QUESTION: Good afternoon, Mr. Secretary. Thank you for this interview.
SECRETARY BLINKEN: So nice to be with you.
QUESTION: President – thank you very much. President Biden and you just met with Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, who said he was glad to see the United States is back. My question is: Is the United States in a position to recover its leadership role in the world? Is there still time?
SECRETARY BLINKEN: I think not only is there time, but honestly, there’s also a strong desire for it. I wish that I could travel, but of course, COVID has put a damper on that, but I have been burning up the phone lines, talking to my counterparts around the world. And my first calls, by the way, were to Canada and Mexico and to my counterparts there. And in almost every single conversation, I am finding a strong desire for American re-engagement.
And there is a simple reason for that. I think there is a recognition in country after country that the challenges we face – that all of our countries face, and that are affecting the lives of our citizens every single day – cannot be effectively managed or dealt with by any one country acting alone. There is a premium, more than at any time that I’ve been involved on these issues, on international cooperation, on countries working together. And that is certainly the case in regard to the United States and Mexico.
It’s hard to think of countries that have more important matters and issues that are affecting the lives of citizens on both sides of the border every single day that really demand that we cooperate and work together. So I am finding a real – more than an interest – I’d almost say a thirst for American re-engagement.
QUESTION: The world crisis due to the COVID-19 pandemic has left bare the political and influence strategies of global powers like China and Russia, which are supplying vaccines to countries that, like Mexico, need them urgently. Isn’t this a good moment for putting aside the America first policy and doubling down on a strong North America bloc? Wouldn’t it be preferable that you and not China and Russia help us get the COVID vaccine?
SECRETARY BLINKEN: Well, we’re working on exactly that. As you know, the United States not only rejoined the World Health Organization to be fully part of the fight that it is engaged in on COVID and on global health more generally, but we’ve committed significant resources to the international vaccine initiative. We joined COVAX. We’ve committed $2 billion up front immediately, with another $2 billion to come as other countries step up their own contributions. So we’re fully engaged in the work to make sure that the world is vaccinated, and this is hugely important, because here’s the challenge we face: None of us is effectively safe until everyone in the world is vaccinated, because as long as the virus is out there and is mutating, we’re going to see variants arise and come back and even bite countries that have already been vaccinated. So we have a strong interest in this, and it’s the right thing to do.
QUESTION: But let me put it like you said it long time before. Whoever – just like, another country – I know you put a lot of money in COVAX, but like – I mean, we are like flat mates. You used that phrase some time ago. So when you say COVAX, I was meaning North America – I mean, the priority is to North America in the vaccine aid.
SECRETARY BLINKEN: Well, look, I can say we’re in close conversations with our closest neighbors, both with Canada and Mexico, on COVID-19 and how we can continue to strengthen the work that we’re doing together in combating it. And one of the things that we’re doing right now is developing a framework for how we would use excess vaccines as they become available to make sure that they are effectively distributed around the world. So all of that is in the works.
QUESTION: During your confirmation hearing before the Senate, you said China poses – posed the most significant challenge to the U.S. Under these circumstances, isn’t this an opportunity to strengthen our tines – or our ties in North America?
SECRETARY BLINKEN: Oh, I think it is, and I think that we have so much of the foundation in place, including the U.S.-Mexico-Canada trade agreement, but including the fact that – by necessity but also by opportunity. We already have among the closest and most vibrant and important trade relationships in the world. We have work to do on energy; we have work to do on climate. We have work to do on some of the common security challenges that we face. And all of that is pushing us together. But beyond that, I think there’s a moment of opportunity because even in the midst of one of the most horrific human crises of our times – maybe the most, COVID-19 – we have the obligation to try to work together to bounce back, not just in terms of global health but also in terms of our economies. And I think the relationships that we already have, the natural complementarity that we have in a number of areas, will allow us to try to build back better as we work to rebound economically from COVID-19.
QUESTION: How would Washington consider a closer collaboration between Mexico and China on matters like telecommunication, investment, infrastructure, and energy?
SECRETARY BLINKEN: Well, part of the challenge that’s posed by China is that a number of the practices it engages in are in absolute violation of the rules and the norms that many of us have worked hard to establish over the years in commercial matters, trade, investment, et cetera. And one of the particular challenges we face is countries relying on untrusted suppliers on technology, including in China, in ways that undermine potentially our security. So we’re looking to partners in countries to make sure that as they’re engaged, for example, in acquiring technology, that they do so mindful of the security challenges that might pose.
QUESTION: Okay. What are the red flags you see in the relationship between the U.S. and Mexico?
SECRETARY BLINKEN: I wouldn’t think about it in terms of red flags. I’d think about it in terms of common interests and common challenges that we face. Look, we have one of the most remarkable borders in the world, and I know a lot of attention, of course, is played – is paid understandably to migration, but we can’t lose sight of the fact that we have an incredibly vibrant living border that is bringing people together every single day with large numbers of our people certainly before COVID and hopefully after COVID moving back and forth, connecting us as people but also connecting us through ties of trade, family. And that’s usually important, but of course we have to manage that border effectively. We have to make sure that it is a living and dynamic border that produces opportunity and growth for both communities while also being safe and being managed effectively.
