Tag Archives: ConsumerPolicy

Notice to members – Report on the IMCO delegation visit to the United States on 19 – 21 September 2017 – PE 615.439v03-00 – Committee on the Internal Market and Consumer Protection

Download PDF

Notice to members – Report on the IMCO delegation visit to the United States on 19 – 21 September 2017 – PE 615.439v02-00 – Committee on the Internal Market and Consumer Protection

Download PDF

Minutes – Monday, 20 November 2017 – PE 613.621v01-00 – Committee on the Internal Market and Consumer Protection

Download PDF

Text adopted – Towards a digital trade strategy – P8_TA-PROV(2017)0488 – Tuesday, 12 December 2017 – Strasbourg – Provisional edition

The European Parliament,

–  having regard to Articles 207(3) and 218 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union (TFEU),

–  having regard to the General Agreement on Trade in Services (GATS),

–  having regard to the World Trade Organisation (WTO) Information Technology Agreement (ITA),

–  having regard to the WTO Work Programme on E-commerce,

–  having regard to the Joint Declaration by G7 ICT Ministers at the Meeting in Takamatsu, Kagawa on 29 and 30 April 2016,

–  having regard to the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) Ministerial Declaration on the Digital Economy in Cancun in 2016,

–  having regard to the Dynamic Coalition on Trade at the Internet Governance Forum,

–  having regard to the ongoing EU trade negotiations with third countries,

–  having regard to the agreement in principle announced by the Commission on 6 July 2017 on the EU-Japan Economic Partnership Agreement,

–  having regard to Directive 2000/31/EC of the European Parliament and of the Council of 8 June 2000 on certain legal aspects of information society services, in particular electronic commerce, in the Internal Market (Directive on electronic commerce)(1)
,

–  having regard to Regulation (EU) 2016/679 of the European Parliament and of the Council of 27 April 2016 on the protection of natural persons with regard to the processing of personal data and on the free movement of such data, and repealing Directive 95/46/EC (General Data Protection Regulation)(2)
,

–  having regard to the Commission communication of 14 October 2015 entitled ‘Trade for All: Towards a more responsible trade and investment policy’ (COM(2015)0497),

–  having regard to the Commission communication of 19 April 2016 entitled ‘Digitising European Industry’ (COM(2016)0180),

–  having regard to the Commission communication of 19 April 2016 entitled ‘European Cloud Initiative – Building a competitive data and knowledge economy in Europe’ (COM(2016)0178),

–  having regard to the Commission report of 23 June 2017 on trade and investment barriers (COM(2017)0338),

–  having regard to the Commission communication of 10 January 2017 entitled ‘Building A European Data Economy’ (COM(2017)0009),

–  having regard to the Commission proposal for a regulation of the European Parliament and of the Council concerning the respect for private life and the protection of personal data in electronic communications and repealing Directive 2002/58/EC (Regulation on Privacy and Electronic Communications) (COM(2017)0010),

–  having regard to the Commission proposal of 13 September 2017 for a regulation of the European Parliament and of the Council on a framework for the free flow of non-personal data in the European Union (COM(2017)0495),

–  having regard to the Commission staff working document of 2 May 2017 entitled ‘Digital4Development: mainstreaming digital technologies and services into EU Development Policy’ (SWD(2017)0157),

–  having regard to its resolution of 5 July 2016 on a new forward-looking and innovative future strategy for trade and investment(3)
,

–  having regard to its resolution of 3 February 2016 containing the European Parliament’s recommendations to the Commission on the negotiations for the Trade in Services Agreement (TiSA)(4)
,

–  having regard to its resolution of 8 July 2015 containing the European Parliament’s recommendations to the European Commission on the negotiations for the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP)(5)
,

–  having regard to the United Nations Summit on Sustainable Development and the outcome document adopted by the UN General Assembly on 25 September 2015 entitled ‘Transforming our world: the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development’, and the 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs),

–  having regard to the upcoming 11th Ministerial Conference of the WTO, to be held in Buenos Aires, Argentina, from 10 to 13 December 2017, where e-commerce is likely to be discussed,

–  having regard to the UN International Telecommunication Union’s initiatives in support of Developing Countries (ITU-D),

–  having regard to the Charter of Fundamental Rights of the European Union,

–  having regard to Article 8(1) of the EU Charter of Fundamental Rights and to Article 16(1) of the TFEU,

–  having regard to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights,

–  having regard to the reports of the UN Special Rapporteur on the protection of freedom of speech on Freedom of Expression and the private sector in the digital age (A/HRC/32/38) and on the role of digital access providers (A/HRC/35/22),

–  having regard to the EU Human Rights Guidelines on Freedom of Expression Online and Offline, adopted by the Council (Foreign Affairs) on 12 May 2014,

–  having regard to the Council of Europe Convention for the Protection of Individuals with regard to Automatic Processing of Personal Data, European Treaty Series No 108, and the additional protocol thereto,

–  having regard to its resolution of 26 May 2016 on transatlantic data flows(6)
,

–  having regard to the Commission report to the European Parliament, the Council, the European Economic and Social Committee and the Committee of the Regions on the implementation of the Trade Policy Strategy Trade for All – Delivering a Progressive Trade Policy to Harness Globalisation (COM(2017)0491).

–  having regard to Rule 52 of its Rules of Procedure,

–  having regard to the report of the Committee on International Trade and the opinions of the Committee on Industry, Research and Energy, the Committee on the Internal Market and Consumer Protection and the Committee on Civil Liberties, Justice and Home Affairs (A8-0384/2017),

A.  whereas technological developments, access to the open internet and the digitalisation of the economy are an engine for growth as they enable companies particularly start-ups, micro-enterprises and SMEs, to create new opportunities in developing, ordering, producing, marketing or delivering products and services, and to reach customers all over the globe at a faster pace and lower cost than ever before; whereas emerging technologies such as distributed ledger technology have the potential to enhance digital trade by improving the transparency of international contracts and expediting the transfer of value; whereas trade in physical goods has been replaced by increasing amounts of cross-border transfers of digital content, sometimes blurring the distinction between goods and services;

B.  whereas data collection, data aggregation and the ability to transfer data across borders has the potential to be a key driver of innovation, productivity and economic competitiveness;

C.  whereas the globalisation and digitalisation of our economies and of international trade have enabled businesses to grow and provided economic opportunities for citizens; whereas the digitalisation of traditional industries affects supply chains, manufacturing and services models, which could lead to job creation in new industries, but could also disrupt current jobs and lead to precarious working conditions as more and more tasks traditionally performed by humans are either automated or off-shored, or both; stresses in this regard that the necessary social flanking measures must be put in place for them to benefit the whole society, such as strong education and training policies, active labour market policies and measures to overcome the digital divide;

