38th Portugal-U.S. Standing Bilateral Commission

  1. The Portugal-United States Standing Bilateral Commission (SBC) held its 38th Session on December 14, 2017 in Lisbon to discuss recent developments in bilateral relations and jointly explore opportunities to renew and further strengthen this longstanding Trans-Atlantic relationship.
  2. The Commission underlined the strategic nature of the centuries-old alliance between Portugal and the United States and the shared values that underpin the special friendship between our countries and citizens. The Portugal-United States relationship offers enormous potential and opportunities to expand upon in a range of issues.
  3. Under the topic “The United States in Portugal, Portugal in the United States: Looking Towards the Future”, the SBC discussed new ways to enhance cooperation in a mutually beneficial manner, including in the fields of culture, language, education, student exchanges, research, and growing our economies through economic partnerships, trade and investment. In June 2018, the “Month of Portugal in the United States” will provide a unique occasion to further explore such possibilities.
  4. The Commission recalled the very positive discussions between Minister Augusto Santos Silva and Secretary of State Rex Tillerson in Washington on July 27 and reviewed the ongoing bilateral cooperation, including in the areas of security and defense, trade and investment, science and technology, justice and home affairs. Both sides reiterated their shared interest to continue expanding cooperation in all these fields.
  5. The Commission also exchanged views on the international agenda and reaffirmed their continued commitment and cooperation to promote peace and security worldwide and address common threats and challenges.
  6. In particular, both parties reaffirmed their commitment, as members of the Global Coalition to Defeat ISIS, to fight terrorism. They also expressed their serious concern over the illegal proliferation activities developed by DPRK and agreed to maintain strong pressure on the North Korean authorities, in order to ensure a complete, verifiable and irreversible denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula.
  7. The SBC welcomed the September 12, 2017, meeting between the Portuguese Minister of National Defense, José Alberto Azeredo Lopes, and the U.S. Secretary of Defense, James Mattis, in Washington, DC, and hailed the excellent defense cooperation between the two countries.
  8. The Commission noted the outcomes of the last High-Level Defense Talks and the Defense Committee meeting, which proved to be important fora to enhance the bilateral relationship between Portugal and the United States, while providing an additional framework for an exchange of views on other topics. These topics include the current Strategic Environment, in particular the Southern Flank, the Middle East and Eastern Europe; Defense and Security Cooperation, including participation in missions, operations, and exercises; the development of capabilities; and potential areas for engagement and cooperation.
  9. Portugal and the United States reaffirmed their commitment to NATO – the cornerstone of the wider transatlantic partnership – and reiterated the importance of all NATO members meeting the Wales Defense Investment Pledge.
  10. Portugal and the United States stressed once again the strategic importance of Lajes Air Base to global security.
  11. Portugal and the United States remain committed to continuing consultations on the issues that may remain at Lajes from the U.S. streamlining process. In this regard, the SBC welcomes the assistance of officials who regularly meet in Lisbon to discuss possible solutions and come to a productive path forward. Since November 2016, discussions have focused primarily on infrastructure and environmental issues.
  12. The SBC acknowledges that the reduction of Portuguese employees supporting the 65th Air Base Group is complete, and reaffirms respect for the arrangement reached at the extraordinary meeting of the SBC in June 2015, in particular as to the total number of Portuguese employees retained by the 65th Air Base Group.
  13. The United States and Portugal recognize the interest of all parties to work on a constructive and productive way forward regarding the consolidation of USAFE’s Lajes Field presence on Air base No. 4, including the authorization of U.S. minor construction, the renovation of retained exclusive-use infrastructure on the base, and a coordinated transfer of responsibility of infrastructure that exceeds U.S. mission needs.
  14. Portugal acknowledges that the U.S. Area Development Plan is important to all concerned.  Portugal and the United States intend to jointly refine and implement a comprehensive infrastructure plan in accordance with the spirit of cooperation, dialogue, and friendship that underpins the close relationship between the Allies. The SBC is to be briefed by the technical committee on the status of the Comprehensive Infrastructure Plan discussions.
