Remarks by Vice President Pence and President Macri of Argentina in Joint Press Conference
Quinta de Olivos
Buenos Aires, Argentina
PRESIDENT MACRI: (As interpreted.) Good morning, ladies and gentlemen. And thank you joining us on a special morning. I would like to welcome and thank the Vice President of the United States for this official visit.
This truly certifies the level of interest and enthusiasm with regard to our country, given that we've started to build trust, to become predictable, and, clearly, that is the beginning of a process of employment generation in our country as it brings investments, most definitely -- investments which are necessary for our country's development.
In addition, this reflects a relationship which began to heal 19 months ago, by starting to look for common areas. And this was obviously certified when I went to Washington and met with President Trump. This involves the affection there is between our countries.
I would like to thank you, Mr. Vice President, for your presence here. Your visit with leading companies of the United States, some companies which are ratifying and confirming investments, and companies that are interested in taking part in the development of our country in the near future. Again, we need to generate employment, as that is a solution to poverty. We need to create a lot of jobs, and your companies that are determined to invest in our country are most welcome.
During our working meeting, we also discussed trade matters, and we are obviously willing to exchange what both the Argentinians and the Americans produce. We also discussed the G20 and the WTO meeting at the end of the year. We think these are meetings that will provide an opportunity to boost the development of the whole continent.
I also conveyed our deep gratitude, considering the clear and conclusive position of the United States in favor of Argentina's bid to join the OECD. We think this is a very important step as part of our transformation process. We do wish to become members of such a distinguished group of work.
I also reiterated that we are very happy to be able to continue fighting against drug-trafficking, terrorism, money-laundering, and corruption. We have worked very collaboratively and intelligently in recent months, and we hope to continue to do so, as this is a path that guarantees the growth of our countries and development and peace of mind for our communities, essentially.
And we also talked a bit about Venezuela. We share the concern over developments in our beloved Venezuela. We feel for the suffering of Venezuelans. And we reiterated, both of us, the need to continue to demand President Maduro an electoral schedule, respect for individual liberties, for the independence of the powers, and to stop actions that have only impoverished Venezuela and have greatly damaged its population.
This has been a truly important meeting for us. Your presence is important, Mr. Vice President. We believe in a mature, intelligent relationship between our countries, and we think, on that basis, we can build a better future for the Argentinians and the Americans.
So let us hope this will be the first of many visits. You will always be welcome. I know last night you had a very nice meal with your wife -- a very romantic evening at your hotel. (Laughter.) So I do hope you'll visit us once again with your wife and that you will get to see other parts of our country, which is a large country, like your own. It has beautiful spots that are worth visiting.
Thank you once again.
VICE PRESIDENT PENCE: Well, thank you, President Macri. Thank you for the warm hospitality that you've shown to me on my very first visit to Argentina. I extend the warm and personal greetings of your friend of many years, the President of the United States of America, President Donald Trump.
I spoke with the President this morning, and he wanted me to convey his gratitude to you, not only for your hospitality, but for the growing partnership and strong relationship that is now enjoyed under his leadership with the United States and your leadership here in Argentina.
It was my honor, along with the President, to welcome you to the White House just a few short months ago, and now it's my honor to be welcomed by you to Argentina and to your beautiful capital city of Buenos Aires, where my wife and I did enjoy a date last night. (Laughter.)
I’m here today to reaffirm the enduring bond between the United States and Argentina. And I’m here to commend you, President Macri, for your bold reform agenda, an agenda that's transforming Argentina’s economy at home and restoring its reputation around the world. Argentina, in many ways, is an inspiration across this hemisphere and across the wider world. And I'm here to tell you, on behalf of President Trump, the United States is with you.
Under President Trump, the United States will always put the security and prosperity of America first. But as I hope my presence here demonstrates, America first does not mean America alone.
The United States and Argentina are woven together by geography and history, and a tapestry of liberty. It was nearly 250 years ago that the founders of the United States of America proclaimed our independence. It was only 40 years later -- almost to the day -- that the forebears of Argentina followed their own path to freedom.
Where the United States has George Washington, Argentina has San Martín, whose mausoleum I had the privilege to visit earlier today. Where the United States has our Declaration of Independence, Argentina has the Acta de Independencia. The United States is proud to stand with Argentina to this day in defense of freedom, democracy, and the rule of law.
President Macri, under your leadership, Argentina has reemerged as a strong advocate for these values and as a symbol of the productive and positive future that Latin America is building for itself. Today, Argentina has embarked on a great economic and political revival. And as our President said to you in his meeting at the White House, we applaud your political and economic reforms.
