47th UNITED STATES – PORTUGAL
STANDING BILATERAL COMMISSION
Washington D.C., June 8, 2022
- The 47th Session of the United States-Portugal Standing Bilateral Commission (SBC) met on June 8, 2022, in Washington D.C. to discuss bilateral and international affairs, and underscore the common values that bind the two countries and their citizens. The SBC also warmly welcomed the arrival of both countries’ new Ambassadors: U.S. Ambassador to Portugal Randi Charno Levine and Portugal’s Ambassador to the United States Francisco Duarte Lopes.
- The United States and Portugal discussed President Putin’s illegal, unprovoked, and unjustified war against Ukraine and its impact, as well as how the United States and Portugal, together with more than 30 allies and partners across the world have levied the most high-impact, coordinated, and wide-ranging economic sanctions in history to hold the Russian leadership accountable for its brutal war against Ukraine.
- The SBC also discussed bilateral cooperation for the future related to cyberspace security, energy security, clean energy, and climate and oceans, and noted the expected results and high-level engagement at the 2022 UN Ocean Conference in Lisbon June 27 – July 1. In terms of the international agenda, the SBC discussed China, India, and the Indo-Pacific region, as well as Africa and Latin America. Both countries reiterated their unwavering commitment to Transatlantic security and the values that underpin the NATO Alliance and discussed Lajes Field updates and cooperation in the Azores beyond Lajes. The SBC highlighted Portugal’s role in the EU and the strength of the U.S.-EU partnership as we work to address shared global challenges.
- Highlighting the importance of the bilateral partnership, the SBC noted the most recent high-level meetings, including NATO and European Council meetings on March 24 with President Biden and Prime Minister Costa, and the June 7 meeting between Portuguese Director General for Foreign Policy Rui Vinhas and Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs Victoria Nuland. Prime Minister Costa and President Rebelo de Sousa are expected to meet with Special Presidential Envoy for Climate John Kerry on June 27, while he leads the U.S. delegation to the UN Ocean Conference. Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin is expected to meet with Minister of National Defense Helena Carreira on the margins of the June 16-17 NATO Defense Ministerial. Since the last SBC, other high-level engagements have occurred, including meetings or calls between U.S. Deputy Secretary of State Wendy Sherman and Director General for Foreign Policy Rui Vinhas, and between U.S. Counselor of the U.S. Department of State Derek Chollet and Director General for Foreign Policy Rui Vinhas. Both countries also attended the U.S.-organized High-level Coordination Meeting on Venezuela in February, multiple meetings of the U.S.-organized Ukraine Defense Contact Group, and the Defeat ISIS Ministerial in May co-hosted by the United States and Morocco.
- Both countries noted the signing of a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) between California and Portugal on wildfire management collaboration and encouraged broader cooperation on energy, climate action, and economic development, welcoming California’s proposal of an MOU for enhanced cooperation. The SBC also recognized ongoing efforts to establish MOUs between USAID and Portugal on development and cooperation assistance, and between the U.S. National Cancer Institute and Portugal’s Directorate General of Health on cancer research. The SBC also encouraged the expansion of the scope of bilateral cooperation in cybersecurity.
- The SBC underlined the excellent bilateral cooperation in many domains, particularly in science, technology, energy, and the environment, acknowledging the importance of student, academia, and research exchange in these fields, and praising the important support of the Luso-American Development Foundation (FLAD) and the Fulbright Commission. In particular, the SBC flagged a recent successful exchange program where seven participants from the Azores traveled to the United States to meet with experts at NASA and other agencies focused on space and the launching of aircraft. Recognizing the importance of people-to-people contacts and dedication to increasing awareness of diversity, equity, inclusion, and accessibility (DEIA), both countries lauded art and cultural exchanges and the significant integration of the Portuguese language in elementary and secondary schools and universities in the United States. Both countries praised joint collaboration to fight disinformation and reiterated their commitment to promote and protect human rights and democratic institutions.
