Secretary Antony J. Blinken And Ecuadorian Foreign Minister Mauricio Montalvo At a Joint Press Availability

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Secretary Antony J. Blinken And Ecuadorian Foreign Minister Mauricio Montalvo At a Joint Press Availability

Office of the Spokesperson

Quito, Ecuador

Carondelet Palace

FOREIGN MINISTER MONTALVO:  (Via interpreter) Good afternoon, everyone, friends and gentlemen of the press.  It’s very pleasing to be here in the Yellow Hall to speak about this fruitful meeting that we have held with the Secretary of State, Mr. Antony Blinken, in where we accorded all aspects of the very rich, fruitful bilateral agenda that has Ecuador with the United States.  President Lasso has had the opportunity to talk and share with Secretary of State the main aspects of the relation between both countries and to find great affinity and in both – in everything that has been said in the meeting of this morning.

I would like to highlight specially and thank in – to the Government of Ecuador the presence of Mr. Blinken here, and I would like to highlight that it is the first visit that he’s doing to South America and he has started by Ecuador, what shows the importance and the attention that the United States and the administration of President Biden has given to the presidency of President Guillermo Lasso and his position in this region and this hemisphere.  We do this recognition in particular because it’s very important for us as a government being our main partner, commercial partner, with this country and with whom we have a very fruitful and close relation and productive relation.

Again, Mr. Blinken, thank you very much for your presence, and I’m very happy to have to have you had the meeting that we have had this morning.  Thank you, Mr. Secretary.

MODERATOR:  Now we will like to have the declaration of Mr. Blinken, Secretary of State.

SECRETARY BLINKEN:  Well, gracias, Mauricio.  Thank you so much.  It’s wonderful to be here in Ecuador.  I am delighted to visit for the first time as Secretary of State, and I want to extend real appreciation and thanks to President Lasso and to Foreign Minister Montalvo, Mauricio, for the extremely warm welcome, but also the extremely productive and lengthy session that we had over lunch.

I have to tell you that the United States has great admiration for President Lasso for the leadership that he’s demonstrating both here in Ecuador and beyond.  His strong voice for democracy, his strong actions to demonstrate that democracy can deliver for the Ecuadorian people and for people beyond Ecuador, is, I think, vitally important, and nowhere was that more clear than in the remarkable work that this administration did in dealing with COVID-19.  But in so many other ways, we are working very, very closely together.

I came to Ecuador simply because the United States values a partnership, and we’re committed to growing it.  One of the very first consulates that the United States opened in the hemisphere was in Guayaquíl.  Our diplomatic ties with Ecuador are some of the oldest that we have in the Americas.  And today we are working closely on a vast array of issues, simply because Ecuador the country and the Ecuadorian people stand on the front lines of many of the most urgent challenges that we face in this region and around the world.

COVID-19, as I mentioned, we know how hard it hit Ecuador early.  But you turned it around, and Ecuadorians have a major vaccination campaign, one of the best executed in the world.  Again, I want to commend President Lasso, his entire team, and so many people across the country for making that happen under extremely challenging circumstances.  The United States was proud to have helped and contributed with two million Pfizer vaccines as well as other significant assistance.  We look forward to working together to defeat the pandemic in our hemisphere and around the world, and to make sure that we’re better prepared for the next pandemic because, unfortunately, there will almost certainly be one.  We have a lot of work to do as we get beyond COVID-19 to build a stronger global health system, and we’ll do that working together.

On the climate crisis, the other big existential challenge that we face, Ecuador, one of the world’s most ecologically diverse countries, knows firsthand the dangerous impact of climate change.  You’ve seen rising temperatures.  You’ve seen melting glaciers.  You’ve seen the worsening droughts.  You’ve seen more severe floods.  Becoming more climate-resilient is a high priority, I know, for President Lasso, for Ecuador’s leaders, and for the Ecuadorian people.  And I want to recognize especially environmental activists, including those from indigenous communities, who’ve led the charge to preserve Ecuador’s remarkable biodiversity and natural resources.

We selected Ecuador as one of the first partners in what we call the Build Back Better World program to make investments, particularly in climate-resilient infrastructure projects, with high environmental as well as labor standards.  That’s going to create jobs, it’s going to support local communities, it’s going to make progress against the climate crisis – all at the same time.  We started our Build Back Better World listening tour here in Ecuador just last month, and we’re grateful to all who participated in that effort.

On inclusive economic growth, which I know is front and center on President Lasso’s agenda, at a time when so many communities are reeling from the economic consequences of the pandemic, we have to work together to rebuild the global economy but in a way that delivers opportunity and benefits to as many people as possible, especially from communities that have been long underserved.  And that’s true in all of our countries.

We have a Protocol on Trade Rules and Transparency that our countries negotiated last year that just entered into force a few months ago, and that will be instrumental in helping to deepen the trade relationship between us.  We’ve also agreed to reopen negotiations on an Open Skies agreement which will promote more travel and trade between us.  And our countries work together closely through technical assistance programs to help address core economic issues like debt management to help set Ecuador on a stable economic path.  There is a lot that we’re already doing, including investments and loans through our Development Finance Corporation, that are having a real impact already, including on jobs.

We’re in close consultation on another issue that is challenging everyone in the hemisphere, and that’s regional migration.  Ecuador is experiencing this issue firsthand, hundreds of thousands of Venezuelans settling here in recent years.  The foreign minister and I tomorrow will be in Colombia, where we’re together with most of our colleagues in the hemisphere, to talk about what is so necessary right now, and that is a truly regional, coordinated approach of shared responsibility.  I had a chance to raise this as well with the president, and we, I think, are committed to finding those kind of solutions together as we work collaboratively on the migration challenge.

We talked as well about the exceptional measures that have been taken here in Ecuador to deal with the narcotrafficking challenge and the violence and crime that is attendant with that.  And we know that in democracies there are times when, with exceptional circumstances, measures are necessary to deal with urgencies and urgent situations like the one Ecuador is experiencing now.  And as I discussed with President Lasso, we understand that, support that, but know as well that these measures, of course, need to be taken pursuant to the constitution; they need to be very focused in what they’re seeking to achieve and finite in duration; and of course, follow and proceed in a way that upholds democratic principles.

And in discussing this with President Lasso when we met, he assured me that his government is committed to upholding all of those standards which are so important to the Ecuadorian people and to their democratic values.  And I made clear that maintaining those standards is, of course, a priority for the United States.

I want to commend Ecuador’s courts together with the country’s extremely vibrant and committed civil society for making very important strides in the past year toward expanding rights for women and girls and for LGBTQI people in accordance with international and regional human rights standards.  And I want to congratulate as well the people of Ecuador on successfully holding fair and free elections this spring despite the challenging conditions of COVID-19.

Ecuador and the United States have to continue to work together and with partners across the region to strengthen democratic institutions, to stand up for the rule of law and for human rights, to fight corruption – something that’s been a hallmark of President Lasso’s administration – and to empower civil society.  That’s something I’m going to address at greater length tomorrow at the University of San Francisco of Quito.

