generation of employment, especially for youth – all of that has to be part of any strategy that attacks this problem, anti-corruption measures, et cetera. So I think we want to make sure that the Administration’s strategy is understood, and we want to have conversations with other countries about what’s working, what isn’t working, where we can do things better. And I think that’s the spirit we’ve seen most countries going into this meeting with.

On the Inter-American Human Rights System, as you all know, because some of you spent 12-plus hours with me on March 22nd, we had a very extensive debate on this subject at the Special General Assembly. To our minds, we really did address the issues that we needed to address in that conversation. It is not to say we will never talk about the Inter-American Human Rights System again, but our feeling is that the commission itself, with its executive secretary and the member-states, has work to do to implement some of these reforms, to implement some of the changes they themselves have recommended, and that’s underway. And we ought to let that play out for a while longer, since we had the General Assembly, the special General Assembly on that subject. We don’t see a need to debate those issues again in Antigua or immediately. So we don’t really see that agenda item as needing attention right now. But it obviously was left open in March, so we’ll see how the conversation goes.

There are, however, elections for the Inter-American Commission that are scheduled for this General Assembly. Those are incredibly important to us, and I would just take this opportunity to reinforce our hope that the U.S. candidate will be elected. His name is Dr. James Cavallaro. He’s a professor at Stanford University, and he is incredibly well qualified in terms of his knowledge of the region and its human rights law. But what you’ll also notice, if you look at his writings and his work, is he also doesn’t agree with his government on everything. He is a truly independent expert, and I think that’s what we’re all looking for on the commission, and we hope he’ll be elected.

MODERATOR: Okay. For our next question we’ll go to the FPC in New York and give it to Ana.

QUESTION: This is Ana Baron from Clarin, Argentina. Thank you for doing this. I have a question for both of you. The first one is about the next trip of Biden to the region. I wanted to know if Argentina is going to be included in this trip. And I ask this because Argentina seems to be out of the agenda lately of Biden and Obama. So being a big country and you have spoken about the renewed interest in the region, I want to know what’s going on with Argentina.

And also for Roberta, perhaps Kerry’s going to meet – I don’t know what bilateral Kerry’s going to have in the OAS, but I wanted to know if he’s going to have a bilateral with Timerman, our Foreign Minister, and also if the changes that have been taking place in Argentina on the Defense Minister and on the Security Minister gives you a little bit of hope that the cooperation at that level will be better now. Thank you.

MR. SULLIVAN: So to take the question related to the Vice President’s trip to the region later this year, the countries that will be part of that trip haven’t been selected yet. And when we have done that, we’ll obviously inform you and let you know where he will be going.

I would say more broadly, though, that there is no country in the hemisphere, from Canada all the way down to Tierra del Fuego, that is left out of the agenda of the Americas. The President, the Vice President, the Secretary, every part of our government is focused on an inclusive approach to the region that takes into account the particular ways in which every country can work as a partner with us and we can work as a partner with them, and every country’s contribution to that vision that I described up front. That certainly includes Argentina.

In his speech in Brazil, the Vice President made reference to the fact that Argentina is one of three countries in Latin America that is a member of the G-20 as evidence of what Roberta was talking about, a growing role for the countries of this region on the global stage and the opportunities that creates for the United States.

So on the specific question of his trip, stay tuned, but on the concept of any country not being a key part of the Administration’s Americas agenda, I think this is an agenda that covers every country, every group of people, every possible partner in the region.

ASSISTANT SECRETARY JACOBSON: Let me say also that Secretary Kerry is likely to speak with just about all the foreign ministers while he’s in Guatemala. He looks forward to getting to know those he hasn’t actually met yet. And in his case too, the bilaterals, to be honest, keep getting set up and changing. So we’ll be putting that out in due course. But I expect that he will interact with many if not all of the foreign ministers while he’s in Antigua.

In terms of the personnel changes in Argentina, honestly, I saw those just as I came home from this trip with the Vice President. I don’t think any individual personnel changes sort of either give us hope or take hope away. We are obviously looking forward to trying to work with those ministries, as we have in the past when we can. There’s clearly concern by both countries on issues like trafficking, whether it’s narcotics trafficking in the region. There’s concerns on terrorism and counterterrorism efforts. And so I think that we will continue looking for ways to cooperate with the Argentine Government regardless of who heads what particular ministry. And there are still a lot of areas in which we continue to work with Argentina very productively.