- The SBC welcomed significant investments of U.S. companies in Portugal and of Portuguese companies in the United States and encouraged further transatlantic trade and investment, particularly in areas of strategic and geostrategic interest. The SBC explored opportunities to continue building upon the strength of the bilateral relationship, opening the way for more joint initiatives involving energy security. In this regard, the SBC had an exchange of views on matters of mutual concern, such as the shared goal to reduce Europe’s dependence on Russian fossil fuels, including through increased natural gas supply to Europe through Portugal, taking advantage of existing and future infrastructures, and the potential for additional low-carbon and, most of all, renewable fuel alternatives. The United States and Portugal reinforced the additional steps European Allies and partners like Portugal are taking to diversify their sources of energy and guarantee their security of supply, advance the clean energy transition, and improve energy productivity and efficiency in line with our shared climate goals, and noted the strategic location of Portugal, namely the Port of Sines, as a gateway to supply LNG and, in the near future, renewable energies to Europe.
- The SBC also highlighted both countries’ shared goal of joint action to raise climate awareness and to combat the climate crisis, noting the pledges made at the 2021 United Nations Climate Change Conference (COP26), the Global Methane Pledge, the results of the seventh Our Ocean Conference, which the United States co-hosted with Palau from April 13 to April 14, 2022, and looks forward to ambitious climate results from the second UN Ocean Conference, which is planned for Lisbon from June 27 to July 1, 2022. Recognizing the vital role of the ocean within the broader climate context, both countries underlined their respective commitments to advancing ocean-based climate solutions, including advancing the goal of zero emissions from the international shipping sector no later than 2050. They also reiterated their respective commitments to developing solutions to ocean problems through science and innovation, sustainable blue economy initiatives, and concrete actions, which are also major strands of work and objectives of the second UN Ocean Conference.
- While recognizing the importance of modernizing infrastructures towards a secure and clean energy future, both countries are aware of possible national security implications of foreign direct investment in technologies that are fundamental to transatlantic technological leadership. The United States and Portugal expressed their commitment to monitor foreign direct investment to prevent excessive energy dependencies and the control of strategic economic sectors. In this regard, the SBC welcomed the work carried out by the EU-U.S. Trade and Technological Council.
- The SBC underscored the excellent cooperation on Atlantic-centric issues, and the engagement of both sides in valuing the strategic role of the Azores and its potential for advancing Atlantic security cooperation. The United States and Portugal restated their commitment, expressed in the Roadmap for the Atlantic Centre, to deepening ties in this area in the short-term, reinforcing their joint work in developing initiatives that seek whole-of-Atlantic solutions to complex problems across all four quadrants of the Atlantic in the logic of complementarity. The SBC recognized the contribution of Portugal to strengthening Atlantic security, economic sustainability, and growth, including the leadership of the Atlantic Center.
- In terms of the international agenda, the SBC also discussed China and the larger Indo-Pacific region. Recognizing the importance of close coordination and consultation on the full range of issues in the framework of our multifaceted approaches to China, both countries continued to express concern about the People’s Republic of China (PRC)’s ongoing human rights abuses in Xinjiang, Hong Kong, and Tibet. The SBC also discussed broader Indo-Pacific strategies and synergies.
- SBC discussions on Africa focused on the Sahel, Angola and Mozambique. Both countries decided to further their cooperation in initiatives of mutual interest and to deepen consultations on related issues, including maritime security in the Gulf of Guinea, northern Mozambique and the Sahel region. The SBC also welcomed growing engagement related to overseas missions and operations as well as ongoing bilateral efforts to support capacity building initiatives for the Mozambique Armed Forces including the European Union Training Mission (EUTM-Mozambique) and the U.S. Joint Combined Exchange Training (JCET).
- The SBC recognized the strategic importance of Latin America. Both countries reaffirmed their commitment to supporting the Venezuelan-led negotiation process and a peaceful return to democracy, recognizing the EU Election Observation Mission’s work as an important step to foster credible, inclusive, and transparent legislative and presidential elections.
