FOREIGN MINISTER PATRIOTA: (Via interpreter) I was mentioning that he has a good knowledge of Portuguese in function of Mrs. Teresa Kerry. She's also Portuguese.
But I would like to say that we had a meeting, a working meeting, this morning in this, which is the first visit of Secretary of State John Kerry to Brazil, to South America actually. He had a stopover at Bogota, which we consider to be very positive. It is our second meeting. I have kept a meeting with the Secretary of State in DC the past 20th of May. And moreover, the -- aside from the meeting we had, we will receive him now for lunch in a short while, in which we will have also representatives from the legislative, the presidents of the foreign relation committees, as Senator Kerry has been, himself part of, also journalists, representatives from the civil society, and as all of you know, Secretary of State will be received by President Rousseff later this afternoon at the Planalto Palace.
Secretary of State John Kerry requires no presentation. He's a known character to Brazil, a former candidate to the U.S. presidency, a senator of -- from 1985-2013, president of the Foreign Relations Committee of the Senate between 2009-2013. And when he came to be the Secretary of State in the second term of President Obama, he is bringing with himself a commitment but several causes, which are extremely valued throughout Brazil: a commitment to sustainable development, all the agenda related to climate change, also a decisive support to the retaking of peace efforts in the Middle East, and we would like to congratulate the Secretary of State for his own efforts, which shall take us to a process within nine months' time to be producing results.
In the last meeting this morning, we examined items in the bilateral agenda, which present, as all of you know, a robust trade and investment agenda. The U.S. are still the country with the largest stocks of investment in Brazil, the second largest partner of Brazil now with a growing deficit on the Brazilian side. We've also talked about that for over 30 bilateral mechanisms involving areas which go from energy to racial equality, gender equality, contact with the private sector, the universities, the civil society. Today, the United States is the largest destination of Brazilians within the Science Without Borders program. It's 5,800 students. That is increasing every day.
Anyway, the potential of the relationship is even greater, especially now in a moment in many observers are referring to the relationship between Brazil and the U.S. as a relationship which is growing more and more. It's getting more mature. But this maturity includes encompassing more relevant themes, especially in a moment we are about to redefine our contacts with a strategic partnership. President Obama in his letter to invite President Rousseff to visit, which will take place in October this year, referring to a strategic partnership with Brazil, President Rousseff responded with the same terminology.
At the same time, I should not forget to mention that we're now facing a new type of challenge in our bilateral relationship. It is a challenge which has to do with wiretapping, telephone calls. And in case these challenges are not solved in a satisfactory way, we run the risk of casting a shadow of distrust on our work. We have established technical communication means, political channels are open as well. We have clarified everything that was requested. But these are not an end in themselves, so this doesn't meet -- accept the status quo. We need to discontinue practices which are an attempt to sovereignty in the relationship between the states and which can violate the individual freedoms that both of our countries are very much fond of.
Let me make it very clear that there is a broad space for us to advance. We have recently received the Secretary of Agriculture. We will receive the Secretary of Energy in a few days' time. The mechanism with economic and commercial cooperation TECA is going to be meeting in September at the level of vice ministers. In September as well, we will have the third conference for innovation, Brazil and U.S., the working group for the scientific and technological committee. On the same theme and at the same time, we should not minimize the relevance acquired so far regarding espionage.
Within a few moments, we'll keep on talking to Secretary Kerry in an environment which I believe is a symbol to our commitment with democracy, freedom, a good government, freedom of the press, opening with the civil society. And so this will be an occasion for us to hear a bit more of the last developments in this retaking of the peacemaking process between Israelis and Palestinians. Also, we had an opportunity to talk about Syria and other situations on my part.
As well, I shall be ready with a dispositioned and even interested of making an updated snapshot of a region, which as I have mentioned to Secretary Kerry today, I think we're distinguished for being a space of democracy, economic growth, social justice with enough conditions which are unprecedented worldwide.
