Cite as "AILA InfoNet Doc. No. 03111340 (posted Nov. 13, 2003)"
Remarks with Mexican Foreign Minister Luis Ernesto Derbez After Their
Secretary Colin L. Powell
C Street Entrance
(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
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.
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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.
SECRETARY POWELL: Thank you very much.
Released on November 12, 2003