Mr. Foreign Minister, Mauricio, I’m very grateful to you, to the president, for this visit to Ecuador; the opportunity to spend time with you, to speak with university students; to hear from civil society leaders, independent journalists, anti-corruption activists; to visit local artisans and entrepreneurs.  We’re doing all of that in a relatively short space of time.  So much connects the people of Ecuador and the people of the United States.  We have family and cultural ties going back literally generations.  Countless Americans have experienced firsthand the extraordinary natural beauty and biodiversity here in Ecuador.  Every day we enjoy the products of your land, from coffee to chocolate to bananas, to you name it.  And we joined you this summer in cheering for Ecuador’s two gold medals at the Olympics by the cyclist Richard Carapaz, and by Neisi Dajomes the bodybuilder who became the first Ecuadorian woman ever to win a medal at the Olympics, and it was a gold medal.

So for all these reasons and so many more, it’s an honor to be here in Quito on behalf of the United States.  It’s a privilege to work with you and to make the friendship between Ecuador and the United States even stronger.  Thank you.

FOREIGN MINISTER MONTALVO:  Thank you very much.

MODERATOR:  (Via interpreter)  Thank you, Mr. Secretary.  We will begin with the questions of the media.

MODERATOR: First question will go to Lara Jakes, New York Times.

QUESTION:  Gracias.  Buenos días.  A few questions on issues of regional import to both of you, please.  For Secretary Blinken, it appears that any progress that was made towards a political resolution in Venezuela has been shut down with the extradition of Alex Saab.  What specifically can the United States and its allies here in South America and elsewhere do to get the talks started again?  And since there are already doubts about a free and fair election in Venezuela next month, are you now worried that these developments will make everything worse?

For Minister Montalvo, does Ecuador believe that U.S. sanctions in Venezuela has contributed to the refugee crisis in your country, and has your government asked for them to be lifted?  What is Ecuador’s position on how this impasse can be solved?

And one more if I may, on Haiti, to both of you.  Haitian leaders have for months been asking for more operational security assistance and even military troops to help with its spiraling security situation.  Given last weekend’s kidnappings of the 16 Americans and one Canadian and that it’s the – it’s only the latest example of violence, how are leaders in the Western Hemisphere prepared to respond?  Thank you.

SECRETARY BLINKEN:  Thanks, Lara.  Mauricio, I’m happy to start, if you like, and hand it over to you.

FOREIGN MINISTER MONTALVO:   Start, please.

SECRETARY BLINKEN:  Lara, on – first, on Venezuela, I think it’s deeply unfortunate that the Maduro regime pulled out of the talks in Mexico, but I think it’s also indicative, unfortunately, of Mr. Maduro putting self-interest ahead of the interests of the Venezuelan people and putting the interests of one person ahead of the interests of all people in Venezuela.

It’s, I think, important to underscore that we have an independent judiciary in the United States.  And in the case of the extradition of Mr. Saab, this is a matter that’s been going on for the better part of a decade.  I believe he was first arrested about 10 years ago, and there’s been a process underway now for some years for his extradition, and that proceeds independent of anything that is happening on a political track.

So again, I think it’s extremely unfortunate, but also indicative of where Mr. Maduro’s putting his focus, and that is on self-interest, not the interests of the Venezuelan people, which manifestly would benefit from putting Venezuela back on a democratic path, including getting to free and fair national elections.

And then with regard to Haiti, let me just say two things on that.  First, with regard to the specific incident that you referred to, the kidnapping of missionaries, including 16 Americans, we have in the administration been relentlessly focused on this, including sending a team to Haiti from the State Department; working very closely with the FBI, which is the lead in these kinds of matters; in constant communication with the Haitian National Police, the church that the missionaries belong to, as well as to the Haitian Government.  And we will do everything that we can to help resolve the situation.

But let me also refer to the context that you put this in very appropriately because unfortunately this is also indicative of a much larger problem, and that is a security situation that is quite simply unsustainable.  Gangs dominate many parts of Port-au-Prince and other parts of Haiti.  The National Police can’t even operate in many of these areas.  These gangs are tied to groups, individuals, parties, and are in many ways dominating the state.  That can’t go on, and it certainly is not conducive to an environment in which the work that needs to be done, the support that I hope will be there, the investments that need to be made in the Haitian people, in their future, in their progress, can be made.

And at the same time, we have to see a coalescing of all different groups in Haiti – different political groups, civil society, different stakeholders in society – come together around a political vision for the way forward, because, of course, the other crisis that Haiti faces is the one that came about in the wake of the assassination of President Moïse and the exceptional circumstances that Haiti found itself in.

But security is vitally, vitally important.  We have been working closely with the Haitian National Police to try to build their capacity, as well as to help put in place programs that can effectively deal with the gangs.  But it’s a very challenging and long-term process.  We’re focused on it, but it is absolutely essential that this security dynamic change if Haiti is going to make real progress.

FOREIGN MINISTER MONTALVO:  (Via interpreter)  What concerns your question on the situation of Venezuelan citizens here in Ecuador, without a doubt this is one of the aspects that has had an impact in Ecuador.  We have to remember that here in the country, we have about half a million Venezuelan citizens that has come due to the crisis.  And we as a brother republic of Venezuela, we have had these Venezuelans come here with all the hospitality.  In fact, President Lasso, one of his first measures he took when he took office was to have all these Venezuelan citizens regularized as a measure of solidarity and for reasons, humanitarian reasons.

As of now, the country finds itself in this process of regularization, taking all administrative, logistical, and legal measures into account, that this is an enormous effort for the country, and this has been shared with the Secretary of State Blinken.  President Lasso has exposed this, all the efforts that is being done by Ecuador to take these citizens, Venezuelan citizens, in this process of regularization, and the need, the vital need of the country to – that the international community recognizes these efforts, regularizations of Venezuelan citizens in a country that has high rates of unemployment and some problems, socio-economical problems, is great.  Our national capacities are overflown, and even though Ecuador is working in that, we have taken this great step.

And this, one of the main mentions that have been done here and that Mr. Blinken has manifested in his conversation is the shared responsibility of the international community to this aspect.  And so once again, Ecuador is asking for the international community to contribute with the efforts that are being undertaken here in Ecuador, the Venezuelan citizens that are being hosted here.  There are many factors for this and become due to the situation, political situation, socio-economical situation that the country is going through, and we do not share – we don’t have a voice in those measures of other countries.

But what Ecuador does is to find this solution to the situation of Venezuela in which the values of privilege of democracy, liberty, human rights, free elections and clean elections, and in this sense, Ecuador is working in every moment.  And this is how we have shown in its participation in different spaces for bilateral dialogue, as well as – such as this morning – as multilateral efforts or collective efforts proposed.  Ecuador is part of the International Contact Group in coordination with the European Union, and in this sense, we are ever watchful, and we are also always looking how to contribute from our position.

On the subject of Mr. Saab, that – we’ve also talked in – this morning in dialogues.  President Lasso said that the attention of which Ecuador is following on this subject because it has to do with direct implications here in the country.  We have – there are facts – concrete facts and public facts respecting the presence and participation of Mr. Saab here in Ecuador.  And for that, the interest of Ecuador, to clarify the situation and to do this within the international standards would – of due process, respect of the rule of law, and (inaudible).

Ecuador is hoping to have the best results with transparency in this aspect, and what has to do with Haiti Ecuador has also stated in all moments its solidarity with that country.  And when the earthquake had took place, Ecuador, within its possibility, went with its solidarity, support, and donations to that country.  And in those spaces, multilateral spaces such as the Organization of American States, Ecuador is always present and is part of a committee to support the situation of Haiti, and that is the front where we are working on.

