Joe Biden

Remarks by the Vice President and Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto in Mexico City, Mexico

September 20, 2013

VICE PRESIDENT BIDEN: Well, Mr. President, thank you for your hospitality and for the opportunity to meet your young daughter. That was worth the trip.

On my last visit with you, Mr. President, was the day you were being inaugurated. And it's good to see you again and see you in such good form.

As I said earlier today at the high economic dialogue that the ties between our country rest on a unique foundation -- a common culture, common values, and common dreams in addition to a long common border. Increasingly, those relationships will also be built on a common pursuit of economic opportunity. The dreams of an average Mexican are no different than the dreams of an average American, an average citizen of the United States. And we both are committed to seeing them be able to realize those dreams.

Mr. President, you and I have continued our conversation on security. But we also agree that no part of our relationship is more important than expanding economic opportunity to improve the lives of our citizens. That's why I came to Mexico City today to launch the first ever U.S.-Mexican High Level Economic Dialogue. And that's why I brought with me four United States Cabinet members, secretaries of our Cabinet.

I joked earlier at the dialogue that Air Force Two is not big enough to have taken all the Cabinet members who wanted to come. But it's evidence of the fact that as I said, I started coming to Mexico in the early '70s as a young United States senator. And I can't tell you how pleased I am that we are no longer just talking about explicit, specific security relationships. We're talking about a much broader, broader relationship, a full relationship.

As President Obama said, Mexico is emerging. But you are more than emerging. You have emerged. The middle class in Mexico is more than 40 million. You have a growing voice on the global international stage. A serious agenda of reform and modernization that you have taken on, Mr. President, is impressive. And all this creates new opportunities to deepen our economic partnerships in ways that benefit both our citizens.

Mr. President, you and I spoke about the steps that we can take to modernize our border, including new technologies in the extended hours at some crossings. We spoke about education, the building block of any middle-class society. Both our countries have embarked on serious reforms. There's a great deal we can do together as well.

We do not suggest that we have all the answers. We need much improvement in our education system in our own country as well. But we do have the finest higher education system in the world, including a unique expertise that we've developed in community colleges. And we hope that if you so desire, we could be of some assistance in benefitting from our experience.

The President and I also discussed reform efforts underway in both our countries. Change is never easy. But the policies President Obama and our administration have pursued in the United States have helped business create 7.5 million new jobs since we've taken office. Mexico is undertaking its own reforms.

Mr. President, you have reached across party lines to mobilize a broad constituency to take on these difficult, but important steps. And these decisions belong totally to the people of Mexico. But we stand ready if asked to be of any assistance we can be. And we look forward to the continued growth of Mexico, because it's overwhelmingly in the best interest of the United States of America that that happen.

Twenty years ago, NAFTA set a new standard for global trade. The 21st century, though, demands even higher standards than those standards set 20 years ago. Open markets, competition, increasing economic transparency around the world to make it easier to do business anywhere in the world, and protecting labor and the environment and intellectual property -- these are the emerging standards of the 21st century that will determine the economic growth of all the countries who participate or choose not to participate.

The President and I also spoke about how we can enforce and expand these 21st century rules of the world within our own hemisphere, across the Pacific, and around the world to help Mexico and the United States and our companies compete on a level playing field. President Obama and President Peña Nieto and I, we are in full agreement in that there is no reason why North America cannot be the most prosperous and the most economically viable place in the world in the 21st century.

We also spoke about the comprehensive immigration reform that's underway in our country. I want to make it clear it's not just a matter of justice, respect and dignity that is owed to the 11 million undocumented men, women and children in our country; that they be brought out of the shadows and have a clear path to citizenship and participation. But it's also in the overwhelming economic interest of both our countries that we do this. As the Congressional Budget Office pointed out in a bipartisan study, when we do this, when we modernize our immigration system, it will have over a $1.3 trillion positive impact on our economy between now and the year 2023, over the next 20 years.

And so we discussed a lot of other issues as well, but the one thing that I made clear on behalf of President Obama -- there is no relationship that we value more, there is no economic relationship we think that holds more promise, and there is no part of the world that has the opportunity to do as much, to generate economic growth over the next 20 to 30 years than in this hemisphere -- in North America in particular. It's a more important partnership than we have in many places, and it deserves to be. There's a deep and abiding friendship between our nations, and I look forward to playing a small part in continuing to help build that relationship.

And finally, let me say that I know many in Mexico are suffering today. As the President pointed out, the reason he has cancelled his trip to the United Nations is because he has a strong need and desire to be here to deal with that crisis. He also pointed out that the natural disasters we're facing around the world today seem to be broader and more expansive than they have been in the past. That's clearly the case here in Mexico.

But I also shared with the President that I'll be leaving here and on the end of the weekend going to my own country, to Colorado, the state of Colorado, where an area larger than our state of Connecticut has been devastated -- the entire transportation system, the roads, buildings -- well over a billion dollars' worth of damage calculated so far.

And so -- but not withstanding that, we both offered each other any help and assistance we can be. The United States stands ready to be of any assistance we can as you deal with this natural disaster and the plight of your people, Mr. President.

