Ottawa, Canada–(ENEWSPF)–June 29, 2016 – 3:18 P.M. EDT
PRIME MINISTER TRUDEAU: Good afternoon, everyone. Thank you for joining us today. President Obama, President Peña Nieto and I have just wrapped up a very productive meeting. The tone of the meeting was friendly, as you might expect among friends, but also a little poignant. We’re obviously thrilled to have President Peña Nieto here for his first visit to Canada as President of Mexico. Yet, at the same time, it’s a little sad that this will be the last chance for all three of us to get together in this capacity, given President Obama’s impending retirement — (laughter) — something he pointed out to us more than once, I should add, usually with a little smile.
But I do want to once again thank both leaders and their delegations for coming to Ottawa and for being truly open to the discussions that took place today. One of the first items we discussed was our common respect for diversity and our firm support for LGBTQ rights, especially in the wake of the shootings earlier this month in Orlando.
(Speaks French.) (As interpreted.) The United States and Mexico both lost citizens in Orlando. That tragedy has strengthened our determination to protect the rights of LGBTQ people, and we urge all leaders throughout the world to do the same.
We also talked about the need to ensure a clean and prosperous future for all of our people and for all people in the world.
(Speaks English.) We are unanimous in our belief that on this issue, North America can — and indeed must — lead the way.
Today, we resolved — we turned that resolve into action with a negotiation of an ambitious and enduring North American Climate, Clean Energy, and Environment Partnership. This partnership will see our countries stand side by side as we work toward the common goal of a North America that is competitive, that encourages clean growth, and that protects our shared environment now and for generations to come. It’s a partnership that lays out some very clear deliverables and that identifies realistic paths to achieving them.
Together, we will advance clean and secure energy with the goal of 50 percent clean power generation across the continent by 2025. We will drive down short-lived climate pollutants — things like methane, black carbon, and hydrofluorocarbons. We will promote clean and efficient transportation, creating clean jobs as we reduce energy consumption, air pollution, and greenhouse gases. We will work together to protect nature and to advance our scientific understanding of the environmental challenges we share. And finally, we will respond directly and decisively to the challenge of climate change, working to make our own countries more resilient as we encourage others to do the same.
This is what can happen when countries come together in pursuit of a common goal, when we have a big idea and the political will to make it happen. Today’s climate agreement stands as proof that cooperation pays off and that working together always beats going it alone.
There were, of course, other issues on the agenda, as well.
(Speaks French.) (As interpreted.) We also had the opportunity to talk about ways of advancing trade and competitiveness in North America. It’s essential to each of our economies, and it is vital for the creation of good jobs for the middle class. Furthermore, we reasserted our common commitment to human rights, and we discussed the aspects on which we could be better partners to ensure the protection and defense of fundamental rights. We also discussed regional and worldwide issues that are urgent, and we talked about the way we will work together to meet these common challenges.
(Speaks English.) We talked about how to better cooperate on defense, but it also meant forging a closer working relationship when it comes to providing development and humanitarian assistance, as well as finding ways to more effectively combat public health challenges, the illicit flow of funds and drugs, and human trafficking.
As I said, the conversations were friendly but also frank. And I’m reassured and encouraged by the progress we were able to make today.
Relationships between the citizens of our three nations have always been strong, even in the past when our governments haven’t always seen eye to eye. It’s gratifying that once again we are able to come together as leaders of three truly great nations to honor that enduring friendship and to once again deliver real results for the people of Canada, Mexico, the United States and, indeed, the entire global community.
Thank you, Barack and Enrique, for all your hard work today and every day.
I’d now like to introduce the President of Mexico, Enrique Peña Nieto.
PRESIDENT PEÑA NIETO: (As interpreted.) Thank you very much, Prime Minister of Canada, Honorable Barack Obama. With this press conference, we come to an end of this day in Canada, today’s state visit, and today at the North American Leaders’ Summit.
Prime Minister Trudeau, allow me to say once again how grateful I am for your hospitality, for the warmth with which we were received, myself and my delegation. We were warmly welcomed in this country. We’re going back to Mexico with memories of the warm welcome that the Canadian people showed in Quebec, in Toronto, and Ottawa.
We’re going back to Mexico fully convinced that we have renewed our bilateral relationship with Canada — Canada and yourself. Canada has a leader that is going back to universal values that make Canada stand out in the world.
President Barack Obama, I would like to say that we acknowledge your determination to have a more united, integrated, and competitive North America, a more prosperous and inclusive North America.
I would like to highlight, specifically being the last North American Leaders’ Summit that you will attend to as the President of the United States, I would like to acknowledge that Mexico recognizes the fact that you have promoted, along Mexico, a strategic partnership, and you have always been — willing to work towards a bilateral agenda that covers different fronts, beyond security. In the process of generating clean energy, you have favored those efforts. You have always favored a more expedited trade, a safer border, more competitiveness in our trade. You have always been in favor of having cooperation in education and cultural matters; have always been willing to push technology and science forward.
But there is no doubt that your legacy also covers other regions of Latin America. You have reestablished a relationship with Cuba. You have supported the development of Central America. And in the Summit of the Americas, as well, you have contributed to its advancement.
