Secretary Antony J. Blinken And Chilean Foreign Minister Antonia Urrejola At a Joint Press Availability

FOREIGN MINISTER URREJOLA:  (Via interpreter) Good – I’m not sure if it’s good afternoon or good morning, but thank you for being here with us today.  First of all, I would like to make a statement, and then Secretary Antony Blinken will have a few remarks.  We’ll then go on to Q&A.

It has been truly wonderful to receive my counterpart here at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Antony Blinken, for his first visit to Chile as the Secretary of State of the United States of America.  As the first activity on our agenda, we had a meeting with His Excellency President Gabriel Boric.  We discussed topics and global challenges for Chile and the United States.  We then were able to talk about a diversity of regional, multilateral topics in a larger meeting with our teams from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Undersecretary Ximena Fuentes.

As allies and friendly countries, we shared directly and frankly our viewpoints.  We noticed that we have areas of agreement and areas where we can move forward in a substantial fashion, in order to help our citizens.  We talked about the priority for our hemisphere that is the protection of the environment and the oceans – a pillar of Chile’s foreign policy, along the lines with the declaration that was signed on the Americas for the protection of the oceans during the ninth Summit of the Americas in Los Angeles, California.

At the bilateral level, we talked about the opportunity that will be the next celebration of the 200th anniversary of diplomatic relations during 2023, and how we will be able to take stock of our links, learning from lessons of the past, some that have been very harsh.  And we can also talk about the future of a productive bilateral relationship based on our shared values.

I would like to highlight that gender issues are a priority for both countries.  We therefore will seek mechanisms where we can share good practices, and include a gender and inclusion perspective in the wide array of issues that make up our rich and vast bilateral relations.  The U.S. Government is working on this issue very much at the domestic level, and we are very interested in learning about that experience.

Chile, based on its foreign principles, has worked on multilateral issues and international law, looking at the OAS as a relevant institution for the future of our region and a necessary space for dialogue on hemispheric issues.  Therefore, we must remember that starting tomorrow we are both preparing for our participation in the 52nd General Assembly of the OAS, which will be held in Lima.

We are once again happy to receive high-level visitors in Chile, thanks to the health measures and the efforts made to overcome the pandemic.  This basis for dialogue allows us to deal with challenges and difficult topics that we must work on in a collective and coordinated fashion so that we may become strengthened after the pandemic.

We are living through economic issues that affect us all, as does the war in Ukraine, food security, climate change, and other pressing issues.  The theme of the OAS general assembly is “Together against Inequality and Discrimination,” which represents a part of the values that Chile promotes constantly internationally.  We’d like to reiterate Chile’s commitment to the importance of regional issues, with a focus on inclusion, intersectionality, that always includes gender, diversity, indigenous peoples, Afro-descendants, and other minorities who have been seriously affected by the many difficulties that we currently face.

With that, I will bring an end to my remarks.

SECRETARY BLINKEN:  Good morning, everyone; and let me first say what a pleasure it is to be back in Santiago.  And to Foreign Minister Urrejola, Antonia, thank you so much for this morning, for the very good conversations that we had.  I’m grateful to President Boric for his time, for the quality of the exchange that we had.  And just so thankful for the warm welcome that we’ve received from our friends and partners here in Chile.

I also want to acknowledge Ambassador Meehan.  You have no idea how pleased I am to be able to say “Ambassador” Meehan.  But it is really thrilling to see you here in this new role.  And as the president knows, as the foreign minister knows, there is no stronger partner than Ambassador Meehan.

We have a relationship that has been bound together fundamentally by shared interests and shared values, and next year, indeed, we’ll celebrate 200 years of partnership.  That partnership spans things that matter most to our people – from economic and security issues, where we have longstanding ties, to new areas of cooperation on climate, on energy, on health, even outer space.

And as I said, this relationship is based first and foremost on deeply shared values – a commitment to standing up for democracy and humans rights in our own countries, in this region, and indeed around the world.