D.  whereas the digital economy requires a rules-based framework, including modern trade rules which can reconcile the rapid changes in the market with the rights of consumers, providing the policy space and room for new regulatory initiatives needed by governments to defend and strengthen the protection of human rights;

E.  whereas access to a free, open and secure internet is a prerequisite for rules-based trade and development in the digital economy; whereas the principle of net neutrality should be a key part of the EU’s digital trade strategy in order to allow for fair competition and innovation in the digital economy, while ensuring freedom of speech online;

F.  whereas investment in infrastructure and access to skills remain key challenges to connectivity and, therefore, digital trade;

G.  whereas the UN’s SDGs stress that providing universal and affordable access to the internet for people in least developed countries by 2020 will be crucial for fostering development, as the development of a digital economy could be a driver of jobs and growth, e-commerce being one opportunity to increase the numbers of small exporters, export volumes and export diversification;

H.  whereas women can benefit as entrepreneurs and as workers from better access to global markets, and as consumers from lower prices, whereas many challenges and inequalities still hinder women’s participation in the global economy, as many of women in low- and middle-income countries, still have no access to the internet;

I.  whereas e-commerce is also booming in developing countries;

J.  whereas governments around the world are engaging in digital protectionism by putting up barriers that hinder market access and direct investment, or create unfair advantages for domestic companies; whereas a number of broad measures in third countries taken in the name of national (cyber)security have an increasingly negative impact on trade in ICT products;

K.  whereas foreign companies currently benefit from far greater access to the European market than Europeans do to third countries; whereas many of our trade partners are increasingly closing their domestic markets and resorting to digital protectionism; whereas the EU should anchor its digital trade strategy in the principles of reciprocity, fair competition, smart regulation and transparency with a view to restoring consumers’ trust and restoring a level playing field for businesses;

L.  whereas geo-blocking should be put to an end and no forms of unjustified discrimination based on a customer’s nationality, place of residence or place of establishment within the internal market should take place in the future;

M.  whereas the building blocks that preserve the open internet in the EU’s digital single market, including principles such as fair competition, net neutrality and intermediary liability protections, should be promoted in all trade negotiations; whereas the global dimension of digital trade makes the WTO the natural venue for the negotiation of a rule-based multilateral framework; whereas the 11th WTO Ministerial Conference in December 2017 provides the platform for launching such a process;

N.  whereas the European Union is bound by the EU Charter of Fundamental Rights, including Article 8 thereof on the right to the protection of personal data, by Article 16 TFEU on the same fundamental right, and by Article 2 of the Treaty on European Union (TEU); whereas the right to privacy is a universal human right; whereas high data protection standards help to build trust in the digital economy among European citizens and thus foster the development of digital trade; whereas promoting high data protection standards, in particular as regards sensitive data, and facilitating international trade must go hand in hand in the digital era, in order to support freedom of expression and information, e-commerce, and encryption, and to reject digital protectionism, mass surveillance, cyber espionage and online censorship;

O.  whereas digital trade must protect endangered wildlife species, and whereas online market places must ban the sale of wildlife and wildlife products on their platforms;

P.  whereas private companies are increasingly setting norms and standards in the digital economy, which will have a direct impact on citizens and consumers, as well as on domestic and international trade and at the same time accelerate the development of technological solutions to safeguard business and customers;

Q.  whereas the OECD recommendations against base erosion and profit shifting and the EU’s plans for a common consolidated corporate tax base have highlighted the need to address a number of tax challenges, including those posed by the digital economy; whereas taxes should be paid where profits are made; whereas a more transparent, efficient and fair system for calculating the tax base of cross-border companies should prevent profit shifting and tax avoidance; whereas a coherent EU approach to taxation in the digital economy is necessary to achieve fair and effective taxation of all companies and to create a level playing field; recalls that trade agreements should include a clause on tax good governance that reaffirms the parties’ commitment to implementing agreed international standards in the fight against tax evasion and avoidance;

R.  whereas, according to the OECD, up to 5 % of goods imported into the EU are counterfeited, resulting in substantial losses in jobs and tax revenues;

S.  whereas sensitive sectors such as audio-visual services, and fundamental rights such as the protection of personal data, should not be subject to trade negotiations;

T.  whereas digital trade must also aim to promote the growth of SMEs and start-ups, and not only that of multinationals;

U.  whereas Mexico fulfils the conditions for accession to Council of Europe Convention No 108 on data protection;

V.  whereas the protection of personal data is non-negotiable in trade agreements, and whereas data protection has always been excluded from EU trade negotiation mandates;

W.  whereas trade agreements can be a lever to improve digital rights; whereas the inclusion of provisions on net neutrality, a ban on forced unjustified data localisation requirements, data security, security of data processing and data storage, encryption and intermediary liability in trade agreements can strengthen, in particular, the protection of freedom of speech;

1.  Underlines that the EU, as a community of values and the world’s biggest exporter of services, should set the standards in international rules and agreements on digital trade flows based on three elements: (1) ensuring market access for digital goods and services in third countries, (2) ensuring that trade rules create tangible benefits for consumers and (3) ensuring and promoting respect for fundamental rights;

2.  Stresses the need to bridge the digital divide in order to minimise potential negative social and development impacts; underlines, in this regard, the importance of promoting female participation in STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics), of removing barriers to lifelong learning, and of closing gender gaps in access to and in the use of new technologies; calls on the Commission to explore further how current trade policy and gender equality are linked and how trade can promote women’s economic empowerment;

3.  Notes that the network effect of the digital economy enables one company or a small number of companies to hold a large market share, which could lead to excessive market concentration; stresses the importance of promoting fair and effective competition in trade agreements, in particular between digital service providers such as online platforms, and users such as micro-enterprises, SMEs and start-ups, and of promoting consumer choice, reducing transaction costs, ensuring non-discriminatory treatment of all market players and avoiding the creation of dominant positions that distort the markets; stresses, in this context, the importance of including net neutrality as a key part of its digital trade strategy; considers that a digital trade strategy must be complemented by a reinforced and effective international framework for competition policy, including by increased cooperation between competition authorities and strong competition chapters in trade agreements; calls on the Commission to ensure that businesses and companies comply with competition rules and that there is no discrimination against competitors to the detriment of consumers’ interests;

4.  Stresses that access to secure broadband internet connectivity and digital payment methods, effective consumer protection, in particular redress mechanisms for online cross-border sales, and predictable customs procedures, are essential elements in relation to enabling digital trade, sustainable development and inclusive growth;

