50th Standing Bilateral Commission Portugal-United States of America
Angra do Heroísmo, December 5, 2023
1. The Portugal-United States Standing Bilateral Commission (SBC), established by the 1995 Agreement on Cooperation and Defense, met for its 50th Session on December 5th in Angra do Heroísmo, Azores, to discuss developments in the bilateral relationship and exchange views on pressing international matters. The SBC also discussed NATO and security and defense topics, with both sides reiterating their longstanding commitment to transatlantic security.
2. The landmark 50th SBC at Terceira Island celebrated the historic relevance of the Azores and the Atlantic for the Portugal-U.S. bilateral relationship. The SBC delegations (Annex I) thank the Regional Government of the Azores and the Portuguese Air Force’s Air Base 4 and the U.S. Air Force’s 65th Air Base Group at Lajes Field for their warm hospitality and support of the visit.
3. Both delegations underlined the importance of the bilateral partnership, rooted in deep historical ties, shared democratic values, and a common vision for addressing global challenges. The SBC noted President Marcelo Rebelo de Sousa’s September visit to Portuguese communities in the United States. The delegations welcomed the fact that, under the AMIGOS Act, Portuguese nationals will be eligible for trader and investor visas (E visas) in mid-2024.
4. Portugal and the United States held a high-level dialogue on oceans, particularly the importance of scientific and technological cooperation between their universities, government departments, and agencies. The delegations underscored their resolve to deepen bilateral economic ties and investments on energy, climate, and digital transitions, and to seize opportunities on a sustainable blue economy supported by oceanic research and new technologies. An October trade delegation to the United States and major investments by U.S. companies in sub-sea cables, technology, and the Portuguese service sector played an important role advancing these objectives.
5. The delegations discussed implementation of the three Portugal-U.S. Memoranda of Understanding (MOUs). Both delegations committed to advancing concrete actions on cancer research and treatment in Lusophone Africa foreseen in the MOU between the Ministry of Health and the National Cancer Institute. They welcomed the ongoing collaboration between the Agência para a Gestão Integrada de Fogos Rurais (AGIF), the U.S. Forest Service, and U.S. non- governmental organizations regarding the sharing of best practices in preventing, fighting, and recovering from forest fires as well as using innovative financial tools to support forests. The delegations also took note of the future opportunities for triangular cooperation on joint sustainable development activities in Africa between the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) and Portugal’s Camões Institute. They also discussed other means to promote scientific collaboration.
6. Both delegations reaffirmed the importance of strong bilateral and EU-U.S. transatlantic relations to promote peace, security, democracy, multilateralism, the rule of law, human rights, and fundamental freedoms and to address pressing global challenges. The SBC reiterated the need to face emerging global threats through multilateral cooperation, namely the UN and its bodies. It also recognized the importance of jointly promoting the Women, Peace and Security Agenda.
7. The delegations recognized NATO’s role, as the Alliance approaches its 75th anniversary, as the
unique, essential, and indispensable transatlantic forum to consult, coordinate and act on all
matters related to Allies’ individual and collective security. They also reaffirmed their commitment to fulfill the Wales and Vilnius pledges concerning defense expenditure. Both countries recognized the importance of the NATO-EU strategic partnership in addressing existing and future challenges and threats to Euro-Atlantic security. Both countries also underscored their cooperation in the context of a 360-degree approach to addressing Euro-Atlantic security challenges, including those stemming from our neighborhood, and preparing for the Alliance’s Washington Summit in 2024.
8. Portugal and the United States emphasized their unwavering determination to support Ukraine’s right to self-defense against Russia’s illegal and brutal invasion and noted the importance of robust political, military, and humanitarian assistance to Ukraine.
9. Both delegations condemned Hamas’ heinous October 7 terrorist attacks and reiterated Israel’s inherent right to defend itself within the framework of International Humanitarian Law. They called for the immediate and unconditional release of all hostages taken on October 7. They expressed deep concern about the humanitarian situation in Gaza and stressed that the protection of civilians is paramount. The delegations underscored the vital need for continued, rapid, safe and unhindered humanitarian access and aid to the civilian population and welcomed the humanitarian pause in place between November 24 and December 1. They also expressed deep concern about the situation in the West Bank, including the increasing levels of violence by extremist settlers. The delegations stressed the need to prevent the conflict from spreading and to move in a determined, credible way towards a political solution, in accordance with international law.
10. The SBC discussed ways for Portugal and the United States to jointly cooperate further with third countries, namely on security, foreign investment, job creation, technology cooperation, and digital and transport infrastructures. The SBC encouraged the private sector of both countries to continue cooperating on specific third markets and to make good use of the opportunities offered by new instruments such as the EU’s Global Gateway or the G7 Partnership for Global Infrastructure and Investment.
11. Portugal and the United States highlighted the strategic relevance of the Atlantic region and the importance of developing a strong, cooperative community of coastal Atlantic States through common initiatives namely the Atlantic Centre and the Partnership for Atlantic Cooperation, to open a new chapter in advancing regional cooperation, to build shared solutions and capacity to address Atlantic challenges, including the security of critical infrastructures, and to develop an interconnected approach to prosperity, security, stability, and sustainability.
12. The SBC registered both countries’ commitment to strengthening U.S. cooperation in the Azores and ensuring adequate resources to deepen this work. They highlighted common priorities in the fields of energy transition, education, science, and technology, and the overall economic development of the Azores, noting Azorean participation in the United States’ flagship exchange programs including the International Visitor Leadership and Fulbright Programs. In addition, the United States and Portugal agreed to further explore ways to advance scientific cooperation and exchange between U.S. and Azorean scientists and institutions, including at the Atlantic International Research (AIR) Centre.
13. The SBC received Joint Statements regarding the most recent discussions held at the Technical Commission and Labor Committee meetings. The SBC reiterated the importance of environmental safety in the Azores and underscored the Technical Commission’s role in continuing to track progress on matters related to environmental sites. The SBC welcomed the Technical Commission’s report of the United States’ Department of Defense’s investment of over 23 million
dollars in Lajes Field infrastructure and services during fiscal year 2023, and its benefits to the local economy. The SBC highlighted the importance of the ongoing collaboration between the U.S. Air Force Civil Engineer Center and Portugal’s National Laboratory for Civil Engineering (LNEC) at Lajes Field and encouraged the continuation of joint fieldwork and the mutual exchange of data, reports, and technical expertise between U.S. and Portuguese representatives. The SBC was encouraged by ongoing environmental projects at Site 3001 in the interest of human health and safety. The SBC noted the conclusions of the Labor Committee and its determination that no USAF local employees’ remuneration is below the Azorean regional minimum wage. The SBC welcomed the Labor Committee’s decision to further discuss means to better safeguard longevity increments as established in Article 16 of the Work Regulation in an ad hoc meeting in early 2024. The SBC looked forward to the conclusions in the committee’s report.
14. The SBC is pleased to announce that its 51st session will be held in Washington, in the spring of 2024.