I would like to acknowledge as well your tireless efforts made towards the investment of the environment and of addressing the challenges of global warming. There is no doubt that your presidency has helped to build and reaffirm the candid relationship that the United States and Mexico have.
During this trilateral summit, the governments of Canada, the United States and Mexico, we have reaffirmed our decision to work together with a vision, with resolve to advance economic integration in North America. In order to fulfill this goal, Mexico values that in the Trans-Pacific Partnership there is a great opportunity to reaffirm this level of integration between the three countries that are part of NAFTA. But besides that, we are taking this opportunity to other regions of the world, specifically towards Asia.
I believe that the advantages, the benefits, and the beauties that this integration will carry and has carried along for the benefit of our societies can be extended when the Trans-Pacific Partnership is approved. Mexico supports this effort with enthusiasm. This partnership, this agreement is at the senate, in the process of being approved. We are fully convinced that by working together and by taking stock of our complementarity, we can be the most competitive region in the world, as Prime Minister Trudeau has said during this summit.
We have worked on addressing four priorities: Climate change, clean energies and environment, competitiveness at the borders, and trade security and defense, and regional and global issues. Specifically, Mexico addressed the area of competitiveness in trade and in our borders.
I would like to highlight some of the most important agreements. We’re going to create single trade windows to enable our border exchanges. Our goal is to have one foreign trade single window for North America.
Secondly, we’re going to map North American clusters. This will be a vital tool for decision-making to bolster economic trade in the region. We have agreed to have a trilateral cluster map as soon as possible.
And thirdly, I should mention the trilateral program for trusted travelers. Mexico has proposed that this program uses the global entry platform that Canada and the United States already have. And this year, we will implement the electronic kiosks platform that is already present at different airports in the United States and Canada. This system end result will be used in North America as a whole. And this will be a system that will enable and expedite the flow and transit of individuals in North America.
Finally, I would like to use an example to describe our level of integration. The preservation of the monarch butterfly conservation. This is a species that, in its pilgrimage, we can see how our countries are intertwined. And back in our last summit, we agreed that we would take care of this species and make sure that, in its journey, the monarch butterfly from Canada, flying through the United States all the way down to Mexico — and the figures speak for itself.
In the year 2014, in our country, the area where butterflies eventually reached only covered less than one hectare — 0.6 hectares. Due to the efforts made by our trilateral task force, created for that purpose last year, this year’s — the surface in my country now extends to 4.1 hectares and we are en route that by 2018 this figure would grow to 6 hectares and eventually that would be our goal for the monarch butterfly reserve in Mexico. And by that, we will be making sure the migration of this species is the symbol of the relationship that Canada, the United States and Mexico have.
The North American Leaders Summit bears witness that isolated national efforts are insufficient. If we want favorable results for the benefit of our societies, it is better to work together as a region. We all know these global challenges — isolationism is not the solution. In contrast, with what happens in other corners of the world, the countries in North America, we have decided to be closer, to work as a team, and to complement each other and to make progress together as the most competitive region in the world.
Thank you very much.
PRESIDENT OBAMA: Well, good afternoon. Bonjour. Buenas tardes. I want to thank my friends and partners, Prime Minister Trudeau and President Peña Nieto. To Justin, and the people of Ottawa and Canada, thank you for your wonderful hospitality.
This is my fourth North American Leaders’ Summit, and the first that Canada is hosting in nearly a decade. And this reflects the new commitment that Prime Minister Trudeau has brought to our shared vision of a strong and integrated North America. So thank you so much, Justin.
Let me start by once again commenting on the horrific terrorist attack that took place yesterday in Istanbul’s main international airport, which is one of the busiest airports in the world. The prayers of the American people are with the people of Turkey and the people of Istanbul, and all those who were affected by this terrible crime. We have offered all assistance that we have available to our ally, Turkey, and we stand prepared to assist them during this difficult time.
We’re still learning all the facts, but we know this is part of our broader, shared fight against terrorist networks, and we will continue to work closely with Turkey to root them out. And meanwhile, we’re going to do what’s necessary to protect our people. I’m confident that we can and we will defeat those who offer only death and destruction. And we will always remember, even as there are those who are trying to divide us, that we are stronger when we come together and work toward a better world together.
We’re reminded of this basic fact at this summit. Combined, our three nations are home to nearly 480 million people. We are bound together by family, including the millions of immigrants who trace their roots to each other’s countries. We’re not only among each other’s top trade partners, we are a global hub of innovation — with integrated economies and supply chains and co-production that span our borders. On every security and global challenge, we are partners. And we’re united by common values of democracy and pluralism and a commitment to human dignity.
Over the past eight years, I’ve worked to strengthen our partnerships with our friends in the Americas, and that begins with strengthening our relationship with Canada and Mexico. During my administration, for example, we boosted U.S. exports to Canada and Mexico by about 50 percent — that supports about 2.8 million American jobs. And today, as Justin and Enrique described, we agreed to build on that progress in several key areas.