  15. The SBC welcomed the conclusion of the demolition of the cottages and lauded the joint endeavor of the Portuguese authorities and USAFE. The Commission encouraged all concerned parties to continue to work together in a cooperative spirit.
  16. The SBC welcomed the use of the 2009 Acquisition and Cross Servicing Agreement between the Portuguese Ministry of National Defense and the U.S. Department of Defense to temporarily support the pumping system to Bairro de Santa Rita until the municipality of Praia da Vitória concludes the installation of a new water distribution system in 2019.
  17. The Commission also noted the transfer of the NEXRAD radar tower and facilities from USAFE to Instituto Português do Mar e da Atmosfera (IPMA), on 20 November, and USAFE’s return of the parcel of the Santa Barbara land to HZAA.
  18. The protection of Terceira Island’s environment and the health and safety of its population, both civilian and military, are recognized by both Portugal and the United States as foundational to continued operations on the island.  The SBC was briefed on the current status of environmental issues on Terceira Island with regard to U.S. activities at Lajes Field, including in regard to two priority sites (Main Gate and South Tank Farm). The United States and Portugal intend to monitor the issues and encourage the technical experts to reach a conclusion on how best to proceed.
  19. The United States and Portugal welcomed the increase in discussions on environmental matters since the last SBC. Concerning the list of additional sites under review, both sides commit to carefully examine possibilities for further, prompt and effective action towards the resolution of issues. The Commission took note of the consistent commitment of the 65th Air Base Group, AFCEC, and LNEC to continue to share and review empirical data on previously identified sites. This commitment extends to comprehend more fully the environmental conditions at identified sites in the near future.
  20. The Commission intends to continue dialogue concerning the Cabrito Pipeline in order to move forward to a solution as quickly as possible.
  21. The SBC welcomed the increase in the number of commercial flights between Portugal and the United States – including the announced U.S. flight from New York to Ponta Delgada that will commence in the spring, yet another reflection of the ever closer economic and cultural ties between the two countries.
  22. On Cooperation with the Azores, the SBC recalled the proposed areas of cooperation presented by the Regional Government in the framework of the Azores Committee and the continued interest of all parties in pursuing concrete, mutually beneficial measures and initiatives to support the region’s economic development, and seek future economic opportunities. The Commission discussed public events to commemorate the unique, historic ties between the Azores and the United States that have its most important expression in the Portuguese diaspora communities from the Azores in the United States and in the longstanding presence of the United States in the Azores. The SBC welcomed the announcement of direct flights next spring from New York to Ponta Delgada and additional flight code-shares, noted the excellent support recently provided to U.S. visitors facing crisis, and discussed ways to increase cross-Atlantic tourism and create market conditions to attract U.S. hotels to enter the Azores market.  In addition, the SBC discussed strategies to further grow the Azorean economy in partnership with U.S. companies and educational institutions in the areas of Blue Economy and technology start-up initiatives on Sao Miguel and Terceira islands, and reflected on opportunities for a significant role of the Azores in the development of the LNG market.
  23. Portugal and the United States regard the energy sector as a priority area for a strong and mutually beneficial economic partnership, and stress their shared interest to continue making headway in the field of liquefied natural gas (LNG). The SBC acknowledged the opportunities presented by the World LNG Summit held in Lisbon last November and welcomed the joint declaration of Portugal and the United States on LNG at this event. The Commission also welcomed the joint initiative to establish a LNG Working Group and organize a Portuguese LNG-focused visit to the United States in 2018.
  24. The SBC highlighted the untapped potential of the Blue Economy, and the vast opportunities it presents for new scientific and economic partnerships involving the governments, academia, scientists, researchers and private entrepreneurs on both sides of the Atlantic. The Commission welcomed the commitment by both sides to continue energy and blue economy cooperation and encouraged the undertaking of entrepreneurial delegations with the objective of promoting cross-Atlantic investments and partnerships.