And again, let me conclude by saying what an honor it is to be back, and what a personal high regard the President and I have for you and your leadership. We're lucky to have you as a partner. Thank you.

PRESIDENT PEÑA NIETO: (As interpreted.) Thank you very much, Mr. Vice President of the United States of America, Joseph Biden.

First and foremost, let me welcome you to our country. It is a pleasure to have you here once again. This is the third time that we both meet in the last months. I would like to welcome as well and greet your entourage, and the U.S. ambassador to Mexico. I'm very grateful to share this moment with the members of the media, and the agenda that we will work on that we have agreed upon together.

First of all, I would like to recognize the solidarity shown by your country to ours due the climate events that we are facing. And regretfully we have had casualties and damages that Mexican families suffer, as well our infrastructure has suffered. And in the same fashion, I would like to express our solidarity as a country towards yours for all the damages that have been caused to American families, specifically in the state of Colorado, as you have noted.

There is no doubt that the effects of climate events serve as another reason to unite in a front built on cooperation and solidarity which are elements that represent the relationship between the U.S. and Mexico.

Vice President Biden's visit has a reason, and he is joined by members of the Cabinet of President Obama's administration -- are here for a reason, for the first High Level Economic Dialogue chaired by Vice President Biden.

It is part of the set of agreements made during President Obama's visit back in May. Hereupon, we have decided to set off a certain level of dialogue between our countries so that we can explore and take advantage of opportunity windows to broaden and strengthen the relationship between Mexico and the United States. And in result, we will get further benefit and further integration between our nations.

And it is aimed to make the North American region, as Vice President Biden has put it, a more productive, a more competitive one -- a region that in the 21st century offers more job and development opportunities for the citizens of our nations; and to make a region -- to make North America the powerhouse of global economy. That is why we're building a strategic partnership, and that is why I am pleased that the agreement made by myself and President Obama in result made Vice President of the United States the chair of this high level group to begin with this economic dialogue and to address certain topics as the ones that were addressed this morning that will be useful to work on infrastructure projects in our countries and in the region specifically along the border. And by that we will have a more agile and safe crossing of individuals on our border.

Currently, between our countries, 1 million individuals cross our borders. It is the busiest border in the world. And along this border we have commodities and products that are traded between our nations. That is why we have decided to open up this space for dialogue to exchange other issues. We already have cooperation in the areas of security, but as well in the area of the economy. We have a free trade agreement that sets the ground for that. But in order to supplement that agreement we're going to work together in the TPP. And that would make what we have already an important platform for economic integration with the Asian countries and North America.

This morning, a group of presidents of universities from both countries as well met with a purpose to broaden student and faculty exchanges. And we have set up a very feasible goal that is yet ambitious that in the upcoming years at least 100,000 students from Mexico can visit the United States through an educational program and 50,000 Americans can come to our country to study. This is one of the goals that this bilateral forum on higher education, innovation and research has decided.

And within the framework of the high level dialogue we have set out specific goals, as I have noted. What I have noted clearly defines the vision that our governments have and our countries. We have agreed to make our relationship one that is based in friendship, in fraternity, and trust. And together, we will be able to broaden our collaboration horizons in order to make our countries more integrated countries and provide more opportunities to our citizens.

This is the shared vision that our governments, our countries have. And this is the vision that we're working towards too. The U.S.-Mexico relationship, Mexico-U.S. relationship cannot be only based on specific topics. It should be a diverse, a broad relationship, as broad as creativity and the will of government and the private sector as well. And that is why we have been able to consolidate the level of relationship that we have.

President Biden's visit to Mexico confirms this shared vision, confirms the interest that both of our countries have to make our relationship -- I must insist -- a relationship that makes North America's region a stronger, a more consolidated region. And we can truly be a powerhouse of development in the 21st century. This is our understanding. This is what we have agreed upon. And we have already begun all the relevant activities needed to explore and venture into new cooperation, exchange and integration avenues to strengthen our relationship.

I must recognize the delegation joining the Vice President of the United States -- Secretary of Trade, Secretary of Transportation, who currently is -- also, the acting Secretary of the Department of the Interior, and also the Secretary of Trade and others who are part of President Obama's Cabinet are joining the Vice President. These are high-ranking officials, and this is a sign of the agreements made and the level of interest. I must insist both of our administrations have to make this relationship one that would provide benefit for our peoples.

Once again, Mr. Vice President, welcome to our country, and we hope that you have had a very fruitful and positive stay for the benefit of both of our countries. And please, be certain that you are at home. This is our wish, and we also wish the members of your delegation to feel at home.

And once again, let me tell you that it is a pleasure and an honor to have you here -- has been an honor to meet with you. And to define the prosperous relationship that we're going to work towards to for the benefit of our nations, because we have a true friendship and we trust each other, and that's what we're building upon.

Thank you, Mr. Vice President. Welcome. (Applause.)

Joseph R. Biden, Remarks by the Vice President and Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto in Mexico City, Mexico Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project

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