First, we agreed to make it even easier to do business together so that our region is even more competitive. We’re bringing more advanced technologies and automation to our border crossings, which will reduce wait times for travelers and make it more affordable to trade. By the end of this year, we’ll have a Single Trusted Traveler Program for all three of our countries, which will make it easier to travel, while at the same time improving security. We’ll continue to align our standards and regulations, which is especially important for small businesses who want to export more. We’re going to do more together to promote women entrepreneurs and minority-owned businesses succeed as well, and we’re going to keep expanding our educational exchanges among our students.
As has been mentioned, we discussed the Trans-Pacific Partnership. The politics of trade are always difficult in every country. I don’t know any country where there aren’t going to be some folks who argue against trade, but we all believe that in an integrated global economy, the goal is not for us to try to shut ourselves off from the world, but rather to work together to raise standards around the world for workers and for the environment. And that’s exactly what TPP does. It’s the right thing to do. And we’re going to keep working for it.
Given the flood of steel and aluminum on the global markets, however, it points to the fact that free trade also has to be fair trade. And our three countries agreed to work together on a range of trade measures to enforce our rights and protect our workers, and ensure a level playing field for the steel and aluminum industries here in North America. And given the vote of the United Kingdom to leave the European Union, our economic teams are going to continue to work together so that we remain focused on keeping our economies growing and making sure that the global financial system is stable — something I’m confident that we can do.
Second, we’re making sure that North America remains a leader in the fight against climate change. And I could not be prouder of the work that Justin and Enrique have done to help realize this important goal. All three of our nations are now committed to joining the Paris agreement this year so we can bring it into force. We’re announcing a new goal across our continent of generating 50 percent of our electricity with clean power by 2025 — which is a bold goal, but is an eminently achievable goal. The United States government is making a major commitment to purchase more clean energy for federal facilities and more clean and efficient government vehicles. And all three of our countries are committing to reduce methane emissions from the oil and gas sector by 40 to 45 percent by 2025.
Third, we’re going to do more to make sure that we’re looking after the safety and health of our citizens from the danger of illicit drugs. And we’re particularly focused right now on the epidemic of opioid abuse, including heroin, that is taking so many lives and devastating so many families. Our teams will meet this fall to make sure that we’re coordinating our efforts, including more access to treatment. And, as always, we will continue to be relentless against the criminals and narco-traffickers that are inflicting so much violence on communities.
Fourth, we’re deepening our cooperation on regional and global challenges: joint efforts against diseases like Zika; helping our Central American partners address poverty and violence that have led to so many families and children making an extraordinarily dangerous trip to flee difficult circumstances.
I want to thank Justin and Enrique for their governments’ strong support of our new approach to Cuba. And I’m also glad that our countries have agreed to do more around the world to address the refugee crisis and expand our peacekeeping efforts.
In our own hemisphere, with the historic agreement in Colombia — a major step toward peace — our three nations are going to help the Colombians remove landmines as just one example of efforts to fortify what has been a very difficult negotiation.
And given the very serious situation in Venezuela — and the worsening plight of the Venezuelan people — together we’re calling on the government and opposition to engage in meaningful dialogue, and urge the Venezuelan government to respect the rule of law and the authority of the National Assembly. Political prisoners should be released, the democratic process should be respected — and that includes legitimate efforts to pursue a recall referendum consistent with Venezuelan law.
In closing, we’re determined to keep building on the progress that’s been made at so many of the previous summits. And, by the way, Enrique, I love the story about monarch butterflies. They’re not just any species, they are spectacular. And we want to make sure that our children and our grandchildren can see them as well.
We’re creating what we call the North American Caucus, which means our three governments will meet on a more regular basis. We’re going to continue to deepen our trilateral cooperation in this hemisphere and around the world. And, in short, we’re going to do more to speak with one, united North American voice on the world stage. We couldn’t have better partners than Justin and Enrique. I’m confident that we’re going to continue to advance regional cooperation and integration, and that’s not just going to be good for our own people, that will be good for the world, as well.
Merci beaucoup. Muchas gracias.
Q Good afternoon, gentlemen. One of the candidates who wants to replace President Obama has already said he wants to renegotiate NAFTA and walk away from the Trans-Pacific Partnership, all suggesting that perhaps there’s a growing disconnect between the pro-trade message you’re selling here and the protectionist voices we’re hearing in the U.S. and possibly the Brexit in the UK. So my question is to all three of you: What is your strategy to reverse this growing sentiment?
And, Prime Minister Trudeau, en français aussi. If the rest of you speak French, that’s great.
PRIME MINISTER TRUDEAU: (As interpreted.) First of all, our strategy is to highlight how much trade and positive agreements among our nations are good not only for the economy of the world and the economy of our countries, but it’s also good for our citizens. We know that industries that export more goods pay salaries that are 50 percent higher than sectors that don’t export. We also know that trade gives rise to good jobs, innovation and progress for individuals, as well.
In our conversations today and yesterday with President Peña Nieto, we signed agreements and held conversations that allowed us to remove visas for Mexican visitors to Canada. This will have effects on all Canadians who live in communities that welcome Mexican tourists. It will also allow Canadian agriculture producers to have access to the Mexican beef market.
These are examples of the cooperation that we say is good for the North American market but also good for the entire world. And it’s with this in mind that it’s important to come together, to talk together about the future of this world, where we are more and more connected. And we have to agree more and more in this world.