QUESTION: But what worries you about the relationship between us, our both – both countries?
SECRETARY BLINKEN: It’s less a worry and more of the, I think, obligation we both have to try to deepen even more our partnership on these issues that are affecting the lives of our people every single day, Mexicans and Americans. We have, for example, the big problem of transnational crime and transnational criminal organizations. Now, this is having deep impacts on both sides of the border we share in terms of crime and violence in Mexico, drugs in the United States, trafficking of weapons, trafficking of people. So I think it puts an obligation on both of us to find ways to deepen even more our cooperation.
QUESTION: But for instance, energy policy of the Mexican Government, does that worry you?
SECRETARY BLINKEN: I think there too, we have real opportunities going forward, but I think Mexico also has a strong interest, particularly in terms of rebounding from COVID economically, in making sure that the investment environment is as strong as it possibly can be to attract foreign investment, including investment in the energy sector.
QUESTION: Do you trust the Mexican Government in the fight against organized crime?
SECRETARY BLINKEN: This is an incredibly hard challenge, and I think we very much recognize that. We know the difficulties that it poses. But we’re approaching this in partnership and with respect for Mexico, for the government, for the challenge that it has before it. But we’re in this together. This affects both of us. And we know the effect that it has on the Mexican people every single day, particularly in terms of violence. We know the effect that it has on our citizens, particularly with regard to drugs. And so this is a matter of, I think, both of us needing each other to work together as effectively as we can to deal with a challenge that we both face.
QUESTION: But trust is important. Do you trust the Mexican Government?
SECRETARY BLINKEN: Yes, because again, I think we’re motivated by the same objective, the same desire to better the lives of our people, including making sure that they’re safer, that they’re more prosperous, that they have more hope for themselves and their families going forward. We have that shared commitment. And of course, we share something that’s absolutely foundational, which is we’re both – we’re both democracies, and the basic values that animate our countries are the same.
So look, I – as I said, one of the very first things I did was to call my counterpart. The President did the same. We are very much looking forward to a strong relationship, a strong partnership, going forward.
QUESTION: The relationship between Mexico and the U.S. has centered on migration for many years. Many agree that the solution is not that Mexico puts thousands of its national guard elements on our southern border to stop the entry into the U.S. of illegal immigrants. But the design of a true Marshall Plan for Central America, is that really possible? Is there the political will to make it happen?
SECRETARY BLINKEN: I think it’s both possible and necessary. Possible because to some extent we’ve – we got – started this before. When President Biden was Vice President at the end of the Obama-Biden administration, even with a divided Congress, he secured almost a billion dollars to help the governments and to help the countries of Guatemala, Honduras, El Salvador to deal with some of the drivers of forced migration to improve the lives of their people when it comes to crime, corruption, criminal justice, opportunity.
So I think that demonstrated that there actually is a will. Now we have an ambitious program that will be reflected in our budget to secure those resources over four years to make sure that we are helping our partner countries deal with – deal with some of these drivers.
So I think it’s – it really is possible. But again, it’s necessary. And these are hard things. They take time. We can’t just flip a light switch and get them done. But we’ve already taken significant steps to create a more orderly, a safer, and a more humane border. And as we work on this, I think we’ll get to a better place.
QUESTION: Mr. Secretary, just to finish, Mexico was forced to survive its relationship with the U.S. during the Trump administration. I can tell you it was an exhausting and stressing experience. What are we to expect of the Biden administration?
SECRETARY BLINKEN: I think what you can expect, first of all, is tremendous respect, real friendship based on the fact that we are the closest of neighbors and we need, I think, to become even more the closest of partners; that basically, we are in this together. The lives of Mexicans, the lives of Americans are as intertwined as any two countries and any two peoples can be. And so we have a shared – a strong shared interest if want to both improve the lives of our people to work together, to deepen our cooperation.
And of course, this is not going to be easy. We’re going to have differences. And that’s normal. The closer you are, the more issues, the more challenges you have to face. Of course, there will be differences. But we approach them from a position of having tremendous respect for our friends, neighbors, families even in Mexico, and that’s the spirit in which we want to work together.
QUESTION: Who will be your quarterback in the relationship with Mexico, your quarterback, the one who will, like, call the moves?
SECRETARY BLINKEN: Well, of course, our quarterback, our coach, our manager is President Biden. He’s had, as you know, deep engagement in the relationship with Mexico going back to the time when he was in the United States Senate and then certainly as Vice President. I know he looks very much forward to engaging across a whole series of issues, and it’s certainly something I’m going to be spending time and attention on as well.
QUESTION: Thank you very much, Mr. Secretary. Thank you very much.
SECRETARY BLINKEN: Thank you. Good to be with you.
QUESTION: Thank you.