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Remarks by Secretary Powell and Mexican Foreign Minister Derbez

Cite as "AILA InfoNet Doc. No. 03111340 (posted Nov. 13, 2003)"

Remarks with Mexican Foreign Minister Luis Ernesto Derbez After Their Meeting

Secretary Colin L. Powell
C Street Entrance
Washington, DC
November 12, 2003

2003/1153
(2:20 p.m. EST)

SECRETARY POWELL: Well, good afternoon, ladies and gentlemen. Just wait a second for the plane to go over.

Secretary Derbez and I have just been to the White House, where we briefed President Bush on the results of the 20th Mexican-U.S. Binational Commission Meeting. Both nations are represented by strong delegations at cabinet level. Half the U.S. cabinet was there and half the Mexican cabinet was there, and we had some very, I think, important results. We came to a conclusion and announced the beginning of the Peace Corps program in Mexico, and we're very pleased about that.

We had good conversations on the issue of water, as you know, which has been a contentious issue. Mexico has made its appropriate allocation for the year and we are starting to work on lowering the previous year s debt, and we look forward to more progress in that area.

We also talked about migration. Migration still remains a very important issue for both of our nations. Both of our presidents remain committed to migration reform. We were very candid with each other about the difficulties we have encountered as a result of 9/11 and some of the actions we had to take to ensure that our homeland was secure. But now that we are on the other side of 9/11, we're going to look for ways to move forward step by step to make sure that we can make it safe, legal, and in all other ways respectful of our need for labor and the desire to make sure that we treat those who come to our country in a very, very appropriate way, and to do everything we can to regularize this traffic back and forth.

We took note of the fact that there are some pieces of congressional legislation that are moving that we can work with and see if we can move forward in the year ahead. So we'll take a step-by-step approach without promising too much, but at the same time not stepping back from the commitment we have made to migration reform.

A hotline was established between Secretary Creel and Secretary Ridge on homeland security issues. Good conversations were held on the subject of labor issues and consular affairs.

All in all, a very rich agenda and a very successful meeting, and I was very pleased to welcome Secretary Derbez and his delegation. And I look forward to our continuing conversations which we have on a regular basis, and to the next meeting which Mexico will host.

Mr. Secretary.

FOREIGN MINISTER DERBEZ: Thank you, Secretary Powell. I think Secretary Powell has mentioned very clearly the issues that we discussed. As you know, these meetings are very important, are very important because what it allows is to continue the dialogue and the exchange of ideas, the points of interest that both countries will see, and how we can work together. I think he mentioned all the important issues that we have discussed. We will continue to be working on this way of doing it step by step, strengthening the relationship between the United States and Mexican Government so that we can bring the benefits to our population on both sides of the border.

If you'll allow me just to say quickly in Spanish the same thing. (In Spanish.)

SECRETARY POWELL: Thank you.

QUESTION: Mr. Secretary, what is the situation in Iraq right now? Can you explain us what's going on in Baghdad?

And second, on Mexico, you say step by step on immigration, but when you're going to have the first step? It's only talks and talks and nothing is going on in terms of immigration, and Mexico wants reform right away.

SECRETARY POWELL: In terms of Iraq, we've had good meetings today with Ambassador Bremer. He brought some ideas here from the Iraqi Governing Council, the 24 individuals who are representing all the people of Iraq.

We will continue to move forward with our reconstruction efforts. As Ambassador Bremer briefed us this morning, the power situation is improving, the export of oil is increasing in terms of the quantities being exported and the revenue being generated, many other things are happening within the economy and within the society that are positive.

At the same time, we candidly took a look at the security situation. It's a difficult situation, but we are confident that our commanders will get on top of it and our intelligence experts will be able to penetrate these remnants of the old regime who are trying to destroy the hopes and aspirations of the Iraqi people.

We had good discussions on the political process of how to move forward and put in place a system that will return sovereignty, a process that will lead to a system, and a means of returning sovereignty to the Iraqi people as soon as possible. Ambassador Bremer will be returning to Iraq to share these ideas and respond to the ideas that were presented by the Governing Council. And when decisions have been made, they will be duly announced.

With respect to migration, we have been very candid in our discussions. There are some issues that we think we can achieve some success on in the not too distant future that don't involve legislation, but we don't want to have a high level of expectation that can't be met. And so what Minister Derbez, Secretary Derbez and I have agreed to with our colleagues in other departments is that, let's not lose the vision that our two presidents have; we know that our people are looking for progress, so let's now work hard in the months ahead to achieve the steps that you're talking about.

And it's a strong message that Secretary Derbez just conveyed to President Bush, and we will be doing everything we can to get the easy steps taken care of as soon as we can while we work with Congress to get a more permanent set of steps put before us that we can consider and see if we can agree to between both nations and make sure that these are steps that our legislatures will also agree to.

QUESTION: Secretary Powell, despite progress in reconstruction, there are still reports that the Iraqis are losing faith in the occupation forces and that this may be leading to -- to -- this may embolden the remnants that are attacking U.S. forces. What's your assessment of the faith in U.S. occupation forces?

SECRETARY POWELL: And there are reports also that the Iraqi people have faith in what's going on, they see the improvement in their lives, and they want us to stay until such time as they are able to reassume full sovereignty over their country.

There will be ups and downs in attitudes and feelings, but our position is clear. We will remain long enough to make sure that the Iraqi people have the opportunity to put in place a government that is democratic, that will live in peace with its neighbors, that will use its oil revenues to benefit its people and not to threaten its neighbors. And when that day arrives, when Iraqis are prepared to resume full control, you can be sure that we will end the role of the Coalition Provisional Authority and return to normal relations with the new Iraqi state.