  25. The Commission was updated on the latest developments regarding the ongoing cooperation in science and technology, environment and energy (STEE). The Commission welcomed the Science, Technology, Energy and Environment Action Plan for 2018-2019 and the STEE Committee’s intention to seek ways of mainstreaming the Blue Economy in STEE discussions and relevant programs and actions and to encourage coordination between the scientific and commercial elements of Blue Economy in conjunction with the Trade and Investment Committee.
  26. The SBC praised the important support of both the Luso-American Development Foundation (FLAD) and the Fulbright Commission to cooperation in the STEE field. The Commission noted positively the increase in the number of Fulbright Scholarships for the period 2017/2018 (60 in total) and the cooperation between the Fulbright Commission and the Fundação para a Ciência e Tecnologia (FCT) in this regard. The Commission also recalled the US Embassy’s Science Fellow and the State Department´s International Visitor Leadership Program, which provide additional opportunities for exchanges and cooperation. The Commission also welcomed recent data showing increased student mobility between Portugal and the United States, including a 23% increase in the number of American university students studying in Portugal.
  27. The Commission was also briefed on the Second High Level Dialogue on Atlantic Interactions, held in Florianópolis, Brazil, in November, and the signing of a “Declaration of Intentions on the Establishment of an Atlantic International Research Centre” with its headquarters in the Azores. The meeting was attended by representatives of governments, as well as by science and research centers, including from the United States. The Commission looks forward to the establishment of an institutional network based on knowledge and data that fosters bottom-up Research and Development initiatives. It also noted that the AIR Centre will remain open to the world through different forms of scientific and technological collaboration with both public and private entities across the globe.
  28. The SBC recalled the organization of the first UN Ocean Conference to support the implementation of Sustainable Development Goal 14 and other related targets of the 2030 Agenda, which was a significant step towards strengthening efforts to halt and reverse the decline of our Oceans’ health, and acknowledged its outcome document entitled “Our Ocean, Our Future: a call for action”. In this respect, the Commission took note of the offer made by Portugal to host a follow-up UN Ocean Conference in 2020. The parties also recalled the 2017 “Our Ocean” conference, where the U.S. Government and its partners pledged more than 75 million dollars to support seafood traceability, waste management, plastics elimination, sustainable fishing, and conservation, increase the reach of the Pier2Pier mentorship program, and expand the He’eia National Estuarine Research Reserve.
  29. The Commission received a briefing on the main cooperative activities in justice and home affairs, an area of increased importance and interest for both Portugal and the United States. The SBC commended the continued cooperation in this sphere and encouraged enhanced cooperation on cyber issues, capacity building and exchange of good practices in a host of justice and home affairs domains. The Commission also noted that the Justice and Home Affairs Committee held its first discussion on cooperation in preventing and fighting forest fires, positively noting the visit of a delegation from the U.S. Forest Service to Portugal concurrent with the SBC, and anticipating further cooperation in a variety of fire management fields.  The Commission welcomed the Committee’s intention to present a list of JHA priorities for 2018/2019 to the next
  30. Portugal and the United States continue to reinforce the cooperation on civil aviation security, in the terms of the existing Memorandum of Cooperation, by means of technical visits, sharing of expertise and exchanging of relevant information regarding the current threat context and the adaptability of preventive measures to civil aviation security.
  31. Portugal and the US welcomed the signing of the bilateral Agreement on Immunities and Privileges for Consular Staff. The SBC also took note of the ongoing negotiations on a bilateral Asset Sharing Agreement.
  32. The SBC lauded the work of the various subsidiary bodies and took note of their respective progress reports.
  33. The Commission agreed to hold its next meeting in Washington, D.C. in Spring 2018.