Sadly, as we all do, we have seen the tragic situation that have been presented, and we hope that that brother country finds as well the path to gathering of all those standards that we are looking for of peace, (inaudible), and the return to the rule of law within the canons of democratic rule.

MODERATOR:  (Via interpreter) Next question is from Freddy Paredes, Teleamazons.

QUESTION:  (Via interpreter) Thank you.  Good afternoon, Mr. Secretary Blinken and Mr. Minister Montalvo.

For Secretary Blinken, please.  Ecuador, we have exception, state of exception to fight the insecurity and narcotraffic, one of the subjects that were touched in the agenda with President Lasso.  Is there any commitment, concrete commitment of the United States, to cooperate with Ecuador on this subject?

For both of you if you allow.  For the extradition of Mr. Alex Saab to the United States, how will you cooperate – both countries?  I refer to Ecuador and the United States and the investigation of this case, taking into account that Mr. Saab did dealings and businesses here in Ecuador, and there are evidence of crimes.

And for Mr. Montalvo, please, if this visit was well (inaudible) of the Secretary, of Mr. Blinken to take a further step, a more concrete step to a freer trade agreement.  Thank you very much.

SECRETARY BLINKEN:  Thank you.  Thank you very much.  Again, to come back to this question of civilian security, as I noted, we’ve seen the state of exception that President Lasso declared to combat crime, and we very much understand, as I mentioned earlier, that democracies at times need to take exceptional measures to ensure the safety and security of their citizens.

Equally, when governments take these steps, it’s essential that the measures be limited in scope, limited in duration, and the need to provide civilian security is properly balanced against respect for citizens’ human rights, that the measures are in accordance with the rule of law, and of course, subject to oversight, judicial review, and the security forces involved abide by international principles, all of which the – President Lasso assured me is and will be the case in this instance.

And we, more broadly, are looking for ways to deepen our cooperation and collaboration when it comes to dealing with the broader question of narcotrafficking and the insecurity that comes with it.  And we actually had a lengthy discussion about that.  Let me just say very quickly to that point that here too, we have to have a – we have to approach this in a comprehensive manner and have a sense of shared responsibility – comprehensive manner.  Law enforcement is vitally important, but it is insufficient.

And as the President and I and Mauricio discussed, making sure as well that we are trying to deal with the – some of the root causes that may push people into drugs, into crime, into gangs, into narcotrafficking, is vitally important, and especially making sure that people and young people have opportunity, can see a future, a job, the ability to provide for their families, that is an essential component.  And I know this is very much part of the vision that President Lasso has in particular in trying to create more equitable economic growth and to make sure that the lower as well as the middle classes benefit from this.

Similarly, we have to look at this from the perspective of both sides of the equation, including, in the case of drugs, the demand side.  The United States has a big responsibility in doing everything we can to reduce demand because, of course, that only fuels and feeds the narcotrafficking, the criminality, the transnational crime.  And that may well start with a demand signal in the United States, a criminal enterprise in Mexico – but then the effects are felt here as well in Ecuador.

So we have to approach this comprehensively, and we are.  We have to approach it with a sense of shared responsibility, with everyone doing their part.

Very quickly, with regard to trade and investment, we have, as you know, in place now, as of August, the Trade and Transparency Protocols, which are going to allow us, I think, to work together to create an even more attractive and powerful investment environment here in Ecuador for American businesses.  And so we’re committed to doing that.

Already our Development Finance Corporation has been making investments and providing loans that are having a real, a real impact – loans to one of your leading banks that in turn are used to help small and medium-size enterprises grow and develop – women entrepreneurs, others fighting back from COVID-19 – and then, very significant, investments in infrastructure and renewable infrastructure, where we’ve already made some significant investments.  But I think much more is to follow.

So we have a – I think a strong trade and investment agenda that we’re working on together.  I mentioned as well that we’re now in the process of negotiating a – the Open Skies Agreement.  So in all of these ways, I think you’ll see real growth in trade and in investment between the United States and Ecuador.

FOREIGN MINISTER MONTALVO:  In the case of Mr. Saab, which you asked firstly, I already said that Ecuador is looking into this – the development of this procedures, and we trust that these will be done with due process, and so too the rule of law.  And also, Ecuador works hard to have the entire transparency to the facts that have happened here in Ecuador.  And, of course, we will provide as normal entire cooperation and collaboration for – to clarify this process or whatever comes from it.

The position of Ecuador in this respect is really clear, and we trust that where it – situational treatment of this procedure and transparent procedure will clarify many of the things that we think that exist in this country, and overall to be able to establish the truth that is – we all look for in this and any other case like this, especially when it has to do with corruption, which I also have to mention – that was one of the aspects that we also shared with Mr. Secretary Blinken, the cooperation in the fight against the corruption in our countries.

With respect to free trade, fair trade agreement, this is sufficient that we had to talk in the conversation of this morning.  And so it was done.  Secretary Blinken has just talked about some of the aspects that were shared and exchanged in the conversations, in the dialogues of this morning.  And so Secretary Blinken has had – has been direct to expose the position of the Government of the United States in this respect, what the administration has of President Biden’s decisions now, and all the lines of collaboration that exist between our countries, to work in a constructive way, including commercial aspects.

And then this – on the subject, beyond what we expect or the steps that we’re taking within this process of a fair trade agreement, what exist are several proposals such as the B3W that is very important; that is, to translate to Spanish, to reconstruct a better world.  And we are thankful that United States included the Ecuador as a country to be benefited from this initiative where the country will have the opportunity to take forward several projects of restructure.

As Mr. Blinken stated, there are many areas of interests and preferential areas, subjects such as education, health, and subjects such as the fight of malnutrition, child malnutrition, and subjects to eradicate the violence of gender violence, and the promotion of interconnectivity, full connectivity, a role in European connectivity in the country, and any aspect that might be inscribed within the initiative, and where we are looking into optimism.

And from the talks that we have had, as soon as January or February of next year, 2022, we hope to have all the projects, specific projects – and Ecuador being one of the first countries to be benefited from this proposal that, as I have said, has been taken forwards by the Government of the United States to Ecuador.

MODERATOR: Simon Lewis, Reuters.

QUESTION:  Thank you.  Firstly, to Foreign Minister Montalvo, your president has said that he wants to secure a trade deal with China and some other countries.  But specifically talking about China, alongside the trade negotiations you’re talking about and trade relations with the United States that you’re discussing, is it possible to have those kind of close trade relations and economic relations with the U.S. at the same time as entering into a trade deal with Beijing?

And to Secretary Blinken, your predecessor in the previous U.S. administration often emphasized in countries, including in Latin America, a stark choice between – for countries between whether they should deal with China or deal with the U.S., which country, which global power should they be closest to.  Under your – under this Biden administration, is there a different message that you’re giving to countries like Ecuador when it comes to dealing with China?  And is it compatible to have these kind of trade relations with both countries?  Thank you.

FOREIGN MINISTER MONTALVO:  (Via interpreter)  Thank you very much for your question.  I would like take advantage for the same, to state that the conversation of this morning, this meeting of – the work meetings of this morning, not only were very productive, very open, but also very direct.  And the subject of China was talked to clearly by President Lasso with Secretary Blinken, and we talked very clearly.  We shared a position of Ecuador in the approach to China and the role that has been played – China in the vaccination and dialogues that we have had with that government from – also the agreement of – the trade agreement and other elements.