We see the strength and vibrancy of Chile’s democracy in the peaceful, inclusive process the country’s engaged in, with regard to charting a new constitution.  We see it in Chile’s leadership in regional organizations dedicated to promoting democracy and advancing human rights, such as co-chairing the OAS working group on Nicaragua and the recent presidency of the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights.  We see it in the position that this government has taken on holding countries – left, right, liberal, conservative – to the same standards on human rights and democracy.  There should be no ideological blocs when it comes to defending the principles that we’ve all agreed to in the UN and its charter, at the OAS, in the Inter-American Democratic Charter.  That’s why we call them universal rights, and we have to stand up wherever they’re being threatened.

We’re also grateful for Chile’s clear voice in regional and multilateral organizations like the OAS, where we’ll be going tomorrow, and the United Nations, where – among other things – it has consistently condemned Russia’s unjustified war of aggression against Ukraine.

We’re growing our economic ties.  Since Chile and the United States signed our Free Trade Agreement in 2003, trade between our countries has more than quadrupled, reaching more than $38 billion last year, supporting tens of thousands of jobs in both of our countries.  The United States is Chile’s top source of foreign direct investment, investing more than $25 billion in high growth areas, like Chile’s renewable energy sector.  And we intend to build on those ties, something we talked about today.

Just to cite an example, the United States has invested $760 million and provided technical assistance across five solar power projects in Chile, several of which are already powering homes and business across the country.  Chile’s renewable energy sector already provides 45 percent of the country’s electricity supply and is helping further Chile’s ambitious clean energy goals, including carbon neutrality by 2050 – something else that we talked about today especially as we head to COP 27 together, in a little over a month’s time.

Although Chile’s economy has grown over the years, so, too has inequity – here in Chile, but also more broadly across our own hemisphere.  That was worsened by the COVID-19 pandemic, the climate crisis, rising energy and food costs, which has been exacerbated again by the Russian aggression in Ukraine.

But what we see across the board – in all of these areas, is that those hardest hit are ones who can least afford it.  Under President Biden, the United States has committed to partnering with Chile and other countries in the region to deliver solutions to the challenges that are directly impacting the lives of our people.  It’s a fundamental part of demonstrating that democracies like ours can deliver concrete results for our people: address their needs and advance their aspirations.

That’s one of the reasons that we launched the Americas Partnership for Economic Prosperity.  We did this at the Summit of the Americas a few months ago.  It’s focused on laying the foundation for economic growth from the bottom up and the middle out by expanding digital connectivity, making our supply chains more resilient, including here in the hemisphere; creating clean energy jobs as we decarbonize; and getting regional economic institutions to mobilize more investment and credit, including in middle-income countries.  We’re looking forward to working with Chile on this initiative.

We’re also expanding support for those across the region who don’t have access to essential services like health, like education.  That’s the idea behind our commitment to work with partners to train and equip 500,000 local health care workers, across the hemisphere, in five years.  This initiative, if fully realized, will make a profound practical difference in the lives of millions of people across our hemisphere.

We discussed, as well, our growing collaboration on migration, and I expressed my appreciation for Chile’s leadership on this issue, including by hosting roughly half a million Venezuelan migrants and refugees and 180,000 Haitians.

At the Summit of the Americas in June, Chile joined 21 other countries in the hemisphere in supporting the Los Angeles Declaration.  This declaration is an important moment because it recognizes our shared responsibility in meeting the migration challenge; and goes about it in a way that increases stability, creates opportunities for safe and orderly migration, and supports communities that host migrants, while holding criminals and human traffickers accountable.

But for all the ties between our nations that we discussed today – and we covered many of them, and indeed we probably ran out of time; we could have discussed another dozen topics.  For all of the ties that we talked about today, perhaps none are as deep as the ties between our people.

A little bit later today, I’ll meet with alumni of the Young Leaders of the Americas Initiative.  That’s an exchange program that has brought together over a thousand young entrepreneurs and business and social leaders across our hemisphere.

Ultimately, it’s ties like these, especially ties that bind the rising generation of Chileans and Americans that give me the most hope for the future of our relationship and our democracies.  And they’re yet another reason we’re committed to continuing to strengthen the partnership between our governments.

So again, Antonia, Foreign Minister, thank you very much.  It’s very good to be here today with all of you.