MODERATOR: Okay. For the next question, we’ll go to Luis.

QUESTION: Hello. I’m Luis Alonso with the AP, and I would like to ask Mr. Jacob: Vice President Biden said in Bogota that the U.S. is interested in being an observer country of the Pacific Alliance. Would that evolve into some place – would be the U.S. interested in joining that, or would it be – is there a redundance there?

And for Roberta, I would like to ask about Venezuela, of course. Do you expect that that will be addressed in any way in the bilaterals during the General Assembly? We already know that won’t be a topic in the formal agenda. Do you think that will be addressed in, like, side meetings?

And also I would like to ask you if you could give us a comment on the meeting I understand you had today with Congresswoman Machado. And I understand she came to this meeting with a question: Why the U.S. won’t bring the Venezuela topic in the OAS? Why the U.S. won’t do that? Thank you.

MR. SULLIVAN: On the question of the Pacific Alliance, President Santos and Vice President Biden had an extensive conversation about how the United States could best support that effort, which is a region-led effort by the four countries of the alliance and some of the other observer countries that gathered in Cali a week or 10 days ago. And President Santos expressed his eagerness, both in the meeting and then publicly, for the United States to play a supporting role, to take on observer status after they have the opportunity to get all of the presidents to agree with that.

Beyond that, beyond observer status and what that would mean practically for ways in which the United States could support the efforts of the alliance, I think we need to see how things evolve not just with the alliance, not just with the Trans-Pacific Partnership, but with a wide range of trade initiatives, some of which the United States is participating in and leading right now, some of which other countries are participating in and leading. And from our perspective, the sky’s the limit in terms of the ways in which we can economically integrate with the countries of the region, the sorts of trading regimes that we can build with our FTA partners and with other countries like Brazil.

So I don’t think we have a specific endpoint in mind with respect to the Pacific Alliance versus TPP, but rather an overall approach that says let’s find as many ways as possible to deepen economic integration, to pursue the kinds of principles that underlie both TPP and the Alliance for the Pacific, and to expand the circle of deepening trade and investment to as many countries in the Americas as possible while connecting that to the wider world.

So that’s going to be our focus in the coming period. I think being an observer in addition to closing out TPP and closing out the U.S.-EU economic agreement and then having intensive bilateral conversations with countries like Brazil about how we build our trade and investment relationship beyond where it is now, those are some of the building blocks of what we hope to be, over time, an increasingly ambitious and expansive trade and investment agenda in the region.

ASSISTANT SECRETARY JACOBSON: On Venezuela, Luis, I think the OAS General Assembly’s agenda gets developed, frankly, over the entire year since the past one. So it’s not all that surprising that particular topical issues don’t generally make it onto the OAS agenda for a General Assembly. Those big topics, whether it’s food security and things of that sort, the Inter-American Human Rights System, the drug problem, tend to dominate the General Assembly itself.

I think in the end, the question on Venezuela is not necessarily the venue that’s used, but the question of how do Venezuelans come together and begin a dialogue now, the 7-plus million who voted for the opposition, and the more than 7 million who voted for the government. And you have a country that is roughly evenly divided at this point with a very large percentage of people feeling that their democratic aspirations have not necessarily been heard. And I think what we are looking at, regardless of fora, is how does that dialogue get started. It’s not really all that important to us how that dialogue comes about, but it is critical to us that there be a dialogue about some of the concerns that were raised during the election and how things move forward to ensure that Venezuelans are able to exercise those democratic rights.

In the meeting that I heard earlier today – and quite honestly, I left early to come over here, so I did not stay for the entire meeting with Maria Corina Machado. But in that conversation, just as in all of the conversations that we have with Venezuelan opposition leaders and others, this was a discussion of how we can support democratic aspirations in Venezuela, not one particular party or actor or proposal. And so we discussed a lot of different possibilities and what the best way would be to see whether a dialogue was possible among Venezuelans who, in the end, are the ones who have to resolve the tensions over the democratic process there.

MODERATOR: Okay. Next question in the front.

QUESTION: Thank you. Daniel Pacheco with Caracol Television. For Mr. Sullivan, I don’t know if you – maybe you read Anastasia O’Grady’s column in The Wall Street Journal, which mentions a report from – I believe it’s an Argentinian who develops the influence of Iran in the region. Do you have a national security point of view on Iran’s influence in Latin America? Is it growing? Are there any opportunities with the coming elections over there?