And in that same line, one of the points that coincided was precisely that such as the United States has commercial relations with China, Ecuador can also have them.  And that will be inscribed within the policies, foreign policies, of Mr. Lasso translated in this acting that comes from his campaign moments of more Ecuador into the world and more Ecuador into the world, and to show a country that is creating opportunities to all investors of the entire world.  And among them, of course, is China, that constitutes a commercial partner.  Very important – not as important as the United States, but it’s also very important commercial partners for Ecuador.  And, of course, with them, Ecuador, as was manifested by President Lasso to Mr. Blinken, Ecuador aspires to have agreements with the main economies of the world.  And firstly, of course, is the United States, but there are also others.

And we mentioned also several numbers of Ecuador that I was looking into having space – in that 80 percent that represents the biggest economies, the 10 most biggest economies in the world, or 60 percent of the population that they – in globe.  And in those terms of directness and openness, we have had the conversation this morning, and we have not withheld any factor that are taken forward by Mr. President Lasso within this policy of foreign policy.  That is completely realistic but also applied to certain values and principles that we share with the United States.

SECRETARY BLINKEN:  And let me add a couple of things to that.  First, the partnership between the United States and Ecuador is focused on common interests, shared values, and a positive agenda.  It’s not defined by any third country.  And we’re focused together on the many things that we talked about throughout this press conference.

And in particular, ultimately, we’re focused together on demonstrating that our democracies can deliver tangible results for our people.  That is the test, and that’s the test that we’re working to pass together.

We are not asking countries to choose between the United States and China, nor, as I’ve said repeatedly, do we seek to contain China or hold it back.  What we do seek to do is to uphold the highest possible standards as we are engaged around the world.

And so for example, in the case of trade and investment, Mauricio talked about the Build Back Better World program.  I mentioned it as well.  One of the features of that program is to make sure that as we’re making investments in infrastructure, for example, in different parts of the world we do it to the highest standards – as a race to the top, not a race to the bottom.  We do it in a way that, for example, doesn’t burden countries with unmanageable debt.  We do it in a way that includes the highest labor and environmental standards.  We do it in a way that keeps out corruption.  We do it in a way that builds to the highest quality.  That’s an affirmative agenda and one I think countries will be very attracted to.

Similarly, as, again, Mauricio said, trade and investment, including with China, is important for all of our countries and mutually beneficial.  But there are very narrowly defined areas in which it makes sense for countries to take precautions as they’re looking at investment because unfortunately, in the case of China, there really is no division between purportedly private enterprises and the state.  And equally unfortunately, if those enterprises are asked to do the bidding of the state, they have to do it.  And of course, when it comes to human rights, privacy rights, as well as security, that can pose – that can pose a real challenge.

So what we talk about, including with our friends in Ecuador, is making sure that when it comes particularly to investments in sensitive areas, that they get the scrutiny that they deserve to make sure that the interests of the country on the receiving end and its people are fully preserved.

MODERATOR:  (Via interpreter) Just to finish, Andriana Noboa of Primicias.

QUESTION:  (Via interpreter) Good afternoon, Mr. Secretary and Mr. Minister.  I would like to assist in the questions on the subject of security.  We are clear that (inaudible) on the state of exception, but this is a short-term measure that will only last for 60 days.  I would like to know if you could comment a little bit more, if you talked medium-term and long-term lines of cooperation, and if there’s a possibility to create an Ecuador plan similar to the Colombia Plan.

And also, in the subject of migration, if you could talk not only on the subject of Venezuela but also the migration of Ecuadorians to the United States and what type of measures or actions can be taken in that point.  Thank you.

FOREIGN MINISTER MONTALVO:  (Via interpreter) Yes, the subject that you mentioned were aboard, talked during the conversation of President Lasso and Secretary Blinken, and certainly the president described exactly the nature and reasons and motivations to go into this state of exception, this decree yesterday’s night that is focused on, to guarantee the security of the citizenships or the protection from the increase of the violence and the delinquency.  The president shared with Mr. Blinken how sad he was at the death of this child yesterday.  That was one of the reasons that motivated him to take this measure as necessary, but it’s oriented to protect citizenship and secure to the citizens – and in this sense, in the talks that we had with the Secretary, we explained what we are looking for is precisely the focus, the care, and the protection and security of the zones where there is more violence and delinquency.  And we also talked also, as you can – as you mentioned, duly mentioned, in a measure – a short-term measure and a medium-term measure where we – the country will need cooperation not only from the United States because we are here fighting a situation of transnational crimes with drug cartels and international crime that are linked to other crimes such as narcotraffic, money laundering, human trafficking.  And all of them have to be fought in a collective way and in cooperative way and international way.

So on this sense, Ecuador will ask – of course, they will provide also the cooperation to work jointly with these – to fight against these criminals who are affecting not only Ecuador, but every country.  And so in any way – in this way, as you mentioned, the migration that is – to this subject, Ecuador has – this phenomenon has affected by the Ecuadorians leaving the country.  And in most cases, in not all the cases, the – have to do with the human trafficking that take advantage and exploit the situation – sometimes a precarious economic situation of people, but also the illusions and the hopes and dreams that might have these (inaudible) country members.

And in this sense, we talked with Secretary Blinken the need to provide for – with measures that will tend to fight the situation, especially inscribed in the efforts of cooperation.  We believe that many of the projects that are within the B3W to rebuild a better world – Build Back a Better World – will help in this sense and also reiterate what Ecuador aspires to, is to maintain regular migration, orderly migration, and secure migration.  And for this, we are looking with satisfaction the focus that Secretary Blinken has brought to us to have a joint shared responsibility in this sense.

SECRETARY BLINKEN:  And I can only echo what Mauricio said on the integration part of the question, and we’ll have a lot more to say about that, I think, together when we’re in Bogotá tomorrow for the regional migration meeting that we’re joining together.

Let me just say when it comes to security, when it comes to dealing with narcotrafficking, this is a shared concern and a shared fight.  We have, as I think you know, a number of agreements already in place that have established new programs to try to strengthen counter-narcotics and law enforcement cooperation between the United States and Ecuador.  Trafficking, money laundering, other transnational organized crime – we are working together to help equip the police, the justice sector with everything from vehicles to information technology to software to K-9s, to dogs.  We are working together and facilitating what had been, in both a good news/bad news story, record drug seizures – the good news being we’re effective, the bad news being it’s a record drug seizure – which means the problem, in a sense, is even larger.  Prosecutions, sentences for criminal activity, all of that is already part of our cooperation.

As I mentioned as well, both for the United States and also Ecuador, we have active drug demand reduction programs because it’s so important that we act on that side of the equation as well, training social and health officials, community activists, business leaders to join forces to try to push narco-trafficking out of neighborhoods where residents and especially young people are susceptible to drug use.

We have in my own department, the State Department, the Bureau of International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Affairs, which is very actively working with counterparts here in Ecuador, again providing a counternarcotics and counter transnational organized crime capacity-building assistance.  It’s totaled about $30 million in bilateral assistance since the program restarted in 2018.  Funding, training, technical assistance – all of this is already part of what we’re doing together, and as we discussed today, we’ll continue to build on that.  Thank you.

FOREIGN MINISTER MONTALVO:  Muchas gracias. Complacido. Gracias.