Thank you.

MODERATOR:  Thank you.

(Via interpreter) First question – Michael Crowley, New York Times.

QUESTION:  Thank you so much, Mr. Secretary, Madam Foreign Minister.  I was not expecting to go first, so I apologize my questions are not focused as much on the region as some that will follow, but thank you for your understanding.

Secretary Blinken, as you must know, OPEC has just agreed to an oil production cut of 2 million barrels a day.  You joined President Biden on what was a somewhat controversial trip to Saudi Arabia recently that the President justified in part on the grounds of working with the Saudis to control oil costs.  What is your reaction to this decision, and are you specifically disappointed in the Saudis?

Also, Russia has set an October 25th appeal hearing for Brittney Griner.  Could this change the status of negotiations over Griner and Paul Whelan?

And Madam Minister, President Biden’s policy towards Venezuela has essentially left unchanged Trump administration policies toward the Maduro regime, including very severe economic sanctions.  Do you think this is the correct approach for the United States to Venezuela?  Thank you both.

SECRETARY BLINKEN:  Michael, thank you very much.  With regard to energy, first, what we’ve been clear about is the need for energy supply to meet demand.  That’s what we’ve been working on across the board, and we’ve done our part.  United States oil production is up by more than 500,000 barrels a day.  As you know, we have tapped into the Strategic Petroleum Reserve as well to make sure that energy is on the market and, also, as a way to stabilize prices. Indeed, energy prices have come down as a result of the efforts that we’ve made.

And when it comes to OPEC, we’ve made clear our views to OPEC members.  We have a multiplicity of interests with regard to Saudi Arabia.  And I think the President laid those out during his trip, and they include everything from regional relationships, including improving relations between Arab countries and Israel; Yemen, where we’re working very closely with Saudi Arabia to try to continue the truce; and a number of other issues, and those were all reflected in the visit.  But we are working every single day to make sure to the best of our ability that, again, energy supply from wherever is actually meeting demand in order to ensure that energy is on the market and that prices are kept low.

When it comes to Brittney Griner and Paul Whelan, I can’t speculate on what various court dates may or may not mean.  What I can tell you is this:  This has my full attention.  And as I said before, number one on my list of priorities, around the world, is doing everything we can to bring home any American anywhere who’s being arbitrarily or unjustly detained.  And that certainly applies in the case of Brittney Griner and Paul Whelan.  We, as you know, have been having an ongoing discussion with Russian authorities about this.  We put a substantial proposal on the table some months ago, and we urge Moscow to accept that proposal so that we can resolve at least this issue.  But our imperative is securing their release.  And I don’t want to weigh in on the particulars of where we are.  All I can tell you is we’re focused on it every single day.

FOREIGN MINISTER URREJOLA:  I’ll answer in Spanish if you’re okay with that.

(Via interpreter) When it comes to Venezuela, this was an issue we discussed with Secretary Blinken at our meeting.  Our position is that we hope that the initial contact group, which is in Mexico – we hope that dialogue will start up again with Maduro’s government as well as with the Venezuelan opposition, what we want as a country.   And we are, again – agreement with the U.S. and other countries in the region, as well as other European countries, that dialogue should start up again so that in Venezuela in 2024, there may be free democratic elections.

MODERATOR:  (Via interpreter) And then for the Chilean press, Francisco Valenzuela, Channel 13.

QUESTION:  (Via interpreter) Good morning, Secretary of State, Madam Minister.  For both of you, I would like to thank you both for being here because there were some issues that were discussed during the – your initial introduction, your remarks, so thanks again for your understanding.

I would like you to talk in greater detail about the meeting that Secretary Blinken had with President Boric.  What issues did you discuss?  Did you talk about the U.S. vote for Chile as far as its candidacy for the Human Rights Council, and Chile’s role?  As you were mentioning, you talked about negotiations over Venezuela and what the U.S. vision is when it comes to leftist governments whose governments have been historically critical of the U.S., and the relationship that your country has, Secretary Blinken, with Latin America.  Thank you.

