Secretary Antony J. Blinken Remarks at the Strengthening Atlantic Cooperation Ministerial Meeting

General

SECRETARY BLINKEN:  Well, good morning, everyone.  There’s an almost-reverent silence in the room.  (Laughter.)  It’s really good to be with all of you.

Foreign Ministers, friends, colleagues, we’re delighted to have you here to discuss the shared interest that everyone around this table has on the future of the Atlantic Basin.  And I especially want to thank our colleagues from Angola, from Brazil, Ghana, Portugal, and Senegal, whose governments have been working with us over the past year to try to imagine together what greater cooperation across the entire Atlantic Ocean – both North and South – might look like.

As fellow Atlantic nations, this group understands the ocean’s centrality to our lives and to our shared futures.  The Atlantic Ocean is home to the world’s largest and busiest commercial shipping routes, some of its most vital natural resources, and so much of its biodiversity.  More commerce flows across the Atlantic than any other ocean.

The Atlantic economy supports 49 million jobs in Africa, $21 billion in GDP in Latin America. Two-thirds of the world’s renewable energy is generated in the Atlantic.  And the Gulf Stream, of course, dictates the Earth’s climate.

We see the Atlantic’s influence right here in New York City.  If you walk just a few blocks from here, you run into the East River.  Its storied Brooklyn Navy Yard was created by President John Adams in 1801 to protect the Atlantic trade of our nascent nation.  Fifty years later, a U.S. ship built in that navy yard teamed up with a British ship to lay an undersea telegraph cable, through which Queen Victoria transmitted the very first transatlantic Morse Code message.  Over a century later, in his first visit to the United States as president, Nelson Mandela announced a new trade office in New York to expand economic ties between our nations and our peoples.

Today, the Port Authority is working to combat the climate crisis with more aggressive greenhouse gas reduction targets and a new generation of fuel-efficient container ships.  And New Yorkers are working to restore the oyster reefs that once lined the harbor and to bring back the woodlands, salt marsh, and wetlands that once dominated this coastline.

The commercial, communications, and conservation challenges and opportunities you see right here in this city are shared by the community of Atlantic nations.  We know we can’t take for granted the free and open maritime trade that employs so many of our citizens, the undersea cables that connect us, the fish stocks and wildlife that sustain us.  Only together can we address rising challenges and threats to our Atlantic future.

Piracy; illegal, unreported, unregulated fishing; transnational organized crime; climate change; pollution; environmental degradation – these are just some of the challenges that we have to face together.

Consider just for a minute illegal, unreported, and unregulated fishing.  According to the FAO, one of – one in five fish on the market come from illicit fishing – one in five fish on the market.  That translates to losses of between $10 and $23 billion a year to lawful fishing industries in the region.  That harms coastal communities that rely on sustainable fish stocks for their income, for food.  It fuels corruption.  It threatens the health and biodiversity of our oceans.

The joint statement that we’re adopting today affirms our shared responsibility to try to foster a peaceful, prosperous, open, and cooperative Atlantic and protect its richness for future generations.  We’re also committing to build shared capacity to achieve these goals, drawing on the innovative technologies and best practices developed by Atlantic nations, for the benefit of all Atlantic nations.

Following the ministerial today, we plan to launch a consultative process to develop together a framework for regular cooperation among Atlantic countries through which our countries can carry out a shared approach to advancing our joint development, economic, environmental, scientific, and maritime governance goals.

We’re not pre-judging the results of these consultations.  We want to hear from everyone about your priorities, about your vision for enhancing cooperation, and not only from big countries but also small island nations whose voices need to be heard.  And we hope you’ll join us in encouraging more Atlantic nations to take part.

The United States currently spends over $400 million each year on maritime initiatives in the Atlantic.  Working with the United States Congress, we hope to invest an additional $100 million in the next year in support of shared priorities that we’re discussing today: Atlantic maritime governance, inclusive economic growth, innovative adaptations to the growing impact of climate change.

Last year, we joined the High-Level Panel for a Sustainable Ocean Economy.  This July, we joined the European Union and six nations from the Western Hemisphere and Africa in the All-Atlantic Ocean Research and Innovation Alliance Declaration to promote scientific cooperation for the health and sustainable development of the Atlantic.  And in the coming months, we hope to come together with many of you to conclude years of negotiations on protections of the high sea areas and sharing of the benefits of maritime genetic resources that are collected there.

We recognize the importance of expanding support for, and working with, existing Atlantic initiatives – Portugal’s leadership in creating the Atlantic Center in the Azores, Brazil’s vision of a zone of peace and cooperation in the South Atlantic, the Friends of the Gulf of Guinea – efforts that continue to make significant – to have a significant impact.  Still, as challenges mount and our innovations and opportunities expand, we believe our partnerships need to grow to meet those challenges.

So I’m really grateful to everyone around this table for being here today and for the work that we’re doing together.  And I look forward to all that we can actually accomplish together in the months and years to come.

Thanks to everyone for being here.

 

Source: US State Department