And so this is the time for perseverance. It's a time for patience. The President is as determined as he was at the beginning of this effort to make sure that the Iraqi people have a state they can be proud of and the international community can be proud of.

QUESTION: Secretary Powell, you mentioned the ideas that were brought by Ambassador Bremer from the Iraqi Governing Council. But what can you tell us about certain dissatisfaction within this Administration with the work that's being done on the ground by the Iraqi Governing Council, and any ideas that are being discussed, put forward by yourself or others in the President's cabinet for accelerating the pace of political reform and, perhaps, even putting forward an Afghan-like interim leader?

SECRETARY POWELL: We are looking at all sorts of ideas, and we do want to accelerate the pace of reform. We want to accelerate our work with respect to putting a legal basis under the new Iraqi government, and we are doing everything we can to get the Governing Council equipped with what they need in the way of staff, what they need in the way of procedures, in order to do the job that they want to do and we want them to do.

This is a difficult work that we are at. To take 24 individuals, put them together, and give them this kind of responsibility requires patience as they develop patterns of work and patterns of operation as they staff themselves for these important responsibilities. And so we are committed to the Governing Council and we intend to help them in every way that we can.

The specific ideas that were discussed or what might come out of that, let's just wait and see how that develops after Ambassador Bremer gets back and shares the ideas with the Governing Council.

The Mexican. Mexican.

QUESTION: Yes, a Mexican question, please. Going back to the immigration agreement, if you could please elaborate on what concrete steps you're looking forward to. You know, a lot of advocacy groups are demanding concrete steps from the U.S. Government to regularize those undocumented Mexican immigrants.

And the second question is: Do you have any comments about the comments that the UN Ambassador in -- the Mexican Ambassador to the UN said yesterday, that he felt that the U.S. has treated Mexico like its own back yard and not a serious -- that you're not really serious about advancing those bilateral issues?

SECRETARY POWELL: I didn't read his statement and I, frankly, didn't hear of it. All I can say to you is that Mexico is a partner of the United States, a neighbor of the United States, a great friend of the United States, and we never, never, in any way, would treat Mexico as some back yard or some second-class nation. We have too much of a history that we have gone through together. And so anybody who would say such things I would most strongly disagree with. It's outrageous. It's not the relationship that President Fox has with President Bush. There have been disagreements in the past. We have worked through those disagreements. The relationship is strong and it's going to get stronger.

On migration, I don't want to get into the specific issues, but we have had a good exchange. The Secretary may wish to speak to it. We know what we have to do, we know what steps we have to take, and the commitment is there. But commitment isn't enough. The Mexican people and the American people are looking to us to now come up with specific actions, and these are going to be difficult. But we're working on them and I'm confident that we will be able to show success in the near future.

Do you want to add anything, Luis?

QUESTION: (In Spanish.)

FOREIGN MINISTER DERBEZ: First let me just address quickly some of the comments that you made, and then I will answer the question in Spanish. It is very important to understand that when you are building, the first thing you do is really you go through making the foundation for that building. As you work in that process, people don't see a building taking shape. The building is defined by the architect, is defined by the engineers and what is going to be there.

If you were to buy that building and you present that to people, you will be telling people, "What are you selling me? You are selling me a dream." Yes, this is what we're talking about. The dream that we're talking about is how do you find the creation of the structure that will bring migration into the correct shape. That takes time. That takes also the definition and the design, and it means that you have to start first thinking what you do. Then, once you have made a clear definition of where you want to go, what kind of aspects you will have to put together, then you start digging and slowly building the foundations so that you can have a building that will not collapse at the end when you are going to be ready to inhabit that building.

This is exactly the way that at least I see, and I'm sure that Mr. Powell also, the way that we are doing right now the process of migration.

The question was asked, "We have been doing three years. What for?" Well, this is exactly the process. The process was we are creating the design. The original design that we thought about is something that simply is not able to be true at this point in time. So what we did at that point has served for one very strong purpose, and the purpose is we now know what we want, we now know exactly the kind of package that will have to be put together at the end, but now we need to work in the building of that package. Because the old design doesn't operate, we are now redefining the design and we're working at this point in time in creating the foundation. We're making the big hole where the building will appear.

As you move on that one, as Secretary Powell mentioned, you have to understand that three things are happening. The first one is we are engaged now at the highest possible level, including both presidents, in the discussion on how do we put together the migration package in the coming years. That's a very important issue because it means that in the agenda, the bilateral agenda, it is now the priority in our discussions.

The second thing that we are doing right now is looking at what the legislative process is putting together, and in that sense Mexico can only participate by looking and it is the White House, the Administration, which is now going through the process of looking at all these bills and see which one of those will fit into the design that we are putting there. And there are several bills already that are in Congress and are looking in that direction.

So that is progress. Even though people don't -- may not see that way, it is progress. They are there. They were not there before. And they are trying to solve some of the issues that you mention at this point in time.

And the third thing that we are doing is we are looking, as part of ongoing dialogue, what could be the kind of sdministrative things that could be put forward. We need to analyze those.

And the one thing that we should not be doing is announcing things before they are done because that is what creates the kind of expectation and frustration for people, including the two secretaries that you see here, when things don't happen. So what we have decided is that once we have reached something very concrete and we are satisfied that it will work and it is feasible, then we  will announce things. We will not be announcing things that are in the making because the experience is, whatever you announce in the making never happens because, in the end, you don't have that.

So we're going to continue to work in that way. This is the way that I think makes sense to go on.

(In Spanish.)

SECRETARY POWELL: Thank you very much.

[End]


Released on November 12, 2003