Over the past 18 months, President Macri has taken important steps to break down barriers to growth, eased currency controls, reentered global capital markets, cut import and export tariffs, modernized labor rules, and invested in much-needed infrastructure.
As we share your view that membership in the Organization of Economic Cooperation and Development will help consolidate these reforms in Argentina, on behalf of the President, let me reiterate again that the United States of America strongly supports Argentina’s bid to join the OECD.
Under your leadership, Mr. President, Argentina holds the promise of a stronger commercial partnership with the United States. Today, President Macri and I spoke about increasing our two-way trade for the benefit of both our countries. Our trade currently totals more than $24 billion, and our investment stands at more than $13 billion. This is a solid foundation for shared prosperity, as we look forward to building on it to our mutual benefit.
Furthermore, as President Trump has said, we welcome Argentina’s growing leadership role on the world stage. Last year -- or, excuse me, later this year, as we discussed, Argentina will host the World Trade Organization's Ministerial Conference, and next year, of course, you'll assume the G-20 presidency.
Argentina’s global leadership is good for our hemisphere. And, President Macri, let me thank you again for your actions, which are renewing Argentina’s leadership and prosperity.
But as we know and as we discussed, security is the foundation of our prosperity, and today, our nations face many threats to our security, most especially the threat of global terrorism.
Argentina, of course, is no stranger to this enemy. This year marks the 25th anniversary of the Israeli Embassy bombing, which was followed two years later by the AMIA bombing -- the deadliest terrorist attack in the history of Argentina.
These two attacks claimed the lives of 114 innocent citizens. Earlier today, it was my great privilege to visit the memorial for these victims at the Metropolitan Cathedral, to breathe a word of prayer and respect for the loss.
A quarter-century later, terrorism still threatens our nations, our people, and our very way of life. And President Macri, I can assure you: The United States will continue to stand with Argentina to confront this enemy and ensure our mutual security.
As a result of your visit to Washington, D.C., the United States will continue to strengthen our partnership to combat terrorist financing, as well as money laundering, and other illicit financial activities by transnational criminal organizations. And we are grateful for the full partnership in this cause.
The newly established Argentina-United States Dialogue on Illicit Financing, and our new bilateral Cyber Policy Working Group are protecting the security and economic interests of both our countries. And President Trump and I appreciate Argentina’s partnership in this critical area, in this challenging time.
Argentina is boldly leading Latin America toward a brighter future, but your progress, and the progress of the wider region, sadly stands in stark contrast to the collapse that we see in Venezuela.
In Venezuela, we are seeing the tragedy of tyranny play out before our eyes, in our own hemisphere. As President Trump has said, in his words, “The [Venezuelan] people are suffering and they are dying.” And they're experiencing grinding poverty; families cannot find the food and medicine they need to survive; innocent children are perishing from hunger every single day.
Today, the once-free people of Venezuela are being forced to endure this fate by the brutality of the Maduro regime. The Maduro regime has ignored and undermined the National Assembly; stifled the voices of the free media and the people alike; and has imprisoned countless political opponents. And, most heartbreakingly, more than 130 brave Venezuelans have died in the desperate fight to restore democracy.
Venezuela is sliding into dictatorship. And as President Donald Trump has said, and I quote, “The United States will not stand by as Venezuela crumbles.” President Trump has said that a stable and peaceful Venezuela is in the best interest of our entire hemisphere. And you can be assured, Mr. President: We will continue to stand with free nations across this hemisphere until democracy is restored for the Venezuelan people.
As I told you today, President Trump and I are especially grateful for Argentina’s regional leadership in this cause. We applaud the measures you’ve taken to track down corrupt Venezuelan officials. We are grateful that Argentina voted with Brazil, Paraguay, and Uruguay to suspend Venezuela from Mercosur until democracy is restored.
And we thank Argentina for joining 11 other countries to sign the Lima Declaration just last week -- sending a powerful message that the free peoples of the Americas will stand with the Venezuelan people and stand up to their oppressors.
But President Trump said, and we call on Latin America to do more. And know this: The United States will continue to bring the full measure of American economic and diplomatic power to bear until democracy is restored in Venezuela.
As the President mentioned a few days ago, the United States has, in his words, "many options for Venezuela.” But the President and I remain confident that, working with all our allies across Latin America, we will achieve a peaceable solution to the crisis facing the Venezuelan people.