(In English.) Our response to the kinds of protectionism that we’re seeing around the world is indeed to highlight that when we come together like in events, like this North American Leaders’ Summit, there’s an opportunity to come together in ways that are beneficial for the global economy, that are beneficial for our countries’ economies, but mostly, that are beneficial for individual citizens.
We know that export-intensive industries pay, on average, 50 percent higher wages than non-exporting industries. We know that trade leads to innovation and opportunities for communities, for individuals, for workers. And we need to make sure that we’re dealing with challenges and problems as they come up, and that’s where a constant engaged dialogue comes with positive outcomes.
Just yesterday, with President Peña Nieto, we were able to establish forward movement on two difficult issues between not just our countries, but our peoples, which will have a beneficial impact on both sides of the deal. We will be lifting visas for visitors to Mexico — to Canada from Mexico, which will have a positive impact on communities across the country as we welcome in tourists, but also we’ve been able to secure access for Canadian farmers to sell their beef in Mexico.
These are good, concrete things that happen when we pull together and deal with important issues. And always there will be people trying to get us all to turn inwards. But the fact is, our world is interconnected in so many ways that it is much better that we engage, that we work through our challenges together because, really, that’s how we end up with the kind of growth that benefits our countries and our citizens.
PRESIDENT PEÑA NIETO: (As interpreted.) I’ll be very brief in addressing your question. There is sometimes that what one has, has not valued enough until you lose them. And what this integration has managed to achieve in North America is precisely to give two or three countries more opportunities, to give our societies more opportunities by growing trade, by having more investment in our three countries.
In our three countries, we see opportunities growing and reaching out to more people. Academic exchanges and the possibility of studying abroad in any of the three countries represented here by three heads of state are outcomes of our trilateral agreements. I believe that we are all aware of how the reactions are of what happened in the UK, and there’s still uncertainty. The outcome of the referendum is uncertain. But when someone values what you have, that is when we see such reactions.
So we are here trying to innovate, to be more competitive. Why? Because we are competitors, yes, but we have complementary economies. And that would give more development to our societies. I believe that this is the main goal of our efforts. The agreements made here are not only agreements made by three heads of state. We are building roads, we’re building the foundation so that our societies can have strong foundations and go further. And that makes a great contrast. When some other countries choose isolationism, they choose protectionist measures, they are not letting their societies project themselves to other kinds of scenarios.
PRESIDENT OBAMA: Well, let me make a couple of points. First of all, the integration of national economies into a global economy, that’s here. That’s done. And so the question is not whether or not there’s going to be an international global economy. There is one. Technology, travel, massive cargo containers that can ship goods back and forth. The fact that a company can move capital around the world in the blink of an eye. The fact that an engineer can send plans to the other side of the world in an instant to a colleague. Those are facts.
So we have an integrated economy already. The question is, under what terms are we going to shape that economy. And it is my firm belief that making sure that how we trade, how we exchange goods, it is my firm belief that shaping those in accordance with the values that our three countries care deeply about is going to be good for us. And us trying to abandon the field and pull up the drawbridge around us is going to be bad for us.
Now, with respect to Brexit, I think it’s important to point out that those who argued about leaving the European Union are the same folks who the very next day are insisting, don’t worry, we’re still going to have access to the single market. So, apparently, their argument was not against trade generally. They just didn’t want any obligations to go with the access to the free market. And it’s important for us not to draw easy analogies between what happened in the UK and the EU versus what’s happening between our three countries in terms of trade, or what’s happening in terms of us attempting to access Asian markets through TPP. That’s point number one.
Point number two. Ordinary people who have concerns about trade have a legitimate gripe about globalization, because the fact is that as the global economy is integrated, what we’ve seen are trend lines across the advanced economies of growing inequality and stagnant wages, and a smaller and smaller share of overall productivity and growth going to workers, and a larger portion going to the top 1 percent. And that’s a real problem. Because if that continues, the social cohesion and political consensus needed for liberal market economies starts breaking down.
So they’re right to be concerned about that. I’m concerned about it. Justin is concerned about it. And Enrique is concerned about it. The question is, what do you do about it? And the prescription of withdrawing from trade deals and focusing solely on your local market, that’s the wrong medicine — first of all, because it’s not feasible, because our auto plants, for example, would shut down if we didn’t have access to some parts in other parts of the world. So we’d lose jobs, and the amount of disruption that would be involved would be enormous. Secondly, we’d become less efficient. Costs of our goods in our own countries would become much more expensive.
And this nostalgia about an era when everybody was working in manufacturing jobs, and you didn’t need a college degree, and you could go in and as long as you worked hard you could support a family and live a middle-class life — that has been undermined far more by automation than it has been by outsourcing or the shift of jobs to low-income — or low-wage countries. I mean, the steel industry is producing as much steel in the United States as it ever was. It’s just it needs one-tenth of the workers that it used to.
