Remarks by the Vice President and President Santos of Colombia in a Joint Press Statement
PRESIDENT SANTOS: (As interpreted.) Well, good morning, all of you. I would like to start off by extending the most cordial welcome to the Vice President of the United States, Mr. Joe Biden. Vice President Biden has been a great friend of Colombia’s, not just now but for a long time -- ever since he was the chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee at the Senate in the United States.
He was always fair. In all the circumstances that regarded Colombia, he always supported us. And I remember when he came and we launched the Colombia Plan in Cartagena. Well, now he is visiting us for the second time as Vice President, because he was here in May of last year. So welcome, Mr. Vice President.
I would like to start off congratulating you because of the soccer match in Brazil. You won -- the United States won. And I hope that your team goes on. I think we’re also struggling, and tomorrow we are going to have to face another big team, the Ivory Coast, where we also hope to be winners.
We’ve had a long meeting this morning, a very fruitful one, where we looked at the agenda, at the program that we have with the United States, ratifying the fact that Colombia is very proud to be a strategic partner with the United States. The United States not only are our first trade partner, but we have many common denominators. We’ve been working on all these common denominators, and our agenda with the United States has become larger and larger.
During my visit to Washington, when I saw President Obama, we introduced topics that unite us not only in bilateral relations, but with the rest of the region as well. We analyzed and we went through all these topics -- the energy item, which we’ve been working on together, not only to develop our own technologies in order to be able to get the utmost out of these resources, but see how on a regional basis we can work with our energy in a more efficient and rational manner.
I would like to thank Mr. Vice President and the American government, because only a week ago we started the process through which the constitution of a commission on what is called the visa waiver, so that we can get rid of visas for Colombian nationals. This is a process that requires certain procedures that will require a certain amount of time. But a week ago, we started this process, which for us is obviously a very important step.
I’d also like to point out that we spoke about the topic regarding security, and these are topics that have united us over a long period of time. We keep on working on all this, not only a bilateral level, but in terms of third countries we have a number of programs where we have been working together to offer help, aid, cooperation in matters pertaining to security, the struggle against drug trafficking in various Central American countries, the Caribbean.
And we also talked about technology. We talked about education, which is something that I personally broached with President Obama when I was in Washington. We, of course, are hugely interested of this. And we also went through the evolution of the free trade agreement. This agreement is advancing. I think it is going in the right direction. There are more and more Colombian companies that are exporting to the United States and vice versa.
So as we had forecasted, this is a so-called win-win situation for both our countries. Both our countries are reaping the benefits of this trade agreement.
I would also like to thank Vice President Biden and the American government for their support for the peace process. This has been reiterated. It’s a very important step for us. They know that we are in a very delicate phase, very delicate stage, and we consider all this an immensely important aspect. And through institutions like the USAID, we are receiving help, aid in order to elaborate politics that will deal with the post-conflict period.
I’d also like to welcome the Ambassador, who also presented the credentials last week, Mr. Kevin Whitaker. We want to thank you, and we are willing to keep on working with your government.
Mr. Vice President, I also want to tell you that this alliance, this friendship -- this friendship with the United States is something that is hugely important for me, personally it is. And as always, in any relationship, there’s always a margin to strengthen it, and that’s what I wish to do. Now that I have my new mandate, I want strengthen our relationship with the United States and allied country. We consider the United States our friend, and we consider the United States a country that we can work with on many fronts, both with the American citizens, as well as for the Colombian citizens.
Thank you once again, Mr. Vice President. And welcome to Colombia.
VICE PRESIDENT BIDEN: Well, thank you, Mr. President. We’ve been acquaintances for a long time. And congratulations. Congratulations to you personally on your re-election. Congratulations to your security forces who made this one of Colombia’s safest elections in history. And congratulations, maybe most importantly, to the Colombian people who kept faith through some difficult times to become the oldest uninterrupted democracy in South America -- no small feat. And congratulations to you all.
And thank you for your congratulations for the United States team winning in Natal. We’re in a pretty tough division. And we’re not accustomed over the last 30 years to be expecting to do well like you always do well. But we are very hopeful, and we’re looking forward to the rest of the games.
I came here just three days after your re-election and because the President, through me, wanted to send to you and to the people of Colombia an unmistakable message: The United States of America always stands with Colombia. And to your last comment about wanting to continue to build this relationship, which is already strong, it is a central element of our policy, and we strongly, strongly agree with your assertion.
And thanks to Colombia’s remarkable progress under the leadership of Presidents Santos and Obama, our relationship has broadened on many fronts -- trade and investment, which can even grow beyond what it has; energy and the environment; human rights, political and security cooperation -- all across the hemisphere. And that’s what was reflected in my conversations with the President today.
Mr. President, your country has an absolutely genuine leadership position. You founded the Pacific Alliance, which is taking a very ambitious approach, which we look at with admiration, on integrating the open-market economies in the region. It’s a very important example to set not just in the hemisphere, but around the world. And more progress can be made as Colombia continues to raise labor standards, environmental protections and human rights. And greater opportunities will be open to connect the global economies, and particularly the growing markets in the Pacific. So, Mr. President, we look forward to continuing to work with you on these issues, and your leadership is very much appreciated.
And the President and I also spoke about events in the Western Hemisphere. And as I’ve noted before, Colombia is a nation transformed through an awful lot of blood, sacrifice and genuine leadership. And its role in the hemisphere has grown accordingly. And from my perspective, I see no reason why it will not continue to grow to the benefit of the hemisphere.
Today, President Santos and I spoke about how our countries can work together -- together with the island nations of the Caribbean -- on energy and on security. And I will be discussing these challenges when I leave here tonight, tomorrow in the Dominican Republic with President Medina. Colombia’s efforts can benefit the entire region. And I thank President Santos. I thank him for his leadership, his reference to Panama, the ability to begin to make progress that everyone has envisioned for some time.
And President Santos and I also spoke about the dialogue in Venezuela, and I laid out the U.S. position. And finally, we spoke of Colombia’s peace process. As the President mentioned, I had the honor for many years in the United States Senate to help write and shepherd through Plan Colombia, through the United States Senate. And nothing would make me happier, Mr. President, than to come back to Colombia for the signing of the final peace accord. And I know there’s a lot left to do, but I have absolute confidence in your determination. And I’m confident whatever is ultimately agreed to, God-willing, will be for the benefit of the Colombian people.
As I told you here in Bogota last spring, just as the United States has supported Colombia’s leaders on the battlefield over the years, we fully support you at the negotiating table to end the country’s 50-year conflict, to bring that to an end. In war and peace, Mr. President, we stand with Colombia. And as Colombians walk the last mile to the road of peace -- on the road of peace, as they define for themselves the terms and as they strike the right balance for peace and justice, the United States will stand with you to support you.
Mr. President, I want to thank you for a terrific meeting. I always learn something when I’m with you. I think it deepens our personal relationship. But also, we share the same passion for making sure that this relationship between Colombia and the United States continues to grow as Colombia’s influence in the hemisphere and also its overall influence continues to grow.
So I thank you for a terrific meeting. I congratulate you and the Colombian people again on a well-run election and your victory. And Godspeed carrying forward the dreams of the Colombian people. So I again thank you, and I look forward to many more meetings.