5.  Considers that trade agreements should provide for increased cooperation between consumer protection agencies and welcomes initiatives to foster consumer trust-enhancing measures in trade negotiations, such as disciplines on electronic signatures and contracts and unsolicited communications; highlights that the rights of consumers must be protected and must not in any event be diluted;

6.  Underlines that SMEs in developing countries make up the majority of businesses and employ the majority of manufacturing and service sector workers; recalls that facilitating cross-border e-commerce can have a direct impact on improving livelihoods, fostering higher living standards and boosting economic development;

7.  Recalls that nothing in trade agreements shall prevent the EU and its Member States from maintaining, improving and applying its data protection rules; recalls that personal data can be transferred to third countries without using general disciplines in trade agreements when the requirements – both at present and in the future – enshrined in Chapter IV of Directive 95/46/EC of the European Parliament and of the Council of 24 October 1995 on the protection of individuals with regard to the processing of personal data and on the free movement of such data(7)
and in Chapter V of Regulation (EU) 2016/679, are fulfilled; recognises that adequacy decisions, including partial and sector-specific ones, constitute a fundamental mechanism in terms of safeguarding the transfer of personal data from the EU to a third country; notes that the EU has only adopted adequacy decisions with four of its 20 largest trading partners; recalls the importance of guaranteeing, in particular through adequacy dialogues, the transfer of data from third countries to the EU;

8.  Calls on the Commission to prioritise and speed up the adoption of adequacy decisions, provided that third countries ensure, by reason of their domestic law or their international commitments, a level of protection ‘essentially equivalent’ to that guaranteed within the EU; calls on the Commission to adopt, and to make public, updated and detailed binding procedures with a specific timeframe for reaching these decisions, while fully respecting the powers of national supervisory authorities and the opinion of Parliament;

9.  Recalls that the ability to access, collect, process and transfer data across borders has become increasingly important for every type of company that delivers goods and services internationally; notes that this matters for both personal and non-personal data and includes machine-to-machine communication;

10.  Urges the Commission to draw up rules for cross-border data transfers as soon as possible which fully comply with the EU’s existing and future data protection and privacy rules; calls on the Commission, furthermore, to incorporate into the EU’s trade agreements a horizontal provision, which fully maintains the right of a party to protect personal data and privacy, provided that such a right is not unjustifiably used to circumvent rules for cross-border data transfers for reasons other than the protection of personal data; considers that such rules and provisions should form part of all new and recently launched trade negotiations with third countries; stresses that any disciplines in this regard should be exempted from the scope of application of any future chapter dealing with investment protection;

11.  Calls on the Commission to strictly prohibit unjustified data localisation requirements in free trade agreements (FTAs); considers that the removal of such requirements should be a top priority, and emphasises that the relevant data protection legislation should be adhered to; regrets attempts to use such requirements as a form of non-tariff barrier to trade and as a form of digital protectionism; considers that such protectionism seriously hampers opportunities for European businesses in third country markets and undermines the efficiency benefits of digital trade;

12.  Calls on the Commission to put forward, as soon as possible, its position on cross-border data transfers, unjustified data localisation requirements, and data protection safeguards in trade negotiations, in line with Parliament’s position, so as to include it in all new and recently launched negotiations and to avoid the EU being sidelined in international trade negotiations;

13.  Calls on the Commission to combat measures by third countries, such as ‘buy local’ policies, local content requirements or forced technology transfers, to the extent that they are not justified by UN-led programmes on closing the digital divide or TRIPS-related exceptions, so as to ensure that European companies can operate in a fair and predictable environment;

14.  Stresses that the EU should continue to pursue its efforts at bilateral, plurilateral and multilateral level to ensure that third countries offer a level of openness towards foreign investments equivalent to that of the EU, and that they maintain a level playing field for EU operators; welcomes the EU’s proposal for a regulation establishing a framework for review of foreign direct investments into the Union and supports its objectives to better protect critical infrastructures and technologies;

15.  Underlines that a digital trade strategy must be fully in line with the principle of net neutrality and safeguard the equal treatment of internet traffic, without discrimination, restriction or interference, irrespective of its sender, receiver, type, content, device, service or application; recalls, moreover, that traffic management measures should be permitted only in exceptional cases where they are strictly necessary, and only for as long as necessary, to comply with legal requirements, preserve the integrity and security of the network or prevent impending network congestion;

16.  Strongly deplores third country practices which make market access conditional on the disclosure and transfer to state authorities of the source codes of the software that companies intend to sell; considers that such measures are disproportionate as a blanket requirement for market access; calls on the Commission to prohibit signatory governments to FTAs from engaging in such activities; stresses that the foregoing should not prevent state authorities from promoting transparency of software, encouraging the public disclosure of source code through free and open-source software, as well as sharing data through open data licenses;

17.  Recalls that in some cases local presence requirements are necessary to ensure effective prudential supervision or regulatory oversight and enforcement; reiterates its call on the Commission, therefore, to undertake limited commitments in Mode 1, so as to avoid regulatory arbitrage;

18.  Notes that pro-development technology transfer requirements should not be ruled out by disciplines on digital trade;

19.  Calls on the Commission to prohibit third country authorities from requiring the disclosure or transfer of details of the (cryptographic) technology used in products as a condition of manufacturing, selling or distributing these products;

20.  Notes that the protection of intellectual property (IP) rights and investments in R&D are a precondition on the EU’s knowledge-based economy, and that international cooperation is key to combating the trade in counterfeited goods throughout the entire value chain; encourages the Commission, therefore, to push for the worldwide implementation of international standards such as the WTO TRIPS Agreement and the WIPO Internet Treaties; recalls that legal protection throughout the EU, both online and offline, is needed for new creations since it will encourage investment and lead to further innovations; stresses, however, that trade agreements are not the place to extend the level of IP-protection for rights holders by providing for more extensive copyright enforcement powers; stresses that access to medicines in third countries should not be challenged on the basis of IP protection; stresses that trade in counterfeited goods requires a distinctly different approach to IP infringements in the digital economy;

21.  Exhorts the Commission to keep a close eye on ICANN’s gTLD Program, which expands domain names to thousands of generic names, and to guarantee, in line with its commitment to a free and open internet, the protection of rights holders, in particular those relating to geographical indications;

22.  Calls on the Commission to use trade agreements to prevent parties from imposing foreign equity caps, to lay down pro-competitive wholesale access rules for incumbent operators’ networks, to provide transparent and non-discriminatory rules and fees for licensing, and to secure genuine access to last-mile infrastructures in export markets for EU telecom providers; recalls that rule-based competition in the telecommunications sector leads to higher quality services and lower prices;