SECRETARY BLINKEN:  Thank you very much for the question.  I don’t want to put any words in President Boric’s mouth.  That would not be appropriate.  But let me just say generally two things.  I think the foreign minister covered most of the issues that we discussed, but we also had a conversation about our shared approach and shared priorities that are reflected in what President Biden is working to do at home in the United States, as well as more broadly, and that I believe President Boric is working to do here in Chile.

And that goes to building more equitable and inclusive economies.  It goes to dealing with the issues that are front and center in the lives of our people, whether it is – whether it’s security or whether it’s combating the effects of climate change, dealing with health issues, including COVID, and working in ways that meet the needs and aspirations of our people.  And I think we agreed that there’s tremendous commonality in the goals that we share and, indeed, many of the approaches that we’re bringing to bear.

When it comes to these questions of left, right, and center, here’s what I think is important:  The political context in each country is different throughout our hemisphere, but there is a collective task to see that, as we were saying, our democracies actually deliver for our people, that we produce concrete results.  And my own sense is that what motivates electorates in all of our countries is the desire to see their governments actually address their concerns, and produce concrete results.  And if governments don’t, then chances are they’ll be voted out, someone else will be voted in.

We have a – I think a shared responsibility, but also an opportunity, working closely together, to do exactly that, to deliver results for our people.  And one of the things that I shared with President Boric – something that I think he and President Biden had also talked about when they met at the Summit of the Americas – is the conviction of the United States that for virtually all of the challenges that our people face, we simply cannot be effective in addressing them alone.  We need partnerships.  We need cooperation.  We need collaboration.  And that starts with the closest of our partners like Chile.  That’s the way we see the world.  That’s the way we’re trying to make progress for our own people, but also for people throughout the hemisphere, and I think that’s something that was very much reflected in the conversation that I was very, very pleased and appreciative of having with President Boric today.

QUESTION:  Human Rights Council?

SECRETARY BLINKEN:  That did not – it did not come up.

FOREIGN MINISTER URREJOLA:  No.

MODERATOR:  (Via interpreter) Leon Bruneau from Agence France-Presse.

QUESTION:  Hola.  Thanks for having this press conference.  I wanted to ask the question – well, to both of you, actually, but on this – as I understand it, Chile has a special exemption on visas, the U.S. Visa Waiver; and I think Chile is the only country in South America that has that, and that seems to be in jeopardy from what I understand, or is fragile.  And so, I’d like to ask la ministra if this was discussed and if you have given to the United States and Secretary any guarantees on that.

And Mr. Secretary, so following up on that, I wonder if that is a concern of yours and that you may cancel this exemption visa – of U.S. Visa Waiver Program.  And then I’d like to ask a more general question.  You mentioned a lot – ideological blocks and what have you, but meeting in Colombia, in Chile, on Cuba specifically.  Constantly, the U.S. has been told that you have to change your policy and what have you.  Are you listening to the leaders in Latin America that are telling you the policy right now is not going anywhere?

And if I may – I’m sorry, but it’s the news of the day – ask you a question on North Korea.  Obviously, the – North Korea fired a IRBM missile; it went over Japan.  The U.S. and South Korea responded by firing missiles during an exercise, a joint exercise.  Do you think that’s escalating or it has a risk of escalating the process against North Korea?  Thank you.

FOREIGN MINISTER URREJOLA:  (Via interpreter) When it comes to the Visa Waiver Program, we did not discuss this issue, during my meeting with the Secretary of State.  When it comes to that topic, I’d like to say that there is a plan that has been agreed upon with the U.S. to assess Visa Waiver Programs.  This is something that the U.S. does on an ongoing basis, not just with Chile but with other countries with whom it has this program.  We’re working in a very coordinated fashion.  Actually, the consular team has been in the U.S. talking to Homeland Security to talk about related issues.  We’re on the right path, but I’d like to say again that the assessment of the Visa Waiver Program is not something done only for Chile, but it’s done for all countries that have visa waivers.  It’s very well on its way, and we didn’t talk about it when we met, but – because this is under the purview of Homeland Security and there’s a team in the U.S. talking about this issue right now.