And know this, Mr. President: What we do for Venezuela, we will do together. We all live in the same neighborhood. We succeed when our neighbors succeed. We struggle when our neighbors struggle. And so we will continue to act, together, to support the people of Venezuela in their fight for freedom.
Mr. President, President Trump and I believe that Argentina will continue to be an exemplar of a better path in Latin America, under your leadership -- the path toward prosperity, security, and freedom. The United States is proud to partner with Argentina as you continue your march toward progress.
And with the leadership of President Trump and the United States, and your leadership, President Macri, and with faith in the good people of both of our countries, we're confident that the best days for the United States and for Argentina are yet to come.
President Macri, thank you again for your hospitality. It's a great, great honor to be with you today.
MODERATOR: (As interpreted.) We will next begin the actual press conference offered by the President of Argentina, Mr. Macri, and the Vice President of the United States, Mr. Pence.
Martin Dinatale from Infobae takes the floor.
Q (As interpreted.) Good morning. We would first like to ask President Mauricio Macri, what position did you convey for Argentina regarding President Trump's position a few days ago on his statement regarding a possible military intervention in Venezuela? Do you agree with that position? Have you discussed the possibility of other either economic or political sanctions that could be implemented? And this position stated by President Trump, couldn’t it somehow conspire against the peaceful, pro-peace position of Latin America thus far?
And we would also like to ask Vice President Pence specifically whether there has been any progress in terms of agreements on cybersecurity, which you referred to, and what sort of progress has there been. And what kind of advances could you mention in the fight against terrorism, considering, as you yourself stated, that Argentina has been targeted by terrorism? And, accordingly, whether there's any cooperation being provided by the United States with regard to the death of prosecutor Nisman. Thank you very much.
PRESIDENT MACRI: (As interpreted.) The statement that the Vice President has just made clearly shows the level of agreement between us on how to tackle the issue of Venezuela. We must refine diplomatic and economic skills in order to ensure that a democracy is restored as swiftly as possible; that Venezuela, again, has an election schedule; that there are no normal political detainees; and that the powers are again independent in a framework of democracy.
That's the contents of our Mercosur communiqué, and we think that is a way to go. The way to go is not the use of force, but to deepen the political demand, taking into account the economic dimension, as well, to see how we can help ensure that democracy is restored in Venezuela.
VICE PRESIDENT PENCE: Well, thank you for the question. Specifically on the issue of counterterrorism, the President and I spoke at some length about enhanced cooperation and intelligence-sharing that's been taking place since President Macri's meeting with President Trump at the White House earlier this year. We pledged our mutual support to continue to work in a collaborative way, and we are grateful for President Macri and his government's full cooperation.
To see the tragedy that took place a quarter-century ago here in Argentina, to think of 9/11 in the United States, to see the unfolding asymmetrical threat that global terrorism presents, we greatly welcome and appreciate the expanded cooperation that President Macri and President Trump initiated in their meeting in Washington, D.C. And we'll continue to work in those ways to see to the security of the people of both of our countries.
With regard to Venezuela, we spoke about that issue as well. And as I just stated, President Trump sent me here to make it clear, in Argentina and across Latin America, that the United States will not stand by while Venezuela crumbles. And the President had made it clear, as well, that the United States has many options, and we reserve those options.
But we truly believe that by increasing economic and diplomatic pressure on the Maduro regime -- not just across the Americas, but across the wider world -- that we can achieve a restoration of democracy in Venezuela by peaceable means. And we'll continue to work very closely.
I'm grateful to President Macri for his leadership over the last year and a half, speaking out boldly on the slide into dictatorship in Venezuela. We'll continue to work with countries all across the region to achieve that objective.
But President Trump is determined to bring the full weight of American economic and diplomatic power to bear until we see the suffering relieved in Venezuela, and democracy restored.
MODERATOR: Our next question is from Shannon Pettypiece of Bloomberg News.
Q President Macri, given your desire for a diplomatic solution to the situation in Venezuela, if the United States was to move forward on a military option, given all options are on the table, how would you respond? And do you feel that that type of language is helpful?
And then, for Vice President Pence, as you travel around the world trying to present this strong, unified message, back in Washington there continues to be this infighting in the West Wing, in particular these attacks on the National Security Advisor. Does that hurt your efforts abroad? And do you think there are additional changes needed in West Wing staff to eliminate or tamp down some of that very public infighting?