MODERATOR:  (Via interpreter) Thank you very much.  We thank the presence of the minister and the Secretary.  We ask the media to please stay in its place as the authorities will go back to their rooms.  Thank you very much.

FOREIGN MINISTER MONTALVO:  (Via interpreter) Good afternoon, everyone, friends and gentlemen of the press.  It’s very pleasing to be here in the Yellow Hall to speak about this fruitful meeting that we have held with the Secretary of State, Mr. Antony Blinken, in where we accorded all aspects of the very rich, fruitful bilateral agenda that has Ecuador with the United States.  President Lasso has had the opportunity to talk and share with Secretary of State the main aspects of the relation between both countries and to find great affinity and in both – in everything that has been said in the meeting of this morning.

I would like to highlight specially and thank in – to the Government of Ecuador the presence of Mr. Blinken here, and I would like to highlight that it is the first visit that he’s doing to South America and he has started by Ecuador, what shows the importance and the attention that the United States and the administration of President Biden has given to the presidency of President Guillermo Lasso and his position in this region and this hemisphere.  We do this recognition in particular because it’s very important for us as a government being our main partner, commercial partner, with this country and with whom we have a very fruitful and close relation and productive relation.

Again, Mr. Blinken, thank you very much for your presence, and I’m very happy to have to have you had the meeting that we have had this morning.  Thank you, Mr. Secretary.

MODERATOR:  Now we will like to have the declaration of Mr. Blinken, Secretary of State.

SECRETARY BLINKEN:  Well, gracias, Mauricio.  Thank you so much.  It’s wonderful to be here in Ecuador.  I am delighted to visit for the first time as Secretary of State, and I want to extend real appreciation and thanks to President Lasso and to Foreign Minister Montalvo, Mauricio, for the extremely warm welcome, but also the extremely productive and lengthy session that we had over lunch.

I have to tell you that the United States has great admiration for President Lasso for the leadership that he’s demonstrating both here in Ecuador and beyond.  His strong voice for democracy, his strong actions to demonstrate that democracy can deliver for the Ecuadorian people and for people beyond Ecuador, is, I think, vitally important, and nowhere was that more clear than in the remarkable work that this administration did in dealing with COVID-19.  But in so many other ways, we are working very, very closely together.

I came to Ecuador simply because the United States values a partnership, and we’re committed to growing it.  One of the very first consulates that the United States opened in the hemisphere was in Guayaquíl.  Our diplomatic ties with Ecuador are some of the oldest that we have in the Americas.  And today we are working closely on a vast array of issues, simply because Ecuador the country and the Ecuadorian people stand on the front lines of many of the most urgent challenges that we face in this region and around the world.

COVID-19, as I mentioned, we know how hard it hit Ecuador early.  But you turned it around, and Ecuadorians have a major vaccination campaign, one of the best executed in the world.  Again, I want to commend President Lasso, his entire team, and so many people across the country for making that happen under extremely challenging circumstances.  The United States was proud to have helped and contributed with two million Pfizer vaccines as well as other significant assistance.  We look forward to working together to defeat the pandemic in our hemisphere and around the world, and to make sure that we’re better prepared for the next pandemic because, unfortunately, there will almost certainly be one.  We have a lot of work to do as we get beyond COVID-19 to build a stronger global health system, and we’ll do that working together.

On the climate crisis, the other big existential challenge that we face, Ecuador, one of the world’s most ecologically diverse countries, knows firsthand the dangerous impact of climate change.  You’ve seen rising temperatures.  You’ve seen melting glaciers.  You’ve seen the worsening droughts.  You’ve seen more severe floods.  Becoming more climate-resilient is a high priority, I know, for President Lasso, for Ecuador’s leaders, and for the Ecuadorian people.  And I want to recognize especially environmental activists, including those from indigenous communities, who’ve led the charge to preserve Ecuador’s remarkable biodiversity and natural resources.

We selected Ecuador as one of the first partners in what we call the Build Back Better World program to make investments, particularly in climate-resilient infrastructure projects, with high environmental as well as labor standards.  That’s going to create jobs, it’s going to support local communities, it’s going to make progress against the climate crisis – all at the same time.  We started our Build Back Better World listening tour here in Ecuador just last month, and we’re grateful to all who participated in that effort.

On inclusive economic growth, which I know is front and center on President Lasso’s agenda, at a time when so many communities are reeling from the economic consequences of the pandemic, we have to work together to rebuild the global economy but in a way that delivers opportunity and benefits to as many people as possible, especially from communities that have been long underserved.  And that’s true in all of our countries.

We have a Protocol on Trade Rules and Transparency that our countries negotiated last year that just entered into force a few months ago, and that will be instrumental in helping to deepen the trade relationship between us.  We’ve also agreed to reopen negotiations on an Open Skies agreement which will promote more travel and trade between us.  And our countries work together closely through technical assistance programs to help address core economic issues like debt management to help set Ecuador on a stable economic path.  There is a lot that we’re already doing, including investments and loans through our Development Finance Corporation, that are having a real impact already, including on jobs.

We’re in close consultation on another issue that is challenging everyone in the hemisphere, and that’s regional migration.  Ecuador is experiencing this issue firsthand, hundreds of thousands of Venezuelans settling here in recent years.  The foreign minister and I tomorrow will be in Colombia, where we’re together with most of our colleagues in the hemisphere, to talk about what is so necessary right now, and that is a truly regional, coordinated approach of shared responsibility.  I had a chance to raise this as well with the president, and we, I think, are committed to finding those kind of solutions together as we work collaboratively on the migration challenge.

We talked as well about the exceptional measures that have been taken here in Ecuador to deal with the narcotrafficking challenge and the violence and crime that is attendant with that.  And we know that in democracies there are times when, with exceptional circumstances, measures are necessary to deal with urgencies and urgent situations like the one Ecuador is experiencing now.  And as I discussed with President Lasso, we understand that, support that, but know as well that these measures, of course, need to be taken pursuant to the constitution; they need to be very focused in what they’re seeking to achieve and finite in duration; and of course, follow and proceed in a way that upholds democratic principles.

And in discussing this with President Lasso when we met, he assured me that his government is committed to upholding all of those standards which are so important to the Ecuadorian people and to their democratic values.  And I made clear that maintaining those standards is, of course, a priority for the United States.

I want to commend Ecuador’s courts together with the country’s extremely vibrant and committed civil society for making very important strides in the past year toward expanding rights for women and girls and for LGBTQI people in accordance with international and regional human rights standards.  And I want to congratulate as well the people of Ecuador on successfully holding fair and free elections this spring despite the challenging conditions of COVID-19.

Ecuador and the United States have to continue to work together and with partners across the region to strengthen democratic institutions, to stand up for the rule of law and for human rights, to fight corruption – something that’s been a hallmark of President Lasso’s administration – and to empower civil society.  That’s something I’m going to address at greater length tomorrow at the University of San Francisco of Quito.

Mr. Foreign Minister, Mauricio, I’m very grateful to you, to the president, for this visit to Ecuador; the opportunity to spend time with you, to speak with university students; to hear from civil society leaders, independent journalists, anti-corruption activists; to visit local artisans and entrepreneurs.  We’re doing all of that in a relatively short space of time.  So much connects the people of Ecuador and the people of the United States.  We have family and cultural ties going back literally generations.  Countless Americans have experienced firsthand the extraordinary natural beauty and biodiversity here in Ecuador.  Every day we enjoy the products of your land, from coffee to chocolate to bananas, to you name it.  And we joined you this summer in cheering for Ecuador’s two gold medals at the Olympics by the cyclist Richard Carapaz, and by Neisi Dajomes the bodybuilder who became the first Ecuadorian woman ever to win a medal at the Olympics, and it was a gold medal.

