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Brian A. Nichols, Assistant Secretary of State for Western Hemisphere Affairs
Bureau of Western Hemisphere Affairs
October 26, 2022
MR PATEL: Hey everybody, good afternoon, and thanks so much for joining us today for this press call on Secretary Blinken’s travel to Canada, specifically Ottawa and Montreal. This call is on the record but embargoed until the call’s conclusion.
Joining us today we have Assistant Secretary for Western Hemisphere Affairs Brian Nichols. We will have some time for some questions at the tail end. But with that, I will turn it over to the assistant secretary.
ASSISTANT SECRETARY NICHOLS: Thank you all for joining us today for this preview of Secretary Blinken’s travel to Canada on October 27th and 28th. The Secretary will travel to Ottawa and Montreal, where he plans to meet with some of our closest partners to discuss a full range of pressing regional and global challenges, and to reinforce our closed and enduring partnership.
On October 27th, Secretary Blinken will meet with Prime Minister Trudeau and Foreign Minister Mélanie Joly in Ottawa. His meeting will focus on addressing global issues, including Ukraine, the Indo-Pacific, and Haiti, as well as the Arctic region. The Secretary will also showcase our commitment to continental defense and security, and cooperation on migration in the Americas and around the world. He will visit a community center that provides assistance to Ukrainian refugees, along with Deputy Prime Minister Freeland and Foreign Minister Joly.
In Montreal, Secretary Blinken will join Foreign Minister Joly for discussions with a diverse set of local communities to hear their views on today’s challenges. He will focus on promoting North American competitiveness by deepening economic and supply chain cooperation, and he will visit a lithium recycling facility in Quebec.
Let me speak briefly about the purpose of Secretary Blinken’s trip. As President Biden said earlier this year, the United States has no closer friend than Canada. The United States and Canada have been friends, partners, and allies for over 150 years, working together to advance shared priorities. All levels of this administration – at all levels of this administration, our relationship with Canada is closer than ever. Guided by our shared democratic values of freedom, equality, rule of law, and respect for human rights, we work side by side to promote the enduring foundation for security and prosperity in our hemisphere and around the world.
This trip will enhance North American economic security and competitiveness as Secretary Blinken and his Canadian counterparts discuss how our countries can work together and with the private sector on the clean energy transition in North America, our work towards further USMCA implementation, and promoting our shared defense under NATO and NORAD. They will also address a set of critical global issues, including ongoing challenges in Ukraine, in Haiti, and with migration throughout the Americas and the world.
We are also prioritizing our response to the pressing challenge of climate change and global health security. We appreciate the opportunity to meet with PM Trudeau and Foreign Minister Joly next week and look forward to working side by side to promote security and prosperity in our hemisphere and around the world.
Thanks very much, and I’m happy to take a few questions.
MR PATEL: Thanks so much, Assistant Secretary. Operator, would you mind repeating instructions on how to ask questions?
OPERATOR: Once again, if you would like to ask a question, press 1 then 0 on your telephone keypad.
MR PATEL: Great. We’ll give a second for the queue to fill up, and then I will call on folks. One moment.
Let’s first go to the line of Simon Lewis with Reuters.
QUESTION: Hi, thanks for doing this. Just one question about the – you mentioned the fact that Haiti is kind of on the agenda during these talks with Canadian counterparts. I wondered, especially given your visit, Assistant Secretary, your visit to Haiti the other week and the calls for a joint security task force, are you hopeful that you could get an agreement for Canada to join such a task force during this trip? Is that sort of the goal of the trip? And also, your – I would be interested to get your broader assessment on the chances of getting such a task force together and when that might happen. Thanks.
ASSISTANT SECRETARY NICHOLS: Thanks very much. Canada and the United States have been leading partners for the Haitian people in providing support across humanitarian, economic, and security areas for many years. The United States and Canada have worked together around donors’ conferences to provide additional assistance to the Haitian people as well as the Haitian National Police over the course of this year. We’ve jointly raised over $240 million in new assistance for Haiti through that process. And Prime Minister Trudeau hosted a high-level meeting on Haiti on the margins of the UN General Assembly in September.
So we have a long history of working together to help the Haitian people, and at this crucial moment with security and health situations in Haiti at a very critical phase, we expect to deepen those conversations. I am very optimistic that the international community and the Security Council will come together around another resolution that would create a multinational force for Haiti. I think the composition of that effort will be something that we discuss, given that Haiti is a priority for both countries.
MR PATEL: Thanks so much. Let’s next go to Alex Panetta with the Canadian Broadcasting Corp.
QUESTION: Yeah, I just wanted to follow up on that last question. I’m just wondering if you have any specific ideas about areas where Canada could be useful on the Haiti issue. I don’t know whether it’s security, humanitarian – just basically elaborating on what role you would suggest Canada could play.
And just a quick thing about the lithium plant. Can I get a sense what it is exactly the – what’s the reason the Secretary’s visiting that plant? Is there anything about supply chains or sourcing from China? I’m just wondering what the objective is and why that plant was chosen as a place to visit. Thank you.
ASSISTANT SECRETARY NICHOLS: So I’ll take the second part first. Touring the Litheon factory is – Litheon is the company – it’s an opportunity to see how lithium batteries can be recycled and used again and put back into the automotive or other energy storage supply chain in a way that will build on our North American automobile supply chain, the North American automobile cooperation between Canada, the United States, and Mexico. That was the first supply chain to be truly integrated, and the fact that we’re moving this into the 21st century with EV production is incredibly important.
But even better is the idea that we will be able to reuse batteries in the future, recycle them, so that a resource that’s very important but not always easy to obtain, lithium, is reused in a productive way. And I think that’s going to create good, high-paying jobs for the people of North America.
