Department Press Briefing Index
Tuesday, October 24, 2017
2:30 p.m. EDT
Briefer: Heather Nauert, Spokesperson
DPB # 59
(On the Record Unless Otherwise Noted)
2:30 p.m. EDT
MS NAUERT: Okay, got a couple top pieces of other news I want to start bringing you right now. Hey, Michele.* How are you? And starting out with something that’s taken place and that is a trade forum right now.
The Central Asia Trade Forum, a USAID-funded project, took place in Kazakhstan on October 18th and 19th. This year’s forum saw a new record for participation with more than 1,000 entrepreneurs, industry leaders, donors, and government officials from 15 countries in South Central Asia, including Afghanistan and other countries as well.
The forum focused on future growth, trade, transport, and horticulture. The forum hosted discussions on trade and economic growth in Central Asia as well as business-to-business networking opportunities, a trade exhibition, national – pardon me – exhibits, and certification standards training for horticulture specialists. Business-to-business networking is just one aspect of this. Preliminary results saw more than $15 million in signed letters of intent to conduct future deals in the region. We’re looking forward to Uzbekistan holding next year’s forum.
In addition to that, I’d like to mention to you our Deputy Secretary John Sullivan was in Mexico yesterday. He traveled to Mexico, and during his trip he delivered remarks to the annual Mexican Business Summit, where he reaffirmed the importance of the U.S.-Mexico bilateral relationship. Deputy Secretary Sullivan also met with Mexican President Enrique Pena Nieto, who delivered a keynote address at the summit. The deputy secretary then hosted a meeting with U.S. and Mexican business leaders who attended the summit. They discussed business opportunities and challenges for both countries.
Throughout the events, Deputy Secretary Sullivan reaffirmed the strong collaborative bilateral relationship with Mexico, a relationship that goes beyond economic ties and contributes to the security and prosperity of the American people.
Today, the deputy secretary met with the Mexican Foreign Secretary Luis Videgaray, in Mexico City to discuss our continuing joint efforts to dismantle transnational criminal organizations. Additionally, the two leaders noted their mutual concern about Venezuela’s retreat from democratic principles. The deputy secretary and Secretary Videgaray also reviewed other issues, including migration from Central America. Deputy Secretary Sullivan also met with American and local staff at our U.S. Embassy in Mexico City, where he had the chance to learn firsthand about the good work that our folks are doing down in Mexico. If I get any further – anything further on the deputy secretary’s trip, I will certainly bring that to you.
In addition to that, I know we have a few – fewer bodies in this room today this week because a lot of folks are traveling with Secretary Tillerson, but also with Ambassador Haley. So I’d like to give you a brief update on some of her travel and some of his travel as well.
Ambassador Haley is visiting Ethiopia, South Sudan, and the Democratic Republic of Congo this week. She’s currently in Ethiopia, where she held meetings with the prime minister and also African Union commissioner for political affairs. USUN has provided some readouts of those meetings, so I’d refer you to USUN for those specific readouts.
Today, Ambassador Haley visited Nguenyyiel – that’s a refugee camp in Gambela. It hosts thousands of refugees who fled the violence in South Sudan. Ambassador Haley is investigating the critical role that the UN and the United States play in humanitarian assistance, facilitating a political process and promoting peace in those countries. She’s looking at ways to make the UN operations, especially peacekeeping missions, for which the United States is by far the largest donor, and they’re looking for things – to do things more efficiently.
Ambassador Haley will deliver a strong message that the governments of South Sudan and the Democratic Republic of Congo – that we need to make progress towards sustained political solutions as soon as possible, and that their governments need to stop making the work of aid workers and peacekeepers more difficult. She’ll also hear directly from refugees and internally displaced people, as she did today in Gambela. They’ve fled the violence, especially the children, who have been affected in so many ways by that.