- The SBC acknowledged the excellent bilateral relations in the field of security and defense, anchored in the Transatlantic relationship and NATO, and now expanding into greater mutual interest in the Atlantic space. Portugal and the United States look forward to High Level Defense Talks in July 2022 and remain open to new avenues for cooperation in the field of security and defense.
- As NATO prepares to adopt a new Strategic Concept and implements the NATO 2030 Agenda, adapting the Alliance to a rapidly transforming security landscape, both countries reaffirmed the importance of the transatlantic bond and of upholding the Alliance´s core tasks, including reinforced deterrence and defense posture and a more ambitious partnership policy through its “360 degrees” approach.
- The SBC welcomed the European Council’s adoption of the Strategic Compass and recalled NATO’s and the European Union’s closely timed strategic reviews, acknowledging that these represent an opportunity to enhance cooperation, interoperability and coherence, and expressed its support for the Options for Further Enhancing Cooperation in All Aspects of the NATO-EU Partnership paper endorsed at the December 2021 NATO Ministerial. The SBC also welcomed a greater U.S. involvement in European defense initiatives, following the U.S. participation in the PESCO Military Mobility project, as a contribution to a stronger and more capable European defense that is complementary with NATO.
- The SBC welcomed the results of the first rounds of U.S.-EU dialogue on Security and Defense, which strengthens strategic partnership in transatlantic security and serves as a valuable forum for consultations on issues of mutual interest.
- Both countries discussed their commitment to strengthen the NATO Alliance, which remains united, and to bolster NATO’s collective defense. Both countries also reinforced the shared goal to continue to work together on cyberdefense, space and emerging disruptive technologies and on the implementation of the Women, Peace, and Security agenda.
- The SBC discussed several issues of mutual concern in the global political arena, including Russia’s war of aggression against Ukraine. Both countries highlighted the exceptional display of transatlantic unity and EU-U.S. coordination and reiterated their support for Ukraine and their determination to hold Russia accountable for its brutal war and the importance of imposing costs on Russian leadership through severe sanctions and export control measures. The United States and Portugal also share a commitment to continue coordinating political, financial, material, and humanitarian support, as well as address the needs of refugees fleeing the violence in Ukraine. This includes historic steps the EU and other states have also taken to provide unprecedented humanitarian, economic, and security assistance to the courageous people of Ukraine as they defend against Russia’s aggression, including the EU’s commitment to provide €2 billion ($2.08 billion) in military aid through the European Peace Facility.
- The SBC received briefings on the most recent discussions held at the Technical Commission and Labor Committee meetings and their respective activities to resolve issues of mutual concern at Lajes Field.
- The SBC reiterated the importance it attaches to environmental safety at Lajes Field and underscored the Technical Commission’s role in continuing to track progress on matters related to environmental sites. The SBC lauded recent constructive and fruitful discussions and continued to encourage progress on the environmental sites where a path forward has been identified.
- The SBC recognized the importance of continued engagement on sites 3001 and 5001 and was encouraged by efforts to reach a common technical understanding. The SBC welcomes, in this regard, the ongoing collaboration between U.S. Air Force Civil Engineer Center (AFCEC) and Portugal’s National Laboratory for Civil Engineering (LNEC), conducting joint fieldwork, exchanging data, reports, and technical expertise. The SBC noted AFCEC’s additional technical undertakings to determine the direction of water flow as a part of efforts to identify whether there may be risk to human health and safety posed by contamination of the aquifers. The SBC expressed its willingness to build on the results of the ongoing scientific and technical work towards a resolution.
- The SBC welcomes the commitment of both countries to closer cooperation between the Azores and the United States and encourages the Committee for Cooperation with the Azores to prepare concrete proposals, namely at the technical and scientific levels.
- The SBC decided to hold its next meeting in Portugal in November 2022.