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Remarks by Secretary Napolitano Following the Signing of a Bilateral Agreement with Mexican Finance Minister Agustín Carstens

Release Date: 
June 16, 2009

For Immediate Release
Office of the Press Secretary
Contact 202-282-8010
Washington, D.C.

Secretary Napolitano:  Well, thank you very much. First, I would like to begin by welcoming Secretary [Agustín] Carstens to Washington. I am very grateful for his partnership, and the partnership that we all share to have a secure border, but also a border that facilitates robust trade and commerce.

In the past several months, the Obama administration has announced a very strong series of initiatives to strengthen our partnership with Mexico to combat the threats we both face in the trafficking of drugs and weapons, cash and other contraband. I have personally traveled to Mexico twice to advance our common agenda. And today marks the next step, as we move forward.

Today we have signed an agreement that furthers our bilateral cooperation with respect to customs and trade enforcement, planning, and facilitation at the border. This document is called a letter of intent. It announces our intent to update and enhance our principles—our bilateral strategic plan that was signed in 2007. 

Through this process, what we hope to achieve are three major goals. One, to strengthen our enforcement cooperation. That includes, for example, a southbound strategy for checking and inspecting vehicles that are proceeding south from the United States into Mexico. It includes, for example, data sharing, and making sure that data on things like stolen cars - that that information is shared. It ensures also a protocol allowing us, again, to share information vis á vis other searches and information that is out there.

The second thing is a joint implementation plan to build capacity. What does that mean? Well, what that means is, for example, to assist Mexico in training more customs officers, to use the agenda and curricula that we use in the United States to train customs officers and to do that in Mexico, where they have just finished the training of 1,500 customs officers, and will be doing even more in the future.

And the third major area under this letter of intent is to increase trade compliance and facilitation. Well, what does that mean? Well, one example is to work on a single entry form for customs purposes between the government of Mexico and the government of the United States. 

So, enforcement, training, and documentation for legal trade are three of the major elements contained under this protocol—under this letter of intent. These three things are added to the other areas that we have already been focusing on to secure our shared border: the Merida Initiative, which is being used to fund many of the items I just listed; our southwest border counter-narcotics strategy, which we released with the attorney general and with the head of the Office of National Drug Control Policy [ONDCP] in Albuquerque a week or so ago; and our own Department of Homeland Security [DHS] southwest border action plan, which includes border enforcement teams, border liaison officers, officers from the U.S. side to work on the southbound strategy to stop guns and weapons from going into Mexico, and the deployment of more equipment and technology to the southwest border.

We also are working jointly on border violence protocols. How do you - for example, as we tighten at the border, we can anticipate that there will be incidences of port running and other incidences of violence at the border. How do we jointly propose to investigate and deal with those incidences?

I want to thank Secretary Carstens for his work, and for the work of his staff on these matters. It has been a real cooperative effort. The United States is a full partner with Mexico and the Calderon administration as we satisfy our twin goals of a secure border and a resilient border that allows legitimate trade and commerce to pass, but keeps out drugs, that keeps out weapons, keeps out the cash that fuels these cartels, and that makes certain that the border is safe and secure for those who live there.

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