Background Press Call by Senior Administration Officials on President Biden’s Meetings at the G7 Summit
7:00 P.M. BST
MODERATOR: Good evening, everyone. Thank you so much for joining us for this background briefing. This call is on background, attributable to “senior administration officials,” and embargoed until the conclusion of the call. We’ll, of course, have time for Q&A at the end.
Not for reporting or attribution, but just for your knowledge, on today’s call we have joining us [senior administration official]. And with that, I’m going to pass it off to our speaker.
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: Yeah, thanks, everybody, for joining. I thought I’d just give you an update on what we observed over the last couple of days and heading into the last day tomorrow, after which we’ll release the communiqué.
And what is really striking to me is the amount of convergence we’ve seen, both — that’s true both in terms of the direction of convergence and also the speed with which it’s happening.
Now, I had a chance to look back, and, three years ago, if you look back to the communiqué in 2018, China wasn’t even explicitly mentioned, even though you could find whole paragraphs devoted to countries like North Korea, Russia. Back then, they couldn’t reach consensus on anything as it related to China.
And, you know, this year, what is — what is striking is the very strong and shared foundation for a joint approach. And I don’t want to get ahead of specifics in the communiqué, but I can give you at least some of the areas of convergence, because I think they’re all profound and really important to highlight.
So I’ll give you a few examples: First, working together to respond to China’s non-market economic practices that are harmful and distorted to the global economy. Being willing to speak out on human rights abuses, including in Xinjiang. And more than just speaking out, taking action, responding to forced labor in supply chains, again, including from Xinjiang.
You know, this is something we talked about yesterday — some of us at least — (inaudible) infrastructure initiative that is high standards, values-driven, transparent, and multilateral. And, you know, today, in fact, there was quite a bit of discussion about coordination on supply chain resilience and coming up with technology standards that are suited for the 21st century so that, as democracies, we’re aligned and we’re supporting each other.
So, you know, I could go on, actually. But if that’s not a common approach, I don’t — I don’t know what is. And it’s just a huge move forward in three years, and, you know, I’m quite encouraged by what we heard.
So let me just stop there and see if there are questions.
MODERATOR: Thanks. So, now, everyone, if you’ve got a question, please use the “raise hand” function on the Zoom interface, and we’ll try to take some questions.
Let’s start with Anne Gearan from The Washington Post.
Q Thank you very much for doing this. This is, kind of, logistics, but can you let us know when you think we will see the communiqué and in what form?
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: Hi, Anne. Sure. I can at least give you a ballpark sense. So there are a couple of sessions planned for tomorrow for the leaders in the communiqué, but (inaudible). So I would say sometime around (inaudible).
Q Sorry, you broke up. Sometime around what time?
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: (Inaudible) digital technology is a little bit choppy. I said sometime around midday would be my expectation. (Inaudible.)
Q Okay. We’re actually probably going to be on a bus or a plane. So we’re, like — (laughs) — and (inaudible) it looks like there’s going to be news in it, so we’re trying to figure out how best to do that. And, you know, anything you guys can do to make sure that we have it in real time would be a huge help.
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: Well taken. And will do.
MODERATOR: Thanks. Next we will go to Josh Wingrove at Bloomberg.
Q Hi there. This morning there was a dis- — or the indications were, earlier today, that there was sort of a discussion between some people who wanted China more explicitly named, including President Biden, and others who were less keen on that, including Chancellor Merkel. Can you give me an update on that? And can you specify: Is — is the word “China” going to be in the communiqué? Because that, too, was uncertain as of a day ago. Thank you.
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: I would say there was unanimity in terms of a willingness to call out human rights abuses and violations of fundamental freedoms that invoke our shared values.
You know, so this was — there has been, yesterday, and there certainly was today, a tremendous (inaudible) this together, and what forges the G7 partnership. And that’s very much about our shared (inaudible).
And so, there was a willingness to speak out — not just a willingness; I think there was unanimity in terms of our (inaudible) to speak out and (inaudible) and to be specific (inaudible), and (inaudible) and with a commitment to take action in response to what we’re seeing. And, you know, again, that was — that was a — that’s a dramatic change from where we were only three years ago.
Q And I’m sorry — we’re perhaps near our Zoom — the end of our Zoom era, but you did cut out a few times there.
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: Oh, I’m sorry, Josh. I don’t know — I don’t know when I cut out.
Q Perhaps I would just suggest: If there was a point you felt particularly strongly about, if it came in the middle, we might not have heard it in full. So, if you wanted to sum up —
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: Okay, I’ll just summarize.
Okay, Josh, is this better now? Can you hear me?
Q Yes. Yes, sir. I can. Thank you.
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: Okay. I’ll give it another shot.
So, what I was saying was that, again, I heard from everyone that what binds us together as a G7 partnership, more than anything else, are the shared values of democracies. And that, because of that partnership, you know, it’s our obligation to call out human rights abuses and other — other violations of fundamental freedoms that calls us into — that really invoke our shared values.