Turning to your first question, Canada’s an incredibly capable partner across a whole host of areas. Canada has incredible development skills. It has very capable armed forces, as well as a national police force. Those are important skills in the international community, and more broadly, it is a respected nation and leader on the full range of issues. And while we’re talking about Haiti at this moment, we’re also having conversations about our cooperation to support the Ukrainian people. And I just want to underscore that Canada has been a great leader there as well. We work with Canada on so many issues, and we’ll be talking to them about the full range of global challenges that we face together.
MR PATEL: Thanks so much. Let’s next go to the line of Jackie Charles with Miami Herald.
QUESTION: (Inaudible) for doing this. Just two quick questions. I mean, can you elaborate a little bit more? I mean, because when we talked to the Canadians, they said to me, like, when you look at 75 years of Canada history, you don’t see Canada taking a lead. So what has changed to make you confident that Canada is interested in taking – in taking the lead of the force in Haiti?
And now secondly, in 2015 Samantha Power, the U.S. ambassador to the UN, pushed and succeeded to get MONUSCO out of Haiti, talking about the economic constraints of peacekeeping forces around the globe. But today the U.S. resolution on a force, on a rapid reaction force, is in peril. What does this say about the U.S.’s power at the Security Council or Haiti fatigue?
ASSISTANT SECRETARY NICHOLS: Well, first, I strongly disagree with the idea that a resolution authorizing a multinational force is in peril. I don’t think it’s in peril. I think you saw first last Friday the passage of – unanimously for the first time in five years – a resolution out of the Security Council authorizing new sanctions and – to targeting gang leaders and those who support them. And I think that’s indicative of strong international community support for the people of Haiti and an answer to the call that the secretary-general made. And I’ve talked to dozens of partner nations around the world about the situation in Haiti, and there is strong support for a multinational force. The desire to contribute in whatever ways nations feel that they can be helpful I think is very widespread in our hemisphere and beyond.
The country that will be the lead in that effort has not been determined. I don’t want to give the impression that that is a predetermined decision. But I do believe that there are a number of countries that have the skills to do that, and among those countries is Canada but it’s not the only country that can do that. I think that more broadly we see a recognition that the international community needs to act to help the Haitian people, to respond to the call of the Haitian prime minister and cabinet and the secretary-general to address the security situation, the cholera outbreak, food insecurity, and all the other challenges that the Haitian people face right now.
MR PATEL: Next let’s go to Dylan Robertson with The Canadian Press.
QUESTION: Hi. Thanks for taking our questions. I’m mostly going to lob two of them together. I’m trying to understand the main purpose of the trip just given that Minister Joly was down in Washington less than a month ago. And I’m also wondering if you could clarify the part in your release about advancing cooperation on migration and refugee resettlement, if that’s about the Safe Third Country Agreement or the dispute over NEXUS or something else entirely.
ASSISTANT SECRETARY NICHOLS: So you don’t need an excuse to visit a friend and neighbor, though Secretary Blinken has not been to Canada in his current position, and it’s important – I know he very much wants to visit and that’s why we’re going. The scheduling has taken a little while to work out, but we work with our Canadian partners at the highest levels across our government continually, and it’s important that we visit and engage and see each other in person as well as through the – all the other means of communication that we have on a daily basis.
As President Biden said, we have no closer friend or better ally than Canada, and we want to talk about the broad range of issues. With regard to migration, Canada and the United States are the two largest recipients of refugees around the world, and we are committed to addressing both our hemisphere’s and more broadly the global migration crisis the world faces. There are hundred million migrants on the move globally, and many of them are in our hemisphere. Canada has taken a leadership role in receiving Ukrainian and Syrian and Afghan migrants, as well as migrants from our own hemisphere, as demonstrated in the really robust diaspora communities that are in Canada. And we want to demonstrate to the world that being a recipient of migrants can be a very positive thing for economies, cultures, cooperations, respect for human rights, and the dynamism of our societies, and there’s no better place to show our cooperation in that area than Canada.
MR PATEL: Thanks so much. Next let’s go to Michael Wilner with McClatchy.
QUESTION: Hi, thanks for doing this. I appreciate how you outlined that various countries around the hemisphere want to contribute to this effort in Haiti, but as you mentioned, you said that the country that will lead this effort has not been determined. The United States is not offering to lead it. We understand that the French have ruled it out. We understand that there are various countries that have ruled out sending troops. So how long, given the urgency that’s been expressed by the U.S., the secretary-general, by the Haitians, do you expect this process to take? And why isn’t there a leader identified yet? What is the hesitancy, both on your part as well as your partners?
ASSISTANT SECRETARY NICHOLS: The multinational force, as requested by the Haitian Government and as has – further fleshed out by the secretary‑general, would be largely a police force with a military component. The international community, I think, each country wants to understand what role that they would play. And let me stress that the United States will play an active and robust role, but that role will be focused on our areas of strength. And we look to our partner nations around the hemisphere and around the world to make contributions toward their strengths.
How that that conversation moves forward about who brings what to the table is ongoing and active. I’m very confident that this will move forward in a holistic way to provide a complete solution to this challenge. And as each nation looks at its role, it’s also looking at what are the others bringing to the table. These are active conversations. And I expect that as the discussion of the resolution of the Security Council moves forward in the coming days, the leadership of the force will become clear. And I’m confident that we will have something in – early in November, both a resolution and leadership for the force. So I think things are moving very much on schedule.
MR PATEL: Thanks so much. All right, everybody, thanks so much for joining today’s press briefing. As I said, this call was on the record but embargoed until the call concludes, which will be momentarily. Thank you all for joining us and we will talk to you all again soon.
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