STANDING BILATERAL COMMISSION
Washington, D.C., Lisbon, Azores
July 15, 2020
- The 43rd Session of the United States-Portugal Standing Bilateral Commission (SBC) met July 15 in Washington, D.C., Lisbon, and the Azores, both in-person and virtually, to discuss cooperation on key bilateral issues.
- The United States and Portugal took note of the negative global impact of COVID-19 and remembered those who have lost their lives. Both countries shared best practices in overcoming the effects of the global pandemic, including fueling a strong economic recovery, supporting global public health, strengthening and diversifying medical supply chains to ensure security of supply, countering disinformation and propaganda, and maintaining vigilance against investments in strategic areas that could impact national security or put valuable dual-use intellectual property at risk. The Commission discussed challenges to joint interests from a variety of sources, including in some cases from Russia and the People’s Republic of China.
- Both sides recognized that a strong Transatlantic relationship remains essential for the security and prosperity of both partners, but also for the wider world and stressed the importance of finding common ground to move forward in a broader positive U.S.-European agenda. Portugal welcomed the stable increase in investment flows from the United States and flagged other interesting opportunities in areas of common strategic interest. The United States and Portugal stressed support for U.S. and EU efforts to reach negotiated solutions to Transatlantic trade disputes. In this context, Portugal reiterated its concern with the tariffs applied to Azorean dairy products as well as with those in consideration in the review process.
- The SBC focused on issues of regional and global concern, including Portugal’s plans for assuming the Presidency of the Council of the European Union in 2021. The SBC praised the close contact kept between the United States and Portugal concerning the severe crisis in Venezuela and highlighted their convergence of views on the need for a peaceful, political solution through credible negotiations. The United States and Portugal expressed their solidarity with the Venezuelan people and criticized recent measures by the Maduro regime that further compromise a democratic transition. On Africa, the United States and Portugal discussed the major challenges faced by the continent, currently exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic, and in particular, the economic, security, and political issues in Portuguese-speaking African countries. Both parties agreed to deepen consultations on African themes and to further engage in initiatives of mutual interest, for example in the area of Maritime Security in the Gulf of Guinea.
- As maritime states, the United States and Portugal emphasized the strategic importance of the maritime domain, especially the Atlantic Ocean, and took note of the conclusion of an Agreement on Maritime Security Cooperation. The Commission welcomed a briefing by Portugal on its planned launch of the future Lajes-based Atlantic Centre for Defence Capacity Building. The Centre will benefit from the Azores’ location in the Atlantic in its efforts to promote maritime security.
- The SBC welcomed the importance of defense cooperation and its contribution for Transatlantic dialogue. Topics of mutual interest such as the security of the Atlantic, the strategic role of the Azores and sub-Saharan Africa should continue to be in the agenda. A stronger collaboration in cooperative maritime security and defense capacity building could be further explored. The United States and Portugal also agreed that maintaining defense investments during these turbulent times is vitally important.
- The SBC welcomed recent virtual High Level Defense Talks that addressed the Transatlantic security environment, security cooperation in Africa, defense support to civilian COVID-19 response efforts, space, defense industrial cooperation, and Women, Peace, and Security agendas.
- The SBC also welcomed the signing of a Space Situational Awareness Technical Arrangement and its contribution to enhancing bilateral space cooperation.
- The United States and Portugal noted the strength of the bilateral defense partnership and the strategic importance and contributions of Portugal and Lajes Air Base to Transatlantic and global security.
- The Commission acknowledged the mutual commitment of the United States and Portugal to promote the conservation and sustainable use of ocean and marine resources, and looked forward to engaging in the second UN Ocean Conference, to be co-hosted by Portugal and Kenya, in Lisbon. The United States and Portugal have common interests in developing the blue economy in different sectors and in strengthening bilateral relationships on blue innovation, technology, and maritime clusters cooperation.
- Both sides recognized the historical significance of the 225th anniversary of the U.S. Consulate in Ponta Delgada on July 7. The U.S. Consulate in the Azores is the oldest continually operating U.S. Consulate in existence. Both sides expressed wishes that the symbolism of the date will serve to strengthen cooperation between the United States and the Azores at all levels.
- On cooperation with the Azores, the SBC received an update on developments by the Regional Government of the Azores: on the Fulbright Commission partnership, which has granted the first three scholarships to Azorean students that will continue their studies in the United States after January 2021, as well as on the partnership between FLAD, University of the Azores, and University of Massachusetts Lowell. Both sides expressed the desire to resume the focus on tourism and economic investments between the United States and the Azores as soon as conditions allow.
- The SBC took note of progress on the discussions on a comprehensive infrastructure plan, including a Portuguese proposal to redefine the base perimeter on security considerations.
- The SBC acknowledged that a path forward was identified for two sites (3003 – Main Power Plant and 5009 – Cume da TACAN) at Lajes Field. The SBC highlighted the Technical Commission’s role in continuing to track progress on actions being implemented, and promoting understanding and continued engagement on environmental matters that remain. The SBC welcomed the July 13 meeting of environmental technical experts to further discuss the technical findings at sites 3001 and 5001 as a step forward in developing a shared understanding, and noted plans for in-person follow-up discussions in San Antonio and Lajes, when travel conditions permit.
- The Labor Committee provided updates to the SBC. U.S. and Portuguese Labor Committee members met on July 13 to discuss work-related issues. In addition, the U.S. team provided an update on health and safety activities at Lajes Field. Both sides noted their shared intention to continue bilateral labor cooperation in accordance with existing agreements.
- The SBC decided to hold its next meeting in Portugal in December 2020.