And this is why my pushback on both the left and the right when it comes to protectionism or anti-trade arguments is you are right to be concerned about the trends, but what you’re prescribing will not work. And there’s a better way of doing this. And the better way of doing it is countries like ours that have high labor standards and high environmental standards and strong protection of intellectual property and rule of law, we’ve got to get out there and help to shape those rules so that they work for our workers and our businesses. Because if we don’t, China will write the rules, and they may not have the same regard for the values that we care about. Other countries will write the rules in ways that disadvantage our workers and our businesses.
In Asia right now, there are a whole lot of tariffs that keep our products out, but because we happen to be some of the most open nations in the world, they’re selling our stuff in. So we can’t disengage; we ought to engage more. And if we combine that with investments in education, and tax policies that are fair, and making sure that college is affordable, and we’re strengthening the safety net, and we’re rebuilding our infrastructure — which are jobs that cannot be exported — and we’re making investments in research and development, and we’re building an inclusive society in which everybody has got a fair shot — that’s how we’re going to solve these problems.
And what is absolutely true is, is that too many folks who have been in charge around the world have neglected that side of the equation. So we’re going to keep on pushing hard to shape an international order that works for our people. But we’re not going to be able to do that by cutting off trade, because that’s going to make all of us poor.
Q (As interpreted.) Good afternoon. I would like to ask you, you have the election process going on in the United States. There is anti-immigrant and anti-Mexican rhetoric by Donald Trump. I would like to ask you, did you address this issue during your meeting? And how can you reinforce the agreements that you have described and the positive outcomes of your trilateral relationship? What would happen if someone who is not in agreement — he has said that NAFTA — they would step back from NAFTA. What did you address in your meetings? Thank you.
PRESIDENT PEÑA NIETO: (As interpreted.) I would like to begin by saying that we did address the issue and we have discussed it during the state visit. Specifically, I would speak on behalf of Mexico. My government will respect the election process, which is a domestic process for the United States. We are getting ready to work with whoever turns out to be President of the United States.
And the best way to reinforce the progress and agreements that have been made so far is to explain clearly and let the people feel the beauties and the benefits of all the work we do. Most of what we have today, it’s not random. It might be a gift from God, but it is actually the outcome of our work of the foundations and the work we have done so far. And I believe that in the end of the day, what we manage to achieve today would teach us a lesson. It would be for the Americans to define who would provide them better guarantees to move into the path towards growth and development based upon what we have managed to build in the past.
PRESIDENT OBAMA: Well, I think Enrique is right. Whoever becomes the President of the United States is going to have a deep, strong interest in having a strong relationship with Mexico. It’s our neighbor, our friend, and one of our biggest trading partners.
I think I’ve made myself clear, setting aside whatever the candidates are saying, that America is a nation of immigrants. That’s our strength. Unless you are one of the first Americans, unless you are a Native American, somebody somewhere in your past showed up from someplace else. And they didn’t always have papers. And the genius of America has been to define ourselves not by what we look like, or what our last name is, or what faith we practice, but our adherence to a common creed — a belief that all people are created equal; a belief in free speech and freedom of assembly, and democracy, and pluralism and tolerance, and rule of law. And we have observed those ideals imperfectly at times, but in each successive generation we’ve gotten a little bit better at it. We’ve come closer to our ideals.
And the notion that somehow we would stop now on what has been a tradition of attracting talent and strivers and dreamers from all around the world — that would rob us of the thing that is most special about America. And I don’t think it will happen.
Now, people are genuinely concerned about immigration that is not orderly — people pouring across borders without having gone through some sort of process. It adds to people’s sense that things are out of control. And that’s why we’ve invested in securing our borders, and we’ve made unprecedented investments. It’s part of the reason why illegal immigration to the United States is actually at its lowest level since the 1970s. It’s why we so value the cooperation that we’ve obtained from the Mexican government in making sure that our borders work to facilitate legal trade and legal immigration and commerce, but discourages illegal immigration.
It’s why I’m pushing very hard, and will continue to push until I leave this office, and expect the next President to push for a comprehensive immigration reform plan that can fix those aspects of the system that are broken, so that we remain a nation of laws and a nation of immigrants.
And that’s ultimately, I think, where people in the United States will land. We’ve had times throughout our history where anti-immigration sentiment is exploited by demagogues. It was directed at the Irish. It was directed at Poles and Italians. And you can go back and read what was said about those groups and it’s identical to what they’re now saying about Mexicans or Guatemalans or Salvadorians or Muslims or Asians. Same stuff: “They’re different.” “They’re not going to fit.” “They won’t assimilate.” “They bring crime.” Same arguments.
If you go back to the 1800s — the language is identical. But guess what? They kept coming. And they kept coming because America offered possibility for their children and their grandchildren. And even if they were initially discriminated against, they understood that our system will, over time, allow them to become part of this one American family.
And so we should take some of this rhetoric seriously and answer it boldly and clearly. But you shouldn’t think that that is representative of how the American people think.
MODERATOR: And now our third question from the United States, reporter Roberta Rampton from Reuters.
PRESIDENT OBAMA: I should point out that Roberta is also secretly from Canada. (Laughter.)
Q Not so secretly. (Laughter.)
PRESIDENT OBAMA: So Canadians are now getting an extra question. (Laughter.)