PRESIDENT MACRI: (As interpreted.) Again, within Mercosur, we do not see force as an option to resolve the conflict in Venezuela. And we are very pleased to see unanimity across the continent. And with the leadership of the United States, in order for democracy to be restored in Venezuela, we need to carry on working in all fields of diplomacy to ensure that this is achieved -- because, every day, Venezuelans lose the lives while defending their rights to freedom. And we can't continue to tolerate that.
VICE PRESIDENCE PENCE: Well, thank you for the question. Our administration, not some seven months old, has seen America restore more than a million jobs at home. But also, what the world has seen, under President Donald Trump, is an American President who is once again embracing our historic role as leader of the free world without apology.
I think you can see the results of the President's strong leadership in the unanimous vote in the United Nations Security Council on additional sanctions in North Korea. I think you can see the result of the President's strong leadership in the 12-0 vote last week, embracing the Lima Declaration, further isolating Venezuela as its nation collapses into dictatorship.
In a very real sense, I believe that President Trump has restored the credibility of American power by being willing to take American values and American interests onto the world stage. And while we're putting America first, as I said earlier, I think the world is also getting the message that America first does not mean America alone.
And my presence here, and in this swing across Latin America, as when the President himself has traveled around the world, is to bring together nations around the world, to work toward our common interests and to achieve results. And I believe the results speak for themselves.
So it's my great honor to represent the President this week in Latin America. And we're encouraged by the level of agreement among Latin American countries, and countries across the wider world, for what needs to be done with regard to isolating North Korea economically and diplomatically, to achieve the objective in North Korea of a nuclear-free Korean Peninsula. And I know that President Trump is encouraged by the level of support and the response to American leadership -- bringing a focus on the tragedy in Venezuela. We were just there yesterday.
President Macri told me there are some 60,000 Venezuelan refugees here in Argentina. There are more than half-a-million, by some reports, in Colombia, where we were yesterday.
I met with families who were fleeing the deprivation and persecution of the Maduro regime, and to hear from a grandmother who told me that she went and collected her five grandchildren because poverty had become so severe in their hometown. The children had to rise at four in the morning in Venezuela to get a ticket and then wait all day to use that ticket to buy one piece of bread. It’s extraordinary to think. Venezuela has the potential to be one of the wealthiest nations in our hemisphere with its oil reserves alone. And yet the poverty and deprivation that is resulting from their collapse into dictatorship speaks for itself.
And President Trump is going to continue to provide that strong unambiguous leadership on the world stage, and I think we’re going to continue to see the progress that we’ve seen in Asia and as well as in our own hemisphere.
MODERATOR: (As interpreted.) Next, Martin Ceval (ph) from El Cronista.
Q (As interpreted.) Good morning. Mr. Vice President Pence, me and my colleagues would like to ask the following: Since the beginning of the Trump administration, negotiations between Mercosur and the EU have sped up for a trade agreement. Does the United States feel any threat to its predominant position on that front? And do you intend to state any particular position during the upcoming WTO meeting? And we’d also like to know whether the White House intends to again get Argentina within the General System of Preferences and what the position of Argentina will be within the market.
And for President Macri: Since the government has repeatedly spoken in favor of the multilateral trade system, does the bilateral position shown by the United States perhaps conspire against the goals of the December summit?
VICE PRESIDENT PENCE: Well, thank you for the question. President Macri and I spoke at some length about expanded trade opportunities between the United States and Argentina. And we think they are significant, particularly in the area of agriculture.
I come from an agricultural state in the United States. I was governor of the state of Indiana before I became Vice President. And I know the quality of American pork, and I know that President Trump and President Macri have spoken, as well as officials -- even in the last week -- about expanding access of American pork to the market here in Argentina. And we’ve made great progress. We’re going to continue to work toward making that progress. We also discussed the interest in exporting and importing beef on both sides. And, of course, lemon exports from Argentina were a topic.
So we had a very extensive conversation on commodity-specific areas, and those will continue. And our hope is that, with the energy that our administration and that President Macri’s administration are placing behind this, we may have a breakthrough soon that will expand the economic relationship between Argentina and the United States, particularly on agricultural goods.
That being said, I’ll speak later today at the stock exchange about the extraordinary economic relationship between the United States of America. We are greatly encouraged by the economic reforms that President Macri is advancing here. We believe that those reforms will further enhanced and strengthened in Argentina with membership in the OECD. And President Trump has weighed in strongly in favor of Argentina’s membership in the OECD.
But I can assure you that a strong relationship -- economic relationship between the United States and Argentina, I think, can grow even stronger, still, to the benefit not only of your economy, but of ours. We believe that Argentina’s turn towards free-market principles, reentering global capital markets, bringing about the kind of reforms that President Macri is advancing will support jobs and opportunities in the United States, and it will invite more foreign direct investment from our country here. And we look forward to building that relationship.
