Remarks by the Vice President at the Panama Canal in Panama City, Panama
THE VICE PRESIDENT: Well, thank you. Thank you, Madame Vice President, for those gracious words, and for this warm welcome to Panama for me and my wonderful wife, Karen.
Before I begin, I'd like to address the horrific terror attack that occurred just a few hours ago in Barcelona, Spain. The latest scenes of carnage and mayhem sicken us all, and as the President said earlier today, the United States condemns this terror attack, and we will do whatever is necessary to help.
Whatever inspired today's terror attack, the United States stands ready to assist the people of Spain and find and punish those responsible. On this dark day, our prayers and the prayers of all the American people are with the victims, their families, and the good people of Spain. Thank you.
Vice President Saint Malo, Administrator Quihano, Minister Roy, Ambassador Gonzalez-Revilla, Ambassador Feeley, members of the Panamanian government, distinguished business leaders, outstanding students, and honored guests, it is a privilege for me and my wife, Karen, to be here today at this great pathway to prosperity -- the Panama Canal. Thank you for this very warm welcome. (Applause.)
And I bring greetings from the 45th President of the United States of America, and a great supporter of the U.S.-Panamanian relationship -- President Donald Trump. (Applause.) And I'm here today on the President's behalf because the Western Hemisphere and our great ally here in Panama are a key priority for our administration.
Under President Donald Trump, the United States will always put the security and prosperity of America first. But as I hope our presence here today demonstrates, America First does not mean America alone. Today, as in ages past, the interests of the United States and Latin America are intertwined, our security and prosperity will rise in tandem, and our futures are forever linked.
As President Trump has said, we will seek, in his words, a future in the Western Hemisphere where the people of each country can live out their dreams. And so I say to all of you: The United States of America stands with Latin America to realize those dreams and achieve the historic progress that will benefit us all.
Over the past week, I've traveled across the wider region to deepen our friendships and strengthen our partnerships, and there is no better place to conclude my trip than here in Panama. The bond between our nations was forged in the fires of liberty. Ever since the sailors of the USS Nashville helped bring life to Justo Arosemena's dream of Panamanian independence, the American and Panamanian people have been linked.
The United States was the first country in the world to recognize Panama as an independent nation. And just as we stood with Panama then, we stand with Panama today as your partner in commerce and your friend in freedom.
And the Panama Canal itself is a manifestation of our bond –- forged with Panamanian grit and American know-how and Pittsburgh steel. It's amazing, as I stand here today beside its newest lock, I cannot help but be humbled by this magnificent monument to our partnership.
The story of the Panama Canal is an inspiration and it can never be told enough. For nearly 400 years, kings and traders and travelers alike dreamed of building a water link here, between the Atlantic and the Pacific. They drew their maps. They charted their paths. They surveyed the land around us, but none could figure out how to begin, much less complete, this herculean task.
None, that is, until the United States and Panama began to work together, guided by the vision and determination of President Theodore Roosevelt. Where others saw obstacles, we saw opportunity. Where others saw challenges, we saw a chance to change the world. Where others saw the impossible, we saw the inevitable, and we rushed in to meet our destiny.
Building the Panama Canal was a challenge of magnitude, not miracles, and it brought out the best of the American spirit -- our boundless energy, our matchless ingenuity. While the barriers we faced grew more and more, our determination to break them down grew even faster. President Roosevelt declared that we would "make the dirt fly". And so we did, together.
In the months that followed, more than 50,000 laborers here in Panama cut a great channel across this isthmus. They moved one million cubic yards of solid earth every day at their peak, and poured 3.4 million cubic meters of concrete. And after a decade of ceaseless, back-breaking, grinding toil, 103 years ago this very week the first ship officially sailed through the Miraflores Locks, and the world marveled at the wonder we had wrought together. (Applause.)
The Panama Canal changed the face of the Earth. It united the Atlantic and Pacific, and it took not only Panama but the Western Hemisphere from the margins of global commerce to the very center of the world.
But just as remarkable is what Panama itself has achieved since you took on the stewardship of this canal just two decades ago. Panama initiated the largest expansion of the canal since its construction more than a century ago, and we stand, right now, at the new Cocoli Locks -- the crowning achievement of this historic project.
This expansion was nearly as audacious and momentous as the original construction. It required the excavation of a huge new channel; the expansion of the originals, moving three-quarters as much earth as we did more than a century ago. It put enough steel into the ground to build 29 Eiffel Towers. Yours was an accomplishment of great consequence, and the reverberations can already be felt in the United States and across the wider world.