23.  Calls on the Commission to continue its efforts towards developing a set of binding multilateral disciplines on e-commerce in the WTO, and to continue focusing on concrete and realistic deliverables;

24.  Calls on the Commission to urgently re-launch TiSA negotiations in line with Parliament’s adopted recommendations; espouses the view that the EU should seize the window of opportunity to take the lead to set state-of-the art global digital standards;

25.  Recalls that, since 1998, members of the WTO have upheld a moratorium on tariffs on electronic transmissions; stresses that such tariffs would entail unnecessary additional costs for businesses and consumers alike; calls on the Commission to transform the moratorium into a permanent agreement on banning tariffs on electronic transmissions, subject to careful analysis of the implications in the area of 3D printing;

26.  Calls on the Commission to use trade agreements to promote the interoperability of ICT standards that benefit both consumers and producers, notably in the context of a secure Internet of things, 5G and cybersecurity, while not circumventing legitimate fora for multi-stakeholder governance which have served the open internet well;

27.  Considers that particular consideration should be given to the increasing number of consumers and individuals who are selling and buying items on the internet and are caught up in burdensome customs procedures for goods purchased online; recalls the need to put in place simplified, tax- and duty-free customs treatment of items sold online and returns unused; recalls that the WTO’s Trade Facilitation Agreement aims to speed up customs procedures and improve their accountability and transparency; stresses the need to digitise customs information and management via online registration and operation of information, which should facilitate clearance at the border, cooperation in fraud detection, anti-corruption efforts and transparency of prices relating to customs; believes that the broader use of tools such as online dispute settlements would be beneficial for consumers;

28.  Calls on the Commission to encourage signatories of trade agreements to include, in the telecommunications chapter of their FTAs, provisions making both international roaming fees and the fees applied to international calls and messages transparent, fair, reasonable and consumer-oriented; calls on the Commission to support policies that promote cost-oriented retail prices for roaming services with a view to reducing prices, promoting transparency and preventing commercial practices that are unfair or in any way negative for consumers;

29.  Recognises that the principles of the E-commerce Directive (2000/31/EC) have contributed to the development of the digital economy by creating favourable conditions for innovations and by guaranteeing freedom of speech and the freedom to conduct a business; recalls that the Commission is bound by the EU acquis
in its trade negotiations;

30.  Calls on the Commission to further mainstream digital technologies and services into the EU’s development policy, as outlined, inter alia, in the Digital4Development agenda; calls on the Commission to use trade agreements to improve and promote digital rights; recognises that only 53,6 % of all households worldwide have access to the internet; deplores the fact that there is still a significant digital divide; calls on the Commission to increase investments in digital infrastructure in the Global South in order to bridge this digital divide, including by stimulating public-private partnerships, but while still respecting the development effectiveness principles; notes in this context the contribution of the UN ITU-D in the creation, development and improvement of telecommunication and ICT equipment and networks; urges the Commission to make investments in broadband infrastructure in developing countries contribute integrally to, and contingent on, respect for a free, open and secure internet and to develop adequate solutions to promote mobile internet access; stresses that such investments are particularly important for local micro, small & medium enterprises, especially in developing countries, in order to enable them to interact digitally with multinational enterprises and to access global value chains; recalls that facilitating cross-border e-commerce can have a direct impact on improving livelihoods, fostering higher living standards and boosting economic development; recalls the contribution that such endeavours could make to gender equality since a great number of these companies are owned and run by women; reiterates that digital trade could also be a resource for public administrations and thus support the development of e-government;

31.  Stresses that it is imperative that any digital trade strategy must be fully in line with the principle of policy coherence for development, and should in particular seek to promote and enable start-ups and micro, small & medium enterprises to engage in cross border e-commerce, recalling the contribution this could make to gender equality;

32.  Considers that digital issues should also feature more prominently in the EU’s Aid for Trade policy to facilitate the growth of e-commerce via increased support for innovation and infrastructure and access to financing, notably via micro finance initiatives, as well as assistance in increasing online visibility for e-commerce businesses in developing countries, facilitating platform access and promoting the availability of e-payment solutions and access to cost-effective logistics and delivery services;

33.  Stresses that any digital trade strategy, including its flanking measures, must be fully in line with and contribute to the realisation of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development; notes that SDG 4 on quality education: providing free, equitable and quality primary and secondary education to all girls and boys, SDG 5 on achieving gender equality and empowering all women and girls, SDG 8.10 on promoting inclusive and sustainable economic growth, in particular by strengthening the capacity of domestic financial institutions and expanding access to financial services, as well as SDG 9.1 on developing reliable and resilient infrastructure with a focus on equitable access for all and SDG 9.3 on increasing the access of small enterprises, in particular in developing countries, to financial services, including affordable credit, and their integration into value chains and markets, are particularly relevant in this regard;

34.  commits to updating its digital trade strategy every 5 years;

35.  Highlights that the deployment of and access to infrastructure, especially in rural, mountainous and remote areas, that is adequate in coverage, quality and security and supports net neutrality, is crucial for digitising European industry and increasing e-governance;

36.  Supports the Commission communication of 19 April 2016 on ICT standardisation priorities for the digital single market (COM(2016)0176); stresses that while ICT standardisation must continue to be primarily industry led, voluntary and consensus driven, based on the principles of transparency, openness, impartiality, consensus, effectiveness, relevance and coherence, a clearer set of priorities for ICT standardisation, together with high-level political support, will boost competitiveness; notes that this process should make use of the instruments of the European Standardisation System and involve a wide range of stakeholders, both within the EU and at international level, to ensure delivery of improved standard-setting processes, in line with the Joint Initiative on Standardisation; calls on the Commission to foster the emergence of global industry standards under EU leadership for key 5G technologies and network architectures, notably through the exploitation of the 5G public-private partnership (5G PPP) results at the level of key EU and international standardisation bodies;

37.  Notes the efforts made by the WTO to advance its work programme on e-commerce; asks the Commission to seek the further expansion of the WTO’s Information Technology Agreement to include more products and more WTO members, and takes note of the WTO Ministerial Conference in Buenos Aires scheduled for December 2017; asks the Commission to consult European businesses and Member States as soon as possible on its position on e-commerce and other digital trade matters to be agreed at the conference in order to ensure a united European position;

38.  Believes that digital trade should be further facilitated in procurement policies, including by taking advantage of possibilities to provide services remotely and by enabling European companies, particularly SMEs, to obtain access to public and private procurement;

39.  Stresses the importance of international standards on digital equipment and services, especially in the area of cybersecurity; asks the Commission to work to ensure the introduction of basic cybersecurity measures into Internet of things products and cloud‑based services;

40.  Stresses that even though the Digital Single Market strategy addresses many of the problems facing digital trade, EU companies still face significant global obstacles such as non-transparent regulations, government intervention and unjustified data location or data storage; points out that some of the key actions of the Digital Single Market strategy, such as the EU cloud initiative and the copyright reform, have an international dimension that could be addressed in a European digital trade strategy;

41.  Instructs its President to forward this resolution to the Council and the Commission, the Vice-President of the Commission / High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, and the EEAS.