So for all these reasons and so many more, it’s an honor to be here in Quito on behalf of the United States.  It’s a privilege to work with you and to make the friendship between Ecuador and the United States even stronger.  Thank you.

FOREIGN MINISTER MONTALVO:  Thank you very much.

MODERATOR:  (Via interpreter)  Thank you, Mr. Secretary.  We will begin with the questions of the media.

MODERATOR: First question will go to Lara Jakes, New York Times.

QUESTION:  Gracias.  Buenos días.  A few questions on issues of regional import to both of you, please.  For Secretary Blinken, it appears that any progress that was made towards a political resolution in Venezuela has been shut down with the extradition of Alex Saab.  What specifically can the United States and its allies here in South America and elsewhere do to get the talks started again?  And since there are already doubts about a free and fair election in Venezuela next month, are you now worried that these developments will make everything worse?

For Minister Montalvo, does Ecuador believe that U.S. sanctions in Venezuela has contributed to the refugee crisis in your country, and has your government asked for them to be lifted?  What is Ecuador’s position on how this impasse can be solved?

And one more if I may, on Haiti, to both of you.  Haitian leaders have for months been asking for more operational security assistance and even military troops to help with its spiraling security situation.  Given last weekend’s kidnappings of the 16 Americans and one Canadian and that it’s the – it’s only the latest example of violence, how are leaders in the Western Hemisphere prepared to respond?  Thank you.

SECRETARY BLINKEN:  Thanks, Lara.  Mauricio, I’m happy to start, if you like, and hand it over to you.

FOREIGN MINISTER MONTALVO:   Start, please.

SECRETARY BLINKEN:  Lara, on – first, on Venezuela, I think it’s deeply unfortunate that the Maduro regime pulled out of the talks in Mexico, but I think it’s also indicative, unfortunately, of Mr. Maduro putting self-interest ahead of the interests of the Venezuelan people and putting the interests of one person ahead of the interests of all people in Venezuela.

It’s, I think, important to underscore that we have an independent judiciary in the United States.  And in the case of the extradition of Mr. Saab, this is a matter that’s been going on for the better part of a decade.  I believe he was first arrested about 10 years ago, and there’s been a process underway now for some years for his extradition, and that proceeds independent of anything that is happening on a political track.

So again, I think it’s extremely unfortunate, but also indicative of where Mr. Maduro’s putting his focus, and that is on self-interest, not the interests of the Venezuelan people, which manifestly would benefit from putting Venezuela back on a democratic path, including getting to free and fair national elections.

And then with regard to Haiti, let me just say two things on that.  First, with regard to the specific incident that you referred to, the kidnapping of missionaries, including 16 Americans, we have in the administration been relentlessly focused on this, including sending a team to Haiti from the State Department; working very closely with the FBI, which is the lead in these kinds of matters; in constant communication with the Haitian National Police, the church that the missionaries belong to, as well as to the Haitian Government.  And we will do everything that we can to help resolve the situation.

But let me also refer to the context that you put this in very appropriately because unfortunately this is also indicative of a much larger problem, and that is a security situation that is quite simply unsustainable.  Gangs dominate many parts of Port-au-Prince and other parts of Haiti.  The National Police can’t even operate in many of these areas.  These gangs are tied to groups, individuals, parties, and are in many ways dominating the state.  That can’t go on, and it certainly is not conducive to an environment in which the work that needs to be done, the support that I hope will be there, the investments that need to be made in the Haitian people, in their future, in their progress, can be made.

And at the same time, we have to see a coalescing of all different groups in Haiti – different political groups, civil society, different stakeholders in society – come together around a political vision for the way forward, because, of course, the other crisis that Haiti faces is the one that came about in the wake of the assassination of President Moïse and the exceptional circumstances that Haiti found itself in.

But security is vitally, vitally important.  We have been working closely with the Haitian National Police to try to build their capacity, as well as to help put in place programs that can effectively deal with the gangs.  But it’s a very challenging and long-term process.  We’re focused on it, but it is absolutely essential that this security dynamic change if Haiti is going to make real progress.

FOREIGN MINISTER MONTALVO:  (Via interpreter)  What concerns your question on the situation of Venezuelan citizens here in Ecuador, without a doubt this is one of the aspects that has had an impact in Ecuador.  We have to remember that here in the country, we have about half a million Venezuelan citizens that has come due to the crisis.  And we as a brother republic of Venezuela, we have had these Venezuelans come here with all the hospitality.  In fact, President Lasso, one of his first measures he took when he took office was to have all these Venezuelan citizens regularized as a measure of solidarity and for reasons, humanitarian reasons.

As of now, the country finds itself in this process of regularization, taking all administrative, logistical, and legal measures into account, that this is an enormous effort for the country, and this has been shared with the Secretary of State Blinken.  President Lasso has exposed this, all the efforts that is being done by Ecuador to take these citizens, Venezuelan citizens, in this process of regularization, and the need, the vital need of the country to – that the international community recognizes these efforts, regularizations of Venezuelan citizens in a country that has high rates of unemployment and some problems, socio-economical problems, is great.  Our national capacities are overflown, and even though Ecuador is working in that, we have taken this great step.

And this, one of the main mentions that have been done here and that Mr. Blinken has manifested in his conversation is the shared responsibility of the international community to this aspect.  And so once again, Ecuador is asking for the international community to contribute with the efforts that are being undertaken here in Ecuador, the Venezuelan citizens that are being hosted here.  There are many factors for this and become due to the situation, political situation, socio-economical situation that the country is going through, and we do not share – we don’t have a voice in those measures of other countries.

But what Ecuador does is to find this solution to the situation of Venezuela in which the values of privilege of democracy, liberty, human rights, free elections and clean elections, and in this sense, Ecuador is working in every moment.  And this is how we have shown in its participation in different spaces for bilateral dialogue, as well as – such as this morning – as multilateral efforts or collective efforts proposed.  Ecuador is part of the International Contact Group in coordination with the European Union, and in this sense, we are ever watchful, and we are also always looking how to contribute from our position.

On the subject of Mr. Saab, that – we’ve also talked in – this morning in dialogues.  President Lasso said that the attention of which Ecuador is following on this subject because it has to do with direct implications here in the country.  We have – there are facts – concrete facts and public facts respecting the presence and participation of Mr. Saab here in Ecuador.  And for that, the interest of Ecuador, to clarify the situation and to do this within the international standards would – of due process, respect of the rule of law, and (inaudible).

Ecuador is hoping to have the best results with transparency in this aspect, and what has to do with Haiti Ecuador has also stated in all moments its solidarity with that country.  And when the earthquake had took place, Ecuador, within its possibility, went with its solidarity, support, and donations to that country.  And in those spaces, multilateral spaces such as the Organization of American States, Ecuador is always present and is part of a committee to support the situation of Haiti, and that is the front where we are working on.

Sadly, as we all do, we have seen the tragic situation that have been presented, and we hope that that brother country finds as well the path to gathering of all those standards that we are looking for of peace, (inaudible), and the return to the rule of law within the canons of democratic rule.