Finally, the President has announced his travel to Asia. That is upcoming, so I’d like to provide a few details for you on that. The President, as announced by the White House, will make his first official visit to Asia from November 3rd to November 14th, with stops in Japan, the Republic of Korea, China, Vietnam, and also the Philippines. The President’s travel will underscore his commitment to longstanding United States alliances and partnership, call on the international community to join together in maximizing pressure on North Korea, and reaffirm the United States leadership in promoting a free and open Indo-Pacific region. The trip will be the President’s longest trip to date, underscoring the importance he places on the Indo-Pacific region, and demonstrating the importance of robust international engagement in defense of U.S. national security and economic prosperity for the American people.
And finally, a little bit about Secretary Tillerson’s travel. As many of you know, he departed the United States late last week for Riyadh, Saudi Arabia. He took part in discussions in Riyadh, in Doha. He made a trip to Afghanistan; also going to Iraq; Pakistan as well; New Delhi, India, where he is right now, and then he will head on to Geneva. And I believe he returns on Friday.*
QUESTION: Senator Corker said this morning that the President should leave foreign policy – in particular, he referenced Secretary Tillerson’s efforts to talk to North Korea, and he said the President should leave foreign policy to the professionals. And so at the State Department, what is your reaction to his comments? And also, can we expect to see North Korea back on —
MS NAUERT: Let me get to your first one first. The President is the Commander-in-Chief of all the United States. The President sets the standard. The President and his administration will give us our marching orders, if you will. The Secretary and the State Department do all of this – our actions, our diplomacy – on behalf of the administration, on behalf of the President, on behalf of the American people and the White House as well. So that is where things stand. Our diplomacy effort, our peaceful pressure campaign certainly continues. The United – United Nations just announced some devices and things that could no longer be sent to and from North Korea. We were pleased to see that action take place. We continue to pursue our peaceful pressure campaign. The Secretary, I know, looks very much forward to traveling with the President on the President’s Asia trip and helping the administration any way he can.
QUESTION: I wanted to follow up on a bill passed earlier this year by Congress which required the identification of intelligence and military sectors within Russia to be sanctioned, and the deadline was October 1st. I believe senators are calling for the sanctions to be made and the authority was designated to the State Department.
MS NAUERT: Yeah. So we’ve certainly heard that some members of Congress are concerned about the timeline of this. I know this was something that was discussed on Capitol Hill and this is something that the Secretary discussed recently in some of his media interviews. The sanctions bill includes a requirement that the State Department identify individuals linked to Russian defense and also intelligence operations that could be subject to new penalties, so we are working to try to complete that process. I believe the original deadline that we were given was about a two-month process. My understanding – and I’m not working on this myself – but from our people who are working on it, they tell me that it’s pretty complicated, that it can take some time, that they’re working to complete the process and provide the public guidance to – certainly to the relevant people just as soon as possible. I know that Congress is concerned about it. The Secretary addressed this about a week or so ago, and he said we’re being “careful to develop the guidance that companies need, because there are business entities that need guidance” and “there are important allies and partners in NATO, other parts of the world, who need specific guidance so that they do not run afoul of the sanctions act as well.” So as soon as we get that all put together, we’ll certainly let you know.
QUESTION: Can you comment on the tit-for-tat between you and the Russians as far as the press is concerned? You are de-credentialing, let’s say, Russia Today and Sputnik —
MS NAUERT: That we are doing what?
QUESTION: I mean – you are taking – you wanted them to register as foreign agents, Russia Today and Sputnik and so on, and in turn they want to do the same thing to Radio Liberty and Voice of America and other places. So do you have comment on that?
MS NAUERT: Yeah. So first, I can tell you a little bit about the – there are a couple things. There’s the Russia’s foreign agent law, and that is very different from what we have here. Russia’s foreign agent law has been interpreted to apply to organizations that receive even minimal funding from any foreign sources, government or private, and engage in political activity, defined so broadly as it covers nearly all civic advocacy.
Now, in the United States, FARA, as we call it, that is a registration that is simply triggered when an entity or an individual engages in political activity. When the United States tells someone to register under a foreign agent requirement, we don’t impact or affect the ability of them to report news and information. We just have them register. It’s as simple as that. Russia handles things very differently. But all they have to do is register, and it’s a pretty simple process, okay?