(1) OJ L 178, 17.7.2000, p. 1.
(2) OJ L 119, 4.5.2016, p. 1.
(3) Texts adopted, P8_TA(2016)0299.
(4) Texts adopted, P8_TA(2016)0041.
(5) OJ C 265, 11.8.2017, p. 35.
(6) Texts adopted, P8_TA(2016)0233.
(7) OJ L 281, 23.11.1995, p. 31.

Press Releases: Press Availability at the Second U.S.-Mexico Strategic Dialogue on Disrupting Transnational Criminal Organizations

DEPUTY SECRETARY SULLIVAN: Good morning. Thank you for being here. I’m glad to participate in this second Strategic Dialogue on Disrupting Transnational Criminal Organizations, or TCOs. Secretary Tillerson and I, together with our colleagues, our new Secretary of Homeland Security, Secretary Nielsen, and Attorney General Sessions, are grateful to our friends from Mexico for making the trip to Washington to discuss this important topic this morning.

The threats we face today are increasingly complex and require a closely coordinated response, particularly given the 1,900-mile border shared by the United States and Mexico. Today’s conversations build upon the very productive meetings Secretary Tillerson had in Mexico in February and in Washington in May on broadening our security cooperation to confront TCOs. It’s clear that we have a reliable partner in Mexico. We continue to advance our shared goal of developing new ways to disrupt TCOs and the networks of criminal activity they perpetuate. We are strengthening cooperation with Mexico to interdict illegal transports, find and punish criminals involved in these organizations, and cut off their sources of funding.

This is a grave problem that our countries share. Deaths related to TCOs and from the drugs they peddle affect communities on both sides of our border. According to preliminary figures, more than 64,000 Americans died from drug overdose last year. The death toll from synthetic opioids alone claimed more lives than both heroin and prescription painkillers. Many of our Mexican neighbors have fallen victim to drug-related violence as well. Close collaboration is the only way we can tackle a problem that has no regard for international borders.

Today, our two countries have one of the most extensive bilateral law enforcement relationships in the world. Eleven U.S. law enforcement agencies are represented in the U.S. embassy and consulates across Mexico to work closely with their Mexican state and federal counterparts. And through the Merida Initiative, we’re helping to build the capacity of Mexican law enforcement and judicial institutions. For example, we’re providing Mexico with the tools to more effectively eradicate opium poppy and support enhanced border security. Our continued support for Mexico’s judicial reform is bringing criminals to justice and making communities more resistant to TCO recruitment.

We’ve also enhanced cross-border communications to work more effectively and efficiently together. We share more information related to migration and border security, enabling us to better identify criminal threats, analyze migration trends, and reduce human smuggling on both sides of the border. And through Merida, we have provided inspection equipment, canine units trained in fentanyl detection, as well as mentorship and training for border officials.

Through this collaborate strategy, we are seeing progress. In 2016, Mexican law enforcement seized more than 13,000 kilograms of cocaine and more than 26,000 kilograms of methamphetamine destined for the United States. In addition, the Mexican Government has successfully destroyed over 136 clandestine drug laboratories. Our cooperation is making citizens on both sides of our border safer.

Today, we’re discussing the ways in which we can accelerate interdiction efforts and improve our ability to measure progress in disrupting drug trafficking at every point along the way, including production, cross-border distribution, and sales. In particular, we are exploring ways to more effectively disrupt the revenue streams of TCOs. TCOs exploit a wide array of illicit activities as a means to make money, including through narcotics, smuggling, kidnapping, extortion, human trafficking, and fuel theft.

We must also go after the middlemen who benefit from these illegal activities, not just the producers at the beginning and the consumers at the end. Our respective law enforcement agencies and judicial authorities are committed to cutting off their sources of revenue. To do this successfully, we must implement new approaches that seek to improve information sharing and legal cooperation, ultimately denying revenue and seizing the assets of TCOs. TCOs are far less effective at carrying out illicit activities when their sources of revenue are dismantled. By cutting off these funding mechanisms, TCOs will lose their ability to corrupt institutions, buy sophisticated weapons, and maintain their criminal infrastructure.

Finally, we recognize that we must reduce the demand component of the drug problem here at home in the United States. As long as we continue to provide a thriving market, TCOs will keep coming to the United States. This administration refuses to ignore the problem. The United States will no longer turn the other way or sweep this issue under the rug. That is why President Trump has made a commitment to fight the opioid epidemic that has destroyed the lives of so many individuals and families throughout our country. The President has instructed agencies across the U.S. Government and even the American people themselves to do their part in curbing this tragic epidemic of addiction that continues to claim the lives of so many.

Last spring, the President created a commission to better understand and address the federal response to this epidemic and determine the most efficacious way to move forward. To facilitate these efforts, the administration has committed more than $1 billion so that we can battle addiction and fight the opioid crisis here at home. By drying up the market for illegal drugs, we will more effectively fight TCOs and the industries that prop them up.

The United States is grateful for the strong bilateral relationship we share with our neighbors to the south. We will continue to maintain and grow our strong partnership with Mexico on this critical issue, as on so many others.

Thank you.

FOREIGN SECRETARY VIDEGARAY: Thank you very much. (Via interpreter) Thank you, Under Secretary Sullivan and Secretary Tillerson. Thank you, Attorney General Sessions, Secretary Nielsen, and of course, Secretary Osorio and Attorney General Elias and the entire teams from both countries who are working on this shared effort.

Mexico and the United States face a significant challenge and we face it together. This is a common problem. TCOs work regardless of borders, with no acknowledgment of jurisdictions. They carry out criminal activities and cause death on both sides of the border. Thousands of Americans die due to overdoses. Thousands of Mexicans die due to the violence generated by illegal drug trafficking. And we will only be able to solve this problem by working together. This is the vision that we agreed upon here in Washington, in May of this year. And today, we are here to follow up on that vision to continue to work together in that direction.