SECRETARY BLINKEN:  The minister is exactly right, and we’re working very closely together on this.  Chile is the only country in Latin America that is part of the Visa Waiver Program; and we very much want to sustain that, and our teams are working to do that and I’m confident that we will succeed in doing that.

On the other questions related to the hemisphere, look, one of the things I emphasize and want to make clear – and this is something that, again, without ascribing views to President Boric, this is also my understanding from listening so carefully to him over these months.  We do not judge countries based on their political orientation, again, whether it’s left, right, center, but simply put, on their commitment to democracy, to human rights, to other shared values.  And it’s important for us in working with countries around the world to uphold those basic values and those basic principles, again irrespective of where a country or a government may fall on the political spectrum; and, for that matter, irrespective of our actual relationship with them.

Now we may approach this question differently depending on an individual country, but the basic principle is the same.  And when it comes to Cuba, I think you know the longstanding views of the United States, including this administration.  We’ve taken steps recently, including on remittances, on travel, on visas, to try to further help the Cuban people and empower them.  At the same time, we saw as, again, the Cuban people tried to speak up for their rights a year ago, that these protests – peaceful protests – were not only violently put down, but people were thrown in jail, including minors, with usually excessive prison terms – 15, 20, 30 years – just for speaking their minds.

And so, we have to hold the Cuban Government to account, just as we would any other government, for denying the Cuban people those rights.  Again, we may have different approaches on the best way to do that.  And that’s a very important conversation that we’re always having because we all make our judgments, and certainly no one’s infallible when it comes to that, including us.  And we try to – we listen hard and learn from our partners and friends, but the underlying principle is the same.

Shifting gears as you did to North Korea, to the Korean Peninsula, because you’ve heard very clearly from us over the last 24 hours, we strongly condemn the DPRK’s dangerous and reckless launch of a long-range missile that flew over Northern Japan, endangering Japanese citizens.  I spoke almost immediately to my Japanese and Korean counterparts; and I think you’ve seen that we are working very closely together, both on a bilateral basis but also on a trilateral basis – the United States, Korea, and Japan – to demonstrate and strengthen our defensive and deterrent capabilities in light of the threat from North Korea.

We’ve called on the DPRK to refrain from further provocations and engage in a sustained and substantive dialogue.  This is something that we have proposed going back many months.  Unfortunately, the DPRK’s response has been to launch more missiles.  But we are taking appropriate defense and deterrent steps with allies and partners.  We’ve called for a UN Security Council meeting, and we’re consulting with our partners on next steps.

But I also want to make very clear that our commitment to the defense of our allies and partners, Korea and Japan, is ironclad.  We believe that North Korea would be much better served by not only refraining from these actions but actually engaging in dialogue.  I think what we’re seeing is that if they continue down this road, it will only increase the condemnation, increase the isolation, increase the steps that are taken in response to their actions.

MODERATOR:  (Via interpreter) Last question from a Chilean agency, Francisco Valenzuela.

QUESTION:  (In Spanish.) Can you hear me, Secretary?

SECRETARY BLINKEN:  I can hear you.  I’m just not hearing the translation.

STAFF:  (Via interpreter) Yes, the interpreter is waiting to receive audio.

QUESTION:  I might be a little bit rusty, but I can try to do it like this.

SECRETARY BLINKEN:  Thank you.

QUESTION:  Our second question is pertaining to investment.  How does your country observe the constitutional process going on here in Chile, and if in your judgment does it get – does it give some certainty for the American presence in business in our country under role of Chile and – are you hearing me?  Okay. Good.  Now I will switch back to Spanish because some words I just can’t translate.

(Via interpreter) The role of Chile – you can ask me if you need me to repeat the question, Mr. Secretary, or I can continue – the role of Chile in multilateral treaties such as with the European Union or the treaty for the transpacific association known as TPP-11 and Chile were not members but – not as members but observers.  How do you see Chile in multilateral treaties at the global level?

And I will repeat the first part:  If – how do you see investment when it comes to the constitutional process in Chile, as well as lithium in the energy sector?  Thank you very much, Mr. Secretary.