Thank you very much. Mr. Kerry.
SECRETARY KERRY: Well, bom dia. I'm happy to be here with everybody. Thank you very much. Thank you, Foreign Minister Patriota for hosting me here today. I'm very happy to be back in Brazil. I have great memories of my first trip here in 1992 to the Earth Summit in Rio, and I'm happy to be back here now and very grateful for the opportunity to continue the good dialogue that Antonio and I have had since the day we first talked on the telephone when I was appointed to this job.
Even when I came to Brazil back in 1992 for the Earth Summit, I could sense this incredible energy in Brazil, and I could feel firsthand the amazing commitment of Brazil to try to grab the future and particularly back then to address the issue, which was then even urgent, of climate change. I'm pleased to see that over the years Brazil's commitment to environmental stewardship has continued right up until this day, and there have been very important efforts on the reduction of deforestation problems, alternative renewable energy problems, biofuels, other kinds of initiatives, but also very important, last year's hosting of Rio+20.
And for those of us who have been involved in the challenge of climate change for all of that time, I think it was a bittersweet moment to measure 20 years, when the hopes of 20 years before we had to acknowledge had not yet been realized. So the challenge is ahead of us, for all of us, and I know that the United States has a great commitment under President Obama to take our own initiatives, not even to wait for congressional action, but to move administratively in order to do our part. I know we can continue to work with Brazil on this issue of climate, and we look forward to doing so.
Our mission is very, very clear. We need to inspire meaningful reform and action within the Major Economies Forum. We need to lead the effort to phase down hydrofluorocarbons in the Montreal Protocol. And together, Brazil and the United States need to join with other countries in an effort to negotiate a climate agreement in 2015 that is ambitious and flexible and that works for all of us.
Now, obviously we have also had some moments of disagreement, and I'm sure I'll have an occasion in the questions to be able to address some of that with you. But the United States and Brazil -- I want to emphasize, rather than focus on an area of disagreement -- the United States and Brazil share a remarkable and dynamic partnership. Every single day we work together to advance economic opportunity, human rights, environment protection, regional peace and security, democracy, as well as major global challenges in the Middle East and elsewhere -- Syria for instance and the question of the humanitarian challenge in Syria.
The United States respects and appreciates that Brazil is one of the world's largest free market democracies, and our partnership is only made stronger as all of the world continues to grow. The United States recognizes and welcomes and greatly appreciates the vital leadership role, the increasing leadership role, that Brazil plays on the international stage -- excuse me -- and that ranges from its participation in global peace initiatives to its stability operations and promotion of human rights and its efforts to try to help either promote the peace or keep the peace in certain parts of the world.
Through the Global Peace Operations Initiative, we are working with Brazil and the United Nations to build the capacity of countries to be able to contribute themselves to peacekeeping operations. Brazil has provided more than 1,400 uniformed personnel to the stabilization mission in Haiti. We're very grateful for that. And we're also exploring opportunities for closer collaboration on peacekeeping in Africa.
It's fair to say that protecting universal rights is at the very heart of the shared values between Brazil and the United States. And together, we remain committed to advancing those rights and to advancing the cause of equality for all people.
The United States also supports a very vibrant and active Organization of American States, and the OAS Charter reminds us of our responsibilities to offer our citizens liberty and to create the conditions in which all people can reach their aspirations, can live their aspirations. We believe that it is important that Brazil engage fully with the OAS and use its strong voice for a hemispheric vision of democracy and fundamental freedoms.
Now, our relationship is not only rooted in shared values, it is literally strengthened every single day by our citizens. Each year thousands of people travel between the United States and Brazil, forging new ties between our countries. Student exchanges under President Rousseff's Scientific Mobility Program, which I had the privilege of visiting this morning and sensing firsthand the amazing energy and excitement and commitment of these young people, that's something we share in common. And together with President Rousseff's program and President Obama's 100,000 Strong in the Americas Initiative, we are encouraging together approaches to address the shared concerns of our young people to include social inclusion and to work towards things like environmental sustainability.