In May, we agreed that in order to work together, we must overcome this tendency, this – the blame game that we have both assigned mutually where Mexico traditionally has blamed the U.S. for drug demand, and the U.S. blames Mexico for drug supply. We must overcome this dynamic, this mutual blame game. In order to do this, we need trust. We need hard work. It means we need effective actions, and that is what we are doing here today.

We had a working session with specific goals in mind in order to comprehensively deal with the entire business model of TCOs, from supply and production out in the fields to the financial and distribution retail networks in the United States. Only by attacking this chain at every point along the way will we be successful in eliminating this scourge which is harming both countries.

We must be speedy. We must be specific. We must have analytical abilities that are data-based, based on shared, reliable data. In the end, the idea is to trust each other in order to deal with a common problem.

I would like to thank you – I would like to thank many groups for their tireless work. These groups are not necessarily out doing their work in public, but they are doing their work every day, different agencies from both governments, who work every single day in order to get results. The effort required is huge, but we are working in that direction with a shared vision and especially with shared responsibility.

This effort must not only be based on impeding the flow of drugs from south to the north. That’s a part of the fundamental effort, but it also requires that we impede – stop the illegal flow of weapons from north to south, the flow of cash. We must go after the assets of organized crime. We must stop other kinds of crimes that these organizations unfortunately commit. For example, illegal human trafficking. This effort, then, is comprehensive and we are working on this based on the premise of trust and shared responsibility.

Thank you very much.

SECRETARY NIELSEN: Good morning. It is my honor to join today with leaders from the Government of Mexico in taking on this TCO threat in the Western Hemisphere. I’d like to thank Secretary Tillerson and Deputy Secretary Sullivan for hosting us and this very important discussion.

Today we are talking about TCOs, and specifically continuing the work that we have begun in the spring to address this growing threat. TCOs are responsible for some of the gravest threats to our homeland security today, and the Department of Homeland Security takes this very seriously.

TCOs move drugs, weapons, counterfeit goods, and traffic and smuggle people, throughout their dark and dangerous networks. These TCOs are also responsible for devastating violence on both sides of the border, as you’ve heard in the previous remarks. I was at the border in Texas just yesterday and was briefed on the very violent chaos that occurs on both sides of our borders due to the networks and our inability currently to completely stop their activities.

But we must stop them, and together we will. We are mutually committed. We have discussed that this morning so far, and I look forward to continuing discussions as the day goes on. Detecting, deterring, and dismantling these TCOs continues to be of utmost importance to the Trump administration. As you see here, we have multiple departments committed to working with the Government of Mexico towards this end. It’s certainly a priority for me.

The United States is proud to call Mexico its partner in targeting this threat in production and distribution networks not only throughout Mexico and the United States, but throughout Central America. Together we can be leaders in the entire region to combat this threat.

Today, I am proud to say that Secretary Osorio Chong and I will sign a memorandum of cooperation to fully implement the Criminal History Information Sharing Program. Through this program, our U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement will be able to provide Mexico with the U.S. criminal history of repatriated Mexicans. The agreement we will sign today will transition to a biometric-based platform so that ICE can share biometric data, notice of more than 350 conviction codes, and any known gang affiliations with our Mexican counterparts and partners.

By sharing information and resources and increasing detection and the interdiction of illegal goods, we are combatting the TCOs that threaten the security of all of our communities. Secretary Tillerson, the Attorney General, Deputy Secretary Sullivan, and I are committed to continuing this work to strengthen and expand our efforts, and to make our nations more secure.

I thank you all for your time today and for being here for this important discussion. And particularly, our partners from the Government of Mexico for joining us today. Thank you.

INTERIOR SECRETARY OSORIO: (Via interpreter) Good morning, everyone. Thank you to our hosts. Under Secretary of State, I would like to congratulate again the Secretary of DHS, the U.S. Attorney General, our minister of foreign affairs, our attorney general, and the delegations of both countries, as well as representatives from the media.

As has been mentioned before, today we are here again to meet in order to evaluate and analyze our efforts when it comes to fighting against TCOs. This is possible due to the work that has been done in the last few months by our government departments and our agencies in order to strengthen cooperation mechanisms while we face common security problems. We have been able to, first of all, come together in a space of agreement and make progress based on this agreement, and I mean the need to have a more comprehensive, equitable approach.

Just as in any dialogue, there are many different proposals and viewpoints exchanged. But I must say that when it comes to our bilateral agenda, there is more that unites us than what divides us. The security of our people is the higher good for both administrations. This is how, for decades now, Mexico and the U.S. have worked together in order to build a more stable, secure region. And in that regard, we do have shared experience and much knowledge.

Today is clear that it is not only via the use of force and punitive measures that will allow us to put an end to organized crime and drugs; rather, this is an extremely complex problem with economic, social, financial, and logistical aspects involved that call on us to strengthen our efforts as governments. And doing this together is the only way we can coordinate our actions and be more effective. As those who spoke before me have said, it is a matter of creating more responses from a market-based perspective, restricting financing, and the weapons of criminal organizations. It is also a matter of reducing their logistical capacity and bringing down considerably the level of drug use from a public health perspective.

As for Mexico, Mexico reaffirms its strong commitment to continue in these efforts in order to strengthen institutions, especially at the local level, as a path forward in order to find lasting security. This fight has been especially difficult and painful for Mexico. We cannot forget the victims that this scourge has left behind. There has been a tremendous amount of sacrifice and effort, especially on behalf of our soldiers, our navy, our police officers. And we must not let our guard down, and we must especially not allow for impunity because there can be no peace where this is no justice, and there will be no justice unless this is in a sphere of legality.

In that regard, we have been able to design solutions to the problems that we face as a region. In order to do this, we might – we must act as sovereign countries, but we also must be good neighbors, and we must work on a basis of shared responsibility based on dialogue and international cooperation. And we must always think of the wellbeing of our societies. This is our higher interest and this is what must be held above any other interest today.

It is a pleasure, again, to participate in this dialogue, and we hope that there will be positive outcomes from this dialogue between our two countries. Thank you very much.

ATTORNEY GENERAL SESSIONS: Thank you. Now, does it work?

I am pleased to be here today. I am thankful that Secretary Tillerson and Secretary Nielsen have set this meeting up. They had a previous one in Mexico. I would note that Secretary Nielsen hits the ground running in her new position. She was at that meeting because she was Secretary Kelly’s chief of staff and remained that in the White House. So she fully understands the challenges that we are facing and the importance of the Department of Homeland Security that she leads.