PRESIDENT MACRI: (As interpreted.) I agree with the Vice President. We have so many opportunities to enhance relations between the United States and Argentina. We think that will bring prosperity, jobs, and development for our own country, and we hope that in December, at the WTO meeting, we’ll find areas in which to deepen the potential, aside from the fact that the United States may not see multilateral relations as attractive as bilateral relations at this stage.
But we hope to achieve a balance at the meeting -- because, clearly, our possibilities -- the possibilities in relation to the growth of our relationship are vast. We can create a lot of jobs through increased trade with the United States and through U.S. companies, which have always led investment in Argentina over the past century. We hope that they will continue to invest further in Argentina.
MODERATOR: Our next question -- David Rennie of The Economist.
Q A question for President Macri. You’re probably the leader in Latin America that’s closest to President Trump. You have an agenda that’s very much aligned with free markets. You’re proud of your meeting coming up hosting the WTO. Does it make your life harder when you’re trying to speak to the anti-American forces that do exist in this continent when President Trump says things like the WTO is another one of our disasters, when he withdraws from TPP, when he has very harsh language about NAFTA that sounds protectionist, or when he says that a military option could be on the table for Venezuela? Does that make life harder for a pro-American leader like yourself in a continent like Latin America?
And a similar question, Vice President. You’re now going on this continent as an envoy of President Trump. You’ve been explaining how America First does not mean America alone. But when the President steps on his own message with things like the military options or when he gives people the impression he might be about to attack North Korea, does that mean that you have work to do? And have leaders told you that they’re worried that America First looks and sounds like the ugly American of the past?
PRESIDENT MACRI: (As interpreted.) I've had the honor and responsibility of leading the Argentine Republic for 19 months now. Right from the outset, I told the Argentine people that if we were isolated from the world the way we were for seven decades -- we didn’t do very well, we did quite badly. One-third of Argentines are in poverty. And I propose intelligent mutual benefit relations with all countries all around the world, especially the countries that respect our own country; the countries that respect our own identity.
And right from the start with the visit of President Obama, and then with the new administration that welcomed me in Washington -- and we were very warmly received not just by the President, but by the U.S. Congress, and the American community at-large, which showed a degree of interest and affection for our country that really touched us all -- let me say that we were truly moved.
So I would much rather focus on the fact that President Trump has reiterated his deep affection for Argentina, his great respect; the fact that he believes in our country. He sees our country as one with vast potential, and the United States wants to be part of that process of development and growth.
So we’re at a very good stage. We are seeking commonalities. Trade will increase, as well as investment flows. We shall continue to work together in the fight against corruption, against drug trafficking, against organized crime generally, which afflicts us so much in our everyday lives.
So I think we have a very positive era ahead of us for both countries.
VICE PRESIDENT PENCE: Well, thank you for that, Mr. President. I couldn’t agree more.
We do have before us a very opportune era, not only between our two countries, but across this hemisphere. And I believe it is a result of the strong leadership that President Donald Trump has brought back to the world stage as President of the United States of America.
I’ve had the great privilege to represent the President in Europe now twice, in South Asia, and now here in Latin America. And what I hear again and again from leaders around the world is that they welcome -- they welcome American strength back on the world stage. In President Donald Trump, President Macri has known for a very long time we have an American President who says what he means, and means what he says.
The American people appreciate his strength, but I am convinced, from not only public events but private conversations with leaders around the world, free nations around the world welcome the President’s leadership as well. In a very real sense, President Donald Trump has restored the credibility of American power and has demonstrated that America is once again willing to step onto the world stage, put our interests first -- as every President of every nation should put their people first -- but then bring together nations of common interests -- free nations around the world -- to pursue our common objectives.
President Trump, in a very real sense, I believe has brought the kind of broad-shouldered leadership to the world stage that has been lacking for too long, and the world welcomes it. And it’s my great honor to be able to represent him around the world.
And the progress that we are seeing, the strengthening of our relationships and alliances, and, frankly, the result of the strengthening of an American economy -- more confidence among our businesses than it's been for some 20 years; one million new jobs created in the first seven months of this administration; and a world community once again understanding that America is embracing our role and our responsibility as leader of the free world -- I think is all evidence of what strong and resolute American leadership means. And that’s the kind of leadership that President Donald Trump will continue to provide.
PRESIDENT MACRI: (As interpreted.) Thank you very much.