And for Roberta, could you comment, hopefully, on Venezuela’s reaction to Mr. Capriles’ visit to Colombia? The Venezuelan Government seems to be extending the same type of rhetoric it uses towards the United States to its neighbors and former – I don’t know, former allies. Mr. Capriles is still going to be touring Latin America. Is it an issue of concern, the attitude that the Venezuelan Government has stated over his Latin American tour?

Thank you.

MR. SULLIVAN: Briefly on Iran, I would say that Iran has a troubling track record of supporting destabilizing activities and terrorist efforts in many parts of the world, and there are signs that that will continue and in some places there are signs that their efforts are going to increase. Latin America, the Americas, are not excluded from that. There have been, obviously, cases in the recent past involving parts of this hemisphere in the efforts of the Iranian leadership.

So we have been very clear with Iran, with its neighbors, with our partners around the world, that the United States does not brook the idea of any country anywhere in the world supporting terrorist activities, destabilizing efforts, and that we will marshal the various tools at our disposal and ask others to do the same to push back against that kind of behavior.

ASSISTANT SECRETARY JACOBSON: On the issue of how the Venezuelan Government has responded to President Santos’ meeting with opposition leader Capriles, I think that’s largely for those two countries to work out. They obviously have a longstanding relationship and they are talking to each other constantly, and I think that’s for those two countries to decide.

I think in general, we’ve made clear that we would like the rhetoric to be toned down from Venezuela as concerns us. It’s not a productive way to conduct diplomacy. We’ve made clear repeatedly that we’d like a positive, functional relationship with the Venezuelan Government. Doesn’t really lead to that when you have sort of overheated rhetoric, as we’ve seen on occasion in the past. But I think on the Venezuelan-Colombian relationship, I think those leaders will work that out.

MODERATOR: The next question will go to Silvia.

QUESTION: I have one for each one of you. Mr. Sullivan, I am Silvia Pisani from La Nacion in Argentina.

MR. SULLIVAN: Hi.

QUESTION: I would like to have a follow-up on the question before about Argentina. I understand your point of view, but I don’t understand what makes a country eligible or not for a visit. In the case of Argentina, the President in the first trip to the region jumped over Argentina, went to Brazil and to Chile. In this case, the Vice President arrived just to the border. So I would like to know what makes a country not a good idea to go there, because that seems to be what’s going on with Argentina. If maybe what happened in the past in the last visit of the President of the United States to Argentina that was in the meeting of Mar del Plata, is it still making some trouble there, I would like to – that’s the question.

For Roberta, I would like to know a follow-up in the Venezuela situation and concerning the OAS. In Antigua they are asking right now they were asked to activate some terms of the Democratic Charter concerning the situation in Venezuela. I would like to know if you think that Venezuela is in some way violating the Democratic Charter and what should the OAS should do in that case.

Thank you.

MR. SULLIVAN: You’ve asked a very interesting question, and the short answer is that there is no rule of thumb for what – how you select a particular country for a particular Administration principal to visit. Before I worked for the Vice President I worked for Secretary of State Clinton and traveled with her to 112 countries around the world. That doesn’t mean that the 113th country wasn’t worth visiting. What it means is that we take a look at the time available for the Vice President or the President or the Secretary to go somewhere and we take a look at what’s ripe in terms of the capacity to move the relationship forward. And we select countries in that kind of positive way: Where do we see opportunities to deepen our ties and to build out new pathways for progress in the relationship?

Many countries get left off of the travel itinerary of senior principals, not because they’re not eligible in some sense but because there simply isn’t the time to go everywhere. But I would say that as we look ahead over the course of the next four years, we are going to take a very deliberate approach to travel in the hemisphere as a way to try to continue to energize and drive forward an agenda based in partnership, based in mutual respect, and to get to as many parts of the hemisphere, as many countries in the hemisphere, and have as many high-level meetings as possible. And that’s going to be a commitment from the President on down over the course of this second term. But that doesn’t mean the President will visit every country in the region. It doesn’t mean the Vice President will visit every country in the region. There will have to be choices made based on scheduling and other things.

So there isn’t a scientific method to this. It’s a combination of factors. And all I can tell you is that we are really looking forward to a pattern of elevated engagement that is sustained over the course of these four years.

ASSISTANT SECRETARY JACOBSON: The only thing I want to add to that before I touch on Venezuela is you can’t begin to imagine how much I’m looking forward to it, because obviously, for the assistant secretary who deals with the Western Hemisphere there is nothing better than getting this kind of positive and sustained engagement in the part of the world that I have always thought was the most important. So I’m thrilled.