Our exchange programs also ensure that today's generation is going to be ready to respond to the enormous challenges of tomorrow and of the future. The vibrant and the growing connection between the United States and Brazil, between our governments and our citizens, is absolutely one of the defining partnerships of the 21st century. I said to Antonio, and I believe this and I know President Obama believes this and he communicated this when he came here recently, the future belongs to young people. Our job is to lay the groundwork for them, is to provide the opportunity for them to make the most of education and of the technologies and jobs that will define the future.
So I look forward, as President Obama does, not only to growing this partnership but to finding ways to work on our common values, our common interests, and our common hopes for our peoples. And we very much look forward to welcoming President Rousseff to Washington, DC, for her meeting and a state visit with President Obama and our country in October. And with that, I'd be happy to answer any questions.
QUESTION: (Via interpreter) Secretary Kerry, we wanted -- if you could, we wanted you to speak briefly about this issue of espionage and if by any chance Brazil -- the United States will stop spying on the rest, and what guarantees the U.S. Government can give if the answer is no that you're not going to stop spying, please what will you do? Do you think you can have deteriorated or hampered this relationship with Brazil?
SECRETARY KERRY: Well, obviously, first of all, I did not think it would be a surprise if I got a question on that subject, so I wanted to have a chance to be able to share some thoughts with you, and now I'm happy to address that and other things.
But very, very important, I ask the people of Brazil -- and I will answer the question very directly. But I ask the people of Brazil to stay focused on the important realities of our relationship, the bilateral relations between our countries which continue to grow stronger and stronger. We share democratic values and we share a commitment to diversity and we share a determination to improve opportunities for our people. And the U.S.-Brazil relationship has the opportunity to provide extraordinary positive global impact if we continue to work together on these kinds of issues, on the environment and science and technology and sustainable energy, nonproliferation, on access to education, on disaster management, and our strong trade ties, our strong investment ties, our energy cooperation, our sustainable development cooperation. All of these things need to remain in the forefront of people's minds as you consider this question of the national security revelations that have upset some people and created questions in others.
Let me be crystal clear: I can't discuss with you operational issues, but I can tell you very definitively the Congress of the United States passed on a law after 9/11 when we were attacked by al-Qaida, and we began a process of trying to understand before they attacked us what these kinds of plots might be. The executive department of our government, after a law was passed by Congress which met our legal standards and passed the muster of law, then implemented the program with the supervision of our judiciary. So all three branches of the American Government have been involved in reviewing this particular program.
Now, we have engaged with the Brazilian Government very, very directly, and I want to express my appreciation to the Foreign Minister and to Brazilian officials who have visited with us in Washington, and we are here now and we will continue to have this dialogue. And we will have this dialogue with a view to making certain that your government is in complete understanding and complete agreement with what it is that we think we must do to provide security not just for Americans but for Brazilians and for people in the world.
Over the last years, regrettably, a number of countries -- a number of groups -- not countries -- a number of groups in the world have individually targeted not just American interests but free interests in the world. There have been bombings in many places in the world. Innocent people have lost their lives. And what the United States has been trying to do is prevent these things from happening beforehand by knowing what others might be plotting.
So I would respectfully say to everybody that the United States, as the President said last Friday, the United States gathers foreign intelligence of the type gathered by all nations in order to protect their citizens, in order to protect our citizens. And our activities are firmly based on law and they are subject to oversight by all of the branches of our government. We are convinced that our intelligence collection has positively helped us to protect our nation from a variety of threats, not only protect our nation but protect other people in the world, including Brazilians.
And so we have engaged now with the Brazilian Government, we will stay very closely engaged with the Brazilian Government, and I can promise you that President Obama is determined that the United States will live up to the highest standards both of cooperation, of transparency, and accountability, in keeping with our ability to be able to protect ourselves and to protect others in the world.
