Ambassador Buchan Discusses 5G Security Risks and the Humanitarian Crisis in Venezuela at the IX Spain-US Business Forum

US Chamber of Commerce Event
November 21, 2019

Señor Ministro, Señor Bonet, Señor Badía, ladies and gentlemen, ¡Buenos días! 

If you’ll permit me, I want to touch on a few issues that should be of concern to all of us in the international business community: Digital Security in emerging 5G networks, and the heartbreaking humanitarian crisis in Venezuela.

First, I don’t need to tell you that the U.S. market is more attractive than ever to Spanish firms. Now is the perfect time to invest in the United States. Spanish companies have established a great track record of success in the U.S. market.

Business is booming in the U.S. Unemployment is at a 50 year low.  Low interest rates have bolstered the outlook for households, and consumer confidence remains high:  Nielsen’s Conference Board Consumer Confidence Index was at 125.9 in mid-October. And we have a great tool in the new Double Taxation Treaty we celebrated a couple of months ago. It was a long time coming.

Treasury Secretary Mnuchin asked me how he could help in Spain. I replied, “Eliminate double taxation.”  We are glad to see this going into effect this month.

The protocol reduces the tax bill for companies who invest in both countries on a scale of billions of dollars per year. Billions of dollars!  Eso no es calderilla. That money can now be used to create more jobs, more investment, and more growth. Este acuerdo hace la tarta más grande para todos.

The United States is an open and free market, and we welcome all innovators and investors.

But not everybody plays by the same rules. That is why I want to touch on cyber security concerns related to the launch of 5G networks; and the ongoing crisis in Venezuela.

The U.S. advocates for a vibrant digital economy worldwide under 5G networks. Spanish companies and all Spanish citizens need to trust 5G equipment and companies will not threaten your national security, privacy, intellectual property or human rights. Trust cannot exist when telecom vendors are subject to an authoritarian government like China with no independent judiciary or rule of law.

Countries, telecom operators, and users should consider security when building 5G networks and leave out untrusted companies. The U.S. technical assessment is that the risks of allowing Chinese telecom equipment anywhere in the 5G networks cannot be mitigated. Lo barato sale caro y en el 5G también.

Frankly, do we really want China’s hands at the controls when it comes to these new networks that will be used for everything from pilotless airplanes, and self-driving cars and trains, to pacemakers and power grids? Do we really want to allow these companies to gain market access now at the risk of creating monopolies in the future? We welcome collaboration with allies and partners to ensure our shared security in the future of 5G.

Lastly, the United States and Spain are both very involved in Latin American markets. In this area, we see the same investment opportunities and challenges.  But the environment is changing in many places in Latin America, and companies have a responsibility to promote positive changes.

La semana pasada viajé a Cúcuta, Colombia en la frontera con Venezuela, y lo que ví me rompió el corazón. ¡Qué horror! Niños muriendo de hambre. Ancianos sin medicina.

While in Cúcuta, I visited a soup kitchen where more than 5,000 people are fed every day. I met an elderly woman there who was all alone and clearly in huge distress.  She told me the Maduro regime had killed her husband.  She had no food, and no support, so she walked alone for many, many miles to the Colombian border just to get something to eat.  She had no idea what her next steps in life would be.  Stories like this were everywhere.  Each one more heartbreaking than the last.

This is why Maduro must go; Venezuelans don’t deserve to suffer him a moment longer.

Any of us who have any influence must continue to call for free and fair elections and a return to democracy in Venezuela.

I witnessed the heavy lift Colombia is undertaking to support the Venezuelan people. They are making valiant efforts to accommodate 2 million Venezuelans, but the work they are doing puts a huge strain on their own resources and infrastructure. That’s why Colombia needs all of our support. We all must do more to support the people of Venezuela.

This is a country that used to be an economic leader of South America and sits on the largest proven oil reserves in the world. A potentially very wealthy country. The potential for them to benefit from economic prosperity is clearly there.

And not only Venezuelans will benefit. Once the political situation is normalized after Maduro, Spanish companies, with a long tradition of doing business in the region, will also be among the beneficiaries.

So, Spanish companies should encourage the Spanish government to take the lead within the EU to improve the situation in Venezuela.

In closing, let me just say that, as partners, friends, and allies, Spain and the United States can continue to work together to confront the challenges we all face in the global economy. EE.UU. y España somos aliados, socios y amigos. From digital security threats from China to the oppressive regime in Venezuela, we can join our voices in support of a safer, more democratic, and prosperous world.

Thank you very much.