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Monday, March 24, 2014


U.S. Views on the 21st Century Border, Economy and Tourism


Jeh Johnson, U.S. Secretary of Homeland Security


(Speech transcript, Mexico City, March 19, 2014*)


Buenos días a todos!  Good afternoon.  Thank you for the introduction.  


I’d like to thank the Mexican Business Council for Foreign Trade, Investment, and Technology for inviting me to speak today, and all of you for attending. 


I’m pleased to be here to speak about our vision – our joint U.S.-Mexican vision – for a 21st Century Border.  We seek a border that strengthens one of the most prosperous bilateral relationships anywhere in the world.  Mexico and the United States enjoy many ties, between our two peoples, between our communities, and between our economies.  I’m glad we have so many businesspeople here today.  Governments alone cannot build this relationship. 


This is my second visit to Mexico in only three months as Secretary of Homeland Security, and I’ve already had half-a-dozen engagements with my Mexican counterparts.  This reflects the importance I place on our relationship, and the value the entire U.S. Government places on it.  Our shared border is a source of incredible economic prosperity, supporting a trade relationship worth more than $1 billion a day. Last fiscal year, individuals crossed the Mexican/U.S. border nearly 169 million times, and over 5.1 million commercial trucks did the same. This is a testament to the commitment both countries have made to facilitating trade and travel across our border. 


Last month, I accompanied President Obama to Toluca for the North American Leaders Summit.  As he stated there, we must continue to “build on the enormous progress that we've already made in making sure that North America is the most competitive region in the world.” And on the day of the summit, President Obama signed an Executive Order streamlining the export/import process for America’s businesses that helps improve trade with Mexico’s businesses and consumers. 


One of the top priorities for this Administration, and for the Department of Homeland Security, is to facilitate the lawful trade essential to our economy, while maintaining the highest standards of security. By leveraging resources like the International Trade Data System, we can modernize and simplify the way government interacts with businesses to further bolster our economic competitiveness.


But we can’t continue to build on that economic growth without a safe and secure border. That is why dismantling transnational criminal organizations is, and must continue to be, a shared priority of our two nations. 


I salute the Government of Mexico for the capture and arrest of Joaquin “Chapo” Guzman Loera, one of the most wanted men in the world.  His criminal organization contributed to the death and destruction of millions of lives across the globe. We look forward to continuing the strong, cooperative relationship that helped lead to his arrest.


Transnational crime is not the only shared concern which Mexico and the United States have an interest in addressing together.  We need to address the illicit flow of people and goods coming toward the region.


It hurts all of our countries when criminals are allowed to exploit and victimize migrants—an increasing number of which are unaccompanied children—and traffic drugs and weapons across our borders.  Together we must take a stand.  I am committed to doing that.


Beyond trade and security cooperation, our leaders have discussed expanding scientific and educational exchanges, which are important to the long-term strength and competitiveness of both our economies.


In each of these areas – trade and travel, security, and exchanges – the United States Department of Homeland Security is proud to work with our counterparts throughout the Government of Mexico.  We’ve worked hard to develop this Cabinet-level relationship over the years.  I’m determined not only to maintain that relationship, but to make it even stronger. 


I believe that travel and trade facilitation and security reinforce each other.  I believe that the best way to rapidly move people and goods across our border is to make those flows more secure.  Through trusted trader programs—like those you are discussing today—and trusted traveler programs, we can identify low-risk flows and expedite them across our border, enhancing security and increasing efficiency.


Also, I believe that we must approach shared problems together.


This is an important change – more than a decade ago, we managed each side of the border separately, unilaterally.  Over the last ten years, we’ve made progress toward managing the border bilaterally – advising each other of pending actions, and having some consultation.  And more recently, we’ve begun taking the next step – toward a more robust binational approach, where we’re planning and implementing improvements jointly from the earliest stages.  This is the future of border management, and I’ve instructed my team to move forward with this binational approach – a shared approach to address shared interests.


Just last month we announced a major investment in the Laredo Port of Entry, one of our busiest.  We’re investing more than $60 million to expand and modernize the four facilities that make up Laredo Port.  And in the next few weeks, we will announce additional projects to expand our ports in San Diego.


Also, I know that this seminar supports the work of the High Level Economic Dialogue, started by our two Presidents last spring, and advanced in the fall by Vice President Biden’s visit to Mexico City.


During that visit, the Vice President listed as our first priority making “it more efficient for goods, people and information to move across our borders.”  To facilitate this, we have “trusted trader” programs. We have made progress with Mexico’s New Scheme for Certified Companies, which is working with many of the companies represented here today, to certify your companies so your shipments can cross the border in an expedited manner. 


My Department, through the Customs-Trade Partnership against Terrorism, is proud to work with the Mexican Government, your organization, and your businesses to further develop the New Scheme.  And I’m pleased to report that we’re on schedule under the Joint Work Plan signed last year to have mutual recognition between the New Scheme and the Customs-Trade Partnership against Terrorism this year.  Mutual recognition will speed up trade, saving time and money – money that can then be invested to create jobs in both countries.


Of course, our shared prosperity depends on more than just the movement of cargo; it depends on connections between people. 


Trusted traveler programs allow people to cross the border faster and more efficiently, without sacrificing security. 


The concept behind these programs is simple: travelers volunteer information about themselves, and based on that information we can determine that they pose a low risk to our travel system and our countries.  That allows us to process them faster and speed them on their way – whether they’re traveling by land, by air, or by sea.


Together, Mexico and the U.S. are working toward mutual recognition of their respective programs, so that travelers only need to enroll in one.  Of note, during the North American Leaders Summit, Presidents Obama and Peña Nieto and Prime Minister Harper agreed to build on Global Entry, Viajero Confiable, and Canada’s NEXUS program to develop the first ever trilateral trusted traveler program for the air environment.  I’m happy to say that we have already begun technical discussions on how to make this happen. 


The global middle class is growing, and Mexico exemplifies this growth.  The United States is proud to partner with Mexico to support this growth, and we see it as a great opportunity to bring our two nations even closer together.


But there is always more work to do.


I stand ready to continue to build this important partnership, and I thank you for your efforts and dedication to the shared growth and prosperity of our two nations.


Thank you.



* Speech by Jeh Johnson, U.S. Secretary of Homeland Security, at an event hosted by the Mexican Business Council for Foreign Trade, Investment and Technology;

news release, Mar. 19, 2014, Embassy of the United States, Mexico City.

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