We are facing a unprecedented drug crisis in America, perhaps the entire world. We have never seen the deaths that we are seeing today. 64,000 people died last year from drug overdose deaths. We’ve never seen those numbers before, or anything like it. The fastest part of that, the growing part of that, is heroin and fentanyl, the synthetic opioids. And we are taking strong action throughout our United States Government to confront that. President Trump has declared that we face a national emergency, and this government will not accept these trends. And we are determined to reduce these trends.

I had the privilege of being in Mexico for a trilateral – excuse me – in Colombia last week at a trilateral discussion of these problems – Colombia, Mexico, and the United States. Attorney General Elias from Mexico represented Mexico at that delegation. We know we can do better. And as the Secretary Videgaray mentioned, it’s an attack – it must be an attack on the entire distribution network, from the production to the manufacture to the distribution to the actual sale in our communities and on our streets. All of that, if done effectively, can begin to reverse these trends.

We’re seeing in the United States greater availability of drugs, lower prices for drugs, and greater purity of the drugs that we see. That makes them more addictive and more attractive. People talk about demand and supply; demand can create a supply, and supply can create a demand. I think we are heading in the wrong direction on both of those issues.

So it is a pleasure for me to be here. We discussed, under the leadership of Secretary Kelly and Nielsen and our Mexican colleagues, some concrete ways that we can make this better. And that’s what we intend to do. Our Drug Enforcement Administration, our FBI, our ATF, and our entire team at Department of Justice are committed to this effort. And I believe that we can and will be successful. Actually, the President sent us three executive orders when I became Attorney General; one of them was to dismantle transnational criminal organizations, and that’s what we intend to do.

MR ELIAS: (Via interpreter) Good morning. And to Secretary Sullivan, Secretary Nielsen, Attorney General Sessions, Secretary Videgaray and Osorio, good morning. We obviously are facing a problem from TCOs in both countries, but in order to combat this phenomenon, it is quite obvious that we must attack it in all its business model, as mentioned by our foreign minister. But to do so in an effective manner, we have to destroy its financial structures. This must be achieved by a clear sharing of information, informalized information, so that we can speedily identify all the points in the organization’s value chains to affect and impact their financial structures.

It is therefore important for the Department of Justice and the Office of the Attorney General share through efficient working groups the information needed to be able attack the structures. We not only need to look at the financial aspects, but we should expand this to look at the enterprise model used by the TCOs to move their assets and resources. How can we do this? It will be by the sharing of information and data between the two countries. This will give a major blow to these organizations, something that is needed by the societies of both of our countries. Thank you very much.

MS NAUERT: Good morning. We’ll now take some reporter questions. We have one question per principal, please; we don’t have time for follow-ups. We’ll start with Nike Ching from Voice of America, and Nike, if you could please address your question to the principal. Thanks.

QUESTION: Sure. Thank you very much. My question is addressed to both sides, that if the ongoing strategic dialogue to disrupt TCO has any implication on the NAFTA talks. Specifically, has President Trump’s promise to build a border wall and threats from the administration to pull out of NAFTA had a negative impact on joint security efforts? Thank you very much.

DEPUTY SECRETARY SULLIVAN: Well, the NAFTA renegotiations are ongoing, as you know. Round 6 of the negotiations is scheduled for January in Montreal. And I know our negotiators have been working diligently with their Canadian and Mexican counterparts to make progress.

The United States is committed to a comprehensive negotiation process that will upgrade our agreement and establish 21st century standards. But the NAFTA negotiations and the agreement itself are only a part of the enormous relationship between the United States and Mexico. I’ve spoken about this with Foreign Secretary Videgaray in Mexico City two months ago. Our relationship with Mexico – the United States relationship with Mexico – is so broad. We have a common history, a shared border, a long history of shared culture. The volume of our trade is enormous, almost – $600 billion a year, last year. That’s $1.6 billion a day. We’re working hard to upgrade and improve NAFTA, which is an important part, but only part of our relationship with Mexico.

MODERATOR: (Via interpreter) I now give the floor to Armando Guzman of Television Azteca.

QUESTION: Secretary Videgaray, I’ll ask you in English and also repeat briefly in Spanish. The cooperation between the two countries in this matter has been long and high for many years. But now there is a talk because the two countries are friends and are partners. But now there is talk on this side of the border of building a wall, and also there is a talk of canceling the long partnership about NAFTA. And I wonder if this situations will affect directly this high cooperation between the two countries, and if that has been talked between the participants on this meeting, and if that has been clear for both sides of this meeting as well.

(Via interpreter) I am briefly repeating in Spanish there is great friendship and partnership between the two countries and trade relations are also important between the two. But now, with talks about building a wall and ending NAFTA, I’d like to know if this could have an impact on the partnership and the way in which these two friends and partners address the problem. Thank you.

FOREIGN SECRETARY VIDEGARAY: (Via interpreter) Thank you, Armando. Let me be absolutely clear on the matter. Mexico cooperates with the United States when it comes to security because that is in Mexico’s best interest. We work together with the United States to combat TCOs, defending the security of Mexicans, because that is in Mexico’s interest. Therefore, cooperation occurs, not as part as a barter or an exchange between economic aspects or security or anything else; we do it with the clear conviction that this is in the interest of Mexico and the Mexicans.

That is why we are here. We are here while the commercial negotiations are ongoing and the leadership of the secretariat of commerce – while this takes place, we are also meeting here. We are here to defeat these TCOs that on a daily basis threaten the lives of thousands of U.S. citizens and thousands of Mexicans. In Mexico it can be the army, navy, soldiers, but also many young people involved in organized crime. We are convinced that this is a transnational phenomenon, that we can only vanquish definitively if we work together as a team with shared trust and vision with the Government of the United States.

MS NAUERT: Next question to Luis from the Associated Press.

QUESTION: Thank you. Good morning. I’m Luis Alonso with the AP. Thank you for this opportunity. I would like to ask the U.S. side how the U.S. evaluates Mexican efforts to fight illegal trafficking of fentanyl that you particular mention it. What percentage of the U.S.-bound fentanyl come from Mexico? And also in a more general sense, I would like to get your opinion because it seems that violence related to organized crime is rising this year in Mexico. Is the strategy working? What changes need to be made?

(Via interpreter) What I asked of the United States is how they assess Mexico’s efforts to combat illegal fentanyl. I don’t know if you would also like to touch on that topic. And in general terms about the strategy there, indicators that seem to show that organized crime violence has increased this year. What changes are needed to the strategy to revert that trend? Thank you.