Q Thank you, Mr. President. Given how the Brexit vote shook the stability of the global economy, do you feel that you need to do more to calm the markets quickly, and perhaps encourage a quick exit, rather than something that’s long and drawn out? Do you still feel that the UK should be at the back of the queue for a trade deal with the United States? And are you going to make a full-throated pitch for the TPP, for your prescription when you’re out on the campaign trail this summer, stumping for Secretary Clinton?
And, Prime Minister Trudeau, you seem to be quite careful when you talk about Mr. Trump. If renegotiating NAFTA or tearing it up would be such a disaster for Canada, why not come out and say that forcefully?
And, President Peña Nieto, in March you compared Mr. Trump to Hitler and Mussolini. I’m wondering if you still stand by that. And how worried are you that this time next year there will be a wall up on your border?
PRESIDENT OBAMA: Okay. Excellent question, Roberta.
PRIME MINISTER TRUDEAU: She doesn’t sound Canadian. (Laughter.) That was pretty mean. (Laughter.)
PRESIDENT OBAMA: Canadians are a little more subtle. (Laughter.)
I’m actually going to help out my friends a little bit on your last question, even though it wasn’t directed at me, and just say, when I visit other countries, it’s not my job to comment on candidates in the middle of a race, just because they may end up winning. And the relationship between governments tend to transcend whoever is in power at any given time. So it’s a tough question. I’m not saying they shouldn’t answer. I’m helping them out a little bit. (Laughter.) Because there’s no doubt that when I visit countries, there are times where I’ve got preferences, but I rarely express them.
With respect to Brexit, first of all, I think you’ve seen the markets settle down a little bit over the last couple of days. I didn’t follow the markets today. But we’re monitoring very carefully whether there’s any systemic strains on the system. And so far, what you’ve seen is reactions in the market, stock prices, currencies. But I think the preparations that were done by central banks and finance ministers, our Treasury Secretary, indicate the degree to which the global economy in the short run will hold steady.
I think there are some genuine longer-term concerns about global growth if, in fact, Brexit goes through and that freezes the possibilities of investment in Great Britain or in Europe as whole. At a time when global growth rates were weak already, this doesn’t help.
And so when we attend the G20 Summit in China later this year, one of the major topics — which is something that I’ve continually advocated for during the seven and a half years that I’ve been President — is we all have to look at what we can do to boost global demand. Whether it’s the United States adopting a more robust budget for infrastructure improvements and fixing water systems in Flint, Michigan, or repairing airports that are not as efficient as they should be, or rebuilding our power grid so that it can take advantage of clean energy. Whether it’s Germany, a country with a surplus, doing more in terms of spending, or Europe as a whole lifting some of the austerity constraints that have been placed on them. Whether it’s China shifting to a more consumer-based, domestic-based growth strategy as opposed to trying to export its way out of problems. There are going to be a whole host of measures that all of us can take to fortify the global economy, and that should be a top priority of ours.
With respect to the actual Brexit negotiations, my main message to David Cameron, Angela Merkel and others is: Everybody should catch their breath, come up with a plan and a process that is orderly, that’s transparent, that people understand, and then proceed understanding that both sides have a stake in getting this right. And I think that that will be a difficult, challenging process, but it does not need to be a panicky process. I think it can be a steady, sensible process.
Obviously, leadership issues in Great Britain will need to be resolved for it to move as crisply and as effectively as it needs to, but I think that’s recognized, and that should happen fairly quickly. And I know that, speaking with Chancellor Merkel, that her interest is not in retribution, her interest is in making sure that the process works. And I have a lot of confidence in people being able to do that. And we will help in any way that we can to facilitate that.
And then the last part of your question is, with respect to the UK and any trade agreement with the United States — frankly, we will be the least of their problems right now, because their first order of business is going to be to address the market where they sell half their goods, which is Europe. And these things are not easily negotiated, particularly because we’ve been spending our time trying to negotiate with the European Union. And so to suddenly go off on another track will be challenging. But I think their first and primary concern is going to be to try to figure out how they interact with the European Union and the European market if, in fact — and when, in fact — they leave.
I have emphasized throughout, though, that the special relationship that we have with Great Britain does not change. That the ties of affection and family, and language, and institutions, and culture, and the business relationships that exist, those are so deep and so long-lasting, and the cooperation we have on security issues and on global challenges those are so fundamental that our relationship with the UK fundamentally doesn’t change.
We are concerned that their absence from the European Union and the potential disruptions within Europe make it harder for us to solve some of the other challenges that have to be solved.
PRIME MINISTER TRUDEAU: One of the things that’s easy to forget amid the inflated rhetoric of an election campaign is that the relationship between our three countries goes far deeper than any individual leaders. And if the three of us get along it’s not just because we’re aligned in many different values and priorities. It is very much because we serve citizens who are, they themselves, tremendously aligned in terms of priorities, in terms of hopes and dreams, in terms of desire for success and ways to reach it.
So when you look at the level of integration, of our supply chains, of our markets, of the flow back and forth across borders of goods, of people, and the tremendous benefits that have come of proximity and strong relationships to individual citizens across this continent, it’s essential that we understand that regardless of electoral rhetoric, Canada, the United States and Mexico will continue to have tremendously close relationships economically, culturally, socially, familially, historically and towards the future.
