Secretary of State launches trip to Latin America from Austin

A large group packed into a small auditorium at the University of Texas at Austin on Thursday afternoon to hear U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson.

"So in many ways, 2018 marks the year of the Americas,” said the Secretary of State.

Tillerson, a Texas ex, chose Austin to kick off a week-long trip to Central and South America as well as the Caribbean. The diplomatic mission will promote the Trump administration's new policy on how the United States plans to work with other countries in the western hemisphere.

Revamping NAFTA is at the top of the agenda.

"But it should come as no surprise that an agreement put in 30 years ago, before the advent of the digital age, and a digital economy, before China's rise as the world's second largest economy, that NAFTA would need to be modernized,” said Tillerson.

New energy partnerships thru out Latin America is also a priority.

"By building out a more flexible and robust energy system in our Hemisphere we can power more economies with more affordable energy, we can lift more people out of poverty and we can make our hemisphere the undisputed seat of Global energy supply,” said Tillerson.

Providing economic opportunities for individuals, Tillerson believes, will reduce opportunities for criminal cartels. "We must take new approaches to disrupt their business models, models of cartels that operate much like any other business organization, that maximizes their value chain from feed stock to manufacturing to distribution, to marketing, to sales,” said Tillerson.

The administration wants to build on past successes that involve criminal crackdowns and judicial reforms. Tillerson even borrowed a familiar phrase from his boss when talking about political reforms in Cuba and Venezuela. "We will continue to pressure the regime to return to the democratic process that made Venezuela a great country in the past,” said Tillerson.

A group of Austin residents from Venezuela gathered in front of the Blanton Museum and joined Tillerson's call for change. During a brief Q&A with students it was noted that the 200th anniversary of the Monroe doctrine is coming up.

Which re-enforced the Secretary of State's concern that countries on the other side of the globe are once again trying to gain stronger economic footholds in this hemisphere.

"Sometimes I think we've forgotten about the importance of the Monroe Doctrine, and what it meant to this Hemisphere in maintaining those shared values, and I think it is as relevant today as the day when it was written,” said Tillerson.

The nation's top diplomat was given a burnt orange send off by members of the longhorn marching band. It was a memorable salute, considering before he was Secretary of State, Rex Tillerson was a member of the Longhorn band.

Secretary of State Tillerson is the second top ranking member of the Trump administration to be in Texas this week. Yesterday, the head of Immigration and Customs Enforcement, Thomas Homan was in San Antonio speaking at a border conference.

Homan warned the Agency is stepping up operations looking for undocumented immigrants.