SECRETARY BLINKEN:  Thank you.  And I appreciate the switching to English.  I apologize that my Spanish is not good enough to do this in Spanish; I wish it were.  But thank you.

First, I’m not going to say anything about the substance of the constitutional process.  We admire in fact the process itself and the way that Chileans are engaging this in a peaceful and constructive manner.  But as to the substance, this is obviously up to the Chilean people.  It’s not an issue for the United States, but here’s what I can say.

First, as I noted earlier, we’ve already seen over the last couple of decades, since our free trade agreement was signed, a substantial increase in trade between us.  It’s now about 32, almost 33 billion dollars a year.  And the United States is the leading supplier of foreign direct investment in Chile.  So, the relationship is already strong, both on the trade side and on the investment side.

But we are convinced that it can grow stronger still and that our two countries are natural partners when it comes to this, and our hemisphere should be even more of natural partners together.  And I think you’ll see this play out in a number of ways that we discussed today and that I alluded to.

First, through the partnership that we put forward at the Summit of the Americas for prosperity in the hemisphere, there are a number of areas where, working together, we can I think significantly increase trade and investment, including in Chile.  For example, the partnership that we’re designing together focuses on things like building strong supply chains in the Western Hemisphere.  We all saw what happened when we had challenges with our supply chains during COVID.  We need to make sure that doesn’t happen again.  But there’s also tremendous opportunity there for business, for investment.

Similarly, because of Chile’s leadership on climate, we see a future together where we’re working together and investing together, including here in Chile, on clean technology and on green economy jobs.  These are the jobs of the future, and Chile is very, very well placed, I think, to produce many of those jobs.  And we talked about that today, and I think we’re looking at ways to generate more American investment.  We’re already done a lot on solar, as we’ve discussed.  But there’s a lot more to be done.

At the same time, re-energizing and refocusing the international financial institutions, including the multilateral development banks here in our own hemisphere, in ways that actually address the needs of people and put investment and put loans and put money into projects that will actually make a difference in their lives – that, too, is something that we’re focused on together and that I think can create even more opportunity here in Chile.

So, I think across the board we have a strong foundation, but there is much more that we can do.  And we bring to it the same perspective, which is the need to do it in a way that is inclusive and that really tries to create growth for everyone – not just some, but for everyone.  That’s a shared focus of both of our governments and it animates what we’re going to be doing together in the years ahead.  Thank you.

FOREIGN MINISTER URREJOLA:  (Via interpreter) On the first issue, I’d like to go back to the last thing that Secretary Blinken said about how we are working with the United States on different topics related to investment, but especially from the perspective of the fight against climate change and the importance of renewable energy.  This is something on our agenda with the United States, as well as with European countries and other countries – at the global level, at the UN.  This is a consistent issue.  The president’s bilateral agenda, I’ve discussed it with many foreign ministers.  There is an interest in many countries in investing in renewable energy, and as Secretary Blinken said, supply chains, lithium, are important topics for us as well.  We share the viewpoint that we must review and refocus the work on multilateral banks.

I would also like to remind you of the president’s visit to Canada when he met with the minister of the economy, Canadian businesses, and they talked specifically about Canadian investments.  It’s a very important partner for Chile.  And as you mentioned, I believe, there was a very important conversation in that regard, and we’re working hand-in-hand with Canadian companies.  Same thing with the United States in the framework of the Summit of the Americas.  The minister and the president met with U.S. businesses as well.  The same thing happened at the UN with Mario Marcel, the Council of the Americas.

So, we are working very closely with different businesses.  I was in Spain, met with Spanish businesses.  There’s an open agenda when it comes to investment.  I think that we are well on the right path.  I’d like to say, as well, that we have negotiating teams, this – looking at the modernization agreement with the EU this week.  As the president has said, the idea is to be able to bring those to a close by the end of the year.  We’re on the right path.  And so, everything I’m saying, as well as what Secretary Blinken has said, shows that we are working very strongly on these issues.

MODERATOR:  (Via interpreter) We would like to thank you for coming to this press conference.  We request that the national press allow our U.S. colleagues to leave because they must join the Secretary’s delegation.  Thanks very much.

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