So as I’ve said many times, and I’ll say again, I look forward to working with whomever the American people choose to elect as their President in November. I know that we will always be able to find shared priorities and challenges that we want to work together to overcome. And I know that our commitment to doing what’s right and what’s best for our citizens will lead us to much more alignment than differentiation.
PRESIDENT PEÑA NIETO: (As interpreted.) I’ll go straight to the point to describe the stand of my administration and my own very personal point of view. I’ve said it, and I’ll say it again: My government will respect fully the domestic electoral process in the United States. I don’t think I’ve said anything different from what I’m stating once again here. What I have said is that today — and I did not make reference to a specific place — my words reinforce what I believe.
I believe that in this global scenario — and I’ll use President Obama’s words, and as he said, he gave us a hand to address this question — we are facing a global reality. We have a populist world, an interconnected world with its own challenges. What I have said is that, in the world we’re living, in different places we have political leaders, political stakeholders that use demagoguery and have populistic slogans that want to eliminate and destroy what has been built, what has taken decades to build to go back to problems of the past. And, yes, it is true — all the benefits have not reached society as we whole. That is true. But those leaderships, those political actors, by using populism and demagoguery, they choose the easiest way to solve the challenges of today’s world. And things are not that simplistic. It’s not as easy as that. To lead a country, to take on a responsibility to rule a country, it goes beyond giving the easiest answer. It is complex and it is difficult to lead a country.
And I just said it: What we have reached so far — the level of development, the level of wellbeing that we have in the world — without a doubt makes contrast with what the situation that we lived 30 years back. Never before a global society — or the societies at least of our three countries — had lived the level of development and wellbeing that we enjoy today. Never before had our countries had a high life expectancy as we have today. Never before had we had the opportunity to have access to the knowledge of the world as fast and as easy as we do today. Never before were such a level of connection between society and the possibility of having access to any product from any corner of the world as we do today. And that was built throughout the years by using the model based on openness, free trade, trade agreements.
And the biggest challenge today is to make sure that those benefits reach out to every single citizen. But the solution proposed by some is not by destroying what we have built, it is not taking a different route to choose the road towards isolationism and destruction. What we need to do is to keep up the pace towards development. And when I said that, I mentioned that most of what some people say, it is very similar that in the past — and President Obama already said it even years back — but in the past, some leaders addressed their societies in those terms. Hitler and Mussolini did that. And the outcome, it’s clear to everyone — it resulted in devastation, and it turned out to be a tragedy for mankind. And we saw it last century.
That was my message when I made reference to this — my message was about to value what we have and also to be aware of the road that we need to walk still. But that’s the benefit that we’re looking forward to — take the benefits to our societies.
Q (As interpreted.) Mr. Trudeau, with the goals that you have said are ambitious for clean energy, does this mean the U.S. will import more hydroelectricity? And, Mr. Obama, will this agreement to produce more clean energy, does it mean that the United States will have to import more hydroelectricity from Canada?
PRIME MINISTER TRUDEAU: Certainly the agreement that we’ve concluded today values our shift towards cleaner renewable energy. Canada has a tremendous amount of energy that comes from clean sources right now. And we’re always looking to create more.
How we work together not just as two countries, but as three countries, on energy solutions that give opportunities to our citizens while protecting future generations from the impacts of climate change is something that we are all entirely agreed on.
One of the things that we’ve learned, whether this is through the Paris agreement or through years of following different paths towards solutions, is there is no one single solution to our energy challenges or to the challenges posed by climate change; that we need to be creative, we need to be innovative, and we need to work together. And that’s why the conclusion of this ambitious continental energy strategy is so important in how we are going to do not just our share to combat the global challenges of climate change, but to demonstrate leadership and show that clean energy and clean growth are exactly the solution and the opportunity that we face because of climate change.
(Speaks French.) (As interpreted.) It’s true that the agreement we came to today is very important because it allows us to fight climate change, but it’s also very important when it comes to investing in green energy, clean growth, and our country. I know that we will have to pursue multiple, different solutions when it comes to clean energy, but cooperation and the collaboration that we’ve highlighted today among our three countries will give rise to innovative solutions that are positive in the area of green energy.
I can’t wait to work with the United States and with Mexico in order that, together, we are able to face climate change challenges. It’s not just a matter of doing our fair share. It’s a matter of showing leadership in the world when it comes to climate change and clean energy. We have to do more than our share. We have to show that the future of the environment and the economy involves taking responsible decisions for the environment and green energy.
PRESIDENT PEÑA NIETO: As interpreted.) Even when this question was addressed to the U.S. and Canada, I would like to say that Mexico, in this trilateral relationship, and as it has been mentioned here, we also are committed to clean energy. Mexico has revamped its legal framework so that, by 2024, at least 35 percent of a generation of energy is clean. This is an agreement made in this trilateral meeting to reduce other pollutants like methane.
What I would like to say is that our three countries share the same agenda in environmental issues. We have agreed to protect our world and to find solutions that we’re already working on.
PRESIDENT OBAMA: Well, Justin I think got it right, which is that we’ve set a goal and we are coordinating and synchronizing best practices, and there’s going to be an energy mix in each of our countries that’s going to be different. And some of it is going to be determined by what natural resources we have; it’s going to be determined by how well we can integrate the grid and transmission of power.