MODERATOR:  (Via interpreter) Next question is from Freddy Paredes, Teleamazons.

QUESTION:  (Via interpreter) Thank you.  Good afternoon, Mr. Secretary Blinken and Mr. Minister Montalvo.

For Secretary Blinken, please.  Ecuador, we have exception, state of exception to fight the insecurity and narcotraffic, one of the subjects that were touched in the agenda with President Lasso.  Is there any commitment, concrete commitment of the United States, to cooperate with Ecuador on this subject?

For both of you if you allow.  For the extradition of Mr. Alex Saab to the United States, how will you cooperate – both countries?  I refer to Ecuador and the United States and the investigation of this case, taking into account that Mr. Saab did dealings and businesses here in Ecuador, and there are evidence of crimes.

And for Mr. Montalvo, please, if this visit was well (inaudible) of the Secretary, of Mr. Blinken to take a further step, a more concrete step to a freer trade agreement.  Thank you very much.

SECRETARY BLINKEN:  Thank you.  Thank you very much.  Again, to come back to this question of civilian security, as I noted, we’ve seen the state of exception that President Lasso declared to combat crime, and we very much understand, as I mentioned earlier, that democracies at times need to take exceptional measures to ensure the safety and security of their citizens.

Equally, when governments take these steps, it’s essential that the measures be limited in scope, limited in duration, and the need to provide civilian security is properly balanced against respect for citizens’ human rights, that the measures are in accordance with the rule of law, and of course, subject to oversight, judicial review, and the security forces involved abide by international principles, all of which the – President Lasso assured me is and will be the case in this instance.

And we, more broadly, are looking for ways to deepen our cooperation and collaboration when it comes to dealing with the broader question of narcotrafficking and the insecurity that comes with it.  And we actually had a lengthy discussion about that.  Let me just say very quickly to that point that here too, we have to have a – we have to approach this in a comprehensive manner and have a sense of shared responsibility – comprehensive manner.  Law enforcement is vitally important, but it is insufficient.

And as the President and I and Mauricio discussed, making sure as well that we are trying to deal with the – some of the root causes that may push people into drugs, into crime, into gangs, into narcotrafficking, is vitally important, and especially making sure that people and young people have opportunity, can see a future, a job, the ability to provide for their families, that is an essential component.  And I know this is very much part of the vision that President Lasso has in particular in trying to create more equitable economic growth and to make sure that the lower as well as the middle classes benefit from this.

Similarly, we have to look at this from the perspective of both sides of the equation, including, in the case of drugs, the demand side.  The United States has a big responsibility in doing everything we can to reduce demand because, of course, that only fuels and feeds the narcotrafficking, the criminality, the transnational crime.  And that may well start with a demand signal in the United States, a criminal enterprise in Mexico – but then the effects are felt here as well in Ecuador.

So we have to approach this comprehensively, and we are.  We have to approach it with a sense of shared responsibility, with everyone doing their part.

Very quickly, with regard to trade and investment, we have, as you know, in place now, as of August, the Trade and Transparency Protocols, which are going to allow us, I think, to work together to create an even more attractive and powerful investment environment here in Ecuador for American businesses.  And so we’re committed to doing that.

Already our Development Finance Corporation has been making investments and providing loans that are having a real, a real impact – loans to one of your leading banks that in turn are used to help small and medium-size enterprises grow and develop – women entrepreneurs, others fighting back from COVID-19 – and then, very significant, investments in infrastructure and renewable infrastructure, where we’ve already made some significant investments.  But I think much more is to follow.

So we have a – I think a strong trade and investment agenda that we’re working on together.  I mentioned as well that we’re now in the process of negotiating a – the Open Skies Agreement.  So in all of these ways, I think you’ll see real growth in trade and in investment between the United States and Ecuador.

FOREIGN MINISTER MONTALVO:  In the case of Mr. Saab, which you asked firstly, I already said that Ecuador is looking into this – the development of this procedures, and we trust that these will be done with due process, and so too the rule of law.  And also, Ecuador works hard to have the entire transparency to the facts that have happened here in Ecuador.  And, of course, we will provide as normal entire cooperation and collaboration for – to clarify this process or whatever comes from it.

The position of Ecuador in this respect is really clear, and we trust that where it – situational treatment of this procedure and transparent procedure will clarify many of the things that we think that exist in this country, and overall to be able to establish the truth that is – we all look for in this and any other case like this, especially when it has to do with corruption, which I also have to mention – that was one of the aspects that we also shared with Mr. Secretary Blinken, the cooperation in the fight against the corruption in our countries.

With respect to free trade, fair trade agreement, this is sufficient that we had to talk in the conversation of this morning.  And so it was done.  Secretary Blinken has just talked about some of the aspects that were shared and exchanged in the conversations, in the dialogues of this morning.  And so Secretary Blinken has had – has been direct to expose the position of the Government of the United States in this respect, what the administration has of President Biden’s decisions now, and all the lines of collaboration that exist between our countries, to work in a constructive way, including commercial aspects.

And then this – on the subject, beyond what we expect or the steps that we’re taking within this process of a fair trade agreement, what exist are several proposals such as the B3W that is very important; that is, to translate to Spanish, to reconstruct a better world.  And we are thankful that United States included the Ecuador as a country to be benefited from this initiative where the country will have the opportunity to take forward several projects of restructure.

As Mr. Blinken stated, there are many areas of interests and preferential areas, subjects such as education, health, and subjects such as the fight of malnutrition, child malnutrition, and subjects to eradicate the violence of gender violence, and the promotion of interconnectivity, full connectivity, a role in European connectivity in the country, and any aspect that might be inscribed within the initiative, and where we are looking into optimism.

And from the talks that we have had, as soon as January or February of next year, 2022, we hope to have all the projects, specific projects – and Ecuador being one of the first countries to be benefited from this proposal that, as I have said, has been taken forwards by the Government of the United States to Ecuador.

MODERATOR: Simon Lewis, Reuters.

QUESTION:  Thank you.  Firstly, to Foreign Minister Montalvo, your president has said that he wants to secure a trade deal with China and some other countries.  But specifically talking about China, alongside the trade negotiations you’re talking about and trade relations with the United States that you’re discussing, is it possible to have those kind of close trade relations and economic relations with the U.S. at the same time as entering into a trade deal with Beijing?

And to Secretary Blinken, your predecessor in the previous U.S. administration often emphasized in countries, including in Latin America, a stark choice between – for countries between whether they should deal with China or deal with the U.S., which country, which global power should they be closest to.  Under your – under this Biden administration, is there a different message that you’re giving to countries like Ecuador when it comes to dealing with China?  And is it compatible to have these kind of trade relations with both countries?  Thank you.

FOREIGN MINISTER MONTALVO:  (Via interpreter)  Thank you very much for your question.  I would like take advantage for the same, to state that the conversation of this morning, this meeting of – the work meetings of this morning, not only were very productive, very open, but also very direct.  And the subject of China was talked to clearly by President Lasso with Secretary Blinken, and we talked very clearly.  We shared a position of Ecuador in the approach to China and the role that has been played – China in the vaccination and dialogues that we have had with that government from – also the agreement of – the trade agreement and other elements.

