(June 14, 2021)
3:08 P.M. CEST
MODERATOR: Good afternoon, everyone. Thank you so much for joining us for this background briefing previewing tomorrow’s U.S.-EU Summit. This call will be on background, attributable to “senior administration officials,” embargoed until 7:00 a.m. Central European Summer Time tomorrow.
By joining this call, you are agreeing to these ground rules. Not for reporting or attribution, but just for your knowledge, on today’s call, we will have joining us [senior administration official].
Before we dive into the embargoed session of the preview of the U.S.-EU Summit, our speaker is going to also provide a brief, unembargoed, on-background update of some of President Biden’s engagements today at NATO, including the President’s meeting with Baltic leaders. So, I’ll turn it over to him to kick us off on that. [Senior administration official], go ahead.
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: Thanks, everybody, for joining the call. And greetings from NATO headquarters, where I’ve just stepped out of the session of the leaders here at the summit that is currently ongoing.
President Biden has delivered his remarks a short while ago, and other leaders are now speaking. On the margins of the NATO Summit, he had the opportunity to meet with the leaders of the three Baltic countries: Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania. And he got the chance to discuss with them and coordinate with them in advance of his meeting with Putin on Wednesday to talk about the threat that Russia poses to NATO’s eastern flank, to talk about common commitment to Article 5 and collective defense, to coordinate on the resilience of those states in the face of multiple dimensions of the threat posed by Russia — from cyber, to provocative military exercises on their borders, to information warfare.
He was able to communicate to them what he has communicated publicly, which is that the United States seeks a stable and constructive relationship with Russia, but also will respond in the face of Russia’s harmful activities and will always stand up for NATO Allies.
They also discussed the emerging security challenge posed by China, including in the domain of technology. And he thanked the three leaders for the steps that they have taken to support a trusted 5G platform — to not accept Huawei within their systems.
They also had the opportunity to confer on Belarus and, in particular, the recent egregious air piracy that occurred with respect to a flight that was actually bound for Vilnius, Lithuania. And they had the opportunity to talk more broadly about and an affirmative agenda around emerging technologies and innovation.
It was a constructive, warm, vigorous engagement between him and the three leaders, and a real symbol of solidarity and unity with NATO’s eastern flank.
In that vein, he also had the opportunity to do a brief meeting with the Presidents of Poland and Romania, who are the co-chairs of the Bucharest Nine, the same group of eastern flank Allies that he engaged with at their virtual summit a few weeks ago. He was able to speak with the two of them about his commitment to (inaudible) security; his commitment, again, to stand up in the face of the threat posed by Russia; and to let them know his intentions for the summit in Geneva on Wednesday.
He had a separate encounter — an engagement with President Duda of Poland, where they got to go a little bit deeper into the questions of America’s security and military cooperation and engagement with Poland and the United States’ strong support for the defense of Poland and our common collective commitment to NATO.
He had the chance to talk to a number of other leaders as well, just very briefly — from the Prime Minister of Spain to the Prime Minister of the Netherlands — on a range of different issues — and, of course, to see his colleagues who have just come with him from Cornwall and the G7 — President Macron, Chancellor Merkel, Prime Minister Draghi, Prime Minister Johnson.
So, that’s on that. And now, I will now switch to previewing tomorrow and the U.S.-EU Summit.
MODERATOR: And this preview is embargoed until 7:00 a.m. tomorrow — again, as a reminder to everyone. Go ahead.
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: So, the U.S.-EU Summit is an opportunity for President Biden to meet with President Ursula von der Leyen and President Charles Michel to cover a broad-ranging agenda facing the United States and the European Union, from climate, to health, to foreign policy challenges, to the global economy.
One of the most significant outcomes of this meeting and a very important initiative that will serve as a platform for U.S.-EU cooperation in the years ahead will be the launch of a Trade and Technology Council.
The notion here is that the United States and Europe laid the foundation for the world economy after World War Two and now have to work together to write the rules of the road for the next generation, particularly in the areas of economics and emerging technologies.
The Trade and Technology Council will cover a number of significant areas of priority for both the United States and the European Union, from coordinating on standards for new technologies like artificial intelligence, quantum computing, biotechnology; to coordinating on supply chain resilience; to coordinating on import — or investment screening and export controls; to coordinating on how best to reform the WTO.
Addressing regulations of technology platforms, competition policy, the intersection between climate and trade — all of these will also be on the agenda for a Trade and Technology Council that will be co-chaired by Secretary Blinken, Secretary Raimondo, and Ambassador Tai.
So this will be a joint undertaking, at the President’s direction, by the State Department, the Department of Commerce, and the U.S. Trade Representative.
And the basic cadence of the Trade and Technology Council will be intensive work in all of these areas, leading to regular leader-level engagement to ratify outcomes and develop a common strategy and way forward.
The Trade and Technology Council is fundamentally about setting out an affirmative vision to the world rooted in our shared values and our shared economic interests.
Of course, we also have to take account of the fact that China poses a significant challenge in both of these areas. And dealing with China’s nonmarket practices, its economic abuses, and, of course, its efforts to shape the rules of the road on technology for the 21st century will be important — an important part of the work of this council.