On Venezuela, I think, again, want to just get back to the issue of not choosing a forum necessarily. There needs to be some kind of movement that creates dialogue. The Inter-American Democratic Charter, I think we’ve been pretty clear on its importance to this hemisphere, and it’s been used in a number of different circumstances very productively. I don’t know yet, certainly, whether one or other particular article of the Inter-American Charter has been violated or is the particular subject that we ought to be discussing when we focus on Venezuela. But I think it’s a legitimate question to talk about whether the Inter-American Charter comes into play in this case and how we’re going to get beyond a situation that is highly polarized in Venezuela right now, where a significant percentage of the population does not believe that the democratic process is working effectively.

So that is part of the reason that the charter was created. It’s a conversation that we certainly should be having, as there should continue to be conversations within UNASUR, which also talked about a commission to be set up to look at some of the violence post-election and the processes of the post-election period, or other organizations, be they Venezuelan NGOs or opposition groups. So it’s not necessarily at this point, I don’t think, clear to me what fora would be the best, but I think we have to look at that. I think members of the OAS, as we continue to support the Inter-American Charter as something, frankly, unique in regional organizations, needs to continue to look at what particular tool would be best to try and create the dialogue that’s needed in Venezuela.

MODERATOR: The next question, we’ll go right here.

QUESTION: Hi, my name is Raul Lores, Folha de Sao Paulo, Brazil. Two questions, actually, to Mr. Sullivan, one about if you could give us some details about the trade talks between Vice President Biden and the Brazilian authorities. There is any new proposal, any new development? And if the Chinese presence in Latin America growing economically does concern somehow the U.S. Government. Thank you.

MR. SULLIVAN: So with respect to the trade and investment agenda, I think you will see between now and the time of the state visit some more specific proposals that will get traded back and forth between the two governments. And I don’t want to get ahead of that discussion at this point, because it’s important that there be an opportunity to have a wide open conversation about how we break down some of the continuing barriers between us, both on the trade side and on the investment side.

On the trade side, the Vice President spoke in Rio in a speech about his desire to see Brazil as an active participant in the ongoing effort around the world to lower barriers, deepen integration, pursue sort of dynamic policies related to trade. And that’s what the United States is trying to do, and we think that there are tremendous opportunities to do it with Brazil as a partner, both bilaterally and as part of the multilateral system as well. So there will be specific initiatives that come underneath that that will be discussed between the two countries.

And then on the investment side, similarly, there continue to be things that stand in the way of greater investor protection and confidence on both sides. So you’ve got record levels of foreign direct investment from the United States in Brazil and from Brazil in the United States, but there is still a gap between where we are and where we can be. And figuring out what the right vehicle is or what the right mechanism is to break down some of those barriers is going to be a source of very deep and detailed discussion over the course of the next few months.

Those public messages that he conveyed in his speech in Rio, he obviously also carried through his meetings with both the President and the Vice President in Brasilia, and they will carry forward from there at the working level as we set up the agenda for the visit. And this much is sure: The economic and trade relationship between the United States and Brazil, including the – all of its dimensions – education, innovation, science and technology – that will be a centerpiece of the state visit in the fall because of the promise that it holds for both the people of the United States and the people of Brazil and the region more broadly.

And then on the issue of China, the President actually will be meeting with President Xi at the end of this week in California to have detailed conversations about our bilateral relationship and about issues around the world. The United States feels very strongly that we do not look at the role of any country in this hemisphere in zero-sum terms, that we have set out what we think is an ambitious agenda for everyone to play a role in and to be a part of constructing, that that vision requires the partnership of all the countries in the Americas and the support of countries outside the Americas as well. And we will encourage countries from Europe and Asia and Africa and elsewhere to play a constructive part in that, to be part of working towards a hemisphere that is middle class, secure, and democratic from top to bottom, that reinforces the principles that all of our countries, and especially the people of our countries, feel so passionately about.

And to the extent that China has a role to play in that, we would welcome their positive and constructive role on that front, because zero-sum thinking is only going to lead to negative-sum results. But it does mean that every country who’s involved in the hemisphere should be involved in a way that is supportive of the vision that we all share. And we would encourage that wherever that country comes from, whether it comes from Asia or Europe or anywhere else.

MODERATOR: So, next question.