And more than just — more than just calling out those abuses, which are — that’s important — there was a (inaudible) to take action. And (inaudible).
MODERATOR: Thanks so much. Next, let’s go to Steve Holland with Reuters.
Q Thank you. Just to be specific about what’s going to be in the communiqué: You’re saying it’s going to cite — it’s going to criticize China’s non-market policies and China’s human rights treatment in Xinjiang.
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: I don’t want to get ahead of what — I can’t get ahead of what’s in the communiqué because it hasn’t (inaudible) and leaders have to sign off. But I’m just trying to reflect the conversation.
And, you know, I think you mentioned the word “criticize.” And certainly there’s a strong convergence in terms of a willingness to call out human rights abuses. But I would say, with respect to non-market economic practices, my reference there was to work together collaboratively within the G7 to find ways to confront those practices and to offer a better choice and affirmative path.
And there was a lot of discussion about what that could mean in terms of (inaudible); in terms of cooperation on technology standards; in terms of things we can work together to bolster our supply chain resilience, ways we could come (inaudible) — ways we could come (inaudible) to provide support to low-income countries with the resources (inaudible) and through the (inaudible) that we’ve built.
There’s a long list of items that were discussed, (inaudible) a positive agenda, while also being clear about what we don’t tolerate. And all of those actions and that agenda, again, flow from shared values that everyone — everyone — held up as the reason (inaudible).
Q Thank you.
MODERATOR: Thanks so much. Next, let’s go to Franco Ordoñez with NPR.
Q Thanks for doing this. I wanted to just kind of follow up on that. It sounds like, from the conversations, the — that the leaders are ready to be more specific about addressing these human rights (inaudible).
But you also mentioned being committed to taking action. I wanted to ask: Will that be — do you anticipate that will be outlined in the communiqué, not only calling out the human rights, but outlining some of the steps to take action? And if it doesn’t outline some of those steps, do you feel like that would be falling short in any way?
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: So, I don’t, again, (inaudible) communiqué, but (inaudible) communiqué (inaudible) —
MODERATOR: You’re coming out a little garbled.
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: There’s a commitment here about how our (inaudible) in terms of our actions, and that’s both being (inaudible) and also what we’re for. So you’ll see strong elements of both tomorrow. I can’t get into specifics again, Franco, just because, you know, the doc is not final.
If you want to go back — you already have heard about (inaudible) important (inaudible) actions we’ve taken together. The pandemic response means our contributions — the unprecedented amount that the G7 has agreed to provide without conditions, without any strings attached, both for this (inaudible).
And (inaudible) to deal with (inaudible). Because that’s the spirit in which the discussion have taken place (inaudible) — why our model is still the single best way to deliver for our people, but also to meet the biggest challenges and (inaudible), supply chain resilience, (inaudible) competition. And, yes, (inaudible).
MODERATOR: Much of that answer was very unclear and garbled. I don’t know if you want to try again, but that came across as about 80 percent choppy.
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: Oh, boy. Okay. So, Franco, can you hear me any better?
MODERATOR: Yes, that was a little clearer.
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: Okay, well, I mean, I started off by saying I don’t want to get ahead of any specifics in the communiqué. You are going to see a very clear commitment on a number of fronts in which — (phone line drops).
MODERATOR: Our speaker just dropped. Give us one second while we try to get him back on.
[Senior administration official], are you there?
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: Hey, it’s [senior administration official].
MODERATOR: Hey there.
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: Hey. I know [senior administration official] is experiencing some tech issues. So why don’t I just close this out with a little bit of —
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: That’s perfect.
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: — again, sort of — yeah. I’ll close it out with an overview of how we’re seeing today.
And as [senior administration official] said at the top of the call, I mean, the — not just today, but the G7 writ large, we’ve seen — you know, we’ve seen and felt and been encouraged by a growing convergence. And you look at where the G7 was three years ago — with China not even explicitly mentioned, though entire paragraphs were devoted to North Korea and Russia — I think it just underlines that the — where the G7 has come from there, and the fact that we have a strong, common foundation on our approach to issues that matter.
And, you know, as [senior administration official] said, in terms of where we are right now, we’ve reached consensus on a number of points that are reflective of that shared approach.
We’re working together to respond to non-market economic practices that are objectionable in a global economy; speaking out on human rights abuses; responding to forced labor in supply chains; pursuing an affirmative infrastructure initiative that’s high standards and transparent; and coordinating on supply chain resilience and technology standards so that democracies are aligned and supporting each other.
And so, you know, as we close out the day, that’s what we’re seeing and that’s where we are. I appreciate folks bearing through some of the audio difficulties. And we’ll be back with one of these very soon.
MODERATOR: Thanks so much for joining us again, everyone. Again, this call is on background, attributable to “senior administration officials,” and embargoed until the call concludes, which will be momentarily. Thank you so much again.
7:15 P.M. BST