And this fits with President Biden’s fundamental strategy of managing competition with China by coordinating closely with and developing common approaches with likeminded democratic partners and allies.
The summit will also cover the steps that the U.S. and the EU can take together to combat COVID-19 and prepare for the next pandemic. They will address and reinforce commitments announced at the Leaders Summit on Climate for how the U.S. and the EU can work together on the climate crisis.
And, of course, they will discuss a number of significant foreign policy challenges, including the Iranian nuclear issue, where the EU has played an important role over the course of the past several years.
The President will also, tomorrow, meet with the King of Belgium and the Prime Minister, and have the opportunity to speak to them about advancing all of the priorities in the bilateral relationship between the U.S. and Belgium.
Let me pause there for the moment, and I’d be happy to answer any of your questions.
MODERATOR: Thanks again, everyone. Everybody, by now, I’m sure, is quite familiar: Use this “raise hand” function on Zoom. Raise your hand, and we’ll try to get through a few questions before [senior administration official] has to run. So again, please use the “raise hand” function.
All right, why don’t we start with Franco Ordoñez with NPR.
Q Hey, sorry about that. I wanted to ask about — two questions, if I can. One, if you can give an update on discussions about steel and aluminum tariffs. What’s the status of those? Second question (inaudible): Do you expect that China will be mentioned in those — the joint statements, communiqués coming out of NATO and the EU? And how do you anticipate that will play back in the States in, you know, kind of making foreign policy work for domestic — you know, foreign policy being domestic policy for middle America. Thanks.
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: I’m sorry. Your first question, I couldn’t hear what you were asking. It cut out briefly. You were asking about the status of what?
Q So, I was hoping for an update on the President’s discussions or your — the administration’s discussions with Allies about steel and aluminum tariffs.
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: Oh, steel and — okay. Okay.
Q What’s the — what’s the status of those —
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: Yeah.
Q — and what progress you made?
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: So, as you know, on the 232 tariffs, there was a determination made by the European Union not to raise tariffs as they had previously intended to do, to hold on for six months to provide time for the two sides to work together on the fundamental issue of overcapacity, and to come up with a common way forward to deal with what is — what is a challenge from China of dumping, subsidization, and overcapacity.
And so those negotiations and discussions are ongoing. They’ve been very constructive. They will take some time. So, I don’t anticipate that you’ll see an outcome this week on the 232 tariffs, but the direction of travel is positive, and we — we do believe that there is a way to resolve this that works for both the United States and the European Union.
In terms of the communiqués, the NATO communiqué will discuss China — that’s unusual — but (inaudible) Allies recognize that China represents a growing and evolving security challenge, as well as an economic and technology challenge to the Euro-Atlantic. And that will be reflected and spoken to in the — in the NATO communiqué.
Similarly, in the EU-U.S. Summit statement, China will be addressed, but I want to let the two leaders — or the three leaders — have the opportunity to consult and interact before I go further in previewing the precise outcome on China, although it certainly will be reflected — the agreement and convergence on issues related to China will be reflected in the summit outcome there.
And then, finally, on the foreign policy for the middle-class issue: You know, we took a huge step forward with the agreement on the global minimum tax, and the EU played a — an important role in getting there. That is — was one of the President’s biggest priorities in terms of delivering on foreign policy for the middle class.
And so, he will obviously consult with them on how we take the G7 commitment and bring on board the rest of the world in order to make that a full reality.
In other areas — from supply chain resilience, to competition policy, to how we deal with the issue of investment screening and intellectual property protection, and the nature of WTO reform so that the WTO is better protecting the rights of workers and middle-class communities in both the United States in Europe — across all of those dimensions, foreign policy for the middle class will be front and center in — in his dialogue with European Union leaders.
MODERATOR: Thanks so much. Next, let’s go to Yamiche Alcindor with PBS.
Q Hi, thanks so much for taking my question. I have a follow-up on the foreign policy for the middle class. Can you talk about anything else that — that hasn’t been mentioned that you want to highlight specifically as it relates to foreign policy and the middle class?
And another question I had was: Could you talk a little bit about how all of these summits work together? I think there are a lot of Americans who kind of see these summits and maybe — maybe even get a little confused about that there’s been G7 and EU. Obviously, there are different member nations —
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: Yeah.
Q — but I wonder how — you could talk a little bit about how they all work together.
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: Sure. So, the G7 — particularly in the format that came together in Cornwall, which was the G7+ — the G7 plus South Africa, India, Australia, and South Korea — reflects the world’s largest democracies from multiple continents coming together on strategic and economic issues to set out a vision for how democracies can deliver against the most significant challenges of our time, namely COVID-19 and future pandemics, climate change, economic opportunity, and economic fairness.
And they delivered particular, specific, tangible outcomes in each of those areas that, you know, that we spent the last three days describing — from the billion-dose commitment and the plan to end the pandemic, to the global minimum tax commitment, to the new Build Back Better World Partnership for infrastructure investment in low- and middle-income countries, to the collective commitment by the G7 to end overseas financing of coal by the end of this year.