QUESTION: Mr. Secretary, Mr. Foreign Secretary, you have said that all the South American ministers are united in condemning the alleged spying, and Brazil was asked for a formal explanation from the United States on this. What explanation have you received today? And also, you mentioned that if this situation is not resolved in a satisfactory manner that it risks perhaps more distrust in the relationship. So what are you looking for the United States to do?
FOREIGN MINISTER PATRIOTA: (Via interpreter) Well, in a summarized way I believe that you do know of the fact that ever since the first moment when these news came to be, we did get in touch with the U.S. Government by means of Ambassador Thomas Shannon here in Brasilia, and also the Embassy in DC, and we opened dialogue channels, communication channels, both technical and political, And at the same time, there have been individual protests in Brazil and other countries in the region, as you all said, and on July 12th, a meeting by MERCOSUR adopted a decision which did instruct the countries -- Argentina, Brazil, Uruguay, Venezuela, Colombia, Bolivia, who had subscribed -- to start with the UN Secretary General taking this to the Security Council at the UN.
These demonstrations took place. They do reflect a considerable concern, and I think it's legitimate, by the region and the international community in general, what practices which may be an attempt to the sovereignty of the very countries and to the rights of individuals. There have been demonstrations regarding the violation of human rights, especially from the High Commissioner of the UN for Human Rights, Navi Pillay.
And as a matter of fact, this clarification process, as I have mentioned, it's not an end in itself. What we do consider is that the United States will never find a better partner in the fight against international terrorism and several other threats to homeland security as they are taking forth in a transparent way. International partnerships, when they're done fully transparently, they do strengthen the trust. And when there is a lack of knowledge or lack of information on the country they may weaken this trust, so what we want to avoid from happening.
SECRETARY KERRY: Can I just add, if I may, to that? We're not surprised and we're not upset that Brazil would ask questions. Absolutely understandable. And Brazil is owed answers with respect to those questions, and they will get them. And we will work together very positively to make certain that this question, these issues, do not get in the way of all the other things that we talked about. And we will guarantee that Brazil and other countries will understand exactly what we're doing, why and how, and we will work together to make sure that whatever is done in a way that respects our friends and our partners, and that is what we're going to achieve.
QUESTION: (Via interpreter) Flavia (inaudible) Sao Paulo. Let me change the subject here a little. I would like to know if the topic regarding the issue on some visas in -- to Brazilians, did you two talk about it? And is there a deadline for the waiver of the visa, or exception from a visa? And if the visit -- President Rousseff to DC in October can be decided on her trip coming October?
FOREIGN MINISTER PATRIOTA: (Via interpreter) Well, briefly I mentioned that there are several initiatives and also meetings that are programmed for the next few months, which are included within those prospective preparation of the state visit to the U.S.
In one of the works that we're going to be developing will be exactly this issue of exempting the visas to Brazilians. As you all know, there is a proposal which is known as the Global Entry -- in English -- which is being discussed between the two sides, and I understand that the last counterproposal of Brazil of a language to accommodate a few of the issues we have over here is under exam right now. And a declaration can be agreed upon in September, coming September, in which we'll then have a text during her visit. So we do consider that. In this term, progress has been encouraging, satisfactory, and we will have some results soon to come.
Now related to the elimination or the exemption of the visa itself is a more complex issue, which we'll need more time for discussion.
SECRETARY KERRY: Let me just say that we are -- is that on? Yes. We're committed to as vast a visa application processing process as possible. And we're very proud that we have streamlined our operations over the course of the last year. We very much want to see more Brazilians coming to the United States for business, for tourism, for study, visiting friends, relatives, and so forth. So it's very much in our interest to facilitate this.
Last year, we processed about one million visa requests all across Brazil, and we have managed to make the appointment times -- the wait for those visas is down to either five days or under -- less than five days. We have spent millions of dollars to upgrade our facilities in order to try to make this happen more effectively, and we're going to be opening new consulates in Belo Horizonte and Porto Alegre. So we're moving as much as we can to facilitate this.