QUESTION: Santiago Tavara from the Notimex agency, Mexican agency. President Obama is facing many controversies, scandals here at home, including the – his promise to close Guantanamo, the prison in Guantanamo. And do you think that it’s going to affect Secretary Kerry’s agenda in the region or President Obama’s agenda? What do you want to see, concrete actions now, in the next four years that the Obama Administration has left in this – for the region? What concrete measure do you want? You still don’t have relation – good relation with Venezuela, with Bolivia. So I don’t know – what do you want to achieve in this trip in Guatemala with the OAS?

MR. SULLIVAN: I’ll leave the Guatemala piece to Roberta to talk about what we hope to achieve there and beyond.

Specifically on the issue of Guantanamo, the President gave a speech recently that I’m sure most of you read or saw at the National Defense University in which he laid out in very forceful and compelling terms his intention to work through the issues associated with closing Guantanamo, that that is going to be a priority for him in the second term, that he is going to take concrete and practical steps to try to make it happen, as a statement and reflection of his own values and American values.

And so that’s going to remain a very high Administration priority and is consistent, is of a piece with, the President’s approach, the Vice President’s approach, the Secretary’s approach to foreign policy more generally. It is a values-based foreign policy. It is a foreign policy based on principles of mutual respect and mutual interest. And that is what is going to underlie all of the work that we continue to do over the course of the coming years just as it’s underlied his travels and the Vice President’s and Secretary’s travels through the region over the last four years.

ASSISTANT SECRETARY JACOBSON: I think let me start with sort of what we see as the major priorities for the hemisphere. I think we outlined – this Administration outlined at the beginning of its tenure in the first term what we were looking for in this hemisphere in different pillars. And we talked about strong democracies respectful of human rights. Walked about economic progress, but particularly – and I think this was very much a focus of the Vice President’s trip as well – particularly the issue of social inclusion. How do we expand yet further the economic progress that has been made? Because there still are so many who have not been touched by that improvement in their daily life. How do we address and tackle together the issue of transnational crime and citizen security, which often is one of the highest areas of concern for citizens in almost every country in the region? And how do we take advantage of the incredible shifting of the global energy map into this hemisphere, really, or with this hemisphere as its center, in ways that are environmentally responsible and address the issue of climate change, so that we learn from all of the experience all of us have had, whether it is exploiting and making more cost-effective renewable energy or whether it’s the enormous growth in discoveries of fossil fuels in this hemisphere?

So those are the areas where we’re going to continue to work. There are some specifics which the President has outlined at the various summits and on his trip, issues like – and this really goes to the heart of social inclusion – improving education and the President’s 100,000 Strong in the Americas initiative, which the Vice President talked a lot about, and where we really see enormous possibility for this is one part of the education puzzle, if you will, but increasing exchanges between the region and the United States to expand the number of people who’ve had the opportunity to live in another country, understand it better, and basically go home as agents for positive change for that engagement.

But I think overall, when you look at this hemisphere and the concept of partnership which the Obama Administration put out at the beginning of its tenure, that really is what we’re talking about, different partnerships in which we are working together, whether it’s work on the bilateral agenda, work within the region, or work more globally. There are an increasing number of countries in this hemisphere with which we work on assistance in third countries. We do that in Brazil, we’re working with Chile, whether it’s to fight hunger, whether it’s in Haiti where we’re working with so many countries in the hemisphere, MINUSTAH and the peacekeeping organization, or efforts in Africa on food security and other areas. So the concept of partnership and of equal partnership and of shared responsibility has underlied all of the Administration’s efforts in this hemisphere.

And the final thing I would leave you with in terms of goals is this Administration has made clear from the very beginning that we would be happy to have more positive relationships, more productive relationships, with all of the countries of the hemisphere. They have to be based on mutual respect, they have to be based on democratic principles; those things aren’t going to change, but that we’re always looking for a way to have the positive relationship. That includes Venezuela. That obviously includes Argentina. It includes Bolivia. We hope that at some point in the future, that will include a Cuba that is democratic and that allows its people to determine their own future. So it is a very positive vision of this hemisphere. Even with countries with whom we have differences, we’re looking for the ways in which we can engage, in which we have a more positive relationship.

MODERATOR: Okay.

ASSISTANT SECRETARY JACOBSON: That’s going to be it.

MODERATOR: And I think that’s where we’re going to leave it for today. Thank you to our speakers, and thank you all for coming.

# # #