And in that same line, one of the points that coincided was precisely that such as the United States has commercial relations with China, Ecuador can also have them.  And that will be inscribed within the policies, foreign policies, of Mr. Lasso translated in this acting that comes from his campaign moments of more Ecuador into the world and more Ecuador into the world, and to show a country that is creating opportunities to all investors of the entire world.  And among them, of course, is China, that constitutes a commercial partner.  Very important – not as important as the United States, but it’s also very important commercial partners for Ecuador.  And, of course, with them, Ecuador, as was manifested by President Lasso to Mr. Blinken, Ecuador aspires to have agreements with the main economies of the world.  And firstly, of course, is the United States, but there are also others.

And we mentioned also several numbers of Ecuador that I was looking into having space – in that 80 percent that represents the biggest economies, the 10 most biggest economies in the world, or 60 percent of the population that they – in globe.  And in those terms of directness and openness, we have had the conversation this morning, and we have not withheld any factor that are taken forward by Mr. President Lasso within this policy of foreign policy.  That is completely realistic but also applied to certain values and principles that we share with the United States.

SECRETARY BLINKEN:  And let me add a couple of things to that.  First, the partnership between the United States and Ecuador is focused on common interests, shared values, and a positive agenda.  It’s not defined by any third country.  And we’re focused together on the many things that we talked about throughout this press conference.

And in particular, ultimately, we’re focused together on demonstrating that our democracies can deliver tangible results for our people.  That is the test, and that’s the test that we’re working to pass together.

We are not asking countries to choose between the United States and China, nor, as I’ve said repeatedly, do we seek to contain China or hold it back.  What we do seek to do is to uphold the highest possible standards as we are engaged around the world.

And so for example, in the case of trade and investment, Mauricio talked about the Build Back Better World program.  I mentioned it as well.  One of the features of that program is to make sure that as we’re making investments in infrastructure, for example, in different parts of the world we do it to the highest standards – as a race to the top, not a race to the bottom.  We do it in a way that, for example, doesn’t burden countries with unmanageable debt.  We do it in a way that includes the highest labor and environmental standards.  We do it in a way that keeps out corruption.  We do it in a way that builds to the highest quality.  That’s an affirmative agenda and one I think countries will be very attracted to.

Similarly, as, again, Mauricio said, trade and investment, including with China, is important for all of our countries and mutually beneficial.  But there are very narrowly defined areas in which it makes sense for countries to take precautions as they’re looking at investment because unfortunately, in the case of China, there really is no division between purportedly private enterprises and the state.  And equally unfortunately, if those enterprises are asked to do the bidding of the state, they have to do it.  And of course, when it comes to human rights, privacy rights, as well as security, that can pose – that can pose a real challenge.

So what we talk about, including with our friends in Ecuador, is making sure that when it comes particularly to investments in sensitive areas, that they get the scrutiny that they deserve to make sure that the interests of the country on the receiving end and its people are fully preserved.

MODERATOR:  (Via interpreter) Just to finish, Andriana Noboa of Primicias.

QUESTION:  (Via interpreter) Good afternoon, Mr. Secretary and Mr. Minister.  I would like to assist in the questions on the subject of security.  We are clear that (inaudible) on the state of exception, but this is a short-term measure that will only last for 60 days.  I would like to know if you could comment a little bit more, if you talked medium-term and long-term lines of cooperation, and if there’s a possibility to create an Ecuador plan similar to the Colombia Plan.

And also, in the subject of migration, if you could talk not only on the subject of Venezuela but also the migration of Ecuadorians to the United States and what type of measures or actions can be taken in that point.  Thank you.

FOREIGN MINISTER MONTALVO:  (Via interpreter) Yes, the subject that you mentioned were aboard, talked during the conversation of President Lasso and Secretary Blinken, and certainly the president described exactly the nature and reasons and motivations to go into this state of exception, this decree yesterday’s night that is focused on, to guarantee the security of the citizenships or the protection from the increase of the violence and the delinquency.  The president shared with Mr. Blinken how sad he was at the death of this child yesterday.  That was one of the reasons that motivated him to take this measure as necessary, but it’s oriented to protect citizenship and secure to the citizens – and in this sense, in the talks that we had with the Secretary, we explained what we are looking for is precisely the focus, the care, and the protection and security of the zones where there is more violence and delinquency.  And we also talked also, as you can – as you mentioned, duly mentioned, in a measure – a short-term measure and a medium-term measure where we – the country will need cooperation not only from the United States because we are here fighting a situation of transnational crimes with drug cartels and international crime that are linked to other crimes such as narcotraffic, money laundering, human trafficking.  And all of them have to be fought in a collective way and in cooperative way and international way.

So on this sense, Ecuador will ask – of course, they will provide also the cooperation to work jointly with these – to fight against these criminals who are affecting not only Ecuador, but every country.  And so in any way – in this way, as you mentioned, the migration that is – to this subject, Ecuador has – this phenomenon has affected by the Ecuadorians leaving the country.  And in most cases, in not all the cases, the – have to do with the human trafficking that take advantage and exploit the situation – sometimes a precarious economic situation of people, but also the illusions and the hopes and dreams that might have these (inaudible) country members.

And in this sense, we talked with Secretary Blinken the need to provide for – with measures that will tend to fight the situation, especially inscribed in the efforts of cooperation.  We believe that many of the projects that are within the B3W to rebuild a better world – Build Back a Better World – will help in this sense and also reiterate what Ecuador aspires to, is to maintain regular migration, orderly migration, and secure migration.  And for this, we are looking with satisfaction the focus that Secretary Blinken has brought to us to have a joint shared responsibility in this sense.

SECRETARY BLINKEN:  And I can only echo what Mauricio said on the integration part of the question, and we’ll have a lot more to say about that, I think, together when we’re in Bogotá tomorrow for the regional migration meeting that we’re joining together.

Let me just say when it comes to security, when it comes to dealing with narcotrafficking, this is a shared concern and a shared fight.  We have, as I think you know, a number of agreements already in place that have established new programs to try to strengthen counter-narcotics and law enforcement cooperation between the United States and Ecuador.  Trafficking, money laundering, other transnational organized crime – we are working together to help equip the police, the justice sector with everything from vehicles to information technology to software to K-9s, to dogs.  We are working together and facilitating what had been, in both a good news/bad news story, record drug seizures – the good news being we’re effective, the bad news being it’s a record drug seizure – which means the problem, in a sense, is even larger.  Prosecutions, sentences for criminal activity, all of that is already part of our cooperation.

As I mentioned as well, both for the United States and also Ecuador, we have active drug demand reduction programs because it’s so important that we act on that side of the equation as well, training social and health officials, community activists, business leaders to join forces to try to push narco-trafficking out of neighborhoods where residents and especially young people are susceptible to drug use.

We have in my own department, the State Department, the Bureau of International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Affairs, which is very actively working with counterparts here in Ecuador, again providing a counternarcotics and counter transnational organized crime capacity-building assistance.  It’s totaled about $30 million in bilateral assistance since the program restarted in 2018.  Funding, training, technical assistance – all of this is already part of what we’re doing together, and as we discussed today, we’ll continue to build on that.  Thank you.

FOREIGN MINISTER MONTALVO:  Muchas gracias. Complacido. Gracias.

MODERATOR:  (Via interpreter) Thank you very much.  We thank the presence of the minister and the Secretary.  We ask the media to please stay in its place as the authorities will go back to their rooms.  Thank you very much.