ATTORNEY GENERAL SESSIONS: Well, fentanyl is – originally started mostly from China. It’s being sent in by mail directly to the United States. A considerable amount has been shipped to Mexico and then enters across the border in some fashion from Mexico. We are also seeing precursor chemicals in Mexico and manufacturing labs begin to develop in Mexico. So one of the priorities I would like to see us do is to nip that in the bud, stay very intensely focused on those laboratories, and make sure that it does not become a big problem in the future.

The fentanyl is so deadly, as you probably know. The biggest increase in deaths in the United States is from the fentanyl. Just the slightest miscalculation in the amount of fentanyl a person consumes can result in death and is resulting in death, so I believe we can make real progress there.

And the second part of your question?

QUESTION: The general strategy. The violence is continuing to rise.

ATTORNEY GENERAL SESSIONS: Yeah.

QUESTION: What needs to be adjusted?

ATTORNEY GENERAL SESSIONS: Violence is a product of wealth, it’s a product of power that comes with it, the ability to be outside the law. It threatens whole nations and the ability of those nations to function in a sovereign way. I think it’s all of our responsibilities to do all we can to reduce this threat that comes from these cartels. They cannot go to court to enforce their decisions. They do it by the barrel of a gun, and death and destruction always arises from more and more powerful cartels.

MODERATOR: (Via interpreter) We now have a question from Jose Lopez Zamorano from Notimex.

QUESTION: (Via interpreter) Thank you. I have a question for the secretary. The U.S. Congress has approved the bill 336 showing that Mexico is a partner for the United States, but we also see it in the concerns in these countries about the impact it may have on cooperation for security if the United States decided – decides to abandon NAFTA. There are also reports that the United States is also going to shift funds – for instance, payment to the DHS agency and from technology, and to use it to build the wall. What impact will this have on the bilateral impact if the United States go ahead – goes ahead with the plan for the wall and if it eventually drops NAFTA?

INTERIOR SECRETARY OSORIO: (Via interpreter) From the beginning of the presidency of Enrique Pena Nieto, one of his objectives and priorities was security. There is no collateral circumstance that can impact this seeking of peace and calm in our country. As the foreign minister pointed out, we are here to continue building on communication, on coordination, on joint efforts that go beyond the aspects of our relationship with the United States. We always do this thinking about the security of Mexican citizens, as must be done likewise in the defense of U.S. citizens by this country. Therefore, it will not have an impact on our effort or on our work and what has been started by this administration, and we will continue on this path.

Now, obviously, it is important to continue with collaboration and cooperation. Why would Mexico or the United States only think about eradication or shutting down laboratories if our countries were to continue having problems in the transfer and transport of drugs and its consumption? It would be pointless for Mexico to pursue a process to identify and capture criminals if we don’t have any information on the financial and logistic chains of the criminal groups here in the United States. Both sides are interested in obtaining information and data, so over and above any other interest, we must always place the security of the people we serve, and we will continue forward with that basic goal and objective for the government of the republic.

MS NAUERT: Dave Clark from AFP.

QUESTION: Good morning. Thank you very much. It’s a question primarily for the U.S. side. Last week, Mexican journalist Emilio Gutierrez Soto was arrested in Texas. He’s now in El Paso and he’s going – his asylum has been denied. He’s facing expulsion. Obviously, the TCO, as you’re talking about today, find the activities of a free press annoying. Otherwise, they wouldn’t have killed 11 Mexican journalists this year and many more in years previous. What can be done to protect journalism and civil society? And are you confident that if you go ahead with this expulsion and others that these journalists will be safe as they carry out their work? Thank you.

SECRETARY NIELSEN: Thank you. I would just start by saying that border security is a full system of systems, and the security of both our nations is in both of our interests. I think what we’ve talked about today are all of the things that can not only cross the border, but because of that, the violence that is caused, how it can affect other parts of both of our societies including the media, the social press, and the nongovernmental organizations who try to help combat these threats.

What we’ve talked about today are ways that we can further share information. We’ll continue to do that. As I mentioned earlier, the agreement on sharing criminal information specifically is meant to help both sides better understand that threat picture, and perhaps to understand who is targeted by that violence coming out – emanating from the TCOs. So we will continue to work together; it’s certainly top of mind, all the various parts of our communities that are affected by this TCO threat. And I look forward to working on further agreements to do just that.

MODERATOR: (Via interpreter) I now give the floor to Jose Diaz-Briseno from Reforma.

QUESTION: (Via interpreter) Good morning. Attorney General, the United States have indicated that Mexico has a record of poppy production for heroin. Has any specific agreement been reached as how the U.S. can help eradicate poppy? And they have also said they are not satisfied with the eradication achieved by the armed forces in Mexico. Has any agreement been reached?

(In English) And for Deputy Secretary Sullivan, do you have any concern regarding human rights in Mexico, considering that the Mexican congress is about to pass a very controversial domestic security law?

MR ELIAS: (Via interpreter) Thank you very much. In principle, there has not been a complaint or comment by the U.S. authorities regarding what our armed forces are doing in Mexico to eradicate the poppy fields. Quite on the contrary, we’re working together on eradication. The armed forces in our country eliminate more than 44 percent of the crops. This is an important figure; we have shared it with the U.S. authorities. In addition, the law enforcement and the criminal investigation department has also focused on shutting down clandestine laboratories that can create this substance of fentanyl. We have really struck hard at these organizations, especially in Guerrero, or the Golden Triangle – the states of Chihuahua, Durango, and Sinaloa.

We continue collaborating, we continue working to identify these crops, and also to be able to assess the results achieved jointly by both the Mexican authorities and the U.S. forces. But I insist we have to work together to combat all this phenomenon of TCOs and also to hit them hard in the poppy growing. We have to hit all the organizations at all the levels of the chain. But this also has an impact in the United States. We must share information, therefore, to understand what organizations are doing in the United States so as to really achieve the dismantling of these entities. Thank you.

DEPUTY SECRETARY SULLIVAN: Thank you. Yes, on human rights, human rights is an issue that we in the United States Government discuss with our partners in the Mexican Government quite frequently. In fact, just earlier this month we had our annual dialogue with Mexico on human rights. So our relationship includes frank conversation about advancing human rights, the rule of law. That’s a major part also of our Merida Initiative, is enhancing the rule of law, strengthening criminal justice and enforcement. But human rights is an important component of that, particularly press freedom and freedom for journalists. Freedom of the press is an indispensable component of a functioning democracy. And so we’re concerned whenever we hear reports of journalists being targeted.

But on human rights, we have had an ongoing dialogue with our partners in Mexico on this, and we look forward to continuing that. Thank you.

MS NAUERT: And thank you, everyone. Thank you for your questions.