And finally, we want to continue to consult very closely with Brazil in order to make sure we have legal statutory requirements that have to be met to allow for a reciprocal free visa travel under the visitors program. And we hope to get there. I'm confident we can, but we just need to continue to work together. But I promise you, we welcome as many people to come and visit and be able to move freely back and forth as is possible, and I'm confident we'll get to the day when we have an open visa program.
QUESTION: Mr. Secretary, we understand that earlier today you spoke with Prime Minister Netanyahu, including presumably about the settlements, which by some counts have reached 3,100 new or advancing units appeared in recent days. What can you tell us about that conversation and your message to the Prime Minister? Have you had a similar conversation with President Abbas? Are the Palestinians still on board for the peace talks? And finally, what would you say to those who say that the Israelis are doing this -- they're playing along with their initiative -- but that they're really too divided to make the hard decisions for peace? Thank you.
SECRETARY KERRY: No. Well, I -- thank you. It's a very appropriate question. It's timely, obviously. Yes, I did speak with Prime Minister Netanyahu this morning, and I, first of all, conveyed to him my hopes for his speedy recovery. As you know, he's just had surgery, and he's dealing with these issues in the middle of that, and I can tell you that's obviously not easy.
We had a very frank and open, direct discussion about the question of settlements. Let me make it clear: The policy of the United States of America with respect to all settlements is that they are illegitimate, and we oppose settlements taking place at any time, not just the time of the peace process.
But -- here's the but -- that said, Prime Minister Netanyahu was completely upfront with me and with President Abbas that he would be announcing some additional building that would take place in places that will not affect the peace map, that will not have any impact on the capacity to have a peace agreement. That means that it is building within the so-called blocs in areas that many people make a presumption -- obviously not some Palestinians or others -- will be part of Israel in the future. He has specifically agreed not to disturb what might be the potential for peace going forward.
Now, we still believe it would be better not to be doing it, but there are realities within life in Israel that also have to be taken into account here going forward. President Abbas understood that coming into these talks. That's why these talks are pressed into this time period of nine months. That's why we all understand there is urgency, as I said yesterday, to getting to the discussion of borders and security. If you resolve the borders of Israel -- and you can only do that also resolving the security issues for Israel -- you have resolved any questions about settlements, because then you know what is in Israel and what is not. And so the sooner we get to that discussion the better.
I will be talking to President Abbas today. We have a call scheduled for later. And he is committed to continue to come to this negotiation, because he believes the negotiation is what will ultimately resolve this issue, not a temporary decision or restraint. So we will continue to work this very, very closely with Israelis and we will continue to work it very closely with Palestinians. And our hope is that we get to the real issues on which we ought to be focusing, which are the final status settlement -- the final status issues. And I'm very hopeful we will get there very, very soon.
FOREIGN MINISTER PATRIOTA: (Via interpreter) Just briefly, at the same time that we support the efforts of Secretary Kerry and we are bringing up to the table the Israeli and Palestinian negotiation, we do -- we do -- we are against the Palestinian settlements, which are done against the UN Security Council resolutions, and they do represent a violation of the international law. We do consider that this kind of fact will not contribute for creating a propitious environment for the understandings of the whole international community, and Brazil specifically would love to see coming at the end of this nine month period time upon which negotiators will be working.
Let me also mention that I have encouraged Secretary Kerry to give more relief to the participation of the civil society in Israel and the Palestine along this peacemaking process. I was well impressed when I visited the region last year in October and when I saw that in the -- among the civil society on both ends there are voices that are quite committed to peace and they do convey messages which are a bit different from the ones we're used to seeing. These messages are in repudiation of violence and consumed facts and the establishment of settlements, which are not favorable for the understanding for peace.
SECRETARY KERRY: That's it. Okay.
FOREIGN MINISTER PATRIOTA: (Via interpreter) Thank you.