The Panama Canal expansion has resulted in billions of dollars of investment in the United States, creating good-paying jobs for our people in manufacturing and transportation and agriculture. And ports across America are growing to accommodate the new Neopanamax ships in Savannah, Charleston, and many more. In fact, the port of Miami just completed a $2 billion expansion.
These expansions prove once again that our prosperity is intertwined. So let me -- with the Vice President here and so many responsible, let me just say congratulations Panama on one more great and extraordinary achievement. (Applause.)
But I didn't just come here today to talk about the Panama Canal. More important than this monument to human strength is the spirit that made it possible -- the spirit of optimism, confidence, and the unwavering belief that we can accomplish anything when we steel our minds and embrace our futures together.
The challenges and opportunities we face today are different than the ones we faced more than a century ago, but the United States and Panama's drive to achieve them remains just the same.
And in President Donald Trump, I think the United States once again has a President whose vision, energy, and can-do spirit is reminiscent of President Teddy Roosevelt. Think about it. Then, as now, we have a builder of boundless optimism, who seeks to usher in a new era of shared prosperity all across this new world. Then, as now, we have a leader who sees things not just as they are, but for what they could be. And then, as now, we have a President who understands, in his words, "A nation is only living as long as it is striving."
And just as President Roosevelt exhorted his fellow Americans to "dare to be great," President Donald Trump has dared our nation to make America great again, and we'll do it with all of our friends in the world.
And so I say to all of you: Under President Trump, the United States will break new ground and break new records. We'll recapture the spirit and rekindle the vision of our forebears in partnership with the free nations and free peoples across this hemisphere. We will once again awe the world with all that we accomplish together.
Today, I believe that one of the greatest opportunities before us is to build on the legacy of trade that made the last 100 years so historic for this hemisphere. The Panama Canal is an enduring testament to the power of commerce to transform fortunes and shape the future of nations.
In just over a century, more than 1 million ships have traversed these locks. As many as 15,000 ships sail through here every year, and two of every three either began or will conclude their journey in the United States.
Our prosperity depends on this 48-mile path, and this is even more true following the Panama Canal's expansion and the locks that stand beside me today.
Today, thanks in no small part to the Panama Canal, the United States is the largest trading partner for nearly two-thirds of the hemisphere, with a total two-way trade of $1.6 trillion.
We trade twice as much with our neighbors in this hemisphere as we do with China, and we export more to the Americas than we do to all of Asia combined.
But despite this progress, the untapped potential, we believe, is still vast. Global trade is more important than ever before. And the task before us today is how we'll be able to unleash the flow of commerce in new and renewed ways for the benefit of all our nations in this hemisphere.
As we speak, countries across this hemisphere are enacting bold reforms to unshackle their economies and empower their citizens to claim their futures. These efforts are important and laudable, and the United States urges continued action by Latin America's leaders to break down barriers to opportunity and success.
But so, too, we must together inaugurate a new era of free and fair trade based on the principle of mutual benefit.
Make no mistake about it: The United States of America wants to trade even more with our neighbors in Latin America. The United States wants to invest more in Latin America. The United States wants to share our business culture of entrepreneurship, innovation, and transparency on an increasing basis with Latin America because your prosperity and our prosperity are inextricably linked.
President Trump has taken decisive action to ensure that our prosperity continues to advance together.
In fact, President Trump is already getting results, and thanks to his leadership, this has been a good week for American workers.
Earlier this week in Colombia, I was pleased to announce that the United States has reached an agreement to allow Colombian Hass avocados into the U.S. market. And Colombia has expanded access for U.S. rough rice -- a deal that will benefit American agriculture for decades to come.
And following my visit to Argentina this week, just moments ago, President Trump announced that after 25 years of barriers, American pork will once again be able to be exported to Argentina, and American farmers and ranchers will reap the reward.
And to keep up this progress, at this very moment, our administration is reviewing all of our existing trade agreements and exploring new bilateral agreements. And in all that we do, President Trump will be fighting to ensure that our trade agreements are free and fair and create jobs and opportunities for workers in the United States and in the nations that partner with us.
The United States has free-trade agreements with 12 countries in this hemisphere, including Panama. These deals have been beneficial, but however good our agreements may be, they can all, invariably, be made much better.
