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Borders And Law Enforcement

John D. Negroponte, Deputy Secretary of State
Remarks at the Monterrey Conference Dinner
Monterrey, Mexico
October 28, 2007
As prepared for delivery

Borders and Law Enforcement

Good evening. Thank you, Chairman Alemán, for that kind introduction. I'd like to recognize President Berger of Guatemala and Governor Gonzalez Parás of Nuevo Leon for being here with us tonight. Thank you to all of the distinguished guests here tonight for allowing me to be part of this important dialogue. The Monterrey Conference every year has distinguished all of the leaders who come together to look at our long-term relationship and outlook for the Hemisphere.

I'm glad to be back in Mexico tonight. As many of you know, I served as U.S. Ambassador to Mexico for four years, from 1989 through 1993. I often think of my years in Mexico as among the most interesting and fruitful ones in my career. My family treasures our memories of times spent here and the many Mexican friends we made; and we have returned frequently since leaving our official position in Mexico City in September of 1993.

The United States has a great stake in the success of Mexico. We share a deep, broad relationship and we understand that our futures -- our success and competitiveness in this global era -- are increasingly intertwined. We have unique demographic links; we know our society is enriched by the talent and productivity of many of your countrymen who live in the United States. Today, a million Americans live in Mexico. Ours is a friendship and a partnership that has grown, in time, based on shared values and shared interests and extensive people-to-people relationships.

When I remember my service in Mexico, I think of how far our relationship has come since 1993. When I became Ambassador, the popular consensus was that strong bilateral ties were beyond reach. I remember preparing to assume the Ambassadorship and reading Alan Riding's "Distant Neighbors." The author referred to Mexico and the U.S. as two border nations "separated by language, religion, race, philosophy, and history." He continued, "Probably no where in the world do two neighbors understand each other so little." Riding wrote his book in 1984. It was a pessimistic message.

What a difference two decades can make. Look at the breadth of our achievement - because it reflects how far we have come. The number of issues we discuss, the interaction across a range of bilateral, trilateral and multilateral issues - not to mention the state and local dynamic - is larger than ever before. Today our countries are joined - not divided - by history, culture, business and connections our citizens understood long before governments caught up.

We are no longer distant neighbors - we are profoundly engaged with each other. Does that mean we will always agree? Of course not. But it does mean that, more often than not, our common values are leading us to cooperate on common challenges. Mexicans and Americans alike increasingly recognize the corrosive impact of narcotics trafficking and crime on both sides of the border. And our common values include a commitment to democracy, rule of law, and prosperity for all of our citizens.

As Ambassador of the United States to Mexico 14 years ago, I served during a dynamic time for U.S.-Mexico relations. I participated in negotiating the North American Free Trade Agreement. NAFTA transformed relations between the United States and Mexico and served as a model for economic growth and development across the world.

At the end of my tenure as ambassador in 1993, the U.S. and Mexico were on the verge of implementing NAFTA. In that year, trade between the U.S. and Mexico amounted to $99 billion. U.S. investment in Mexico stood at $15.4 billion. Neither of these sums are pocket change, but now, fourteen years later, they are dwarfed by numbers that reflect the huge strides we have made in integrating our economies. In 2005, U.S. investment in Mexico was $71.4 billion -- more than quadruple the 1993 amount. In 2006 we traded more than a billion dollars worth of goods and services a day, almost quadrupling our bilateral commerce as well.

In the first 15 years of this historic free trade agreement we have together greatly advanced the competitiveness of North America. By opening new markets, NAFTA has led to the creation of new jobs and increases for standards of living. It will continue to do so. Yet as we work to realize the promise of free trade, we are mindful of those on both sides of the border who do not feel the benefits of such trade and question its utility. We must continue to invest in education, job training, and development programs so that every citizen has the skills to compete in the dynamic 21st century and we make North America the best place to live and do business in the world.

You and I are both better off as a result of NAFTA. With continued close North American cooperation, I am confident our children will reap even greater benefits.

And as I said, NAFTA has been a model for the region as we negotiate additional free trade agreements in the Hemisphere. Just this month, Costa Rica voted in favor of the Central American Free Trade Agreement, known as CAFTA, which will encourage broad trade through Central America and the Dominican Republic. And President Bush has asked the U.S. Congress to vote in favor of three additional free trade agreements - Colombia, Panama, and Peru. These agreements make our economies stronger, generate employment, and promote competitiveness we all need in this vast new global economy. It is vital that these accords be approved by our Congress as soon as possible.

Fourteen years ago our leaders had a vision of a dynamic region prospering economically and politically. Today our leaders recognize the need to protect our prosperity and well-being by combating transnational threats. We are united in our goal of a prosperous and secure region, free from exploitation by organized criminals, and safe from the risk of terrorism.

Our economies prosper best if investors feel secure, consumers can make decisions without intimidation, and business can be confident in the rule of law. Criminal organizations and terrorists not only destroy lives and possessions -- they destroy confidence and hope.

This groundwork for increased cooperation was laid during the Fox Administration, when we began to improve information sharing across borders to better attack transnational criminal organizations. The more we communicated and cooperated however, the more we realized the enormity of the challenge.