So there may be some wonderful hydroelectric power that we’d like to get to the United States. The question is, are there enough transmission facilities for us to be able to buy at a competitive price. Just as we develop wind energy, we have to build an infrastructure to get wind produced in South Dakota down to Chicago. And each of us I think are going to have national plans. But the point is that by setting these goals, creating these coordinating mechanisms, we’re in a better position to take advantage of the confluence of interests and economies and opportunities.
And I view this clean energy sector as an enormous opportunity. Look, oil is cheap right now, but it’s not going to be cheap. I’ve said this before: Those of you who are buying gas guzzlers, I’m telling you — because it is a finite resource and becomes more and more expensive to extract, and people are taking climate change more and more seriously.
And so we’re in a transition phase, but in the meantime, technology is moving. And solar and wind and hydro and biomass and entire technologies we haven’t even thought of yet — there is some 15-year-old kid somewhere who is figuring it out. I don’t know whether he’s in Mexico or Canada or the United States or China or Saudi Arabia, but somebody who’s out there is going to figure this out. And I want that opportunity to accrue to our workers, our people, our communities. And whoever wins this race is going to — everybody else is going to follow. And I believe that we have the brainpower and the architecture to lead. And we have such a huge market between our three countries that we can test out a lot of these opportunities and figure out which work best.
If you’ll allow me, I want to say one last thing, though, because it’s been a running thread in a bunch of questions, and that’s this whole issue of populism. Maybe somebody can pull up in a dictionary quickly the phrase “populism,” but I’m not prepared to concede the notion that some of the rhetoric that’s been popping up is populist.
When I ran in 2008, and the reason I ran again, and the reason even after I leave this office I will continue to work in some capacity in public service is because I care about people and I want to make sure every kid in America has the same opportunities that I had. And I care about poor people who are working really hard and don’t have a chance to advance. And I care about workers being able to have a collective voice in the workplace and get their fair share of the pie. And I want to make sure that kids are getting a decent education, and a working mom has childcare that she can trust. And I think we should have a tax system that’s fair, and that folks like me who have benefitted from the incredible opportunities in my society should pay a little bit more to make sure that somebody else’s kids who weren’t as lucky have those same opportunities.
And I think there should be curbs on the excesses of our financial sector so that we don’t repeat the debacles of 2007 and 2008. I think there should be transparency in how our systems work so that we don’t have people dodging taxes by setting up offshore accounts in other places and avoiding the responsibilities that their fellow citizens who don’t have fancy lawyers and accountants — that they can’t benefit from those same tricks.
Now, I suppose that makes me a populist. Now, somebody else who has never shown any regard for workers, has never fought on behalf of social justice issues or making sure that poor kids are getting a decent shot at life or have health care — in fact, have worked against economic opportunity for workers and ordinary people — they don’t suddenly become a populist because they say something controversial in order to win votes. That’s not the measure of populism. That’s nativism. Or xenophobia. Or worse. Or it’s just cynicism.
So I would just advise everybody to be careful about suddenly attributing to whoever pops up at a time of economic anxiety the label that they’re populist. Where have they been? Have they been on the frontlines working on behalf of working people? Have they been carrying the laboring oar to open up opportunity for more people?
Now, there are people like Bernie Sanders who I think genuinely deserved the title, because he has been in the vineyards fighting on behalf of these issues. And there, the question is just going to be, all right, we share values, we share goals — how do we achieve them?
And I do think Enrique’s broader point is right, which is sometimes there are simple solutions out there, but I’ve been President for seven and a half years, and it turns out that’s pretty rare. (Laughter.) And the global economy is one of those areas where there aren’t a lot of simple solutions. And there aren’t a lot of shortcuts to making sure that more people have opportunity in our countries. We are going to have to educate our kids better, and that takes time. We’ve got to make sure our manufacturing sector is more dynamic and competitive, and that takes time. We’ve got to restructure our tax code to incentivize the right things and make sure workers are getting higher pay. That takes time. We’ve got to raise minimum wages. We’ve got to make sure that college is affordable. We have to restructure and reform our financial sectors so they’re not reckless, but we’ve got to do so in ways that don’t destroy the entire system and throw millions of people suddenly out of work.
And when we bailed out the auto industry, that wasn’t popular — so maybe I wasn’t populist. But I tell you what, all those automakers, all those UAW members both here in the United States and in Canada are pretty happy I did, even though it was
— had about 10 percent popularity at the time — even in states like Michigan. So, I don’t know, maybe that was an elitist move on my part because it didn’t poll well. Last time I visited an auto plant, though, they were pretty happy.
So let’s just be clear that somebody who labels “us” versus “them,” or engages in rhetoric about how we’re going to look after ourselves and take it to the other guy — that’s not the definition of populism.
Sorry. This is one of the prerogatives of when you’re at the end of your term, you just kind of — (laughter) — you go on these occasional rants. (Laughter.)
MODERATOR: And with this, we conclude our press conference. Thank you very much. Merci. Muchas gracias.
4:33 P.M. EDT
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