That's why just yesterday, the United States, Mexico, and Canada officially began to renegotiate the North American Free Trade Agreement.
Simply put, we seek a deal in the original spirit of NAFTA -- one that holds to our highest ideals of free and fair trade and brings tangible benefits to American workers. And Canada and Mexico agree that NAFTA has significant room for improvement to ensure a level playing field for all.
And as I told Prime Minister Trudeau last month, we will work together for a win-win-win outcome as we renegotiate NAFTA. And I'm confident that under President Trump's leadership, we will modernize NAFTA and bring it into the 21st century.
The President and I are committed to bring this vision of mutually beneficial trade to all of the United States' commercial relationships, in the Western Hemisphere, and all over the world. And the closer we come to creating a trade system that's free and fair, the more we will unlock the vast untapped prosperity that will enrich our citizens for generations to come.
The opportunity is ours, and so is the obligation. And we will seize it, together.
Today, I believe our future is bright -- brighter than ever before. But as I close, let me simply say that I believe it could be brighter still -- if this new world finally and fully embraces our heritage of freedom.
The past half-century has seen so much of Latin America travel the road to liberty. It's been inspiring to watch. Yet sadly, Venezuela has gone in the opposite direction -- toward dictatorship, not democracy; toward oppression, not freedom; toward the past, and not the future.
In Venezuela, we are seeing the tragedy of tyranny play out before our very eyes. As President Trump has said, the Venezuelan people are suffering and they are dying.
I saw it myself earlier this week in Colombia when Karen and I visited with families who had fled from the horrors of their homeland in Venezuela. They told me of the grinding poverty, of the crime and violence ripping apart their communities. They told me how their families couldn't find food and medicine, and how innocent children are literally perishing every day because of deprivation and starvation.
Today, the once-free people of Venezuela are being forced to endure that fate by the brutality of the Maduro regime. No free people has ever chosen to walk the path from prosperity to poverty. No free people has ever chosen to turn what was once, and should still be, one of South America's richest nations into its poorest and most corrupt.
President Donald Trump has made it clear: "The United States will not stand by as Venezuela crumbles."
And I can assure you we will continue to stand with free nations across the hemisphere until democracy is restored for the Venezuelan people.
President Trump and I are truly grateful for President Varela's strong leadership in condemning the Maduro regime. We commend Panama in particular for joining 11 other countries to sign the Lima Declaration just last week, which sends a powerful message that free peoples of the Americas will stand with the Venezuelan people and stand up to their oppressors.
But President Trump and I call on Latin America to do more. And be confident of this: The United States will continue to bring the full measure of American economic and diplomatic power to bear until democracy is restored in Venezuela.
As President Trump said just a few days ago, "We have many options for Venezuela." But the President and I remain confident that working together with all our allies across Latin America, we will achieve a peaceable solution to the crisis facing the Venezuelan people.
Now we do this because it's right. The Venezuelan people deserve freedom. And we do this as President Trump has said -- because in his words, a "stable and peaceful Venezuela is in the best interest of the entire hemisphere."
Failed states have no borders. A failed state in Venezuela will drive more illegal drug trafficking, with its murderous criminal consequences, radiating outward through Colombia and Panama and north to our country. A failed state in Venezuela will drive more illegal migration, corroding our borders, burdening our economies. And ultimately, a failed state in Venezuela will endanger the well-being of all who call the Western Hemisphere home.
The truth is we all live in the same neighborhood. We succeed when our neighbors succeed. We struggle when our neighbors struggle. And so we will continue to act together to support the people of Venezuela in their fight for freedom. And I believe with all of my heart that Venezuela will be free once more. (Applause.)
The truth is freedom is the birthright and legacy of all the peoples of this New World. And just as freedom gave our nations birth and our peoples purpose, it is freedom that will guide us as we embark upon this new era in this New World. And together we will show, in the words of President Roosevelt, the power of devotion to this lofty ideal of liberty.
The task before us will require renewed determination and courage and commitment. But as the Good Book says, if we are diligent in our efforts, we will see progress for us all.
And so I have faith -- faith that the winds of progress are at our back, that we will catch those winds. And I have faith that they will carry us foward together to a future of freedom for the people of Panama, the people of the United States, and for the people of this New World.
Thank you. God bless you. God bless Panama and God bless the United States of America. (Applause.)
Mike Pence, Remarks by the Vice President at the Panama Canal in Panama City, Panama Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project https://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/node/331158