Today, it is my privilege to again play a role in strengthening U.S.-Mexico ties as we join together as partners confronting our mutual threats. We assume our mutual obligations to protect ourselves against criminal organizations operating not just along our border, but deep within our two nations with a high level of violence and callous disregard for human life that our citizens reject.

When President Calderon came into office, he made clear that the fight against organized crime was a priority. To date his actions have spoken even more loudly and underscore his determination and dedication to success in this fight. Since January, the Government of Mexico has extradited more than 70 criminals, including major figures from each of the key cartels operating in Mexico. It has launched a series of surges in key states to disrupt criminal operations and networks. Not only are federal law enforcement entities making anti-corruption efforts a priority, but the central government has reached out to state and local entities to do the same. And we have seen record seizures of precursor chemicals; cocaine, with 10 tons seized just weeks ago; and cash, with $207 million recently seized from in a house in Mexico City.

President Calderon is relentless in the fight. He has proposed bold security and judicial reforms pending before the Mexican congress now. These reforms may soon be added to the list of reforms successfully passed by a newly invigorated congressional leadership. I want to acknowledge the sacrifice of his leadership. As cartels lash back against the government, more soldiers, police, and public servants have been killed this year than ever before.

President Calderon and his team recognize that this is a shared challenge. And the United States has also been active in these same efforts. We have established a National Southwest Border Counter narcotics Strategy to implement objectives in intelligence collection, interdiction, surveillance and prosecution to stop criminal activities. And in 2005 the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives launched its own Southwest Border Initiative to share trace information with Mexico, close off weapons trafficking corridors, and expand intelligence cooperation.

Successful initiatives on both sides of the border have led both our nations to a similar point: we are stronger working together. Organized crime does not respect borders, and we should not let borders be barriers to our separate law enforcement efforts. Cooperation across the border will strengthen our individual efforts as well, further undercutting the drug-traffickers and gangs.

During his meeting last March with President Bush, President Calderon proposed our two countries intensify our efforts bilaterally. He urged the United States to expand its efforts to reduce drug demand, stem the flow of arms across the border, and attack money-laundering more aggressively. President Calderon also offered to expand bilateral cooperation so that we could both be more effective, on our respective sides of the border, to stop organized crime and drug trafficking, and ensure that terrorist organizations cannot ever exploit either nation.

Since that time we have been in extensive consultations to define the scope of our new partnership. We have heard the words of encouragement from our respective legislatures and look forward to engaging with them, recognizing the critical roles they have in this process. Both presidents have been closely engaged at key moments, discussing the development of the partnership by phone and of course at the recent North American Leaders Summit in Montebello, Canada last August.

The result is the Merida Initiative, a new partnership announced by President Bush and President Calderon last week to confront organized crime and drug trafficking organizations operating in the region. NAFTA transformed our trade and helped our people prosper. This new initiative will build on the success of NAFTA and define our shared responsibility to confront criminal organizations. We commit to the strategic and tactical cooperation necessary to combat criminal activity and separate initiatives to strengthen our respective, complementary, efforts against specific challenges.

Let me start by telling you what this partnership is not. It is not a plan that involves increases in U.S. government presence in Mexico with law enforcement or military. It is not a strategy that in any way infringes on Mexico's sovereign rights --- or on those of the United States. It is a strategy to succeed -- to succeed against organized criminals and drug traffickers, to succeed in protecting the victims they traffic and exploit, to succeed in reinforcing our mutual efforts against possible terrorist threats, and to succeed in breaking smuggling networks of every possible kind.

Our two countries will share information and databases to make sure we know as much as possible about the criminals and their networks. The United States will support Mexico's ongoing initiatives with equipment so that our respective law enforcement teams can work more effectively together. We will share leads, develop parallel investigations, and pursue respective prosecutions to take criminals off the streets of Mexico and the United States. We will offer to expand existing training programs so that Mexico's law enforcement officials have the resources and capabilities they need to enforce their law.

We will work on our own challenges as well. For the United States, demand reduction, bulk currency and illegal arms flows are a priority, in addition to our current efforts. For Mexico, directly attacking organized crime while reforming its police and judicial systems are formidable tasks.

Additionally, we will look south together, and expand our strategy and assistance to our willing partners in Central America who share both the same challenges and the same commitment to confront them. Working with the leaders of Mexico and these nations, we will align our training, offer equipment and information so that the long trail of illicit activity that traverses Central America towards the United States can be broken.

As we succeed -- as criminal organizations disband, as gangs lose their sway in Central America, as the U.S. reduces drug demand -- we will prosper. When criminals stop corrupting, intimidating, and undermining our societies, business can flourish, employment can multiply, and opportunity can take root.

I was privileged to be present at the creation of NAFTA, and to now see the good it has wrought for all three partners. I feel privileged to be present as the United States and Mexico launch a new era of cooperation against crime in all its forms, an era that will free us of the suffering organized crime now causes, and secure us from the always present threat of terrorism. Two decades ago we might have been merely neighbors with a common border -- today we are partners on many of the issues of mutual import to both our nations. From the great strengths of both our nations, and from the respect and trust we bring each other, this partnership will truly succeed.

Released on October 28, 2007


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