So, the G7+ is really about the big global challenges and how democracies from around the world come together to solve them.
NATO is fundamentally about security — the security dimension of the Euro-Atlantic, the transatlantic partnership. And so, today is about issues like cyber and Russia and Afghanistan and — and the growing security challenge that China poses.
The U.S.-EU Summit is fundamentally about two very large economies. I mean, the European Union economy in — in total is about the size of the U.S. economy. And the fundamental decisions about that economy are made by the European Union in Brussels. And so, you got to have coordination between those two economies on a critical set of foundational issues in both trade and technology.
That has more of a direct negotiating element to it. The U.S. and the EU will, in fact, work out particular outcomes on particular issues, including the steel overcapacity issue I just described, including aligning export controls, including aligning climate policy.
And so, it has much more of a feeling of a bilateral dimension, even though the EU is comprised of more than two dozen states.
So, that’s how we think about the three. But they all fit together under a single banner, and that banner is: key democracies converging around a strategy for dealing both with great power competition and with solving the significant transnational challenges of our time.
And they each bring different vectors to doing that. But when you add up three summits, the whole — we believe — will be greater than the sum of its parts. It will be the United States rallying the world’s democracies around a tangible agenda to make real differences in the lives of the American people in terms of their health, their economic wellbeing, their physical security, and the planet that we live on.
In terms of other areas, with respect to foreign policy for the middle class, I’d just say maybe three or four things.
First, we believe that foreign policy for the middle class fundamentally comes down to the proposition that everything we do in our foreign policy should ultimately be judged by the metric of whether it is making life better, safer, and easier for families in the United States.
And against that metric, there’s a range of different priorities the President has been pursuing on this trip. One of them is to take the single-biggest impact on the lives and livelihoods of Americans in recent memory, which is a global pandemic, and say, “What can we put in place to make sure that does not happen again?”
Another has been to adjust our approach to trade so that we put the middle class at the center of it, rather than multinational corporations or making the world safe for corporate investment. And that has to do with everything from how we deal with currency policy, to tax policy, to protecting American supply chains in a way that builds manufacturing capacity and creates jobs in the United States, to protecting our intellectual property so that industries are not siphoned off and jobs are not siphoned off elsewhere.
So if you actually look across, particularly the G7 and the U.S.-EU Summit, you’ll see at the heart of both of those communiqués is the American middle class.
And we believe that what works for the American middle class also, frankly, ends up working for middle classes across Europe and around the world and that this is the most effective and sustainable way to pursue an international economic policy and a foreign policy more broadly.
I’ll stop there.
MODERATOR: Thanks. It looks like [senior administration official] probably has time for one more question, so why don’t we go to Andrew Restuccia with the Wall Street Journal?
Q Thanks, [senior administration official], for doing this. I was hoping you could speak to the issue of Afghanistan and whether any of the NATO members raised concerns with Biden about the withdrawal. And then separately, I would just ask, broadly, on behalf of the media here, if we could get these bilats on the schedule or delivered to the press because we were unaware of several of them today, and also that we could get some access to them, which has been a pretty tradition — a tradition of both parties in the past. Thanks.
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: Yeah, on the second thing, you know, this was at the initiative of President Biden today that he wanted the opportunity to seek out key leaders, particularly on the eastern flank, to be sure he had the time — the opportunity to spend time with them, especially given the fact that for the key Western European countries, he’s just spent three days with them, and he wanted to maximize this opportunity to talk to the Poles, the Romanians, the (inaudible), et cetera. So, a lot of this was evolving in real time and there was not an effort to –- frankly, we would have loved to had — have more press access to them. But we’ll endeavor always to do better as we go forward.
In terms of Afghanistan, I listened –- I was in the room for the first hour of the summit and heard many of the significant troop-contributing countries speak and speak to the issue of Afghanistan. And each of them said that they ultimately agreed with the decision to come — to draw down this year. They understood that the time had come.
And the real focus in the room was not on the question of staying or going in 2021; the real focus was on how we work together as an Alliance to continue to provide support to the Afghan National Security Forces, the Afghan government, and the Afghan people.
And there is a considerable amount of practical work being done on that and strategic alignment on the desire to keep embassy presences, to maintain the necessary security to do that, and to work together as an alliance on everything from training — you know, particularly on over-the-horizon training; to counterterrorism and how we keep suppressing the terrorist threat in Afghanistan; to the provision of economic assistance in various forms to government.
So I’ve read some of the stories about this question of support or nonsupport for the drawdown from Afghanistan, and I’ve got to tell you that that is not the vibe in the room today. And, you know, it is — there is an incredible amount of warmth and unity around the entire agenda, including the “in together, out together” aspect of the Afghanistan drawdown.
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: Thanks so much, again, everybody, for taking the time and hopping on this call. Really appreciate it.
Again, the contents of this call will be embargoed until 7:00 a.m. Central European Summer Time, tomorrow, on background, from a senior administration official.
And we’ll talk to you all, again, more later today and tomorrow. Thank you.
3:32 P.M. CEST